I recently attended the MarketingProfs B2B Conference in Boston. This conference is all about what's working and what's next. It brought together 850 fans and customers of all things B2B marketing to worship at the altar of content.
This is my second Mprofs event and this year brought a mix of new ideas, rehashed old ideas and original stuff...So what's the future of content? Funny you should ask...
1. Data, data, everywhere
At last year's conference, big data was the holy grail. We nodded happily and software companies bombarded us with emails. The future was clearly automation and predictive analytics - we could all go to the beach and let the bots do our job. It was refreshing this year to hear a more cautious approach from many of the presenters. Not saying data isn't great (it is!), but more that data's messy. We don't know what we're going to get from a research exercise - and that's OK. Speakers talked to the challenge of getting disparate forms of data into some kind of legible format, the causation / correlation issue and the dangers of reading too much into social media data (especially from teens). Great to hear that the industry's love affair with data has moved from infatuation to pragmatism.
2. Sales funnels aren't going anywhere (for now)
While we've been spending a bunch of time trying to reinvent the sales funnel, it appears the majority of companies (based on this rather biased sample set) are still using the classic funnel. While McKinsey and a raft of others have tried to turn it into moebius strips, dodecahedron and a range of other shapes, the challenge of leaving the beloved funnel behind is that it's simple. While purchases and decisions are complex, mapping a marketing strategy onto another shape is tough. Regardless of the shape, however, the drive continues to map behavior to marketing content or action.
3. Hackers will take over marketing
The love affair with geek culture has made it into content marketing. Several speakers talked to ways of taking the hacker / coder ethos into marketing. And why not? It lends itself to creative solutions, solving problems in different ways, and is all about the consequence of actions - the mystical cause and effect of marketing that we've desired forever. Understanding technology has shifted from being a 'back end' discussion to being critical in the way we reach and engage with consumers. The rise of the CDO - Chief Digital Officer - with one foot in IT and in marketing is testament to this shift in approach. Have we moved from 'every company is a media company' to 'every company is a software company'? An app company?
4. What do we do with influencers?
At last year's show, influencer relations was the new black. An array of software vendors shared their wares, each claiming to be THE answer to influencer identification and management. One take out from the conference was the need to use multiple influencer ID tools (and the need to talk to your client's SMEs, vendors and customers) in creating your influencer list. It was also interesting in the intervening 12 months was to discover the industry has moved from ID to engagement - and an array of tactics were discussed. One of the most compelling was co-creation, where brands looked for opportunities to collaborate on collateral such as eBooks or conferences. Great to see brands are moving beyond simple Twitter interactions and LinkedIn shares.
5. Making great content
I've always said, just because you can publish, doesn't mean you should. It's great to see the industry is taking this to heart, with a move to creating better quality content.
The publish and pray approach we embraced when we discovered that every company was a media company has moved to a more considered approach that focuses on quality and engagement versus simply the output. The rallying cry was 'write content for the audience that will amplify' and this connection between brand content and advocates and influencers is a great step forward. Also critical was the need to mix up your content. After all, B2B isn't boring to boring.
Any thoughts? Fire me a comment, tweet, build me an infographic, show me data to support your case, or have a third party reach out on your behalf...