There’s no other way to say it: Content Marketing World 2023 was fire. From the educational sessions to networking opportunities, exhibitors, and meals, Informa did a fantastic job putting together a stellar program in a new venue (Washington, D.C., instead of Cleveland, Ohio). I’d venture that this was the best one yet: sessions on client briefings, adding mystery to the content creation process (so that stakeholders will trust you to do your job), story mapping, using B2C strategies in industrial B2B, and content repurposing through public relations were all added to my schedule.
I immersed myself in content marketing for two days, made great connections, and learned a lot. I have pages of notes, but to make this easier for you, I’m pulling out my top five takeaways from Content Marketing World. I hope to attend again next year – and meet up with you there!
All Marketing Is Content Marketing
Robert Rose took to the stage to deliver the Wednesday morning keynote and did not disappoint. He pointed out that attracting and building an audience is an intelligent business decision. After all, marketing is how we put things into a marketplace of ideas.
“Content marketing is modern marketing, evolved,” Robert said.
Side note (and an affiliate link): During his keynote, Robert introduced his new book, Content Marketing Strategy: Harness the Power of Your Brand’s Voice. I did snap up a copy at the bookstore (and even got it autographed, missing out on my chance to get an excellent seat for Elizabeth Banks’s keynote), and my review is forthcoming.
AI Is a Tool, Not the Solution
From CEOs to freelance content marketing writers, AI is lurking in the background. CEOs see it as a way to save money on content creation; content writers see it as a pale, ineffective replacement. At Content Marketing World, attendees had plenty of sessions to help them make sense of the AI landscape and a plethora of exhibitors to chat with. The big takeaway?
AI is not the solution to content creation needs. It’s a tool. When there are vendors specifically geared toward fact-checking and plagiarism for AI-generated content, you know AI isn’t going to replace human writers. But it will help them. I attended a session on humanizing AI-generated content, and Jeff Coyle of MarketMuse put AI into perspective. Before AI, a writer could spend up to 36 hours researching, planning, briefing, writing, editing, publishing, and optimizing a single piece of content. AI could bring that down to eight hours.
But (and there’s always a but): the steps can be improved with AI, and the writing process must be respected to optimize it. Jeff offered these steps for optimization:
- Inventory your process.
- Understand the stakes for skipping steps in the process.
- Lean into experts to add value and authority to content.
- Create company-wide workflows to facilitate responsible AI adoption and use.
In other words, use AI as a tool to make the content creation process flow more smoothly.
Story Map for the Buyer Journey
As a B2B technology content marketing writer, I’m no stranger to the buyer’s journey. But all too often, companies use the funnel model, squeezing their customers through the buying process in a way that doesn’t reflect how they actually search for and select solutions.
The “Story Mapping for the Buyer Journey” session tossed the funnel out the window, describing how marketers can align content with the sales process. This requires creating a compass by asking:
- Who is your content for?
- Why should they care?
- What do you want them to think, feel, and know?
The answers to these questions create the basis for a story map. You’ll want to dig deep into personas and adapt the story map accordingly, but it will serve as the center of gravity for your entire content marketing strategy. At every stage of the buyer journey, there is content to help them. Ideally, you’ll be able to work with sales and other organizational stakeholders so the content you create addresses their needs, and you’re helping them use it.
Not Everybody Can Write (But They Think They Can)
Microsoft Word has encouraged a lot of people to create content, and as B2B content marketers, we’re seeing the results. It’s not pretty. This session provided a way to empower content teams while still engaging stakeholders in the process – but keeping them out of the content creation business.
It’s an aggressive strategy, but it works, according to the presenters from GM Financial at Content Marketing World 2023. It involves:
- Building foundational documents, like tone and voice guides and copy decks.
- Organizing with business taxonomy and editorial guidelines.
- Planning with editorial planners and editorial calendars.
- Optimizing by reviewing and reporting on content performance.
- Empowering the marketing team by taking on undermanaged channels or improving less-than-stellar copy.
This was my favorite session, and for good reason. Guardrails like the ones GM Financial uses are great for in-house teams and serve as good guidelines when bringing on freelance content writers and content creators. It helps us see the bigger picture of what you’re trying to do with your B2B content marketing strategy. It ensures we can jump in as a valuable extension of your team.
Even Industrial B2B Marketing Can Be Fun
I’ve never thought B2B marketing was boring; it just differed from B2C. I love the logic of creating B2B content, from ensuring I have enough proof points in a white paper to backing up claims with specifications. But not all B2B content marketing has to appeal to the Vulcan side of buyers, as Heatcraft Refrigeration illustrated. They took a more emotional approach with some of their content, creating compelling, entertaining videos that educated their prospects and customers. For example, Heatcraft filmed a video to show how they’re a family company, using a Family Matters-themed song and font to highlight different families working for the company.
- Approached social media like a B2C company, posting on obscure holidays and highlighting their people and company culture. Only 20-25 percent of their posts focus on products. When they do post about products, they address customer pain points.
- Mirrored the B2C experience on their website, ensuring customers could find what they sought in three clicks or less.
- Leveraged niche influencers to reach their intended audience. Yes, there are B2B influencers, and it’s our job as B2B content marketing professionals to find them.
To sum it up, Content Marketing World 2023 once again proved to be a must-attend event. Robert Rose’s insights underscored the importance of content marketing in today’s business climate. Between vendors and speakers, we received clarity on AI’s role as an assistant, not a human replacement. The sessions I attended drove home the significance of understanding the actual buyer’s journey, setting guardrails and guidelines for content creation to maintain quality, and finding joy in B2B marketing. I boarded my plane back to Houston, ready to implement these and other ideas for my clients.
Are you interested in how I can leverage my Content Marketing World knowledge for your company? Contact me today for a no-obligation consultation.