The ‘F’ Word in Content Marketing

November 2022

fall foliage from maine mountaintop

Image: Blueberry Mountain summit, Stoneham, Maine

Sales and marketing professionals typically cringe when they hear the “F word” in team meetings and individual reports. No, not that F word; I’m talking about forecasting.

In almost every interview I conduct with a subject matter expert, I ask where a solution, company, trend or industry will be in two to five years. I am basically asking for a forecast. It turns out chief executives and field experts hate to forecast too. Many people don’t want to go on the record—except perhaps fabulists and futurists—with a prediction that may prove wrong.

Content marketers can’t do their jobs well if they don’t look ahead. We need to track world and local events and anticipate economic headwinds and shifts in consumer behavior. We need to know what is happening within our industries and anticipate both spikes and steep drops in demand.

Messaging to a fickle marketplace

No doubt, a marketplace is filled with fickle consumers. Take Peloton, the luxury fitness brand best known for expensive stationary bicycles and a pricy subscription service. The brand faced major backlash after it released a commercial deemed sexist in December 2019. A few months later, however, its stock soared after gyms closed due to a pandemic. But since then, the company has struggled with excess inventory and subscription drops like many fitness equipment companies. Peloton still has a loyal following, but it’s a fraction of what it once was.

What also hurt Peloton’s sales was, of course, supply chain and labor issues. Companies blame both problems on late or canceled orders and poor customer service. That’s the other side of content marketing forecasting—ensuring messaging still resonates as consumer or B2B moods, habits and outlooks change. And knowing when to change language as once popular or innocuous words fall out of favor or take on negative nuance.

Channel-changing is common

Beyond staying on top of events, some tools help with content marketing forecasts—usually, the tools used to manage campaigns. A steady drop in email open rates signals something different from a sudden one. Lower engagement on social posts could mean a topic no longer has traction. A decline in video channel metrics could be a fluke or a sign that the audience has moved on.

Attention spans in today’s fragmented media are fleeting. And they are limited. Consumers are becoming aware of the addictive nature of social media platforms, especially among children. Influencers are burning out from having to post multiple times daily about their lives. And companies are preparing for a looming economic recession.

We can’t do our jobs adequately if we don’t have a solid understanding of economic, business, geopolitical and consumer trends. This awareness helps us develop a “gut instinct” to know when winds shift. We also can’t rely on past or present performance to forecast future revenues.

Last month I flew to Maine hoping to hike mountains surrounded by brilliantly colored trees just days or weeks from shedding leaves. Leaf peeping in New England is a big deal (and big business), and plenty of people predict when fall foliage will peak. Some prognostications are based on historical data, and others are tied to climate change.

I did as I suggested above. Before purchasing my plane ticket, I kept tabs on credible sites that track foliage. I also conditioned my body for steep climbs under less-ideal conditions – so I flew back home without injuries. As a result, I enjoyed views like the one featured in this post. Living as I do where palm and pine trees prevail, the vistas were what I needed.

I had good luck, I admit. But it still doesn’t mean we all should underestimate the value of trying to predict what will happen in the fiscal quarters ahead. If anything, it eases the anxiety, especially when we get it right. As I flew hometo San Diego, a weather front moved through Maine. The rains and heavy winds blew away most of those exquisite leaves I had enjoyed just a day ago.

Thank you for reading this,