As we inch closer to the end of the year, all brands have their eyes on the evolving marketing trends for 2018.
To prepare, teams often start by brainstorming answers to simple questions like:
- How can we take advantage of what’s hot right now?
- In what ways can we seamlessly connect with customers?
- Where are we already behind competitors?
But are these the right questions to ask? Are trends even worth following?
At this moment, B2B organizations are working through how to balance outdated internal business models with new, more efficient processes. The web—and the technology tools that come with it—are on a fast-track cycle of change. Teams are under pressure to create clickable content that supports customer needs, gets likes and shares, addresses current trends, and hits sales goals.
Clearly, the B2B space is at a point of growth, caught between market shifts, technology advancements, and customer whims. More than ever, brands need to understand how to create a strategy that works, is rooted in a solid foundation, and is clear, executable, and repeatable.
So what question would be best to ask before jumping into implementing marketing trends for 2018?
How can we provide top-notch marketing strategy that offers internal accountability, clear data tracking, and brand cohesiveness for internal teams in the areas that matter most? And how can we use it as the core foundation for all marketing outreach consistently?
Start to build a strategy with some core components.
Components of the Solid Marketing Plan You Need and Always Wanted
In Kapost’s recent B2B Content Operations Strategy Benchmark, we found what we consider to be the most significant trend for 2018: content operations are moving away from simple content marketing and into complex, strategically aligned content operations.
Even clearer from our findings, we found that to be able to scale and support a complex content operation, there needs to be a defined strategy, as well as tools and processes to deliver on said strategy.
A solid marketing plan is a foundation for everything else. With a definite plan, brands can:
- Streamline teams and processes
- Create shared, achievable goals as a united team
- Navigate the roadways between old processes and new tools
- Improve digital communication
- Leverage events more effectively
- Understand the role content plays in translating all of the above into clear strategies with workable tactics that provide ROI
If your brand is ready and serious about creating a solid foundation that benefits every aspect of the business, here are the components you need, and why.
Bump up Your Internal Taxonomy Game
Leverage better keyword tagging. It’s a given that teams are creating marketing content, but with what purpose? Who is the audience and why is it being created?
When each piece of content is developed, organized, and documented with an appropriate keyword tag, all those questions are answered. Immediately. Teams can search and find the right piece of content for a specific customer along the buyer’s journey, at just the right time.
B2B organizations are improving their tagging, and it shows. We found that in 2017, just under 60% of marketers tagged their content by key buyer personas.
However, now it’s time to move past the basics and carry tagging into the buyer’s journey experience. The report also revealed more than 67% of brands still struggle with content gaps between key areas like buying stage, product line, and the specific buyer persona that can be served with a piece of content.
Creating marketing content tags for buying stage, channel, and other relevant aspects of the sales pipeline also help collect relevant data a brand needs to improve marketing efforts and impact.
Align Strategies with Brand Vision
Define how a company’s vision translates into clear strategic alignment with each team’s specific work goals. Then, have leadership communicate it.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a communication breakdown between teams. People point fingers, nothing changes, and then sales goals fail to materialize. It also makes the work of content creators a million times harder at every stage of development.
Our benchmark report revealed, “Only 42% of content creators had visibility into how content aligns to organizational priorities.” At the same time, “42% of marketing leaders don’t see how the lack of alignment between leadership strategies and marketing tactics across departments was an issue.” These stats show the clear communication breakdown between two very important aspects of marketing operations.
However, this misaligned perception is fixable. With a solid strategy in place that’s documented and communicated in a shared document, you can significantly reduce the knowledge gap. These small efforts also build confidence and trust in the value of internal collaboration.
Track Metrics That Matter—Really
Understand and track the metrics that matter to the core of the business and the bottom line.
Vanity metrics boost the ego, especially after a few posts pull down significant likes and shares. But if they make no impact on ROI, then do they really matter?
Marketing teams need to follow guidance from leadership on what to track, but they also need to communicate metrics they feel have the biggest impact on strategy. As the people working in the trenches, the marketing team’s input is critical here.
Revenue responsibility is not always a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have. So, in 2018, make it part of your marketing strategy. Tracking data like the number of leads created and their quality, conversion rates, and revenue driven directly by marketing leads are all essential. They also happen to be the key areas that marketing organizations who exceed revenue goals track consistently.
Get Crystal Clear on Brand-Specific ROI
Tracking ROI is a moving target and evolving field for brands. With so much content in play online, it can be a challenge to see what is of value and why. Especially when brands are not actually using any specific metrics to measure and track it.
Our Benchmark found that almost 25% of marketers have no metrics in place to track what they want to know most. At the same time, 87% of marketers are relying on web traffic to determine marketing ROI, most of which are often vanity metrics. Which takes us back to the point: track metrics that matter.
Instead of guesswork, why not do what successful marketers are already doing? Track productivity gains from key aspects of the content development and execution process. This should include content planning and creation, communication improvements, and content impact via improved funnel velocity and conversions.
The better marketing teams establish ROI for each piece of content (or “content story”), the easier it is for them to be valued as corporate assets rather than viewed as cost centers. Above all, marketers need to be transparent with their content development process and assets, and they need to demonstrate the value specific types of content create for customers.
Make Collaboration a Priority
Improve how you create ways for departments to collaborate effectively, then keep it up.
The good news is that marketing teams are getting better about creating duplicate content. But the not-so-good news is that only 44% of team members have complete visibility into the marketing campaigns and content from other departments.
This creates internal silos and makes it hard to create a united front as a brand and understand how one piece fits with the next along the buyer’s journey. And that is a problem because it creates more work for everyone and causes a disconnect in the customer’s purchasing experience. Inter-team miscommunication also causes a strain on project development timelines.
Even if sharing seems like an obvious tactic, doing it can be hard without a centralized content system. The upfront work to create and organize a content system hugely impacts the bottom line and helps keep team members from becoming stressed, confused, and frustrated in the midst of collaboration.
Keep Content Customer-Focused and Organized
Improve focus on customer-centric content and keep it organized.
The dream is to create content that carries a customer through the whole buyer’s journey flawlessly. While this is a goal to shoot for, it’s not easy to achieve when key content pieces are scattered and hidden (unintentionally) in various internal systems.
When creating any cornerstone pieces, be sure they focus on the customer and their needs first. Connect with customer service and sales departments to get more specific insights if needed. Then leverage strategic taxonomy to tag content with relevant keywords that pair it to specific phases in the buyer’s journey.
Make the whole process even more efficient with a centralized content database and a cheat sheet of keyword tags. It saves time, energy, effort, and search time for everyone using it.
Make Priorities a Priority
Create and maintain priorities as a team—and as a brand.
Priorities change with the pace of business, but should they? A team can easily become victim to a game of hot potato with deadlines, but in reality, that perception is mistaken. Understanding and establishing strategic priorities will make the entire process run more smoothly.
Each team member should know their specific priorities and how they fit into the bigger-picture vision, sales goals, marketing plan, and with each other. At the same time, everyone should be able to manage their own list of priorities easily without any second-guessing.
The better teams stick to a marketing plan and communicate with each other in the process, the easier it will be to know what’s truly a priority for them specifically.
When it comes to planning your marketing strategy, factoring in trends is key. But don’t confuse trends with fads, or expect a trend to outweigh the importance of a defined marketing strategy that supports your content operation.
Use these tips to really fine-tune the way you approach marketing strategy and master the one marketing trend you need to in 2018: a clear, rooted marketing strategy to build and leverage key content.