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Forget What You Know About Marketing: A Content Marketing World 2017 Recap

October 10, 2017   Posted By Jeremy Bednarski

CMW stage.jpg

It’s hard to believe that Content Marketing World has come and gone for another year. It seems to fly by faster each year. But, as always, there was a ton of information packed into just a few days. It’s no wonder that we all leave inspired, motivated … and a bit dazed. It's the perfect opportunity to ask questions of the experts and learn the right ways to incorporate a content marketing strategy into your business. 

As Joe Pulizzi kicked off the conference, he led with the overarching question that led to where the industry stands today as it relates to content marketing:


“What if everything we know to be true about marketing is actually what’s holding back our business?”


What if there’s more? What if there are opportunities with our marketing that we can’t see because of what we think we know? This is the basis for the new book Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose (you can get more information about the book itself here). Pulizzi gave the example of George Lucas giving up an extra $1 million to direct Star Wars to secure the merchandising rights. 20th Century Fox couldn’t see beyond ticket sales as a way for movies to make money. As of 2015, Star Wars merchandise has brought in $12 billion vs. $5 billion in ticket sales.

The key is for companies to build and develop their audiences by creating remarkable and relevant content. Then, find multiple ways to monetize your audience. Robert Rose’s presentation included how to begin to calculate a value of your audience. The main point of both of their presentations and the book is that the marketing department can be a profit center for companies. To get there, we need to kill the marketing we know to discover a new model.

Content marketing is what will lead brands to develop their audiences. In fact, according to the latest research conducted by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 90% of marketers who feel their content marketing is effective focus on building their audience.

But, more content is being produced than ever before. With so much content available, how do you stand out to be able to build your audience? Many of the subsequent sessions helped to answer that question. The following summarize some of the main themes to help your content break through. 

It’s Never Been Easier to Be Average.

Jay Acunzo talked about ways to make your content stand out. Many marketers are looking for answers from influencers or best practices from successful companies. But, best practices are what worked yesterday. He explained that when you tell a group of marketers that that 3pm on Tuesday is the best time to publish social media posts, that time is no longer the best time to publish your posts.

Instead of looking to others for answers, we need to be willing to create our own answers. Create our own best practices. This is how you stand out from being average or publishing the same content everyone else is publishing. 

Break Marketing Conventions.

Doug Kessler explained that there are strong, invisible conventions in marketing. We may not realize we’re following them, but consumers recognize them. Once they recognize them, their internal barriers go up. It’s our job to recognize the barriers and break them when we can. Content marketing offers opportunities to go against many of the conventions (although, people are starting to recognize the conventions in content marketing too).

What types of conventions should we break? Here are a few examples:

  • Instead of hiding your weaknesses, openly share the areas where your product falls short. This practice builds trust with your customers. It surprises and delights while signaling your confidence in the areas where you excel.
  • While data is always important in marketing, you also need to know when to follow your gut. Kessler gave the example of SEOMoz’s Whiteboard Friday. The data said to kill it for three years. But, they knew they were on to something that would resonate with their viewers.
  • B2B marketing copy has always been stiff and formal. But, marketers are realizing that even in B2B, they’re still talking to humans. So, the new voice is much more conversational and personal. 

Be Writers First. Marketers Second.

Ann Handley discussed how content needs to be created and written based on customer needs. It should never start out as something that we create for the sake of creating. What are customers asking and how can we use content to answer it?

Instead of rushing to get a ton of content out there, we need to slow down. Less content that offers more value is better than more average content. Quality is better than quantity. Above all, make sure that you’re proud of the work you publish. 

Most Content Fails.

Only a third of marketers say their content is effective. That means that the rest are failing…and acknowledge it. According to Jay Baer, content fails when it’s not relevant enough to trade time for the information. Furthermore, those that say they’re too busy to read your content are really saying that it’s simply not relevant enough.

How do you fix your content to make sure it’s relevant to your audience? There are four areas to put your focus:

  • Content Topics: Understand who your personas are, where they are in the sales funnel, and what questions you need to answer to get them to the next stage. You can do this by talking to your customers or the departments in your company that talks to the customers. You can also mine your analytics, social media comments and search data.
  • Content Format: Think like a TV network. Create a content strategy by building a calendar of consistent, thematic “shows.” This helps to condition your audience to know when to expect new content.
  • Content Messenger: We tend to trust people more than brands. Mark Schaefer touched on this notion in his session as well. He mentioned a movement towards people caring about products not because of a brand, but because of the “hands that made them.” If your brand created your content, be sure to put a person in front of it.
  • Content Amplification: We all would love to give our content an extra boost. But, we need to recognize what content we should be amplifying. Instead of putting more promotion behind mediocre content, we should amplify our good content. Baer explained that we should try to make our sixes into nines, not twos into sixes. He summed it up best by saying “No amount of money can add relevancy to mediocre content.”

These themes are only a portion of the knowledge shared during Content Marketing World. And, it doesn’t even touch on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s presentation. He may just be the best closing keynote speaker they’ve ever had. Overall, I can’t think of a better way for a marketer to spend three days…other than to add a workshop or two!

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