B2B content marketing in 2013 – four experts give us their predictions

From better analytics to more infographics, four B2B tech marketers tell us how they think content marketing will evolve in 2013.

Here at Radix we write content for marketing campaigns, but we don’t really think of ourselves as content marketers. As copywriters, we’re just one cog in a much bigger machine – one that also includes strategists, planners, designers, videographers, data analysts, marketing automation experts, SEO experts, social media experts, and so on.

So while we’ve got our own idea of what 2013 will bring in copywriting terms (we reckon fewer, more considered, and more targeted content pieces that make customers’ lives easier by giving them practical information they can actually use), we know we only ever see part of the picture.

To get a more rounded view, we asked four of our friends in B2B technology marketing to answer four questions about content marketing in 2013. Each of them has a slightly different area of expertise, but together their answers give a pretty good idea of what’s coming up.

So here we go with the Radix 2013 Content Marketing Predictions Virtual Roundtable:

Our Experts

Andy Walker set up Devon-based content marketing agency Rame Marketing in 2012, after working in senior marketing roles for a variety of electronics manufacturers. His mission: to help businesses throughout the south-west of England reap the benefits of a content marketing approach.

Hazel Butters is CEO of Prompt Communications, a transatlantic multi-service marketing and PR agency working primarily with tech startups emerging from MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Neil Stoneman is account director at Velocity Partners, probably the UK’s most visionary B2B content marketing agency, with a top-notch client roster that includes Salesforce, Canonical and Basware.

Lance Concannon is digital lead at Text100 London, responsible for planning digital and social media campaigns for household-name B2B clients like Vodafone, IBM and BP.

1. How do you think content marketing will evolve next year?

Andy Walker: Many companies in the southwest are just waking up to the benefits of content marketing. Technology will continue to be a key driver, the rollout of superfast broadband and the introduction of LTE mobile networks will encourage content to be developed for and devoured by mobile devices.

Hazel Butters: We’ll see companies using more channels and putting more emphasis on measurement. This is the brilliant thing about content marketing – you can see what’s working, try new things, test audiences and see the response, count the leads. If content is king, analytics is queen.

Neil Stoneman: We expect to see a more scientific approach to content marketing. With the growing adoption of marketing automation tools our clients want to deliver on the promise of more systematic programmes. The move means clients will continue shifting from a campaign to prospect focus. Content marketing will be measured on an impact on a prospect’s sales journey rather than downloads, views etc. More work will be needed to understand the way prospects think and behave in order to deliver useful responses to their needs.

“Setting up brand profiles on Facebook and Twitter is not enough to engage an audience”

Lance Concannon, Digital Lead, Text100 London

Lance Concann: Many businesses are beginning to understand that simply setting up brand profiles on Facebook and Twitter is not enough to engage an audience. You need to have something compelling to share with them, and that means consistently offering great content. Social media is a mechanism for building an audience – but it’s content that will help turn the audience into a community, which is much more valuable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant increase in content marketing in 2013.

2. What sort of tactics will companies adopt in order to stand out from the crowd?

Andy Walker: We’ll see companies producing more image based and video content for their websites that can be recycled and distributed across social networks such as Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Slideshare.

Hazel Butters: We’re starting to see a greater understanding among innovators and start-ups of the power of content marketing to generate sales and lend ‘swagger’ in the market.  Clients are more responsive to trying new things – we’re having far more detailed discussions about the role of storytelling and the use of compelling and unusual content to talk about a company, its team, expertise, offerings and product roadmap.

Neil Stoneman: The amount of content marketing is growing as quickly as its overall quality is falling. Simply producing great content is no longer enough to get it noticed and digested. That’s why the best content companies will be focused on building a content brand. Ultimately it’s a great content brand that will say to prospects you won’t be wasting your time with our work.

“Simply producing great content is no longer enough to get it noticed and digested”

Neil Stoneman, Account Director, Velocity Partners

Lance Concannon: B2B tech companies already have a good tradition of content marketing – producing material like white papers, case studies, best practice guidance, and research based reports. Over the coming year there will be a lot of pressure to get the most value from the investment in quality content – so a single white paper might also be used as the basis for several blog posts (on the brand’s own site and as guest posts elsewhere), infographics, posts on social channels (Tweets, LinkedIn updates), and even video.

3. Which content formats will be popular, and why?

Andy Walker: With video being the fastest growing advertising format of 2012 and Google/YouTube pushing their video advertising offering, video will continue to grow as it becomes more integrated within social networks. Advances in augmented reality will open up more opportunities for location based content.

“Advances in augmented reality will open up more opportunities for location based content”

Andy Walker, Founder, Rame Marketing

Hazel Butters: More vendors will integrate content marketing with media relations. As publications produce new types of content and add new comms channels, there are more opportunities than ever to provide guest blog posts and contributed articles.  You can develop an amazing piece of content and use it for inbound and outbound comms, including media relations.  You can even lead with the media relations and then develop the content from your media successes.  There’s a blurring of lines, which is a great thing: the best content is multi-use content that is used well and in many ways – you need to have dazzling content and then pimp the hell out of it.

Neil Stoneman: We see a big future for data-driven tools: mashups, calculators and interactive infographics. Done well they are simple, useful and beautiful.

Lance Concannon: Infographics, infographics, infographics. A good infographic can spread like wildfire across social media, often without needing much of a push to get things started. Businesses are increasingly creating and analysing their own operational data, and that data can form the basis of some really powerful content. Infographics are fantastic for bringing that kind of stuff to life.

4. Which content marketing pitfalls should companies try to avoid in 2013?

Andy Walker: A major issue I see on a regular basis is where companies create content that isn’t linked to an overall plan or objective. Many companies create and publish content on an ad-hoc basis and claim to be “doing content marketing”. Heads up guys, if you continue to create content without having a content strategy, you will fail.

Hazel Butters: Some vendors worry about alienating some of their potential audience – and as a result produce content that’s too broad, not helpful or engaging, or too inward-looking. The danger is that they end up boring everyone.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an established or early stage company, the rules are the same: produce engaging and relevant content, and have fun with it. Don’t be scared to be daring, and always be helpful, relevant and authentic.

“Don’t be scared to be daring, and always be helpful, relevant and authentic”

Hazel Butters, CEO, Prompt Communications

Neil Stoneman: It’s one thing to invest in the long-term tools and another to support them. Any brand that buys in new tools and software but forgets to find or train people to work them on a daily basis won’t see the promise realised. They’ll be making investments but failing to realise the returns. Change is compulsory.

Lance Concannon: A common problem is that a great piece of content will have to be signed off by so many internal stakeholders that by the time it gets approved it’s been completely watered down into a dry, uninteresting piece of marketing fluff. People will want to make sure it’s got all the right ‘key messages’ and that it’s ‘on brand’, and by the time they’ve finished with it you can easily end up with something that your target audience won’t even want to read themselves, much less share with their own networks.

Any trends our experts have missed? Let us know what you think content marketing will bring next year.

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