On a muggy Wednesday, 900 people found themselves in the Islington’s Business Design Centre. Some came for the free food, some for the after party, and others for a chance to see Joe Pulizzi’s delightful array of orange business attire.
But everyone who came decided to stay for the chance to discuss the hot topics in B2B marketing, and how the future of the industry will look.
The talks were divided into six streams, revolving around broad industry topics such as social media, multi-channel and customer engagement.
As copywriters, we naturally had a keen interest in checking out the content stream. But we weren’t the only ones.
The stream was so packed that the event organisers had to move the talks to the central atrium to ensure everyone could fit in. And even then, people were still cramming themselves in to the aisles and sitting on the floor to hear about how to improve their content.
The bottom line? Content is an incredibly important element of the marketing mix – and it’s one that marketers desperately want help improving.
Where is the magic “content dispenser”?
Even outside the content stream, talks on campaign delivery, broader marketing strategy and social left a clear message: successful marketing still hinges on delivering compelling, engaging and useful content.
But many talks skimmed over where this great content comes from. In defence of the speakers, each one only had 30 minutes to deliver their talks and answer questions, so couldn’t always segue into a deeper discussion on content creation.
Still, for all the talk of how important content is, few mentioned how to get it, or how to make sure it actually speaks to your audience.
Sharpening your content edge
With more interest in content than ever, there was a surprising lack of focus on how to make yours stand out from the crowd. While many talks discussed new ways of deploying content or new types of media to experiment with, few were directly tackling how to make your content better.
Joe Pulizzi’s keynote summed it up perfectly: content marketing is booming and it’s getting harder to stand out amongst the thousands of other brands yelling into the void. He suggested “tilting” your content: carving out an original niche in order to get an edge on the competition. Wise words from the content marketing sage himself.
Likewise, Bray Leino’s Katherine Almond delivered an insightful, research-driven talk on why businesses say no to certain suppliers. The key takeaway? The marketing world is finally seeing what we’ve said all along: business decisions are driven by emotion as well as by rational thought.
Behind every suit is a person, and it seems forward-thinking marketers are taking that message to heart (and head), and getting better results by focusing on engaging copy as well as engaging stats and figures.
Automation is here to stay
While content seemed to be the big topic at the summit, automation came a close second. It appeared in a variety of talks across all the streams – and not always in a good way. Many speakers – including Carlos Hidalgo of ANNUITAS – suggested that, for some, marketing automation platforms have become little more than spam cannons.
That’s not to say all hope is lost. Most still recognise that we haven’t completely cracked automation yet, and that the tools of today still have plenty to offer savvy marketers willing to experiment with them.
Personalisation is the new black
One of the better ways people are beginning to use automation platforms is to personalise content sent out to prospects. Dell’s Kalja Moolenaar explained how Dell is creating a behaviourally-driven automation platform that serves up different content based on what each prospect is reading, watching and interacting with.
We’ve discussed intelligent content before with Velocity Partner’s Doug Kessler, but the concept is clearly gaining real traction. Dell’s presentation showed that, by assembling nurture emails from dynamic, modular sections rather than specifically pre-written messages, you can offer more relevant information to each reader.
Few marketers are yet taking this to its logical conclusion. Today, a lot of dynamically-personalised email only varies in terms of the title and CTA, without much supporting copy to entice the reader in to check further content. In future, we will see more dynamic modules linking to strong, relevant content to keep readers engaged.
No matter how complex and competent automation and personalisation get, the need for good writers and content creators isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The main takeaways
Condensing a full day of great sessions into a tl;dr isn’t going to be easy, but for time-starved copywriters who missed the event, here are the key takeaways:
- Go for quality over quantity in your content
- Find some originality—don’t just try and shout over everyone else
- Treat your reader like a person, not just a business decision-maker
- Automation is still a powerful tool, but only if it’s used wisely
- Personalized, dynamic content is here – but that content will still need to be engaging
For a deeper rundown of our experiences at the B2B Marketing Summit, take a listen to the latest episode of the Radix Podcast.