Last month I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio, and joined 2,600-plus other content-focused marketers as we navigated our choice of 80-plus sessions over multiple days. Subjects ranged from native advertising to ROI, social media to influencer marketing (and everything in between). I met attendees from both agencies and brands, in B2B and B2C markets, and hailing from such varied industries as healthcare, tech, mining (yes, mining), video production, cloud computing and more. And they all look to content as a core marketing tool.
"It's our job to tell better stories. The audience doesn't care about the platform; they care about the content."
Although the sessions covered a variety of hot topics and new tools available for being a better content marketer, I think closing keynote speaker (and House of Cards star) Kevin Spacey best summed up the core philosophy behind content marketing: “It’s our job to tell better stories. The audience doesn’t care about the platform; they care about the content.”
Here are my top three key takeaways from my experience at CM World 2014:
Takeaway #1: MOI Leads to ROI
Andrew Davis, opening keynote for CM World and author of Brandscaping, talked about the importance of using content to “create moments of inspiration that send people on a journey.”
He summed it up as MOI leads to ROI—moments of inspiration lead to return on investment (or implied calls to action), stressing the importance of telling a bigger story that inspires people to react.
Davis’ four secrets to creating moments of inspiration (MOI) are:
- Build suspense: Ask yourself if there's inherent suspense in the story you’re telling
- Foster aspiration: Tie your aspiration to your audience's
- Drive empathy: Understand and share the feelings of another
- Harness emotion: Uncover the raw emotions attached to whatever you do
Takeaway #2: Own Your Audience
Paul Roetzer, author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint and CEO of PR 20/20, discussed how content can go beyond storytelling to be a core driver of performance—and audience personalization is key to success: “Great content answers questions, inspires and motivates audiences to take action.”
A session co-hosted by Shafqat Islam, CEO and CoFounder of NewsCred, and Jason Miller, Senior Content Marketing Manager for LinkedIn, stressed that it’s not important how big your community is, it’s that you have a community that feels like they’re part of something big. And it’s our job to inspire, educate and entertain them through relevant content that provides our audience what they’re looking for.
Islam used Pepsi.com as an example, which is a single publishing platform for the soda company’s global marketing—and it covers more than just pop. Site content on Pepsi.com speaks to all of its consumers’ varied interests—music launches, live streams of content, real-time articles, user-generated content— and fulfils that demand all in one place: Pepsi.com. The site gets 1.3 million unique visitors each month.
This example illustrates how driving brand allegiance through consistent engagement can result in greater impact. You have to engage your audience wherever they are, and create content that focuses on the person you're trying to reach. “You have to remember that behind every tweet, every share, every visit, every purchase...is a person. Always think about who that person is.” And when you know your audience, you know how to deliver the content they want, when they want it.
Roetzer also talked about a new media mix—owned, paid, earned and converged—and the importance of balancing content “builders” (recurring campaigns such as blogs, website and social engagement) with content “drivers” (shorter-term campaigns that capitalize on existing assets). “We have entered the age of content, context and customer experience,” he said. “Create more value, for more people, more often, so when it's time to choose they choose you.”
Takeaway #3: Partner with Influencers
Lee Odden, CEO of Top Rank Marketing, began his session on Content and Influencer Marketing with some interesting facts:
- 85% of consumers seek out trusted expert content before making a purchase
- There’s a 38% lift in expert over branded content
So how do you find those influencers to help you create that trusted, expert content? Determine how you (or your brand) want to be known, and then look for those same qualities in your influencers.
There are many tools such as Traackr, Buzzsumo and Keyhole you can use to search influencers by topic or hashtag and get an idea of their reach. Chad Zimmerman, Founder and President of Stack suggests featuring influencers in your content—ostensibly making their content your content—in order to start building a relationship. Once you find your influencers, Odden suggests you “romance” them by retweeting their status updates, commenting on blog posts, interviewing them, interacting with them in person at events.
Establishing real, ongoing relationships with your influencers is of utmost importance. Offer feedback, engage them on social media, cite them in contributed articles, measure their reach and share in their success. And don’t forget to make it easy for influencers—especially those you’re still courting—to participate: pre-write tweets; create a competition; show evidence of success.
“Work with an influencer, they're friends for a day. Help someone become influential, and they're a friend for life.” Remember that a rising tide lifts all ships.
Odden’s steps to co-creating awesome content:
- Set goals
- Identify, recruit and qualify your influencers
- Engage your influencers, and make sure they engage the audience you want to reach
- Measure your influencers’ content performance
Closing Keynote Scott Stratten of Un-Marketing stressed that people share content that evokes emotion. So if you want word of mouth, then create something worth saying. And remember: “In everything you do, you’re the brand.”