It’s the perfect time to reassess our content marketing strategies for the year ahead.

Earlier this year, we polled our audience on their content marketing resolutions for 2019. Boy were the outcomes enlightening!

Let’s take a look at the results:

What is the most important goal you are trying to accomplish in 2019?

We asked marketers which single goal was their most important focus area for 2019. They were given a selection of multiple-choice answers in addition to an open-ended response if the available options didn’t line up with their goal. Here’s what they said…

Perhaps not surprisingly, a plurality of respondents had one clear priority: 49 percent said that increasing inbound leads is the most important goal they are trying to accomplish in 2019.

“Increase organic traffic” and “improve thought leadership” came in second and third place, with 19 percent and 15 percent respectively.

In contrast, only 4 percent of respondents selected “increasing outbound leads” as their highest priority.

A small batch of respondents (7 percent) chose to write in their own goals, which, while brief, centered around two main themes: actually converting traffic and procuring better quality leads.

  • “Total company reorganization.”
  • “Grow our pipeline and opportunities closed.”
  • “Convert traffic.”
  • “Increase engagement with content.”
  • “Segment our business units and develop thought leadership that increases SE results for each business unit.”
  • “Increase conversions.”
  • “More customized communications.”
  • “Better qualified leads.”

Overall, these responses tell us a few things. First, our audience is clearly in favor of inbound marketing compared to outbound given their focus on improving inbound lead generation for 2019. Second, it would seem that most marketers have already got a working inbound marketing strategy in place at this stage and are now looking to refine and improve their results. The open-ended responses that called for increased conversions and better qualified leads suggest that their inbound strategies are already working to bring leads in the door, but they now need to get better as closing them.

Marketers are not new to inbound marketing anymore. For 2019 and beyond, it’s all about refinement and quality.

What strategy failed in 2018 that you will definitely not be doing in 2019?

We know what marketers want to improve in 2019, but we were also curious about what they are abandoning from 2018. We left this question open-ended as a fill-in response and received a wide array of answers. Check out the key themes discussed:

1. The quality/quantity paradigm

At this stage in the game, us marketers can agree that producing smaller amounts of high-quality content is better than producing myriad low-quality content.

However, some of the respondents admitted they let quality get in the way, leading them to post infrequently or inconsistently, which no doubt hurt their results in the long run:

  • “Focusing too heavily on quality, at the cost of quantity and frequency.”
  • “Blogging (didn’t do it enough).”
  • “Content based on volume instead of strategic needs.”
  • “Inability to generate enough high-quality content. Need broader resources, and commitment to provide core information.”

If you can swing it, it’s great to provide your audience with the best content possible and always be thinking about what value you can bring to the table.

But what if that hinders sharing content regularly?

2. Doing nothing / Not enough varied strategies

This one is pretty straightforward. A number of respondents felt that doing nothing (aka not doing any content marketing whatsoever) was their downfall in 2018.

Other respondents mentioned they did not have enough variety in their marketing strategies to achieve their desired results last year.

  • “Not a big enough mix of marketing initiatives. We were very event heavy.”
  • “Content only as lead gen.”
  • “Not partnering enough with sales.”
  • “Doing nothing.”

However, doing nothing or not enough is perhaps better than just doing content marketing for the sake of doing content marketing.

Which leads us to our next theme…

3. “Random acts of marketing”

Many respondents said their biggest issue in 2018 was “random acts of marketing.”

Meaning, they were spending resources all willy nilly without a defined strategy, measured results or even expected outcomes in place. That or they weren’t focusing their efforts on what worked.

For example:

  • “Random acts of marketing. Expending resources without a strategy, documentation, expected outcome, etc.”
  • “Blogs for the sake of having blogs.”
  • “Some content creation fell short of campaign goals.”
  • “Running promotions without having good data on what our customers actually need.”
  • “Content based on volume instead of strategic needs.”
  • “Non targeted email.”

As the majority of businesses these days adopt some form of a content marketing strategy and start sending content into the ether, it’s best to always be analyzing (ABA).

Remember to use data to determine what’s working and what isn’t. From there, adjust your strategy on an ongoing basis (monthly, quarterly, etc). Don’t just do this once a year.

