Attending a webinar to learn about content marketing is kind of like shooting yourself so you can learn how to treat bullet wounds. You’re the victim and the student.
Similarly, at the American Marketing Association’s webinar “Content Marketing: From Creation to Curation,” which I attended on Sept. 12, 2012, I was the inquisitor and the prospect. I began the process by registering for the event, filling out a form and providing details about myself and my company.
The webinar was being offered by Eloqua and Curata, both B2B companies. Curata is a content curation solution for companies. It pulls relevant content in from the respected Internets, organizes it and then shares it. You get the traffic without having to create content and the economy moves forward, I suppose. Eloqua is one of the most popular marketing automation platforms around—they aspire to improve revenue performance with software.
Now, a slight departure.
When I was in college, I had to read a book called Everything’s an Argument, by Andrea Lunsford, John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. Well, not so much read it, but open it and then followed the highlighter marks left by the previous owner. Judging by the title, you can guess the premise of the book. And it holds true—it’s why average citizens need to be armed with logical fallacies and categorical syllogisms in order to buy a cup of coffee or walk their dogs.
Joking aside, everything is an argument, and nearly all content on the web is, increasingly, marketing material.
Now, as I looked over power point slides during the webinar, I came to this realization, and my first reaction was cynicism, then anger. I came here to learn about content marketing, not to be plugged into Curata’s sales funnel. But then I gave it a moment, and I think it was when Eloqua’s Joe Chernov, the company’s VP of content marketing, was going through his presentation that I came to another conclusion:
Everything is marketing, and you are almost always a prospect in most interactions on the web. But you’re also learning.
That’s what’s exciting about content marketing. I sure as hell didn’t learn anything from the last Burger King ad I saw on TV, the blown-up photos of the Whopper on the side of the bus that almost hit me this morning, or this ridiculous Burger King toy I’m playing with right now as I eat this delicious Whopper—and that makes me feel like a rube.
However, I attended the webinar to learn something, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m sure I’ll be sent a few email touches, until I opt-out, which I will do as soon as I receive one. But I came away knowing a bit more about content marketing.
Here are some key takeaways from the webinar:
- Don’t think that dry topics deserve a dry presentation. Chernov used the portmanteau “infotaining” to describe this concept. Content should always be equally informative and entertaining.
- If you don’t have time to create content, Chernov suggested cutting something else to allocate more resources on content creation. It’s that important. You can also pick longer content to serialize over time, segment your own content or atomize it. If you have access to an ebook authored by someone in-house, turn it into a long series of blog posts.
- At the end of the funnel, you need to not only make sure that prospects get pricing and product information from you, but make those materials more interesting than pages of numbers. Don’t clutter your sales sheets with unnecessary anecdotes, but retain the tone and entertainment levels of the rest of the campaign.
- The most effective content assuages fears, relates to a prospect’s interests, and concentrates more on entertaining than converting. It sounds counter intuitive to sacrifice a conversion in order to entertain your prospects, but at best you have prospects who need your services, were entertained, and convert. At worst, you have prospects who were never going to convert but who actually enjoyed and/or shared your content.
Now, here are some key takeaways from the Burger King ad experience:
- I’m hungry.
- Oh, look, a burger.
- Man, this burger looks nothing like that giant burger that almost killed me.
- I feel like this new, uglier burger is having a knife fight with my intestines. Please excuse me for a few minutes.
So the webinar succeeded on my end (I learned) and on theirs (they got 900+ prospects for a future campaign).
Never mind that Chernov stressed that making content creation is a priority, and then Curata’s CEO Pawan Deshpande, who is annoyingly youthful looking, spent his entire presentation saying we needn’t create content anymore, thanks to content curation.
You can’t nitpick everything, or you’ll be miserable, cynical and a bore at parties. Eventually, you’ll be so cast-out and lonely that you’ll have an accurate picture in your head of every movie and TV show available to stream on Netflix, so much so that when the site adds some European B movie about whale racing, you identify it the second you prop your laptop up on a pillow in your sad, empty bed…
I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that, unless you scroll back up and subscribe to our blog in the right sidebar, you’ll never know how to create effective content or what to avoid in a burger.