The numbers are in: Content Marketing World 2014, the largest content marketing event on the planet, according to conference officials, went off last week in Cleveland, Ohio with 2,600 people from more than 50 countries.
But the conversation isn't over.
CMSWire: Content marketing in less than 50 words -- how do you describe it?
Pulizzi: Content marketing is a customer-first approach to our marketing, where we develop a strategy around the creation and distribution of valuable, compelling and consistent content to create or maintain some kind of behavior change with our customers or prospects. For a more formal definition, try this. (Ed. Note: Joe did good on the word count!).
CMSWire: Beyond 50 words, why is content marketing such an important strategy for today's marketers?
Pulizzi: Because our customers have all the power. They have every right to ignore everything we tell them. They can get all the information they need about our products and services without ever talking to us. We this being a reality, how do we really differentiate ourselves and create positive experiences with our customers? By telling amazing stories and emotionally moving our customers. And if we do it right, we can build audiences directly, and we don't have to go though middlemen anymore to advertise what we have to offer.
For most companies, this is a scary proposition, but it's also liberating. We can have greater impact on our customers than ever before, but we have to have something consistently important to say.
CMSWire: What were some of the struggles attendees at the conference shared about their marketing programs?
Pulizzi: From the attendees and our annual research, the biggest challenges are the ability to create engaging content and measurement.
In our latest research, we found that there are two critical things that differentiate great content marketers from the rest of the pack: documenting the content marketing strategy and consistently reviewing that strategy. Seems simple, but most companies simply don't do it. Those organizations that do both of these are less challenged with every single challenge we asked them.
CMSWire: What were some of the triumphs in marketing you heard about from attendees?
Pulizzi: Content marketing is starting to become a real process in large organizations. Companies like Kraft are investing in content and seeing better return on investment from content investment than anything else they do.
The best part is that it's not all or nothing. The data acquired from how consumers are reacting to the content is used to make smarter media placements (the what and the where). And we are seeing this in small companies as well. Audiences are being built, and those audiences are showing tendencies like purchasing, purchasing more or staying longer and more loyal.
I can't tell you how many people I ran into that said that they wouldn't have a job without content marketing. How it's changed their lives. It's really amazing.
CMSWire: What about the software vendor world did you hear that you liked? What are the vendors trending to that works for digital marketers today?
Pulizzi: It was great to see many companies that actually are "content marketing software" vendors. They fill a need that wasn't being filled before, like content production services, finding writing or production talent, or measuring content performance.
But what's really interesting is the many categories that were at Content Marketing World that have come in from other industries, like project management software, content management, influencer marketing software and marketing automation. Every one of these needs a content marketing strategy behind it to survive and prosper.
CMSWire: Any tales from the conference/attendees/vendors surprise you last week -- and how so?
Pulizzi: Yes. Most vendors were surprised by the amount of traffic they were seeing at their booths. In some cases, a few vendors saw 30 plus percent of attendees request booth information. That never happens. It just goes to show you the hunger for content marketing software and related category solutions right now.
CMSWire: How many years has the event gone on, and how has it grown since Day 1?
Pulizzi: Content Marketing World 2014 was the 4th annual Content Marketing Institute event. The 2011 event saw 600 people. This year, there were 2,600 delegates from 50 countries represented.
CMSWire: Finish these sentences:
Marketers are doing too much of this in content marketing: Creating content without any kind of documented content marketing strategy. Stop what you are doing now and get one.
Marketers are not doing enough of this in content marketing: They are neglecting print. There were some amazing digital/print integrations at CMW this year. Amazing opportunities in that area.