4 Takeaways from the Answers Summit

This past week I presented at the Answers Summit, an industry event hosted by one of our strategic partners, Answers.com.

In addition to being one of the most visited websites in the world, Answers is building out a comprehensive suite of cloud-based tools that that can help brands sell their products and services across their channels and better engage with their customers while doing so.

Included in the Answers suite are Webcollage, a product-content syndication platform that has over 750 million impressions a year; ForeSee, a multichannel analytics tool that aggregates data from more than 130 million customer surveys; and Reseller Ratings, a retail ratings and reviews platform that hosts over 4.1 million customer reviews.

While much of the conference was devoted to the particulars of the Answers suite, the Summit attracted a wide array of industry leaders, companies, and organizations that shared insights into their content strategies. Below are my four takeaways from the conference.

1: “True but Useless” Should Be in Everyone’s Toolbelt

Chip Heath, who has authored several popular business books with his brother Dan, opened the event with a keynote titled “How to Lead a Switch.” Based on his latest book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Heath’s basic premise was that by learning a few insights into the nature of individual and organizational transformation, we can all become the masters of our own change.

One tool that I’ll definitely add to my belt is Heath’s concept of TBU, or “True but Useless”. It goes something like this: Because humans are generally hard-wired to focus on the negatives, we tend to look for data that highlights poor performance, inefficiencies, and so on. But while negative data may be true, it is often too overwhelming to take action on and is therefore useless to us as an agent of change.

A far more effective way to effect change is to seek out the data that points to what Heath calls bright spots expand on them. A powerful illustration of TBU can be found in Heath’s story of Jerry Sternin, an American who found great success in reducing malnutrition in millions of Vietnamese children by finding bright spots at the village level.

2: Good Content = Happier Customers

No matter how the presenters dressed it up, most of the data shared throughout the conference can be summed up in this basic equation: the better your content, the more engaged and happier your customers will be.

3M, Adobe, Microsoft, and Mattel were just a few of the dozens of organizations that shared metrics pointing to the value of good content. In his introductory remarks, Don Morrison, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Answers Cloud Services, shared analytics from Webcollage showing that in addition to increased conversion rates, enhanced content (video and text) increased customer satisfaction by double digits.

None of this was new to me, of course, but it was refreshing to be surrounded by a few hundred folks for a few days who understood the value of good content and who had the data to prove it.

3: Our Challenges to Selling Product Content Are Universal

In my presentation in the Content Publishing breakout session, I shared our company’s challenges in selling our content services to brands:

  • Lack of C-level buy-in
  • Poorly defined digital marketing infrastructure
  • Immature tools to measure ROI
  • Traditional outbound marketing paradigm

Advertising agencies have been selling traditional advertising and marketing content for years, but the value of building a strategy around product-detail content has not yet found widespread acceptance. Because much of the ROI data on product-detail content is full of noise, executives have not committed to building out the necessary teams or resources to drive the strategy. So selling our services can be a challenge.

In the roundtable discussions that followed my presentation, brands as wide ranging as Oakley and Xerox, Clorox and Mattel shared similar challenges. The tide is turning–the conference itself was a testament to the growing strategic importance of product content–but brands of all sizes continue to be hampered by a limit of human and financial resources to build out their content strategies.

Picture of Arizona desert from Answers Summit 2015

4: How to Live What You Preach

“If you don’t manage your relationships with your customers,” Answers V.P. Don Morrison warned the several hundred attendees during his keynote, “Your ratings will suffer.”

Don and the rest of his Answers team certainly lived what they preached throughout the three-day summit. Answers certainly took care of our creature comforts, and then some.

But what was most impressive was that the Answers staff were ubiquitous at each presentation, meal, and event, fully engaging with their clients. It was the ideal model of how to gain valuable insight from your customers while treating them like royalty.