If there’s one thing I can say about 2019 and the world of marketing, it’s that everything was on the table. The channels and tactics we use to communicate and engage with customers went from the website and mobile apps, to voice, chatbots, podcast, video shows, and more.
And as the channels grew, so too did all the questions about how effective marketing strategies are. We talked about building scalable content operations, improving alignment with sales, creating better content and experiences for our customers.
With so much to talk about, I feel like we barely scratched the surface this year, but I did my best, and here are some of the highlights.
We still have work to do on content marketing
Michael Brenner wrote that content marketing is the fuel for marketing transformation. He believes that marketing must evolve and that thought leadership and content marketing overall are catalysts for that transformation.
It’s a rare company that isn’t doing some content marketing, but even those that think they know how to do it are finding out there’s more to learn. When we started with content marketing, it was ‘a nice to have,’ a separate activity that built a blog or a magazine, or created content for other parts of the marketing organization. But content marketing is more than a content creation team, and it’s no longer a side project. It’s foundational to your marketing strategy.
Can tech make us better writers?
Marketing invests a lot of money into creative and production, but it’s mostly guesswork. Yes, there are testing tools and focus groups that give some indications, but how do you know that a winning test B is simply the best of two bad creatives? Marketing leverages AI and data science to determine other strategies - like targeting, segmentation, marketing mix, optimization, media buy, and more, said Diamandakis, but it rarely looks to technology to improve creative. Diamandakis believes that this is the last big green-field opportunity for CMO’s looking for that next big step-change in performance. - Van Diamandakis, CMO Persado
Can AI help improve our writing? Maybe it’s not ready for long-form content like whitepapers and blogs, but there is tech out there that can help determine the best content for short-form copy like ads. Considering how hard it is to get consumers to pay attention to digital ads, it’s probably worth a closer look. It’s not the only thing marketers are looking at AI for, though.
The rise of the marketing show and brand affinity marketing
Introducing “Brand affinity marketing”:
An approach to marketing where businesses create and distribute binge-worthy content with the goal of positively impacting the overall sentiment, perception, and value of its brand.
Podcasts have been around for a while now, but it feels like 2019 was a break out year. It wasn’t just podcasting that went big-time though; video shows also made a big impact. Now every brand is working to understand how to fit a marketing show into their strategy, and they are looking for technology to make it easier to create and manage that show. Wistia showed us what a great marketing show looks like, but they also made some changes to their video platform to support a show format. Casted brought podcasting tech to B2B. Both are two examples of great technology, and of how to do brand affinity marketing.
Of course, there is still plenty of room for improvement with video marketing outside of the marketing show:
The personalization factor
In the emerging new data economy, marketers and other customer experience teams will be on the front lines of a competitive battle for the rich personal data required to fuel and sustain the relevant experiences consumers demand. As consumers assert more control over their data, they will tend to share it with companies that are both reliable data stewards and attractive partners in a mutual exchange of value. In short, the perceived trustworthiness of a company will be the decisive factor that determines whether consumers provide access to personal data. - Tim Walters, The Content Advisory
Personalizing experiences continues to be a hot topic with no real answer on how to do it well. Consumers are willing to share their data to get a personalized experience, but are they getting what they expect? Are brands asking for more data than they need (or use)? Do we even need personalization? 2019 brought a lot of questions and few answers. This is a discussion that will continue to be top of mind for 2020, but I think the outcome may not be what many marketers are expecting.
Everyone needs content operations
There are so many organizations that I work with that are talking about and looking so far forward in their content capabilities that they're missing that first step, which is being able to effectively just manage your content. Being able to create, edit, post, take off, sunset, archive, access, revive, all of those basic things. They're all caught up in the bright and shiny that we hear from vendors.
With content marketing finally a staple in every marketing strategy, 2019 became the year where we talked about content strategy across the entire organization, not just the marketing department. But Cathy McKnight, VP of Strategy and Consulting at The Content Advisory, points out that we may be missing the foundation that will make that content strategy successful - scalable content operations. She shared her insights with us in a two-part look at what content operations are and how you can get started. If you haven’t already, put this top of your to-do for 2020.
Speaking of foundations - you need one for ecommerce too
Profile management, address and payment details, tracking and leveraging past purchase history; these are all foundational elements of commerce experience. So many retailers don’t take the time to ensure they are properly set up.
There is so much choice for where a consumer can spend their money. But it’s not impossible to build brand loyalty, not when you have that solid foundation and then build upon that with true one-to-one personalization, and content-rich experiences.
It’s surprising how many brands don’t take the time to put the right foundation in place to support ecommerce experiences. Darin Archer, Chief Strategy Officer of Elastic Path, said the right foundation would help reduce friction, something you need to do to keep customers coming back to your website.
How to build a better bot
Everything is getting more urgent, noisy, now obsessed. But if you can break through, you have the opportunity to make a real conversation, a personal one, with every one of your customers. - Meghan Keany Anderson, VP Marketing at Hubspot
According to the analysts, chatbots are going to overtake mobile app development in the next few years. Conversational interfaces, like chatbots, are certainly showing up everywhere and providing experiences that attempt to be more personalized – or at least, more contextual. But any old bot will not do – there is a strategy behind building bots and other conversational UI. So before you turn that bot on, have a plan.
The steady rise of voice-enabled commerce
Marketing tactics need to change to support voice-based commerce, Schmidt said. It must shift away from traditional ads that tell people to "buy my product" to interacting with customers on a conversational level. For example, Schmidt described pet supply apps that focus on the needs of a puppy. These types of conversations, focused on customer needs and not products, have the ability to ultimately funnel down to buying the product, which at that point, people will use voice to order their products.
If you need another reason to prove that content marketing is a driving force in your marketing strategy, voice-enabled commerce and search is it. Ecommerce now has a new channel: voice. Voice search and voice commerce are growing in use shifting the focus away from product listings and product promotion to selling the product in the context of a bigger story.
Aligning sales and marketing
Agreement does not equal alignment. It’s great that these two groups are getting along and finding agreement on key KPIs and goals - it’s critical, in fact. But just because they respect each other and what they do, doesn’t mean they are aligned in a way that drives positive business outcomes.
Recent studies are showing that sales and marketing are getting along, especially with the implementation of account-based marketing strategies. But there’s confusion still on how best align these two groups to work together. Jon Miller, CEO of Engagio, suggested that the two need to stop working together like a relay team and start thinking like a football with everyone playing specific positions. When that happens, alignment will happen.
Are y’all ready for content experience?
The reality is that writing content and placing content within context to our audience are two very different things,” Frisch said. It’s the content experience part of content marketing that is ignored. Frisch said there is a similar problem with account-based marketing. The focus is on tiering accounts and picking the right ones to work on. He said we start at the beginning of the process, hiring resources and implementing technology for that phase, and we create content, but we don’t move beyond that.
Just when you think you are getting a handle on content marketing, somebody drops by and ruins your party. It’s not content marketing you should be thinking about; it’s creating content experiences. Content marketing is about creating great customer-oriented content, but it often doesn’t handle what to do with that content. That, according to Randy Frisch, CMO of Uberflip, is where content experience steps in. And he isn’t the only one drinking the kool-aid (or questioning what’s in it).