A couple weeks ago, I attended the Content Marketing Retreat (#CMRetreat) hosted by Fusionspark Media along with Chris Sewell, our content director at Weber Shandwick. Having missed the first annual retreat, I was excited to finally head across the sound to beautiful Langley, WA for a day of big learning.

The Retreat exceeded my expectations on all accounts. Great location, stellar organization throughout the day, knockout food (holy homemade pumpkin bread) and of course most importantly, an all-star lineup made for an excellent trip.

Throughout the course of day one, attendees hear from Rod Brooks, Russell Sparkman, Tim Frick, Jayme Thomason, Chris Baggott, Pawan Deshpande, Simon Kelly, Robert Rose and others.

The crowd seemed to be a diverse group from all over with a slant towards those working in smaller organizations. Topics throughout the day hit on a range of topics from top level content marketing strategy to maximizing use of Google Analytics data to improve content optimization. While many conferences can drag at certain points, the quick presentation structure followed by a panel discussion made for a great format to maintain audience attention throughout.

Below are 5 key takeaways that stemmed from the Retreat.

1. Content Marketing is Not Rocket Science

Sorry, it’s just not. Does content marketing require smart analysis, technical insight, natural instinct for audience demands and the ability to piece everything together into a solid strategy? You bet, but it takes practice and requires that you are constantly thinking about how best to stay a step ahead of your audience and the competition.

2. Brands That Succeed at Content Marketing Fail…a Lot.

During his presentation on developing a step-by-step content marketing plan, Robert Rose emphasized the importance of establishing an office culture that embraces innovation. You, along with your coworkers or employees, need to feel that it’s okay to fail. In fact, you need to be realistic about the fact that success often stems from a series of smart failures where you’ve progressively learned more and more about how best to achieve your goals. The iPhone and iPad weren’t created overnight and neither will your strategy for how to sell X products or engage with Y number of people. Try and keep trying.

3. Data Is the Hidden Gem Behind All Good Content Marketing

It’s scary to me these days when a company or organization gives you a blank stare when you ask about website or engagement analytics. Data drives strategy. If you don’t have a benchmark and ongoing consistent measurement to track what content is resonating with which audience, you don’t have the fuel necessary to revamp your content marketing plan.

4. Curation is An Art Form

Successful curators have amazing taste. They know their audience’s taste like the back of their hand. They know the value of attribution, the importance of framing and how to deliver content to their target audience in the right format in a consistent fashion.

5. Content Marketers Understand the Difference Between Audience “Needs” and “Wants”

Rod Brooks did a great job putting this point on display. Rod is the CMO for Pemco Insurance. We all need insurance. We know that. Do we all like to talk about insurance on a daily basis? Nope.

What we do love to talk about is our family, friends and community. We love to discuss topics of shared interest that resonate across the board relevant to our safety and well being.

The same applies for your company. Stop trying to shove your audience’s needs down their throat and take a broader look at the shared values and interests of your target community. What type of content does this audience want? What do they care most about? THAT is your point of entry. That is your bridge to building trust and creating dialogue.

Thanks again Russell Sparkman and to all the presenters. Look forward to another fantastic gathering next year.

Photo courtesy of  jÖrg.

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