3 questions to help you evolve your content and marketing

3 questions to help you evolve your content and marketing

Revolution brings sudden, radical or complete change. And we’ve experienced enough of these 180-degree changes to leave us all exhausted.

Evolution, on the other hand, occurs more subtly and over a longer period. However, change for the better (rather than change for change’s sake) requires a series of decisions and actions.

Here’s the good news: You don’t need to radically change everything you’ve learned or the processes you’ve relied on to meet content marketing challenges. But you will have to evolve.

Thousands of marketing and content professionals came to Content Marketing World in Washington, D.C., last week to share ideas on how to do just that.

As you may have guessed, many of the conversations were about artificial intelligence. Some of the brightest minds in AI have shared their thoughts on the state of AI and what it means for the future of marketers. I can’t share all the nuances and details in this recap without overwhelming the rest of the week’s lessons (more to come in our continuing coverage). But here’s a TL;DR version: AI will continue to have a tremendous impact on our industry, but so will humans.

With this knowledge, I offer some provocative questions to consider based on the ideas shared by the keynote speakers to evolve to meet the challenges of 2023 and beyond.

1. Are you clear about the mission and purpose of your content?

I’m sure you’re familiar with Zillow — the brand name has morphed into a verb to describe the search for home values.

You might think that Zillow becoming a household term means the brand has achieved marketing rock star status. Job done. Why would their marketing team change anything?

But even established brands need to maintain and strengthen their reputations. As much as the Zillow team appreciates its fun and interesting reputation, the company isn’t about giving people a look behind the curtains of homes — it’s an online real estate marketplace.

As Beverly Jackson, the company’s vice president of brand and product marketing (and a 2018 Content Marketer of the Year finalist), explained, the team needed to evolve that reputation.

How did they do it? First, Beverly shared, they crystallized their purpose and focused their content on one mission: to make it easier for people to navigate the homebuying process.

To do this, the team created a central hub where people can find everything they need. To promote it, they launched a campaign that embraced the reason most people know about Zillow (i.e., to find out how much their boss paid for their house) and let them know it was so much more (i.e., a place to help them buy their house). own home).

That campaign returned a 94% brand recall without any help. “When customers started talking about Zillow the way we talk about our brand, we knew we were on to something,” Beverly said.

How can you adapt your organization’s marketing messages to ensure that the company and the public speak the same language?

When customers talk about your brand the way you talk about it, you’re onto something, says @BevJack via @EditorStahl @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click to tweet

2. Have you fallen for marketing’s biggest lie?

Derek Thompson is a writer and editor for The Atlantic, author of the bestselling book Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction, and host of the Plain English podcast. So it was natural for him to interview the insightful, intelligent and funny actress, producer and director Elizabeth Banks (more on that another time).

But I’m still thinking about the ideas expressed in his solo speech a week later.

Derek challenged what he called the biggest lie in Hollywood, marketing, science, academia (and just about everywhere else): that people need (and like) new things.

“The truth is that the most fundamental human bias is toward familiarity,” he said.

He only needed to point out the highest-grossing films of this century (think Avengers, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.) to get nods from the CMWorld audience.

“In an infinity of choices…we are drawn toward the familiar,” Derek said.

Need more proof? Think Spotify. New music floods the platform every week. However, listeners opt for songs they already like.

Derek shared what happened when Spotify tried to push subscribers towards new music by creating Discover Weekly, a playlist of 30 new songs that hits listeners’ feeds every Monday.

A bug in the algorithm allowed some familiar songs to creep into the playlist. When Spotify fixed the problem, it found that the number of people listening to the playlist had plummeted. “A little familiarity in a product designed to be innovative made it more popular,” Derek said.

Derek used an acronym – MAYA – to describe the process of evolving beyond the familiar boundary. The letters stand for Most Advanced Yet Acceptable, a descriptor coined by Raymond Loewy, the father of industrial design. (Air Force One and the 1953 Studebaker, which launched the most aerodynamic look of the automobile, are among his most famous works.)

