Content Marketing World 2014: Dickens Would Be Proud

Event Showcases Maturity and Complexity of Content Marketing

Two intense days of high-energy keynotes and well-researched and presented breakouts can leave your head swimming. So much to process, so much to learn.

That’s the feeling the five members of the Fahlgren Mortine team had after experiencing Content Marketing World 2014 earlier this week. The event organizers at the Content Marketing Institute continue to raise the bar in event quality (the graphic facilitators were an especially nice touch) and in bringing in speakers that advance the art and science of the discipline.

You’ll hear more from the team in coming weeks, but what struck me, in the immediate afterglow of the event, was the inherent duality of content marketing. It’s what makes this approach so versatile, so powerful and so tricky to navigate. Here are eight examples:

  1. Yes, it is both the best of times and the worst of times for content marketing. On one hand, some organizations are unleashing its power to transform their businesses and the potential seems unlimited. Those successes have spawned streams of poorly thought out and executed content that dilute the effectiveness and threaten the future of content marketing.
  2. There are the dueling challenges of creation and distribution. It’s not enough to create great content, which is hard enough; we have to manage distribution in a way that gets that content in front of the right eyes at the right time.
  3. On another level, organizations continue to wrestle with issues of both strategy and execution. In the rush to capitalize on the content boom, some have failed to ask the basic questions of “why” and “what” while others have failed to put into place the processes and discipline they apply to other forms of marketing. It’s difficult being good at both, but it is necessary.
  4. There is the fundamental duality between reason and emotion and determining how and when to appeal to each. On this front there was a strong bias toward emotion at Content Marketing World. Most of us are already adept at presenting well-reasoned and articulated cases for our products and services. Yet, emotion drives people to act and we need more of that in our marketing, regardless of whether we are promoting a product to consumers or businesses.
  5. On the B2B side there is the need for content above the funnel (awareness) and content within the funnel (nurturing). Sessions on nurturing and conversion are always well attended at Content Marketing World as these relate most directly to that bottom line on which so many marketers are now being measured: sales. However, the campaigns that get our juices flowing (and that get showcased in keynotes) are above the funnel. If you don’t have both you either have a small funnel or a poor conversion rate.
  6. Here is one I haven’t thought enough about: why change versus why us. Are we focusing too much of our marketing within the funnel on promoting a product or solution when more than half of prospects don’t make a purchase decision, choosing instead to stick to the status quo? Content marketing can be a powerful tool for supporting change.
  7. Another one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: what we say versus how we say it. Tone of voice is a powerful differentiator that gets little attention in most marketing organizations.
  8. While perhaps not a true duality, there is a need, in many organizations, to think about both internal and external audiences in their content marketing plans. What content does the sales team need to succeed and does the sales team understand and support how marketing is using content?

That gives you a taste of why our heads are spinning today. Content marketing isn’t easy; there is no silver bullet or secret sauce, no single takeaway that will make you an effective content marketer. But there is real opportunity, and the marketing teams that master this complex discipline, the ones that nail strategy and execution, creation and distribution, what to say and how to say it, are the teams that have the biggest impact on their brands’ bottom lines.

That’s one takeaway on which we all agree.

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