This past week more than 600 people converged on Cleveland, Ohio, for a special event. It wasn’t a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, although there was plenty of energy and even a concert sort of vibe. It wasn’t a pro sports event, though the focus was definitely on winning and losing in a highly competitive arena.
This was a business and networking event. The inaugural Content Marketing World conference and expo, produced by the Cleveland-based Content Marketing Institute (CMI).
For two days, corporate and non-profit marketers, agency pros, publishers, consultants, bloggers and technology vendors enthusiastically discussed, demoed and debated the hows and whys of content as a marketing strategy.
To sample the information shared, you can swim through a swollen Twitter stream at #cmworld, or read a collection of 40-plus ensuing blog posts compiled by CMI’s Michele Linn here. Click on the links and you’ll likely pick up a content marketing best practice or two, or six.
Meanwhile, if you’re a corporate marketing executive, there’s another type of takeaway to be gleaned from CMWorld. It’s an insight that — provided it resonates with you — has the potential to do more for your team, your brand and even your customers than all the CMWorld round tables and product demos combined.
This isn’t a takeaway you’d have seen bulleted in a CMWorld PowerPoint. It transcends individual speakers and sessions. And it doesn’t come bundled with any of the latest content management systems or social media listening tools.
Yet, if you ask people who attended CMWorld, it’s a good bet many would agree this is the most powerful takeaway they’ll bring back to their organizations. And here it is:
Content marketing is inherently energizing and fulfilling for the people who practice it.
That’s right. Call me Pollyanna. Call me Norman Vincent Peale. But we’re talking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here. Esteem and self-actualization as byproducts of a job well done.
You could see it on faces and hear it in voices of not only the presenters, but the corporate marketers, too. You could almost feel it in the ballroom air.
- Best-selling author David Meerman Scott, exhorting marketers to cull gobbledygook from their communications and write in real, human and humane terms.
- Lee Odden, a bona fide SEO guru, reminding attendees to optimize online content for people first, web crawlers and search engine algorithms second.
- And Intel’s Pam Didner, speaking with passion and humor about opportunities she sees to improve a multinational content planning and development process that most would consider already highly advanced by industry standards.
Whether their planning next month’s blog posts, promoting a webinar or producing a video, content marketers automatically put themselves in the position and mindset of seeking to be of value and service to customers and prospects. It’s implicit in the strategy. The onus is on marketing FOR customers and prospects vs. merely AT them.
But we marketers focus so much time and effort planning and creating touch points to reach and influence our audiences, it’s easy to lose sight of the impact felt by those doing the touching.
A specialist who’s only job is to squeeze another fraction of a percent ROI against the direct mail control package isn’t likely to feel the same sense of purpose and reward that can come with creating an educational ebook or an inspirational video — touch points designed to deliver meaning and value for customers.
Likewise, most traditional campaigns are geared to capture attention and drive action. But unless it’s a public service announcement, being of service to the target audience is usually not a primary objective spelled out in the creative brief.
Energy Born of Intention
This is not to say traditional marketing tactics are less worthy, less creatively stimulating or less intellectually satisfying when planned and executed well. Most practitioners agree content marketing is not a wholesale substitute for more traditional marketing methods. It’s a complement. An enhancement. And the more integrated the tactics and channels, typically, the better the result.
But if you’re a CMO who’s yet to fully embrace content marketing, consider what it would mean to have your team arrive at the office each day consistently pumped to plan and execute compelling, useful, even entertaining content for key audiences.
Then consider that them doing so is a proven path to achieving business and marketing priorities. Building traffic. Performing well in search. Sparking audience engagement. Generating and nurturing leads. Creating community within social media. Positioning your brand as a thought leader.
Sound like a win-win?
To be clear, content marketing is no walk in the park. It’s demanding work. Don’t imagine for a minute your team and their consultants and agency partners won’t be working hard and brainstorming bullets to consistently develop great content and deliver real results.
But the fact that so many practitioners seem to gain a higher sense of mission, pride and, dare I say, pleasure when undertaking content-driven strategies might the best argument for adopting one.
As Norman Vincent Peale once said: “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.”
More energy. Positive energy.
Is that the karma that comes with content marketing?
What say you, marketeers? Am I riding unicorns and smoking rainbows with this post? Or do you agree there’s something about attracting and engaging customers with value-adding content that can cause marketers to feel better (i.e., more proud, excited, strategic) about the work they do? Agree or disagree, I’d welcome your thoughts and feelings on the subject.
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