8 Takeaways From Content Marketing World 2015
By Melanie Bowles and Lesley Waldsmith
Walking into Content Marketing World 2015 (CMW) we were excited and anxious, but we left with new ideas and a fresh perspective on the ever-evolving content marketing landscape. While it is impossible to capture it all, we compiled everything we learned from the sessions we attended into eight takeaways:
- Content marketing starts with measurement.
Almost every session we attended stressed the importance of measurement in content marketing. The most successful content marketers do two things: they measure first, then create and share important data across functional teams. Modern marketers have access to data from a wide variety of sources including: Google Analytics, paid media, mobile apps, ecommerce and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. By using technology and teamwork, each of these data points can come together to form a constellation of marketing intelligence. Taking the time to connect these dots gives you the power to understand your customer’s story and ultimately create smarter content.
- Get your panic out early.
Writer and actor, John Cleese, reminded us after the first day of CMW that great creative comes when you have an uncluttered mind. Not a new idea, but certainly a good reminder in today’s always-connected culture. When developing content, silence notifications to allow a free mind to think fully about the task at hand in order to create amazing content. Cleese also recommended that attendees get your panic out of the way early. An interesting observation – panic doesn’t always have to happen on deadline. Get it out of the way early, so you can get down to business.
- Start with your why and develop a strategy.
An overarching theme of the conference focused on the lack of content strategies within organizations. Before even thinking about developing content, it’s imperative to figure out the why and then develop the how or the strategy. Companies with a documented strategy are four times more effective than those that don’t have one. In her opening keynote, Kristina Halvorson, CEO and founder of Brain Traffic, reminded us that there’s a difference between activity and productivity. If content is not rooted in a strategy and measurable goals, then it’s just activity, which isn’t going to move the needle. Don’t waste time on unworthy content and channels. Instead, create content that entertains, inspires and informs your audience.
- Content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) are peas in a pod.
Content marketing and SEO both share the same goal, to satisfy the user. Google frequently cites user experience as the main motivator for algorithm changes. In recent years, Google has initiated algorithms that deter manipulative links and content in favor of content that satisfies the searcher’s intent. While classic SEO factors are still important, brands must begin to focus on new and possibly emerging ranking factors that signal content quality. These query success factors could include: click-through rate from search engine results pages, the engagement of users on a site after they click through and how frequently users bounce back to search engines to view more (and possibly more effective) results.
With the field of content marketing in a constant state of growth and so much online noise, the chances of creating something 100 percent unique are dwindling. Brands can, however, get results by making content that is 10 times better than their competitors. Successful content marketers who are also successful at SEO create content that is presented in a unique and visually appealing way, elicits emotion, provides truly comprehensive and complete information, and is responsive on any device.
- Create evergreen content.
Evergreen content is content that offers continuously relevant utility to readers. This type of content is timelessly useful, often long form and perpetually updateable. The utility of evergreen content makes it extremely SEO friendly and ideal for integrating with marketing automation. Evergreen content is also highly shareable like this now famous infographic simply titled, “The Color of Pee,” published by The Cleveland Clinic. With more than 45K Facebook shares, 15K Pinterest pins, millions of page views and tons of comments, it has been one of the Clinic’s most successful pieces of content to date. Striking a balance between timeliness and high quality, evergreen content helps build relationships with users and gives them a reason to return.
- Harness the power of your own data.
There’s likely valuable untapped information about your customers right at your fingertips with first-party data. Whereas third-party data is inaccurate, expensive and non-exclusive (your competitors are looking at the same information), first- party data is proprietary and precise. Develop your content strategy so that you’re bringing in valuable data about your audience with each touch point. If you’re not gathering data through your content, then you are only doing half the job. We heard an excellent example of harnessing the power of this data from KRAFT. They mined and organized their existing databases of customers, so that they could properly analyze and glean new insights, which helped the brand develop smarter, customized content based on the individual’s wants and needs.
- Figure out your brand’s story and own it.
When we learned that actor, humorist, and carpenter, Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson), was the closing keynote speaker, we were thrilled and also a little bit confused – what does this actor and standup comedian know about content, marketing, or content marketing? Offerman certainly didn’t disappoint – his message was relevant and, of course, very funny. He raised a few eyebrows and possibly offended a few fellow conference attendees, who didn’t quite know how to take his ‘Rainbow’ song, thoughts on the political landscape and strategic use of profanity, but his keynote was insightful and thought-provoking. Through stories of his own journey as a stage actor to trying to make it in Hollywood, Offerman figured out that he could be what the industry thought he should be (a typecast actor stuck in roles as a plumber or bus driver) or he could pursue the path that he wanted (an entrepreneurial woodworker, who also acts). Apply this message to a brand – decide your brand’s story, and own it.
- Be Passionate & Authentic.
The only way to differentiate your brand from the competition is a passion for people. Following the overwhelming trend of gating content and “salesey” landing pages will not make your brand stand out. In his Wednesday morning keynote, content strategist and writer, Jay Baer, asserted that, in a world where everyone is creating content, “competition commoditizes competency.” The increasingly competitive landscape of content marketing requires a passion (and competency) for influencing people, not profit. Brands should strive to create content that makes an impact, whether practical or inspirational, on real people.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Washington Post war correspondent turned social impact storyteller at Starbucks, told us to above all else, be authentic. Content creators have the power to influence humanity with authentic stories on subject matter ranging from the social issues of veterans to the color of pee. The ability to connect to readers in an authentic way transcends page views, clicks and shares.
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