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Feeling for the Elephant: 4 Lessons from the Content Marketing Summit

You know the story. A number of blind men each have the opportunity to inspect an elephant. The one touching the elephant's trunk is certain that the elephant is like a snake. The one who feels the animal's leg knows for sure that an elephant is like a tree. To get the full idea of an elephant you'd have to combine all of the blind descriptions into one, big, woolly whole.

If content is the elephant, then we marketers are the blind men trying to describe it. To some, content feels like a PR campaign. To others, content is a slickly designed landing page. The recent Content Marketing Summit, held this week in Newton, MA and sponsored by web technologists, ten24 Web Solutions, attempted to combine the perspectives of five top content marketers to give attendees a holistic view of what content marketing can bring to the B2B sales and marketing process.

Myles Bristowe of CommCreative kicked off the morning. For Bristowe, it's all about ensuring the right content gets to the right person at the right time on the right channel. To achieve this nirvana, marketers need to monitor relevant keywords. By actively listening to the chatter around these terms you learn what content is popular, where the content is being created and/or shared, and who has the largest sphere of influence (based on frequency, friends and followers). Once you understand the audience you can begin creating and syndicating relevant content. From there it's on to website conversion, email nurturing (thanks for the Eloqua callout!), and the eventual sale. Whew! He packed a lot into 30 minutes.

Soren Ryherd from Working Planet Marketing Group has never met a metric that he didn't like. He's a marketing mad scientist, but with a background in statistical analysis, he's allowed to be a geek. For Ryherd, the content elephant looks like an A/B test.

Ryherd hit a chord with the attendees when he spoke about "cross-channel conversions", which calls to mind switching from HBO to Showtime, but actually means when you see a lift in traffic and conversions on one online channel as a result of an event on another channel.

So, let's say you run a new display ad campaign on a set of websites. Most marketers would measure the success of the campaign solely on click-throughs and conversions that come directly from those ads. But display ads will also drive a spike in other channels, particularly a lift in brand keyword searches on Google or Bing, and in visits to the company website. Marketers need to be able to measure these "cross-channel" visits and conversions, attributing the resulting revenue to the display ad campaign. A powerful concept!

After the break, we heard from Tim Hurley of ThinkMedia PARTNERS. His is a media-centric view of the content elephant. After assuring us that traditional media is not dead, he demonstrated that vendor content has become a new and trusted source of information for B2B purchasers, essentially taking over some of the share of voice formerly owned by trade journals. Who's the best content marketer these days? Charlie Sheen, duh! Hurley also offered 3 other case studies of #winning content marketing campaigns,which you can find here.

The final presenters were Brad Gustavesen, Vice President and Anna Barcelos, Director of Client Solutions by our hosts ten24 Web Solutions. They focused on best practices in design and content for email communications. I was a bit surprised to be hearing about email design at a content marketing conference, but I decided that for them the content elephant looks like an email message! Three quick takeaways from their talk:

1) B2B marketers should be closely watching B2C email tactics.

2) Don't get too hung up on making pretty buttons or headings for your emails - most people won't see them.

3) Don't waste landing page real estate on "Forward to a Friend". Nobody uses that feature anymore. They use "share to social" instead.

Thanks to ten24 for a great event--the only thing I would like to see in future would be a couple real, actual, red-blooded B2B marketers standing up there with their agencies. It would help to make the event more relevant to attendees.

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