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#CMWorld 2016: Content Is No Longer King. So Who Is?

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Artboard_1_copy.jpgContent is not king — the customer is. If there was one golden nugget of advice that I mined from Content Marketing World 2016, it was this.

Unfortunately, I can’t take all the credit. I paraphrased Chad Pollitt, marketing professor and co-founder of Relevance, a digital marketing magazine.

But Pollitt wasn’t the only speaker who emphasized this point. Lars Silberbauer of LEGO, Rick Wion of Kellogg’s, Marcus Sheridan, aka The Sales Lion, best-selling author and consultant, Jay Baer, and Content Marketing Institute founder, Joe Pulizzi, all orated on the power of the customer and ways content marketers can leverage their audience.

Key Themes From Content Marketing World

Content is about community, customer service and transparency. It’s about engaging the customer, catering to the customer and getting the customer to trust us.

Customers are the heart of our content. They are the reason we create content.

“People should be at the center stage, NOT the brand,” Silberbauer, LEGO's Global Senior Director of Social Media & Video, asserted to 3,500 marketers during the opening keynote.

Mari Smith, Facebook's designated "Small Business and Facebook Marketing Expert,” discussed the future of Facebook video, encouraging marketers to publish content your audience feels “compelled to share.”


As I soaked up the wisdom of these marketing Jedis, I couldn’t help but think about StoryBrand, the storytelling process developed by Don Miller.

In essence, StoryBrand preaches the brand should not be the “hero” of the story, but rather the “guide.” The customer is actually the hero and the brand is just here to solve their problem.

Bank of America’s John Von Brachel said in the first day’s closing keynote that “Storytelling is basically an art. You have a beginning and you have an end. You have to think about characters. You have to think about empathy…”

StoryBrand stresses the same concept. Before building a strategy, we must first come to know our audience and create a strategy around what our audience’s needs are. In his book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey states that “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

It’s a pretty simple concept, but so many of us have completely overlooked it. Instead, we’ve touted our expertise, flaunted our authority and bragged about how amazing our products and services are.

Well, the customer doesn't care about that. As Sheridan pontificated, “The only thing customers care about is if they trust you… If you don’t generate trust with the lead, it doesn’t matter.”

Eighty percent of businesses say they deliver exceptional customer service, but only 8 percent of their customer agree. When Baer disclosed those stats, I stopped Snapchatting his speech and really started listening.

Baer said, “Current customers are the petri dish for great content.” The problem with marketers is we don’t understand our customers as well as we think we do. But if we took the time to intently listen to their problems, their fears and their needs, we could create amazing content the customer actually wants.

“Haters are not your problem. Ignoring them is,” Baer declared. He encouraged the audience to hug our haters, and turn those hugs into killer content.

The Content Marketing Struggle Is Real

Many marketers are trapped in “content marketing purgatory,” as Pulizzi dubbed it. We’re making all this content and distributing it, but we aren’t fully committed — to the message or to the customer.

“Mediocre content will hurt your brand more than doing nothing at all,” he said.

Before attending Content Marketing World, I thought the content I produced was more than mediocre, but now I’m not so sure. Have I been focusing more on quantity than quality? Have I forgotten why I was creating content? Have I been neglecting the customer and instead focusing on our own brand?

I plead the fifth.

handley-collage.jpgBut there is no “magic feather” for writing or even marketing, as Ann Handley, the CCO of MarketingProfs and author of "Everybody Writes" quipped during her session.

Handley is a perfect example of a marketer who listened to her audience.

A week before Content Marketing World, Handley emailed attendees who had registered for her session, asking us what questions we wanted answered. Brilliant idea and yet so simple.

She admitted we created the content for her. She based her session around our questions and our frustrations as writers. She gave us what we wanted. And as marketers, shouldn’t we do the same for all of our customers?

How do we find out what our customers want? Do exactly what Handley did — ask! Send out a survey, give your customers a call, interact with your followers on social media, request reviews, set up a chat platform on your website, but most importantly, answer their questions. Never ignore them.

To further affirm prioritizing the customer, less than a week after I returned from CMWorld, I attended the Denver HubSpot User Group (HUG).

Guess what the topic was? Customer delight!

According to a recent survey, ⅓ of respondents claimed they would rather CLEAN A TOILET than speak with customer service. What does that tell you about how we treat customers?

We should treat customers like people — not numbers. Not only will this earn brand trust and loyalty, but our customers will also provide us with content ideas.


Guest speaker Mark Kilens, Leader of HubSpot Academy, served up this crazy idea: that companies should interview their customers monthly — better yet, weekly — and that we should continue to update our buyer personas. Soul-crushing? Yes. Necessary? Also, yes.

This is a call to arms! It’s time for us, as marketers, to listen to our customers. Acknowledge, explore and solve their problems.

So I challenge you, and myself, to position our customer as the hero of the story — not our brand. As Miller says, “Be Haymitch, not Katniss.”

And by solving your customer's’ problems, you'll actually turn out to be the hero. But you don’t have to tell them that.

What did you take away from Content Marketing World? Share with us in the comments section!


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