There’s no shortage of content marketing advice in the industry right now, especially not at Content Marketing World 2016. With over 3,500 attendees and two 10 hour days of sessions and expo hall conversations, it was an amazing opportunity to find answers to questions you might have.
Here’s my take on the top 4 themes that emerged, plus a few extra tidbits to help refresh your content strategy:
1. Content that tells a story will be more engaging
Your content should make your readers feel like they need you.
As humans we’re wired to naturally believe we don’t need something unless we fall in love with a story first. It has to fit into our lives before we’ll make a connection with why it should be there.
What’s your Kronkiwongi? Confused? Good! Lars Silberbauer, Global Director of Social Media & Search Marketing at the LEGO Group taught the CMW crowd how to tell a story, by telling a story. Lego doesn’t build bricks, but inspires imagination and creativity—they inspire the builders of tomorrow. They brought this initiative to life by asking their audience, “What’s your Kronkiwongi?”
Behaviours of consumers are changing, but content marketing efforts stay the same. The Kronkiwongi campaign teaches content marketers that we should stop placing arbitrary understandings of how our audience understands our story. We need to uncover those assumptions and seek to break down those perceptions that are incorrect.
Ask yourself: “What challenges and perceptions is our content faced with? Are we telling the right story to combat those challenges?”
Your content should build a brand.
Stories builds brands, brands build relationships, relationship builds trust, and trust builds revenue. Focus on telling the story first, and naturally revenue will follow. Don’t get stuck on plugging in keywords and speaking in marketing-lingo to trick search engines into displaying your content first. If that’s all your efforts are focused on, those that find you won’t know what story you’re telling.
2. Fill a content hole, don’t just be white noise—Treat your content like a product
Ever heard of the Blue ocean strategy? Here’s a snippet:
“…Companies tend to engage in head-to-head competition in search of sustained profitable growth. Yet in today’s overcrowded industries competing head-on results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Lasting success increasingly comes, not from battling competitors, but from creating blue oceans of untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.
We often go head-to-head with our competitors to try be “better.” But have you asked yourself, “what is this accomplishing for my brand?”
Benchmarks that strive to “just be better than” are like comparing apples to oranges. Both give you vitamins and essential nutrients, but how they grow are drastically different. Your content marketing efforts shouldn’t strive to just be better than your competitors or “steal” customers away from other products.
Nothing fuels consumer culture more than a content brand that transforms what they love into something that speaks directly to them. You aren’t going to speak to your consumer by trash talking your competitor or battling against what they’ve already done. Speak to something your competitors haven’t yet addressed.
Tapping into a new space means that you have no one to battle against. Your story will be the most heard.
3. Set an appointment with your audience—make a commitment and stick to it
Prior to coming to CMW I committed to blogging about my learnings everyday. However, social media was blowing up with everything good that I was going to share. I decided that reflecting on what I learned and telling a story was more powerful. Not only that, but we don’t have a daily blogging cadence. Sticking to a regular schedule of content distribution and committing to that schedule is more powerful than just creating content for content’s sake. This is because of the power of predictability in maintaining a schedule.
Humans naturally feel more comfortable when something is predictable. Predictability breeds trust.
Content marketers need to stop trying to be the only thing our customers are listening to, because that’s just wildly unreasonable, and set a time with our audience that they’re dedicated to listening to us. This starts with content distribution predictability.
4. Bring usability back to the forefront—walk through your customers shoes
Make it easy for your audience to love you.
When was the last time you went through your own subscribe, onboarding, or sales nurture workflow? With the rise of content marketing, experience and UX are falling behind and thought of as a secondary factor to marketing success. However, we’re not stopping to ask how easy it is for our customers to access our content or want to be our customer.
If we’re asking customers to go through hell to learn or grow with our brand, how can we expect them to be happy? Marketing efforts are often focused on vanity metrics—likes, engagements, followers—but when was the last time you stopped to ask, “Are my customers… happy?”
Your customers are in a relationship with you. If every time your customer interacts with you it’s a pain, they’re going to become unhappy quite fast. We all know what happens when someone in a relationship becomes unhappy… ?.
We should treat our customers like we would treat any other relationship. Your content is a brand, just like your product.
Happiness is a metric—One of the most important metrics that content marketing should measure. It builds loyalty, trust, and maintains a healthy relationship.
Review your call-to-actions, forms you make your customers submit, and what painful friction points cause drop-offs. What can you tweak to be less painful? Small improvements that create happy interactions go a long way in driving long-term revenue.
And a few extra tips to keep your efforts on-track
Look for organic traffic trends before you pay to promote your content.
This will help your reach with consumers be greater. Amplifying what’s performing naturally means that your readers, your audience, are already attracted to that content. Remember, build a relationship, don’t make assumptions, and be open to change.
As much as possible, make changes in real-time.
Waiting for a monthly metric meeting to A/B test content or try something new isn’t going to create a pro-active feedback loop. If you’re looking to improve the performance and reach of your content, act on small improvements as quickly as you’re measuring them.
Face the fact that sometimes things just don’t go according to your roadmap.
Roadmaps are made based on assumptions of behaviours, but no one can accurately predict what readers and consumers are going to resonate with. You have to be flexible and not stuck to a particular theme or strategy.
Do a content audit.
You probably have amazing quality content that’s being under-utilized in favor of producing new content. Work smarter, not harder to ramp up your content strategy. Look at what’s performing really well and repurpose it! It’s performing well for a reason.
Defining your audience and niche once is not enough.
When was the last time you gave your personas a look? Iterating on your content strategy continuously is key to creating a successful content program. You have to constantly listen to what your market is telling you and tweak your efforts to these new behaviours.
Were you at Content Marketing World? What’s your take on my key takeaways? Comment below!