Each year, thousands of content marketers gather in Cleveland for a week brimming with fresh ideas, solutions to pesky problems, and inspiration from marketing professionals across the globe. I look forward to Content Marketing World each year to uncover new ways to amaze my audiences.
While the number of sessions at a conference can be overwhelming, it’s good practice to look for one major takeaway from each think tank, keynote, and conversation that you can apply to your work.
But what surprised me this year was that the big idea I gleaned from multiple sessions was the same. I went into the week expecting to have 15+ light bulb moments, and instead returned to my office with one resounding lesson.
Don’t create just to meet a deadline.
I’ve always been an Ann Handley fangirl (an fanngirl, if you will). She articulated my #1 takeaway from Content Marketing World best: “Volume is not what we want to do. We want to be more strategic in that volume… It’s not ‘we need a piece of content for…’ Instead, it’s what does your audience need from you.”
If you’re like me, you spend much of your day thinking about deadlines, many of which are self imposed. Does this sound familiar?
- “Ugh, I have to come up with another blog post because I don’t have anything for the 3rd week of this month.”
- “It’s so hard to curate daily social media content. Oh, today’s national pizza day, maybe I can shoehorn that into our brand somehow.”
- “Our conference sponsorship comes with a bag drop, so I guess we need to create 2,000 pieces of something. I hope it doesn’t end up in the landfill.”
On and on it goes until your day is mired in tactics and to-do lists. You don’t have time to think through the strategy behind your efforts. And even worse, you’ve lost sight of what your customers need.
When should you create? Once once you have a good answer to the question “Why?”.
I’m an excellent tactician, but my career is experiencing awkward growing pains as I acquire more big-picture, strategic responsibilities. Asking questions to understand the “why” behind tactical directives shows me where marketing resources will be most effective. There are good and bad “whys.”
- Good Whys:
- Because this adds value for our audience.
- Because it aligns with industry research.
- Because this supports xyz strategic goal.
- Bad Whys:
- Because we’ve always done it this way.
- Because our audience knows our subscriber email deploys on the 15th. (Doubtful…)
- Because our competitors are doing it.
In the last session at the conference, my friend and B2B writing consultant Jonathan Kranz affirmed the week’s lesson,”It’s a terrible thing when the fire of our enthusiasm is squashed by our drowning in the ordinary day-to-day operations of things.”