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Keep up to date with the latest content marketing tips and news.

18/Feb/2019
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Agencies are practising what they are preaching in terms of content marketing. During the last 12 months, 83% have been able to create brand awareness via the discipline, and half believe their strategies and campaigns are either mature or sophisticated.

The Agency Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report published by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) on Wednesday highlights the value of working with skilled and knowledgeable third parties. Almost 2,000 employees at agencies around the world were surveyed last year for the findings.

The primary takeaway is that agencies are a cut above regular enterprises in their approach to content marketing. While many SMEs struggle with the “first steps” and “adolescent” stages of maturity with content, agencies are predominantly in the “mature” and “sophisticated” phases.

The higher levels of maturity are also translating into success, as a third believe their own approaches to content marketing are either “very” or “extremely” successful. The study found these high performers also more likely to have a documented strategy in place. Just 4% said they did not have a strategy and do not intend to implement one within the next 12 months.

Storytelling has emerged as a critical trend in marketing during the last two years, and agencies are proficient in delivering engaging messages on a regular basis. More than two-thirds said they now use storytelling “frequently” or “always” for content published across various platforms.

More B2B and B2C companies are now pivoting away from traditional ads to organic content to meet the demands of consumers eager for fresh videos, articles and blogs, so it is no surprise that agencies are making changes to satisfy their clients. A sizeable 58% expect to increase their content budgets in 2018, while 24% say spending will jump by 9% or more.

Agencies believe in the power of content marketing, as evidenced by the 38% of respondents who claim their organisation is now “extremely” committed to the discipline. A further 36% are also “very” committed. For those agencies specialising in content marketing, the commitment levels are likely to be near universal.

“It’s encouraging to see many agencies report content marketing maturity and success,” says Cathy McPhillips, the Content Marketing Institute’s Vice President of Marketing. “One of the most exciting findings from the research is that 74% of agencies are extremely or very committed to content marketing – that’s higher than the B2B, B2C, and manufacturing segments studied. Agencies are filled with skilled communication professionals who see the value of content marketing as part of an integrative approach. They see the value and success it brings to their marketing mix as well as their clients.”

CMI concluded by saying that the greater role that content now plays in the marketing mix will prompt many agencies to diversify the types of services that they are offering to clients. In addition to creative services and production, agencies may also branch out to provide account management, media planning and public relations.


11/Feb/2019
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The complex and sprawling nature of departments in large enterprises makes it more difficult to create and distribute content marketing materials and measure the success of campaigns, a new study published by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found.

The Enterprise Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for North America posits that implementing strategies and managing campaigns is more challenging for large corporations compared to small and medium enterprises due to the complexity of core operations.

These larger enterprises usually have several office locations, product and service lines and multiple functional silos. The study found that the sheer scale of these companies makes it especially challenging for each department and team to know what content is being created, the audiences that are being targeted and the metrics that should be tracked to determine success or failure.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said coordinating content marketing efforts across several brands and departments are a major challenge. Marketers in large corporations are also struggling with working with too many departmental silos (60%), implementing new tech for use across the enterprise (50%) and having the flexibility and agility to make changes on the fly when required (49%).

CMI found that even small communication breakdowns can lead to problems that can torpedo even the best campaigns, as conflicted messaging and ineffective budgeting hinders the potential for positive returns and success. However, CMI says restructuring operations can transform content efforts.

Rather than attempting to link departments and align processes, large enterprises should instead attempt to create a single, centralised group that can work with a plethora of products, brands and departments. This dedicated team can define a strategy, create and distribute content, and be proactive rather than reactive when changes are needed.

The study also found a mismatch between content marketing teams and sales as they are often managed as separate units, which impairs their ability to share insights, collaborate and work towards important content goals, such as driving conversions and leads. Just one in five respondents said these teams were either “extremely” or “very” aligned.

