Refine, research, refine; welcome to the marketer’s way of life, trying to balance current marketing and content strategies against ever-changing digital marketing trends.

Staying relevant, flexible, and on point with customers is no small feat, but it’s why digital marketing is so powerful. Digital strategies help brands try something new and gather immediate feedback from specific types of buyers to shape future marketing outreach more effectively.

Through the swift feedback of digital marketing, brands discover specific ways to capitalize on the data they collect and refine content strategies faster than ever. With blanket marketing falling on deaf ears and behind closed browser windows, marketers need personalized connections with each customer at their specific level of interest. With more refined user data, it’s not only possible but essential to grow and keep a customer base.

Brands actively work to know where the power of digital can lead them. And investment in digital marketing across all brands isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, according to Relevate, “The top four channels for increases in digital marketing spend last year were email marketing (61% of marketers increasing spending on this channel), social media (49%), mobile marketing (40%), and SEO/PPC (38%).”

But with so much going on in the digital marketing space, it can be hard to keep track of what’s happened this year alone.

In 2017, marketers have seen the rise of:

  • AI advancements meshed into a variety of online marketing tactics to improve the customer experience while also automating it
  • Voice-activated search on mobile and smart home devices
  • Richer, more informed conversational experiences between brands and consumers
  • Increased use of predictive analytics
  • Niche curation growth via a more personalized buyer’s journey
  • Increased, seamless integration and shopping experience between various tech devices
  • Improved customer care in real time through chat, video, and social channels

While many of these trends started out as seeds of ideas at the beginning of the year, each has gradually rooted into the norm for digital B2B marketing.

As a result, marketers take an Agile approach to development and roll-out of tech improvements, similar to how software software engineers work. And marketers slowly add in richer features and functionality to meet customer needs and desires. B2B marketing teams now build on digital trends and analytics played out through customer purchase trends. You can be more nimble with content strategy for a more seamless buying experience.

Keep in mind that marketers need to pick and choose what to focus on very carefully because it’s easy to get lost in the digital space trying to do a little of everything, yet doing none of it very well.

So, as you look to 2018 in developing your content planning and strategy, look at current digital marketing trends first. Review specific actions and content strategies to up your game, while creating fresh ways to build customer connections.

Tips to Switch Up Content Strategy and Maximize the Punch of Digital Marketing Trends

Search engines are getting smarter, but so are digital marketers. This year alone we’ve seen somewhere around four changes in Google’s algorithm, not to mention updates in the way Google Search Console and Google Analytics report. And that’s just with Google!

If we’re talking generally, here’s what’s staying the same:

  • Emphasis on links. It’s always a sign of a good piece of content to have external (and internal) sources referencing it.
  • Readability leads to higher time on page. The more accessible (think images with alt text as well as bulleted lists and easily digestible sections), the longer readers stay on your page.
  • Engage your readers for longer than one page view. Viewing one piece of content and leaving translates to high bounce rate, plus a reader who didn’t find anything else of value to click to.

It comes down to this: the higher value you provide, the better. And what better way to provide value than staying up to date with the latest trends that are evolving? Here’s what you need to look for:

The Rise of AI

Invest in artificial intelligence (AI) to save time and collect advanced data tracking for a more informed customer experience.

The term AI is a pretty broad in the digital space, but for simplicity, let’s say it covers anything related to gathering or acting on data insights from customers. Here are a few examples where AI is making its mark:

  • Website optimization
  • SEM
  • SEO
  • Automated product or service up-selling
  • Email automation
  • Voice-activated software

These advancements are growing stronger every day because information reveals the path customers take to purchase. AI can take historical data and provide increasingly accurate predictive customer loops. In addition, buyer personas are much more accurate, as are the specific tactics and engagement platforms to work with them.

With this level of detail, marketers can devise a content strategy around specific platforms to know the exact content type, delivery style, and timing customers prefer. These insights streamline content production to tailor to customer preferences, such as a video over an eBook or blog posts over podcasts. You can also inform other details for upcoming marketing campaigns.

Stay on Target

Build up niche curation through personalization directed toward your target audience.

A individualized buying experience is where it’s at these days—and why shouldn’t it be? Personalization eliminates a considerable amount of invasive content that customers avoid at all costs anyway. And evidence that you know your customer shows that you are creating a two-way conversation at every level of customer contact.

With customers now in control of the information flow in all areas of their life, it can be considered an honor when your brand content is allowed in. So, make it count.

Here’s how you can ensure your content is hitting home with your potential buyers:

  • Show value immediately. Share content that zeros in on pain points quickly so customers don’t have to dig to find what they want.
  • Maintain consistent customer experience across platforms. Make sure their interactions with your brand is as seamless as possible.
  • Make use of a buyer journey map. Use their name and their search and purchase history to pave a path through the buyer’s journey with appropriate support content, such as FAQs, relevant blog posts, how-to videos, and more.

Personalizing will help develop loyal customers who want to spread the word about their experience, which will draw even more customers your way.

Be a Social Butterfly

Maximize the power of social channels through influencers and user-generated content.

For a few years, social platforms were focused on one-way communication and self-promotion. Now, social trends are back to the original intent: sharing.

Customers listen to other customer experiences, and they want to hear an outside voice—or an influencer’s voice—sharing insights on brands and their offerings. So, give it to them. Build in content that educates and offers an array of content options from a variety of sources, including content from your best customers.

Mixing up your strategy makes your content more engaging for customers and easier to create. You can try:

  • Video
  • Written content
  • Social posts
  • Shares from other brands
  • Customer-created content
  • Influencer content
  • Material that’s just for fun

Invite customers to be part of the brand experience in new ways through real-time live streaming video or audio events that are planned or “spontaneous.”

Keep in mind: the more choices people have to interact with a brand on their terms, the more likely they are to share great experiences on social media.

Care for Your Own

Customer care is a defining feature in all content. As marketers, you’re ultimately selling an experience. From the minute someone lands on a website or ad, they’re looking to feel a certain way: to be cared for and guided to the value of key offerings.

When you use customer care language to connect the dots between platforms (desktop, mobile, social) and types of content, people respond. Think of it as “personalization plus.” Customers get the information they need quickly and easily, while they still feel respected throughout each interaction.

You can achieve this reaction with tasteful, individualized pop-up content, up-sell recommendations, or 24/7 support provided by chatbots or real people. The content strategy created from the standpoint of personalized customer care provides a new spin on the content review process and reveals what materials need to be removed, refreshed, updated, or paired with a new delivery mechanism, such as emails or monthly newsletters.

Final Thoughts on 2017’s Digital Marketing Trends

Using the trends we’ve seen so far in 2017 as a guide to help reshape marketing content and strategy offers an opportunity for brands to get personal—in a good way. The power of data is a win for customers and businesses alike, with each getting more of what they want in a way that’s both seamless and inviting.

When it comes to being a success with Google and other search engines, one thing has stayed the same: providing value.

If your content provides value to your potential customers, it will undoubtedly pave the way to a sale. This requires precise alignment between your content and business goals. If you’re not using software to tag content for this purpose, how do you ensure the content you’re creating is actually providing value?

The good news: you can do this for free with our content strategy templates! We’ve compiled the only content marketing strategy templates you’ll ever need. Check them out, and see how they fit into your digital marketing strategy.

Katrina Pfannkuch

About Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch is a creativity consultant specializing in writing, editing, strategy & coaching. She's a bit of a data nerd & loves seeing how pieces of the informational puzzle come together to paint a creative picture. Catch Katrina & her insights on kick-starting creativity at @creativekatrina on Twitter.