Our Favorite Findings from Content Marketing World 2023

Content Marketing World 2023 was a flurry of activity, copywriting – and yes, a lot of AI talk. This year, we sent our Senior Search & Content Coordinator Amanda McCrea along with our CEO Flynn Zaiger – below are our combined notes, thoughts, learnings, and favorite stats from three jam-packed days – along with of course, some blurry photos – there’s a reason neither of us is in our media department. 

Becoming a Leading Technical Brand as a Manufacturer

Content Marketing Kicked off, for us at least, with a great presentation by Wendy Covey and Morgan Norris of Trew Marketing. I always love a good talk that starts with some massive macroeconomic charts, so I was onboard from the start for Trew Marketing’s presentation. We began with a number of charts, documenting the variety of trends that marketers at Manufacturing companies are facing:

Building Brand Authority

We then walked through the ways that manufacturers can build their brand audience. This includes:

  1. Goals + Measurement: Start with strategy, and consider your brand authority using things like Moz’s measurement tools, the LinkedIn B2B Index, or NPS [Net Promoter Score] / VOC [Voice of Customer] interviews.
  2. Personas: The bread and butter of marketers – make sure these are built well and concisely target your actual stakeholders.
  3. Messaging: Utilize differentiator messaging, and if you’re going to utilize AI to generate your messaging be as specific as possible.
  4. Visual Identity: (and make sure not to have the same brand name as a dance competition.)

Lastly, the fifth step was Brand Authority. One important idea that TREW brought up is connecting your brand to something in the industry. Whether it’s an industry standard or technology partner, anchoring yourself to a larger brand can build off the credibility that they’ve developed over the years.

She recommended to put a face on the brand. While TikTok might not be the biggest network in the manufacturing world, it could be prime time to consider it.

Effective Content Creation and Improvement Tips from Analytics

The second presentation of the conference for us was Pierre DeBois of Zimana Analytics. He started off with a brief survey of the room’s analytics experience (answer: a wide variety, and very little R knowledge.)

He suggested that you start off a content audit with a few questions:

  • What content seems out of date?
  • Are there topics that are evergreen?
  • Are there any new media platforms that have emerged since the last content review?

Importantly, when you begin a content campaign, set up expectations and goals.

  • Efficiency: What conversion rates are you aiming for?
  • Effectiveness: Are you seeing a performance lift or decline?

The SEO Deep-Dive with Fire & Spark’s Dale Bertrand

What can we say? We’re suckers for intense SEO flow charts

Dale Bertrand of Fire & Spark did one of the deepest deep-dives on SEO that I ever had the pleasure of hearing (even during the parts of his presentation where he wasn’t going all-out-animated for his company’s B-Roll.)

One of the things that he shared, which is always good to hear from agencies, is that half of what they try doesn’t work. I love agencies that eat their own dog food, and he pointed out that you need to be constantly experimenting, since the algorithm is always changing. So every six months at Fire & Spark, they report back on all the things they’re trying, decide what’s working (and what’s not working,) and that dictates their strategy for the next six months.

Importantly, he broke down the old-school way of doing SEO vs what you should be doing:

SEO for Rankings (old, bad, don’t do it) vs SEO for Revenue (good, yes, do this)

Here’s a few breakdowns that help you understand his take on how SEO should be performed in 2023.

SEO for Rankings: What should you stop measuring?

  • Rankings
  • Organic Traffic

SEO for Revenues: What should you start measuring?

  • Engagement
  • Organic Sales

Doing SEO for Revenue causes you to ask these kinds of questions:

  • Which keywords have the most purchase intent? 
  • How will we track organic conversions and sales?
  • How do our customers make purchase decisions?
  • What are the right content formats?

Which brought us to, how do you make all this content: yes, you guessed it…

Using AI for SEO

He had an extremely positive outlook on ChatGPT. For beginners, he recommended using it to:

  • Improve existing content
  • Generate new ideas
  • Repurpose existing content.

One item he touched on was a recent MIT study, “Experimental Evidence on the Productivity Effects of Generative Artificial Intelligence,” comparing individuals, for those that used ChatGPT and those that didn’t. The ones that used ChatGPT were noticeably more productive.

