From your content calendar to resurgent email marketing – content marketing trends

Why your content calendar should include event coverage

Two complementary yet slightly contradictory statistics have been released that will be a joy for content marketers who’ve been slow on the uptake andcontent calendar haven’t yet written up their annual content calendar.

Research from thenextweb.com has found that spontaneous content relating to events that unfold live (such as news, sporting events or product releases) generated 170% more shares than pre-defined events or holidays (like Easter, Diwali and St. George’s Day). This means that your biggest opportunity for the year is still out there, completely unplanned and unconsidered. However, the study also found that shares per event skyrocketed during Q4, largely thanks to – you guessed it – pre-scheduled holidays like Halloween and Christmas that will definitely be in your content calendar. In any case, as things currently stand, it looks like those who have been metaphorically squirrelling away nuts all summer are just as prepared as the lazy little mammal that’s just been sunbathing on a branch.

Let’s take this step by step. In the US, the live event that boasted the highest number of shares per post was The Super Bowl, with an average of 3,450 – pretty much 170% higher than St. Patricks day, the highest scoring scheduled event. Two of the top three types of shared content were written, with lists and ‘why’ posts appearing alongside videos. Entertainment publishers were (predictably) the most successful, with the likes of Billboard, Rolling Stone and the Hollywood Reporter leading the way. *Hot tip* in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s the Olympics this year, so start dusting off your old lycra-themed puns.

Now, putting on my other hat, I’ll give you some choice statistical nuggets about evergreen content relating to annual holidays or events that could be applicable in any content calendar. Shares per event went through the roof in 2015 Q4. Halloween and Thanksgiving gathered over 2,000 shares per post, while Christmas blew everything else out of the water with 10,000 shares per post. Harnessing this degree of interest can give you massive returns, and you can have the piece all planned out before the end of the summer holidays. So, what strange alchemy of these different methods do we need to succeed?

The truth resides somewhere in the hinterlands between the two, and the most effective content marketing strategies still rely on a healthy combination of fresh, responsive content centred on new and temporary events, as well as much-loved annual affairs (which for some reason the human race has decided to shoehorn almost exclusively into the drizzly months). But, hey! At least you won’t be stuck inside writing up content all summer… Like, for the Olympics…

Change sceptics beware! Inbound marketing has taken over

Three out of every four marketers worldwide now agree that inbound marketing forms the basis for their preferred marketing strategy, according to analysis of the 4,000 responses submitted for latest HubSpot ‘State of Inbound’ survey.

“Inbound marketing”, “thought-leadership”, “trust-based marketing” and “content marketing” are all essentially the same thing. The aim is to create content that’s high on value and low on advertising, providing a distinct service to draw in your target audience while keeping your brand squarely in the reader’s consciousness.

Those who have succeeded have become storytellers in their own right, cultivating a reputation within a specific niche and second-guessing user’s questions so that they’re best placed to issue a useful answer.

This tactic has revolutionised marketing methods and messages, and some more technophobic companies have been left in the dust with a stagnant content marketing strategy. To really get underneath the skin of your target market requires resources; a team of content writers with industry nous and a nerd-like ability for keeping abreast of the latest tech and trends. It needs extensive prior planning and a long-term strategy, but also the versatility to adapt nimbly to live events and competitor techniques. It needs holistic campaigns full of regular, high-quality content – sure – but, it also needs effective link-building, social media management, email blasts, data tracking and much, much more.

All this doubtlessly goes some way to explaining why companies are turning away from completely overhauling their in-house marketing team, and instead are looking to skilled agencies – even freelancers – to give them the flexibility that they so desperately need. If you want to see how quickly this trend is gaining steam, just check out this comparison of content production sources from 2014 – 2015. Then, imagine how the graph would look if you plotted this trend until 2020…

marketing content

*Graph courtesy of thomasnet.com

Email marketing is back! But, is it better than ever?

What’s actually going on with email marketing? It seems like two minutes since we were told that the method had gone terminal – we’d even planned what to wear at the funeral. But, to borrow a phrase from Malcolm Tucker in ‘The Thick of It’, email marketing’s back like self-raising Lazarus.

This is according to Econsultancy’s insightful Email Marketing Industry Census, which found that 73% of respondents would rate email marketing as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in terms of ROI, up from 66% in 2015. Just 5% rated email as ‘poor’ for ROI, compared to a few-fries-short-of-a-Happy-Meal rate of 26% for display advertising. And, the stats back it up. On average, content marketers spent 15% of their budget on email marketing campaigns, but it accounted for a median of 23% of total sales.

While all this makes it seem like content marketers have email marketing methodology well-and-truly nailed down, research from elsewhere in the market suggests that we’ve got some way to go yet. Intelligent software providers Phrasee analysed the email subject lines of 2,598 retailers from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia in Q1, ranking each on five semantic variables including: urgency, friendliness, quirkiness, directness and curiosity. They’ve categorised these examples into six main sub-sections, and 63% of retailers were lumped together as being pretty generic, very direct, quite urgent and very similar in tone. This suggests that even though we’ve found something inherently special about email marketing that’s brought it back to life, we’re yet to figure out the only thing that could give it legs for years to come: individuality.