2016 Interactive Content Marketing Trends To Watch

Last week, I presented an ion webinar on interactive content marketing trends. This is usually our most popular webinar of the year, and that held true as well in 2016. I know on a personal and professional level that the start of a year is a time of reflection and planning, so I want the insights to be such that content marketers can walk away with some clear action items, inspiration and ideas. If you know me, you know I err on the tactical side of things, and tend to focus less on strategy. As I curate the trends webinar content each year, I pull from many resources — things I see happening across our customer base, what content marketing thought leaders are talking about, and the intersection of those things to more macro-level marketing trends as well.

This year as I considered trends, something kept rattling around in my head….

There aren’t any new, earth-shattering trends to talk about. 

The past couple of years there has been a lot to report on in the world of content trends — from mobile responsive, to interactive content design to measurement to lead quality and much, much more. But this year more than anything what I see is a maturation of the trends of years past. It’s like the ideas and concepts that were just in their infancy are starting to take shape and become much more real. I attribute that to the increased pressure content marketers are facing to show real, tangible business results from their efforts.

So, at the very highest level, I think interactive content marketing in 2016 is going to be all about….

  • Lead gen
  • Lead quality
  • Engagement
  • Audience insights
  • Measurement
  • Repurposing
  • Testing
  • Personalization
  • Content across the buyers journey
  • The user experience

But that’s a long list, and my mind needs shorter, more concise organization. I think the above can all be boiled down to a handful of key trends shaping interactive content marketing:

  • Measurement
  • Lead generation
  • Lead quality
  • The content experience

As you can see — nothing new and radical on this list. In fact, we’ve probably been thinking and reading about these concepts for the past couple of years (at least). But as I said in the webinar, the difference now is that the rubber is meeting the road. We’ve all got to be able to measure the outcomes associated with our content from the basics such as shares, likes, page views, time spent and bounce to the business metrics of leads generated, pipeline created and even sales. That’s just table stakes now. We’ve all got pressure to deliver leads from our content consistently, and once you have mastered that comes the next pain—increasing lead quality, because sales doesn’t want any old lead. They want engaged, educated, qualified, ready-to-buy leads.  And that doesn’t come from putting out poor quality, factory-produced content. It comes from creating high-quality, useful, meaningful content and delivering in an engaging way (enter, ‘the content experience’).

So, to summarize our 2016 trends webinar in a nutshell:

  • Measurement — Be ready this year to show visitor engagement, content consumption, more granular topic interest, audience insights and leads or sales generated. And, attribute those leads/sales to first, or last (or all — nirvana!) content interactions, so you can start to attribute pipeline or revenue as those leads go from marketing to sales. 
  • Lead generation — For the lucky few of you who have enough leads, jump to the next bullet. For the rest of you, be ready to deliver more leads from your content efforts. And per the bullet above, be ready to demonstrate it via measurement. This likely means some testing and experimentation, so bring an open mind into the year and be ready to try things that get out of your comfort zone (For instance, un-gate your content to drive more leads. Yep, you read that right).
  • Lead quality — Leads aren’t enough. But you already knew that, right? I view the lead quality issue from a few different lenses. 
    • First up — getting the right people to convert on your forms. That is the result of a variety of influences, such as source of traffic to your actual content. Assuming you are driving the right type of traffic, focus on delivering content your target audience actually needs and wants to consume. 
    • Second up — content consumption. You may be driving the right type of leads, but if they aren’t actually consuming and using your content, they will present as cold and stale to sales. And sales doesn’t like a cold, stale, unengaged lead. Move from static assets to interactive content experiences so you can measure a lead’s consumption of your content, their interests and even their pains and challenges.
    • Bonus — surface content consumption, outcomes and interests to sales, so they know the lead intimately when they pick up the phone to start the dialogue. 
  • The content experience — Web design best practices have accelerated and evolved drastically over the past several years, and user expectations are keeping pace. It’s not enough to have words on a page and expect to keep them engaged. This, from The Next Web, says it best:
    • In 2015, we saw an increase in Swiping and clicking, Control over seen/unseen content, Personalization (e.g., location tools), Microinteractions, Scroll-based navigation, Video and animation, Transitions and loop functions. This shift places more emphasis on microinteractions, the minutiae of interactivity: a ding sound when you send an email, or an animation to draw attention to a new notification. Interaction design will only get more intricate as technology allows, making this a trend that’s sure to stick around for a while.” via The Next Web

So, that’s what I see ahead. A settling in to get these not-so-new-trends tackled, once and for all.

Oh, and, at the end of my annual trends webinar, there is always one moment where it hits me that I left an important trend off of the list. And it happened again — this time just a day after my webinar, I had one of those ‘kick myself’ moments when I realized I had neglected to cover one of the main trends on my mind — content for account-based marketing. If I had to go back and re-do the webinar (ah, do-overs, I wish!) that would make the cut, for sure. So, expect to hear from me about content for account-based marketing in the coming months.

In the meantime, you can watch the webinar on demand, or check out the slides on slideshare. Let me know what you think!