10 Things You Missed at Content Marketing World 2014

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending “the largest content marketing event on the planet,” Content Marketing World 2014. With more than 2,600 delegates from over 50 countries and 60+ sponsors in attendance, many of the industry’s top experts were in attendance.

Vertical Measures was proud to be a sponsor, and found this year’s event to be impressively larger, filled with motivated speakers and intrigued businesses ready to learn more.

The event gets bigger and better every year; this year offered an improved schedule, more workshops, plenty of time to network, and of course – Kevin Spacey. Here are the top 10 highlights from Content Marketing World 2014:

1. Dozens of Content Marketing Tools

Expo Floor CMI

2014′s Content Marketing World was proud to be one of the first events at the newly completed Cleveland Convention Center. This unique, almost hidden structure (due to the beautiful, grassy, sloped lawn that runs along the roof) faces First Energy Stadium (Cleveland Browns), Lake Erie and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum. It would become host to CMW’s most successful event yet.

As 2,700 marketing professionals made their way down to the expo hall, they were greeted with orange-themed refreshments (orange slices, cheese crackers, Cheetos, orange soda and juice). There was a collaborative and motivating atmosphere – tools and service were presented by many companies in our industry:

  • Content Launch
  • Curata
  • Kapost
  • TapInfluence
  • Zerys
  • Emma
  • Wright Media
  • Marketo

In fact, there were so many companies and booths I fully expect some sort of shake out over the next couple years.

2. Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis is a best-selling author and storytelling guru that truly has great content marketing insights. During his CMW keynote, Davis stated, “Telling a great story isn’t easy. Tying your storytelling to revenue growth is even harder.”

He explained that brilliant storytellers create moments of inspiration that can actually drive revenue. Content marketers need to get closer to the center of the customer’s universe. Where are they, and what do they do online every day?

By creating moments of inspiration in your content, customers will be pushed toward their “purchase journey”. In other words, these moments of inspiration create ROI. So how do you generate these moments of inspiration? Davis shared four secrets to boost revenue with great content storytelling:

  • Build suspense: Create anxiety about what will happen. Is there inherent suspense in the story I am telling?
  • Create inspirational content: They need to get inspired from your story and your content. What does my audience aspire to do or be?
  • Drive empathy:  Get people emotionally invested in your product or service.
  • Harness emotion: Emotion leads to action. What emotion inspires action as it relates to your products and services?

3. Scott Stratten

As the president of Un-Marketing, Scott Stratten is a viral and social marketing guru. “Authentic marketing”, which he calls Un-Marketing, is Stratten’s belief that with every social interaction, the speed at which we reply is almost as important as the authenticity. Responding to user engagement is critical, along with transparency and authenticity.

He provided a popular example, discussing the FedEx scandal involving their employees throwing around customer’s packages as if it were Sunday Night Football. Stratten explained that FedEx knew they had some really bad press regarding the issue, so the company quickly started generating content that addressed the issue and rebuilt trust with their client base. The transparency and authenticity that this type of content provided helped concerned readers accept the apology and remain loyal customers to the brand.

“Scheduling your posts is like sending a mannequin to a networking event.” Stratten said. Every customer just wants to be heard. If you only talk to people who are addressing you (responding only to people who tweet at you), you are not giving or participating fully in the social ecosystem.

4. Kevin Spacey

I think everyone was excited to see Kevin Spacey deliver CMW’s closing keynote address. Who could blame us? Last year we had William Shatner; this year, the House of Cards star offered up some of his content marketing insight.

“Good afternoon,” he said, to a packed-house. “I know what you’re all thinking: What the hell am I doing here? What exactly am I doing at a Content Marketing Institute event?” Spacey mentioned that prior to the event, he had asked himself the same thing.

As he started chomping on some orange candy he had picked out of his orange Content Marketing World goody bag before his keynote he quipped, “I could give you 45 minutes on the ROI of effective SEO…That’s right, I know your f-ing terms!”

“Good content-making is not a crapshoot. It’s always been about the story,” he explained. “When you connect with an audience, it’s your job to educate, entertain, and surprise them.” He broke down story-telling into three points: conflict, authenticity, and audience.

“Conflict creates tension and keeps people engaged in your story. The best stories are filled with characters who take risks,” he explained. “It might come from the career choices you make, which run counter to what others thought you were capable of.”

