What Defines Content Marketing in 2019?

With a strategy and good content, brands can fill the B2B trade journalism void.

Does anyone need one more piece of content—about anything?

In our information-saturated world, your first instinct is probably to say, “No.” Maybe even, “Hell, no!”

But you would be wrong.

Here’s why: Across multiple industries, content marketing in 2019 lets brands step into the void left behind by the disappearance of trade publications and other traditional marketing avenues. In many B2B niches, there are often few resources that let businesses discover, gather and share industry news, insights and advice.

Brands can create and build that community—a job that many trade publications did admirably (and some still do). But don’t get hung up on the word “publications.” This is not just about print or magazines; it’s also about digital content programs smartly serving B2B audiences. The need for print depends on the audience, but the need for good content is clear.

Most business buyers typically did online research on their own without contacting any vendors initially (68 percent, according to Forrester). And most (82 percent, again according to Forrester) looked at five pieces of content from their chosen vendor before they made a purchase.

The type of content delivered matters. Does it address the target audience’s known pain points? Does it source peers and industry experts? Brands can become a trusted information source in their industries when they focus on substance rather than style.

That’s where journalism comes in—knowing how to source, report and craft a rich piece of content that ties back to the audience’s need. The B2B trades focus on service journalism, on helping their audiences, on sharing real-world examples.

People want help with what’s tricky. To be successful, you must address that need in an authentic and legitimate way, not only to attract but also to keep your audience.

Content Engagement Is Now Measurable

While print can create that glorious tactile and visual experience, measuring its value requires a brand to proactively survey the audience. The beauty of digital content is that it offers a way to immediately measure engagement and adapt based on the data. We’re not talking merely about uniques or click-throughs.

Instead, richly valuable content lets you gather data that tells you much more about your customers and potential customers than that they landed on your site or were witness to your content in a social stream.

Which content draws the most eyeballs—and for how long? Where do visitors go from specific pieces? Can you nurture them along a path of related content items or to take some sort of action? Do they download or share specific content?

A fine-tuned measurement approach coupled with social listening—taking part in conversations in the right communities where your desired audiences can be found—will let you gather information to target niche and specific personas and titles within those audiences.

When you combine that kind of data and information with journalism, it produces a powerful and scalable approach to content marketing. You’re able to create high-performing, SEO-optimized content that has long-tail organic search value. It’s also content that’s highly sought by your niche audience—the one in need of insights, in need of tactics, in need of access to peers.

Content Marketing Strategy Is Brand Strategy

To get there requires a strategy. What often happens when marketing teams launch content programs is that they produce content randomly with no clear plan, key performance indicators or end goals. In fact, 72 percent of marketing organizations say they are challenged with managing content strategically, and 45 percent have no documented strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Content Management & Strategy Survey.

But a well-researched and well-defined content marketing strategy will help you find the sweet spot where your brand’s business, mission and goals align with your target audience’s needs.

Your content marketing playbook should use audience discovery, search research and social listening to identify your audience’s content needs, to discover the “white space” the brand can own and to define the opportunity for the brand to engage the audience in context—in the right moment, on the right platform.

If you do all of those things, the content marketing strategy becomes a fundamental component of your brand strategy, with journalism and social intelligence guiding an ever-evolving engagement program and building a content ecosystem to attract would-be customers and stay superclose to current customers.

Types of Content Marketing Are Expanding

Content marketing today uses journalism and storytelling in ways that are valuable in conveying the expertise of a brand, both from the lens of the customer and that of internal subject-matter experts. And clearly it’s helpful in explaining the complexities that lie within most businesses.

What’s more, there are increasingly more and differentiated platforms and ways to tell and share these stories organically—from usual suspects, like on-site blogs and content hubs, to podcasts and social stories told through vignettes on Twitter, or little mobile tales told in Google AMP. Then, there are all the visual mediums that can host mini infographics, motion graphics, rich-media experiences and videos of all types.

Content’s many shapes and sizes offer you the most natural way to get close to your desired audience and customers where and when they want to engage—particularly when that’s before any human contact.

Plus, there’s the value of high-quality content—sprinkled with evergreen goodies and the right search terms—that comes from its potential for compounding organic growth. You want content that drives up search returns and visits over time, just like investing.

Again, data will play a continuing role in this ecosystem. It helps identify the right context; it helps pinpoint the right platform; it helps home in on the right content type and the right story. And it helps you continue to mature your strategy as your business and audience also evolve and shape-shift.

Hey, it’s not rocket science, but there is a science and an art to it—one that requires expert knowledge and diligence.

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