5 Emerging B2B Content Marketing Trends for 2017

Like full gyms and snowed-out school days, January brings a slog of “top trends” pieces for content marketers. The obnoxious things is that these predictions tend to not differ year-to-year–and they tend to inform no strategy and provide no insight to the lay-content-writer (or lay-[industry]-person). 

Let’s break out of that habit. 

I’ve taken the time to scour the most cutting edge research in content marketing. I’m not going to tell you that video is going to be big–it’s already big, or that Instagram will help you sell more boat parts (let’s keep it to B2B, ‘k?). Instead, I’m going to stick with new ideas, cutting-edge technology, and some guesses that are so advanced that they might be wrong for 2017… but right for 2018.

With no further ado, I bring you: the top 5 B2B content marketing trends for 2017.

1. Content marketers will finally get truly predictive analytics

Let’s be real: Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360 (formerly Google Analytics Premium) are both exceptional products. They’ll tell you exactly the number of people who visited your site and, if they didn’t go through search (ugh), exactly how they got there, especially if you’re savvy with UTM tags. But chopping up Analytics–or competitors like Gridsum in China or Kissmetrics–is still tough to get predictive insights. 

In other words, these tools, up until this year, have been really great at telling you what has happened, but not what’s going to happen

And that’s about to change.

Just like there are a bajillion B2B content marketing trends pieces, there are also a ton of business intelligence and machine learning articles coming out. What few are talking about is the intersection of the two.

One guy who’s ahead of the game has already coined “content intelligence” to talk about content meets BI. Jordan Koene of Searchmetrics explains

The only way for a marketer to understand whether a specific content marketing strategy works is to start with the data. Take your historical data and compare it with competitive data to identify leading metrics. Then you produce content. Then you use data to analyze the effectiveness of that content and work from there… In addition to simply analyzing historical data to find out what worked in the past, it’s also critical to understand the human side (i.e., user intent) to predict what may work. The better the tool set, the higher the probability you’ll have a winning outcome.

— Jordan Koene

Fundamentally, content intelligence allows content marketers to get more agile with their data. Sure, everyone wants traffic, but if you’re aiming to optimize getting Latinas who are 18- to 34- years-old on mobile before noon on Tuesdays, you’re going to need a better tool than what Google provides. 

Get ready to upgrade your content analytics platform for more customizable reports and predictive analytics. 

2. Machine learning will inform content idea generation

Stemming off “better analytics,” 2017 is going to bring a whole host of cool, new ways of developing topics for your readers. 

It has always been a B2B content marketing trend to tailor to your audience–at least, that should have always been a trend. But now tools are available to do that better. 

Imagine this: there are soon to be tools made available that can

  • Tell you your audience’s reading level
  • Tell you what kind of emotional language they like and dislike
  • Tell you when your audience will likely be on what screen

Of course, artificial intelligence will never replace content marketers, but it might replace content data analysts in the next five years. Until then, B2B content marketers can start to pull from their insights this year.

3. Multimedia content will become a lot more common and expected, even in B2B

Check out this gorgeous report from CNN called, “Plastic island: How our trash is destroying paradise.”

There are a few trends at play here–CNN has chosen to use creative writing in their reporting, embedded high-quality video, and ditched pagination.  

As internet marketers, we still see online text as an extension of books–some sites, like Forbes, even paginate their articles, but others save the margins for adds (like a newspaper), and even more create distinct living places for video, graphics, and words. 

This CNN article demonstrates the future of online content–and, B2B marketers take note, it’s going to happen fast. Different forms of media are going to begin to interact on the screen experience, and consumers are going to hold on tight. 

One reason why this is going to happen sooner rather than later is that it’s so darned easy to publish beautiful content, even for non-professionals. That means that advanced content marketers will need to step up to compete–even if it starts in the field of aesthetics. 

4. Project management and content marketing will finally formalize

Are you an agile content marketer? A lean content marketer? Do you use online kanban tools to organize your editorial calendar?

I write about project management in my day job, and one trend that I’ve seen is the evolution of formal project management techniques working their way into the editorial room.

Now, I’m not saying that this B2B content marketing trend is necessarily unique to 2017–I’ll admit, I started to see more “agile” content marketing in 2015 and “lean” content marketing became more popular in 2016. For many of you, you’re likely already using these techniques and just didn’t know what they were called. 

Yet, there’s still a lot more that content marketing can learn from project management. How can you apply sprints to writers? What processes can be implemented to improve communication between editors and writers? Which writers have the highest productivity? How can you measure quality? 

For all of these questions, project management and project management software have answers. In fact, so much so that we might see an equivalent PMP x content marketing certification show up, which brings me to my next B2B content marketing trend for 2017…

5. B2B content marketing certifications and formal courses will reach a higher standard of quality

Most online content marketing courses are garbage. And there aren’t a ton of B2B content marketing courses, and those that are are garbage too. Really. You can learn everything they have to teach you by spending time on intro-to-content-marketing blogs for free. 

Yet with that said, businesses are seeing real value in content marketing. In fact, it’s pretty tough to run an online business competitively without some kind of buyer-focused content. 

And business schools are responding. For example, check out these courses: Kellogg School of Management: Understanding the Media and Content and Harvard Business School: Digital Marketing Strategy. You better believe that if top schools are offering specializations into digital marketing and offering courses specific to content marketing, we’re going to see a lot more advanced specialization courses and certifications coming through.

Some specifics? I expect there to be an intersection between the PMP and content marketing, big data and content marketing, business intelligence and content marketing, and so on. These predicts aren’t for your run-of-the-mill “what’s a keyword” course. 

I’m talking about courses and certifications that you’re glad to have invested in.

More Emerging B2B Content Marketing Trends for 2017?

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