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4 Trends That Will Shape the Future of Your Content Program



4 Trends That Will Shape the Future of Your Content Program

No one needs a reminder of how hard it is to predict the future with any accuracy. Still, you probably feel pressed to try. After all, it’s your job to keep up with (or, if you’re lucky get ahead of) audience preferences and industry shifts.

That’s why CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose put hard questions about the future of content to a panel of industry leaders. Their conversation in a webinar offers a sneak peek at the discussions expected at ContentTECH Summit later this month.

Those he consulted for the informative discussion include:

What do they see in their crystal balls? Chaos (and potential) in the rise of citizen creators, personalization, experimentation, and a need to wrangle all that content chaos.

What’s the future of #Content programs? The rise of citizen creators, personalization, and experimentation create chaos ­– but also great potential, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Citizen content creators rise up

At Ceros, Jamie Gier sees a future in the growth of citizen content creators based on what they’ve noticed in the last 24 months.

“The reality is now you can have somebody like me, who doesn’t have a design background, be able to create compelling content very rapidly and have the means to distribute it out into the universe,” they say.

People without design or marketing backgrounds can now create and distribute compelling #Content. That makes some marketers uneasy, says Jamie Gier of @Cerosdotcom via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet


But not everyone embraces the citizen creator trend. As Jamie explains: “As more tools are available, I think designers and marketers start to worry about losing control over brand standards and design integrity.”

Bynder’s Brian Kavanaugh sees those concerns, too. The questions the trend raises, he says, include: “How is (the image) shot? What are our guidelines? Do we trust that it will be usable for the brand?”

Regardless, citizen creators won’t likely disappear – and they’re even influencing corporate design.

Craig Bollig of Orange Logic shared the story of a creative director who sees a shift from the “perfect look” once created and distributed by brands toward a more authentic look that appeals to the citizen creator world. “It could be user-generated or less retouching or time in the photo lab,” he says.

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For example, Tesla often relies on Tesla owners/drivers to populate its Instagram stream with “homemade” aka UGC content, like this image of two dogs waiting in a Tesla while it charges. The animals aren’t easily seen or lit well, and the vehicle’s hood has streaks of snow, indicating someone might have brushed it off haphazardly.

“Unpolished content is the future,” Craig says.

Unpolished #Content is the future, says @CraigBollig of @orangelogic via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet


Content chaos increases

Embracing the rise of citizen creators doesn’t mean you can abandon detailed guidelines and processes. Instead, it requires a good balance. As Jamie advises brands to appreciate the fact that you can put creativity in the hands of all sorts of personas. Just make sure there are some integrity mechanisms in place so you don’t lose that.


Don’t forget, citizen creators may arise internally (from colleagues in other departments, teams, and regional offices) or externally (from audience members and customers). And that creates another challenge.

“For content to be everywhere on all of your channels, it first has to be all in the same place,” Craig says.

Often, that place is digital asset management (DAM) platform or system, but not every organization has one. Craig says he sometimes hears from marketers who have 15 different servers, and their employees don’t know how to find anything on any of them.

The starting place for solving this multi-symptom problem is to designate one home for creative content (Dropbox and Google Drive are NOT that place). “This is a huge step in the right direction, and you should celebrate that when it happens. Socialize it internally,” Craig advises.

For example, a single creative content source might help save a brand from conducting seven similar photoshoots around the world because no one knew about the imagery that already exists.

As your DAM system matures, think about verticals and themes like user-generated content. “There’s no way to accomplish that without governance around usage rights,” Craig says.

Often, that governance is a release form where the person who generated the content gives permission for the brand to use it. The release should detail the timeframe for which those rights are granted and include parameters for how the content can be used. To be effective, that permission document must be attached to the content.

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“A hundred-plus people would want to use that (content.) How could you confidently say that image is usable without an original governance central source of truth?” Craig says.


A DAM can help organize the chaos.

While marketers may think about organizing brand content, Craig predicts growing requests from multiple departments and stakeholders for creative assets. “There’s always going to be a little bit of chaos. But it also is important to understand what those bottlenecks are, the challenges for other teams, and how a DAM can help,” he says.

Contrend’s Peter Bakker understands the challenges Craig raises. His organization often helps businesses structure or organize the chaos. “It’s amazing that even a large organization is so dysfunctional in this,” he says.


Experimentation and personalization reign

Sitecore’s Jill Grozalsky Roberson has seen a significant increase in the adoption of personalization and experimentation software over the last two years. “Organizations now are trying to get back to the pulse of the customer and understanding what’s working, what’s resonating,” she says.

And that doesn’t just require software. It requires a change in mindset. Jill advises content marketers to get comfortable with not having everything finalized and perfect to implement personalization.

“Personalization is almost like a form of testing … you’re delivering tailored content based on preference to see if it works. You’re not going to know 100% what the impact will be because it is kind of a test. That can be nerve-wracking.”

Personalization is a form of testing. You deliver tailored #Content to see if it works, but you won’t know for sure what the impact will be, says @Jgrozalsky of @Sitecore via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet


To become more at ease with personalization, Jill says to start small. Use what you learn to secure executive buy-in and investment – the two most common hurdles to personalization efforts.

“The more you can demonstrate that there is an impact for personalization, the more excitement there’s going to be,” she says. Then, you can scale the personalization.

Scaling up doesn’t mean you must make every piece of content personalized to every member of your audience right away. Instead, Jill suggests starting with one segment of your audience and then expanding from there.

