Content Marketing Institute recently held its annual Content Marketing World event spanning four days of networking with industry experts in a packed Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio. This year’s theme, “Amaze Your Audience,” played to a crowd of over 4,000 attendees and emphasized creating an amazing experience with content, urging marketers to be better and smarter with their approach to content creation and delivery.
With over 120 sessions and workshops presented by the leading brand marketers and experts covering strategy, storytelling, ROI, demand generation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a host of other content-related topics, I came away with three insights that potentially could be the most impactful on the future of the marketing industry.
Be the Main Event, Not the Sideshow
Businesses can be overwhelmed at the thought of making content one of their most valuable resources. It not only takes creativity and resources, but also objectives and a budget. Not many get out of the planning stage, overwhelmed by needing ways to prove content as a valuable resource to corporate decision-makers without breaking the bank. This frustration and hesitation can lead to stagnation, relegating content as an afterthought instead of the main attraction it could be.
Content marketing is no longer niche. In fact, it can account for a significant part of the marketing budget. Organizations should be inspired by the variety of cost-effective options in the marketplace. Not every new trend must be followed; not every new tactic must be adopted. There’s value in simply improving on what you already have. You won’t always need to outsource, an option sure to satisfy the tightest of budgets. By looking to repurpose existing content in new and creative ways, you can be cost-effective, resourceful and innovative in revitalizing your content marketing strategy and turning it into the star it is.
Content Is (Sales) King
It’s not surprising that content would be promoted as the superior force of marketing at a content-specific conference, but presenters made sure to emphasize the importance of this often generalized and overlooked aspect by highlighting the underutilized ways content can become more effective.
Content is most known as informative and an important piece of thought-leadership, but it can also be a tool that attracts leads, which can be converted to sales. The internet has given businesses more diverse opportunities to become educated on who you are and what you’re selling through eBooks, webinars, newsletters, blogs, free and gated downloadable content (like infographics, guides and white papers) and social media, setting the traditional sales funnel on a path to extinction. These educated buyers have caused an evolutionary shift from a linear model to something more eclectic. This new tool is opening different ways to connect with your customers.
Visual Storytelling is Important
It’s been said the average attention span of any one person has decreased tremendously over the years, from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015. This highly argued statistic was laid out as nothing more than conjecture as presenters maintained that attention spans aren’t dwindling so much as people are not being engaged and entertained. Content marketing can become mundane and siloed to word count as a goal rather than appreciating the value of content creation as a visual experience.
While most would agree that visual storytelling is an exciting way to approach content, budget concerns makes it impractical for all your content to be visual. Out of those concerns, two questions popped up:
How do you know where to spend your marketing dollars?
Review your current library of traditional content and determine what has worked well in the past – this is typically the best starting point in your decision-making process to determine how many content pieces warrant a visual treatment. Consider if and how you can retool that content with visual storytelling. Quantifying the number of pieces you retool helps when assessing your budget.
The best part of visual storytelling as a creative opportunity is that not every usable option has to be expensive. For example, The New York Times published a series of stories featuring various athletes during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Each highlighted athlete was given a spotlight segment on why they were the best in their sport. In one story, gymnast Simone Biles’ extraordinary story was presented in three different yet equally compelling ways: interactive, the publication (electronic and physical newspaper) and video sharing.
The interactive version presumably would be the most expensive to produce. The publication would charge users to view the story through the printed hard copy or by digital subscription. The cost of video sharing would be in creating the video, but not in the video sharing platform itself as most video sharing platforms are free to upload.
What is the primary factor in making a piece of content visual versus traditional?
The answer here is not clear-cut and is determined by the business objective. You may have to ask a series of questions to arrive at an answer suitable for your organization. Questions like:
- What is your objective for making the shift?
- What is the desired outcome?
- Do you want this piece of visual storytelling to provide the client with a unique experience?
- Is it entertaining and educational?
- Does it create intellectual and interpersonal tension?
- Is there a clear call-to-action?
If you feel a piece of content would provide this type of unique experience and contains these elements, then you may have a contender.