Content Marketing World 2016: content marketing isn’t child’s play

For a conference that featured a speaker from LEGO, references to the three little pigs, a comedian (Michael Jr.), a content marketing version of “Hollywood Squares”, countless Star Wars references and even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, one might walk away from Content Marketing World 2016 thinking that this was all child’s play.

But it’s not.

Sandwiched in between all of the amusement, there was a lot of material for grown-ups.

The content marketing discipline is growing and ever-changing, and many companies and agencies have a hard time keeping up. The pace of constant change, reacting hourly or daily to the demands of content generation and distribution weighs on marketers. All the while, they’re trying to determine if any of it makes a difference. Finding the ROI or the connection to sales was a recurring theme.

But it does take investment and time, to build a content marketing effort into something that interests your audience and makes them want to participate, as well as something that moves them down the purchase path. Many speakers stressed that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. However, many companies often expect it to be like a light switch: I turned on the content, now where are the sales?

The beauty of most content, and the way that people consume it, is that it’s primarily online. People are leaving digital trails all over, and most companies are doing the bare minimum, if anything, to follow those audiences. To learn from them. To analyze the data. To optimize their offering.

The sales will follow, if you do the work to target, retarget, and retarget again, changing your content or message every time based on your audience’s behavior online and what they interact with.

All of this takes planning, and coding, and analyzing, and promotion, and a volume of content. It’s a lot more complicated than writing a blog post, uploading it, and having people flock to it. That just doesn’t happen.

It’s also a lot more complicated than designing an advertising campaign and making a print media buy. One stat or rule of thumb that stood out: TV (or film) content has a 1:5 ratio of production to promotion. For every dollar spent on developing the TV show or movie, you spend $5 to promote it.

With content, the ratio is reversed. Marketers spend $5 to produce a piece of content but only $1 to promote it. “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work with content. You have to promote it aggressively. And get more efficient on the creation side.
Sometimes it takes a conference and a few days dedicated to one topic to refocus and remind us of things we know but often set aside because of more pressing needs. Here are a few observations from Content Marketing World that stuck with me:

• We all see (and participate in) the behavior change caused by mobile devices, but we fail to update our ways of thinking about content and marketing based on that change.

• Doing content marketing because we feel we “have to do it” is not a prescription for success. You need to have a purpose.

• Most content marketers are getting better at content development, but they’re barely scratching the surface on the “behind the scenes” analytics and data available.

• Data should be part of the creative content process. It can actually help you write and design better.

• Content marketing takes a team. And you need more generalists than specialists on that team.

• Content must be promoted. Vigorously.

We know all this already. But, like a child, we may need to be told several times before it sinks in, and we may need to be reminded of it from time to time.

Content development and content marketing is fun. It’s creative. It’s interesting. But to do it well, it takes a lot of work. It’s not child’s play.

About Patrick McGill

As the managing director of strategy, Patrick is our very own Sherlock Holmes. When he’s not immersed in research, you’ll more than likely find Patrick traveling — those travels have taken him to all 50 states. You can email our inquisitive Mr. McGill at