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Lucy Jones

Head of Content

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We explore the 2017 HubSpot State of Inbound to see how content marketing may evolve in 2018 and discuss how B2B marketers can get ahead of potential trends. 

According to the 2017 HubSpot State of Inbound, ‘developing content’ is still a key marketing challenge. In addition, 21% of marketers named ‘targeting content for an international audience’ as their top marketing challenge.

Keeping abreast of change is a continual challenge for marketers. As technologies and buying habits evolve, it’s important to remain agile; regularly reviewing the best ways to attract, engage and nurture the right audiences.

As the fuel powering every marketing campaign, content creation remains an important action. But, just like other areas of marketing and sales, content is evolving.

 Related: 6 Considerations For Your 2017 Content Marketing Plan

In the past few years, we’ve witnessed a shift from marketing where the primary channels- email and website - were owned and controlled by the brand. Now, marketing across a variety of social channels and content publishing platforms is challenging businesses to redefine how they communicate with their audience and track performance. 

Based on HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017, we’ve explored some of the content trends occurring, to see which channels, platforms and content formats are impacting content strategies.

4 Content Considerations from the HubSpot State of Inbound

1. Content creation and distribution is still a priority

Firstly, it’s important to note that content creation and distribution isn’t going anywhere.

 

Comparing year-on-year trends for priority marketing activities, content creation remains second place priority, with distribution and amplification third priority.

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When we consider that, according to this year’s report, the top two overall priorities for marketers in the coming 12 months are to:

  • Convert contracts/ leads to customers (70% list this as a 2017 priority)
  • Grow traffic to website (55% of marketers say this is a priority)

It makes sense that content remains an integral asset and nurture tool to support these goals.

Related: The HubSpot State of Inbound 2017: Key Takeaways

2. Visual content is on the rise

Of course, ‘content’ is an all-encompassing term for many different formats and types. But if we consider the content distribution channels that marketers are starting to prioritise, we can see that visual content distribution, just as in 2016, is increasing in importance.

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Comparing the content distribution channels that survey respondents plan to use through the next 12 months, it can be seen that YouTube remains top of the chart, whilst plans to use Facebook video, Instagram and Messaging Apps are increasing.

Related: Which Content Channels Do Buyers Prefer?

Interestingly, the most impressive statistical change is that only 9% of respondents cited ‘None of the above’, when asked the question “...what are your company’s top priorities” - a significant reduction from the 22% in 2016 - underlining that more marketers than ever plan to use these content distribution channels through 2018.

82% of all internet traffic is projected to be video by 2020 - IBM 

It is, therefore, apparent that the use of visual content to attract prospects is on the rise. And as video content:

 

  • Is easily digestible
  • Delivers key points visually and succinctly
  • Supports brand messaging
  • Can be mapped to all stages of the buyer’s journey

We expect to see it increasingly included in content strategies.

Related: Why and How to Include Video in Your Content Strategy

A note on video and AI

One notable content insight from the 2017 State of Inbound was the increasing perception of video (and AI once it is more readily available) as a disruptor and key channel to enable better connections with prospects. 

Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality are all buzzwords in the technology and marketing community... respondents agree it is a disrupter, but since the technologies are not pervasively available and have so many potential use cases, there’s not a lot of clarity around what impact AI will have in the near future and how marketers should prepare or adjust their approach.

3. A varied approach to content is still important

As we now have so much choice over content formats and distribution channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, emerging networks like Snapchat, WeChat, Messenger, platforms like Medium and more), it can be hard to know what to prioritise and invest resource in.

 

However, it’s important to note that this does not mean that blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers and other content types should be overlooked; they are still essential components of an Inbound strategy and crucial to achieve priority marketing goals like growing organic SEO presence’, and ‘increasing traffic’.

Getting the right balance of content will vary between companies and industry. But, considering content strategies for 2018, there are some key approaches that will remain constant no matter what content formats you choose.

Effective content will always be that which:

  • Maps to the buyer’s journey
  • Is relevant to the buyer’s challenge and offers solutions
  • Is published on the channels and in the format that your buyer personas use

4. Highly Personalised Content Is Key

Highly targeted, highly personalised content, such as the bespoke assets required for ABM campaigns is another area we’d expect to see growing over the next few years. 

Related: Why B2B Marketing Personalisation Should Be A Priority

ABM content, that aligns with a specific high-value, high-propensity account’s buying context, challenges and content preferences, holds great nurture value and is something audiences increasingly expect. However, we’d also expect to see great personalisation in non-ABM content - informed by better segmentation, smart content, intelligent nurturing and through ever-more-effective persona refinement. The rise in platforms such as messenger apps and video are sure to facilitate an increase in more contextual content and better personalisation. According to Forbes, 94% of executives believe delivering personalised content is crucial.

75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognises them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history - Accenture

RelatedSteps to prepare your organisation to adopt ABM

Considering Your Content Strategy

While content strategies are experiencing some interesting shifts, especially regarding the platforms now available and the types of content being created, it’s important that marketers approach content with their wider goals in mind.

Those who focus on creating contextually relevant, buyer-mapped content and engagements - however that might be for their personas - will be those who see content success.

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