12 Must-Haves to Shape your Digital Marketing Budget in 2017

As content marketing continues to shape the B2B marketing landscape, marketers have loosened their purse strings to make more room for it in the new fiscal year. A report from PulsePoint and Digiday found that by next year, content marketing will grow by 59 percent from last year – potentially outpacing seach and social budgets.

Here are a few must-haves in our digital marketing budget. Each of these tactics can help you bolster your reporting, close the loop between marketing and sales and prove ROI on your 2017 digital marketing budget.

1. Content Marketing

It’s not exactly news to say content marketing should dominate your brand’s digital marketing budget and strategy in 2017. But the way marketers are approaching content needs to mature next year. With 88 percent of B2B marketers in North America already relying on some form of content marketing, it’s no surprise people are experiencing a sort of content shock. They’ve become almost numb to the mountains of content surrounding them.

No longer can we just create an onslaught of mediocre content designed to boost search results. We’re competing with everything that’s ever been published in the history of the internet. Quality matters a whole lot more now than quantity. Around 39 percent of marketers are upping spending on the trend in 2017 to stand out.

2. Video Marketing (and Live Streaming)

It doesn’t take Chewbacca Mom to show us how important visual storytelling has become. Consumers like to watch video – as many as four times as many consumers prefer to digest video over text. But video is hard. When you add in no ability to edit, limited consistency and a lack of strategy you’ve created a recipe for disaster to your brand. Scott Stratten of UnMarketing said Live Video is just content marketing’s latest shiny object. “Content shouldn’t be a training bra,” he said to those jumping in to the “Live” trend with both feet without a clear plan ahead.

But that doesn’t mean live stream videos will dissolve. In fact, we can expect the trend to go from novelty to marketing mainstream in the new year. Technology will allow the “consumer as voyeur” model to grow. Add in a sense of urgency to watch now or miss out, and we’ve hooked consumers – even in the B2B space.

3. Strategy Creation

Creating content for the sake of pushing something out the door is not a content marketing strategy. A slew of mediocre content stemming from a lack of commitment to your content strategy will hurt your brand far more than doing no content at all. Most (around 90 percent) businesses use some sort of content marketing and 78 percent of CMOs see custom content as the way of the future.

But here’s the problem, most B2B content marketers don’t have a written strategy. According to the 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from Content Marketing Institute, only 37 percent of B2B marketers have a written strategy. It’s time to slow down and figure out why we’re creating – not just how. Be strategic and find your content marketing mission. Figure out who you’re trying to reach, what your goals are, when and where you can deliver content at any given stage of the buyer’s journey, and most importantly, why does it matter?  Spend the time and put the resources to nail your strategy into your digital marketing budget.

4. Content Distribution

“If you build it, they will come” is a myth in content marketing.

In a world where 13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing Tatum is viral-worthy content, is good writing worth the effort? You bet. But good content is only noticed if sharing it is an integral piece of your marketing effort.

If you want to give your content a fighting chance, you need an engine to drive it. We can’t afford to create content projects without them ever seeing the light of day anymore. We need a way to get information in front of our most important contacts. Marketers are looking to decentralize content, according to Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2016 Report. Many are experimenting with taking their content to new channels to see what resonates with their audience.

Paid content can give you a small boost, but 90 percent of social clicks go to organic content and on Google, organic content commands 80 percent of clicks. Before we spend the time creating a piece of content, we need to ask ourselves, “Who cares” Then figure out why and build a network to amplify your work.

5. IoT

The Internet of Things means content, marketing and analytics are everywhere, from our mobile phones to our internet-enabled refrigerators. Experts are predicting a giant network of connected “things” to generate in the not so distant future. Anything that can be connected, will be connected.

IoT is a whole new world of endless opportunities to connect with consumers. The uber-network of connectivity will offer up more data in 2017 that can be turned into meaningful and actionable marketing strategies. And, it’ll lead way to more specific insight on consumer habits and preferences – equipping marketers to target their audience more accurately.

6. Cross-Device Marketing Strategies

The average consumer is connected through five addressable devices. That means as marketers, we’re looking at five times the work to make sure the content you’ve created is fit for consumption on all different platforms – even entirely new channels (like wearable devices) you need to account for in your digital marketing budget.

7. Invest in Social (But Focus on the Analytics)

Social media is still in its infancy. According to a DMA report, fewer than a third of businesses are collecting data from social media.  Add that to a marketing spend expected to jump from 10.7 percent of your digital marketing budget to 23.8 percent in 2021, and we’ve still got a lot of learning left to do.

8. Account-Based Marketing

There’s been a seismic shift in consultant marketing that’s seriously looked at new customer-obsessed approaches that team up marketing and sales to gain long-term, high engagement revenue relationships with key accounts. ABM is flipping your lead funnel – concentrating on the best fit customers for your brand first, then giving marketing teams more stake in post-sale customer experience (CX) and ultimately driving advocate marketing as a key process for success.

According to Demand Gen Report, 69 percent of B2B buyers say the most influential aspect of a company’s website is content that speaks directly to their needs. Marketing needs to pinpoint to a specific persona, and talk to their pains. Technologies like Salesloft and Salesforce (among others) help tag a list of companies that fit our best-fit customer criteria, so stack them into your digital marketing budget.

9. SEO

SEO is, has been, and will remain, the lifeblood of online business. And now we need to look at SEO and content marketing as BFFs. But the shifting algorithms and changing search patterns are about as easy to master as a giant Rubik’s cube. And according to data released by SEMrush in July, most websites aren’t doing SEO well. Around 50 percent of websites host duplicate content while 45 percent have missing ALT attributions.

In 2017, we’ll expect to see an increase in quality content and content density – or content’s “per word” value. And UX is going to be an integral part of the SEO puzzle. The expectations from consumers are higher than they were five years ago. Sites with faster load speeds, mobile optimization and low bounce rates are going to be rewarded next year.

10. Email and Marketing Automation

Email needs a better PR agency. Everyone uses it, but if you listen to the tech pundits who’ve created the “next big <whatever it is>,” email is dead. Again.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, the people skipping email are just wrong. With 2.6 billion worldwide email users, 55 percent of decision makers prefer to communicate through email and the staggering 4,300 percent return on investment according to the Direct Marketing Association, email has to be a part of your digital marketing budget. Every dollar spent on email marketing offers a return of $44, according to our pals at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

11. Your Mar-Tech Stack

Disclaimer: You can’t code creativity and you can’t program publishing. If you don’t have a sound strategy in place, no matter what technology you have, you won’t see maximum success.

With that out of the way, we just need to look at what technology and which tools to choose. There is no one-stack-fits-all approach. With somewhere around 4,000 marketing technology tools available, as highlighted in Scott Brinker’s mammoth marketing technology infographic, evaluating your options is the first step. We’re moving from a futuristic look to a reality of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Expect the unexpected technologies to solve problems you don’t know you have, and allocate for them in your digital marketing budget.

12. Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing creates word-of-mouth advertising. It’s tapping into the network of people who are trusted in specific circles. Influential people say they like your brand, building your image, authenticity and credibility in the minds of their followers. According to a study from Nielsen, around 92 percent of consumers admit to valuing an endorsement from word-of-mouth recommendations over any form of branded content they’re served up.

Brands are looking to invest more time and resources to identify and align with the right influencers who believe in their brand and can amplify their message to the right audience.

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