Scenarios that will shape the industry over the next 12 months and beyond

Every year, content marketers globally whip out their crystal balls to predict the ensuing year’s momentous trends.

In the past, I’ve predicted the monopolisation of LinkedIn for B2B social marketing, and the rise of Taboola from being the distant second-best native advertising platform to the top online vehicle for brands to market their content online. I’ve also called a few that didn’t quite work out — I’ll address these in a separate post.

I also predicted the phenomenal rise of content agencies 10 years ago — how right I was. However, I have been taken back by how over the past two years, big brands have retracted from creating content on an industrial scale. While this development has been challenging for some agencies, particularly for those that built their business models on the somewhat unwise prediction that this trend would continue for eternity, the industry is now turning a corner.

Six game-changing trends I foresee happening over the next year, in conjunction with these developments, are as follows:

1. Client return-on-investment is now mandatory

Until last year, it was still acceptable for client-side marketing and content professionals to commission projects without any form of outcome established. For opportunistic, rogue content agencies, which promised the planet but which consistently delivered substandard work, this was a dream scenario.

“You didn’t tell us what you were expecting results,” they connivingly responded.

No longer are brands accepting this substandard approach. And no longer are they signing off projects without a scope and their expectations in terms of performance. By performance I mean metrics such as page views, downloads, qualified leads and much more. Long may this last.

2. Knowledge of subject matter ‘a must’

In tandem with the above, initial conversations with clients now focus on subject matter knowledge. All too often, content agencies claim they know as much about the topic in question as their clients. Which, most of the time, is not the case.

Fed up with under delivery mostly because of this — as well as usually not being able to write for toffee — clients are now demanding industry knowledge and journalistic flair. No longer will agencies be able to blag — or worse lie — their way through projects.

3. Content agencies to further consolidate

As a result, many content agencies will either merge with their creative peers or make redundancies. Last year experienced this in record numbers, and the next few months, at least, will see this trend continue.

This isn’t all bad, however — by removing the proverbial chaff from the market, those remaining will have to deliver a truly informed, valuable service. As a result:

4. Belief that content does work will spread

Slowly but surely, confidence in the content marketing business will grow. Thanks to a select few providers who are able to deliver points one and two.

In conjunction with this:

5. Client spending will rise

As brands realise that they now have a formula that is working — and a multi-agency set up where everyone pulls their weight, is honest about their abilities and genuinely works hard without the fat of multiple company directors who know very little about content or the agency business in general — they will spend more.

But cash won’t be spent frivolously; scepticism will remain. However, those that have a proven track record, or who can demonstrate that they really are the real deal, will do well.

6. Niche agencies to lead the way into 2021 and beyond

All of the above will lead to a dynamic and internationally connected content agency market, which features a variety of specialist providers in particular industries and fields.

That’s my prediction for 2020. What’s yours?

Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels