If you follow tech trends and headlines, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Software is eating the world.” It was originally a provocative statement made by a West Coast venture capital firm to describe the seismic effect software is having on the way we live and the world we live in. Leave it to Silicon Valley to describe something with such dramatic flair. But even here in the grounded Midwest, it was clear at Content Marketing World 2016 (Sept. 6–9 in Cleveland) that the same could be said for content. As much as we consume content, it consumes us more.
Content’s growing influence on marketing is no less dramatic than the implications of the software tsunami. Seth Godin once said, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.” And if you look at how content (creating it, experiencing it, managing it) is transforming marketing’s purpose, processes and people, it would appear he’s right.
Content Marketing World was hectic, of course. My days were busy running from session to session (box lunch threatening to tumble from my hands at every turn) and holding hurried side meetings with colleagues. But somehow I found time to wax philosophical about what content is “doing to us.” I thought: Content has always been the heart of marketing. So what’s really changed?
Is content eating marketing? And if so — what do I do about it?
I’ve always gravitated toward situations where the marketing philosophy needed to change dramatically. Early in my career, I wrote a marketing manifesto and walked right into the president’s office — without an appointment — to present it. I didn’t get fired, I didn’t look back, and I’ve followed those tenets ever since. But at Content Marketing World, I realized it’s time to update that marketing manifesto to match the reality we live in. It’s not that content is taking over. It’s that marketing is transforming.
And thanks to Content Marketing World (and a little time out of the office), I’m inspired to transform along with it.
So, here goes …
Marketing Manifesto 2.0
(Written on Suzanne’s iPad, Sept. 8, AA#3188 Cleveland to Chicago, Seat 8C)
1. I will not take a sales number. It’s been great getting closer to the front line and working with sales to grow the business. But I need to be focused on engagement during the buyer’s journey and let sales focus on the close. Marketing sows and grows, sales reaps — right? I will define and measure the metrics that prove marketing’s value to the business.
2. No more annual marketing plans. Instead, my plans will be quarterly and iterative. Annual targets will drive our efforts, but we must take an Agile approach. Speed is good, but we will have the courage to slow down where needed, so that, ultimately, we can go even faster.
3. Improvement over information. I will put analytics first, reporting second. (Dare I say no more reports?) My process will be to spend energy on asking great questions and finding the answers. Iterate, test, apply insights, make improvements, repeat. The end goal should be to learn new ways to discuss and develop, not to build dashboards.
4. No more campaigns! Instead, I will focus on resonant themes and provide the content and tools that buyers need to make better decisions. Inbound, interactive and network tactics will rule. I’ll let buyers decide when they will reach out to me … and I’ll make sure I earn it.
5. I will stand for what matters to who matters most. I will listen, learn and be what my market truly wants and needs. What I say, do, create and offer must matter. The word “solutions” is banned.
6. My marketing team will communicate with authenticity, perspective and simplicity. Down with spin. Up with data. We’ll create simple plans that offer transparent access to results. And we’ll never use bullets again. (Thanks to @randfish for this one!)
7. I will democratize marketing. Everyone in the company will be equipped and encouraged to be a marketer. That whole “everybody thinks they’re a marketer” problem isn’t really a problem. I will go with it and give them the tools and guidance they need. In the world of social networking, the more people you have amplifying your message, the better.
8. Marketing will be equal to all other functions. Marketing is not sales support. It has a unique role, just as all other functions have theirs. We will not speak marketing; we will speak business.
9. I will document our transformation … both the trials and the triumphs. It’s kind of cool to be a trailblazer like Neil Armstrong, putting the first steps on the moon, or like Lewis and Clark. OK, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but the point is that as we break new ground, we should map the way for those who follow.
10. I will not expect Rome to be built in a day. I mean it. Change takes time … and everybody, starting with me, needs to deal with it.
Maybe content is eating marketing. Maybe it’s not. What is certain is that, as they say, change is the only constant. And being a change agent is the most energizing role to be in, whether you manage a cog, a wheel or the entire machine.
So how will you become an agent of change? What’s your manifesto?