In 2011, Joe Pulizzi launched a content marketing event that drew 600 people. Just three years later, Content Marketing World (CMW) attracted more than 2,500 attendees, including myself and two others from Vertical Measures last week. We took great pride in being a sponsor at a conference that is putting two of my very favorite things in the national spotlight: content marketing and Cleveland.
I grew up in Cleveland and am so excited to go back every year for this event. The city has a charming downtown that embraces CMW and entertains the thousands of attendees from around the globe. Not only did my two colleagues and I learn a great deal from content marketing gurus all week, but we also saw Kevin Spacey deliver an amazing keynote. Here are my 16 top moments from this excellent conference.
Monday: Educational Workshops
Monday was an opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops that served as primers for the rest of the week.
Content Marketing 101 Workshop
The title of this session goes to show that even at a major event like CMW, we are still at the early stages of content marketing. “Content Marketing 101” was 3.5-hour workshop put on by Vertical Measures. It sold out two weeks early, and within an hour, it was standing room only, with more than 100 attendees. We spent the final 30 minutes helping attendees kickstart their content marketing ideation efforts. The workshop was a huge success and garnered rave reviews.
Hall of Fame
CMW is now in its fourth year, and I’ve been lucky to go to every event. As a long-time content marketing evangelist, I was even inducted into the first class of the CMW Hall of Fame.
Tuesday: Day 1
When it comes to content marketing strategy, businesses with clear, written goals accomplish far more, and far faster, than those who don’t. It’s been proven that successful content marketers have a written strategy and closely follow it. That’s the difference in moving from good to great.
You need to get closer and closer to the center of your customer’s universe. Where are they and what do they do every day online? Focus on creating moments of inspiration that reach the customer, regardless of where he or she is on their purchase journey. Moments of inspiration lead to ROI.
Digital content should not be intrusive or disruptive. It should create trust and demonstrate that you, as the brand, are connecting around things that both you and your consumer value. Once you are publishing this valuable content, you will need a sound distribution strategy. It’s important to be nimble and “fan the flames” on hot content by quickly distributing it to additional channels.
Content strategy guides the planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, engaging content. When creating this strategy, you need to always ask: What, why, how, when, where, who for, with what, and what is next? Don’t let the designers, content creators, and branding folks start until you have asked them these questions.
Media fragmentation has led to agency fragmentation: You now have agencies specializing in social, PR, SEO, PPC, branding, advertising, content, and more. Clients need a lead agency, one who can position itself as an agency of integration. This ultimately should be you, the content marketing agency. If you can understand both advertising and content, you’ll be delivering exceptional value to your clients.
Vertical Measures sponsored two tracks on Tuesday, “Future Content” and “Content Discovery.” We were proud to announce the launch of HowtoConvinceYourBoss.com, a new site we created exactly for attendees who go to an event like CMW, but need help pitching their managers or executives on investing in a content marketing program. Visit the website for tips, statistics, presentation templates, and more.
This was our own private, outdoor music festival near downtown Cleveland, right on the river. More than 2,000 content marketers packed Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica to eat from local Cleveland food trucks and watch live bands, including 1964 the Tribute (dubbed “the best Beatles tribute band” by Rolling Stone). This was an amazing, intimate event.
The Tuesday fun continued at a bar just down the docks, thanks to the folks at SAP. As conference veterans know, many of the most valuable conversations and introductions happen outside the large sessions and workshops — they happen during networking events.
Wednesday: Day 2
The chief strategist at the Content Marketing Institute said that the future is experience marketing. Understand that an increasing number of interactions with a customer does not necessarily build a relationship. Instead, you should focus on only creating content that is so great, people would pay for it. Your content should be strategic enough to change the company and its relationship with the customer. He encourages marketers to create experiences for their audience.
Marcus Sheridan and Mark Schaefer
These two had a great discussion on “content shock,” the notion that so much content, in so many formats and on so many platforms, will render audiences so overwhelmed that they won’t consume any content at all. However, Marcus does not believe the future for content is bleak. He asks: 10 or 20 years from now, will you stop teaching? Will you stop educating? Will you stop innovating? If your answer is no, then there really is no need to fear a “death of content marketing.”
The customer journey does not follow a linear path that marketers set. Their journey is personal and in perpetual motion, and they may even be up to 90 percent through the buying cycle before contacting a vendor. Remember: It is their journey, not yours! So always be thinking about how your content can have a greater impact. If you create more value for more people more often, when it is time to choose, they will choose you.
In social media, the speed at which we reply is almost as important as authenticity and transparency. Oftentimes, the customer simply wants to be heard. Quick tip: Scheduling your posts — on Twitter, Facebook, or any network — is like sending a mannequin to a networking event. Be an active participant and contribute in real-time to the social ecosystem, and you will be rewarded.
Whether you’re an actor or a marketer, it’s all about connecting with your audience through a compelling story. How do you educate, entertain, or surprise your audience? Spacey noted that despite theories to the contrary, good content-making is not a crapshoot. You can use data and market intelligence, as he and his team did, to create great content (like House of Cards). He believes that there has never been a better moment for marketers, because audiences are dying for great stories and content, and we have the ability to now target specific audiences across a wide range of platforms. See some of Mr. Spacey’s best tidbits from his keynote below, but please note that some of this includes R-rated content!
As I mentioned, I grew up in Cleveland, and it’s personally rewarding to see how CMW benefits this great city. It’s a city on the rise — LeBron James is returning, Johnny Manziel is now playing for the Browns, and the Republican National Convention is coming in 2016. Likewise, the flood of content marketing professionals coming to the event every September brings in a lot of business for local shops, hotels, and venues. I’m proud to see that both Cleveland and content marketing are continuing to shine brighter each and every year.