Content Marketing World is the world’s largest content marketing conference. It is, to be exact, enormous. 225 speakers, 190 programme items, closer to 4000 attendees and so much collective knowledge that half would have been enough to motivate the trip to the fairly remote Cleveland, Ohio. This is an attempt to sum up something that does not allow itself to be summarised.
If you’re searching for a red thread that runs through Content Marketing World’s four days, you will fail. You will find dozens. At least.
During the six years that the conference has been held, content marketing has changed from a stubborn newcomer to a given method for any marketer. This also means that the understanding of, and the knowledge of, content marketing expands all the time, deepens and evolves.
Depending on which presentations and workshops you chose to attend, and depending on who you happened to meet and chat with during the conference, the experience and the red thread could look very different.
This is my red thread.
Content marketing requires courage, commitment and strategy
Content marketing requires commitment. The Content Marketing Institute’s founder, Joe Pulizzi, established this fact after only a few minutes on the stage. And most people are quite likely to agree. The problem is that commitment is often times missing. A new report from CMI shows that only 20 per cent of everyone that works with content marketing is ”fully commited”.
20 per cent? Eh!
Everybody who works with content marketing knows – or should have realised by now – that it requires a clear strategy, a new mindset and often a different organisation. It requires commitment. There is no point in doing it half-heartedly.
At the same time, Content Marketing World abounds with examples of companies that have invested strategically, over the long haul, and with commitment. And succeeded. Hopefully the other 80 per cent can feel inspired by them.
Create less content with more impact
Joe Pulizzi’s constant squire and chief strategist Robert Rose later joined the conference and stuck to a similar line of thought.
He claims that American marketers put 90% of their resources in producing content that supports traditional campaign-based marketing and only 10% on strategic content marketing. Rose obviously suggests a radical shift, and states that it will produce clear and tangible business results. It is about creating as little content as possible, with as much impact as possible. A mantra that all marketers should whisper to themselves before they hit publish. Medicore content can do more damage than good for your brand, says Joe Pulizzi. I agree. Again.
During a four-hour long workshop, Andrew Davies took a deep dive into how you could – for real – measure ROI and the effects of content marketing. It was an impressive arithmetic exercise that probably made many marketers sleepless. Davies meant that content marketing is often practised on loose grounds and based on untested assumptions. Companies create more content, in more channels, for more target groups, without finding out if it has any tangible effects.
Assumptions are good, but they must be tested before they can become truths.
Where is content marketing headed in 2017?
Content marketing has evolved and matured as a discipline. And grown. In line with this, best practice has been supported and soaked by experts from all over the world. A Google search for ”content marketing practice” gives (approximately, not even Google can be bothered to count it all) 33 700 000 hits. During one of the absolute highlights of the conference, Jay Acunzo from Unthinkable made up with the term best practice and ascertained in a much-cited tweet the quote that ”Good marketers follow best practices. Great marketers craft their own.”
When everyone makes the same thing and repeat each other’s successes, it becomes hard to stand out from the crowd. If everyone creates the same kind of content, tweet at the same time of day, use the same tools and have exactly the same number of characters in every blog post*, it becomes impossible to stand out from the crowd. Impossible to make an impression.
My hope – and after a week at Content Marketing World it’s easy to be hopeful – is that future marketers dare to invest whole-heartedly in content marketing, try to break free from best practice, measure the impact of their efforts and reach incredible results.
* This blog post most likely violates best practice on how long a blog post ”should” be. But as we said: ”Good marketers follow best practices. Great marketers craft their own.”
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