Monday, March 6, 2017

How to Make Your Business Come "Alive" Like KISS

Kiss Alive Album Cover

For the first time, Taking It Back is featuring a guest blogger! I'm excited to share this post by Josh Womack. He came to me with a great idea for a post that I wish I would have come up with. Enjoy! 

They’re one of rock’s most recognizable faces. With black and white kabuki makeup and a lengthy tongue, KISS has survived for four decades – but not without struggles.

KISS launched their careers before the age of social media. They earned fans with blood (literally), sweat, tears and a whole bunch of pyro. They put out albums, toured and then did it all over again.

The obstacles were plenty – critics dismissed them, club owners didn’t understand them and initially, album sales were lax. Finally, they came "Alive."

A band is like a small business. You learn as you go. And if you listen to your customers, you can learn AND grow.

Various members and musical trends have knocked them down, but KISS always gets back up. And with seven-inch boots, they continue to stand tall.

You can stand tall, too. As a business owner, entrepreneur or marketer, KISS’ story should remind you that grit, consistency and reevaluating your strategy can take you to great heights.

Be like KISS and get your business to rock and roll all night and profit every day.

Consistent Content

Kiss Debut Album cover
KISS put out their self-titled debut album on February 18, 1974. Despite TV appearances on ABC’s In Concert and The Mike Douglas Show, the album didn’t take off. So, KISS poured everything they had into their live shows – no matter if it was for 300 or 3,000 people. They marched through the Midwest, breathing fire, spitting blood and giving live performances to which fans couldn’t wait to tell their friends and family about.

How does this relate to you, the entrepreneur? Like KISS, it’s important that you pour everything into your product and customer experience. For the band, it was the notion that the crowd got more than their money’s worth. Your "live" experience for the customer is a combination of a good product with even greater service. You want the message, and your brand awareness, to spread.

With KISS’ self-titled debut selling poorly, their label, Casablanca Records, urged the band to get back into the studio quickly. The label wanted a Top 40 hit that would break the band into the mainstream.

Kiss Hotter Than Hell Album cover
KISS’ released their second album, Hotter Than Hell, on October 22nd, just eight months after their debut effort. The only single from the record, “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll” failed to chart. Sales were lackluster, but a new album meant a new tour – and most importantly, new fans. 

KISS soon realized their live shows were special. That’s where the connection was made. The crowd reactions fueled their desire not to give up.

When you’re building your following or fan base, look for trends. What creates a positive customer reaction? Is there an emotional connection they’re having to what you’re selling or how you’re interacting with them?

Third time’s a charm?

Kiss Dressed to Kill Album cover
With the band’s label nearing bankruptcy, KISS put out their third album in just 13 months! Dressed To Kill was released on March 19, 1975 and featured the band dressed in suits going for a classy, but crazy look. More importantly, the album featured what would eventually become their signature anthem: “Rock and Roll All Nite”.

Dressed To Kill did slightly better than Hotter Than Hell, but still not the big break the band or label needed. Did they pack it in and go home? No, of course not. They did what they do best – got back on the road to build their following.

At this point it’s important to recognize what you do well – and better than everyone else. Play to your strengths. For KISS’ it was touring. They put all their energy into the live experience. For you it may be blogging, email newsletters or any other form of engaging content your fans or customers find helpful and relevant.

It’s Alive!

Kiss Live in 1975

Think of it as a rock and roll Hail Mary! Knowing that KISS was connecting with the now popular KISS Army, Casablanca had an idea: What if we gave the ‘live’ experience to KISS fans in the palm of their hands?

The label knew there were a ton of fans at the shows, but not the album sales to match. A live album could be the bridge to bring the band closer to the faithful KISS Army.

To capture the ‘live’ feeling, the band recorded three shows between May and July of 1975. They were smart enough to pick crowds that had been the most loyal as well: Cleveland, Wildwood (NJ) and Detroit – which would later inspire one of their most popular songs, Detroit Rock City.

Alive! was released on September 10, 1975 and took off like the freight train that was a KISS concert. The grittiness of the sound and the crowd noise are what fans wanted all along.

The album landed KISS their first Top 40 hit, and their now-signature anthem and concert closer. A live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite”.

