April 22, 2024 #ContentChat Recap: Content Marketing Lessons and Inspiration From IIEX 2024

A Content Chat header image featuring an array of flowers behind a text overlay that says today’s topic is content marketing lessons and inspiration from IIEX 2024 with guest Christoph Trappe.

Content marketing is a constant exercise in doing more with less. So, how can marketing teams create better systems and use AI to its fullest potential to free up time?

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika Heald is joined by Christoph Trappe, director of content strategy at Growgetter, to explore his takeaways from IIEX 2024. Christoph explains what topics are top-of-mind after the show, and he and Erika discuss how AI is changing how content marketers work. 

Watch the entire conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below.

Q1: What is Insight Innovation Exchange (IIEX)?

IIEX is an event series hosted by Greenbook.

“[IIEX is] hosted by Greenbook, which is a B2B publisher in the market research space. Mostly, it’s market research technology services. Of course, that’s a wide spectrum. Some people do focus groups, and other people have technology.”—Christoph Trappe 

IIEX North America 2024 focused on how companies can better understand their audience, drive innovation, and complete tasks quickly.  

“At the end of the day, everybody wants to understand their audience better. They want to understand what makes people tick, their motivations, and their problems. And that’s basically what everybody talks about at that conference. I’m totally oversimplifying.”—Christoph Trappe

“How do you understand people, and how do you do it quicker? We see that in content, too. Everybody wants everything right this second.”—Christoph Trappe

“Everybody wants everything right now, and nothing takes time anymore. Remember the days when we would spend a week or maybe two writing an article? Now, people expect it tomorrow. Which, depending on the topic, might actually be doable. But maybe it’s not. That’s a big, big topic in that industry. How do you do things quicker, faster, and cheaper.”—Christoph Trappe

Q2: How has the role of content marketing changed in recent years?

Content marketers understand that nothing is ‘free,’ but our organizations often expect us to do more and more with fewer resources.

“Some of those things that we like to think of as being ‘free’ from a content marketing or marketing standpoint are not, in fact, free. It’s just that there’s not an added cost above what you’re already spending as a company to do your work.”—Erika Heald

“Content marketing has never been free. It’s been ‘free’ because you don’t have to spend money on ads, per se, but you have to pay for the people who are creating the content. They come up with a strategy; what are we trying to do, and how are we trying to do it?”—Christoph Trappe

“Can you hire people pretty cheap? Sure. But can they actually do all the things you have to do?”—Christoph Trappe

Artificial intelligence is changing how machines read and use our content. 

“Don’t forget to think about how ‘will this help AI understand what our business does, who we are, and who the right customer is for us?’, because AI is consuming content in a very different way than the search robots that we were used to.”—Erika Heald

Our audiences expect highly personalized content. Long-tail strategies are becoming more essential for achieving relevance. 

“It’s becoming more and more long tail. Instead of saying ‘how do you do content marketing,’ I should write about ‘how do you do content marketing in XYZ.’”—Christoph Trappe

“My daughters have played softball for many years. So, I blogged about how to livestream a softball game, and I ranked number one. But if you search for how to livestream youth sports, I’m not ranking for that at all because it’s very specific. Softball is very different from basketball. Forget about football—that’s a completely different ballgame. You have to get more and more long tail. People search like that, they don’t search for something very compact.”—Christoph Trappe

“We have the understanding that companies can provide us with really detailed, personalized content. That’s what people have wanted, and it’s what we’ve been promised ever since Peppers and Rogers wrote their one-to-one marketing book around 2000. So, for 24 years, we’ve been waiting to have that hyper-personalized, super niched-down content. And now people’s expectations are that there is that very specific piece of content that’ll show them how to do that thing they want to do with all of their considerations and use cases. They don’t want something generic.”—Erika Heald

And it’s crucial to test content formats and topics to learn what performs best. 