“The unique nature of a large organization makes content marketing especially challenging,” explains Lisa Murton Beets, CMI’s research director. “New this year, we asked enterprise marketers about their use of account-based management (ABM) and the alignment between their content marketing and sales teams.”

She added: “Only 19% of enterprise respondents report that their content marketing and sales teams are extremely or very aligned, while 28% say there is little or no alignment between these two functions. However, around half of respondents may have ushered in 2019 with account-based management (ABM) in place. The collaborative nature of ABM may help alleviate the sales and marketing alignment gap.”

Finally, tech is set to play a bigger role in content marketing in 2019, and 71% said the top benefit of cutting-edge advances was gaining better insights into the performance of content. Meanwhile, 50% said it would support better insights into audience preferences.


04/Feb/2019
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The importance of optimising content for Google search was highlighted again this week after Merkle’s latest quarterly Digital Marketing report found it accounted for a considerable 96% of all organic search visits on mobile devices in the US.

Google leads the way

Google’s visit share on smartphones and tablets increased in the fourth quarter from an already dominant 95% for the same period a year earlier. The tech giant also saw its overall search visit share on mobile and desktop increase a full percentage point to 93% year-over-year.

Google is the overall organic search leader by a large margin, Microsoft’s Bing only managed to muster a mere 4% share in Q4 2018, which was down from the 5% figure recorded in 2017. Yahoo was next on the list with a 3% share, while privacy-focused DuckDuckGo came in at just 0.4%.

Organic searches usually fall at the end of the year as marketers ramp up investment in paid channels to support festive strategies and campaigns. This was true again, as total site visits from organic search grew 6% in the third quarter but only increased by around 2% in the final three months of the year.

Smartphone supremacy

Smartphones now account for more of those organic search visits, as there was a 17% year-over-year increase on mobile compared with a 10% year-over-year decline on desktops. For content marketers, this suggests a focus on tailoring content for mobile using Google’s AMP initiative may be worthwhile in 2019.

Merkle’s latest Q4 2018 report also highlighted a few other search, social and advertising trends. Facebook’s advertising spending slumped 10% year-over-year, but the study noted that this fall was not driven by a pull-back from advertisers or adverse headlines but was due to a focus on other areas.

“Coming off of a very healthy holiday shopping season for retailers, our Digital Marketing Report sheds light on digital marketing strategies and how they are shifting to suit consumer shopping habits,” Merkle senior vice president of marketing, Erin Hutchinson, said in a statement.

“Google Shopping ads are gaining in popularity and Amazon continues its steady growth, Advertising on Facebook is declining as the company is looking to grow its other social media properties like Instagram and engage with new users and younger generations.”

Google Shopping ads saw an impressive growth of 42% in the final quarter, which represents the fastest pace of growth for shopping investment in two-and-a-half years. Google is also dominant in this area, as it Shopping ads accounted for almost two-thirds of all ad clicks on Google search, another record level.

Organic SEO

Google’s search and ad performance bode well for content marketers who are focusing their SEO efforts on mobile and organic search this year. A few of the content formats that regularly rank on the first page of Google’s SERPs include engaging and regularly updated blog posts, evergreen articles, long-form editorials, infographics, and visual galleries and video.


28/Jan/2019
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Enterprises need to take control of their content supply chains and rethink how articles, blogs and videos are constructed and published to ensure that they can reach out and engage effectively with increasingly diverse audiences around the world, according to a new report released last week by software services company SDL.

Building on the Today’s Content Supply Chains Prevent Continuous Customer Journeys study published by Forrester Consulting in November, SDL outlined several key trends that brands need to consider adopting this year to build a Global Content Operating Model (GCOM).

This framework is rooted in the idea of making content accessible for anyone, anywhere in the world, in their own language and any connected devices they own. Both transcreation and translation services are central to this aim, but the framework aims to take things a step further by aligning content with tech and processes across the company.

