It's about being overwhelmed. Marketers are overwhelmed, especially the storytellers and the digital mavens that can't miss the next big thing. But as I soak up the content marketing knowledge at #CMWorld, I learned that there's another constituent that's also overwhelmed - our customers. How did we take it too far – and how do we get back to basics?
Are we to blame? Well, maybe. Since the boom of content marketing, it's clear to see that we've just gone too far, hopping on every trend and beating it senseless until it's no longer relevant. As I reflect on previous conferences, I can see how marketers have cluttered the airwaves (on every channel), beyond belief. The clutter is real.
And throughout this past week, the friction between marketers and end customers is continually attributed to a large amount of content that is coming at them from many angles and is often not helping them solve their problems.
At INBOUND 2015, it was about how to create memorable content, and how to gather actionable data across each touch point of the strategy. It was about not only creating content, but making sure you're doing it in a way that measures ROI. So this meant we included hashtags and bit.lys, and hosted this and that on landing pages and added forms and re-purposed, and made video testimonials and infographics, and more buzzwords. Makes sense, right?
And not just content for one audience - all the audiences! All the audiences across all the channels and all the product lines. We tangled that thing like Clark Griswold's Christmas lights.
In 2016, INBOUND was about working smarter, not harder. Cha ching. The big theme was upcycling content into other standalone pieces that are ideal for different channels. And before you know it, e-book chapters became individual blog posts and Top 5 lists became Instagram tips, how-to steps became Snap stories, and webinars became Slideshares. Like putting water on a Gremlin.
In 2017, (switching gears to #CMWorld), Jay Acunzo lays it on us and says
"umm guys…we're all creating too much content, and it's mostly garbage."
And we all looked around at each other and silently declared "He must be talking about you.” But he wasn’t. He was looking each of us square in the face.
Talk about overwhelming - wait what?! I haven't charged the keyboard that attaches to my iPad since INBOUND 2015, but my strategy has done a few 180s.
In previous years, we thought of ourselves as the trail-blazers, going before where no one had gone. But the secret is out – and the airwaves are getting filled once again.
So let's all take a deep breath and sift through the pay dirt to find the flecks of gold that are a bit more timeless and we are desperately in need of. We need to walk the fine line between branded content and customer-centric content, because content marketing is no longer a novelty – but good content is.
These are the gems that I took away from #CMWorld that marketers need to feel less overwhelmed, and that our customers deserve because we keep handing them Gremlins and Christmas lights.
- Strive to not be average. Don't just follow the "10 best ways to do XYZ". Because everyone else has already read it. If everyone Googles the best time to tweet, and if everyone follows it, it is no longer the best time to tweet. Tap into your creativity, and step back if you feel like your content strategy is in copycat mode. What is your larger purpose rather than web traffic and demand gen?
- Get back to being customer-obsessed. John Bell of Travelers Insurance talks about being customer obsessed. It's more than just personas and your best guess on customer needs. What is your customer struggling with? Hint: The answer is not, "They haven't met our company yet." It's bigger than that. Make your strategy less about you and more about them. Don't bucket your content strategy into topics about your product or service, bucket them around your customer's challenges and needs.
- Find the best management tools for your team and make them work for you, and try to untangle those Christmas lights. We're talking productivity tools: Slack, Evernote, Google Docs, Basecamp, Trello, Buzz Sumo, Feedly, Contently, etc. The list goes on! Do some (quick) research and find what works for your team and USE it. We've already said that it's overwhelming, so what can you do to make it easier to get the daily tasks done but keep the big picture in mind?
- Define the Return on Investment and Return on Content insights that matter for your brand. Just because a system spits out a number doesn't mean it needs to matter. Measure what matters and measure it fiercely. Weigh your inputs with importance. You'll drown in the data available to you and it'll be difficult to pull insight if you don't have a handle on what is important.
We're getting back to basics here, people. Because what do we do when we get overwhelmed? Retreat to what we know. And we know that Merriam-Webster is a legend in the content game, and Strunk & White is still a fan favorite.
So, the conference was great, thanks for asking. But my head isn't spinning, in fact, it's winding down a bit. Get back to the basics, get back to storytelling, and get back to being customer-centric.
Ok fine, I did freak out a little at the intro - but Content Marketing World proved to be a great learning opportunity with thousands of my closest friends, and actionable insights from industry pros. They hit me with their best shot.
Photo credit: Joe Pulizzi via Twitter @joepulizzi