10 Key lessons from Content Marketing World 2013

There’s no denying it, Content Marketing World is our favourite time of the year. It’s like Christmas for content marketers, the magical time of the year when we all come together, giddy with excitement for the treasured gifts of insight we are going to receive.

It has been a week since the event and our heads are still brimming ideas!

Just basking in the after-glow of the event is not enough, however. If we are to avoid our inspired plans tumbling into the aether (like so many New Year resolutions), then as content marketers we need to harness this motivation and reflect on how to apply these lessons to our content marketing.

In that spirit, we present the 10 key lessons from Content Marketing World 2013 which will be critical to your content marketing in the next twelve months.

Gain insight from “big data.” The rate at which customer data is becoming available to marketers is growing exponentially. While tools used to analyze this data may be complex and intimidating, there are a number of helpful ‘information treasures’ to retrieve from mining big data.

Pam Didner, Intel, and Dr. Cheemin Bo-Linn, Peritus Partners, unraveled the complex topic of using data to drive content marketing in their session. Big data tools can help unlock the DNA of the customer by revealing patterns and relationships that identify customer pain points. Marketers must use big data to drive relevant content, reveal patterns, define problems, predict trends, and inevitably impact on ROI.

Focus on both quantity and quality. A common quandary for content marketers is negotiating the balance between quality and quantity. Do we focus our efforts on creating a high volume of content, or, do we take our time developing first-rate content?

The panels of experts leading this session were split. Two of the experts, Joe Chernov of Kinvey, and Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion, were adamant that the focus should be on quantity first, in order to gain traction with their audience. If you take a long time creating a single, albeit masterful piece of content, you lose your audience. Others on the panel disagreed, saying that the quality of content was crucial. Heather Meza, Cisco, emphasized this by acknowledging only a focus on quality content will spur engagement and generate leads.

The resounding message of the panel was that marketers must create a steady flow of quality content that is brand-consistent in tone.

Channel the voices of all content “architects.” Robert Rose, the chief strategist for the Content Marketing Institute, discussed the importance of four different types of content creators and the role they play in content marketing.

These architects include: Promoters, who address the wants and needs of customers through sales-driven content; Preachers, those that drive engagement by building awareness; Professors, the thought leaders who build trust and forge relationships; and Poets, the storytellers who drive emotion by connecting with customers on an emotional level.  Marketers must channel the voices of all four architects to craft a message that appeals to customers and prospects at all stages of the buying journey.

Win the Search Result War. Content marketers are also striving to improve their search engine placement results. Brian Clark, Copyblogger, talked about the importance of Google authorship and how it’s important to find great writers to build site authority.

He also talked about the five C’s of content creation: Context (what’s the customer’s journey), cornerstone (what do they need to know); Connection (content to engage prospect); Conversion (what they need to do business with you); and Copy (what you are offering them). Marketers must create content that addresses the unique needs of prospects at each stage in the sales funnel.

Be a storyteller. Marketers must think like editors and become storytellers for their audience. In his mini-keynote address Randall Lane, editor of Forbes magazine, shared the three key elements of storytelling: authority, audience and authenticity.

If marketers tell stories that are relevant, targeted and transparent, their audience will be inclined to share it. It’s also important that marketers not be self-serving but instead authentic; always have your audience’s best interest at mind. Once you have a story that is relevant, focus on packaging it with graphics and high-quality photography to increase engagement and credibility.

Retain your customers. The benefits of retaining customers are pretty obvious, but statistics certainly drive the point home. Increasing retention rates by 5% will increase your company’s profits anywhere from 25-95%.

Ardath Albee, Marketing Interactions, reminds us that once customers have bought your product, their status quo changes. It’s now your job to help them gain more value from their ongoing relationship with your brand. Be involved in every step of the buyer’s journey – even after the sale – to continue that engagement. By doing so, you are converting a one-time customer into a customer you will gain for life.

Make it visual. Telling a story with words and pictures helps you convey your message in a way that your audience will understand. Drawing parallels between content marketing and comic book publishing, Buddy Scalera from Ogilvy, reminds us that as marketers we have to go beyond our logo. The logo is not your product, after all.

Brands share value through images. The creative use of visual effects enables marketers to make the invisible visual. Be creative and use word art and infographics to share your message more effectively.

Know your audience. Jonathan Lister of LinkedIn recognises that his company’s main mission has always been to put their members first. To do so, he establishes a healthy understanding of who his members are. Lister and his team then encourage marketers to create content that is helpful, relevant and attractive to their customer base. The thought process must move from “always closing” to “always helpful.”

Embrace new technologies. Content marketing demands more precision, which is fueled by math and science, not writing. To create a compelling content experience, we need to leverage new technologies and start thinking more like engineers, less like writers and editors.

This mantra was at the core of Scott Abel’s talk on five technologies that are he reasons will improve content marketing. They include: automated translation (translating content from one language to another); automated transcription (translating speech to text); terminology management (standardizing words associated with your brand); adaptive content (customizing content to cross platforms); and component content management (facilitating reuse of content across documents).

Adopt new approaches to gain brand preference. The reality is grim, but brand preference is declining and nearly all brands have become commoditized. The only brands still successfully maintaining brand preference in the current market are Charmin, Gatorade and Kleenex – and they do so by telling stories.

Don Shultz, a professor at Northwestern University, outlined the need for new branding concepts and approaches. Content marketing is the future of all marketing; it’s about telling stories, engagement, building communities, it’s all about how to we engage with people, not markets.

In summary…Content Marketing World 2013 presented a sea of new ideas that have the potential to entirely rework our current understanding of content marketing. With change forecasted – and for the better – one thing is clear: content marketing requires ongoing agility and dynamism; it’s not a sprint, but a marathon.

What lesson do you think will be the most important for content marketers to embrace in the next twelve months?

To get ahead on all of the exciting developments in the world of content marketing, check out our key insights from Content Marketing World.

By Craig Hodges – CEO
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