Once you get through the basics, here’s a good breakdown of things you can do with ChatGPT for SEO:

  • Generate Metadata
  • Generate structured data

How To Win with Human-Focused Video Content

I was really excited to attend the first presentation on the Content Marketing World 2023 Video & Audio Experience track. Only a few years ago, you might’ve gotten away with a text + image content campaign, utilizing blog posts, whitepapers, and slideshows. Yes, people have been emphasizing video ever since YouTube’s launch but it was typically out of the budget of most small to medium sized businesses. You can thank TikTok and the iPhone’s increasingly impressive videography for changing that. Melissa Hodai and Bean Porter of Grainger spoke about the importance of using video in your content campaigns. Their emphasis was that even in an increasingly AI driven world, human-first videos are going to be more important than ever to actually tell stories.

As with many presentations, they talked about where to start. In this case, it’s a simple question: What Do You Want Humans To Do?” They suggested a few places to get data on your customers, including looking at Google trends, or sneaking a peek at the competition. Importantly, you want to have two things locked in before you actually click record:

  1. Know how you’ll place your video.
  2. Know what success looks like.

Ready to start the video production? Nope, not yet.  You’ve still got work to do to prepare your subjects for the video. Bean and Melissa recommended that you get to know your subject, and also let them get to know you. These pre-interviews provide you with far deeper insights so you can finally begin drafting your script.

As for the video itself, the keys were simply to let them tell their story in their own voice, and record a lot of footage. Also, be prepared for the unexpected, from noisy workplaces to your video subjects taking the story in unexpected directions.

Post-video, editing should start with the script.

One of my favorite parts of their presentation was talking about what happens after the content goes live – at that point, it’s all about building a true long-term human connection. This includes handwritten thank you notes, social media shout-outs, and consistently engaging with their team for years beyond. 

How Digital Marketing Can Support Sales Teams

I hopped over from the Content Marketing World 2023 video track into the Sales Enablement track. When I initially saw this on Content Marketing World’s schedule, I was pretty surprised. Content is often far apart from sales at these sorts of conferences – but Pam Didner did a great job of bringing them together.

As someone who’s job is constantly switching between producing our content, and selling our services to others, I enjoy seeing how one side of things (content marketers in this case) see the other side. In short – there were a lot of giggles:

Always Be ClosingSome of Pam’s main points:

  • Treat your sales team as its own customer persona. Your marketing plans start with understanding your customers. Partnering with your team’s sales department should begin with the same persona-creation that you’d start every other campaign with.
  • Figure out what content matches with each stage of the customer journey. Some examples:
    • Prospecting: The Future of [Your Service]
    • Demo: Price Sheets
    • Pilot Prep: The Ideal [Service] Deployment
    • Evaluation: Breakdown of you and Your Competition

Branding > Revenue

We kicked off Wednesday afternoon with a speech on how brand ties into revenue, from Kate DiLeo, of The Brand Trifecta. Her message was centered on how marketing, sales, and customer experience should all be centered by brand. Importantly:

  • Don’t focus on the competition.
  • Don’t focus on everyone, just focus on what you want.
  • Do focus on the prospect that matches at least 70% of your brand’s perfect prospect.

Importantly, the key was that your prospects are already in a “room,” and you don’t need to build it. Just go to the room yourself.

Advanced LinkedIn Ads Optimization

Presented by AJ Wilcox of B2Linked, this drilled down into the most exciting of social platforms: LinkedIn.

“You pay like it’s the bottom of the funnel, but the targeting can feel very top of the funnel.” The main challenges:

  • $10 – $16 CPC
  • No Device Level Bidding
  • No Day-Parting
  • No visible relevancy score

Baseline Information (which was lovely to have, rather than pull old articles from 2020):

  • Sponsored Content
    • CTR: 0.44%
    • CPC: $10 – $16
  • CTRs:
    • CTR: .025%
    • CPC: $3 – $6
  • Dynamic Ads
    • CTR: 0.06%
    • CPCs: $8 – $10

Campaign Naming:

  • Don’t name things by year, or one-term thing.
    • Since you’ll then have to make new campaigns, and LinkedIn treats new campaigns poorly.
  • Instead, name your campaigns by audience targeting, which tend to be evergreen.
  • When you’re done with a campaign and don’t want it again, rename it with a “Z” at the start so it drops to the bottom of the campaign manager.

