Edinburgh castle looking fantastic in the June sunshine
The conference spans two days but most attendees arrive the night before to attend the pre-registration event (and have a few beers!). If you’re attending for the first time this is a great opportunity to meet people before arriving in a packed room on the first day.
This year was my second visit to the conference and it was a lot easier to arrive and be greeted by familiar faces than in the first year where a rather shy Simon (ISTJ here) had to get to know people for the first time! It was also great to meet people who I’d spoken to online but hadn’t met in real life (or “IRL” as everyone kept saying!).
The conference is fantastic. The event is welcoming and vibrant, as are those who attend it. The attendees are from a variety of backgrounds. Business owners, marketers and freelancers form most of the guest list and you won’t find suits and ties – no, it’s a relaxed affair with a focus on learning and connecting.
The music getting everyone pumped for Day 1 of CMA Live 2018
Rather than review each presentation individually, I thought I’d talk about my key takeaways from the conference and what that might mean for you, a business owner.
Marketing in 2018
As you would expect, there are talks on a range of topics at CMA Live but I often find there are key themes which run through a conference such as this and for me, the messages which kept cropping up during the talks were as follows:
- Understanding Your Customer
- Creating Standout Content
- Taking action with content (and video, definitely video)
- Building Relatability and Trust
Working back from the Customer
When I sat and reflected on the content I heard during those two days in the Hub Conference centre, I felt there was a clear process starting to form in my head.
- Your Personality -> Your Content -> Your Customer
- Your Personality <- Your Content <- Your Customer
The process which began to formulate in my head was to work back from the customer. Start with the customer in mind – it sounds obvious, but the fact it came up in so many of the talks suggests that we aren’t doing this enough.
Questions such as, “How well do you understand your customer?”, “Who do you serve? and “Who is your perfect customer?” came up in talks on Niche Marketing, Sales and Writing.
It wasn’t just about creating a persona, either. They are useful but they aren’t always entirely useful. You write a detailed persona about your ideal customer – Terry. You describe his life, his wife, his trouble ‘n’ strife (Ed – couldn’t think of anything else that rhymed) and of course you mention his Cocker Spaniel, Nigel. Thing is – how important is Nigel to your content? He’s probably not (“Sorry Nigel”………”woof!”).
If personas aren’t always entirely useful what else can you use? Answer: data. What meaningful data do you have about your ideal/best customer? What information do you have that you can use to write content FOR THEM? Ann Handley, an expert writer and marketer told us to write to a person, not a persona.
However, it wasn’t just about knowing who they are. No, it was about really understanding them. What are their problems? What does the world look like for them after they’ve used your service, or paid for your product?
There were some home truths, a dose of reality. Brian Fanzo said, “What you do is boring”. Chris Brogan essentially said “Nobody is sat at home waiting for your blog post. Nobody gives a shit about your content…until they need it”.
What does this actually mean? It means that all your customers care about is their world, their problems. You have to consider those problems with your content. Deliver content which lets them know you have the solutions to those products, show them how the world looks like after they’ve used your service and make sure that content makes the whole process an experience. Show them the transformation (Amy Harrison).
Chris Brogan also explained that if you can show them the transformation and then deliver on that promise they’ll do your content marketing for you via the word-of-mouth marketing and eulogising they’ll provide for you.
So, back to the original question, how well do you understand your customer?
This was a Content Marketing conference so of course there was a lot of content…on content.
There were very strong messages around creating content that stands out, being creative, aligning your content with your customer’s outcomes and providing the content that your audience needs.
The internet is flooded with content. So how are you going to stand out? What can you do creatively to ensure that your content catches the attention of your audience rather their attention being grabbed by some other piece of content?
Mark Asquith spoke about us sometimes being a bit rigid when it comes to our communication. Of feeling that we need to be professional and the desire to be “professional” resulting in us and our content being boring. Being professional does not mean we can’t be creative and so how do we bring our personality or a creative spark to our content?
If you look at your latest blog, vlog, Instagram post or tweet does it stand out? Would it resonate with your ideal customer? Or does it look like every other piece of content out there?
We heard how you can put video at the centre of your strategy and we also heard how powerful writing can be in delivering impactful content. One thing is central to all your content though – put your customer at the centre of it. Your content isn’t about you, it’s about your customer, it’s never about you (Ann Handley).
