#CMWorld recap

What. A. Week.

I knew it was going to be a whirlwind but I’m still blown away by how much useful information the Content Marketing Institute was able to jam into a two-day window. I left Cleveland (which was lovely, by the way) feeling energized and ready to be a better content marketer.

Here are a few takeaways that made a particular impact on me.

We’re thinking about buyer personas all wrong

So often we think of persona marketing in terms of industry, company size, simple demographics and salary. But while this may give us some indication of who they are professionally, it doesn’t speak to exactly HOW they make decisions.

Three different sessions recommended, in one way or another, to limit the number of personas you’re trying to reach and simply build personas with better information. Jay Baer put the limit at five personas. Jonathan Kranz of Kranz Communications suggested getting rid of demographics entirely and building your personas based only off known buyer behavior. Amanda Todorovich from the Cleveland Clinic actually boiled down their key buyer persona into a single photograph and put it up in every marketer’s work space.

All this to say that knowing how much someone makes or what his or her marital status is doesn’t give us a very good indication of what their decision-making process looks like. Every presenter that covered buyer personas challenged content marketers everywhere to think a little deeper about how we personify our audience.

[RELATED: Magnificent also put together a great list of takeaways from the event. Check them out here.]

Ardath Albee suggested we challenge our internal assumptions by asking the ultimate question: “Do you see your buyers as they see themselves?”

Creating average content has never been easier

One of the very first sessions even had it in the title: How Brilliant Marketers Find and Follow What Makes Their Stories Different in a World of Average Content.

We live in a world of average content. Not because the world is filled with average content creators but because delivering relevant content when and where the audience wants and needs it is really, really hard.

Content marketers are tasked with a lot. It’s our job to increase traffic and revenue while crafting compelling stories to reach new audiences and engage current customers. It’s only natural to rely on the success of others to try and succeed in all these areas.

[RELATED: 8 simple ways to scale your content]

But Jay Acunzo of Unthinkable suggests that best practices tend to be generic. There’s an overwhelming amount of data and case studies and pro tips. But do they help us connect to our unique audience?

So maybe the key to great content doesn’t come from the best data or the most comprehensive list of best practices. Maybe it starts with really truly knowing who you’re talking to and what they need. The data and best practices are gravy on top.

An overwhelming shift away from quantity

If creating average content is easy, it follows that quality is now the measure of a content marketer. Jay Baer shared a statistic that drives this point home: Even though we know so much of content falls flat, “76 percent of marketers are going to create more this year than ever before.” Jay continued, “How much content you create is not a success metric.”

Perhaps the shift isn’t a new trend. Quality has always been a priority for content marketers. But it’s as though many of these sessions were giving us permission to ditch the idea of a content quota and focus our efforts only on creating relevance.

[Pro tip: One surefire way to ensure quality content? Use an editor.]

We’re not alone

So many of the sessions seemed to try and answer the “But what if I don’t have X?” question. What if I don’t have the budget? What if I don’t have the staff? What if I don’t have the buy-in?

I went into #CMWorld expecting to play a lot of catch-up to the content marketers who really knew their stuff. But I was refreshed to see that the conference was about overcoming common obstacles and finding creative ways to be better, more confident content marketers. I’m already excited for next year.

For more details on the 2017 Content Marketing World workshops and sessions, check out our Day 1 and Day 2 recaps.

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