State of the Content Marketing Union: What Emerged in 2018 and What’s Next for 2019

SendGrid LogoIf content is king, then content marketing is heir apparent for businesses. 2018 was the year content marketing came into its own, becoming a crucial component for business success. 

Havas Group found that 84 percent of people expect brands to create content. Meanwhile, 90 percent of businesses are already using content marketing to generate inbound leads. That’s because content marketing is a low-cost, high-reward strategy that drives immense growth and sales — it costs 41 percent less per lead than paid search does. As more companies watched the throne and envied the riches of successful content marketing campaigns this year, content ascended to become a marketer’s golden egg—crack it open and the possibilities are limitless.

Read More: 7 Sure Shot Content Marketing Trends

But with that limitless possibility comes great responsibility. In order to be low-cost, high-reward, content strategists have to be driven by narration and data, not by casting wide nets and quantity. Businesses and marketers are starting to learn this the hard way — it’s not enough to crank out 100 blog posts and expect qualified leads to flock in. This inundation of content and lack of focus is how many businesses are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to content marketing. It isn’t a quantity over quality game; it’s a fine-tuned, evolutionary one.

Let’s take stock of the trends that dominated content marketing this year and look ahead to see how it’s poised to evolve in 2019.

Content in 2018: What We Learned

The biggest takeaway from 2018 is that when it comes to content, you can be powered and informed by data while still retaining a beating heart. Those creating quality content by using data and tailoring that content based on reader behavior are better able to strike a balance between being data-driven and creatively authentic. Data offers valuable insights to help you formulate a content bank you know your customers or readership will respond to, but that should never come at the cost of your content feeling genuine, engaging, and emotionally resonant. The lesson here is to never let one supersede the other; like most things, these approaches are stronger together.

Read More: Why Your Visual Content is Worth its Weight in Gold

A clear indicator of content marketing’s rising prominence is the wave of content roles flooding the job market. Do a quick LinkedIn search and you’ll no doubt find a slew of new content manager roles popping up. Still, companies are having a difficult time staffing these roles. That’s because effective content marketers and teams possess skills that are much more all-encompassing than your typical blogger.

These roles need to be filled by writers with digital marketing backgrounds who have experience with media buying, customer growth marketing, and attribution. So though this proliferation of content roles might seem like a dream come true for your average writer, they often require a deeper well of expertise than simply putting pen to paper.

Another big trend in 2018 can be found in companies paying top dollar for content platforms like NewsCred, Kapost, and Percolate. It’s becoming the norm for companies to spend thousands of dollars a month on software solutions that enable the management and centralization of all marketing processes. But this is counterintuitive considering content marketing can be such an inexpensive discipline.

In reality, companies don’t need to spend egregious amounts of money on these platforms. Instead, stop overcomplicating content marketing and embrace the old school: talk with your teams in person, write out editorial calendars, etc. These may seem guerilla and makeshift in today’s age of technology, but they’re more cost-effective and ultimately more connective. The best content is born out of conversation — the more we rely on technology, the more we lose that authenticity.

Read More: What You Need to Understand About Content Intelligence

This DIY mentality brings us to the rise of Medium as a blogging platform in 2018. Medium has made it possible for pretty much anyone with something to say to be a content creator. It’s also proving to influence SEO and, in some cases, is even showing a competitive advantage against in-house corporate blogs. With that competitive edge, Medium stands as one of 2018’s biggest content trends to keep an eye on in the coming year, which leads me to…

Content in 2019: What to Expect

The state of content in 2019 will be a fascinating field to watch. With Medium nipping at the heels of corporate blogs and making content creation much more immediate and authentic, the content marketing field is in flux heading into 2019 and change is definitely coming.

Expect the hot new job position in 2019 to be the Chief Content Officer (CCO). With content marketing becoming more of a priority for many businesses, a designated, C-suite position for content is the next natural step. The role of Chief Content Officer didn’t exist several years ago, but as companies that were early content champions started developing these roles, it’s shone a bigger spotlight on how important content is to the success of high-growth companies. By the time 2019 rolls around, don’t be surprised to see “CCO” as a more common job title.

Beyond just a singular role, the development of larger, in-house content teams should start to catch fire in 2019 as well. There’s a clear push to transition away from hiring freelance content creators who prove to be much more expensive (for quality work) to building out a team of writers who have the knowledge and resources necessary to create great customer-centric content.

Read More: What Type of Content is Best for Lead Generation?

No doubt this trend also owes something to more journalists and writers being pushed out of their traditional industry and going into tech careers. To execute content marketing effectively, you can’t have a team of one. And it’s clear that content teams provide tremendous business value. Bringing in journalists and creating a content studio and media desk inside a company is looking to be the game-changing next move for content marketing.

Remember that bit about successful content marketing strategies needing to be evolutionary? Well, 2019, take note, because the trendy new content marketing execution may very well be the content cleanse. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. You wouldn’t execute an email marketing campaign without A/B testing — the same can and should be said for content marketing. A content cleanse that puts a halt on the development and publication of content while a business compares their KPIs to the previous year is the most effective way to take stock of what is and isn’t working in order to evolve.

Whether you need to produce more or less content, become more focused and disciplined, or completely revamp your strategy altogether, a content cleanse is the best way to go about assessing the health of your program and driving your content marketing efforts forward into the new year.