Finding More Diverse Vendors

Past President, and Chair of DEI Innovation at the AMA Karen McFarlane began her talk on DEIB by baselining us all with the same definition. From her slides:

  • Diversity: I can see that my company consists of talent from various backgrounds
  • Equity: My company actively provides the tools and access I need to thrive specific to my needs.
  • Inclusion: My contributions and beliefs are welcomed, valued, and supported at work.
  • Belonging: I feel safe and appreciated for who I am and what I bring to the table (almost like family.)

As an organization that’s starting having more DEIB conversation rather than DEI recently, I appreciated her simple explanation of why the last letter has been added – though I don’t know how much I love the comparison to a “family” in a workplace. There’s a reason one of our values is “Work is work, not life.”

The presentation, though, focused on not what many organizations think about with DEIB (their internal resources), but rather their external resources: suppliers, vendors, and contractors. If investments in MWBE doubled, the economic impact would be immense. More importantly, this has a tangible impact on their families: they’re 6X more likely to graduate college, and there’s a 1% increase in employment levels for every $1,000 increase in household income.

Being an Exceptional Marketing Leader For Your Organization

How do you move beyond simply being a great marketer at your company to being a great leader for your marketing team? Presented by Michael J. Barber, VP of Marketing at Charter School Capital in an impressive, slide-free presentation, he tackled how individuals should act as leaders at a wide variety of types of organizations.

As a leader, it’s important to think about your first 90 days:

  1. Start
  2. Situations
  3. Strategy
  4. Skills
  5. Staff
  6. Style
  7. Shared Values

Michael also focused on the “Listening Lap,” and the importance of keeping your mouth shut and listening to your team. A great way to do this was using the extremely high-tech tool of AI Post-its, and a physical, in-person group meeting. Beyond the first 90 days, you have to establish rules for the road: specifically, you must create specific processes to establish a moat between you and failure.

Some things that Michael mentioned are already in place at Online Optimism, but I feel they’re well worth restating for any readers:

  • Reviews should include zero surprises. Good leadership means that you’re already having the conversations that come up in reviews on a regular basis.
  • Always be prepared to talk compensation.

How should you run 1:1s?

  • Do not talk about the day to day work.
  • Build in feedback loops.
  • Example questions to use:
    • What are you most proud of since we last chatted?
    • Feedback from you.
    • Feedback from me.
  • Do you have any needs or challenges?
  • How are your goals progressing?
  • End with: Is there anything you need from me?
  • How’s your work from home set-up working for you?

Lastly, in 2023, you’re no longer going to be judged for the marketing tactics or the creative. Instead, you’ll be judged by the results. (Not too different for us digital folks.)

A Crash Course in Data Modeling

On Thursday afternoon, I decided to slip over from the Content Marketing World to the Marketing Analytics & Data Science for a crash course in data modeling, presented by Paul Yang of Einblick.  Paul recommended that you shouldn’t overwhelm yourselves, especially as a beginner, in picking the algorithms: just use XGBoost. And learn your Shapley values.

Final Keynote of Content Marketing World: Yes, it’s on AI

To close out Content Marketing World, Cassie Kozyrkov (ex-Googler, current a-lot-of-titles-on-her-linkedin-so-lets-go-with Innovation Advsory Council Member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.) She focused her talk on demystifying AI, and pointing out that ChatGPT wasn’t so much an AI revolution, as it was a design revolution. (For those unaware, the “T” in ChatGPT stands for “Transformer,” which was a new simple network architecture announced in the seminal 2017 paper “Attention is All You Need.”)

For those who don’t enjoy reading research papers that start with “The dominant sequence transduction models are based on complex recurrent or convolutional neural networks in an encoder-decoder configuration” (I’m raising my hand too,) she offered a simpler understanding of how the modern generative AI tools work:

  • Data > Ingredients
  • Algorithms > Appliances
  • Models > Recipes
  • Predictions > Dishes

Our favorite stats from Content Marketing World 2023.

Lastly, I wanted to collect some of my favorite/most interesting statistics from all of the presentations.

  • 73% of industrial buyers are willing to pay more from a brand they trust.
  • 96% of American Engineers watch video weekly for work.
  • 11.4 hours per week saved by the average content marketing employee using Generative AI (Deloitte)

Looking to attend next year? We might see in you San Diego for Content Marketing World 2024!