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From the Trenches

Content Marketing World 2018: Top 5 Lessons From the Experts

Right Source | September 27, 2018

If you’re wondering what a group of 4,000 marketers in Cleveland looks like, I’ll give you a hint: They’re dressed in head-to-toe orange.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to be a part of that crowd at the eighth annual Content Marketing World conference. In the spirit of the event, I started my journey by throwing on a pair of orange shoelaces and orange socks, but I also arrived with a thirst for knowledge, excited to learn from the best and brightest in the content marketing industry — and share it with you.

Here are my top takeaways and favorite quotes from this year’s CMWorld.

1. To be successful, you need to remove what’s in your way.

Tabula rasa, a Latin phrase often translated as “blank slate,” is how Content Marketing Institute Founder (and the godfather of content marketing) Joe Pulizzi kicked off CMWorld 2018. Having just returned from a nine-month sabbatical, Joe provided a few hints how to take a step back and look at your marketing opportunities from a clean slate.

His three-step approach is simple: 1) record 2) repeat 3) remove. Joe referenced examples such as Bruce Lee’s letter to himself on being the highest-paid Oriental superstar in the United States (record), the fact that it takes 66 days to form a habit (repeat), and the importance of focus and the idea that “strategy is choosing” (remove).

Favorite quote: “The most important thing to accomplish your goal is to believe that you can do it.” – @JoePulizzi (Joe Pulizzi | Founder, Content Marketing Institute)

Takeaway: It’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing as a marketer. Sometimes, you need to take a step back, give yourself a clean slate, and determine your game plan for moving forward. As Joe said, “Strategy is choosing.” Focus on doing one thing well before jumping into everything else.

2. Quit blaming the goldfish.

As marketers, you’ve probably heard the advice, “You need to create snackable content; long-form content doesn’t work anymore.” Best-selling author Andrew Davis dispelled two myths that are often cited as the reasoning behind that advice: 1) Your audience has the attention span of a goldfish, and 2) your audience has no time.

Considering your audience consists of the same folks who will binge an entire season of “Stranger Things on Netflix in a night (guilty as charged), these myths can’t be true. Davis argued that the audience is capable of paying attention as long as you grab and hold And, they will make time to consume content that maintains their interest. The problem isn’t the audience’s attention span; it’s an issue of creating content that they want to consume. According to Davis, you can do that by creating a void between what your audience knows and that they need to know — in other words, creating a curiosity gap.

Favorite quote: “Pay attention. We cannot buy attention, rather it’s earned over time.” – @DrewDavisHere (Andrew Davis | Keynote Speaker & Best-Selling Author)

Takeaway: When someone says your content is too long, they’re actually saying, “I have no more questions.” If you eliminate your audience’s questions, you eliminate their interest in your content. You have to create curiosity gaps. Don’t give all your information away at the very beginning; instead, keep sparking questions to keep your readers engaged.

3. Marketing has a marketing problem.

In the session, “Start Showing Content Marketing ROI,” Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group, stated that marketing has a marketing problem. We create stuff that we wouldn’t consume, he explained, which creates a bad perception of marketers. To see an ROI, you have to redefine the role of marketing to help people. You can do this in four steps: 1) reach (using the keywords your audience uses), 2) engage (creating the content your audience wants to consume), 3) convert (converting your audience to customers), and 4) retain (keeping them as customers). Using this method, you’ll be better equipped to start showing content marketing ROI.

Favorite quote: “When we redefine the role of marketing to help people, we start to see an accelerating rate of return.” – @BrennerMichael (Michael Brenner | CEO, Marketing Insider Group)

Takeaway: To provide real content marketing ROI, you have to rethink marketing as a business asset with executive buy-in and tap into what your prospects are reading and sharing. That way, you can develop relevant content and use it to engage them.

4. Email is not dead.

Ann Handley, the world’s first chief content officer (and recipient of the first-ever “Hero Award” presented at CMWorld — congrats, Ann!), spoke about how a subscriber, Ben, reached out last December asking, “What gives…?” He had only received four newsletters over the course of the year and was disappointed. Ann has since revived her newsletter, Total Annarchy.

Now, you might be wondering why she was talking about email in 2018. Isn’t email so 2000? I personally am a big advocate for email marketing, and so is Ann. In her presentation, Ann provided three questions to help you understand how email can work into your marketing strategy, specifically focused around newsletters:

  1. What’s the most important part of a kick-@$$ newsletter? According to Ann, it’s not the news; it’s the Make it personal. For example, Anand Sanwal, CEO and co-founder of CB Insights signs off his newsletter with “I love you.” In 2010, CB Insights had 1,400 subscribers, and in 2018 it has 450,000 subscribers.
  2. What kind of letters do we love to get? The Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders from Warren Buffet has been republished numerous times because of how Warren addresses his shareholders. His approach is simple, accessible, and personal. Think about your content development as if you’re writing to a single subscriber.
  3. How might this letter come from only me? According to Ann, every great newsletter has a “tell” — a particular style or stance that’s uniquely yours. That signals to people that you’re human, rather than a marketing robot.

Favorite quote: “The inbox is a special place; value it. Your email newsletter shouldn’t be written by the intern, but by those who represent the heart and soul of your brand.” – @AnnHandley (Ann Handley | Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs)

Takeaway: Think about how you can get personal in your newsletters (and email marketing efforts in general). If you masked your from line, would your readers recognize you as the sender? If you lean into a more personal approach, your email marketing can provide a high level of return for your marketing efforts.

5. Audio consumption is on the rise.

Rob Walch, VP of podcaster relations at Libsyn, shared that there is a 2,000:1 ratio of bloggers to podcasters. In his session, “If You Are Not Podcasting, You Are a Fracking Moron,” he demonstrated why content creators need to be podcasting — including that people generally have more time to consume audio content than any other form of content. Plus, podcast familiarity is now up to 64 percent, and 26 of people listen to at least one podcast per month. Convinced yet?

Favorite quote: “Great content is greater than bad marketing.” Many podcasters just focus on creating quality content and it grows through word of mouth marketing. – @podcast411 (Rob Walch | VP Podcaster Relations, Libsyn)

Takeaway: In today’s marketing landscape, you have to understand where and how people are consuming content, and use that information to evolve. Podcasting isn’t necessarily something everyone should jump on tomorrow, but you should take a close look at if and where it could fit into your content mix.

Content marketing is here to stay.

CMWorld 2018 proved that content marketing isn’t a fad. We’re living in an age where content marketing is threaded throughout your organization, whether you like it or not. At least, the successful companies and marketers know this.

On a final note, I have to mention the closing keynote from Tina Fey. My favorite quote summed up her advice on failure: “If you failed on something that you did your best on there’s nothing to be embarrassed of.”

Are you inspired by any of these ideas, and interested in taking a deeper look at how you can evolve your marketing strategy? We’d love to talk with you — just get in touch.


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About Right Source:

The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.