Marcus Sheridan

content marketing looking ahead

As I write this article, I find myself just 2 days removed from Content Marketing World. As has been the case for the last 4 years, Joe Pulizzi and his crew managed to put together an amazing event full of great education, entertainment, and lasting memories for the 2500 attendees from around the world.

That being said, there is something about CMW that concerns me.

It’s the same thing that will bother me this week as I attend HubSpot’s Inbound Conference.

Let me explain…

Content Marketing as a Culture

My role this year at Content Marketing World was to teach a workshop on the final day. In the room were about 60 or so marketing folks from business and brands of all sizes.

To start the workshop, I asked a two simple questions:

  1. What percentage of the attendees here (in the room and at CMW) consider themselves to be in the “marketing department” of their company?
  2. What percentage of the attendees of this event consider themselves to primarily be in the “sales department” of their company.

Upon having a short discussion, we all agreed that CMW was likely around 90% marketing folks and well less than 10% sales folks.

I suspect the numbers will be basically the same here at Inbound.

This, in my opinion, is the biggest issue stunting the growth and success of the content marketing industry right now.

Think about it for a second: How often do you hear these days that it’s critical for businesses to “tear down the silos” for marketing success? (In case you’ve been in a hole, the answer is “all the time.”)

The reason this statement is repeated again and again is because the companies that are truly crushing it in the content marketing space almost always have cross-organizational buy-in and participation.

In fact, this is how a culture of content marketing should work:

  1. Management believes content marketing (done right) is essential to the company’s long term success.
  2. Sales and customer service departments become the fountain of content ideas and information—mainly because they are the most tapped in to the prospect and customer base, therefore knowing their problems, issues, concerns, fears, questions, etc. regarding services and products.
  3. The marketing department takes this great information from Sales and Customer Service and produces that magical thing we call “content.”
  4. Sales and Customer Service now use said “content” to make their jobs more effective and easier.
  5. This process continues again and again and again and everyone is happy.

If you look at these steps of content marketing success, you can see why there is a big problem in the content marketing space as currently demonstrated with events:

  • The sales department is not in attendance.
  • Customer service folks are generally not there either.
  • Heck, even management is often absent.

And it’s because of this the industry is suffering from a tremendous lack of “buy-in” across the board.

In fact, the #1 email I receive from readers of The Sales Lion is, “Marcus, I just can’t get the rest of my staff to buy in to all of this content marketing stuff.”

Yep, that’s a problem.

This Goes Beyond “Marketing Conferences”

It’s also why we’ve got to make an intentional shift in our actions and messaging if we’re going to fix the issue.

Personally, I see two main solutions:

  1. We need to stop calling our events “marketing conferences.” These events are wayyyyy more than that. In fact, they’re really sales conferences if you consider the fact that most buying decisions these days are made long before a consumer talks to an actual “sales person.”
  2. At our events, we need to have a major focus on producing sessions that would be ideal for BOTH sales and marketing departments.

For example, because I’ve been thinking about this subject for quite some time, my workshop at CMW was entirely focused on how the principles of successful sales and marketing (messaging, copywriting, etc.) were EXACTLY the same thing—online and off. It was for this reason I decided to bring my good friend Ian Altman to be my co-presenter. He was the “Sales guy” and I was the “Marketing guy.”

As you might imagine and at the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, many of the attendees in the room said it was far and away their best and most productive part of Content Marketing World 2014.

In fact, at the end of the session, when we were coming to a close, I asked a simple question:

“What impact would it have if the people in your sales department were also in this room right now?”

The response in the room was essential the same from everyone:

“It would make our jobs so much easier and change everything.”

And it would.

I know because at The Sales Lion, every retainer client we take on is required to have a workshop to kick-off the content marketing efforts—a workshop in which the sales and customer service (assuming they have one) departments are required to attend.

This is also the fundamental reason I started The Remarkable Growth Experience, which is the only conference (at least that I’m aware of) which was built for company “teams” and not individual departments.

Going Forward

At the end of Content Marketing World, I had the chance to speak to Joe Pulizzi and give him the thoughts I’ve given you today. He shared my sentiments and stated CMW was going to do just that in 2015 and have a much heavier emphasis on targeting those folks in the “sales department” to attending the event as well in 2015.

This conversation with Joe excited me quite a bit because I truly do believe this is the next step in making this industry what it can and should be.

The silos need to come down.

Marketing needs to see themselves as Sales.

Sales needs to see themselves as Marketing.

If this convergence occurs, I truly believe it will change business as we know it.


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