By Marcia Riefer Johnston published December 20, 2017

Is Your Marketing Ready for 2018?

marketing-ready-2018After you put away the champagne flutes and flip the calendar to 2018, what will you set your sights on to take your marketing to the next level in the new year? What has 2017 taught you?

One place to look for lessons is CMI’s two conferences – Content Marketing World and Intelligent Content Conference. As I review the blog posts I’ve written this year about the talks at those conferences, I’m struck by one big takeaway: Marketers need to expand their view of their role and their sense of how they can contribute to the business.

Marketers must expand their view of their role & how they contribute to business, says @MarciaRJohnston. Click To Tweet

This post touches on some ways, according to 2017 CMWorld and ICC speakers, you might do just that.

Keep creating possibilities with technology

Chances are, you and your colleagues are feeling inundated with the marketing technology your company invested in. It may be hard to fathom how to even think about the other 5,000 martech tools you could be using. How do any of us get our heads around 5,000 of anything?

marketing-technology-landscape

Image source

Here’s the good news: Doing your job well doesn’t necessarily mean adding more technology to the mix. What the new year requires is that you keep creating possibilities with technology.

Make tech decisions that serve the business

Peg Miller, co-founder of B2B Marketing Academy, gave an ICC talk called Your Next Marketing Technology Implementation: How to Survive, Thrive, and Keep Your Job. She emphasizes that marketers must make technology decisions that serve the business – decisions that have little to do with the tools themselves.

Marketers must make technology decisions that serve the business, says @PegMiller. Click To Tweet

Peg’s three main messages include:

  • Prioritize people and process over technology. The people-process-tech model, which puts technology at the end of the decision-making process, has been around for decades. Still, companies often rush into marketing-technology decisions before they understand their processes or lack of processes. In many cases, the changes companies need to make don’t even require new technology.
  • Seek the simplest solution possible. Plan no more than one year ahead. Look for tools that require minimal central administration. Find tools that work for the loudest naysayers on your team. Avoid overanalysis.
  • Ask questions from multiple perspectives. When you’re creating RFPs or otherwise researching martech vendors, look for a vendor that fits your need. Ask lots of questions, but don’t necessarily look for set answers. “You want to know what you’re getting into,” Peg says.

For details on each point, including a list of questions to ask vendors, see What to Consider When It’s Time for New Marketing Technology.

Experiment with artificial intelligence

Any discussion of marketing technology must mention the potentially seismic impact of artificial intelligence. Few marketers have experience or expertise in this fast-evolving realm. All of us need to pay attention to it.

The time is now. But how?

Try #artificialintelligence in your B2B marketing and don’t wait, says @PaulRoetzer. #intelcontent Click To Tweet

Thank goodness, Paul Roetzer has walked onto both ICC and CMWorld stages to fill us in with presentations such as Machine-Assisted Narrative: How to Transform and Scale Your B2B Content With Artificial Intelligence.

Paul, founder of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, has developed a framework of five Ps related to AI for marketers, outlining ways that you must avail yourself of AI today and in the future:

  • Planning
  • Production
  • Personalization
  • Promotion
  • Performance

For more on Paul’s AI framework for marketers, see Scale Your B2B Content With Artificial Intelligence: Ideas and Tools Marketers Can Try.

Consider chatbots

Chances are, you’ve interacted with a chatbot online even if you didn’t think of it as such.

In his ICC talk, Engineering Content for Chatbots, AI, and Marketing Automation, Cruce Saunders, founder and principal content engineer at [A], describes chatbots as software ­– machines – that respond to people’s basic requests in real time, “freeing up humans to do more creative problem solving.”

Chatbots, Cruce says, are an “increasingly interactive and vital way to get at content.” In other words, for many companies, chatbots represent the opportunity to create a competitive edge.

Chatbots represent an opportunity to create a competitive edge, says @mrcruce. Click To Tweet

For more on what Cruce has to say about chatbots, see How and Why (or Why Not) to Build a Chatbot.

