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The theme this year at Content Marketing World was stories. My personal CMW story started when I arrived in Cleveland only to find my suitcase was still in Chicago. It arrived at my hotel at 5am on the morning of the first day. Like me it was a latecomer to this event. I know, great story. This was my first visit to the glowing orange citadel that draws over 3,000 marketers from 50 countries each year.
I scribbled away furiously during the event taking notes trying to capture useful and practical insights. However, the most useful tips and stories were to be gained drinking beer in the Butcher and the Brewer. This is what I remember.
Don’t take my word for it. After all I am slightly on the geek spectrum when it comes to data. But believe Doug Kessler when he says geeks are gold dust for marketers. It is all about passion. Passion drives engaging stories and no one has more passion than a geek. Doug gave examples of great content developed by geeks including film sequences of planes landing, you had to be there. Linda Boff, Chief Marketing Officer at GE agrees, she says “geeks are your best friend.” So take Doug’s advice and get your geeks into the spotlight.
In darkened corners and hushed tones the radicals could be heard questioning the conference orthodoxy. Some were even heard to say stories are a little overrated.
“I don’t tell stories, I help people to do things.” Andy Crestodina played the role of devil’s advocate as we drank a few few beers in the Butcher and the Brewer. In B2B remember the most popular content is ‘how to’ content. Not all content has to be a story. Content that helps people is some of the most valuable content there is.
This was my favorite quote from Andy Crestodina who says as a content marketer your job is to share advice because the most generous person wins. In the world of content marketing the key is to help people and the more you help people the more you gain.
My favorite book Love is the Killer App sets out some very similar principles namely – give away your knowledge and help people. Don’t hold back your content in exchange for their email so you can market to them. Don’t use pop-ups and gates to force them to give you personal information. That is not generosity. If your content is good they will sign up and come back for more. More importantly they will share it with their colleagues and friends.
“Tell a story,” “help someone,” “be generous,” are all phrases borrowed from our everyday relationships; they would be equally comfortable at the family dinner table as at a marketing conference. Mark Schaefer asked “What would it take to earn the love of your customers?”
Love flows to people, not companies. The answer to customer loyalty lies in your customers loving the people behind your business, your employees, Mark said. It makes sense to help your teams learn to be effective on social media.
If you are using stories it is those with a human and emotional element that have a lasting impact on the audience.
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou. Or if you prefer – people buy from people. People may love brands but really they love the people who represent it.
“You can create less content and get much better results” was the top tip from the Dublin contingent, or rather Ian Cleary of Razor Social. Ian suggested looking for ways to update and republish successful content, as well as repurposing existing content into more than one form. For example, Ian recommended Lumen5. No, it is not a Cleveland craft beer but a free tool that converts blog posts into videos. (If you are looking for a Cleveland craft beer, try the White Stout.)
Less is more and allows you more time to focus on amplifying your content. Ian put it more poetically “Without promotion and amplification your content is like a seed without water. Nothing grows.”
To get the most from your content, think carefully about your promotion strategy, and begin thinking about it before you create the content. Involve people in the research and development of your content. Aim to spend as much time promoting as you do creating.
Ok, this is a tall order but Jay Acunzo was right when he said “Being average is no longer enough, you need to be exceptional.”
Your story needs to be original. You need to think for yourself. You can’t be exceptional by copying others. So stop churning out another low quality post that even your own staff are embarrassed to share.
Ann Handley made the point that “Eighty-five percent of the most successful content marketers prioritize quality over quantity.” If time is the issue, create less content but make it exceptional.
Be inspired by the story of Death Wish Coffee. Their aspiration was to be exceptional, to be the strongest coffee there is. They recognized their audience was hard driving people who don’t just want really strong coffee, or caffeine or energy, they want to work themselves to death. Hence, they created the brand ‘death wish coffee’. Which is certainly an exceptional position to take.
The secret to content marketing: There are no secrets
Take my advice there is little point drinking late into the night hoping to learn the secrets of content marketing. You may find them, but you won’t remember them…
“The only secret is there are no secrets, just hard work” was the message from Jay Acunzo.
This was another of my favorite quotes, because it is a simple truth. You have to be relentless in delivering original, high quality content. Then maybe, just maybe, after a year or two you will build the audience you are after. Creating content for just 3 months or 6 months or even a year is not enough. It is no secret: content marketing is a long term game. It’s like compound interest as someone else said. Expect very little return initially. But don’t stop investing.
One thing that also stuck in my mind is Doug Kessler telling us the “i” then “a” then “o” order rule, for example:
I admit I can’t remember for the life of me why this was discussed but there it is, lodged in my brain forever. I’m sure it’s useful. Ah, I think the advice was break some of the writing and content marketing conventions to stand out.
What did I miss? I suspect a lot, as there were dozens of sessions each day and I was jet lagged. I would love to hear your top tips from the event.
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