I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the content world for just over a decade.
I may have gotten my start in social, but I know what fed the machine.
In that time, I had never been to Content Marketing World. Fortunately, thanks to my employer, NetLine, being a sponsor (and sister company) of the event, I made the trip down to DC.
The shift from its traditional Cleveland venue seemed symbolic: Just as the venue changed, so, too, has the content landscape.
The Evolving Content Universe
“Content is changing.”
It’s an oft-repeated statement, but this time, it feels quite real. Perhaps more so than ever.
With this in mind, I wanted to share some of my observations and takeaways from the event.
My Greatest Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2023
The Monday after returning home, my boss asked me a simple question:
What were your biggest takeaways from the conference?
Sure, I had thought about it but I took a beat to consider my answer.
After a few seconds, one word came to mind: Resonance.
The Future of Content Requires Resonance
Resonance. It’s the one word I think of when I reflect on my personal experience with this event.
As the kids say, you need to be a vibe, meaning that in order to cut through the noise, your messaging needs to be on the same wavelength.
I’ll touch on this throughout, but it’s important to say that this idea in content marketing, let alone marketing, isn’t new.
It’s simply a greater point of discussion because of how much noise we have in our world.
You’ll better understand why resonance is such a major focus of B2B content marketing once we address one of the largest variables in our lifetime: Artificial intelligence.
The AI Revolution
On my way to DC, curiosity got the best of me.
I decided to count the number of sessions at CMW23 that had something to do with AI.
In total, a staggering 94 sessions touched on it in one way, shape, or form.
On top of this, many of the sessions that weren’t labeled as being related to AI referred to it at different points.
The reason so many of these sessions touched on artificial intelligence hinges on being heard.
Heck, why does content marketing even exist if not for this very reason?
AI is Omnipresent
Artificial intelligence, specifically generative AI, is revolutionizing how we all work.
(I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use AI to help me expedite the writing of this article. ChatGPT helped me reorganize my thoughts to make editing easier.)
The tools we have today are unparalleled in history. Their evolution promises even more capabilities.
The challenge? Harnessing them effectively to resonate with our audiences.
Despite the multitude of sessions on AI tools and applications, a consistent theme emerged: AI isn’t the silver bullet.
Keynote speakers like Elizabeth Banks, Ann Handley, and Andrew Davies echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the irreplaceable human element. Even in an AI-driven world, these sessions underscored the need for authenticity and uniqueness.
Jay Acunzo’s session highlighted the contrast between AI’s large language models and humans’ little life moments.
The takeaway? Our uniqueness lies in our stories.
Seeking Resonance in a Digital World
Resonating with audiences is a universal struggle.
The quest for best practices often overshadows the need to connect on a human level.
For instance, our strategy at NetLine during Content Marketing World was designed to attract and engage. (Shout-out to the C&C team who stopped by our booth [aka The Space Bar] during our Wednesday happy hour!)
But beyond the initial attraction, how do we ensure our message leaves a lasting impact?
The answer isn’t ubiquitous, but it does demand unique ideas and approaches. For NetLine, we aimed to achieve an event experience that matched both our branding and messaging.
Quite a bit of work went into it (much of which was not my doing) and we continue to see the investment pay dividends.
The Resurgence of Search
Beyond AI, search was a dominant theme. At least, it was one that stuck out to me.
While there may not have been a great number of sessions on the search its impact was significant.
With the anticipated changes AI will bring to every element of marketing, search is one of the disciplines many expect to be impacted immediately. Knowing this, I made a point to attend a few key sessions.
Impactful Insights from Orbit Media
Andy Crestodina’s session was a standout.
Since generative AI has become part of the marketing lexicon, many have asked how specific the tool can be. Before ChatGPT 4 (aka the paid version) was made available, the results were quite generic.
But in the hands of a marketing master like Andy, we were given a look into what’s possible.
He delved deep into how the use of AI revolutionized his company’s SEO strategy.
The transformation of complex, manual work into a streamlined process was awe-inspiring.
His session captivated everyone’s attention for the full 40 minutes. Those taking notes were nervous to look down at their device or notebook, lest they miss another of Andy’s nuggets of gold.
Throughout, Andy continued to stress the importance of not spinning your wheels with keywords and phrases that you’ll never rank for. Instead, he implored everyone to pursue the ones that were within reach.
This is something many struggle with. Essentially, Andy hopes none of us waste any more time, budget, or energy on things that have long passed us by.
“What would you do with 20% greater productivity?” Andy said. “This is a moment in time where we should think about what we would do with (the time savings thanks to) greater productivity.”
Using his approach, which he shared via the YouTube video above, we can all save ourselves the headaches of SEO senselessness (and live life a little bit fuller).
Anticipating Google’s 2024 Changes
The looming changes from Google, including cookie tracking deprecation and Search Generative Experience, are likely fueling a renewed interest in search.
This was something Andy Crestodina addressed during his session’s Q&A, as well.
Essentially, he believes, like others, that this update will significantly diminish website traffic, despite Google linking back to original publishers.
However, he also expects that the overall experience for users will improve, making it easier for brands to focus on the core issues they solve for their ICP.
Search’s Star Power
Andy wasn’t the only SEO VIP to take the stage.
Lee Oden’s session on search intent was a testament to its significance. Packed to capacity, Lee’s session demonstrated the combination of star power and genuine interest in the topic.
NetLine worked with TopRank for an influencer campaign earlier this year as we launched INTENTIVE, B2B’s first and only buyer-level intent platform. I spoke with Lee briefly before his session and he mentioned it was his first time speaking on search specifically in quite a while.
Having been in the audience, no one in the crowd would have guessed this. Well done, Lee!
Intent Was Overlooked
Speaking of intent, surprisingly, intent seemed underrepresented.
“Hey, Jon, if NetLine has an intent platform, why didn’t you talk about intent?”
That certainly is a fair note, dear reader. However, being that our platform is a newborn, we’d like to see it get its first steps in before we let its results and findings fly in front of our peers.
But that will come in 2024.
Anyway—content marketing’s effectiveness and cost-efficiency are undeniable. Yet, the focus on attracting new prospects overshadowed the importance of understanding whether or not you expect them to become a customer.
This is bound to shift in coming years.
Knowing your potential buyer eliminates guesswork, letting marketers piece together the buyer’s journey seamlessly.
Imagine, for a moment, that you actually knew precisely WHO your buyer was and what they wanted to hear from you?
What if you then took all of the first-party information you had on these buyers and leveraged AI to accelerate the sales outcomes every marketing department is ultimately chasing?
These are the opportunities ahead of all of us thanks to buyer-level intent data.
Content Marketing World 2023 was an enlightening experience.
From engaging sessions to insightful booth discussions, it was a melting pot of ideas and perspectives.
As we anticipate the next edition in 2024, the lessons from this year will undoubtedly shape our strategies, ensuring we navigate away from the B2B black hole and into clearer, more impactful content horizons.