I attended Content Marketing World this week, keeping up my perfect attendance (they even gave me a Hall of Fame star in recognition). Among the 3,500 delegates from 50 countries, 40% were from Fortune 500 companies, 78 of the companies sent five or more guests, and 28 sent nine or more. Two of us attended from Find and Convert to learn with and from some of the best content marketers in the world.
Below I’ve captured some key takeaways from the first day’s keynote addresses. As you consider the content marketing movement and its impact on your organization, keep these lessons from content marketing experts in mind.
Every Movement Starts Somewhere: The History of Content Marketing
Believe it or not, content marketing is not new! Content marketing is a movement that began in 1897 with the launch of Sherwin Williams’ newsletter. In 1910 they progressed into Home Decorator Magazine. General Electric followed suit in 1913 with Nela Park to teach people about lighting. Seeing the draw of content, John Penton founded Penton Publishing in 1904. Penton Publishing, which would eventually become Penton Media, is where Joe Pulizzi established himself in the world of content marketing.
After observing what brands needed in his role as Vice President at Penton Media, Joe founded the Content Marketing Institute in 2007 to educate brands on how to improve their storytelling. A visionary, Joe was initially lonely in the world of content marketing, but very motivated to get others involved. In April 2007 he wrote a blog post Why Content Marketing? Soon, the critics boiled over writing articles claiming content marketing was “dead,” “stupid,” and that it “didn’t even exist.” Joe pushed on in an effort to evangelize content marketing and since then content marketing has been trending up.
Every Movement Needs a Strategy: Having a Content Marketing Strategy is Key
Kristina Halvorson, CEO and founder of Brain Traffic, pointed out that the reason why brands are struggling with content marketing is because they don’t start with the “why” of doing it in the first place. Companies with a documented strategy are four times more effective than those that don’t have one. Since only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, it’s no surprise to learn that the effectiveness of content marketing in 2015 is 30%.
To achieve success in your content marketing, you should start with the right strategy for your organization. A “strategy is a decision to take a path before defining the tactics.” Think about a bear whose strategy to get fish is to go to the river; once he gets there, his tactic is to catch the fish jumping upstream. Be the bear: operate with the end goal in mind and a strategy to take you there. You do not need to have all the tactics written out. But, you should have a documented strategy to shape the decisions you will make on the execution tactics.
When generating your strategy consider formats, voice and tone, appropriate channels and your calendar. A content strategy should consist of: substance, workflow, governance and structure.
- Substance – What value will your content provide to the reader?
- Workflow – What tools or processes should be used for efficiency?
- Governance – Ensure the right hand and left hand know who does what and how it can be done.
- Structure – How will your content be published, distributed, amplified?
Here are a few guiding principles for your content marketing strategy:
- What are your brand values?
- What is your purpose?
- Define your success metrics.
- Are your success metrics meaningful?
- Who is your audience and why?
Most brands struggle with establishing their strategy, and it’s no surprise. With so much to consider – strategy is hard! To make it as painless as possible remember that a satisfied customer will likely lead you to your intended business outcomes. Your core strategy should stem from diagnosis, alignment, assessment and identification.
A satisfied customer will likely lead you to your intended business outcomes.
The first day of Content Marketing World 2015 I led a panel session on How to Get Employees Involved in Your Content Marketing. It was an engaging discussion with panelists from 3M, Avery Dennison, New York Presbyterian Hospital and Akron-Canton Airport. This is a topic I’ve talked about before on the Social Business Engine Podcast. Content contribution from employees who are subject matter experts lends great credibility to your brand, and should be considered in every B2B content marketing strategy.
Movements Should “Move” People: The Customer
Customers only care about how you can help them. If you don’t know what you can do to help your customer, ask them: “how can we help you (substitute the relevant verb for your brand) better and where do you want to be supported?”
Talking to your customers and not trying to be everywhere will reduce some of your stress. You need to be where the customer needs you, when they need you. Over-extending your team’s capabilities to be on every platform at once will not benefit your brand.
Movements Require Strong Stories: Thoughts from The Content Studio
Marriott, parent company to 19 brands and 4,200 hotels across 70 countries, has a strategy to educate. David Beebe, VP of Creative and Content Marketing at Marriott, says they aim to provide value first and foremost by informing their customers. But David points out you can’t just talk about your brand, “content marketing is like a first date, if all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second one.”
In content marketing you must have support from the CEO. The one mandate that must be made apparent to them is that the content can’t be boring. We’re all in the people business and before any form of marketing can work, brands have to add value for the customer.
Your storytelling must elicit an emotional response. Share relevant heroic stories, like those you would find on TV shows or in books. Provide a hub for customers to find your content and more information with social media, and help them by providing content daily that they can grow to expect from your brand.
In a recent episode of Social Business Engine I discussed Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid with their CMO, Michael Gerard. The Content Marketing Pyramid consists of three core levels that are broken into a framework of five sections to guide you through the content marketing process to allow you to relate on a person-to-person level.
Movements Require Passion: A Passion for Content Marketing
Jay Baer was the final keynote speaker on day one. Jay insists we are at a crossroads. The content marketing industry has grown, but we don’t need more content marketers. To get a seat at the table in modern businesses, we need people who have a passion to connect people. The mission of content is the emotional and informational bridge between content and consumer. It requires more than a strategy. It requires people who love what content can do for the customer. For example, content has the power to provide a mother with tips on picking the best day care or inform a consumer how to select the best cruise line on a trip to Alaska.
The mission of content is the emotional and informational bridge between content and consumer.
You should care greatly about the emotional connection of your content marketing because the competition is right behind you. More and more brands are practicing content marketing and getting better every day. Your competition has access to the same ideas and practices, and therefore everyone ends up in the same band of competency. This is true of all new disciplines.
So, what is the differentiating factor, the difference maker? The difference maker is the passion to improve the lives of your customers. Creating content is an honor. It’s an opportunity for all of us worthy of passion.
The content marketing movement has come a long way since Sherwin Williams first produced its newsletter back in 1897. It’s definitely a new day with new ways to create and distribute content, with different ideas and issues that move people to action. To get the most out of your content marketing efforts, ensure that you are keeping up with the content marketing movement and applying the best practices like these shared at Content Marketing World 2015.