The album went gold, then platinum, then double platinum, then triple platinum! The rest is rock and roll history.

Keep ‘touring’

KISS knew touring was key and in the years before social media, there was no substitute for getting in front of people.

Find out what your version of ‘touring’ is. It could be a presence at a quarterly trade show or attending one networking event a month.

In building Laugh Staff, my touring consisted of pitching journalists on story angles, guest blogging to build our SEO, and of course, writing funny speeches that people would love – and tell their friends about.

It all adds up. KISS did a cover of the band Argent’s song "God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II" and one of the verses sums it up perfectly.

“If you wanna be a singer or play guitar/Man, you gotta sweat or you won’t get far/ Cause it’s never too late to work nine-to-five."

Josh Womack is the head writer for Laugh Staff, where he writes hilarious wedding speeches. He’s also a copywriter for Progressive Insurance and a card-carrying member of the KISS Army

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day Content Marketing Hits and Misses

Valentine's Day Content Marketing Hits and Misses

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, many brands try to play the role of Cupid. But, instead of arrows, they create Valentine’s Day-themed content to pierce the hearts of prospective lovers…I mean, customers. Unfortunately, also like Cupid’s arrows, they sometimes miss their mark.

When a brand’s content hits it target, we fall in love with the brand. When it misses, we dismiss the content or, worse yet, turn on the brand and dislike it. The following are the best content hits and misses meant to celebrate the day of love.

The Hits #SoThisIsLove

Disney #SoThisIsLove

Imagine being a Disney fanatic and being able to work for the company you love! That’s what happened for many of Disney’s employees. With its #SoThisIsLove promotion, Disney showcases four employees. They share stories of their love for specific aspects of Disney:

The stories interesting, and Disney ties them back to relevant products we can buy. No company does merchandising better than Disney, and this is another example.

Pokemon Go Valentine’s Day Event

The Pokemon Go craze has long since fizzled, but there are still plenty of die-hard players. Their Valentine’s Day event offers features that excite them to chase the characters. Special “pink” Pokemon are available and even reward players with double candy. Plus, the lures are available for six hours. Lure modules increase the number of Pokemon available for capture at a Pokestop.

As the Forbes article says, this event won’t bring in many new players, but will be popular with current users.

The Miss

Hallmark Valentine’s Day Ideas

Hallmark got it wrong. I repeat: Hallmark got it wrong. How can that be with a holiday that is tailor-made for them? Actually, in several ways. The biggest reason is their Valentine’s Day page is focused too much on selling. You’ll scroll through six categories before you find non-sales related content.

When you finally get to some useful Valentine’s Day content, their blog post setup is odd. They have an intro, then the share buttons with a weak CTA. Then, they offer the heart of the blog post, but it’s easy to miss. The topics are good, but the results are inconsistent:
  • Love Quotes: This section works well with 15 love quotes that could be from their cards. It’s not clear if they are, but I’d guess so.
  • Kids Valentine’s Day Party Games: Another nice post with 14 games and puzzles to download.
  • Love Letter Tips: This was a huge letdown. Maybe I’m just used to expert writing advice from the likes of Ann Handley, but these tips will get you nowhere.

To top off this miss of a page, Hallmark puts what should have been the intro section at the very bottom of the page. Just an odd way to try to work content into their promotion.

Burger King Adults Meal

Burger King Israel is going there. Yep. Don't let the kids see this one. Just for Valentine's Day, they're offering an Adults Meal. It comes with two Whoppers (insert your own joke here), two orders of French fries, two beers (fitting), and...a romantic ADULT TOY! Because nothing says love and romance like getting an adult toy from Burger King included with your Valentine's Day dinner. Again, from Burger King. When you care enough to give the very best. Oh, but you can only get after 6pm.

BONUS: The Truly Strange

Netflix’s Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

I don’t know where Cupid’s arrow was aiming or where it hit for this one. Michael Bolton plays himself in this Netflix comedy. I can’t do a description justice. You need to watch the trailer below and draw your own conclusions. I’ll be honest…I kind of want to check it out.

What do you think of the content above? Do you have other examples? Share them in the comments below. We’d all love to hear them. Thanks for reading and if you like this post, please share it.   