Is it even possible to predict what will feel personal and relevant to an individual content consumer?

AI-informed tools can help you determine what formats and topics might work for a particular audience three-to-six months from now, Contrend’s Peter Bakker says. These tools predict the future based on the past behavior of this person or a similar audience.

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Contrend’s tool, for example, uses a combination of inputs rather than a single measurement. It takes social, SEO, Google Analytics, and other factors to manifest a well-informed prediction.

But the tech doesn’t make the final decisions. “That’s always overlaid with a human eye,” he says. “There’s always someone saying, ‘Do we agree with what the platform is telling us?’”

#AI tools can help predict what content an individual consumer will want. But don’t forget the human review, says Peter Bakker of Contrend via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet


Focus shifts to value over volume

Ceros’ Jamie Gier says the 2021 Forrester B2B research found that the number of buying interactions jumped from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2021 marking a new reality in which a more significant share of buying activities happen online.

“I don’t think that’s going to change even as the world opens up,” Jamie says. “We’re at a point where you need to be invited into the world of your buyers, and you want to make that visit worth their time.”

Putting control in visitors’ hands may be the answer. “We have to get to a place where we’re comfortable ditching to a large extent static content because that’s not what’s working to bring somebody into your story,” Jamie says

For example, Sephora uses quizzes to engage their buyers and personalize their shopping experience. Other organizations turn reports into interactive pathways readers can explore.

Emphasize content value over content volume, Jamie advises. When your audience values your content, they’re more likely to stay longer and connect with your brand.

“You’re competing for the minds and the hearts of your buyers,” Jamie says. “Make your content worth their while.”

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit (May 31-June 2) in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter



B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter

The B2B customer journey can be a long one, especially when the purchase of expensive software subscriptions is under consideration.

“The average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from anonymous first touch to won,” according to Dreamdata in their 2022 B2B Go-to-Market Benchmarks — a statistic described by co-founder and CMO Steffen Hedebrandt as “alarming.”

But the report also indicates that this journey can be significantly sped up — by as much as 63% — if accounts begin their research at software review sites, gathering information and opinions from their peers. Journeys that originate at a review site often lead to deals of higher value too.

Fragmented data on the customer journey. Dreamdata is a B2B go-to-market platform. In any B2B company, explained Hedebrandt, there are typically 10 or even 20 data silos that contain fragments of the customer journey. Website visits, white paper downloads, social media interactions, webinar or meeting attendance, demos, and of course intent data from review site visits — this data doesn’t typically sit in one place within an organization.

“We built an account-based data model because we believe that there’s such a thing as an account journey and not an individual journey,” said Hedebrandt. “So if there are two, three or five people representing an account, which is typically what you see in B2B, all of these touches get mapped into the same timeline.”

Among those many touches is the intent data sourced from software review site G2. Dreamdata has an integration with G2 and a G2 dashboard allowing visualization of G2-generated intent data. This includes filtering prospects who are early in their journey, who have not yet discovered the customer’s product, or who have discovered it but are still searching. This creates a basis for attributing pipelines, conversions and revenue to the activity.

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“Strategically, our ideal customer profile is a B2B software-as-a-service company,” said Hedenbrandt. “B2B SaaS companies are particularly ripe for understanding this digital customer journey; their main investment is in digital marketing, they have a salesforce that use software tools to do this inside sales model; and they also deliver their product digitally as well.” What’s more, it takes twice as long to close SaaS deal as it does to close deals with B2B commercial and professional services companies.


Read next: A look at the tech review space

The Benchmarks findings. The conclusions of the 2022 Benchmarks report is based on aggregated, anonymized data from more than 400 Dreamdata user accounts. Focusing on first-touch attribution (from their multi-touch model), Dreamdata found that customer journeys where a review site is the first touch are 63% shorter than the average. In contrast, where the first touch channel is social, the journey is much longer than average (217%); it’s the same when paid media is the first touch (155%).

As the Benchmarks report suggests, this may well mean that social is targeting prospects that are just not in-market. It makes sense that activity on a review site is a better predictor of intent.

Hedenbrandt underlines the importance of treating the specific figures with caution. “It’s not complete science what we’ve done,” he admits, “but it’s real data from 400 accounts, so it’s not going to be completely off. You can only spend your time once, and at least from what we can see here it’s better to spend your time collecting reviews than writing another Facebook update.”

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While Dreamdata highlights use of G2, Hedenbrandt readily concedes that competitor software review sites might reasonably be expected to show similar effects. “Definitely I would expect it to be similar.”

Why we care. It’s not news that B2B buyers researching software purchases use review sites and that those sites gather and trade in the intent data generated. Software vendors encourage users to post reviews. There has been a general assumption that a large number of hopefully positive reviews is a good thing to have.

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What Dreamdata’s findings indicate is that the effect of review sites on the buyer journey — especially as the first-touch channel — can be quantified and a value placed on it. “None of us questioned the value of reviews, but during this process you can actually map it into a customer journey where you can see the journey started from G2, then flowed into sales meetings, website visits, ads, etc. Then we can also join the deal value to the intent that started from G2.”

Likely, this is also another example of B2B learning from B2C. People looking at high consideration B2C purchases are now accustomed to seeking advice both from friends and from online reviews. The same goes for SaaS purchases, Hedenbrandt suggests: “More people are turning to sites like G2 to understand whether this is a trustworthy vendor or not. The more expensive it is, the more validation you want to see.”

About The Author


Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

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He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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