#CMWorld 2019 Through the First-Time Attendee’s Lens: Insights for an Audience-Driven Strategy

Do you remember the first time you walked into a stadium of your favorite sports team after a long ride of anticipation? You had an idea of what to expect, but you didn’t know everything it would offer. Welcome to my experience as a first-timer at #CMWorld.

As a sponsor, jumping into planning an event of this scale gave me some idea of the grandeur that awaited, but nothing could prepare me for the scope of what it would offer once there.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Kick Off Party + Opening keynote from the Founder of Content Marketing Institute + Over 120 sessions + Puppies during #YappyHour = WOW.

Step into my shoes: I’m here and I’m ready to go deep into the content universe to uncover the trends and practices that will maximize engagement and ROI…. Much like every single person at the event. A gloomy thought hits me, “How am I supposed to soak all of this up in a way that’s relevant to my company?”

If we’re all attending the same sessions to understand top content marketing practices but all our businesses are unique, how are we all supposed to gain actionable, strategic insights to take home?

Everything in content marketing is about your audience

The answer to my short-lived panic was quite obvious in most of the sessions, specifically the keynotes: Pay attention to your audience.

Similar to the last event I attended, understanding your audience is key to creating great content that drives revenue. If the thematic lesson content marketing experts share is to pay attention to your audience, my lesson for approaching each session is to pay attention with my audience in mind.

While it’s obvious that knowing your audience is essential to creating compelling content, I’m led to believe many people ignore this due to the large presence of this core value at the event. Your audience defines the message you share, the metrics that matter and your return on your content marketing efforts. Understanding, knowing, and listening to your audience is imperative.

Creating long-term success comes from understanding your audience


On the first morning of the event, Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi shared his seven laws of marketing with us. Providing trends for where content marketing is headed, he shared how you can successfully prepare by engaging in meaningful practices today. Skipping ahead a couple laws, the fourth one stood out to me.

Law 4: The Law of Ryan Seacrest – Do one thing great.

After the chuckles died down, he shared how splitting content energy too much leads to mediocre results and has little impact. Since the goal is to build a loyal audience, it’s important to deliver meaning and value to them. When you choose to invest your energy into what matters to your audience, you can create better content. By taking care of your minimum viable audience through great content, customer loyalty easily comes next.

If you’re part of a small marketing team like I am and feel as if it’s challenging to focus on what’s important because your attention is split between too many things, Pulizzi has a cure for that.

Say no with conviction.

While you may not be able to say no to every request that comes your way, this reinforces the need to evaluate the impact of what you’re doing.


Another keynote legend, Tamsen Webster, also centered her talk on the value of knowing and listening to your audience. Digging into three key words, she opens a whole new world to audience-inspired content. Her green light recipe boils down to:

  • WANT: It’s hard to unwant. On the other hand, it’s easy to give people what they want.
  • BELIEVE: If they do want it, they have to believe you will deliver on it.
  • VALIDATE: To create long-term change is to validate what people already believe and want.

Giving us another reminder that customer loyalty and long-term change is the goal of great content marketing, Webster combines her philosophy with a key takeaway to all marketers: Use THEIR reasoning to validate YOURS.

The whole idea is to not coerce people into listening by invalidating what they don’t want or need. The difference between short-term action and long-term change is validation.

Therefore, the green light lives within utilizing your audience’s wants and beliefs and then validating them. You have to understand your audience before you can validate them through your marketing messaging.

Great content goes hand in hand with knowing what metrics to look at


Have you ever seen someone exude passion through every pore of their body? This was Henry Rollins. The intensity of enthusiasm demonstrated by Rollins was unlike any speaker I’ve ever experienced.

His lesson was simple but often ignored: Don’t ever put out mediocre content, because your audience deserves more than that.

How do you achieve this? Rollins reminds us all to ask ourselves questions to keep integrity at the heart of the content we’re creating. He reflects on the many times he’ll ask himself, “Is anything I’m doing worth checking out?” then goes on to say, “If I can’t answer that with something positive, I need to rethink what I’m doing.”

Expressing the importance of creating truthful content, he’s devoted to only provide information-rich and compelling content to his audience. He prides himself on going places (physically, emotionally, and figuratively) where others won’t go to tell stories that otherwise will not be told and probed the audience to ponder whether we could do the same for our company?