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Will Donald Trump Be the Death of Facebook?

This isn’t a political post, nor is it a “Facebook is dead” post. Rather, it’s an observation of my Facebook feed over the last few weeks. I’m guessing your feed has been similar and that you sure some of my thoughts:

As voting day approached last November, most of us were ready for the election to be over. Political Facebook posts inundated us trying to persuade everyone to one side or the other. We put up with them during the election…and the TV ads, the postcards and mailers and the phone calls. We could see the end coming as the election passed. But, then Donald Trump won. The ads, postcards and calls stopped. But the Facebook posts haven’t. They keep coming.

People post everything Trump does. And they include commentary, opinions, complaints and snarky remarks. And those are followed by more replies and arguments. Users are getting overwhelmed which is not good for Facebook.

Facebook As a News Source

Some of this is their own doing. Mark Zuckerberg made a concerted effort to make Facebook a place for users to search for news and comment on it. Zuckerberg wanted to move the conversations from Twitter to Facebook. What we’re finding out is that most users don’t go to Facebook for that purpose.

Most people prefer to use Facebook to get news about their family and friends, not politics. And, definitely not for political arguments. With all the posts about Trump and everyone’s opinions about them, people are starting to get fed up.

What Can You Do About It?

Many users are starting to unfollow people that make too many political posts. This has two downsides. First, as Mark Schaefer point out in his Facebook post, it cuts off visibility into dissenting opinions (and in some cases, actual facts!). Mark Schaeffer raised this point through a Facebook post. After the unfriending, everyone we’re connected to will be just like us. Without exposure to other viewpoints, this will go farther in dividing people.

The second problem is that people will miss out on non-political posts they may want to see. Most people don’t only post political comments. It’s usually mixed in with other posts that their friends enjoy. By unfriending them, they won’t get to see those.

I’m guessing there are quite a few of us who are too lazy to go to the trouble of unfriending people. Yes, I’m including myself in this group. For us, there’s a Google Chrome plug-in available that blocks political posts. Some people are cutting way back on their Facebook usage or leaving it altogether.

What Happens Next?

What effect will this have on Facebook’s long term viability? Probably not much. Things will start to normalize. But, I have seen reactions I don’t think I’ve ever seen by Facebook users in such a prolonged and growing way. That open up some opportunities for other platforms.
Some new players could enter the mix. We could see a social media start-up with a focus on political commentary only. This would offer an outlet for those that want give their opinions.

Current social media platforms could promote their lack of political and negative postings. Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Snapchat are two platforms that come to mind. Their focus on photos and videos don’t lend themselves as well to political commentary. I’m not saying there isn’t any, but I don’t notice it often.

Facebook should be paying attention to how their users are reacting to the political posts. Add to that their fake news issues and Facebook can learn a lot about how people want to use their platform. Just because Facebook wants to be a news commentary source, that doesn’t mean that’s how we want to use it. It should use this data to evolve the service into what we are saying we want. Time will tell if Zuckerberg is paying attention.

How are you adjusting your Facebook usage with all of the political posts? Share it in the comments below. Thanks for reading and if you like this post, please share it with your friends.

Donald Trump Image Source: DonkeyHotey via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Create Loyal Customers Like a Rock Star

Concert Crowd - fan and customer loyalty

I was watching an interview with Jon Bon Jovi on YouTube to promote his new CD, This House Is Not For Sale. At one point (at the 7:15 mark in the video below), the interviewer asks him a hypothetical "Would You Rather" question: Would he rather his new CD appeal only to new fans with current fans hating it vs. appealing only to current fans with it bringing in no new fans. Bon Jovi answered that he wanted new fans. It's all about the growth for him. As a current fan, this bothered me.

I know growing your fan base is important, but so is keeping your current fans loyal. Some of their fans have been there for more than 30 years and are their biggest advocates. They're the reason Bon Jovi has been so successful.

It's the same with companies. Many businesses emphasize new customer growth and lose sight of their loyal customers. In many ways, retention is more important than acquisition. Look at these numbers reported by Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy in their book, Leading On the Edge of Chaos:

  • It costs 5x more to acquire a customer
  • Increasing your retention rate by 5% can increase profitability up to 125%
  • A 2% increase in retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%
  • Customers tend to become more profitable over time
If that's not enough, here’s more data:

Your loyal customers are the key to your company's longevity. Not only do they keep coming back, but you can turn them into advocates that drive new customers.