4. Misc / honorable mentions

Other strategies respondents are planning to ditch (or do less of) in 2019? Sticking with an outdated website, placing too much spend on paid social (specifically Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and link building.

Some of the most, ahem, memorable responses were:

“Our social strategy was weaaaak. Trying to step it up in 2019. Slowly but sure we got better towards the end of 2018!”

^ We hear you loud and clear!

“Hiring someone into a key management roll, giving a list of goals and responsibilities needing done for the year and then not following up for months and expecting a professional need not baby sitting and waiting for results to be coming in only go find out he wasn’t doing anything.”

^ Oof, someone’s obviously got a bone to pick.

“Free work.”

^ Not feelin’ that free-99 life anymore.

“SlideShare content.”

^ RIP SlideShare.

“Using too many small, independent vendors for outsourced marketing tasks.”

^ Have you heard of Brafton, your one-stop content marketing shop? 😉

“Not sticking to the plan.”

^ Pro-tip: Always stick to the plan.

“Spending time and energy on Facebook.”

^ RIP Facebook’s user base.

How important will the below marketing strategies be for you in 2019?

After looking at marketers’ most important 2019 goals and those strategies they planned to leave back in 2018, we wanted to know how they were prioritizing their actions for the new year. Which campaigns did they plan to double-down on and which were ultimately less important?

We asked them to rate a series of marketing strategies on importance and impact for 2019 using a scale from 1 to 5 (1 being “not at all important” and 5 being “very important”).

Here’s where we landed:

According to our survey respondents, the most important marketing strategies in 2019 are organic search/SEO, email marketing and organic social. Here’s the fine print:

  • 69 percent of marketers noted that organic search/SEO will be very important in 2019.
  • 81 percent of marketers said email marketing would be somewhat or very important to their strategy in 2019.
  • 73 percent of marketers listed organic social as being either somewhat important or very important to them in 2019.

There is a clear preference in organic vs paid strategies, especially since paid social scored the lowest in the group. Likely, the prioritization of individual over brand and the rapidly changing algorithms of the biggest social platforms make it more difficult to reap rewards from a paid strategy perspective.

Retargeting, account-based marketing and paid search strategies rested in the middle ground with respondents. This isn’t surprising, as these strategies are still effective at complementing a strategy focused on organic search, organic social and email marketing.

Since all of the strategies above scored relatively high, we can see that marketers are looking at a variety of avenues to build the strongest possible marketing strategy in 2019.

Choose one word to describe what you are excited about for 2019

We had a bit of fun with this final survey question. We asked marketers to choose just one word to describe what they are most excited about for 2019.

While some answers were a bit longer than one word (hey, not everyone is great at following directions! :P), most were positive and forward-thinking.

“Growth” was the most popular term for 2019, listed in 12 percent of responses. More details:

  • “Content” was found in 8 percent of responses.
  •  Marketers wrote the words “opportunities” and “automation” 5 percent of the time.
  • “New” was noted 4 percent of the time.
  • “Sales” and “marketing” were both mentioned 3 percent respectively.

Some of the other noteworthy responses were:

  • Engagement.
  • Donuts.
  • Experimentation.
  • Increasing quality of content.
  • Impact.
  • Summer.
  • Data.
  • Breakthroughs.
  • Voice.
  • SEO.
  • Storytelling.
  • New beginnings.

To summarize, we’re looking to convert more traffic with better leads and more customized communications. We will achieve this by creating quality content (at a consistent clip), and not straying too far from our main content marketing goals. That means, fewer April Fool’s promotions, Facebook boosts, non-targeted emails and the like. Oh, and we’re very much looking forward to growth, donuts and summer in the new year.

What are your biggest plans for content marketing this year? What strategies are you ditching for good? What’s the one word you’re envisioning for your marketing focus in 2019? Is it donuts?

Do share in the comments! 😉

Lauren Fox is the Director of Marketing at Brafton. When she's not busy annoying the heck out of her one-eyed tuxedo cat Jack, she's either exploring one of the many hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest or cooking up a tasty meal in her tiny kitchen in Seattle.