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Headed to Content Marketing World 2013, a Changed Agency

As I get ready to attend the 3rd annual Content Marketing World (CMW) conference next week (hello Cleveland!), it seems the appropriate time to think back at the worthwhile road that me and my little company have traveled. When I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the inaugural CMW way back in 2011, we were a different kind of firm.

My marketing career is staring down its third decade, so I’ve long ago learned the importance of staying relevant. Serving enterprise technology marketing clients, I’ve evolved (gracefully?) from the client/server computing era through the dot-coms to SaaS and cloud computing. In Cleveland that fateful September two years ago, CMW’s sheer amount of information and insight blew my mind. What’s more, the show had a great energy, like all 625 of us were in on a secret. The party at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was a blast, Joe Puluzzi proved a great host, and the entire show was branded a bright orange!

When I returned to San Francisco and processed what I’d learned: it was clear. What had once been “marketing communications” had become “content marketing”, as traditional marcom practices collided with journalism, social media and digital marketing. I realized pretty quickly that the software startups and enterprise technology companies that are Influential’s client base could benefit from this new approach. Why shouldn’t they have all the same advantages as the major tech vendors with their huge marketing budgets?

At CMW 2011, here’s what I learned:

  • It was time to Ditch the Pitch. Instead we need to deliver relevant, compelling value to the prospective customer. My clients needed to start having conversations with their buyers to solve day-to-day problems, provide answers and insight, give advice or even entertain. Similar to consumer brands, B2B selling has become less about product features and more about having a personality in the marketplace.
  • Map to the Buyer’s Journey. Different kinds of content should be plotted to the stages that socially networked buyer’s follow when considering a technology purchase. Mapping can be along any number of dimensions (e.g. sales cycle, title, role), targeting the prospect’s marketing channels of choice, employing drip marketing techniques to gradually gain their trust and track their interest. Then, B2B selling is easier.
  • Content marketing is, by definition, measurable.  There are no less than 30 metrics that can measure the success of content marketing programs.  It shares common metrics with web analytics (e.g. page views), lead generation (e.g. downloads), search marketing (e.g. inbound links), and social media (e.g. fans/followers). Sales revenue is but a single goal. Try measuring the depth of audience engagement via actions that indicate interest such as sharing, discussing and advocating.
  • The Content Marketing Ecosystem. There’s a vibrant network of goods and services coalesced around content marketing to help companies and agencies alike, covering the entire lifecycle from strategy and production to delivery and measurement.

Plenty of other agencies here in Silicon Valley were going to jump on the content marketing bandwagon, so Influential Strategies needed to start its transformation quickly. In the ensuing year we overhauled our positioning, evolved our brand, built this here new website, and started taking a comprehensive campaign management mentality to our work. Two years on, I’m pretty pleased with how we are doing.

In 2011, lots of new buzzwords entered my lexicon – from “content marketplaces” to “real-time content”, “content atomization” to “dynamic auto-delivery”. One vendor at CMW was even pushing “a cloud-based social writing” app (whatever that is!) I look forward to seeing what amazing content marketing strategies I can return from the show with this time.

See you in Cleveland!


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