6 Takeaways from the Content Marketing Retreat

On May 8th, content26’s director of marketing and marketing writer made the trek north to Whidbey Island to attend the Content Marketing Retreat at the Langley Center for New Media. We were delighted to find that the amount of information presented was staggering: insightful presenters, smart attendees, and abundant food for thought. Since odds are you didn’t make it, gentle reader, here are a few key takeaways from our day on Whidbey.

Takeaway 1: Community first, virality second.

The keynote was by Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, and it was a welcome, vivid reminder that content marketing success is more than a matter of creating content and establishing a good governance plan. The key element so often omitted? Time. When you’re creating your content plan, it’s important to set your expectations accordingly, because it’s never as simple as content = click = money.

What also helps? Psychologically and emotionally appealing to people, of course. But content rarely goes viral without an existing community. Shore up your community, and you’re that much closer to getting your content to your targets.

Takeaway 2: Goals let you measure success, but they also help you define success.

In Best Practices in Measuring Content Marketing Results, Martin van der Roest of Cadence9 reviewed the results from a recent survey of content marketers. The most important lesson: measure your content. Measure your everything. And document what you’re doing and what you hope to achieve. Why?

Because 86% of people who believe they’re good or excellent have a written content strategy. Because measurement helps guide success, but it also lets people know what success actually is.

What does this mean to you? Diversify your channels, publish frequently, and collect metrics regularly. The more active you are and the more data you collect, the easier it will be to take corrective action if something isn’t achieving the results you want.

Takeaway 3: Sell the why, not the what.

In Content Strategy: Data-Driven and Purpose-Focused, Russell Sparkman of FusionSpark Media stated:

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

Here at content26, we’re evangelists of the feature/benefit model. Sparkman put an interesting new spin on it that we’ll be thinking about for some time.

Takeaway 4: Be sure you’re measuring the right things before you act on your data.

In The Six Magic Metrics of Content Marketing, Jon Wuebben of Content Launch (and author of Content Is Currency) got granular, examining the six ways you should measure your content marketing. (Consumption, sharing, lead generation, sales, thought leadership, and loyalty. But the presentation went much deeper than that.)

One fascinating graphic in his presentation was a graph charting the types of content with the best ROI. In descending order, they are: featured articles, video, white papers, photos, interactive media, sales copy, infographics, buyers’ guides, and illustrations.

The effect of your content isn’t always easy to measure. But with these separate, overlapping metrics, you can create a pretty accurate picture of how effective your efforts really are.

Takeaway 5: Don’t discount word of mouth. Ever.

Word of mouth marketingNeil Beam, director of client relations for MotiveQuest, explained word-of-mouth marketing and how one might measure it. Key stat: 90% of recommendations that lead to consumer action happen offline. So while social sharing and views and all of the other usual metrics are important, of course, never think we’ve moved past word of mouth. So long as we have mouths, we’ll be using them to rant or rave about the things in our lives.

After lunch, Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, dropped an incredibly dense list of marketing tools that we’re still racing to catch up with. He recommends an app each week here, and it is a page well worth following.

Takeaway 6: Communicate, communicate, communicate, with your targets and your team.

Pamela Muldoon of Next Stage Media Group discussed podcast and video metrics and made some great points about repurposing your content and always making it as available as possible. Basically, if you don’t add a transcript to every infographic, podcast, webinar, and video, you are a sucker of the highest order.

The afternoon session concluded with Thad Kahlow, CEO of BusinessOnline, who discussed How to Calculate Content ROI. He declared, “Data is the introduction, enabler, and insight of customer relationships (the biggest asset).” He also hammered at the point that the loop between sales and marketing needs to be closed: sales teams need to report to marketing about what happened to the leads that they received, which helps marketing understand their best and worst lead sources. Companies that do this increase their revenue by 15% to 18%, according to Tina Moffett and Forrester Research.

Content Marketing Q&A Favorites

After the morning and afternoon sessions, the speakers gathered for a Q&A. Some choice quotes:

“Competitive analysis may not show you’re the best, but it will usually show you’re not the worst, and that’s valuable too.”

“Try to reach the sources your customers read, rather than the customers themselves. Influence their influencers.”

“You’re trying to sell the hole, not the drill.”

“If sales and marketing tell different stories, at best you’re creating friction. At worst, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.”

More panels, please. It’s always a joy to watch smart, experienced people perch uncomfortably on stools and riff off each other.

Was this a bit overwhelming to read? Imagine the eyes of the people in that theater on Whidbey Island after several hours of content marketing revelations. This was the fourth annual Content Marketing Retreat, but only the first one content26 attended. With the volume and depth of information packed into a day, the drive north is more than worth it. We hope to see you there next year!