By Alicia Esposito, Content Strategist
It’s December and you know what that means: It’s predictions time!
That’s right. We’ve already looked back at 2018 and how the content marketing landscape has evolved. Now, we’re looking forward at what the New Year will bring us.
And don’t worry, we’re not here to scare you by spotlighting new trends and technologies that will throw your entire 2019 plan off course. Following are some ways we believe buyer preferences will continue to change, and how marketing teams will adapt so they can better capture buyer attention and stand out from the competition. Are any of these trends on your radar?
1. Personalization will remain a marketing imperative.
Personalization has been a hot topic in the B2B world for a few years now, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. According to research from Salesforce, 65% of B2B buyers say they’d switch brands if a company didn’t personalize their communications. Even more (75%) buyers said that by the year 2020, they expect companies to anticipate their needs and serve relevant suggestions.
This isn’t an unfair expectation. Your buyers receive tailored recommendations and personalized experiences every day through sites like Amazon and through services like Netflix. As we get closer to that 2020 deadline, we’ll see more buyers expect tailored experiences at every touch point – even the content they consume. Because some brands are already achieving this using content rabbit holes, platforms like PathFactory, and tailored content toolkits and microsites, we’ll see these leaders create personalization at scale. That means creating more personalized experiences with greater ease and efficiency.
2. Long-form content will get a makeover.
This year’s Content Preferences Survey from Demand Gen Report found that over a 12-month period, buyers largely turned to long-form assets such as white papers (71%), analyst reports (69%) and E-books (68%) to research potential purchases. While these results confirm that long-form content isn’t going away anytime soon, it does point to an interesting shift – especially as we consider the fact that more respondents in this same survey revealed that they have less time to consume content and are gravitating more toward short and interactive formats.
It seems like a blatant contradiction, but together, these findings point to an interesting future for long-form. Content consumption will no longer be a flat, long-scrolling experience. Even E-books and survey reports will be reimagined for interactive and broken down into compelling experiences that are aesthetically beautiful and easy to navigate.
3. Content will always be mobile first.
The average American looks at their smartphone 52 times per day, according to Deloitte research, and more than a third admit to using their smartphones for work purposes “very/fairly often” when they’re not officially “on the clock.” More screen time means more opportunities for you to reach your buyers. But smartphone screens and mobile experiences are vastly different than what buyers get with a desktop or laptop.
B2B marketers, in turn, are going to be rethinking the way they approach content experience and design. Mobile experience will be more top-of-mind during strategic discussions, and editorial and design teams will collaborate more closely to ensure that all content looks flawless on screens of all sizes.
4. The webinar model will be completely overhauled.
Webinars have been a tried-and-true tactic in most B2B marketers’ arsenals. But as buyers get more strapped for time, and as they get flooded with more content, it will become increasingly challenging to not only get people to register for your webinars, but also get people to attend them.
However, we’re seeing some brands really turn the webinar model on its head, and I think we’ll see even more movement in 2019. For example, we’ll see more brands throwing the slides out the window and doing more video-based webinars. Others will experiment with panel discussions and “fireside chats” in lieu of the one-sided presentation. There are no rules in this new era of webinars, so B2B marketing leaders will take advantage of the opportunity to push creative boundaries.
5. Video will be more present across the buying journey.
There is a common perception that videos are primarily used as attention grabbers early in the funnel. If a person stumbles across a paid social post or sees an interesting video on your website, the likelihood that they’ll want to learn more amplifies.
But buyers’ desire for more visual content will spark marketers to embrace video at all stages of the buyer’s journey. Tactical, best-practice guides, product demonstrations and case study interviews will be executed via video, boiling down complex research- and selection-stage concepts into easy-to-digest clips that are also easy to share with influencers and other decision-makers.
6. A millennial-driven workforce will spark the creation of more “cheeky” content.
There have been a few cases where we’ve seen B2B brands really push creative limits, using fun themes and timely trends to inspire the content they create. LeadMD’s Monsters of Funnel, for example, always brings a smile to my face. However, older clienteles and highly technical industries prevent many marketers from taking the leap. But the reality is that 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are now involved in the decision-making process at their companies, while one-third say they are the only decision-maker for their departments. Marketers will see this as validation for pushing creative limits and testing different themes in their content and campaigns. Adding emojis to your email subject lines is only the beginning.
7. Influencer marketing will reach a tipping point.
No, this doesn’t mean that influencer marketing is going to implode. However, we will see the trend reach a new level of maturation. The brands who do it well will continue to put out innovative campaigns, and the brands who don’t will shelf the tactic altogether. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The more a trend or tactic is embraced, the more saturated the market gets. The more entrenched the market it is, the more likely your buyers will see it as a tired fad.
8. B2B brands will finally figure out this podcasting thing.
We’ve seen brands like Salesforce and GE develop full-fledged podcast series, while other brands have sponsored episodes of their favorite shows. Over the next year, we’ll see brands in both scenarios flesh out and refine their strategies. And the brands that have a podcast series will test different methods — evolving from traditional Q&A interviews to full-blown storytelling.
9. Marketing will create sales enablement content reps will actually want to use.
B2B marketers are always preaching about sales and marketing alignment. But are you creating content that’s truly valuable for your reps? Is this content easy to navigate, easy to understand and easy to use in day-to-day conversations with prospects and clients?
In 2019, we believe marketers will rethink the type of content they create for sales teams, focusing more on tactical takeaways, tailored messaging and must-know information aligned to buyer needs and pain points — not product specs. Moreover, we’ll see the interactive and video trends bleed into sales enablement. Marketing teams will create interactive toolkits that reps can use in meetings and will guide prospects through the solution selection process using interactive product pickers.
10. We’ll see more content teams experiment (and succeed!) with AI.
Fear not, the robots aren’t taking over content jobs. Instead, they’re making content marketers’ lives a lot easier. For example, AI can help you develop a comprehensive marketing plan based on months’ or years’ worth of data. Or, it can help deliver those personalized experiences that we mentioned earlier. AI-powered tools can even help automate the creation of emails and social posts – menial tasks that suck up a lot of time for today’s content marketer. In 2019, we’ll see more brands test these methods and start to share their experiences with peers.
We’re not psychics, but research and buyer trends point to an exciting year ahead. Are there any other trends we missed that you think will be top-of-mind in 2019? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below!