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Marketing Content Strategy

Content Marketing World 2015: Who Will Inspire Us This Year?

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Between encouragements to document our content strategies and to think if what we’re creating makes a difference or adds to the noise, there was a growing flair of nerves and excitement wrapping between chairs at the opening keynotes of Content Marketing World 2015.

In the past year, we’ve taken the knowledge gleaned from a variety of conferences and put speakers’ best practices to the test. Sometimes these presentations, which promised results if followed closely, failed to deliver. And not because the information being communicated lacked substance, but because most of what we’re all saying iterates on the same age-old marketing models.

So while we flow from breakout session to breakout session during the remainder of CMWorld 2015, who will stand out as the visionary to take us into the future of content marketing? Is that person even in attendance today?

The State of Content Marketing in 2016

Content Marketing Institute (CMI) founder Joe Pulizzi kicked off this year’s conference with a recap of the best moments of past conferences. Clips of Kevin Spacey. Reminders of the weird questions attendees asked speakers. Skype calls during planning months that reflect on Katy Perry’s cinematic successes.

Once he had our attention, Pulizzi used his time on stage to introduce new market data that will be found in the annual Content Marketing Benchmark reports CMI puts out each year with MarketingProfs. There were some interesting developments and new areas studied this year, and I felt this was the most valuable information for attendees to hold onto to kick off the conference.

In the 2015 report, 38 percent of B2B marketers said their content marketing strategies were effective. A year later and only 30 percent of the same audience claim their programs succeed. Pulizzi and team wanted to understand how and why there was a dramatic 8 percentage-point dip year-over-year.

The How and Why

According to the 2016 numbers, only 32 percent of B2B marketers have a formalized content strategy—one that’s recorded, measured, and shared across the organization. More, only 28 percent have a documented editorial mission statement. This means few marketers have made the transition from marketer to editor, still focusing more of their time on the promotional side of content creation, and leaving the creative details as an afterthought. Not good.

When you look at the differences these formalized plans make in terms of business value, there are multiple benefits. A few notables are listed below:

  • Marketers with documented strategies are four times more effective than those without one.
  • Marketers with editorial mission statements are three times more effective.
  • Marketers with a clear idea of success metrics are also three times more effective.
  • Marketers with defined budgets are two and a half times more effective.

Honestly, I’m not sure how you can be effective at all if you don’t know what your budget its!

Pulizzi and crew then turned the stage over to three content marketers with unique points of view on what the next year holds for brand marketers.

Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Brain Traffic

I knew Kristina Halvorson would create controversy when she urged attendees to say “No” to content marketing more often than they do now. Not because content strategy can’t be effective, and not because people aren’t doing really cool things, but because the average brand—in her mind—cannot and should not try to replicate what businesses like Disney and Red Bull are doing in the market today.

You have to ask yourself, Halvorson said, whether content marketing will help or distract your customers. Does it add value or does it take away from what the customer really wants?

According to Halvorson, a content strategy is not about format, voice and tone, channels, or editorial calendars. The power of a content strategy is that it must be the core idea or purpose that drives the substance behind marketing collateral. Because without the substance or content structure, you won’t be satisfying your customers’ wants and needs.

Halvorson says that content marketing success comes down to two things:

  1. Business Outcomes
  2. Customer Satisfaction

No matter how great the media you create is and how awesome your website looks, if your customers aren’t satisfied, you won’t have promising business outcomes. Period. Halvorson then lays out a plan for content strategy.

1. Diagnosis: You first need to understand what you’re trying to do and what’s already being done.

  • Align business outcomes and customer needs.
  • Assess internal and external content ecosystems.
  • Identify key opportunities, core challenges, assumptions, and risks.

2. Guiding Principals: Why are you doing what you’re doing?

  • What are your success metrics? Are they meaningful?
  • Who is your audience and why?
  • What are your brand values?
  • Is there purpose behind the formats, channels, and frequency you’re using and following?

3. Coherent Set of Actions: Remove “increase” from your lexicon.

  • Redesign
  • Shut down
  • Acquire
  • Upgrade
  • Establish

When you look at these three points, you get a clearer game plan for how to go about developing and then documenting a content strategy. My favorite part came in point No. 3, when Halvorson asked the audience to first think about upgrading plans or consolidating what’s not working before considering the prospect of throwing more money and more resources into a strategy with no clear direction. That’s something we could all do a little more of as marketers.

David Beebe, VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing at Marriott International

Who was the first brand or person to develop a content marketing program? We often credit big brands as innovators, but Beebe told attendees the story of a young couple who opened up a food joint focused on customer experience decades ago. As part of the couple’s strategy, they began running a small editorial-focused magazine that delivered recipes to parents and comics to children. By maintaining a focus on customer experience, that mom-and-pop shop quickly grew to become what is known today as Marriot Hotels.

Today, Marriott International has transformed the way they “take care of people first” by mobilizing their hotels and hundreds of channels around media creation and distribution. He gave a quick overview of Marriott International’s content strategy, which focuses on assets as large of short films and TV shows to daily updates like blogs and GIFs. The strategy follows the HERO, HUB, and HELP structure, which gives Marriott International guidance on what media to broadcast on what television in what room, anywhere in the world. This is the type of content amplification we all dream of, and Beebe—an impressive and inspiring marketer himself—understands that Marriott International is still only at the tip of the iceberg.

Jay Baer, Principal of Convince and Convert

To round out the morning keynote, Jay Baer reminded us what it means to be content marketers today:

“Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer. Building that bridge requires more than a budget, editorial calendar, and vision. It requires people who care, who love content, and what it can do for people. Not just what it can do for revenue, but rather how it helps people live their lives.”

We’re going to be together for the next 24 hours trying to become better marketers—some of us will learn how to become better people. Who of us will come up with the next big idea, break the mold, and force us all to change our rhetoric at next year’s conference? Or will we continue to stick to our scripts, talk about becoming what people love, and walking around feeling proud of what we’ve done? Let’s look to the future and actually do something cool next year. Find your inspiration at this show—it may be hard—but there are good people in this expo hall that are looking to inspire and to be inspired. Help them get there before you go.

What inspired you most at this year’s Content Marketing World? Leave your best moment below. Missed Skyword at Content Marketing World 2015? Subscribe to the Content Standard.

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