Improve Your Content Marketing To Drive Performance

5 Content Marketing World 2015 Takeaways

Content Marketing World SignWhen it comes to content creation, marketers are on a treadmill creating ever more content to fill consumers’ voracious need for instantaneous information when, where and how they want it.

Let’s put that in context:


Your content and marketing messages are competing against communications from spouses, children, other family members, friends, work connections and kittens.

Guess who’s going to get the consumer’s attention?

Not your content!!!

Therefore you shouldn’t be surprised that only 38% of marketers believe their content marketing is effective according to Content Marketing Institute-MarketingProfs research2015 B2B Content Marketing Effectiveness -Chart

On the surface, it appears that the question is:

“How can I create content marketing that breaks through?”

Rather the key marketing challenge is:

“How can my content marketing actively build an audience that drives overall business performance?”

This is why Campbell’s Global Director, Digital Marketing & Innovation Umang Shah made the seemingly heretical statement: “Content marketing is just marketing.”

Regardless of your position or type of company, how you meet this challenge is crucial to your business’s future. This is why 3,500 marketers converged on Cleveland, Ohio, last week, for Content Marketing World 2015. (BTW, Content Marketing World 2014’s learnings still apply!)

Marriott’s David Beebe put this challenge into human terms: “Content marketing is like a first date: if you only talk about yourself, there won’t be a second one.”

5 Ways to improve your content marketing to drive performance

Content Marketing Cycle Chart- Heidi Cohen

1. Build your content marketing strategy

Want to improve your content marketing results? (Like I really have to ask???)

“The reason we’re not more effective with content marketing is because we’re not starting with the ‘why?’” Brain Traffic’s Kristina Halvorson empowered the Content Marketing World audience to ask why and to say no to those activities that aren’t strategically relevant.

Develop a content marketing mission statement. Here’s Michael Brenner’s Mad Lib version to get you on track. (Note: You have to fill in the words in brackets for your business.)

  • Become a destination for [target audience] interested in [topics] to help them [customer value] 

Understand your market. (Hat tip to Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina) Look at what other people are doing.

  • What already exists in my category and what’s their focus? This applies to your business and your content. Where is there a hole or opportunity that you can fill?
  • How does your business differ? If you can’t answer this question, your potential audience and customers can’t either.

Select your niche well. As a former media executive, Joe Pulizzi thought long and hard about how to position his organization. He chose the term “content marketing” over other existing keywords and included it in the name of his company. This has implications at every step of your content strategy, especially your search optimization.

Document your content marketing strategy. I know this sounds easy but it’s amazing how many marketers skip this step. It’s as if they believe what’s in their brain now will stay top of mind for the coming year.

  • Only 28% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, according to Content Marketing Institute-MarketingProfs research.

Know your customer. Your goal is to build your audience. Creating a marketing persona isn’t a “look busy” activity. Done well a marketing persona and social media persona provide insights into your potential audience and customers so that you can create content that resonates with them and answers their questions.

2. Create content your audience craves

The goal of content marketing is to answer all of your buyer’s questions to remove all of her objections to purchase. This includes relevant influencers and users as well.

Velocity’s Doug Kessler stated it well, “We should care more about our prospect’s long term success rather than long term revenue.”

Be a storyteller. As the Heath brothers point out in Made To Stick, people remember stories. Memorable content is a story that’s free of promotion.

“Nurture your creativity” proclaimed John Cleese. Find time to let yourself be creative. Jot down your ideas and let them percolate while you’re doing other things.

Robert Rose on Instagram_ “So.... Um Yeah - this just happened... Casual chat in front 3,500 people at #CMWorld....humbled and giddy #achievementunlocked”-1

Write more. The best way I know to improve your content creation is to continually practice your art. Also read and study Ann Handley’s book Everybody Writes.

3. Optimize your content

Top Rank’s Lee Odden said it best, “Content isn’t great until people can actually find it.”

To this end, optimize your content by platform (including relevant social media networks) and for keyword searches.

Select your keyword terms. Spin Sucks’ Gini Dietrich talked about using mind maps to plot your keyword terms. Gini Dietrich Keyword Mind Map-1

Focus on your key platform. Don’t be everywhere was a common theme of Content Marketing World 2015. This applied to your primary publishing platform as well as social media. Brian Clark advised, “Pick your one platform first.”

