Continued Education in Marketing

Marketing is always evolving, and for that reason, I will never become bored. However, for the same reason, it’s essential to invest in continued education in marketing and brush up on the latest trends and technologies.

Last year, my colleague and I took a trip to Boston to attend the Hubspot INBOUND conference. From presentations about content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and blogging, our heads were filled with a staggering amount of information. We came back eager to put the new-found strategies to the test.

Putting what I learned at INBOUND into practice

Though there were many thoughtful presentations at the conference, there were a few that really resonated with me. Here are my top three presentations from INBOUND:

Most Insightful Presentation

Everett Ackerman, a lead SEO/SEM strategist at New Breed Marketing, led a presentation called, “Is the Keyword Dead? The New Role of Intent in SEO and Content Marketing Success.” These were the important takeaways:

Search intent matters.

Not only does Google try to finish your sentences, but it also works to find a deeper meaning to your searches. For example, if you were to search “where are the best places to eat right now,” Google would take your location (the “where” part), discern the time (the “right now” part), and give you the top-rated restaurants around you (the “best” part). Fascinating, right? This means that keywords are not the “end all” for SEO anymore. Now marketers must look for intent in their audience’s question, and write to answer it. 

Focus on key topics and quality content.

With this shift in search, your content can rank for many keywords. In an example, Ackerman showed how one piece of material titled, “10 Selling Techniques to help you Become a Better Salesperson” actually ranked for 23 different longtail keywords. It sounds great at first, but Google will penalize you for content that is not useful, because, in Google’s eyes, that piece of content looks spammy. Plus, you could be targeting the wrong market.

How did he cut through the keyword clutter? Instead of only trying to optimize the piece with keywords, we should also be showing Google that we have quality content that will give our customer excellent user experience, which leads me to my next takeaway.

Topic clusters will help — big time.

Bless the person who came up with topic clusters. To sum up, this strategy consists of having one topic, called pillar content, that can then turn into subtopics, called cluster content, which are connected to pillar content by hyperlinks.

Here’s an example. If an attorney wanted to rank for a personal injury lawyer, they would create a page that highlights that specific service, aka their pillar page. Then, they would link to every single piece of content that talks about personal injury lawyers. This strategy helps you gain ranking authority and gives your target audience easy access to the information that supports and entices them. When I create content plans, I use the topic cluster method to organize my ideas.

Most Inspiring Presentation

I was blown away by Madison Utendahl, the head of content and social for the Museum of Ice Cream in New York. I particularly like this one quote from Utendahl (which I have on a sticky note stuck to my computer), “Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a better story than yours. Let that inspire you.” As a copywriter, and more importantly, a marketer, this is my daily reminder to tell compelling stories. I boiled down her presentation into three steps:

Step 1: Listen to what your audience has to say.

To create a loyal online community, marketers need to be kind and vulnerable. Today, audiences want to connect with a brand instead of just buying from them. So, marketers need to listen to what their audience wants and the stories they have to tell.

Step 2: Drive offline action by using imagination.

It’s limiting to think that ice cream can only sell by being ice cream. Madison took the idea of a sweet treat and thought about what it did for people: it comforted; it rewarded; it created memories. Instead of being boxed in as a “dessert served cold,” she took the romantic idea of ice cream and ran with it in order to evoke emotion from her audience.

Step 3: Create inclusive and inspirational content that is easily digestible.

Easier said than done, right? However, if you’re doing the first two steps, this should come naturally. By listening to your audience and creating engaging, imaginative content, you are building an inclusive community, and your audience will reward you with loyalty.

Most Unexpected Presentation

Brittany Berger’s presentation, “Content Remixing: How to Succeed at Content Marketing Without Creating Anything New,” showed me that a company doesn’t always need to create more content. This is especially valuable advice if you are on a small or even solo content team. Find new ways to use your existing library of content. For Wholist, a health and fitness brand, we remixed some of their live Facebook videos into bite-sized nuggets for social media posts.

But please don’t take my word for it; take Berger’s example of Billy Joel. That angel-voiced man remixed the same song, “Movin’ Out” over five times. Why? Because it was popular, and people were listening to it! So why not create new versions of it to get new results? It worked!

INBOUND was a valuable investment of time and resources because it gave me insight into how to improve our processes at Stoltz. As marketing continues to evolve, we as marketers must learn how to keep up. I mean, you don’t see ads like this anymore, do you?

Conditions change for good reasons.