Look at your content and ask yourself if your content is doing the following:
- Providing real clarity of what you do
- Delivering what your audience needs
- Standing out from the crowd
- Talking to your customers in terms of their outcomes, their transformation
Whilst we heard about content that resonates with your audience, we also heard about a need to get that content in front of your customers. Brian Fanzo explained how we can focus on perfecting our content and that “perfect is the enemy of done” – I think we’ve all been in a place of not wanting to release a piece of content until it’s perfect, haven’t we?
However, there are two contradictory views on content that I’ve heard from many of the experts. On the one hand, I hear that it’s now about high-quality, long-form content whereas on the other it’s about getting content out quickly and regularly. Only testing this would answer the question for your business, your industry and your audience.
To summarise on Content, make it stand out and make sure it’s got your customer right at the centre of it.
Jon Burkhart has a BIG personality
I loved the fact that numerous speakers spoke about the importance of bringing you and your personality to your marketing, especially on social media platforms like Facebook & Instagram. Those of you who follow me on social media will know I’m a big fan of video and I’m also a big fan of people/businesses being authentic. I hate the amount of automation that’s prevalent on social media and I’m glad to see that genuine authentic content is making a comeback.
Brian Fanzo stated, “the future of marketing is relatability”. He expanded on this by talking about how important it is that we connect with people on a human level. We, as humans, trust people like us, said Brian.
Think about this. We cannot connect on a human level in blog posts or via email, not really. We connect when we see people on video, when we hear their voice, see who they are and listen to what they say. When we hear how they go about life, their business, what they value, what they laugh at – that’s how we connect with people over social media.
Brian went on to say if we can build relatability and trust then we are forming the pathway for people to want to do business with us – food for thought if you’re not yet using video in your marketing.
It wasn’t just Brian who spoke about this, though. Mark Asquith, as I covered above, also taught us that we need to add more personality to our marketing and content. Our personality can be our differentiator – the thing that makes us stand out amongst other people. You might think, “not me, I wouldn’t stand out”, but you will, especially to those who like you for who you are.
Jon Burkhart, who’s quite the character, spoke on Day 2 about creating content that stands out. In his talk, he spoke about content that is PLAYFUL. Playful content. Not dry, not boring, playful. He had a model he referred to as POPS for creating content that attracts and engages people – Provocation – Originality – Playful – Surprise.
Gavin Bell also spoke on Day 2 about video. Gavin talked about his personal experience of taking video, going from a handful of views to 1.8m views in the last 12 months. He also spoke about the value of video when it comes to Facebook ads and he had a great quote that I love, “People buy from people they know, like and trust”.
Gavin’s story is one that I think many can take inspiration from. He showed us his first YouTube video, he was in a wood, hiding. 12 months later he’s creating vlogs which are getting 300,000 views. The first step on video is difficult for many but with consistency, practice and perseverance you will improve and you will become confident on camera.
What can you learn from this?
Chris Marr spoke about the power of learning through online communities
When I set out to write this blog post I wanted to do it in a way that would help you take action on what I learned, even if you weren’t at the conference.
You can see from what I’ve written that there were some key themes coming out of the conference:
- Customer First
- Creative Content
So how might you use what I’ve written to improve your Content Marketing strategy?
Here are some ideas:
- Review all of your content – does it put your customer at the centre of it? Does it talk to their problems and things they care about?
- Review all of your content again – does it stand out? If it doesn’t, how can you improve it? Think creatively, explore what others are doing, don’t let your content be grey.
- Think about the process a customer goes down when they do business with you. From end-to-end, is it an experience that they’ll want to shout about to other people? If not, why not?
- When you next go to create a piece of content don’t think “What should I write about?” but instead think “What does my audience need?”.
- Video. Think about using video. Whether that’s YouTube, Facebook or something easier like Instagram Stories.
Embrace the messy, as Gavin Bell said and PUSH THE DAMN BUTTON (Brian Fanzo).
Me in discussion with Paul Ince, Martin Huntbach and Lyndsay Cambridge at CMA Live 2018
There were many other great talks at CMA Live. To see a summary of each talk you can follow me on Instagram where I’m doing a daily post (June 18) to cover the key points of each session.
The conference left me with so many ideas, so much to think about. Creating an action plan is high on my agenda. I want some quick wins so that I don’t stumble over trying to implement the biggest idea first and whilst I implement the quick wins I can plan for bigger changes or challenges.
It’s refreshing to see that marketing in 2018 is about creativity and personality, that means we have permission to express ourselves. You have the permission to express yourself in your content.
Take off the shackles, turn on the video camera, and put your customer at the centre of everything.
CMA Live 2018. Over and out.