Keep developing partnerships beyond your immediate team

As content marketing matures, marketers need to develop more partnerships. Among the new friends that marketers need to make are what Cruce describes as the “three amigos of content marketing”:

As #contentmarketing matures, marketers need to develop more partnerships, says @marciarjohnston. Click To Tweet
  • Content strategist– someone who plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content (definition from Kristina Halvorson)
  • Content engineer– someone who structures content for publishing and sets up an organization’s content systems, that is, the technologies that store, deliver, and enable governance of content assets (definition from Cruce)
  • Data scientist – someone who “can demonstrate the special skills involved in storytelling with [complex] data, whether verbally, visually, or – ideally – both” (definition from Harvard Business Review)

For more about these three roles, see New Tech Friends on the Marketing Block, which is based on conversations with Cruce and Buddy Scalera.

For more about data scientists, see Why Marketers Need to Think Like Data Scientists (And How to Do It), based on Katrina Neal’s talks at ICC and CMWorld.

Keep getting savvier with images and video

It’s not news that marketers need to make smart use of images and video. What’s new for 2018 is that you need to make smarter use of images and video.

Provide images that work on any device

When it comes to your web-based visual content, you must do more than choose which images to use; you have to make sure that those images work for screens of all sizes. If the same image works for all screen sizes, great. Upload one file, and you’re good to go.

Not all images make your life that easy. Sometimes it’s worth your while to provide versions of an image to give people what they need from the image on any device.

In his ICC talk, Creating and Executing a Visual Content Strategy That Scales, Buddy Scalera, senior director of content strategy at The Medicines Company, says he’s all for single-sourcing … except when he’s not. He advocates for what he and others call “COPE mostly” (COPE-M), especially when it comes to images. (COPE stands for “create once, publish everywhere.”)

Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) often is wrong way to go with images, says @BuddyScalera. #intelcontent Click To Tweet

For more on Buddy’s advice, see When Not to COPE With Your Web Images.

Learn to create videos people love

Amy Schmittauer Landino, a consultant in video content marketing and author of the book Vlog Like a Boss, spills her secrets in her talk How to Create and Repurpose Video Content for More Attention from Content Marketing World. Here’s her nine-part formula:

 

amys-authority-video-formula

Create #video that is going to trigger a human emotion & get shared, says @schmittastic. Click To Tweet

For a full description of each part of Amy’s formula – including links to her videos that reinforce each point (I dare you to watch without getting hooked), see What to Do After You Press Record: A Formula for Videos People Love.

Keep learning about your customers’ world

You’ll never flip the calendar to a new year in which you don’t need to keep learning about your customers’ world. This timeless theme, presented through endlessly fresh perspectives, comes up over and over at CMI conferences. Here are summaries of two talks that touched on this topic in 2017.

Supplement your product-centric content with a customer-centric framework

A few years ago, Red Hat’s content team took a hard look at the company’s content and found it was heavily oriented toward what the company sells (IaaS solutions, PaaS solutions, Linux solutions, and so on). The team discovered loads of diverse content that was hard to find, disorganized, difficult to reuse, and, “most importantly, not customer-centric,” says Red Hat’s marketing content curator and librarian, Anna McHugh.

After the team looked at the content through the customers’ eyes, the path became clear. It created a framework around the audience’s challenges, reorganizing and tagging the content accordingly. It then decided which content to retire, which to refashion, which to create, and which not to create.

The content now better serves people inside and outside the company.

Here’s what they did:

  1. Identified the business challenges that keep the customers up at night.
  2. Adjusted the content framework to reflect those challenges.
  3. Tied the metrics to the adjusted framework.
  4. Audited the content for gaps and then filled those gaps.
Identify customers’ top challenges before organizing #content in customer-centric ways. @amchughredhat Click To Tweet

Anna shares details in her CMWorld talk, Beyond Traffic Reports: Using Data, Organizational Messaging, and Passion to Reinvigorate Your Content Strategy.

For more on how the Red Hat content team did all this and how you can too, see How to Adopt a Customer-Centric Strategy for Your Content.

Get inside customers’ heads by studying what they search

The next best thing to climbing into people’s brains and listening in on their thoughts is looking at what they type in search bars. Search engines are getting good at understanding what content people want and what content they find disappointing.

