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According to a recent story in The Drum, content marketing is poised to become more strategic, and therefore more important to marketers in 2019. Advances in social media tools will make online platforms more effective, and emerging tools such as machine learning will make things like chat more relevant and commonly used.

The underlying reason for this trend continues to be that quality, useful content is increasingly important to your customers.

Are you ready to exploit it?

It’s not difficult; you do it even if you don’t try, but without some practical guidance, what you do probably doesn’t work as well as it could. More importantly, if you don’t use content marketing to manage an effective, proactive conversation with your customers, you risk your brand not being “heard” over the communications efforts of your competitors.

Now is the time to elevate your game, and the key is to match what you say to the marketplace with the actual needs and behaviors of the customers with whom you’re talking.

There are five keys to successful content marketing in 2019:

First, understanding your customers, which means going beyond the data of name, location, and purchase records, to devise richer, nuanced models of who they are (called “personas”). This will cover not just current customers, but targeting of customers whom you’d like to acquire.

Second, mapping their behavior, by using your personas to develop a detailed understanding of the steps and dependencies of the actions they take on the way to purchase; such “customer journeys” are the paths, or decision-trees, that cover the rational and emotional factors that lead to transactions.

Third, creating a strategy that identifies what points along that journey you hope to influence, the content that will have the desired impact, and how you plan to manage and measure it (and do so within the requirements for data privacy and security). What’s as important as deciding to creating content is determining where, when, and how it will be most important.

Fourth, executing your content market plan, which ranges from developing the creative content, to choosing what delivery platforms you want to use (this will often involve partnering with creative agencies and social media tools). There are technical, personnel, and thereby budgetary and oversight requirements inherent in managing the conversations that content marketing is intended to create.

Fifth, iterating your program with what you learn through its delivery, and then having in place a process to iterate and improve it. A consistent and evolving content strategy is the best way to achieve and maintain success; it’s not something you’ll do once next year but, ideally, launch and manage into the future..

Of course, the devil’s in the details, and there are a number of elements that will (and should ) factor into any content marketing plan next year, many of which provide the structure and underlying processes for getting it done: Resource allocation (internal and external), data acquisition and management, creative, legal, and brand-level approvals, and crisis communications preparation in case something goes wrong are all as important as the actual substance of what your content says or shows.

Again, the five keys to successful content marketing aren’t complicated, and fortunately there’s established thinking and methodologies available to guide your own program development.

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