What Industry Experts Say About Content Marketing World 2017
If you missed all the excitement of Content Marketing World 2017, don’t worry. To help you discover the key takeaways from this whirlwind week long event, we’ve heard from some of the industry’s leading experts sharing their favorite messages and speeches.
From making sure the main focus of a marketing strategy is the audience to creating content that doesn’t blend into an overly-crowded market, here’s what they had to say:
Build an Audience
One of the key messages emphasized at the event was the importance of building an audience. Although this isn’t ground-breaking information, many of the attendees were excited to hear of the new ways companies can engage and build a trusted, loyal audience. And how, in looking at their audience as an asset, they can enjoy more success because they aren’t just broadcasting endless streams of information at them (as Mark Masters points out).
Joe Pulizzi discussed how an audience is crucial to a company’s success. By creating this following, it presents organizations with the opportunity to establish new revenue streams that are above and beyond anything they’ve ever seen before.
Adding to this, Michael Brenner expresses how marketers need to be more creative, visual, and diverse in their approach. While Robert Rose adds his company’s own research into the debate, suggesting 90% of the most successful companies have “building an audience” as the main focus within their content marketing strategy.
Finally, Patricia Travaline demonstrates how marketers need to start thinking about their audiences in a different way. Even though many are aware that third-party media sites aren’t the only way to reach out to an audience, it’s important to value that audience, too.
Traditionally, it’s the point of sale where the value of an audience lies, but in content marketing, the audience comes into its own. They deliver companies meaningful data, amplify their messages, and help them refine their targeting. All of these aspects hold value. And for content marketers to sell this value internally, Travaline suggests companies need to sell the value of the audience they’re building.
For Bernie Borges, the standout sessions were those that focused on B2B sales and marketing alignment, and artificial intelligence (AI). He explains that while aligning marketing and sales is an age-old challenge, now’s the ideal time to cross this gap using an approach that’s driven by content and utilizes powerful marketing technologies.
The power of AI is something marketers are only just starting to get to grips with, which means there are still a lot of questions surrounding it. However, Borges claims that savvy marketers are starting to experiment in this field, streamlining certain parts of their content marketing programs to unleash the potential of AI. Expressing an excitement for the future, Borges also went on to say that the organizations who will outperform their competitors are those who deliver the following four elements – toolset, skillset, mindset, and alignment.
Drawing on the first takeaway surrounding the importance of an audience, many experts have identified how content is changing to accommodate this. Although the phrase “content is king” is something we’ve perhaps heard more times than we care to mention, it’s clear that content has lost its crown and the audience has gained it. With this in mind, here’s what some of the experts had to say about content and what direction companies should be taking with it.
Aaron Dun speaks about how old practices that have been heavily relied upon (e.g. white papers) are no longer having the same impact like they used to do. He feels this content isn’t differentiated anymore and bears no intrinsic value. However, it’s not all bad news, as Dun praises smart marketers who are going out of their comfort zones to create valuable and engaging content experiences that are resonating with buyers.
To emphasize this point, Margaret Magnarelli draws upon the keynote given by the CMO of GE, Linda Boff. Magnarelli applauds the fact GE have taken a bold approach to their strategy, rather than acting in silos or resting on their laurels. In her speech, Boff discussed the super-powered heat smoker their engineers designed for campus events; the “moon boots” produced by a sneaker fanatic and an engineer; and the fact top photographers have access to the company’s big machines and turbines for Instagram. Magnarelli loves this creativity and feels this has pushed her to “get out of her box.”
Robert Murray also picked up on the idea that there are still niches to explore despite many industries being saturated with content. He explains how there will always be a place for original, great content. However, he finds one of the biggest problems is how many brands copy one another, especially when something has gone particularly well for one them. Murray explains how it’s hard to answer the question, “What content will be truly original?” But in the same breath he stresses how if you don’t try, you’re still going to be occupying the same crowded marketplace, and no company can reach out to an audience in this way.
If you’re still stuck for answers, though, Pamela Muldoon highlights Jay Acunzo’s keynote – “How Brilliant Marketers Find and Follow What Makes Their Stories Different in a World Full of Average Content.” Acunzo explained how a critical aspect of creating content is intuition, with good questions being the key to these better ideas. Muldoon offers six great questions that will help with this process:
What’s your aspirational anchor?
Why are you the one’s to do it?
Who truly believes in you?
What’s the basis of your insight?
How can you expand?
What are your constraints?
Using these, Muldoon suggests, will help you transform your content from mediocre to amazing.
As marketers continue to look for innovative ways they can transform their content, Peter Loibl’s highlight of the event was how people are using video to mix up their content strategies – and, perhaps more importantly, how they’re taking a strategic approach to maximizing and utilizing this channel.
Loibl explains that people who use videos get ahead of the curve when they’re able to tell stories and get the audience engaged. While those using videos as an opportunity for pre-roll and ad clicks (which he deems frustrating) need to make sure they’ve learned from Content Marketing World. How? By going back to their offices to change the way they enjoy and use online videos in the future. Finally, he encourages everyone to create experiences instead of CPL ad reach.
Furthermore, Julia McCoy picked up on the need to create persuasive content through real people rather than brands. She expresses how Jay Baer’s talk, “How to Get Promoted by Creating Less Content, Not More” evoked a reaction in her that has made her re-focus her own content strategies on content that will have a profound difference on her audience and industry. To do this, McCoy suggests she is going to start a new video series while also creating more impactful, real content through her podcast and blog.
Track What’s Working
There was one marketer, Matt Heinz, whose takeaway from the event wasn’t full of enthusiasm and excitement for what lies ahead. His key message came from the lack of tracking and analysis of what’s really working within a marketing strategy – and not just what’s based on engagement and clicks but revenue and sales influence.
Heinz understands that achieving this level of precision isn’t always that easy, but he’s still concerned that he doesn’t hear enough people asking the right questions. His company’s own research also highlighted that the majority of marketers aren’t measuring their content’s revenue influence or impact. And he stresses that to move forward, this gap needs bridging far better.
In doing so, it’ll allow marketers to see just how well their new content strategies, fueled by the inspiration of being “standout,” are performing. Because without the right data and analytics, it’s not going to give a true indication of just how much impact it’s having on sales.
As you can see from the above, the resounding message from all the pioneering marketers who attended Content Marketing World 2017 is that the focus needs to be on building an audience through high-quality content. However, the difference in the message this time is that, this content cannot fall into the previous “safe” niches. Instead, it needs to go somewhere new, somewhere exciting, and somewhere that no one’s ever been before. In doing so, it will compel the audience and transform them into a loyal following that skyrockets a business to success. Oh, and don’t forget to analyze your data while you’re at it, too!