By assimilating content into the business culture from the ground up, brands will be better placed to manage the increasing volume of articles, blogs, infographics and other resources they create and then deliver it across multiple channels to engage with audiences worldwide.

The Forrester study found many enterprises continue to operate in a silo with disjointed technologies and systems unable to support the high-quality experiences that consumers now expect. To operate on a global scale, brands must break down these internal organisational challenges and establish continuity across each phase of the customer journey.

“To reach the desired end state of intelligent content, companies need to build for the future today,” the Forrester study noted. “They need to rethink their current processes, technology, and organizational structures to be prepared for a future where the strategic value of content continues to grow and determines the difference between company success and failure.”

Forrester found that 93% of brands are planning to push out more content during the next two years, with the majority expecting overall volume to jump at least 30%. As the content supply chain becomes more complex, brands need to address the imbalance by taking back control of the supply chain.

SDL believes that a GCOM framework is the best option, as it empowers brands to establish automated and even autonomous forms of content management, whether in the creative phase or the delivery phase. “Continuous” experiences are also crucial to keep customers engaged, but just a third say they are currently able to provide this.

SDL urges brands to adapt content for any channel to make it easier to tap into the wants and needs of consumers at any time of the day. Again, bringing systems together and establishing a standardised toolset will ensure consistency. SDL CMO, Peggy Chen, adds: “The result of organizational and technological disconnects is poor, fragmented experiences and frustrated customers. At a time when customers are turning online dozens of times a day, that’s an enormous missed opportunity.”

In a simpler fix, SDL also says that updating web copy and product information to make it accurate and relevant is important, as buyers want details about products and services at various points across the cycle.


21/Jan/2019
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There will be a concerted push for marketers to develop and utilise a vast range of content formats in 2019 as brands look to leverage a mix of web copy, video, articles, blogs, GIFs and infographics, according to a new study published by recruitment agency Hays.

The Hays Jobs Report goes into detail about the types of marketing skills that will be in great demand during the next 12 months. Near the top of the list are content management and data insight management, two areas that now overlap and interlink as brands look to glean insights to improve and overhaul content marketing campaigns.

A separate report published by Gartner this week said new tech advances, including artificial intelligence and automation, will change fundamental aspects of core marketing processes by 2023, so it is perhaps no surprise that digital transformation is the driving force behind the need to address skills gaps and bring in talent, whether internally or via an agency.

The Hays report said content marketing, like other marketing disciplines, is now so complex and vast in scope that brands will need to source even more experienced digital experts to complete critical tasks across the pipeline. This will accelerate during the next five years as tech takes on a greater role in strategies and campaigns.

Hays senior regional director, Susan Drew, said: “There is no doubt technology is a driving force in the rapid evolution of the marketing role and it has had a profound impact across every facet of the discipline – from strategy, execution and measurement. It’s simply impossible to be an expert in every new channel, platform and tool available today, it’s just too specialist.”

Hays said content managers and writers will be highly sought after this year and into the early 2020s, as content is now the central pillar in many marketing campaigns and is growing in importance all the time. These skilled workers also need to ensure that content output meets the ever growing demands of users and clients, who want authentic and useful resources on a daily basis.

Hays noted that employees who can determine the most appropriate formats for business objectives and audiences will be worth their weight in gold during the next 12 months. Reflecting the emergence of data as a business asset, analysts and insights managers are also in demand, as enterprises need concrete evidence about how marketing is driving sales and engagement and delivering ample return on investment.

The report also said content marketing will soon be defined by a jack-of-all-trades approach to formats as marketers move beyond one or two formats to embrace a wide range of creative materials. In addition to engaging blogs, articles and videos, brands will also look to webinars, animations, GIFs and podcasts to reach new audiences.

Drew concluded: “Candidates must be able to create and implement strategies, use data to make evidence-based decisions, possess strong SEO and SEM skills, lead a team and prove ROI from strategy. A sole traditional skillset is no longer viable in today’s market.”