Going back to rock bands, this is how most build their following and maintain their longevity. Most companies would love to have an audience as loyal as some of your favorite bands. Follow their success and learn from some of their missteps. Here are some lessons you can learn from rock and roll royalty!

Stay True to Your Strengths

Angus Young - AC/DC - Fan Customer Loyalty
Once you know your strengths, continue to grow and build on them until you excel. AC/DC has built their career by sticking to what works for them: hard, blues-based rock and roll. That's where their passion lies.

Many bands have tried to copy their style. But, none have seen the same success. They do what they do better than anyone else. Their fans know what to expect from an AC/DC album, and they don't want to hear them trying to keep up the latest music fads.

In your business, play to your strengths and do them better than anyone else. Focus on creating core services your competitors can't match. Understand what your customers want. Keep striving to do it better.

Don’t Overextend Your Business

Not all bands were smart enough to stay with strengths. Guns n' Roses built their fanbase by being a down and dirty hard rock band. The success of Appetite for Destruction speaks for itself. The raw sound had a sense of danger and excitement. But, the band overextended their capabilities with Use Your Illusions 1 & 2. They didn't deliver on the strengths of the first album. The rebellious attitude changed to grand self-indulgence. The recording of the overproduced albums planted seeds that tore the band apart in time.

Many businesses fall into the same trap with their first success. To keep revenue growing, companies expand their services beyond their expertise. Core services suffer as they put more focus into the new areas that need more attention to be able to compete. Customers can no longer rely on the services that made the company successful in the first place.

Evolve, But Be Careful of Complete Transformations

Bon Jovi - Fan Customer Loyalty
In the early '90s, seemingly overnight, grunge ignited a new music trend and left '80s hard rock in its dust. One band not only survived but continued to grow their success. As trends changed from grunge to boy bands to ultrapop, Bon Jovi remains a fan favorite. Luckily for Jon Bon Jovi the "Would You Rather" question above wasn't a reality. By focusing on their songwriting, they were able to keep most of their loyal fans while also gaining new ones.

After their mega-success in the '80s, they realized their fans were getting older. And so were they. They wanted to write songs that resonated with their evolving fans. The subject matter got more mature as they did. Their new music was relevant to things their fans were now experiencing.

If Bon Jovi had tried to transform themselves into Nirvana, they would have bombed. That's not the sound Bon Jovi fans wanted. They evolved enough to escape from '80s rock glam, but not so much to alienate their audience.

In your business, trends and technology may make past tools and processes obsolete. When this happens, you need to understand what your customers want from you. You may need to pivot to meet new needs. But, stay grounded in the things you do better than your competitors.

Companies that change plans to chase every new trend aren’t going to be around long. Your customers will keep coming back for the core services they can count on from you.

Be Prepared to Work Hard

Def Leppard - Fan Customer Loyalty

Def Leppard is one of those bands that always seems to stick around. As they were coming up in the '80s, they saw bands like Foreigner and REO Speedwagon fade away. They knew their success was fleeting and they could disappear as new bands came up in the '90s.

They never took their early success for granted. They knew they’d have to keep working hard to stay around until success returned. They went through down times but continued touring and releasing albums. Their latest CD may be their best CD since the '80s. Lead singer Joe Elliot explained, “It took a long time, but we were always prepared to do the hard work. And I think the difference between us and a lot of other bands is that we aren't scared of the perspiration…"

Businesses need to have that same attitude. Current good fortune doesn't guarantee future success. Competitors will always be trying to take your customers. Be in it for the long haul. Business is cyclical, so plan for how you'll be able to survive if you run into a rough patch. Know what you'll do to build yourself back up.

Love What You Do

Cheap Trick - Rick Nielsen - Fan Customer Loyalty
Sometimes it's the pure love of what you do that dictates your success. It's the love of music that has been key to Cheap Trick's success. Guitarist Rick Nielsen is doing exactly what he's always wanted to do. He didn't make plans. He just let his passion drive him.

