As we head into the second quarter of 2017, Propero Partners takes a look at the current position of content marketing, and what to expect in the future.

Let’s start with the state of technology…

As technology growth continues on its current trajectory, B2B marketing for financial and professional services will likely see a rise in the number of SAAS (software as a service) platforms like the ‘Cloud’ being developed.

These platforms will be fuelled by a growing demand for ‘agile’ content creation. Gather Content describes agile content as ‘an iterative approach to development.’ This means that unlike waterfall-led approaches, where content is broken up into distinct stages that must be completed in sequence from conception through to production, agile content creation delivers result incrementally, instead of at the end.

Professional service firms need to be aware of these changes to expectations, to ensure their content marketing campaigns are aligned accordingly, taking into consideration realistic time frames and overseeing the process at each stage.

With the increased popularity of SAAS platforms like the ‘Cloud’, professional service firms should educate themselves on how they work and contribute to improving business efficiency.

Second up is reporting…

Content marketing is increasingly finding its way into the boardroom and becoming a director-level concern, says Sam Gallagher, a content marketing panelist at London’s recent B2B Marketing Expo. As a result, there’s more emphasis than ever before on tracking ROI and results.

Interestingly however, while it’s never been easier to report on the number of likes, shares and comments some types of content attract, how we report on the success of others, is lagging behind.

Being able to accurately measure ROI from thought leadership and positioning pieces still needs some work. While the thought leadership effectiveness is undisputed in terms of getting in front of the right audience and carving out a unique position among competitors, its precise return on investment is yet to be set in stone.

However, what we DO know is that marketing with thought leadership content generates 3 times as many leads and costs 62% less than normal marketing methods (source: DemandMetric). These reasons alone make thought leadership and positioning content a worthwhile investment.

Analytics and data will continue to play their role in informing when, where, and how the user interacts with content. In the future, data will more appropriately inform email sequences in a joined up and personal way.

This level of automation will be facilitated by increased integration with CRM (customer relationship  management) systems to produce content that sits alongside sales funnels, matching a user’s journey to a content journey. Coming full circle, this will aid results-reporting, by giving content marketers within professional services the ability to pin down customer conversions and demonstrate their user journey and ultimately ROI.

So, how should professional service firms take the reins?

With the wealth of analytics offered by CRM and vendor systems (places where individuals are able to access and consume your content e.g websites, apps etc), it’s more important than ever to set objectives at the earliest stages of a project.

While content marketing is getting more airtime at board level, those steering the content projects should be the ones asking the questions:

  • Why are we using this channel?
  • What are we looking to achieve?
  • Will this channel help us to achieve our objectives?

This responsibility falls to those in charge of and tasked with content creation to ensure that all campaigns are aligned, not only to the marketing goals but to the wider business strategy.

Let’s now look at how personalisation is replacing targeting…

Soon we expect conventional targeting to be nullified in favour of personalisation.

Rather than using traditional ‘targeting’, i.e. grouping together individuals by industry or interest and positioning content broadly to appeal to the masses, we’ll see an immigration to deeper content marketing.

This will mean looking more closely at the touch points along a user’s journey and producing tailored content at each stage.

The aim of this approach will be to build relationships on more personal levels than previously achievable and mimicking real life interaction as closely as possible. As a result, personalisation will mean more than simply inserting the individual’s first name at the start of an email.

And lastly, Content Marketing 3.0…

“Content Marketing 1.0. Think of the brochures you read on the plane telling you about various ‘places to go’ in Europe. That’s content marketing in one of its earliest forms’, said one panellist at the B2B Marketing Expo.

Following the digital ‘boom’ came Content Marketing 2.0 which was a similar, but more advanced, version of 1.0 with improved targeting and analysis capabilities.

So, what can we expect from Content Marketing 3.0?

Another panellist claimed that 3.0 will be greatly influenced by advances in technology, with a specific focus on virtual reality, A.I. (artificial intelligence), and wearable tech. Content marketers will need to be both proactive and reactive to how decision makers are engaging with content and how they play their role in making sure new technologies are capable of supporting these channels.

One dead cert is that Video will be unprecedented. We’re already starting to see this, especially as B2B businesses are struggling (as expected) to engage employees and clients across the globe. Content needs to work with, support and facilitate this migration to video consumerism.

The panel also claimed that by 2019, 90% of online traffic will be video content.

Quality is expected to rise over and above cost, with favourability shown to those who integrate all channels and are able to achieve the right balance between face-to-face and virtual in a successful way. This is something Senior Partner at Propero Partners, James, spoke about in detail at our event Making The Phone Ring in 2017.

Chat bots (computer programmes designed to imitate human conversation) are emerging in B2B spaces. While they’re currently in their infancy and have received much scepticism, we’re still in a stage of learning and they’re likely to grow in usability and popularity.

Rather than replacing human interaction, chat bots are being developed to improve efficiency in some of the most inefficient processes within business. With profit margins facing a greater squeeze than ever before, bots may be the solution to improving a professional service firm’s bottom line. It’s without DOUBT something to keep an eye out for.

Smart distribution. I’m sure you know the saying sometimes it’s not about the message, it’s about the messenger. Well, we soon predict a surge in the role that influencers play in content distribution.

Where appropriate, handpicked business messages that were previously delivered by members of a company’s senior team, will instead be delivered by top influencers in the industry (i.e. individuals who hold a position of authority and command respect within their field). Distributing content in this way will be a demonstration of social proof and add extra weight to the business message.

The future of content marketing is a bright one, if not complicated. If there’s anything to take from this, it’s that the correct balance needs to be struck between using technology and demonstrating an offline presence. This concept should be centre stage for every marketing strategy.

The potential promised by these developments are expected to open up whole new ways of bringing legal firms’ service offerings to market. But these added route-to-market options will mean that businesses need to invest more time and effort than ever before, deciding which routes are the most suitable for their business.

While it’s already a balancing act, it’s set to get even trickier. If you’d like to talk through your firm’s options and how you can achieve the most cost efficient balance that generates the best return on your spend, get in touch. We’re currently working with firms like yours on just this!

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