14/Jan/2019
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IT network Spiceworks is the latest industry leader to release a report showing a strengthening desire among brands to significantly increase marketing budgets as they look to expand customer bases and drive company revenue.

The 2019 State of IT study polled the opinions of 350 B2B marketers in the tech industry in North America and Europe. The recent trend of an uptick in marketing budgets was evident again, as 37% said they expect to spend more on the discipline this year, with the majority now recognising that marketing investment lays the foundation for customer and revenue growth.

B2B brands are spreading their budget allocation evenly across several different areas, but perhaps the most notable takeaway is that external agencies and third parties are playing a central role in the creative process. The study found that 19% of budgets will be devoted to work with skilled and experienced third parties.

Marketing is also no longer the domain of the largest corporations, as the most notable increase in budgets occurred among smaller enterprises with 100 or fewer employees. Around half of these businesses expect budgets to grow, which is somewhat ahead of the 28% who said the same at larger enterprises with 1,000 employees or more.

“Due to recent revenue and customer growth, many organizations are prepared to keep the momentum going in 2019 by investing more in marketing,” Spiceworks director of global demand marketing, Jamie Bowler, said.

He added: “Although measuring marketing ROI is still a top challenge in the B2B environment, new marketing technologies are enabling B2B marketers to build more accurate attribution models and stay focused on the top channels driving quality leads and engagement. As a result, we can better prove the value of marketing in enabling a more profitable organization.”

Marketing technology will be a primary outlet for investment in 2019, as 51% said martech budgets will rise during the next 12 months. When broken down further, 28% said the martech investment will be centred on content and experience technology, making it the single biggest spending area.

Agencies continue to underpin many B2B tech marketing campaigns, and brands will allocate 30% of their agency budgets to “creative partners”, which highlights the dominant role content now plays in the marketing mix. Creatives will take the largest share of budgets, ahead of advertising partners (27%), PR partners (17%) and research partners (11%).

When asked about their priorities for 2019, 73% said the main objective was to generate leads. That response was the most popular by a large margin, as brand awareness was second on the list with 39% of respondents. Around a third also want to upsell to existing customers and increase product awareness.

Finally, blogs are the most popular format for both driving product awareness and brand awareness for B2B tech brands, while webinars are the most popular for driving leads. Looking ahead to 2020, 61% said they soon expect to deploy an on-demand strategy for content.


07/Jan/2019
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Tapping into the “emotional economy” will be crucial for brands in 2019 as they look to serve up purposeful content that drives brand loyalty across a variety of platforms. That is just one of the key trends outlined in IBM Watson Marketing’s annual report for the new year.

Technology has been a major force in content marketing strategies and campaigns for some time now, so it is perhaps no surprise that brands will be looking to artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to gain an edge. However, 2019 will see the use of this cutting-edge tech accelerate, suggesting that it will soon become the norm rather than a luxury.

Personalisation was one of the big trends of 2018, and IBM expects AI and machine learning to herald a new phase of “hyper-personalisation.” This sort of advanced personalisation goes above and beyond the methods rooted in traditional profiling, using AI to tease out subtle details and in-depth information that is useful in supporting highly target content marketing and messages.

This hyper-personalisation has also been made possible by the growing amount of big data available to brands and the streamlining of marketing stacks. The improvements mean marketers will be able to serve up personalised content at a scale never seen before. Other forms of tech, such as automation, will also make it easier to manage the flow of content more effectively.

“Making a connection with a brand will always be a very human, emotion-driven process for consumers,” IBM Watson Marketing executive, Michael Trapani, said. “Where AI and machine learning come in is the ability to better inform marketers based on uncovering insights about your customers that a human might not see or find. Those insights then enable human marketers to develop better and more relevant creative and then deliver it at scale across channels to individual consumers.”