Their passion is contagious. These recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have millions of fans. They've influenced countless bands in many music genres. The band still tours all the time, headlining their own shows and opening for many of the biggest bands (old and new). While other bands might be able to copy their sound or style, they can't match their pure love for the music.

Businesses that love what they do for the simple fact that they're able to do it attract like-minded customers. They come back again and again to experience that level of caring. It's one aspect that competitors can't touch.

As Jay Baer says, other companies can copy your products, service offerings and processes. But, the one thing they can't do is care more than you. Your passion is what will make you stand out and keep your customers choosing you.

Developing a loyal audience is the key to success in both the music industry and the business world. That audience can become advocates that help spur your growth. There are so many choices that if you've developed a strong customer base, it's crucial that you keep it.

What tips do you have to make sure your customers remain loyal? What steps have you taken? Share it with us in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it with your friends and co-workers.

Image Sources:
Concert Crowd Photo: By Luka Knežević - Strika, EXIT Photo Team (Exit Festival's Flickr photostream) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Angus Young Photo: Weatherman90 at English Wikipedia
Guns n' Roses Photo: By Rock2282 (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bon Jovi Photo: By Jeremy Bednarski
Def Leppard Photo: By Jeremy Bednarski
Cheap Trick Photo: By Jeremy Bednarski

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Do More Than Reset to Guarantee Your New Year Success

Do More Than Reset to Guarantee Your New Year Success
Like many of you, 2016 was a challenging year for me. Many of us said goodbye to loved ones (both personal and in the entertainment world). We dealt with job or financial issues. Life took us on a roller coaster. I, for one, welcome the chance to hit "Reset" button and usher in 2017!
Cats - Fauna, Echo, PoptartThat said, just because we break out a new calendar doesn't mean things are going to be different. Many of the things that made 2016 crappy were at least somewhat in our control. Just turning the page might be setting up another bad year.
So, how can we make 2017 the year that we want it to be? We have to work at it. Understand what is in our control and where we need to improve. Here are ways to set yourself up for success in the new year.

Build On the Good

Content Marketing World 2016

I like to be positive. Like I wrote in my blog post, 
How To Be Positive When Life Sucks, staying positive is a choice. Even if you had a terrible 2016, I'm sure there were some good, and even great, things that happened too. I saw a lot of new babies, marriages, engagements, new jobs, new pets, vacations and so much more.
How can you build on the good things that happened to you? Let those positive feelings spill over to the tough issues that might seem like the end of the world. 
Keep reminders of the things that make you happy. That will keep you in the right frame of mind and keep things in perspective. The photos you see in this post aren't just random photos. They're reminders of all the great things in 2016 that I enjoyed.

Be Honest and Improve

Cleveland Cavaliers - NBA Champions - All In
Before letting go of the negativity of 2016, take one more look and be honest about any mistakes you made. Were there ways to avoid these situations? Learn from your behavior and look for ways to improve. Change the things you can control to make sure this is your best year yet.

Be Ready!


Jason Miller of LinkedIn interviewed Twisted Sister's Jay Jay French on his podcast. Here are his takeaways that apply to marketing. This great interview led to me finding a video French made on, How to Make It in the Music Industry. In it he says (paraphrasing) every day brings an opportunity that might change your life. You never know when it will come. You need to be ready when it does.
Being ready takes the ability to recognize the opportunity and the courage to act on it. It may not be obvious, so you need to know your goals. These opportunities may involve a risk. You might fail, but not trying guarantees that you don't make it.

Be Kind

Walt Disney World - Simpsons - Aerosmith
I'm not looking to get political, but fear and divisiveness is a big theme from last year. My solution is to be kind to people. No matter where you fall in the political landscape, being kind and helpful is a basic tenet of humanity. 
Human decency, respect and kindness are not dictated by laws and bills. Go out of your way to help those that need it - even if that takes you out of your comfort zone. If you believe the country is about to take a big step backward, help us to move forward in spite of it.
That's where my head is as I look forward to 2017. I'm going to bust my ass to make sure that it's a much better year.  There will be bumps, but I'll get through them. If I can help you get through something, don't hesitate to reach out. I'm happy to do what help anyway I can.
Los Angeles Dodgers
What are you looking forward to in 2017? How are you going to make it better than 2016 (or just as good if you had a great year!)? Share them in the comments.
Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends. Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Silos Aren't Dead - How to Be a Content Bridge Builder

It's inevitable that we hear surprising quotes at Content Marketing World. Some may even shock us. It might be a bombshell like Joe Pulizzi's ultimatum that we need to go all in or all out on content marketing (see my Content Marketing World 2016 recap). Sometimes it's more subtle or mixed in with other advice. 

