We are all in the audience business: wrap-up from #CMWorld 2017

12 Sep 2017

  • Content
  • Digital Marketing

By: Janine Pares, Managing Director, Thinksmart Marketing

There’s a reason they call it Content Marketing World. Three days packed to the brim with lessons, stories and inspiration for the 4,000 brand and agency side marketers gathered from across the globe to Cleveland, OHIO.

Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute (CMI), opened the conference with a challenge:

"What if the traditional way we think about marketing is the very thing that’s holding us back? What if marketing’s ability to drive new revenue streams, create new markets and improve profitability lies in thinking like a media company and focus not on driving short-term leads, but instead growing a loyal audience – which you can then monetise over multiple revenue lines."

Citing many examples of brands such as Pepsico and Mondelez who are building profit-driving content studios; or Cleveland Clinic whose content hub drives a seven-figure revenue number; or Amazon, who’s producing Emmy Award winning content, the logic is hard to deny.

Posing this challenge, speaker after speaker echoed the sentiment that content marketing is a commitment, not a campaign. It is a culture focused on customers. It takes time. It takes money. And the effort is worth the investment.

Robert Rose, Chief Content Advisor at CMI extended this theme challenging the idea that content has been commoditised – it’s production and distribution of content that’s commoditised. “When we create an addressable audience, we create great things for people to subscribe to and participate in…we are all in the audience business.”

Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert reminded us that as more brands divert budget to content, the reality is most of our efforts will fail, since very little will actually get discovered across search and social. Marketers the world over are simply lying to themselves. “It’s not that our customers are too busy to consume our content. Our content fails when it doesn’t matter enough to trade time for information.” Relevancy is a value exchange and we’re all in competition for attention.

So how do we win attention? We do what all good media companies and publishers do – we focus on the audience. Not the brand, not the product, and not the boss! Or as Michael Brenner coined “WIIFTC” what’s in it for the customer.”

Doug Kessler, co-founder of award winning B2B content agency Velocity Partners gave us some humorous and tangible takeaways for earning attention. Simply challenge marketing conventions. Conventions that marketing is relentlessly positive; marketing hides your weaknesses, marketing never swears. Deep set conventions which lead us to assume that marketing lies – shamelessly and notoriously – triggering the universal marketing defence barrier. If we can play with some of these conventions, rather than be slaves to them, we can start to use content to build trust, relevance, authenticity – and audience attention.

It wasn’t just agencies espousing the benefits of content marketing. Once conservative Capital Group, one of the largest investment fund managers globally, shared experiences from launching their content hub, Capital Ideas. From humble beginnings just 18months ago, they started simply to prove the concept, iterated over time and ‘marketed the marketing’ internally to secure budget and build an agile team of in-house and agency partner experts. It’s paid off with Capital Ideas set to achieve over 75,000 site visits, spending an average of 6mins on site, and over 7200 whitepaper downloads in 2017. Their salesforce uses Capital Thoughts as a core asset to engage with clients and provides access to the brand’s ‘brains trust’. And audience? Over 18 months they amassed an email subscriber list of almost 25,000 achieving 34% average open rates v’s their standard of 17.6%.

So, the outtake from all of this?

Focus on growing audiences, not through ‘branded content’ which serves the business, but a content brand which serves the audience (see Andrew Davies quote). Loyal audiences enable you to drive core revenue streams and open up new ones – and do this at higher profit margins. But there’s no short cut, it’s trench warfare with naysayers, ad loyalists, and traditionalists – battle by battle content marketing will win the war.

About Janine Pares
Janine Pares is Managing Director at Thinksmart Marketing, blending over 20 years experience in corporate and agency to support brands on strategy-led marketing that drive commercial growth outcomes. She is also the lead instructor with ADMA for the Content Marketing Advanced Certificate.

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