Last week, more than 1,700 marketers from over 40 countries around the world came together for four days in Cleveland, Ohio for Content Marketing World 2013. I was lucky enough to be one of them. Major kudos to Joe Pulizzi (@joepulizzi) and the CMI team for pulling this incredible event together! I’m writing this blog because I walked away from the conference feeling incredibly excited about the future of marketing, and specifically about the idea of continuing my career in marketing. Also, to be perfectly honest, one of the speakers issued a challenge for those of us who don’t blog regularly to “just write one,” so here goes.
I’d like to share three reasons why I’m so excited about the future for marketers.
1. Be helpful, be useful, and don’t sell; or marketing is cool again!
One of the most frustrating stereotypes for marketers has been the strong correlation with Sales. How many times have you been in a situation where someone says “meh, the marketer is just going to try and sell us something?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I strongly support the concept that Marketing and Sales should be tightly aligned so that the company can execute on its revenue objectives.
However, the role of a marketer is not to sell. The role of the marketer is to understand his or her audience, and ultimately to be helpful and useful to them. Jay Baer (@jaybaer) spoke about this in length in the context of his book, Youtility. So, how can we be helpful and useful to our audience? With content. Dynamic, relevant, engaging content that provides answers to the questions our audience cares MOST about.
This new kind of marketing is not easy to execute. First, it requires a major mindset shift. For many large companies, it may take years for that shift to take real shape. Second, even with the right mindset, the competition for your audience’s attention is more heated than ever. The lines between personal and professional are blurry, and as Jay said so eloquently, “Are you more interesting to me than my wife is?” I can say with high levels of confidence that content which talks about the features and benefits of Enterprise Software is not going to be more interesting than the friends and family of a CMO. So, this is a challenge that we as a group will have to overcome, but the benefits are proving to be dramatic.
2. Content rules: Make it memorable, make it measureable, and make room for failure
I’ve been preaching this to my team for a while now, and it really hit home this week. Any successful content marketing initiative must include content that is both memorable and measurable, and most importantly, there must be room for failure!
Let’s start with memorable. Memorable can be achieved in many ways. Jonathan Mildenhall (@Mildenhall) and Coca-Cola are making emotional content the core of their 2020 initiative. Tim Washer (@timwasher) of Cisco is using humor to appeal to its audience. Regardless of what tactic is used, the message that has been hammered home is that as marketers, we have to be storytellers. We have to deliver our useful and helpful content inside stories that resonate with our audience.
The term data-driven marketing is quite pervasive these days. I’d like to throw out a new one: data-driven content. How can we make our content measureable in a way that enables us to make smarter decisions about the format, tone, target audience, and channels that we use? There are many analytical tools available to marketers, some like Omniture and Google Analytics that have been around for years, and others like Vidyard and Squeeze CMM which are emerging in this space. If we can start effectively measuring the impact of our content, perhaps we can redefine the metrics upon which marketers are judged, while turning a higher percentage of prospects into customers, and eventually promoters?
And keeping all of this in mind, we must understand that we will fail, and that if we don’t make room for our teams and our content to fail, we really have no right to grow. I think Mr. Mildenhall has it right here. Of course, not everyone can fail on the scale of Coca Cola, but if we can view failures as opportunities to learn and try again, we’ll be in pretty good shape.
3. An ecosystem of Content = Creation Curation
SAP CMO Jonathan Becher (@jbecher) said in an interview earlier this year that he’d like for 50% of the content on SAP.com to come from third parties. Why curate? Because if our goal is to answer the questions our prospects and customers care most about, how can we be so self-centered to assume that only we have the best answers? I met Pawan Deshpande (@tweetsfrompawan), CEO of a startup called Curata, and we discussed the topic of curation at length. The key takeaway for me is that as marketers, we have an opportunity to create ecosystems or communities of content that our audience can engage with, on our turf, rather than our competition.
As we think about the implications of modern marketing, the changing rules of customer engagement, and the ever evolving digital landscape, I’d like to propose a few questions to my fellow marketers.
And if any of the answers are no, it’s time to think hard about why:
1) We all have personalities; does your brand have one as well?
2) Are you creating content that is useful and helpful to your audience?
3) Are you telling stories that are memorable, using tactics such as humor or emotion?
4) Do you have a process for measuring the impact of your content?
5) Does anyone on your team focus some time on curating content from third parties?
I think the future of marketing is bright, and I’m super excited to be a part of it. I’m already looking forward to Content Marketing World 2014, but I’m hoping that my team and I will have created content that is so memorable in the next 6–8 months that we will be invited to present!