As we draw closer to the end of 2013, not a day goes by without someone committing a feverish 'future of content marketing' post into the marketing blogosphere.
According to these digital soothsayers, next year we are destined (doomed?) to see more native advertising, more video content, more renewed commitment to ‘story first’ strategies, and so forth.
These are all strategies and techniques you could have read about in 2012, 2011 and 2010. The truth is content marketing has been around for over a hundred years, but there are many who would be happy for it to remain in its predictable, boring and samey infancy.
To be quite blunt, content marketing in 2014 needs to grow up.
Here’s how I’d like see content marketing mature over the next year...
A lot has been said about the purchase funnel.
In fact so much has been said about it that many feel it has been exhausted to death. In its wake, a smorgasbord of geometric configurations have been posited: cylinder, concentric circles, orbits, spindles, dodecahedrons (ok, I added that one).
Type 'purchase process' into Google Images and scroll away: everything from crazy path diagrams, the old funnel, cartoons and one that suggests it’s now a pretzel! Personally, I prefer the poetic variety such as the 'consumer journey'.
It suggests a Tolkien-esque epic requiring consumers to circumvent mythical creatures and fiery environs. Which is a typical experience for any of you that have hazarded Bluewater on a Saturday!
But whether it’s a funnel, a journey or a cycle the one thing that is generally the same is that it has a recognized objective beginning and end. That is to say, one of the chief goals of any marketer is to create awareness of their product or service and ultimately keep people interested enough to drive them to purchase.
Who doesn’t enjoy that feeling of walking into a shop and being recognized, welcomed and treated as an individual?
We appreciate the familiarity when the sommelier remembers our favourite grape or a regular supplier unexpectedly sends a little extra on our birthday.
We all relish the personal touch, and this is no less the case when it comes to the marketing we are subjected to online.
"Targeted marketing" is often anything but and, worse still, reveals the way we view and think about our customers, as dehumanised objects within a segmentation bucket waiting to be hit with a marketing message.
I know it’s just semantics, but terminology is a real giveaway to underlying perspectives and intentions.
One that really grates with me is “targeting customers”. We are in a pull not push world, where customers are empowered, connected, and knowledgable, yet old-world marketers continue to target.
As marketers, we are becoming increasingly data-focused. It is likely that the next generation of CMOs will not just be creatives, but also data scientists standing in the control room of their organisation, with dashboards of live data flowing in from sales, marketing, and customer service activity.
This goes beyond transaction and conversion data, to include details of interactions with brand-authored content, as well as user-generated content and sharing of content on social networks.
So how can content analytics allow you to build detailed customer profiles, analyse customer feedback for trends, and personalise content and product propositions?