IBM says consumers want to engage with brands that are authentic, so marketers will need to maintain consistent messages and strong convictions across their campaigns rather than merely providing one-off experiences in isolation. Connecting the dots has never been more important.

IBM also believes that “consulgencies”, an amalgamation of consultancies and agencies, will emerge in 2019 as brands look to combine the two to build expertise using analytics and mobile apps. It says agencies are already leveraging stock “AI-based marketing solutions” to define optimal customer journeys and pinpoint customers that are most likely to churn.

“Most of the agency partners that work with IBM have added or expanded their technical and data integration and consulting capabilities,” Trapani added. “Many are also moving to more of consultative arrangement, focused more on hours and outcomes than on media buys. As for AI, all agencies regardless of size are exploring uses of AI to solve their client’s marketing and customer challenges, whether it is building chatbots or interactive experiences.”

It all adds up to an even more tech-heavy slant for marketing teams, which is something that is now a reality for brands aiming to get ahead with content that cuts through the noise and provides added value for the end users.


31/Dec/2018
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Content marketing will evolve in 2019 and become the foundation for agile, secure and continuous customer experiences, according to a recent Five Future States of Content study released by SDL.

The concept of “always-on” content will take on greater importance during the next 12 months, as consumers are becoming more demanding throughout the sales pipeline. SDL noted in the study that customers now expect brands to be with them every step of the way and that they have no qualms about navigating away from a website if it is unable to fulfil this need.

A sizeable 82% of customers said they now expect brands to be there for them whenever they are needed. These lofty expectations will put additional pressure on marketers to create and deliver valuable content on a regular basis, whether it’s an informative white paper or a mobile app with the right tools to serve the user’s needs.

Almost a third of the respondents said they would stop their purchase immediately if brands couldn’t provide adequate support from the awareness and research phase to product purchasing and after-sales support. SLD believes artificial intelligence and cutting-edge tech will help brands to get better value from content, so a commitment to investment in martech will be crucial in 2019.

While customers are becoming more demanding, they actually prefer streamlined and simple digital experiences. SDL found that ease of website search, high-quality content, and clear and accurate product and service information were enough to please them. This is because many content experiences are now “inconsumable and unmanageable”.

SDL CMO, Peggy Chen, said: “What makes the difference in the accuracy of our predictions is SDL’s unwavering commitment to meet customers’ needs and laser-focus on leading the way in what’s next on content creation, translation and delivery – bringing to fruition concepts that were just a mere idea a little over a year ago. To highlight where investment is needed, we also provide insight into our upcoming research, which identifies rising customer expectations in seamless experiences.”

SDL also believes content can be a brand’s best salesperson. However, 70% of the respondents said struggles to find the right content at the right time, language barriers, and a dearth of customisation and personalisation have all impacted the content-consumption experience.

To improve during the next 12 months, marketers must find new ways to create and deliver valuable content. SDL expects AI and automation to pick up the slack here, but brands can also overhaul efforts by combining new tech with traditional strategies, such as working with third-party agencies to gain access to key skills and expertise.

On the subject of the emergence of AI as a key tool in the content cycle, Chen added: “Early in 2018, SDL announced its Five Future States of Content, a series of concepts predicting exciting prospects where content will create itself, organize itself, secure itself, be agile and be an organization’s best salesperson, with some of these predictions already a reality today.”


24/Dec/2018
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Nine in ten IT decision-makers (ITDMs) have signed up for engaging tech content during the last six months, and the vast majority prefer personalised blogs, articles and videos, according to a new Customer Engagement Survey published by IDG Communications Inc.

The latest research looks at the content preferences of B2B customers and how content can help them to move along the sales cycle during the purchase process. Since the summer, 92% of ITDMs have registered for some sort of tech content, while crucial insights on security and the cloud are the most popular search queries.

While ITDMs are eager to consume content, less than half currently consider it valuable, which is perhaps a damning indictment on the quality of resources being published by businesses in the sector. However, the good news is that when ITDMs do consider content to be valuable, they then take several positive steps to educate themselves, with almost two-thirds taking the time to visit a vendor’s website afterwards.

