24 Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2016 You Should Care About

The 2016 Content Marketing World Conference attracted over 4,000 marketers and more than 550 companies to Cleveland last week. The purpose: campaign for content marketing. The theme: Star Wars. The outcome: endless inspiration. Our Content Director Jake Kaufman discusses 24 takeaways he got from CMWorld 2016.


Last week, 4,000+ marketers descended upon Cleveland (aka, Championship City) for Content Marketing World 2016.

Household brands like Lego, Kelloggs, REI, KeyBank, Deloitte, and Visa presented their content marketing philosophies, strategies, and challenges. Power speakers Andy Crestodina, Jay Baer, Ann Handley, Robert Rose, Rand Fishkin, Tim Ash, Mitch Joel, Joe Pulizzi and others dawned stages across the convention center to evangelize content.

And, Luke Skywalker (aka, Mark Hamill) made an appearance, and Cheap Trick played a free concert. Yes, that Cheap Trick.

Admittedly, I’m not much of a conference guy. But this year’s CMWorld offered some valuable nuggets that every business and brand should take into account.

Here are my top 24.

1. 4,000+ attendees from more than 550 companies. The sheer size of the event was a blazing light on the truth that everyone’s investing in content—yet, only 20% of content marketers say that they are fully committed to their content marketing approach.

2. Only half of organizations align content to buyers’ pain points and challenges. This underscores the importance of buyer personas + user journeys working together. It’s not just about a fictional representation of your customer. It’s about understanding the questions that persona type has, the path that persona type takes to find answers to those questions, and the “moments” that influence their decision-making.

3. Content ROI is not an overnight sensation. (@randfish) Content is not a quick-win. It’s a long, slow, profitable game. Strategic content—the kind of content that earns share of voice, links, and rankings—requires time and resources to make.

Instead of asking, “How much will this cost?” about content, you should be asking,

“What am I willing to invest now to continue to drive traffic years in the future?”


4. Closely related to the above, “content is an asset, not a cost.” (@shafqatislam) When done well, content continues to drive traffic, capture leads, generate revenue, and influence buying decisions years into the future. And there are certain intangible benefits to that type of content—such as positive brand equity and increased share of voice in the market.

5. There’s a difference between creating marketing collateral and content marketing. (@JoePulizzi) True content marketing is creating and sharing value-add content that builds community around your brand. Yet, many businesses continue to mistake collateral creation for content marketing.

6. Great content is about people, not products. (@larssilberbauer) Determine what your audience and followers crave and want, and build relationships around those things. Don’t build relationships around your products—build them around what your products stand for. (for example, Lego built a community around creativity, not plastic blocks).

7. Focus your content on topics, not keywords. (@crestodina) Don’t just target the phrase, target the topic. (i.e., website footer design — but include all kinds of keywords/ideas within that topic. i.e., footer examples, inspiration, copy, and text becomes 27 things to put in your website footer)

8. There’s 35% more content out there, but 17% less engagement on content. (@ardath421) That means the rise in publishing has produced content that lacks guts and substance. Creating more content with less engagement is not a winning proposition. It’s not a sustainable model. Presenter: Ardith Albee

9. 76% of buyers say compelling thought leadership influences their purchase decisions. (@ardath421) What buyers want from thought leadership: ideas that go beyond their thinking, to identify new business opportunities, to address existing business problems—content that is innovative, big picture, transformative, and credible.

10. Every content strategy should include a promotion plan. (@randfish) The days of publishing and walking away are over. Before you create content, ask “will anyone share this?” If no, move on to the next thing because you’re just creating digital collateral. Credit: Rand Fishkin 

11. Content is more strategic media than direct advertisement. (@Robert_Rose) It’s not about creating a series of marketing collateral. It’s about creating owned media that people want to subscribe to. Brands should create differentiated thought leadership that creates the customers of tomorrow.

12. Content should be a strategic function of the business, not a department. (@jlansky) Buy-in and involvement will determine the success of your content marketing efforts. When everyone realizes they have a role to play in content, both the business and consumer win.

13. The mission of content is not to enable sales—it’s to empower people. It cannot be overstated: content that wins is content that adds value, not content that makes a proposition.

14. Content marketers are not publishers. (@shafqatislam) Publishers only want eyeballs on content—people to read their story. Content Marketers want business actions—people to engage with content, align themselves with the brand, exhibit buying behaviors, and come back to buy again.

15. Stop asking “what.” Start asking “why.” (@michaeljr) The what is what you make, the talent you have, or the resources at your disposal. The why is your mission and purpose. Before you ever determine what to create, ask why it’s imperative that you create it. Fill your content with mission and purpose, not jargon and marketing hype.

16. The content journey is the customer journey. (@shafqatislam) On average, people engage with 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase. Assess your content—do you have the right content at the right stages to inspire the actions you want your prospects to take? To determine, pull your metrics and ask, “If a lead engages with our content, are they more or less likely to take a meeting with us? To request a proposal?”

17. Every campaign must have a single storyline. Brands often lose consistency in their content campaigns when they favor production over meaning. Each campaign should have a single story line (the main takeaway), and every piece of content created within the campaign should tie back into that storyline — furthering it or enhancing it.

18. Content isn’t about ranking, it’s about solving. (@jkaufman13) Stop focusing on creating content that will rank, and instead, focus on creating content that answers questions 50x better than your competitors.

19. The business case to build is not what to start doing…but, what we should STOP doing. (@Robert_Rose) The majority of enterprise content targets multiple audiences, is inconsistent, and lacks interesting differentiation.

20. Content optimized for search includes keywords. Content optimized for sharing includes people. (@crestodina) If you want people to talk about your content and share it, the best way is to get them involved in creating it. Supercharge links to your content by reaching out to influencers, mavens, and experts on your topic, and ask for their quote or advice. If you’re not making friends, you’re doing it wrong.

21. There’s a compounding effect of content. (@shafqatislam) The more we publish, the greater ROI we get. The number of articles published in a month correlates to the traffic and conversions generated over the long term. Side note: we’ve seen this proven in our own blog strategy at Adept.

22. Content marketing is a test of generosity. Who gives away the most wins. (@crestodina)

23. Creating content for customers is as important as creating content for non-customers. (@shafqatislam) 50% of companies lose a customer within 5 years. Are you creating content that is tailored to your customer’s needs? Do you know the % of your clients who are reading and engaging with your content?

24. Content marketing requires courage, commitment, and strategy. (@JoePulizzi) In the publishing age, where content saturates search results and websites, being different is crucial. And being different requires courage and commitment. Create a strategy to position your brand differently in the market, provide helpful, valuable content, and drive opinions and insights.

Yes, it bugs me that this list ends at 24 rather than 25 takeaways. But I’m learning to let go of my OCD and not create content for the sake of hitting a number.

Image source: Content Marketing Institute