This case was the latter. Robert Rose led a panel discussion with Jenifer Walsh from Current, Stephanie Losee from Visa, and Raj Munusamy from Schneider Electric. Their keynote presentation discussed change management in organizations with the implementation of content marketing. One specific quote by Walsh jumped out at me:

"Silos aren't going away. You need to learn how to manage them."

Wait, what? We've been talking about breaking down the silos for years. It's one of the keys to content marketing success, isn't it? Well, maybe it's not. If you're able to break down the silos in your company, more power to you. But, for most, I'm willing to bet this is still a goal that is beyond our control. 

Removing silos sometimes require a reorganization of the company. At the very least, it needs a ton of buy-in from department VPs and directors. While you can be a catalyst for that type of change, it takes a lot of time and effort.

An easier route is to build a bridge between silos. You understand that your priorities are different from other departments'. But, that doesn't mean that you can't get the support you need. You need to develop relationships with the subject matter experts you'll be asking for help. This leads to collaboration. Then, you can create the outstanding content that we all know exists inside each silo.

We all know it's not as easy as it sounds. The experts don't always understand how or why they can help you. It takes work and time. Here are five suggestions that will help you start to build your bridges.

1. Solve a Problem

In the same session, Losee gave a great starting point: Offer to help solve their biggest problem. Work with them to create content that addresses this pain point. Track the results and show the impact it has. Once they see this success, they'll be open to further content collaboration. Turn it into an internal case study to help get you in the door to other departments too.

2. Keep Them Informed and Involved

Keep your potential partners informed of your content strategy. Make sure they understand why you're creating the content and how it will help them. Give them as much advance notice as you can so they can make time to get you what you need. 

Involve them in your planning. Ask for suggestions as they may have better ideas of what will be effective based on their expertise. They'll be invested in the outcome if they know you're using their ideas.

3. Listen

More than just getting their suggestions, listen to what the experts have to say. Even though you may have your thoughts on what content you need, be open-minded. You're asking for their expertise, so use it. 

Be flexible in your plans so you can implement their advice. Go the extra mile when reporting your results and show them specifically how their contributions perform. Success (and knowing you listened!) will make them more eager to help you again.

4. Make It Easy For Them

Make it as easy as possible for others to help you. The following are some roadblocks to keep in mind with ways to help out your experts.

  • They're not good writers. You'll need to edit their writing for them. Another option is to interview them. Then transcribe their answers or use the information to craft your content.
  • Too much tech-speak. Your experts may be used to speaking to their peers while using their technical jargon. Explain your audience and the need to express their expertise in layman's terms. If that proves difficult, you may need to translate it for them. Have them double check that you don't change the meaning of the information in your version.
  • Long-winded explanations. Some experts will give you more information than you need, or some may not know what info you need. Frame the context to help them know what information is relevant. Or, give them a template to fill in specific parts or give them questions to answer.

5. Offer training

Once you've got a few departments on board, a training session or two can be an efficient way to teach many at one time. Be sure to include the department heads. They need to understand what their employees are spending time on and why.

Start with the big picture of how content marketing can help the entire organization reach its business goals. Teach them the basics and why it works. Explain how their input will make the content more relevant and effective. Show examples of companies that are successful with content.

With these suggestions, you'll be on your way building bridges across silos. Don't forget that it's a two-way bridge! Be just as helpful when they need something from you.

Have you tried to develop relationships in your company? What other tips would you offer that are successful? Tell us in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it with your friends through social media.

Main image via Kirt Edblom

Friday, September 16, 2016

Content Marketing World Strikes Back: The Commitment

It was bound to happen. We've dragged our feet for too long. We knew it was coming, but did he have to do it so publicly? In front of 3,600+ Content Marketing World attendees, Joe Pulizzi gave us an ultimatum: 

Fully commit to content marketing and go all in...or get out.

