Content Marketing World 2013: Eight Takeaways for Marketers

September 26, 2013 Kerry O'Shea Gorgone

Content Marketing World 2013 brought more than 1,700 marketing professionals to Cleveland, OH, to discuss the future of marketing. Between featuring Jay Baer at the beginning and actor William Shatner as closing keynote, CMW was packed with insights, interactions, and (as one might expect) great content. Here are my key takeaways from this incredibly worthwhile event.

1. “Worry less about selling better and more about teaching better.” (Jay Baer)

“Create things with intrinsic value, and your customers will keep you close,” urges marketing keynote speaker and best-selling author Jay Baer. That is what Baer’s book Youtility is all about: how to create marketing content so good that people would pay for it because it helps them to solve a problem they have. This elevates helping people above selling and requires a radical shift in focus for many traditional companies, but if you don’t become the “most helpful” company to your audience, your competition will.

For a full overview of Baer’s presentation, check out Kelly Kingman’s sketchnotes below.

2. “Educate, but don’t stop there. Strive to inspire!” (Ann Handley)

Yes, content can educate your audience, but aim higher. MarketingProfs’s Ann Handley throws down the gauntlet for marketers to be useful, inspiring, and empathetic. Integrate multimedia content. Words matter, but other types of media can help you tell your story.

Sketchnotes by Kelly Kingman:

3. “If you’re starting with content strategy, you missed a step.” (Tom Webster)

Focusing on content without considering your audience will cause you to miss out on people you could potentially reach. And we’re not just talking about personas here. In fact, consumer behavior specialist Tom Webster recommends against “sitting in a conference room, developing personas.” Instead, look at the data to determine who your audience is, what they care about, and what they want from you. “Figure out what your audience expects you to be, and then be that thing,” explains Webster. “You will be successful.”

“A content-focused strategy misses out on who you *could* reach.” @webby2001 #cmworld

— Tamsen Webster (@tamadear) September 10, 2013

4. “Find a niche to get rich.” (Drew Davis)

And by niche, Davis means “fractal.” In other words, you’re not just targeting farmers but beet farmers in the Northeast. This is niche taken to a whole new level, and you need to identify your niche to succeed. This relates to what Tom Webster means when he says, “Know what happens when you create content that pleases every segment? You get Celine-freaking-Dion.” You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be something to your niche audience.

Sketchnotes by Kelly Kingman:

5. “Blow up a trash can.” (Tim Washer)

OK, maybe making a video of you blowing up a trash can isn’t a perfect fit for your brand (although Washer did recommend trying it), but you can take risks and do something crazy every now and then. Even B2B companies can employ humor, and Tim Washer of Cisco would know. “Comedy is pain,” explained Washer. “Start with a customer pain point and heighten it then solve the problem.” To come up with creative ideas that can break your marketing out of a rut, leave the naysayers out of the conversation. Just one person who shoots down every idea can sap the creative juices of an entire team, so don’t be afraid to ask that person to sit out the initial brainstorming session. After all, he or she can always say no later!

@TimWasher’s example of humor in content marketing: A Special Valentines Day Gift from Cisco: #CMWorld

— Kerry O’Shea Gorgone (@KerryGorgone) September 17, 2013

6. Remember that you’ll get sick of your content well before your audience does.  (William Shatner)

That isn’t something that William Shatner said, but it is a lesson I took from the substance of his prepared remarks. Shatner chose to discuss Incubus, a 1966 movie in which all the dialog was in Esperanto—an auxiliary language proposed in 1887 by Lazarus Ludwig Zamenhof. Rather than talk about crowd favorites like Star Trek, Boston Legal, or even T.J. Hooker, Shatner chose a more esoteric topic, possibly because he’s spoken at length about his more popular work. He’s an interesting personality, and he really shone during audience Q&A, but his opening remarks seemed to fall a bit far afield from what people expected. Remember Tom Webster’s advice to be what your audience expects and bear in mind that many people will be seeing your content for the first time, even if you’ve worked on it for months.

Sketchnotes by Kelly Kingman:

7. You can reimagine content while creating it. (Kelly Kingman)

Kelly Kingman’s sketchnotes based on live tweets at CMW.

Reimagining content doesn’t have to be an after-the-fact process. You should consider different ways you could use content as you’re planning it. In some instances, you can even create two different formats simultaneously, as Kelly Kingman did throughout Content Marketing World. As the presentation unfolded, she actively listened and made sketchnotes of key points, so by the time the speaker wrapped things up, a complete set of hand-drawn takeaways was finished and suitable for posting across channels. Converting spoken presentations into visual content exponentially speeds sharing and consumption, as well: people consume visual content 60,000 times faster!

8. Find time to connect with your fans in person at events. (Kelly Hungerford)

With 1,750 marketers in attendance, Content Marketing World was clearly a destination of choice for industry professionals, but Kelly Hungerford of came further than many. Based out of Switzerland, Hungerford is evangelist, communications and community manager for, and she regularly engages users across social networks. You might not think a content curation service like has fans, but fellow attendees stopped Hungerford several times to tell her how they appreciate her and love the brand, with several folks asking to pose for a photo with her.

Meeting community from around the globe at #CMWorld. Great to meet you @SydniCraigHart! — Kelly Hungerford (@KDHungerford) September 11, 2013

She also launched the brand’s ambassador program, using principles she took from Mack Collier’s book Think Like a Rock Star.

Hear Hungerford discuss how she started the program, and what it’s done for and its users.

Talked w/ @KDHungerford of at #CMWorld about her ambassador program: via @MarketingProfs [VIDEO]

— Kerry O’Shea Gorgone (@KerryGorgone) September 17, 2013

If you missed Content Marketing World, Be sure to check out the full archive of Kelly Kingman’s sketch notes, as well as the Content Marketing Institute’s website, and be sure to view the very robust stream of tweets tagged #CMWorld.

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