By Roger C. Parker published December 16, 2016

7 Changes Forward-Thinking Marketers Need to Consider in 2017

forward-thinking-marketers

As the season of reflection is upon us, it’s an ideal time to explore how much our industry has changed — and what lies ahead.  As someone who has been in publishing and marketing for many years, I have seen the industries evolve a great deal.

What can enterprise marketers learn from publishing and marketing organizations? Here are seven changes those industries have experienced — and what specific actions marketers can take to improve their content marketing programs in the coming year.

Change 1: Use scarcity as an incentive for immediate response

Companies often posted video recordings of their free webinars that are available indefinitely. However, I have spotted a trend in which companies limit the availability of the recorded webinar to 24 or 48 hours so they can promote the opportunity as “view now or lose the opportunity,” creating a sense of urgency for prospects.

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Offer time-limited access to some content, such as webinars, to motivate attendees to take action in a short time span. Don’t think prospects should be able to watch whenever they have the time (they likely will never have the time or they’ll forget when they do have time).

Change 2: Increase emphasis on survey-based products and services

Marketers have escalated their willingness to involve prospects and clients in the content ideation and production process. Author Ryan Levesque detailed this initiative in his 2015 book, Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Method to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level.

Though marketers have been using free and low-cost email survey programs to ask basic questions to gain general input for years, Levesque’s Ask formula shows that there is a point when marketers recognize the exponential value in asking their audience increasingly detailed questions that can fuel their product and service development.

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Break the “I-am-the-expert” model, and replace it with an ongoing process of using your audiences as the true experts in your content development.

Break the “I-am-the-expert” model and view your audience as true experts says @RogerCParker. Click To Tweet

Change 3: Redefine crowdsourcing as a custom or premium content marketplace

Stock photography has been around for a long time, but 500px takes it to a new level. 500px calls itself “a photo community for discovering, sharing, buying, and selling inspiring photography powered by creative people around the world.”

What sets 500px apart is its Quests feature. Marketers can define the photographs they’re looking for and incentivize photographers to take photographs that meet their criteria within a specific time. Air New Zealand used this crowdsourcing photography site for It’s a Numbers Game. In this case, the qualifying photographer received air travel for two from anywhere in the world to New Zealand.

500px-quests-feature

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Think beyond the obvious, i.e., commissioning custom photographs or searching online stock photo galleries. Instead, consider sourcing content from those who want to produce it (for the challenge or chance to win the prize) and gain the promotional benefits.

Change 4: Increase adoption of direct-marketing techniques by content marketers

The use of direct-marketing tactics by content marketers is reflected in the trend toward simpler home pages offering a provocatively titled incentive with a newsletter sign-up form at the top that doesn’t even require a visit to a landing page.

You can see this technique in the header graphic of the MarketingInsiderGroup website, which uses a single word — Updates — to describe the newsletter. (Of course, there should always be one or more back-up links to a landing page that provide more information and promise.)

marketing-insider-group

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Simplify the promotion of your list-building opportunities. Like direct-marketing professionals do, make your call to action easily understood and clearly visible in a prominent place.

Change 5: Create clutter-free, responsive, minimalist home pages

An increasing number of sites are designed to focus the visitor’s attention on the primary content, often the latest blog post. Sidebar clutter is reduced and fewer navigation options at the top are offered. In many cases, a “hamburger” icon is provided for users to click if they want to see more site options. Additional, task-specific navigation options are increasingly offered in the footer (scroll down to see the CMI footer on this page).

cmi-footer

Click to enlarge

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Analyze the trend toward simple, focused sites like Andrew  Davis’ Brandscaping book and Rafal Tomal’s website, which tell the whole story in a single screen.

Change 6: Increase partnership between content curation and email

Some of my favorite newsletters are brief, frequent compilations of curated links to blog posts, similar to the kind sent by Marketing Insider Group. It offers links to posts on its own as well as other sites. However, room still exists for thematic or personality weekly emails, like Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Weekly Newsletter. Her newsletters begin with a personal story, often about living in New York City, plus links to her recent blog posts, upcoming author interviews, and book giveaways.

heidi-cohen-newsletter-example

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Be aware of the range of available newsletter options, and commit to a content formula that reinforces your brand and balances curation and frequency.

Commit to a content formula that reinforces your brand and balances curation and frequency says @RogerCParker. Click To Tweet

Change 7: Break the topic habit – and focus on serial content

I have been crusading against the prevailing view of content as an ongoing series of disconnected topics rather than monthly themes addressing different perspectives. Taking a theme approach starts by selecting a category for each month’s content and choosing topics for individual blog posts, podcasts, guest posts, etc., that relate to that theme.

What forward-thinking content marketers should do: Choose monthly themes broad enough to be addressed in both long- and short-form content, as well as in different formats. Ideally, each of the monthly themes should be viewed as the building blocks of a yearly book, event, or training program.

Conclusion

As content marketing changes, marketers who monitor and adapt to new strategic and tactical trends that they learn from related industries will better serve their audiences. In turn, their audiences are more likely to be attracted to and consume the content from those brands, and to see them as valuable, trusted resources.

What changes are you seeing that affect your content marketing efforts?

Want to stay on top of trends and get tips on adapting your content marketing program? Subscribe to the free daily CMI newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Roger C. Parker

A lifelong content marketer, copywriter, and author, Roger enjoys helping clients write books and simplify their content marketing. Follow @RogercParker on LinkedIn at ContentMarketingHelp. Download a free copy of his 4-page 8 Commitments of Content Marketing Success.

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  • Heidi Cohen

    Roger–

    Thank you for including me in this highly useful post.

    Every content marketer should use these 7 steps because they’re focused on improving your audience’s experience. They’re customer-centric.

    More important they borrow from time tested methods of creating “URGENCY”. Specifically, a reason to act NOW.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

      Thank you, Heidi.
      I appreciate the way you took the ideas to the next level by identifying their common customer-centric and action orientation.
      Roger

  • http://adventurist.life Brian Driggs

    These are super solid, Roger. Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to know I’m on the right track here and there, and I’m closing the tab with a couple exciting ideas to start executing.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

      Dear Brian:
      Thank you for your encouraging words. Please share your progress as you move forward. Happy Holidays!
      Roger

  • Scott Aughtmon

    Great job, Roger! Loved your 7 changes!

    Many of them tie-in to ideas I just wrote down before I came across your article. And you know how much I love syndicated content, since I wrote a series on it, so you know I’d like that suggested change! Take care, Roger!

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

      Thank you, Scott. I’m off to explore! I always look forward to your “historical” articles. You always give them contemporary relevance.
      Roger

  • Bertrand Hazard

    Great read, Roger. I love how you are pushing content marketers to crowdsource their content by inviting prospects and clients in content ideation and production process.

    It’s a huge missed opportunity for marketers, especially in the B2B space, and frankly one that will only grow as buyers continue to favor user-generated content over branded content.

    I also like your recommendation on sourcing custom photographs via professionals.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

      Dear Bertrand:
      Thank you for your kind words. I agree with your stressing the importance of crowd-sourced. It’s a huge often-overlooked opportunity for not only B2B, but also B2C marketers.

      Thanks, also, for mentioning my “custom-sourced professional photographers” example.

      Best wishes.
      Roger

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