Many stated, "We're taking our first steps." To which Robert Rose chimed in, "You've been taking your first steps for the last six years!" Wow...has it been that long? Well, we've been doing what we can, haven't we? Where's this all coming from?

Joe said, "20%."

20%? What does that mean?

Joe explained the soon-to-be-released research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs revealed one glaring stat. Only 20% of respondents said they were fully committed to a content marketing strategy. That means 80% aren't all in. This leads to mediocre content...or worse. And that's when Joe said this:

The crowd let out a gasp as that sentence sank in. He went on to explain that the 20% are:

  • Most successful.
  • Able to measure their ROI.
  • Most clear on what defines success.
What are they doing that the rest are not? It's all the things we've heard for the last six years:

  • Focus on one audience with one message.
  • Tell a different story.
  • Be consistent over time.
  • Build value outside the products and services you offer. 

Joe understands what happens if you don't go all in. His first company Junta42 didn't make it. It wasn't until he fully committed that we saw the launch of Content Marketing Institute. And you've seen the results!

And then he said, "It's time."

Suddenly, the lights started flashing. Something was happening. Joe was transforming into...Morpheus? (Yeah, I know the theme is Content Strikes Back, so why the Matrix reference? Just stay with was a whole sci-fi theme.) The spotlight shined down on Joepheus (see what I did there?) as he extended his hands. In each palm was a pill, one orange and one blue.

He said "Choose the blue pill and your story ends here. Choose the orange pill and stay in a content marketing wonderland. Experience how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Mind. Blown. Those of you who were there know. If you weren't, that's a close rendition of what happened. I may have enhanced a couple of things here and there, but you get the point.

As you can gather from my retelling of Joe's keynote, "commitment" was the major theme this year. It was a recurring subject in many.

After last year's "Trough of Disillusionment," this seems to be a logical step forward. Now, with realistic expectations, we can re-commit to our content marketing strategy.

Commitment to Content Marketing

That's not to say getting your company to buy into content marketing is going to be any easier. Enter Robert Rose's session "Content Marketing Is Broken: Here's How to Fix It and Tie It to Real Business Results." It was a retelling of the origin story of content. I can't do it justice here. You really had to see it, but I'll go over the highlights.

Companies don't want to do content marketing for the following reasons:

  • There's too much content and we can't stand out.
  • It costs more than ads.
  • It's too slow.
  • We can't be different.
  • We can't tie it back to revenue.
What these companies don't understand is that content marketing is not a super-charged campaign. It's not a campaign at all. It's not another piece of marketing collateral. It's different. The goal isn't consumption. It's to create a "subscribed audience." That subscribed audience is what offers value back to the company. 

And guess what? It's not easy. In fact it's hard, especially when we already have too much on our plates. So how do we do it? With these two steps:

  1. Start with the end: Understand your business goals and align your content strategy to reach them. Design your measurements to your specific strategies. There are no templates as we all have our own goals and strategies.
  2. Figure out what you can STOP doing: Question why your current projects are important and if they'll help reach your goals. Stop doing those that are ineffective. Focus on creating the content that will build the audience that will take your company to where it wants to go.

Commitment to Quality

Creating less content was a theme at last year's Content Marketing World. It emerged again this year with more force and elaboration. It requires a heavier focus on quality. Understanding WHY you're creating the content can help you make it more impactful.

Here are examples of how three of the keynote speakers are accomplishing this:

  • Lars Silberbauer, LEGO Company, Ltd.: LEGO understands why they're in each of the channels in which they engage. Everything they post and publish addresses only two themes:
    • Building together.
    • Pride of creation.
           Through this laser focus, LEGO engages with their customers and inspires their creativity. They receive billions of social media views every year. And, their fans create 20 times the amount of content that LEGO publishes. Silberbauer says this is what makes the difference.