“Good stories require authenticity,” Spacey said. “In a world increasingly made up of spin, I think it’s absolutely essential to keep in mind ‘what is it that makes something feel absolutely genuine’ to an audience,” In other words, the audience will automatically turn off when something doesn’t feel authentic.

5. Joe Pulizzi

Thousands of people from over 40 different countries watched another vibrantly orange and charismatic “Joe Pulizzi Performance”. No other man can get a group of 2,700 people more excited about content marketing.

As Kevin Spacey said, “When Joe ‘Itsy Bitsy’ Pulizzi calls to invite you to the largest content marketing gathering on the planet, it’s impossible to refuse. Joe can sell you on just about anything. ‘Hey, Kevin: I have this little event I put on, with orange candy, orange soda, and it’s in Cleveland.’ And with that, how could Spacey say no?”

I first met Joe a few years ago when he was evangelizing content marketing to anyone who would listen. He wrote constantly and spoke at almost any event that would have him. Joe made me see the light, and for that I am eternally grateful.

He had more brilliant insight this year, “Effective content marketers not only write down and document their strategy, but they also closely follow the strategy, looking at it every couple of days, or once a week at least” he said. “Effective content marketers publish much more — sometimes multiple times per day. Ineffective content marketers look at traffic; effective ones look at how content is driving revenue and reducing costs.”

6. Robert Rose

Robert Rose has always been a favorite of mine at Content Marketing World; he’s a great speaker, and has a great way of illustrating complex strategies and insights that make it really fun – but more importantly, informative.

Rose pressed the audience, “The future is experience marketing. It is not true that the number of interactions with a customer builds a relationship.” In other words, marketers needs to create content so great, that people would pay for it.

Your content should be strategic enough to change the company and its relationship with the customer. Rose challenged the audience to ask themselves, “What experiences have you created for someone today?”

Robert Rose recently co-authored a book with Carla Johnson, “Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing” – check out a free chapter, here.

7. Discussion on Native Advertising

Native advertising is the hottest term in the industry and this combative session did not disappoint. Native advertising is taking on new forms, beyond ads within publishing streams and feeds. Often it feels part of a comprehensive experience and it’s not always obvious what is branded content or sponsored posts.

Some treat brands and users identically, like Tumblr. You can’t advertise on Tumblr because you can only publish your own content. However, many publishers are quickly turning to native advertising as a significant part of their revenue stream.

One thing the panel did seem to agree on is the notion that publishers (Mashable, BuzzFeed, Tumblr, etc.) are squeezing out agencies as the primary brand partner is false. Publishers still view the agency as critical to the overall process.

I list this as a highlight, because native advertising and branded content was not even in the discussion last year, so it’s good to see the industry tackling this controversial and evolving subject.

8. Content Marketing 101 Workshop

Vertical Measures hosted our own workshop, Content Marketing 101. I am proud to say that it was sold out two weeks early – in fact, within an hour of starting the workshop, it was standing room only. I only say this to prove that even at a major event like Content Marketing World, we are still at the early stages of content marketing. Many people were interested in learning more about the fundamentals of content marketing.

Content Marketing 101 helped our attendees learn how companies are successfully leveraging content marketing to generate more traffic, more leads and more business for their organizations. They learned how to grow their business and save money by creating compelling, engaging content through the framework of Vertical Measures’ proven 8 Step Content Marketing Process. It was an interactive, fast-paced workshop that provided tools, resources, and industry insights to arm attendees with enough motivation to go back to the office and convince their boss to go “all in” with content marketing.

9. ContentFest

Every Content Marketing World is packed with networking activities and fun parties after a full day at the conference. Last year’s highlight was CMW’s Opening Night Reception at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, sponsored by Skyword. CMW events always provide an exciting opportunity to network with content peers, have drinks, and enjoy Cleveland to the fullest.

So, what was ContentFest? Think of it as our own music festival combining 2,000+ content marketing brains with musical acts including Cleveland-based Welshly Arms  and 1964 the Tribute (dubbed “the best Beatles tribute band” by Rolling Stone Magazine). Topped off with more than a dozen Cleveland food trucks at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, ContentFest was not to be missed.

10. Great Industry Networking

In my opinion, anyone who is anyone in the content marketing industry attends this event, and this year the networking opportunities were greatly improved. The expo area was open all day during the two full conference days. Each day included two 45-minute networking breaks and every evening had plenty of official conference events and many “invitation only” parties.

As conference veterans know, a lot of the most valuable conversations and introductions happen via networking – not necessarily during the large sessions. CMW did not disappoint.

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