By Ann Gynn published July 31, 2015

17+ Content Marketing Revelations from 2015

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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.

Buddy Scalera, senior director content strategy, The Medicines Company | @MarketingBuddy

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.

Julie Fleischer, senior director, data + content + media, The Kraft Heinz Company | @jfly

Go long

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.

Barry Feldman, founder, Feldman Creative | @FeldmanCreative

Listen in

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.

Jay Baer, president, Convince & Convert | @jaybaer

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.

Jeannine Rossignol, vice president, global marketing for large enterprise operations, Xerox Corporation | @j9rossignol

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.

Sachin Kamdar, CEO & co-founder, Parse.ly | @SachinKamdar

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.

Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO, PR 20/20 | @PaulRoetzer

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.

Erin Robbins O’Brien, CCO & marketing strategist, GinzaMetrics | @TexasGirlErin

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.

Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions Inc. | @TRiesterer

Surprise

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.

Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director, Velocity Partners | @dougkessler

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.

Arnie Kuenn, CEO, Vertical Measures | @ArnieK

Don’t overthink

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.

Deana Goldasich, CEO, Well Planned Web | @goldasich

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.

Carla Johnson, president, Type A Communications | @CarlaJohnson

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.

Michael Brenner, head of strategy, NewsCred | @BrennerMichael

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.

John Hunt, senior manager digital marketing corporate communications & content, Smead Manufacturing | @Smead_JohnH

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.

Stoney deGeyter, president, Pole Position Marketing | @StoneyD

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.

Aubrae Wagner, chief operations officer, EnVeritas Group | @AubraeAWagner

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

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Ann Gynn

  • https://www.maxcdn.com Robert Gibb

    First off, really great compilation, Ann! Here are my thoughts in response to some of these great points …

    RE: It doesn’t just happen – We’ve been subtly weaving in a new “chapter” of our story into the content we’ve been producing over the past two months. And now I think it’s finally time to give that chapter some real exposure. People have had time to become aware of it – perhaps scratching their heads at first – but I honestly think that this was the best approach. Now when we give it exposure, our customers/prospects will be like “AHA! That’s what I thought it was.”

    Essentially, I think subtlety wins over throwing it in people’s faces. We could have just published a post/release and emailed everyone saying “Here is our new ‘chapter’!” but this would have been forced. When dealing with new “chapters” I think subtlety wins – just like in any great story.

    RE: Get out of marketing – Good content prompts conversations with our customers that we would have otherwise not had. These conversations lead to new releases that we would have otherwise not had.

    RE: Sales team is your first audience – I emailed this whole section to myself so I remember. I always knew our sales team needed content assistance for creating opportunities, but I never thought about it like this. Marketing can bring in the leads, but when sales goes through the leads, finds the opps, and tries to turn them into customers, prospects will be turned off if key points presented in the marketing conversation are lacking in the sales conversation.

    RE: Simplify the model – Lovely plan for both content marketing newbs and veterans going into a new company with no content marketing strategy.

    RE: Don’t overthink – God I’m torn on this one. 50% of the time I have seen our projects turn out successful by just launching them when it feels right (not overthinking) and the other 50% of the time I’ve seen them turn into pure inefficiency.

    I say inefficiency because, most likely, our time could have been better spent doing a better-thought-out project. I also say inefficiency – rather than failure – because whether the pull-the-trigger project is a success or not something good always comes from it.

    • Ann Gynn

      Robert —

      I’m impressed by your thoughtful response and feedback. I completely agree with subtlety and revelation of chapters. Revealing a good story is much better than telling me I’m going to read a good story.

      • http://robertgibb.me Robert Gibb

        Perfectly put :)

  • http://www.camillacarboni.com Camilla Carboni

    What a great post – thanks Ann!
    I certainly agree that 2015 has been an interesting year in Content Marketing, and I’m sure will continue as such. The trend towards more beefy content, while simplifying the model, requires such a delicate (and might I say, beautiful!) balance, it’s been a great experimental phase. And I absolutely agree that brand compliance is becoming more and more of a struggle, though a necessary one.
    Thanks again!
    Camilla

    • Ann Gynn

      Thanks for reading, Camilla. You’re right — “interesting” certainly describes the future of content marketing as well. That’s why I love working in the field – we never know what’s around the corner but we’re always looking ahead.

  • Michael Katz

    Really great Ann. I find that these types of “X insights about whatever” are typically very light, but I learned a ton in here. Thanks to you and your contributors!

  • Marina Kirushkina

    Great articles, awesome tips and idea. This is absolutely amazing. Thanks for sharing this post to everyone.