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Recapping 2014 in Content Marketing

Chris Moody
Director, Content and Social Marketing

We all had to come out of the holiday haze just a few short weeks ago, so what better way than to start with a look back at 2014? Content marketing had a huge year! There were lots of content marketing specific events (led by Content Marketing World) and content is being talked about at every marketing event. 

If you need visual proof, check out the trend for searches involving content marketing below.

Search interest over time for the term: content marketing (Google)

google trends moody

It is also very apparent that we aren't thinking too much about content marketing during the US holidays (although we'd beg to differ at Oracle Marketing Cloud - #regiftmarketing). Personally, I traveled more to events and customer sites in 2014 than I ever have, roughly 85,000 miles worth. A couple of takeaways stood out and I was surprised at how effective a certain type of event was compared to traditional events. Walk with me.

Everyone is talking about content
Content's ears must be burning. Every. Single. Event. Content is King. Content is Queen. Homerun content. They're everywhere. There is likely a variation of buzzword Bingo specific to content by now. As practitioners, we've collectively realized that we need a massive amount of relevant content to be successful. There is no such thing as enough content. If you want a few tips on how to create more, check out this post -  5 Ways to Create More Content Today.

Marketing educators should rejoice as we're now talking about marketing personas, the need for a content marketing / editorial calendar and even the desire to have content marketing software to manage it all. History has shown us that few content teams are successful without a smart content marketing strategy - read: tied to business goals - and the process and tools to execute it.

Throw together a few slides talking about content marketing and Slideshare will love you and you'll get plenty of retweets. But, that leads me to the second observation.

Most *still* don't have an aligned content marketing strategy
If you thought the days of push and pray marketing were over, hold your horses! An annoyingly high number of marketing teams still don't have a content marketing strategy tying their content efforts and business goals. By annoyingly high, I'm able to count the documented strategies on two hands out of thousands of people I've talked with. No names will be named, but this is a terribly upsetting trend for us marketers.

Without a documented strategy, what do we have to fall back on? How do you present your content initiatives to your executive team? What are the business goals you're working towards? Note: these are different than content goals. Simply having a 2-3 page document with your measurable goals, objectives, expectations and relevant business goals you're driving will put you in a very high percentile of content marketers. At Oracle Marketing Cloud, our content strategy doc is four pages and ultimately answers why content, why Oracle Marketing Cloud, how we'll do it, how we'll measure it, and what we want people to say about our content. Short and sweet.

[caption id="attachment_13319" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Source: tartanmarketing.com Source: tartanmarketing.com[/caption]

Quality vs. Quantity is the most heated content topic
Every content event will feature a question about balancing quality versus quantity or which trumps the other. Most folks are really passionate about it too. If you're building a content marketing panel or some Q&A for an event, be sure to ask this question and get the marshmallows ready.

The most common first question is always, "Well how do you define quality?" You should never put out garbage content. The quality discussion isn't about posting something that is grammatically correct versus a "quick" post riddled with errors. We view quality akin to effort level. High quality includes the high effort pieces - polished ebooks, white papers, webinars, etc. Low effort is usually more user generated content - it may not be perfect, may need a little polish, but it is authentic.

When viewed in that light, quantity almost always trumps quality. User generated content is performing at an obscene rate for turning leads into customers. We want a trusted third party to share their story. A similar situation wins deals. Tell me about someone like me that solved my problem and then take my money. Does that mean you ignore high quality content, definitely not? You want a diversified portfolio to distribute relevant content to the right people at the right time in their journey. I talk about this in great detail whenever given the opportunity, but some of the information is contained in this Slideshare.

Content marketing is not rocket science
There are data scientists, product scientists, one social media scientist, but not a single content marketing scientist (whew). As of publication, this should be the only search result for "content marketing scientist" and hopefully that doesn't become a fluffy job title. One of the most frequent comments after panels and presentations was that much of what was talked about was common sense, but they never have the time to do it. Ding. Ding.

Many of us inherently know what type of content someone like us wants. We know what we engage with. What we consume. What we ignore. What we delete. Make content you would consume if you were the prospect. Don't just check a box.

A quick example I like to use is that marketers should talk to Sales and product content answering each question they frequently encounter. Make that a blog post. Bundle them as an ebook. Turn it into an internal Sales tool that can be customized. Common sense. But, most marketers get caught up in all the activities and lose sight of the overarching goals, what prospects want and what they should be measuring. Avoid activities based marketing by having a concise strategy to execute against with results and produce the content your customers want. If you're measuring content performance, this is rather easy to do. Find what works and make more of it.

An event example to follow: Modern Marketing Mashups
After several dozen events, I'm always curious to find out what is working. What drives the most awareness? What brings in more business? What furthers our business unit and content team goals? As any data driven marketer, we want to do less of what doesn't work and more of what does. ROCKET SCIENCE, RIGHT?!

The Field Marketing team and some other bright folks at Oracle Marketing Cloud partnered with several American Marketing Association Chapters and ran a series of Modern Marketing Mashup events in 2014 across the US and Canada. They were amazingly effective and something I think all marketers should take note of (and attend if able). Here's why I think it worked.

  • Attendance ranged from 40 to 100 people
  • It was a mix of customers, prospects, partners, practitioners, Oracle folks and a speaker or panel
  • Food and drink were provided as each was more of a social event than a marketing event
  • A significant amount of time was allotted to question and answer
  • Every event was in a unique place - an art museum, fancy nightclub set up for the event, swanky hotel, etc.


Modern Marketing Mashup Seattle at Aston Manor with Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing, Kevin Hoffberg of Russell Investments, Jeanne Jones of Alaska Airlines and Chris Moody of Oracle Marketing Cloud

A mega-event it was not. But, it worked. It was a crowd with questions and folks who were doing the work, using the products and solving the problems. They mingled and talked and got to know each other. Heck, I met lots of colleagues I had never met before and we've helped each other sense. But, most importantly, this was a unified front brought together to help customers and prospects. It was not salesy or promotional, but any question they had - prospect or customer - could be answered with the group in attendance. I plan to attend many more of these as it is more of a collaborative discussion around marketing than a one-way dialogue.

In summary, it was a smallish crowd of folks looking for answers and people with the experience of solving the problems for their organizations. A relevant crowd, a relevant topic, relevant speakers and food, drink and conversation to connect them all. More common sense, but it seems that many marketers are lacking that these days. I'm guilty of that too.

San Francisco area marketers, join us for the next Modern Marketing Mashup event, February 19 at The W Hotel!

Onwards and upwards
2015 will be another huge year for content marketing. Hopefully, we'll all have documented strategies that align with business goals and kick butt against the things we measure. Let's make it happen. Let me know if I can help! Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you want to chat.

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