By Jessie Newburn, Business Development Manager, Atigro Digital Marketing
Off to one of the biggest content-focused conferences in America, I had high hopes for spotting developing trends, discovering magical content fixes and filling my brain with the latest and greatest tips, news and strategies.
I got some of that, for sure. Though I was surprised that the things I found most impactful were anything but earth-shattering and were actually quite small.
First, some back story. Paul Duning, publisher of Capitol Communicator, and I were talking–as we do—and I’d mentioned I was heading to Content Marketing World. A master of event production for a similar audience himself, he said, “Perhaps you’d like to write a wrap-up of your highlights and key takeaways for Capitol Communicator.” “Sure,” I said. “No problem.”
Now, this part of the story may–or may not–be relevant: Though I’ve worked in content marketing for 20-plus years, the conference’s content and education wasn’t my primary motivation for attending #CMWorld: Baby Orion was. See, Baby O (my God Son) was born three weeks prior to the event and his mama, Nichole Kelly, was speaking on The Rise of the Conscious Marketer. Knowing Baby O would be just weeks old when she spoke, we made plans to travel together with a nanny, as well (the role of which ended up being filled by Baby O’s dad). In other words, in terms of my priorities, I was part of #TeamOrion first and a conference attendee second.
Plans made, off to Cleveland in early September and #CMWorld we went, three adults and a three-week old baby (who slept like a champ!) in the car.
We rose early the first day to get in line for some of the more popular sessions and keynotes. The options were plentiful with tracks such as demand generation, content strategy, search and data, future trends, influencer marketing, tools and technology, ROI and measurement and more.
For each slot, I’d pick my session, get settled in and then, often about 10-15 minutes in, I’d find myself thinking, “I’ve heard this before.” Again and again I had this experience: I’ve heard this before.
It didn’t matter if I attended a session on making documentaries, on using AI with CMSes, or on developing a loyal YouTube following. The message was there again and again: Have a strategy, know your audience, develop content to satisfy/delight/engage your audience, measure what matters, tweak, keep going.
Yet, for as same-same as this message was, it really resonated with me, mostly because it’s the message we (me at my company, you at your agency or in your marketing department) say to our colleagues, bosses, clients, whomever … again and again: We need to have a strategy, to know our audience, to develop content to satisfy/delight/engage our audience, to measure what matters, to tweak our campaigns and, above all else, to keep going.
So simple, so important.
My second biggest takeaway came from Ann Handley of Marketing Profs during her keynote speech, and my big takeaway was, again, really quite small. Ann told a story–eloquently and with great humor, as she does–about one of her newsletter subscribers who kept pestering her about why she didn’t send out a newsletter more frequently. A real newsletter, from her. That’s what he signed up for and that’s what he wanted.
This particularly pesky guy, who was getting on her last nerve because he wouldn’t stop emailing her and asking her questions, couldn’t understand why–if he’d opted in for her newsletter–he wasn’t getting one more frequently, especially from the queen of content marketing.
As she sat with her discomfort at his peskiness, she had her own epiphany (probably a re-epiphanization in her case … and I might have just made up a word there) that in a news-letter, it’s less the “news” and more the “letter” that is key. It’s the connection, the humanity, the authenticity of the “letter” that influences the reader more than the “news.”
I found myself touched by this simple point, reminded of the basic tenet in our role as marketers that, yes, while indeed, we’re helping to sell widgets, hawk services and help fill pipelines, we are, at the end of the day, creating a bridge to another person who has needs: professional, personal, whatever their needs, they have needs. At the end of the day, our words and how we say them make all the difference in the world.
And with those connections we create, well, yeah, sometimes we’ll sell more widgets, or get more billable hours, and as well we should if we’re doing our jobs right. Equally, and thank you, Ann, for the reminder: ultimately, our content is read by a person, not a persona.
So, yeah, while I attended a variety of sessions on AI, agile marketing, content bottlenecks, marketing to Millennials and other (sorta) sexy topics, it was the basics that I remembered, and the basics I brought back.
(Pictured above is Baby O, the youngest attendee at the conference.)
Jessie Newburn is the Business Development Manager for Atigro Digital Marketing, a Tysons Corner, Va, firm offering a comprehensive suite of digital marketing services that amp your efforts to drive and convert leads to sales.
Haha. That pic (which I submitted) and the title (which I wrote) combined make it look as though my “small take away” might have been baby-kidnapping. 🙂