There’s a good reason marketers spend so much time identifying trends and forecasting the future. Our job relies on keeping more than current; we’re always planning to make sure we’re on top of the latest trends and doing all we can to keep up with our buyers’ expectations. Here, we’ll revisit the trends being buzzed about early in the year, review the big 2018 predictions and discuss how they panned out.
The Trends: Taking the Pulse on 2018
Looking at what was actually happening at the beginning of this year, we see recurring themes.
When it comes to content preference trends, the Demand Gen Report 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report noted that the big trend as 2018 started was a growing emphasis on B2B buyers viewing user-generated and third-party content as more credible than content coming from the brands themselves. For marketers, that means greater emphasis on influencer marketing.
In terms of content formats, B2B buyers preferred infographics and media/news sites when they were just beginning the buying journey, third-party/analyst reports and webinars in the middle stages, and ROI calculators and case studies when they were ready to make a purchase decision.
(Source: Demand Gen Report 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report)
Other hot trends included ever-more personalization, long-form content, analytics and process automation, and more and more video.
The Predictions: Creating a More Human Experience
As marketing trend-watchers peered into their crystal balls, they saw technology embedded into every aspect of content marketing and predicted a more human relationship between brands and buyers.
Content Marketing Institute (CMI) published more than 60 predictions in its 2018 Content Marketing Predictions report. Among their predictions for this year:
- Technology would help marketers deliver more personalized, better timed and more relevant content;
- We’d continue to see more emphasis on video, video and video — and podcasts;
- Marketing would be about building relationships with buyers. Ardath Albee at Marketing Interactions predicted personalization at scale, enabled by technology;
- Long-form content would come on strong. Dan Hatch at Lush Digital Media predicted 5,000- and even 10,000-word e-books; and
- Content marketing would be more highly integrated into every aspect of marketing and sales.
A number of experts foretold that:
- New formats would emerge from technological capabilities;
- Marketing attribution would improve;
- Technology would enable content delivered at the right moment using the right format;
- Artificial intelligence-generated content would pick up steam; and
- Blockchain implementation would begin to control buyer and data pricing.
The Reality: Where Are We as 2019 Fast Approaches?
The experts were mostly right on target. Here are six observations.
- Yes, B2B buyers want credible information. That means marketers are continuing to look to both external and internal thought leaders and experts to share their authentic, trustworthy experiences and vision.
- Technology continues to drive the increasing focus on a personalized buyer experience. Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are helping marketers turn captured buyer data into a customized buyer experience. And automation is helping to deliver that personalized and customized experience at scale.
- Video is not an option; it’s a requirement. It’s being used more often and in new ways with tools like those Vidyard offers that make it ridiculously easy. Often, the most successful videos are not professionally produced, but created on the fly. It’s more about building human bonds before transacting business.
- Podcasts are also surging in popularity. They perform exceptionally well and can serve up in-depth discussion that’s easily consumed.
- Long-form content, including blog posts as long as 2,000 words continue to rank among the best content performers. That’s good news for marketers, since they can be produced quickly and used to create derivative content. And that’s exactly what many of our clients are doing.
- The buyer’s journey is no longer linear. It’s more like a spider web than a snail trail. Marketers are responding by letting buyers “choose their own adventure,” selecting the channels and formats they prefer.
Were you a trend follower or a trendsetter? Did the predictions pan out for you? Share your experiences and the lessons you learned in the comments section below.
We love talking with marketers about the hottest trends in marketing content and strategy, so be sure to contact us to talk about your 2019 marketing plans and how we can help.