  • Ann Handley, MarketingProfs: Handley took us a year into the future to show us the key to content success in 2017. Simply put, SLOW DOWN at key moments. Marketing is impatient, but slowing down allows you to focus. Ask yourself these three questions:
    • So what?: Keep asking "so what?" and answering "because..." until you get to the essence of your content. Ask and answer from the customer's perspective. Why will they care?
    • Wait, what?: This helps you align on your WHY before the HOW.
    • Does this sustain us?: Are you proud of what you're creating? This question helps you to say "no."
  • Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media: Armed with a treasure trove of data, Crestodina showed how to achieve the most engagement. Create content with:
    • Strong opinions.
    • Original research.
           He emphasized using your blog to be the best answer to your customers' questions. Strive to create the best page on the internet for your topic.

Commitment to Relevance

We've all talked about creating relevant content. In this case, we're talking about the platforms and distribution methods you use. Are your delivery methods relevant to your audience? Are you using tools that your customers use or just the latest gadgets?

While Ann Handley took us a year into the future, Scott Stratten wants us to focus on being good at 2003! By that, he means we need to write better emails, create smart websites, and put usability back in the forefront.

We shouldn't jump on every new technology just because it's out there. We hurt our brand when we use the wrong methods or make mistakes with the channels. Stratten says (as only he can), "Content marketing should not be a training bra. We should not just try things in content marketing."

Examples of tools we should only use if they are relevant to our audience include:
  • Live video: It's unforgiving and people are awkward.
  •  360-degree video/augmented reality/virtual reality: Does your product need a 360-degree view of it? If not, don't do it.
  • Pop-Ups: They're so annoying that Google will be penalizing sites that use them.
  • Instagram: Be sure to differentiate yourself and that your branding is clear.
  • Newsjacking: Make sure there is a true tie-in to your brand so you don't create a public relations nightmare.

Podcasting is another tool that continues to increase in popularity. There are some excellent examples of marketers doing it right. Mitch Joel and Jay Baer believe brands have the potential to create the top podcasts in their industries. 

Baer says that out of all the platforms he uses, podcasting is the most powerful.

To be successful, Baer says your show must be the favorite of at least a subset of your audience. Joel breaks down three factors, in which you need to have at least one to capture attention:
  • The Host: Does anyone know who you are and/or care?
  • The Guest: Start with relevant people you know and with whom you have a comfort level. They can help you look good.
  • The Content: Are you offering useful information your audience cares about?

Commitment to Yourself

Find Your Punchline

This year, one keynote speaker caught most of us off a good way. Comedian Michael Jr. kicked off Thursday morning with a comedy set that was more than we expected. He explained the mechanics of a good joke. The setup is using your talents and resources to move your audience in one direction. The punch line is an unexpected turn in the other direction.

He equated the setup to our WHAT and the punch line to our WHY. What makes him effective is understanding his WHY. This makes his WHAT more impactful. He took the concept one step further to explain his philosophy about life. His setup (or WHAT) is his talent to find comedy anywhere. He discovered his punch line (or WHY) when he noticed a homeless man after a set one night. That inspired him to bring comedy to audiences that wouldn't normally hear it.

He showed a video of an abused boy who was so scared of everything that he always wore a Spider-Man outfit, including the mask. 10 minutes into his set, he heard the boy speak and then take off his mask. He challenged us to think about what we can give from ourselves and to find our punch lines.

Follow Your Own Inspiration

The theme for Content Marketing World was "Content Strikes Back." It only made sense that the main keynote speaker was Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill! Hamill had a lot of stories, including how he never gets tired (publicly) of Star Wars. He knows he needs to give the public what they want.

He commits to the roles that he takes. One of his funniest stories was about training to lose 48 pounds for the latest Star Wars movie. Then he read the script.

His advice was to believe in ourselves and grab our opportunities. They don't come back. He urged us to follow our own inspirations, work hard and never give up. Create new things or repurpose (don't steal) the things we love in our own way. He believes that tenacity is just as important as talent...if not more so.

I could go on and on about all the things I've learned. I'm sure many will make their way into future blog posts. I came away inspired and ready to commit more than ever before. I can't wait to bring this excitement, motivation and knowledge to my next job. Thanks to Content Marketing Institute for topping themselves again!

What did you take away from Content Marketing World? How will you implement what you've learned? Tell us in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

 If you have any content needs, know of any  job opportunities or just want to talk more Content Marketing World, please reach out to me at

Photo via Elaine Ball