“You can’t just publish one blog post in a quarter. There are companies that put all this effort into one article and hope it’s going to be a home run. Sometimes something takes off, and sometimes it doesn’t. There is a certain level of quantity involved.”—Christoph Trappe

“Even James Clear talks about that in Atomic Habits. One group is supposed to come up with the perfect picture, and the other group is told to take as many pictures as they want, just do their best. And who came up with the perfect picture or the better picture? The group that shot 100 pictures, versus the one that was trying to go after the one perfect shot.”—Christoph Trappe

Q3: How can content marketers use AI to better understand their audience?

Speaking to the right people is crucial for understanding your diverse audience’s needs.

“Whether it’s technology or qualitative research, you have to talk to people. And you have to talk to the right people. And there’s also a skillset on how do you actually have that conversation.”—Christoph Trappe

“There was one conversation I had, and they talked about Gen Z. My kids are Gen Z, and I made the comment that my nine-year-old allegedly knows how to use technology, but why can’t she do a map? They said maybe they don’t use maps the way you and I use them. Maybe they use Snapchat, and that’s where they see their friends and how they would map to them if they ever had to. The wrong comment is, ‘Oh, you don’t know how to use technology.’ The better question would be, ‘How would you do this? How would you map to somebody.’”—Christoph Trappe

Make fewer statements and ask more questions. 

“We have to make fewer statements. We have to ask more questions. We have to be open. Don’t judge people all the time on why they’re doing something.”—Christoph Trappe

Give your audience control over how often they hear from you and the information you share.

“One of the biggest impediments to being able to know your audience for content—and have that ongoing conversation and feedback loop—is very few websites and very few email preference centers have been giving the person who is going to be receiving the content the ability to control what they’re receiving, how often they’re receiving it, what format they’re receiving it in, etc. We make a lot of assumptions about the audience as a whole and expect people to kind of seek out the other options, which, to me, is going about it a little backward.”—Erika Heald

“There’s plenty of providers that, after I don’t open this many emails, take me out of the whole email sequence. Makes no sense to me, still to this day. I know there will be people who will argue that that’s the best practice. But, what’s the definition of engagement? I see subject lines come through all the time. There are some people who send subject lines, and just the subject line can be interesting. Just because I’m not opening an email, to say I’m not engaged is just crazy to me.”—Christoph Trappe

“Or maybe the timing was just off. Maybe I’m not engaged because you are sending it to me at the wrong time. Why is it not adjusting to my preferences and adjusting to the best time automatically.”—Christoph Trappe

“It could just ask you. Would you like to see more content like it? And it could use AI to tee up different ways that the content you just liked could be described.”—Erika Heald

Don’t overwhelm your audience with their choices. 

“I go back and forth on the whole liking thing. I signed up for something, and it asked me all the different things. What topics do you care about? I was like, ‘oh my God, there are 80 topics.’ Do I care about this topic? I don’t know. Is that the right thing? There’s a fine balance. If you show people a few different things, maybe. I just think it’s an art and science to ask people questions that are actually meaningful and that actually get results that can be used.”—Christoph Trappe

Q4: What content marketing tools are you excited about?

Most marketing tools are adding AI-powered features, however, marketers must balance AI with human expertise. 

“In general, there’s a lot of potential with AI and some of those technologies. The biggest thing is how do you mix that with the human touch? We’ve seen that in content strategy. There were some companies that fired their writers because ‘Oh, AI can just write it.’ AI can’t write anything. AI sucks at writing. AI is fantastic if you have good source content and if you really know how to interrogate it right.”—Christoph Trappe

“There’s these telltale signs that it is AI. Even if it wasn’t AI written and you use the following terms, I will not enjoy your content. For example, ‘In today’s fast-moving world.’ ‘Digital landscape.’ Nobody in the world talks like that.”—Christoph Trappe

“Let’s delve into this topic. Have you ever said that sentence in your life before? I have never said that. The first time I saw AI puke that out, I had to look up if that was actually the correct usage of that word.”—Christoph Trappe

AI is great for transcribing audio or video content to create derivative content

“Christopher Penn just wrote about that in his newsletter, how important is prompt engineering. If you go and say look at this podcast transcript, what are some articles I could write about. It could say all kinds of different things. It might be useful if you say write me this article, and it’s probably not going to be very good. So you have to edit it and keep interrogating it, and you have to be super specific.”—Christoph Trappe

Q5: What are some emerging AI use cases for content marketing? 

