Content Marketing World is, well, its own world. Every year for the past 9 years, I’ve made the trek to Cleveland (one year to Columbus) to speak and to meet up with the apostles of content, learn what’s new, what’s working and how concepts are performing in specific circumstances. It’s always enlightening.
This year, on its 10th anniversary and for the first time, CMW was virtual. It was different, there’s no denying that. But the insights were there, just as always.
Below are some of my favorite learnings from the keynote sessions.
Robert Rose on Architecting Desire
The concept he talked about was that satisfaction isn’t enough, we need to create a desire to take action. Rose lamented that much of our content exists within the zone of passivity. I call this drive-by views; where your audience shows up, reads, and passes on by.
Rose also waded into the gate or no-gate debate and came out on the side of no gates. His rationale is that content operations allow us to build tools and processes to create connected experiences that architect desire. He says this is what differentiates companies.
To support this, Rose explained the business value of a customer’s journey and how we should architect desire at each step as we teach audiences how to be customers. He clarified the difference between allowing people to opt-in or subscribe on their own by pointing out that subscribers are 73% more likely to complete a form over time. By architecting desire, we can speed up the buying process – or at least do a better job of orchestrating it.
More compelling was the example he shared about a “fan” that never became a customer but had become such a strong advocate over time that he referred business to a brand in the 7 figures. That’s how to monetize an audience!
The gist of all of this is to use content to build trust and pull your audience forward to becoming customers. It’s important to consider that digital content must now serve as the proxy for physical experience.
Jay Baer on Courageous, Talkable Content
What do you do when topics, algorithms, and formats no longer offer an advantage? Baer says marketers are still trying to create success using yesterday’s formula.
He posited the idea that Talkable Advantage is the say to succeed in today’s market. Talkable Advantage is creating content your audience wants to spread. Baer presented an idea that all of us should put front and center: The Audience is the New Algorithm.
6 Types of Talkable Content
- Talkably Definitive – so comprehensive that your audience is compelled to talk about it
- Talkably Relevant – so specific and tuned to audience needs that they’re compelled to talk about it
- Talkably Resonant – content that touches an emotional nerve motivating them to talk about it (note: Baer says this is the hardest one to pull off)
- Talkably Useful – so helpful that customers talk about it – give them what they need
- Talkably Consistent – content executed with a standardized cadence so your audience comes to expect and anticipate it
- Talkably Surprising – when content execution is unexpected or out of character for the brand
Page O’Neill on Human Connections in a Digital World
Experiences now trump products – 74% agree, 78% of millennials. O’Neill says business models are changing to reflect that customer experience (CX) has become a top differentiator.
What I found interesting is that she cited that 60% of us use the same words for brands as we use for pets and people indicating strong emotional connections with the brands we do business with.
O’Neill outlined three ways human connections can power CX:
- Lead with your heart. Figure out what customers want that makes them feel a connection with a brand. How a brand makes you feel is 2X more important than anything else, says O’Neill.
- Create empathy, not content. This is important when things change so quickly. Simplify the messaging, especially when times are confusing. Put audience wants and needs ahead of a sales message.
- Be more human with AI – to which O’Neill shared this rather disconcerting idea:
I’ll just leave it at that.
Melanie Deziel on Creativity
Deziel started her session with some eye-opening stats:
- 63% of companies lack staff skilled in content marketing
- 32% of B2B companies have no one dedicated to content marketing
- 63% cite lack of process as the reason for lack of strategy
What I found interesting (and know to be true) is that you need to give up the idea that certain people are creative while others are not. She emphasized the need to create a system for creativity around questions you answer to create a story. Once you have an effective system, you can start to see content ideas as a renewable resource.
What I love about this is the foundation of questions (your buyers/customers’ questions). Make sure you put your customer at the core of your system for creativity.
Andrew Davis on What it Takes to Be a Visionary
This was one of my favorite keynote sessions. The concept is deceptively simple…
Davis starts out by talking about how many experts there are and how the common advice is to standout as an expert. But with experts a dime a dozen, Davis says that’s no longer the target. Instead, he says, get over it and become a visionary. People pay for visionaries.
According to Davis, Expertville is all about How To content, accepted best practices and practical content. In contrast, Visionary Town is populated with transformative content.
Visionary content is How to Think content. To make the leap from expert to Visionary, you must be willing to ask the tough questions… the ones Google can’t answer.
Davis presented a 3-Step process to become a visionary:
Start with a question Google can’t answer. Ask what common advice other experts give that’s bothersome – what annoys you? Then ask why? Why is this the conventional wisdom?
Challenge something that’s accepted belief or expertise.
- Launch an investigation in search of the answer. Question everything. Observe and report. Get out of the echo chamber. Research the assumptions and share your journey.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In this step, Davis talked about aerating your ideas which means testing them with any available audience. Take their feedback and iterate. See what sticks and work from there.
- Amplify what works. Once you figure out what sticks with your audience get it out there.
The key to visionary content is that once your audience grasps your ideas, there should be transformation. If there’s not transformation, you get stuck at the crossroads between Expertville and Visionary Town.
Tamsen Webster on Pressure Testing Your Message
Is your message strong enough? To answer this question, Webster presented 4 tests to put your messaging through to find out.
- Is your message relevant? Is it something your audience knows they want? You need to identify their question that your message is meant to answer. Use the words your audience uses, not yours.
- Is it resilient? Do they believe you? Do they agree? Can they tell themselves a story about how your answer is right for them? People aren’t rational, they’re rationalizing, Webster says. It has to make sense to them. Your story should create a moment of truth for them.
- Is it remarkable? Is it different? What’s different about your answer that those of others. Remarkable has roots in what’s relevant to your company and how it sees the world. Identify what you “own.” Webster explains this is why you do what you do the way you do it.
- Is it repeatable? Are they able to repeat your key points to someone else? People don’t remember the entire story; they remember the key points or main idea.
In summary, these were the keynotes that resonated with me the most. Desire, Talkable Content, emotion and experiences, creativity, becoming a Visionary and putting your message through the pressure tests. I found this collection of ideas to bring a lot to the thinking we need to do to prepare for 2021. I hope you found something useful in this recap.
Keep a lookout for recaps of the sales enablement sessions and the speaker Q&As that go with them...