The week of September 8 to 11, I attended one of the best conference I have ever attended: Content Marketing World (#CMWorld) 2015. I have been to myriad tech conferences in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I have been to niche learning and development symposiums. I have been to the Consumer Electronics Show, and I have been to Dreamforce four times. I have also attended numerous marathon expos and skiing conventions (yes, these count).
OK. I have not been to SXSW or Burning Man, so maybe I don’t know what a good conference is, but #CMWorld makes my top 3.
As a means of processing, reviewing, and reinforcing what I learned and sharing it, I thought I would write about my key takeaways, which will explain why I enjoyed the conference so much.
Tables at the Keynotes and in Each Breakout Session
One of the nicest touches at #CMWorld is having tables in each session. It was great to sit at a desk with my laptop and take notes and tweet.
Having chairs at tables for an opening keynote is top-notch. Makes for easy note taking, tweeting, writing. Awesome. #CMWorld— Bill Cushard (@billcush) September 9, 2015
Loved the Location
A conference the size of CMWorld, almost 3,500 people, could easily be held in one of the glamorous locations conferences frequent: Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Boston. But it continues to be held in Cleveland.
Kudos to the Content Marketing Institute.
I had never been to Cleveland, but I thought it was a great place for a conference. September is a great time of year for weather in Cleveland, which works for me coming from California. Downtown was very nice; far nicer than downtown San Francisco, and Cleveland is on Lake Erie, so there were nice views.
Walking around was easy and convenient. I had a good time exploring downtown on two of my runs and on one run managed to run around the baseball park, basketball area, and football stadium, plus run underneath the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and along the harbor shores of Lake Erie.
The Opening Keynote
At the opening keynote address, I enjoyed getting the state of the content marketing industry. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), shared preliminary results of the industry research report the CMI does every year. The results were not all roses. Overall content marketing effectiveness was down from 2014 to 2015. The good news is that Pulizzi shared actions that high performing marketing teams perform that set them apart from low performing teams.
I found that very helpful.
Overall effectiveness for content marketing is 30% in 2015. Down from 38% in 2014. @JoePulizzi #CMWorld— Bill Cushard (@billcush) September 9, 2015
Content Marketing is Disillusioned?
Have you heard of the Hype Cycle? I had not. But when Pulizzi shared with the audience that content marketing was likely approaching the Tough of Disillusionment, I was both shocked and appreciative of the candor.
I have to be honest, a few of the talks I attended had a them of “We still stink at this…….and here is what we can do to improve.”
The reason companies struggle with content marketing is that they do not start with why @Halvorson #CMWorld— Bill Cushard (@billcush) September 9, 2015
I like that honesty, even if it is hyperbole, since so may companies are great at content marketing.
Sessions that Teach, Not Pitch
Most conference have product pitches thinly disguised at session talks. Content Marketing World is not one of them. Of the seven sessions I attended, all were designed to help me not pitch a product. It was not until the very end, as a seeming afterthought, that speakers mentioned their product/service. Two gave away valuable products to all who attended their session, so I could do it (what it was) myself…instead of hiring them.
In other words, the speakers helped me so much, I may not need their help. I bet these speakers get the most business from the conference as a result.
Note to conference organizers: Require speakers to offer educational sessions not product pitches. Seriously! I know sponsors pay the bills, but C’mon.
Heed the words of David Beebe of Marriott:
Brands must stop talking about themselves @davidbeebe #CMWorld > See @colleen_blake and @danieljluebke— Bill Cushard (@billcush) September 9, 2015
Content marketing is like a 1st date. If you only talk about yourself, there won't be a 2nd one. - @davidbeebe #CMWorld— Content Marketing (@CMIContent) September 9, 2015
My Favorite Single Session
My favorite session by far was from Doug Kessler of Velocity on Insane Honesty. As Kessler describes it: insane honesty is putting your worst foot forward and actively seeking out weakness to share them openly. Can you believe that?
Kessler goes on to say that this works because customer can trust everything the company says about the positives if they are insanely honest about the negatives.
When you encounter insane honest marketing, you just wanna huge the marketer for telling you the truth @dougkessler #CMWorld— Bill Cushard (@billcush) September 9, 2015
In his talk, Kessler offered six reasons to practice insane honesty:
- It surprises and charms
- It signals confidence
- It builds trust
- It alienates less likely buyers
- It attracts ideal prospects
- Focuses you on battles you can win
You can learn more in his SlideShare presentation.
One of my favorite parts of his talk came when in response to a question from the audience, more insane honesty about his company’s approach:
Brands with stronger legal teams than marketing teams may find us frustrating @dougkessler #CMWorld > @colleen_blake @danieljluebke— Bill Cushard (@billcush) September 9, 2015
Throughout the conference, there were multiple moments of inspiration. One was from John Cleese who talked about the importance of panicking early in order to get it out of the way. If you take on a new assignment or project, it is best to panic early so at least you have time to do something about the panic. If you procrastinate and wait to panic three days before the project is due, you don’t have enough time to do anything useful. You panic either way. The smart thing to do is panic early and get it out of the way.
Visiting Every (Well, Almost) Booth
I am new to marketing, so I wanted to make it a point to see as many booths as possible to learn everything I could about the tools marketers use to get stuff done.
Sure, I will get a ton of sales calls and I will be saying “No" a lot because I cannot buy everything, but it was great to learn about ways to make this job a little bt easier through tools.
I appreciated the opportunity to learn about some excellent content marketing products.
Participation Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Advocacy Marketing?
Get it straight people. Which is it? At Content Marketing World, I learned about participation marketing, Influence Marketing, and Advocacy Marketing. As I heard people discuss the differences, it reminded me of the scene from Cheers when Fraiser attempted to read A Tale of Two Cities to the gang in the bar.
Frasier reads: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
Norm interrupts: “Wait, wait, wait. Which one was it?"
I am not sure I know the difference, but I intend to find out.
If I Have One Regret…...
I did not network very much. I was so busy racing from session to session and booth to booth, I did not take the time to really network and meet new people. For that I feel bad. I flew in late Tuesday night and left early AM Friday and was going non-stop most of the time.
I felt like I was 10 minutes behind schedule the entire time. If I get a chance to go again, which I hope I do, I plan to arrive a bit earlier.
Overall, Excellent Conference
As I said, I been to a lot of conferences and Content Marketing World ranks among my favorites for all the reasons listed above, and more. If you are in Marketing, I strongly suggest you attend this conference. You will learn more about using content to make a meaningful impact on your marketing results during this week, than in any effort you do to improve your marketing effectiveness. That sounds like a strong statement, but I believe its true.
Think about it. If you want to have good SEO, you need good content. If you want to have effective social media marketing, you need good content to share. If you want to increase conversation rates, you better have the right content in the right stages of the buyer journey.
This is not even a complete list.
But you get the point. If you do attend, perhaps we can meet for a Sunkist and candy corn snack.