Key Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2015

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Drinking the orange Kool-Aid

Exactly a week ago, Dawn-Marie and I delivered a lunch n’ learn at Content Marketing World 2015. This was my first time at the event that could also be named “Cleveland Rocks Content”. By the time Kristina Halvorson began to speak at the first morning’s keynote, I went from judging the shticky over-indulgence in orange to drinking that orange Kool-Aid as fast as I could gulp it down. #CMWorld, you are my people!

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The flames of content marketing have blazed for for the last five years

Now, a confession: “Content marketing” is a term I’ve been sort of mentally waving away for years now. It sounded, forgive me, o content marketing gods… a tad contrived. Marketing is marketing. There’s effective and there’s ineffective marketing, but content is what you must create in order to market, period. Isn’t everyone who’s creating marketing participating in content marketing? I mean, unless you’re like, a telepath communicating to other telepaths?

While I was waving it away, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, was avidly fanning the flames beneath it, giving rise to an entire industry that identifies with the brand-strengthening power of content that connects meaningfully with people. Extending the brand not by poking at them and interrupting their morning cup of coffee with some “brand messages,” but by way of content that people actually want. Ahhh… content marketing.

Now entering the “Trough of Disillusionment”

Well, if that’s what content marketing is, OF COURSE I’m in. I’ve been in and just didn’t know it. And now, I’m here with all of these content marketers and I feel like I found the raging party full of people like me, and it’s been going on just a few doors down this whole time. But, just as I walk in the door and go to dip an orange Solo cup into the bathtub hooch, the record skips and things get serious. Is the party over?

In his own opening keynote, Joe referred to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, asserting that content marketing as an industry is headed for the “Trough of Disillusionment.” Ominous. Very ominous. Basically, by Joe’s best estimation, we’re just past the crest of content marketing’s magnificent ascent. Perceptions of the effectiveness of content marketing as an initiative are going to shift downward. That means budgets and confidence will fall, while expectations and requests for “proof that this is even working” will rise.

Bad news, good news

This is not the life-of-the-party talk one might expect to hear from the man in the orange suit. It’s more like, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” The gist at CMWorld 2015: To succeed in content marketing—for your brands, and for your careers—you must not flag on the importance of your mission, and you cannot be content with wherever your content program is. You’ll have to dig deeper for the audience and buyer connections, the internal buy-in, and the results you can show for it all. That’ll take having a strong strategy. A passionate, motivated staff. A practice that engenders flexibility and creativity. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t say: agency partners that are in synch with it all. The bad news is: that’s a lot of work.

The good news? You’re in B2B. You have access to sellers. (Don’t think you do? Pick up the phone and call anyone in the sales organization and say, “I have some budget to allocate to content—do you want a say in who it should be for?” See if you don’t get some access.) Being B2B means you have a partner who sits across the table from your customers during the moment of truth when you find out if your brand’s content-driven discourse paved the way to actual deals being closed.

Follow your bliss

It doesn’t get any more “results-y” than that. As content marketers, we may be headed toward the trough of disillusionment, but we have an often under-utilized partner in sellers, who can help us get to the far more appealing “Slope of Enlightenment.” That’s probably not another industry rager, but it sounds positively blissful, doesn’t it?

As you ponder the trough that lies ahead and how you’ll keep from bottoming out, we’re here in the Twittersphere if you want to think out loud with us. In the meantime, here are a few of the standout teachings from some of CMWorld’s speakers that are still with me a week after:

Connect.

Be direct.

Be authentic.

Have a strategy.

No, that’s a tactic—I said a strategy.

(Is that orange pudding??)

Don’t just make content,

Make a difference.

Be honest.

Insanely honest.

It’s not about selling more coffee, it’s about people.

(But for goodness sake if you’re B2B, don’t forget about your sellers.)

Appreciate your hare-brain and honor thy tortoise mind.

Make time to play and get your panic in early.

(Did the Barenaked Ladies just sing “Let It Go?”)

Thanks, Cleveland.

Thanks, Content Marketing Institute.

Thanks, #CMWorld.

Looking forward to next year!

I still have a couple drink tickets