If this is the recipe for content excellence, marketers need to understand their audience to provide that kind of value.


Scott Stratten introduced his keynote with obvious authenticity. He shared a hilarious instance where he noticed fake reviews published by employees for a Canadian cell phone company, Bell. Not stopping there, he publishes an article  about this scandal which gathers attention from major media companies and results in a pretty hefty fine for Bell. The whole point of sharing this story is:

The web was created through trust. If you break trust, you not only make the internet less relevant, but you break the purpose of the internet.

The concept of wanting your company to appear likable and valuable online or go viral isn’t going to help your business if it costs your integrity.

Stratten then shares a personal story that delivers one of the most important messages I heard at the event: Dig deep into metrics for what’s actually relevant.

After sharing an experience about caring more about “likes” than delivering value or considering ROI, he says: “Find the RIGHT metric, because that’s what drives business.”

I agree. But this begs the question, “What’s the right metric?” That depends on what your business model is. Although, for most people at the event, I would imagine a relatable metric is “What’s the ROI of my content?”

What’s the return on your content?

In between chatting with attendees who stopped by our booth, random conversations in the halls, and discussions after our B2B case study, another thing became clear: while content marketing leaders are expressing urgency and prioritization of putting your audience first, some marketers don’t have the right action steps, tech, or tools to get there.

Our SVP of Audience, Marketing, and Product, David Fortino, shared first-party data and dug into metrics in a session of our own, “How Buyer Engagement Data Can Help Maximize ROI of Lead-Generating Content”.

Featuring our client, Carolina Alves of Aggreko, this B2B case study focused on actionable takeaways from our 2019 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report, shared a live view of our interactive free tool, Audience Explorer, and gave firsthand content syndication experience results from Aggreko.

In an effort to arm marketers with data to inform their targeting and content strategy, Fortino shared crucial content trends and “to-do’s” from our annual report that hones in on how to maximize engagement with your audience by crafting relevant messages.

Alongside this, he took the room for a live look into our no-cost tool, Audience Explorer, to show real-time, custom content consumption insights on a specific audience. Emphasizing the ability to refine filters to display custom insights on your target persona, this tool is something for marketers to take home to dive deeper into their specific audience.

Carolina Alves took the stage to share her challenges and needs as the Marketing Inbound Specialist at Aggreko. She explained how her niche market makes it challenging to not only package compelling content, but also get the right audience to pay attention to it. The trouble was both exposing it to potential buyers and then engaging them enough to read it.

Last year, Alves attended Content Marketing World and was an attendee at Fortino’s 2018 B2B Case Study session with ITPro TV.

This was her first introduction to NetLine and she immediately began leveraging NetLine to funnel targeted leads to her sales org. Her challenges met the right solution: an industry agnostic buyer engagement platform for content syndication to deliver performance-based, highly targeted leads.

Giving a unique look into her results, Alves shared her return is over 1,000 times the investment.

Giving access into our real-time reporting features also helps to understand what content is working versus what isn’t. Alves continued further, sharing Aggreko’s best performing content by most downloads and then by most ROI, comparing the content format, cover graphics, and titles.

Perfectly capturing the ongoing themes at the conference, Alves focused on her specific audience and the necessary tech to target content directly to them and responded by analyzing the right metrics.

The best part of CMWorld

The sessions are not supposed to be the be-all-end-all of content marketing. However, they get our wheels spinning and are:

  • An initiator to brainstorming and evaluating where you currently are and what you could be doing better.
  • A chance to challenge how you operate so you can have a better output.
  • A pause for seeing what resonates with you versus what misses the mark and identifying what will actually work for your company.
  • A reminder to bring your audience to the forefront of your strategy.

Plus, the event offers the chance to share marketing perspectives and connect face-to-face with clients who are there, like this self-identified NetLine superfan, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, Elinor Bradbury:

Selfishly, my favorite part of this event was featuring our client in our case study. We had a chance to connect outside of the normal office environment and it was incredible to hear more of her story. Having face-to-face time further humanizes the normal business relationship, putting a face and personality to the name.

So, how can I package up this review in one sentence? I can’t wait for CMWorld 2020.

See you there!