2017 has been an eventful year! We’ve welcomed new clients, ideas, opportunities, projects, and great learning opportunities. The year started with plans to market Damo Consulting as a specialized partner in healthcare growth advisory for our clients and target audience. We introduced new ways to better support our clients, while ending the year with a bang – launching our CEO’s new book – The BIG Unlock – a framework for harnessing data and growing digital health businesses in a value-based care era.

While we review the past, we are making new resolutions and plans for the future. As I read others’ predictions and ideas for the new year, I share with you my views on content marketing and thought leadership in 2018.

1. Thought leadership content is evolving. For quality content, B2B marketers will seek outside help

Source: Damo Consulting content marketing survey for B2B tech marketers

Thought leadership content is all about sharing, presenting, and selling an original idea or specialized expertise. One reason most companies find it challenging to keep up with the quality of thought leadership content inhouse is the lack of resources to develop content (we wrote a white paper identifying some best practices to overcome this challenge). Our work with a leading global IT service firms shows that a thought leader must seek outside help when it comes to developing well-aligned, meaningful thought leadership content. Today, our engagement has grown from content development to helping the firm with marketing and intelligence strategy. The more we work together, the better we understand their work and the more they benefit.

In 2018, about half of B2B organizations will continue to have small marketing/content marketing teams. At Damo, we are already witnessing this trend with our clients. Up until a year ago, clients would require us to help them develop a specific piece of content such as a white paper or blog post. Today, they say: Hey! I need to present this idea to this forum to help our company achieve this objective with our target audience. Can you help us? (The answer is yes!). Essentially thought leadership content is evolving:

  • Thought leadership content formats are expanding beyond the regular white papers and blog posts. Emerging forms of formatting include more variety in evidence-driven points of view, proprietary research, and spoken word (podcasts).
  • We have also seen an increased focus on media relations, as our clients expand their reach by tapping into trade pubs.
  • Quality and context continue to be stressed. As Persistent Systems Head of Corporate Communications Ken Montgomery says, “(The) key to quality thought leadership is deep knowledge of the subject matter, collaboration among stakeholders, recognizing the context, good storyline, and of course, execution.”
  • B2B companies will seek to establish credibility with more data-driven thought leadership content.

2. Companies will get better at measuring the impact of content marketing and aligning with their organization’s strategic goals

According to a report by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, some B2B organizations that are most successful in content marketing are aligning metrics with content marketing goals; 70 percent of B2B marketers can demonstrate with KPIs how content marketing has increased audience engagement and their number of leads. As more companies mature along the content marketing maturity slope, they will take a more structured approach to achieve well-defined strategic objectives of their organization. They will start defining appropriate metrics to measure results of a campaign or a new initiative.

As companies start aligning with their organizational goals, they will have strategies in place and a more sophisticated approach to content development and distribution. Cleveland Clinic, a prime example of successful healthcare institution content marketing, uses search-engine marketing and two different content platforms. One platform is aimed at consumers and presents health and wellness news; the other targets providers and highlights treatment trends and research. It also uses social media extensively and posts physicians’ ratings. All is done in collaboration with the entire organization. The marketing team evangelizes, helping the entire organization generate content consistently.

3. More companies will resort to organic search as they recognize its long-term benefits

In 2018, we will see B2B companies implement more organic ways of increasing their outreach to their target audience, both in numbers and duration.

B2B companies will resort to more influencer marketing to reach out to a broader, more targeted audience. They will use influencers with huge followings and reach out to micro-influencers to tap into consumer trust factor. GE is a prime example. In 2016, GE started a campaign leveraging actor Lena Dunham’s followers to encourage more women to join GE in the STEM space. In another campaign, using an Instagram-based (#GEInstaWalk) approach, GE took a few relevant influencers on a tour of their R&D centers and encouraged them to share their experience online. The six Instagram influencers and six company “superfans” had a combined 3.5-million Instagram followers that created 200+ followers for GE in the first 48 hours.

B2B marketers will continue to leverage robust keyword strategies in their content development to utilize search engines over the long term and to reach the right audiences. They will also use hashtags in social media to gain visibility.

4. Thought leaders will use videos to improve engagement and share experience

According to Vidyard’s benchmark report 2017, 2016 saw a significant increase in the number of organizations using internal resources to produce video content. Average businesses are now doubling the size of their video libraries within 16 months.

In 2018, businesses will continue to produce more videos to add to their content library. Most of these videos will be the “explainer” type, followed by product features and how to /educational videos. IBM and Accenture are some good examples.

5. Social media is the new company PR platform

The above numbers indicate increased levels of audience engagement on social media for B2B companies. This is likely because social media is how your target audience, media entities, investors, and other stakeholders stay informed about your company. It is also how your clients find out about your products and offerings, read reviews, and use information in their decision making. As B2B companies share more information about their brands and contribute to conversations online, more people will engage with them online.

Real conversations and higher audience engagement levels will make social media platforms your first point of contact. Even in a crisis, people will check social media to hear your side of the story and what others are saying about you, including your employees. In 2018, we will see more companies getting this right.

How are you going to make your thought leadership and content initiatives better in 2018? Share your views with me at arpita@damoconsulting.net.