Legos, Lightsabers, and ROI- 3 Big Takeaways from Content Marketing World

While the beginning of September marks the end of summer (womp, womp), it also means that Content Marketing World (CMW) is upon us. Every year, this amazing gathering of content’s top minds offers a ton of learnings and conversations, and orange everything. For three days, content marketers from around the world take Cleveland by storm. This year was no different.

Content Marketing World featured awesome keynote speakers, including Lars Silberbauer, Global Senior Director of Social Media and Video at LEGO, and even Mark Hamil (otherwise known as as Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise), and an agenda chock-full of sessions from top influencers around the world, including: Joe Pulizzi (of course), Ann Handley (amazing keynote), Mitch Joel (another amazing keynote), Jay Baer, Rand Fishkin (covered in more detail below), Matt Heinz, Lee Odden, Doug Kessler, Jay Acuzno, Michael Brenner, and more. Like I said, the line-up was no joke. In fact, there was so much great content that I honestly could not see it all or cover it all. I did, however, make it to a handful of awesome sessions and keynotes where I saw a few key themes emerge.

Let’s take a look at three big takeaways from Content Marketing World 2016:

1. Value Is Not Volume

When Joe Pulizzi opened Content Marketing World with his killer keynote, Welcome to the Content Marketing Revolution, the biggest takeaway I got from it was from a stat he shared from an annual benchmark report that Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs produce: only 20% of companies surveyed are fully committed to a content marketing approach.

CMI and MarketingProfs Benchmark Report

What does this mean for content marketing? It means that many organizations that practice content marketing haven’t fully invested the time, resources, strategy, and energy it takes to deliver awesome content. It means that content marketing, in many cases, has become marketing collateral…not the value-driven, audience-oriented, engaging content that it should be. And that’s a theme that echoed throughout Content Marketing World this year: don’t do content for the sake of doing content. Creating content must be strategic from A to Z—from the ideation through the execution to the distribution. Organizations and their marketers need to be all in on content in order to achieve success.

Be All In

2. Don’t Take My Word For It

In another awesome session, Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, debunked some marketing myths with his presentation, The Worst Advice Marketing Ever Gave To Content. For me, this session brought up and reinforced the idea of questioning and testing everything. What works for one organization or audience doesn’t always work for another, even if it’s deemed a “best practice.”

So, what were some of the best myths that Rand debunked? Let’s take a look:

  • Marketing Myth #1: Amplification starts after you hit the publish button.
    • This is pretty close to being 100% false. Why? Because success should be set up well ahead of publication. Creating an amplification plan, whether it’s through influencers or public relations, is a thoughtful part of any content strategy. This can simply mean doing a bit of research about who the movers and shakers are for a specific topic, making a list of people, and then asking them to contribute and review. At your base, you will have their amplification to count on.
  • Marketing Myth #2: Paid channels are how you boost your content’s reach.
    • This has some grains of truth since paid channels definitely do help amplify your posts. However, paid amplification works best on pieces that already do well organically. The caution here is to be wary of pouring dollars into short-term, one-off returns and have a deep understanding of what works well organically.
  • Marketing Myth #3: Best practices are recommendations, not requirements.
    • Most best practices are taken from correlation of data. Correlation is a recommendation and should be used as a path for inquiry and experimentation…not as a set of rules to follow.

The final takeaway from Randy’s session was that content marketers are responsible for content and marketing. Great content is not just about quality content, it’s about great marketing—which means avoiding these pitfalls and planning for success.

3. Broadcast with a Podcast

In the Evolution and Opportunities in Business Podcasting Q&A session, we sat with Mitch Joel, President of Mirium, and Jay Baer, President of Convince & Convert, to discuss the opportunity that podcasting offers to today’s content marketers, which is huge. According to Jay, more people listen to podcasts than use Twitter. I’ll just let that sink in. Plus, there is really no replacement for talking into someone’s ear for a half hour or hour. But, they cautioned that the only way to be successful is if your podcast is the favorite podcast in the world of a specific group of people (and it can be pretty specific). If you can’t offer that, then it might not be worth doing.

So how do they recommend you get started and what do you need? Here’s what you need: a will to record, a way to record, and a way to distribute. Okay, it’s a few more steps than that, but honestly, the best way to get started is to start and then learn and iterate as you go. Based on Mitch and Jay’s advice, you’ll also want to determine these elements:

  • A host and format: Unless you are Malcom Gladwell, no one knows who you are and no one cares. Choose a host who’s dynamic and identify your podcast style. Some people make their podcast an interview, some focus it on one person, and others have a panel style. Determine what works for you.
  • A guest: The big advice here? Don’t box out of your weight class. This means you need to start with people you know, where there is already familiarity. If you’re just starting, don’t go straight for Seth Godin or Oprah… you don’t have value to offer them (yet). Your success will build and then you can increase your range.
  • The content: This is a pretty important one. Identify what you’re talking about, do your research ahead of time, and be well-informed. A tip for content? Get to the meat of what you want to say, and fast.

This form of content is underutilized by marketers today, and I left the session with my fellow attendees with my eyes open to the opportunity this medium offers.

With the close of Content Marketing World, there are a million lessons and tips I didn’t capture, but were captured by the thousands of other attendees—check them out with the hashtag #CMWorld. The biggest takeaway from this year’s conference? The enthusiasm for getting the most out of content exists and there are a ton of smart minds working on finding the best way to offer value. If you’re looking for more tips on how to make your content shine, check out my webinar 8 Mistakes Content Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them.