A lakefront hotel, thousands of marketers and a view from the top of a pyramid. That’s how Madison Braxton and I spent our first week of September as we headed to the Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland.
The conference touts itself as the world’s largest for content marketing, with thousands of attendees, more than 100 sessions and this year, a headlining talk by Mindy Kaling.
Here are our top takeaways from the event, plus our review on whether this conference is worth the money for you.
1. Marketing is Changing
I don’t just mean changing from print-based to digital, but changing the way people think about brands and interact with the buying process. I knew this - every marketer knows this - but I thought about it more at this conference.
Most people don’t really want to be sold something. They want to make a choice to buy a product or service that not only helps them solve a problem, but fits into their idea of who they are and what they do.
Keynote speaker Tamsen Webster gave the example of Ignaz Semmelweis, a doctor in the 1800s who’d advocated for hand-washing among other surgeons - but failed because he didn’t portray his idea in a way that meshed with people’s ideas of themselves.
A few years later, Florence Nightingale popularized the idea with success during the Crimean War because of the way she presented it.
Anyway, what does this have to do with marketing? Plenty. If you follow the same path as Ignaz, your ideas won’t spread.
People think of themselves as smart, capable and good, so you need to make them continue thinking that with your messaging. It’s why shouty billboards and TV commercials don’t work anymore, but personalized and helpful content does.
2. Stories are Important
I’m not talking about your story, or your company’s story. The more important story to tell is that of your customer.
Speaker Amanda Changuris talked about creating content from a journalist’s perspective. For me, this was a nice reminder because it’s my background. But it drives the point home that people want to hear information, and stories that aren’t just things you made up or features and benefits of your brand.
No one likes a bragger, and that goes for your audience, too.
3. Trust is Crucial
All of these points tie back to this one: If your audience doesn’t trust you or relate to you, none of your marketing will work. You need to build real trust and openness with your audience.
Ann Handley told the story of her summer with Bun, a rabbit who lived in her backyard. Gradually, she got him to eat lettuce from her hand - but not without some failures along the way. Going up to him and offering way too much content (i.e., veggies) at once didn’t work.
So think about your audience the same way. You need to show you have their best interests at heart and understand them before you can gain their trust.
Is Content Marketing World Worth It?
Madison and I got many great insights and action items from attending the conference, and we enjoyed the buzz of being around so many other eager marketers.
That said, definitely do some research before you decide to commit to the conference. Ask yourself these questions to see if it would be right for you.
- Am I more concerned with an agency or industry approach? Many of the sessions and speakers were more geared toward a solo marketer or small team working at a company rather than agencies.
- Do I want to connect with vendors who can help improve my marketing? If you’re looking for a solution to a marketing problem and aren’t familiar with tools and software that can help, CMW hosted a number of vendors in the expo area.
- Is a fast-paced conference right for me? If you’re a processor and need some time to soak in what you’ve learned, be aware that CMW moves at a pretty fast clip, with sessions going from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and evening activities after. Getting to every session that interested me and competing for spots with thousands of other attendees was a challenge at times.
Like any conference, it’s not black and white as to whether it would be a good fit for you. If you want to make the investment and be inspired by a diverse group of marketers, go for it!
Get Actionable Steps to Improve Your Digital Marketing
Content Marketing World may be over for this year, but it’s never too late to learn more about improving your marketing strategy.
Download your free copy of our digital marketing checklist and get help as you self-audit your own program. You’ll be guided through questions like:
- Do you know what keywords your competitors rank for?
- Do you consistently measure and adjust your content for optimal ROI?
- Do you have an online reputation management strategy in place?
Get your copy of the checklist today and get started on the path to better results.