A lightbulb moment can set you on a new course or change the direction of your path. Whether a seemingly obvious observation or an innovative insight, it reveals something that you never realized in a particular context.
In the rapidly evolving world of content marketing, these aha moments can come from almost anyplace. We asked the presenters for Content Marketing World 2015 to share their favorite content marketing revelations from the past year. While their answers cover everything from the simple to the complex, each has the potential to turn on a switch in your mind or make you nod in agreement.
Which ones will be an epiphany to advance your content marketing programs?
It doesn’t just happen
At one of CMI’s Master Classes, Joe Pulizzi talked about creating a personal success plan and reviewing it every day. That applies to both business goals and personal/professional goals. That revelation has changed how I approach content planning and career navigation.
Robert Rose, who is the mad genius of the content marketing community, talked about story structure and how it impacts the way people learn and remember a message. It was a punch-in-the-gut reminder that stories don’t just happen; you have to work at them.
Make the story your own
We’re seeing the de-linking of content and distribution channels, as Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat Discovery are distributing content from legacy publishers. It makes it all the more important to build your story and your point of view so that it has value wherever it’s distributed on its own merits.
You gotta go deep. Shallow may sell soda, but it won’t sell software.
Your true prospective customers will devour top-shelf, long-form content that details how to do something meaningful more effectively – how to save time and money, how to eliminate steps, and how to become more productive.
I don’t mean to argue against the tenets of “think mobile” and “think visual” inspired by the short attention span of 21st-century media eaters. For the sake of bringing a sense of fun and personality to your brand, by all means, go crazy with selfies, cartoons, quotes, pins, tweets, whatever.
However, if yours is a B2B solution or a consumer product demanding a more carefully considered decision, don’t kid yourself into thinking brand affinity is an end-all strategy. You’ll get on your prospects’ short list by packing deep insights, tactics, and strategies into useful e-books, workbooks, infographics, how-to posts, webinars, videos, apps, and presentations.
The huge increase in podcast listening makes audio content a viable option for a much bigger group of brands (both B2B and B2C) than was commonly thought a year ago.
Live in real life
Buyers spend half their time online, but don’t forget about the time they spend offline. Human contact is still critical. And it better be personalized, engaging (based on what they do, not just who they are), and insightful. We, as content marketers, have also flooded our own marketplaces. Quality, relevance, and memorable become the differentiators.
Events breed content
There seems to have been a recent, industry-wide shift to an emphasis on events. Events are a great place to gather content – before, during, and afterward. For example, you can promote an event beforehand through social media and blog posts; an audience can tweet during an event (and perhaps the event is live-streamed, which is useful during and afterward for post-promotion); you can blog yet again after an event in a recap.
Pick the platform
It’s a given that your content has to be creatively and technically solid, and developed with the best interests of the reader, not the brand, in mind. However, how you activate and promote that content through paid, owned, and earned media is the largest variable in determining the return on investment for your business. When I published my first book in 2012, an industry friend and best-selling author advised that success was 60% content and 40% platform. Having recently published my second book, I would posit that the split is now 80% platform and 20% content.
Get out of marketing
Being able to share with product design and engineering the actual conversations, responses, and things that appeal to our audience creates the best possible new features for our users. Ensuring that everyone at the company is part of what’s working, where, and why is vital to keeping everyone focused on building for actual user needs.
Sales team is your first audience
The biggest revelation for me is this notion that salespeople aren’t getting the content they need for the conversations that are most vital to selling success.
In a survey of more than 700 respondents, we found that the “opportunity-creation” conversation was ranked as having the highest impact on helping salespeople achieve quota. However, only half of salespeople believe they’re prepared to deliver this conversation out in the field.
So essentially, salespeople are least prepared for their most important conversation.
It’s precisely this dynamic that’s driving something I call the “conversion gap.” Marketing and sales teams need to work together to tell an aligned, consistent story that connects the dots between your campaigns and your sales conversations in the field. You need to arm your salespeople with enablement content that sustains the provocative momentum generated in your campaigns.
The power of emotion in B2B content marketing continues to surprise me. I’m embarrassed at how late in my career I figured this out.
Simplify the model
The revelation that comes to mind is how to simplify the content marketing concept for companies. As the Fortune 1000 gets the accolades and attention, millions of good-size businesses still struggle with the concept of content marketing.
This year we started talking to them about creating a relatively simple model based on the hub-and-spoke concept. It really helps people to understand and implement content marketing. The idea is to create a core piece of downloadable content (the hub) every 90 days and then create a series of supporting content (the spokes). The spokes could be blog posts, press releases, social media updates, images, etc. All spokes should have a call to action leading the prospect to the hub content for their downloading pleasure.
Our team mantra right now is “return to nimble.” We’ll never forgo planning and strategy. But, with the pace of technology, analytics, and continuous absorption of best practices, it can be easy to overthink things. So often, the strategy we scribbled on the napkin the night before is dead on. Returning to nimble has ignited our team and our clients to take more risks, test like banshees, and execute today rather than ruminate more tomorrow.
It’s not about product or service
Content marketing needs to create value in and of itself, and not just describe the value of the products or services that a company sells. It’s what Marriott is doing with its content studio or Kraft with its Food & Family magazine. They are creating an immense amount of value and it’s not about selling hotel rooms or cheese.
Sign up your audience
My biggest revelation in content marketing in the past year has been the need to really focus on subscriptions. Subscribers are the key to success in content marketing. Our goal in content marketing is to build an audience. And subscribers are the quantifiable outcome. Subscribers measure whether we are reaching the right audience, engaging them with our content, and driving them to act. Then, of course, subscribers become the key to a nurturing strategy that can deliver real results in the form of leads and sales.
Don’t look at your watch
Consumers have access to so much information it is taking longer to develop trust and deeper relationships with them. This is putting additional stress on sales departments because they want warm leads right away. A perfect example of this is someone opts into a webinar and within a few hours a salesperson is hounding them with follow-up calls. More time is needed to nurture the prospects’ trust before they become raving fans.
Seeing is believing
I think we realized this year just how important visual content is. Even on Twitter, where the focus had traditionally been on the short message, it is becoming almost imperative that you include an image to stand out in the news feed. Without fail, we make sure each of our blog posts has a large image and one that can be shared easily across social media. Most of our images include a message so it can easily be included on Pinterest. We also have started publishing infographics and quote images.
3 things to consider
We coalesced around the idea that localization (content written to local audiences across the globe), scale (big projects), and brand compliance (understanding and upholding brand guidelines) are the three major hurdles that most marketers are facing these days.
What content marketing revelation have you had in the past year? Please share in the comments and perhaps spur someone else’s lightbulb moment.
Want to hear more from these insightful content marketing leaders? Register today to attend Content Marketing World 2015 this September in Cleveland and use code CMI100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute