Field Report: What’s Hot in Content Marketing

Content Marketing


Content Marketing World 2014 — the biggest, baddest content marketing conference in the world — has come to a highly climactic end. After three days of sessions, breakouts, panels, and networking, closing keynote speaker Kevin Spacey (!!!) brought the house down with one of the funniest, most profanity-laced speeches ever heard at a marketing conference. (He also made my dreams come true by quoting his own House of Cards character, Frank Underwood, with a Southern accent.)

A tornado warning here in Cleveland left many of the 2,500 attendees tucked away in their hotel rooms on Wednesday night — myself included — so I took the chance to jot down a few insights from the last 48 hours. Here’s my field report on what’s hot in content marketing — what content marketers are thinking about, arguing about, and gushing about this year:

1) Just do it better.

All of us marketers know the story by now — we live in a world of information abundance, which means our buyers hear more marketing messages than ever, and are therefore more likely to ignore marketing messages than ever. But LinkedIn’s Jason Miller reminded me that the space is only crowded if you can’t differentiate your brand. “If you’re worried about adding noise to a crowded space,” he told his audience, “just do it better.” Important note: better is different than louder. At Marketo, when we talk about “better,” we mean more relevant, more personalized, more innovative, and better timed — if you can be better than your competitors in that way, you lift yourself above the noise.

2) You don’t have to be good at everything.

In a panel with marketing geniuses from TrackMaven, Lincoln Electric, DemandBase, and AHA Media Group, it was widely agreed that content marketing isn’t just about creativity and art — it’s also about cold, hard metrics. But as Chris Golec of DemandBase pointed out, that doesn’t mean that every content marketer has to be both an artist and a mathematician…which is good news for those of us struggling to calculate the tip at dinner. Chris noted that content is becoming so integral to marketing strategies that many companies now have multiple content positions, and that often one member of the team will be on the more creative side, while another will be more metrics-driven.

3) Content marketing is still in early days.

At the same panel, an audience member asked what the most important quality in a content marketer is, and TrackMaven’s Allen Gannett was quick to say that today, it’s crucial for content marketers to have “change management skills” — simply because so many organizations are still hesitant to adopt content marketing.

Because content marketing is such a big part of Marketo’s own marketing strategy, I tend to forget that some marketers are still struggling to demonstrate content’s importance. Reports like these ones, and ebooks like this one can help with that struggle! Ahava Leibtag of AHA also gave some excellent advice for marketers in this position: simply put, think like a marketer. Market the idea of content marketing internally to your team. Get case studies. Present data. Help them see your vision. Find someone in your competitive set who is successful with content marketing, and show that to your VP.

4) “Influencers” aren’t always influential.

That is, they aren’t always influential in the specific way you want them to be. TopRank’s Lee Odden (a pretty impressive influencer in his own right) delivered an excellent presentation about leveraging influencers, in which he pointed out that it isn’t just about identifying influential people in your space — it’s also about qualifying them for your marketing needs. He suggested checking out an influencer’s sway using multiple sources and tools, and vetting their own content’s quality, frequency, and engagement.

5) Voice is just as important as story.

In Doug Kessler’s session on mastering tone of voice, Doug walked a packed room through his 10-step process for creating a crisp, clear tone of voice. We’re all sold on the importance of storytelling, but your tone of voice is the way you tell your story. As Doug explained, marketers are “obsessed with the explicit, which is the story, instead of the voice — which is how we actually say it.” So how do you master your company’s tone of voice? Here are some of my favorite among his 10 steps:

  • Once you’ve established your brand’s tone of voice, manage it. Treat it like the strategic weapon it is. Make it someone’s job to coach your team’s voice — not police it. You should train (or get buy-in from) everyone in your company on this voice — your new hires, your writers, your editors, and your approvers.
  • Capture your voice in a tone of voice guide — like a style guide, but way beyond. Write the guide IN your tone of voice, and be sure to include lots and lots of examples — examples of what you do want to do, and what you don’t.
  • Embrace good jargon. Marketers are afraid of using jargon, but good jargon actually helps you sound precise. It signals to your audeience that you’re an insider, and it makes them feel like insiders too. Bad jargon is jargon that makes it difficult to understand what you mean — it’s lazy, and it makes it seem like you have something to hide.


Obviously these tips are just that — the tip of the iceberg. It would probably take me 100 blog posts to put everything I learned at CMW into words…and I’ve got content to write. Until next time, Cleveland!