Don’t underestimate the human connection audio content makes with your audience. One attendee told me that he finds it easier to consume audio content than text. Audio content fills otherwise content-free time!!!

Refresh your existing content on a continual basis. Otherwise, it’s out-of-date and out-of-mind. This is an easy way to overcome the “too much content” and “irrelevant content” traps. Your goal is to keep your content current and attracting attention.

Re-envision your content by social media platform. On social media, one size doesn’t fit all.

4. Distribute your content

Without effective distribution, your investment in content creation is wasted. This is at the core of Social Triggers’s Derek Halpern’s 80-20 rule of content marketing. (BTW, here’s a content marketing distribution list.) 

Use all of your owned media to promote your content. Don’t underestimate your existing customer touch points. 

Focus your social media activity. The common theme during my Social Media Track at Content Marketing World was be selective where you distribute your content. Get your employees involved in content distribution. 

Get influencers involved. Co-create with your audience’s influencers and they’ll be happy to help you share the content. Hey—it makes them look good. Take a page from RazorSocial’s Ian Cleary’s playbook: 123 Content Marketing Tools.

Re-promote your content across platforms (BTW—This link gives you 50 easy-to-implement ideas.) Avoid the once and done content syndrome. You’re not alone: 75% of marketers use a piece of content ONLY one time according to Kapost researchContent Marketing Reuse Chart

5. Measure your content marketing results

Your strategic goals should define your metrics. The more specific your business and marketing objectives are, the easier it is to track your progress.

This isn’t easy since only 21% of B2B marketers successfully track their content marketing ROI according to Content Marketing Institute-MarketingProfs 2015 B2B Content Marketing research.

B2B Marketers Measuring ROI -2015 B2B content marketing trends-Chart

Get the tools you need to measure your results in place before you start your content marketing. If not, you’re headed for failure.

Measure your progress against your past performance to assess real progress.

Content Marketing Strategist Rebecca Lieb defined a 6 key metric content marketing ROI framework.

  • Brand Health creates content to make your brand stand out. It helps stimulate increased interest in and positive consumer behavior around your brand.
  • Brand Innovation contributes to organizational objectives by soliciting ideas, engagement and/or user generated content (UGC).
  • Customer Experience encompasses improved popularity and mitigated potential issues.
  • Marketing Optimization improves your marketing efforts to make them better.
  • Operational Efficiency reduces costs and risks by extending content reuse and employee participation. (Note: It’s generally easier to increase sales than to reduce costs.)
  • Revenue Generation encompasses sales and related factors such as reduced time to purchase and subscriptions (email list).

Done well content marketing touches many aspects of your organization.

Your Marketing metrics should take this into consideration to prove the true value of your content marketing investment.

If you’ve got a smaller business and don’t have the headcount or resources to establish the content metrics framework Lieb recommends, Joe Pulizzi recommends subscription growth since it enables you to track the size of your audience and defines your revenue potential. (Check out Pulizzi’s latest book, Content Inc.)


Are you matching your content marketing results to your overall business results? If not, you won’t improve your content marketing to drive performance.

Your challenge is to take Jay Baer’s Content Marketing World words to heart:

Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer. … It requires people who care, who love content, and what it can do for people. Not just what it can do for revenue, but rather how it helps people live their lives.”

How you can get your moment of Content Marketing Stardom

Please contribute to our mega post-Content Marketing World content by answering these one or both of these questions by Monday, September 21st. (Note: The Social Media Track attendees were invited to join as well.)

Email your answers to:

  1. Why is social media critical to content marketing?
  2. What is your favorite piece of contextually relevant social media content? Please explain why?

Include your name, company and Twitter handle! 

BTW: Last year’s post based on contributions from my Content Marketing World presentation attendees, How To Curate Content Like A Pro (8 Examples) appeared on CMI where it was one of the top performing posts of the quarter! To-date, it’s garnered 3+K social media shares and 15+k pageviews—How’s that for visibility?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

P.S. I’m in this Skyword video of the opening night party at about 54 seconds.

Photo Credit: Heidi Cohen; Instagram via Robert Rose 

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