It’s incredibly easy at a conference as “meaty” as last week’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland to get lost in the detail, the tactics, the specifics. Make no mistake, there were a ton of great ideas to be implemented immediately in smart, content-savvy organizations.
But there were also a handful of overarching themes that I believe could help organizations make sense of and profit from those ideas in a more long-lasting way.
Here are the five themes (or perhaps directives is a better, stronger term) to consider as we head into the home stretch of 2016 and (before you know it) the new year.
1. Be all in
Mediocre content marketing isn’t going to cut it. Too many companies are treating their editorial calendar as a strategy, churning out blog posts, trying to win the Google game. Every other company is producing that content and increasingly will.
If you want to win with content marketing, you need to be all in. Commit the resources and energy required to stand out, to diversify your approach and channels, to customize content to each relevant persona and buying journey stage.
Joe Pulizzi said it best in his opening remarks – go all in, or don’t do it at all. It’s a bold challenge, but with results (or lack thereof) behind it if you don’t heed.
2. Less content is better
What if you were required to create 80 percent less content. Would you be as indiscriminant about what you created? What it’s value was to your organization and/or audience?
Would you instead be more precise about who you were targeting, what impact or objective you were after, and how effectively that message, that format, that channel would be towards achieving that result?
Sometimes less is better. Focus on better, not more.
3. Add humanity and empathy to your story
Too often, B2B stands for boring. We write and create content as if buildings are reading them. As if buyers who completely lack emotion are engaging.
This is more than just adding emotional triggers to your story-telling. It’s about humanizing your brand, humanizing your people.
Sharing details about what makes you tick outside of work isn’t irrelevant. It’s magnetic. It creates connective tissues between people that carry over into business contexts. Old-school sellers called this relationship-building. Today it’s that plus a critical competitive differentiator that puts something unique and irreplaceable between you and your buyer.
This requires sometimes being comfortable with vulnerability and sharing personal details. You still get to choose which of those details to share, of course. Just know that leaning into them can help your cause.
4. Sales integration is required
Long gone are the days when marketing can create content alone. You need complete integration across traditional sales & marketing boundaries, across and through sales and buying stages.
You need consistency of messages from start to finish of the buying process. Do this well and you accelerate velocity and conversion. Do it poorly (or not at all) and you, at best, confuse buyers and delay the purchase. At worst, you push them to another vendor seeking greater clarity and continuity.
5. Connect content efforts to revenue results
According to CEB, less than 35 percent of B2B marketers can correlate their content metrics with their business metrics. And yet 84 percent of those marketers expect to increase investments in content marketing into 2017.
The day of reckoning for that increased spend is upon us (if it hasn’t been there for you already). If you can’t correlate marketing activity and spend to revenue-producing results, your work will increasingly be under scrutiny and on the chopping block until you do.
This doesn’t mean all content marketing must be direct response. It doesn’t mean each blog post has a quota. But it does mean you need to more tightly align your work with target buyers, with impact on the buying process, with measured contribution to prospect velocity and eventually closed deals.
Easier said than done, but step one is intent. If you put clicks and retweets in your executive dashboard, you’re not doing it right. Differentiate your operational dashboard from your executive dashboard as step one.
Would love to hear from others in Cleveland last week what stood out as a theme, directive or otherwise guiding message into the coming weeks and months.