I've just returned from the Intelligent Content Conference in Las Vegas. And while the slot machines left me a little poorer, the insights I took away from the event left me quite a bit richer.

This year's theme was “Finding Meaning In The Mystery,” and it's a great way to think about where we are right now with content strategy. 

Robert Rose, CMI’s Chief Strategy Officer, said it well in his keynote — content is much more than just a marketing strategy. It’s now a business strategy. 

He pointed out that technology is improving to the point that individual pieces of the management process will ultimately be taken over by software. In order to get to a deeper career path for content, practitioners must be able to adapt and bring deeper level meaning to content strategy.

Rose's keynote kicked off two days of presentations that illustrated some of the biggest challenges that businesses have with making content more intelligent. 

Here are my three big takeaways from the event:

1. Measure Strategic Content With Business Goals, Not Content Goals

Content is simultaneously becoming more important, and more difficult to manage. To truly drive value for the business, those who manage content have to focus much more on the business objectives they are trying to reach. In a great workshop called “Getting Personal: Using Content Modeling To Make Customers Feel Unique," Kate Kenyon, content strategy and management practice lead at Cognifide said that to design content as an asset, you have to design it for a particular business outcome, and decide then how to assess its performance.”

In her keynote on the second day Andrea Ames, content experience strategist at IBM said something similar: “what answers are you looking for? If you are ever going to measure performance, use the information to improve something.”

2. Technology Is Important - But Humans Are Really Important

The technology that we use to manage our content is incredibly important. But as Kenyon noted in her session “a big content management system requires talent. How much tech do you need?”  

Our own CTO Arjé Cahn sat on a panel moderated by Digital Clarity Group Analyst Tim Walters. Cahn summed up the challenge of content management technology well, “You need a CMS which focuses on delivering consistent content across all your digital touchpoints. Preferable in a personalized way. To do this properly you need to add structure to your content.”

Additionally, in the day one closing keynote, content strategist Karen McGrane encouraged those in the audience to be very careful about any assumptions they make about customers and the kind of content they may dynamically present on a mobile device. Her session on the difference between responsive and adaptive content design made the point that doing personalization and content optimization by simply looking at a device can backfire if you don’t first have a smart strategy in mind.

And finally, B2B marketing strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions, Ardath Albee highlighted the difficulties of personalization. She discussed that 99.5 percent of businesses really are looking for content targeting to personas and NOT personalization.

Joe Pulizzi takes the stage

Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi kicks off the conference

3. We Must Understand Our Customer’s Journey

One of the most frequently raised themes at the conference was the idea of understanding what our customer’s need from our content. DCG’s Walters suggested that we needed to find the “moments of truth” within each of our content strategies.

As content strategy consultant Noz Urbina pointed out in his session, businesses need to get out of their corporate silos and start developing content journeys from the perspective of the customer. As he said, “you have to understand your key personas and their journeys before you make content models.”  

If a Martian Can Do It, So Can You

The conference featured a great mix of marketing, content management and strategy geekiness that made me feel right at home. 

If we can begin to find meaning in the technology, and deeper meaning in our strategy, we can be successful. 

Andy Weir, author of "The Martian," put it well in the closing keynote. He credited the Internet and digital with his success. He said if it hadn’t been for digital and the means to publish content to the Web, his self-published novel might have always been some obscure thing that only a handful of his friends would have enjoyed.

The ability to publish his book on the Web, get it into Amazon and ultimately sell the book himself, allowed him to catch the attention of producers, Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott. The movie has brought all kinds of success for Weir. 

That same kind of success awaits us — if we can put deeper meaning into our content management and customer experience strategy.   

For More Information:

Title image "Mars" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  Kevin M. Gill