As we embark on a new year, the Internet is flooded with predictions for the top content-marketing trends for 2019. But will any of them really move the dial for the majority of marketers?
Content-marketing ninjas and rockstars everywhere are publishing their top three or five or 10 game-changing trends that everyone needs to jump on, right this second. You’ll hear a lot about chatbots and natural language search and AI and VR and AR—the whole futuristic alphabet soup of cutting-edge trends that you can “no longer afford to ignore.”
There’s something very satisfying about these kinds of articles. Shiny, new stuff is fun. Way more fun than last year’s stuff, whatever that was.
But if you’re more interested in results than fun, read on. Because none of the trends on these lists, no matter how cool and nascent, will transform your ability to generate demand, attract leads, and boost revenue unless you’ve got the basics in place.
What are the basics?
Personas that define the interests, preferences, challenges, and aspirations of the audience your content needs to reach.
A content strategy that identifies the business goals and audience needs your content efforts will support.
A content brand that ensures your content remains consistent, authentic, and relatable across all channels.
None of these are trendy or sexy. None involve blockchain or machine learning or space boots. For the most part, they can be assembled with nothing more technically advanced than pen and paper. Yet too many marketers still don’t have them in place:
- Only 37% of marketers have a documented content strategy.
- Only 63% of marketers have personas in place. (And fewer still use external research to build them.)
- Only 10% of marketers say their content has a consistent tone and voice.
- Only 45% of marketers have documented guidelines for their messaging, language, and tone.
More than one in three marketers don’t know enough about their audience to benefit from the latest trends in content creation and delivery.
These are the foundational elements of any content-marketing efforts. Without them, no trend, no matter how powerful, will get you closer to your goal. If you don’t know what your audience wants to hear, what formats they prefer, and what channels will reach them, plugging in VR will deliver the wrong experience with greater fidelity. Plugging in chatbots will deliver prompt, friendly, totally irrelevant information at scale.
No technology can enhance content marketing unless it’s grounded in a clear understanding of your prospects, your business objectives, and your brand.
Don't jump on the latest content trend until you have #personas, a #contentstrategy, and a #brandvoice in place.Click To Tweet
When we begin working with a new client, we start with these questions:
Do you have a documented content strategy? Does it align with the organization’s business priorities?
Do you have personas in place? Have those personas been validated with research and external interviews?
Do you have a documented brand voice and style guide?
If these elements are in place, we know we can move forward confidently and begin to evaluate the channels, tools, and technologies that will help them elevate their results.
If things are missing, we work with the client to fill the gaps by validating existing personas or developing new ones, formalizing or building the content strategy, and ensuring that the content brand is defined so that internal and external writers have the tools they need to capture the voice of your organization.
Ignoring trends is not an option for marketers. Our discipline is evolving rapidly, and we need to keep pace. There is a place for speculation, prediction, and blue-sky thinking. There is value in being able to see the possibilities and apply new capabilities in innovative ways.
But we have to stop seeing the latest technology as a silver bullet. Jumping on the newest trend because it’s new or because your competitors are doing it won’t move you forward. But being able to evaluate new trends against your audience needs, business goals, and content brand will. Reading up on the latest, coolest trends can be fun, but it’s a lot more fun (and a lot less nerve-wracking) when you don’t have to second-guess yourself about which you need to explore and which you can safely ignore.
Need help jumpstarting your content strategy? Read “Why Content Marking Is Still so Confusing for Marketers (And How to Simplify It).”
Learn more about DemandLab’s content marketing services.
About the AuthorFollow on Linkedin More Content by Hayden Jackson