Content Marketing Is Growing Up: 5 Takeaways from Content Marketing World

September 8, 2016

The first Content Marketing World conference took place in 2011. Over the past five years, the content marketing landscape has changed markedly. B2B businesses, for instance, have widely adopted the practice, with almost 90 percent using content marketing.

As content marketing has become a necessity for most businesses, they are beginning to demand more from it. Businesses are demanding that content marketing move from being merely tactical to being strategic and central to a business’ mission. But this maturing of content marketing can be a slow process. Research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that only 20 percent of global enterprises said they were “fully committed” to content marketing.

The first day’s sessions at Content Marketing World were packed with advice on how marketers can make their content marketing more effective and more central to helping their companies achieve their objectives — including measurable revenue generation.

Here are five ways marketers can begin to take their content to the next level:

Understand That Slow Marketing is Good Marketing

Marketing is impatient. Everything we do feels like we need to do it faster. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, in her keynote session said that in the future, marketers who are able to see the value in slowing down will be the most successful. “We need to be a little more deliberate, and thoughtful,” she said. But we can’t be successful if we’re slow marketers all the time; we must identify the right moments to hit the brakes. You can do so by asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. So what? Ask yourself this question from the perspective of your reader. And answer, “because…” until all of your answers are exhausted. Why does this matter? Asking “So what?” is a shortcut to customer empathy. Seventy-one percent of content marketers are looking to a build long-term content marketing program, and yet we’re not as focused as we should be on our audience. Asking “So what?” will deliver long-term results.
  2. Wait, what? Asking this question will help you align on the “why” before you get to the “how.” Why is this important? “Because we’re over-indexing on the hustle and under-indexing on the prep,” Handley said. That’s why we need to step back and ask ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this? What’s our long term plan?’
  3. Does this sustain us? Handley says we need to “opt for sustainability over speed.” You can sustain your brand by putting processes in place to ensure success. You also need to focus on sustaining yourself. Ask yourself, “Are you proud of what you’re creating? Does it feed your soul?”

Our emphasis on speed erodes our quality of life and productivity. Handley acknowledged that there is such a thing as a bad slow in marketing. But there is a critical need for a good slow in marketing.

Combine Frequency and Quality

In his keynote session, Mitch Joel, President of Mirum, addressed the difficult reality that Internet traffic is concentrating on a few indispensable websites. You know the sites and what you use them for: Facebook for interacting with friends, Google and Bing for search, Amazon for buying, and LinkedIn for connecting with professionals. To adjust to this reality, content marketers must build networks on these dominant sites and can no longer rely on driving prospects to their websites and blogs. Among the advice Joel offered to help content marketers stand out, he suggested a combination of regular frequency and, of course, compelling quality. He said marketers should strive to have prospects crave their content, just as a reader might look forward to a monthly magazine’s arrival on the newsstand or a viewer might keep an appointment to watch “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night. Joel counseled marketers that they should really make an impression rather than count impressions.

Don’t Fall for the Myth that Amplification Only Starts after You Hit Publish

We all know that the real work begins when we hit publish. There is no prize for hitting publish, and content launched without a solid distribution plan is bound to fall flat. After all, good content isn’t great until it’s discovered.

But there is significant amplification work that can be done before you hit publish. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz, agreed that a lot does happen after you publish your piece. But if you haven’t already set up that content for amplification success, it’s very unlikely that it will spread on its own. “Before you create content, ask yourself ‘who will help amplify this and why?’” Fishkin said. Then, he advised creating a very specific list of people, brands, groups and accounts. Figure out who they are and why they’re doing it. This strategy will help your content succeed before you even think about moving into design. 

It’s Called Social Media, so Be Social

Effective content marketers, rightly, focus on creating helpful content for their customers and prospects. But sometimes we fall into the trap of being serious all the time, and we lose the opportunity to show a lighter and more human side. In his session, Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, advised marketers to take advantage of social media by sharing their personalities and their passion. Putting his own advice to work, Heinz has shared online his own recipe for making bacon out of pork belly. He’s also chronicled the experience of restoring a farm house outside of Seattle. He said when he meets fellow marketers or potential customers in person, they ask him first about bacon and the farm house before the discussion gets down to business. Heinz say he has made himself more approachable by using social media to share the personal and by connecting on an emotional, personal level. “Great content is emotive,” he said.  

Publish Content Featuring Research and Strong Opinions

In his keynote speech, Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder of Orbit Media, offered this insight: Content that features research or strong opinions (or perhaps both) are surefire ways to generate engagement. He said it’s critical to create strong content, because mediocre content delivers very little value to the marketer who created it. Crestodina said that 75 percent of content on the web have zero external links. To give your content a better chance at performing well, he suggested focusing on creating content that shares research or a strong opinion. For instance, he pointed out that last year’s research report on content marketing by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs has generated more than 4,000 links. Crestodina used one of his own blog posts, “15 Things to Remove From Your Website Immediately,” as an example of content with a strong point of view. As evidenced by a long stream of comments that ranged from “thank you” to one objecting to the “sanctimonious” tone of the post, it did generate engagement.  

For more useful advice on how to make the most of your content marketing, download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.