Therefore, serving up the right content at the right time is crucial, especially when many admit that poor-quality materials can lead them to abandon further research on a specific business or vendor entirely. The top reason for abandonment is content that is deemed to be either too promotional or self-serving.

Meeting the needs of end users has been a major trend in B2C content this year, and the study suggests this factor is also important in the B2B sector. ITDMs often want to be informed and educated, so any articles or videos that come across as a hard sell are failing to hit the right spot.

However, the quality of content is also a primary consideration, as 47% say that not being clear is a turn-off, while 42% have navigated elsewhere due to the level of expertise shown not being up to the correct standard or level.A similar number also don’t like there to be too many requirements to download content.

“Content and educational tools can both positively and negatively impact the likelihood of a sale,” IDG Communications SVP, Julie Ekstrom, said: “Vendors need to invest in content that navigates tech decision-makers through the purchase process. If they do not, they risk negatively impacting the impression of their organization for three-quarters of decision-makers.”

ITDMs prefer to consume traditional content above all others, with tech news and reviews among the most popular. However, the report noted that they are also relying on webcasts and podcasts in increasing numbers, which highlights the need to adopt a multi-channel content campaign in 2019.

Social media should also be a useful tool for tech marketers next year, as 93% of the 1,200 ITDMs surveyed said they use Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms to learn about new and trending topics. YouTube has also seen a marked uptick in popularity during the last 12 months. Finally, if the content is downloaded, sales teams should wait around six days before following up on the lead.


17/Dec/2018
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Content Marketing Institute has released the latest part of its Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report for B2C marketers in 2019, and the main takeaway is that brands with a strong commitment to creating content are usually more successful at building loyalty with consumers and achieving other important goals.

Content will be high on the agenda for B2C marketers next year, as 57% expect to see an uptick in their budgets for this discipline next year. Substantial investment is also in the cards for almost a third of marketers, who say that their budgets for content spending will increase by 9% or more in 2019.

Content creation will be the single biggest focus for marketers during the next 12 months, as 56% plan invest more in engaging articles, blogs and infographics. Whether working in-house or with a skilled agency, the study suggests that high output will be central to strategies in all sectors and industries.

This is supported by the fact that 23% of B2C marketers want to spend more on “content marketing outsourcing” next year. Other areas of proposed investment include “paid content distribution” (37%), “content marketing staff” (34%) and “content marketing technology” (34%).

In terms of objectives and goals for content, building loyalty and pushing brand authority lead the way. About 81% say they want content creation to drive loyalty and retention, and the same number say the process is rooted in a desire to make their organisation a “credible and trusted” resource.

“B2C marketers have for many years reported that brand awareness is a top goal for content marketing,” Content Marketing Institute research director, Lisa Murton Beets, says. “It’s still an important goal, but now we also see a strong concern for using content to build loyalty. B2C marketers realize that while it is important to drive people to their content, it’s just as important to keep them coming back for more.”

MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley, added: “There are many types of content that B2C marketers can apply their creativity toward to nurture relationships. Consider the power of videos that tell stories, in-person events that build a sense of community, newsletters that inform, podcasts that inspire – the possibilities are endless.”

Making a strong commitment to content marketing appears to give brands a better chance of achieving success, as the “most committed” marketers deliver better results across the board. These marketers have documented strategies, effective measurements of ROI and an understanding of metrics, all of which help them to adopt a more mature approach to content. In contrast, the least committed fall behind in key areas.

As noted in various studies in recent weeks, educating consumers and providing added value will be an excellent strategy to pursue in 2019, as successful B2C marketers are regularly providing audiences with targeted resources that improve their wellbeing in some way. Getting more comfortable with the metrics that measure its effectiveness and tie content into the goals of the wider business is also recommended.