The good news for digital marketers? Search engines lay out, for all to see, much of what they learn. Your task is to know what you’re looking at – to make use of clues that have been “staring us in the face,” Wil Reynolds tells us in his ICC talk, Optimizing Search User Experiences.

Search engines lay out much of what they learn for all to see, says @WilReynolds. #SEO Click To Tweet

For details on exactly how to let Google tell you what people want and other tidbits of wisdom from Wil, see What Are Your Customers Thinking? Search Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight.

Conclusion

As a marketer considering how you want to grow professionally in the new year, you undoubtedly see the need to do everything this post suggests: create possibilities with technology, develop your partnerships, get savvier with images and video, and constantly learn about your customer’s world.

All it takes is willingness to get out of your comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable out there where growth happens.

Here’s to a 2018 that’s uncomfortable in all the best ways!

Get an in-person experience and hear the best experts with helpful presentations to educate you and make your content marketing program a bigger success. Register today for Intelligent Content Conference March 20-22 and for Content Marketing World 2018.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

Other posts by Marcia Riefer Johnston

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  • http://worklifeparallel.com Brian Driggs

    “Here’s the good news: Doing your job well doesn’t necessarily mean adding more technology to the mix. What the new year requires is that you keep creating possibilities with technology.”

    That’s truly good news.

    And the more marketers see themselves as the creative, left hand to Sales’ dominant right, and drive toward more consistent revenue, the more likely they are to find themselves valued within the organization.

    Always be customer-centric. Put them first. Approach technology with their needs in mind. It’s not rocket science—but it IS brain surgery, in a sense.

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Brian, Thanks for the comment. I’m curious about your final line: “It IS brain surgery, in a sense.” I’d like to hear more on how you see that, and what you’ve seen work well for marketers serving as the creative left hand to Sales.

      • http://worklifeparallel.com Brian Driggs

        I was extending the metaphor. 🙂

        We’ve all dealt with the disconnect between Sales and Marketing. Two houses, both alike in dignity, but unnecessarily at odds for far too long. We need to be working together, but we’re often scapegoating each other for our shortcomings.

        Sales says the leads are weak. Marketing says Sales can’t close.

        If Marketing is to be the creative left hand to Sales’ logical right, we need to bring the two sides of the “brain” together in harmony. Everyone knows it’s a disaster when the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing—and yet just look at Marketing and Sales.

        After all these years, after all this incredible technology, we’re still not truly working together. Those that are see remarkable results.

        So when I say “brain surgery”, I mean we have to be willing to get inside our own heads and forcibly re-wire our brains to be more open, more transparent, more receptive, and more effective.

        MarCom is on the cusp of splintering into even further specialities. Print, digital, social, direct mail, SEO, demandgen, data analysis, UX, AI—the list goes on.

        We can’t be all things to all people, but if we want the organization to be all-in on our efforts, we need to be clear about how we directly drive revenue.

        And the best way to drive revenue is by connecting empowered, engaged prospects with attentive, caring sales professionals to get the signature on the dotted line.

        When we don’t, to tie up the other metaphor introduced in this comment, “All are punished.” 😉

        • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

          Brian, Got it. Thanks for expanding, especially on the left- and right-brain part of the analogy.

  • http://www.wordspicturesweb.com/ Buddy Scalera

    Great post. I had missed a few of these posts, so the links are very useful. And, of course, I love when you include me in your article.

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Always happy to include you, Buddy.

  • http://geobrava.wordpress.com/ David H Deans

    You said “All it takes is willingness to get out of your comfort zone.” — so true, for all those people in corporate marketing roles that create a ‘Statement of Work’ or a Brief and then outsource all the real work to agencies or contractors. Here’s a suggested new year resolution: update your own skills and become a digital ‘practitioner’.

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Thanks for the note, David. Will you be making this resolution yourself this year?

      • http://geobrava.wordpress.com/ David H Deans

        Marcia, I’m already a practitioner, and will enhance my multimedia content creation skills in 2018. My goal, lifelong learning as a Digital Polymath.

        • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

          David, I may have to steal that term, “digital polymath.”