Here is Loewy’s MAYA philosophy: you can sell something familiar by making it surprising. You can sell something surprising by making it familiar.

What new things can you inject into old things to engage your audience or lead them to something new?

The idea that people need and like new things is the biggest lie in marketing, science and academia, says @DKThomp via @Editor_Stahl @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click to tweet

3. Are you running enough content experiments?

Phyllis Davidson, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, supported the trial. I see this as the logical next step after taking Beverly and Derek’s advice.

But before we dig into that, consider this staggering statistic shared by Phyllis from Forrester B2B Research: 77% of customers are unlikely to expand their contracts with a brand if its content isn’t valuable or useful. And that number increased by 10 percentage points between 2022 and 2023.

Bookmark that statistic for the next time you need to convince your boss of the value of content in the buying process.

According to @forrester’s #B2B research, 77% of customers are unlikely to expand their contracts with a brand if its #content isn’t valuable or useful via @EditorStahl @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click to tweet

Back to the topic of experimentation: Phyllis got a chuckle from the audience when she explained that no one at CMWorld could go to the Olympics as a gymnast. We’ve all gotten the message: You can’t be skilled at something if you don’t work to become an expert.

“Given how risky some new technologies are in helping us edit and improve our content, organizations need to learn how to experiment at the content level to use these technologies,” Phyllis explained.

How do you do it? It’s not for innovation, she said. It’s through experimentation. Then she shared this quote that she attributed to Isaac Asimov: “Experimentation is the least arrogant method of acquiring knowledge.”

But how should you experiment? Go back to what you learned in middle school science lessons.

Phyllis updated us on the steps and provided a marketing example to illustrate:

  • Ask a question: Will the AI-generated industrial version of a white paper perform better than the non-AI version?
  • Research: Assess differences in knowledge requirements and preferences across industries.
  • Formulate a hypothesis: AI-generated financial services and life sciences versions delivered in the same channels will perform 10% better.
  • Make a plan: Use outbound email to test releases against industry audience members.
  • To experiment: Test with subsets of lists using the same parameters/times. Measure performance based on the number of white paper downloads.
  • Collect and record the results: Compare results between all versions.
  • Draw conclusions: Financial Services met the key performance indicator (KPI). The life sciences do not. Run the Financial Services White Paper program. Evaluate the input for the life sciences version. Consider testing a third industry.

The more marketing experiments you run, the more quickly you can move and failure becomes much less painful, Phyllis said.

#Marketing experiments help you move faster and make failure much less painful, says Phyllis Davidson via @Editor_Stahl @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click to tweet

What will be your next marketing experiment?

Evolution does not require a revolution (even with artificial intelligence)

As I mentioned, AI was on everyone’s mind. I found these topics (shared by Avinash Kaushik, chief strategy officer at Croud and ex-Google) particularly useful.

Today, AI manifestation falls into one of three categories, he explained:

1. Artificial intelligence provides us with tools that help us in our work.

2. AI can act as co-pilots to help us be smarter and faster.

3. Artificial intelligence serves as a muse to help us initiate and accelerate our production and quantity of human resources.

But the adoption of artificial intelligence is not a revolution. As Cassie Kozyrkov, Google’s former chief data scientist, pointed out, artificial intelligence has been around for years. What’s new, she said, is the user experience and design around AI.

I would describe it as the evolution of artificial intelligence: from technology to a tool applied by people.

Marketers – educators, confidence builders and entertainers – must embrace evolution. Day after day we make conscious decisions about what to do next, whether it’s adapting our messages to the changing needs of our audience, planning our content to guide them, deciding how we’ll use artificial intelligence, or something else entirely.

We don’t need a revolution. We just have to continue to evolve.

Want more information from these and other Content Marketing World speakers? Register for an on-demand pass to gain access to session recordings through December 31, 2023. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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