Disclaimer: A lot of “AI” isn’t actually AI. 

“We see a lot of bad AI, and we also see a lot of people slap AI on everything. When I went to one of the first MAICONs, one of the sessions was, ‘Is this AI? Is that AI?’ And I still think that was one of the best sessions I’ve ever seen. Not everything is AI just because you want it to be.”—Christoph Trappe 

The best use of AI is to increase your speed, efficiency, and accuracy to free up time for other tasks where AI can’t help. 

“I think the best use of AI is when you can do something much quicker and more accurately than you could do it before.”—Christoph Trappe

“In market research, people would get on planes and then talk to 10 people in a focus group. And now you could talk to all kinds of people, thousands of people in all kinds of areas.”—Christoph Trappe

“Sometimes you might have to have a combination. You use AI for one thing, you use in-person for another, or you do a face-to-face or an in-depth interview. The trick is to figure out when to use either one. Sometimes the technology works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”—Christoph Trappe

AI creates transcripts quickly, which can build a content database. It also makes video and audio editing a breeze.

“Let’s talk about this live stream. If you send me the video, I can put it into OpusClip, and we can get soundbites like that. They’re not always perfect. I go in there, and I can edit them. But you don’t edit the way my editor buddy used to edit, you actually edit the text. It’s completely different, way easier.”—Christoph Trappe

“Same with the transcript. You just put this into Otter.Ai or there’s a gazillion other tools you can use, and here’s your transcript. You want to find a quote? Or what did Christoph say about this topic? And now you can build this database almost of content that you can use in different places.”—Christoph Trappe

“I took all the content, I threw it into Otter and Claude, and I said, ‘What are some of the topics we cover?’ And then I can look at that and say, I haven’t written about this, I haven’t written about that. Oh, we talked about that? What did we say about that? You can expand on those ideas and create additional content. It’s a really great thought starter.”—Christoph Trappe

“I think it’s incredibly useful for creating derivative content. Taking the transcript from something and pulling out little snippets. It can do a good job of taking an ebook and turning it into three blog posts.”—Erika Heald

Think of AI like an intern.

“I [see] AI a little bit as an intern. I assume it will be good at very specific kinds of tasks.”—Erika Heald

Working with AI is a new skill set, however, and it requires training and ongoing education. 

“It’s a whole new skill set for the humans. How do you check it? How would you challenge it? I see it all the time when I use Claude AI. I’m interrogating it. How do you know that? Where did that come from? Who said that?”—Christoph Trappe

Q6: What content marketing mistakes do brands make when using AI?

Brands need a defined voice and content style so that AI can create better, on-brand content. 

“I think where content marketers kind of stumble and where we start to see some of the poorly executed AI-infused content is when people haven’t defined the brand voice. They don’t have a content style guide. They don’t have a consistent method of how they approach creating their content. They don’t have a well-defined content format. So when you are not starting from that place of having a sense of brand personality and having all that governance in place, I think that’s where we’re seeing folks really struggling right now.”—Erika Heald

Executives often mistake themselves for the target audience. 

“When you create everything for your internal audience only, the actual audience might be left out because they don’t get it. You’re using the wrong terminology, you’re using the wrong stories. And I think that can be hard for executives to wrap their heads around. How do you actually make sure you’re reaching the right audience, you’re talking their language, and how do you keep that going?”—Christoph Trappe

Teams may expect instant success or inaccurately compare their results. 

“That’s another big thing I see. People run a campaign, and they say, ‘How come we’re not going viral yet?’ They’re in a very niche audience and a niche vertical, and they’re comparing their numbers to The Bachelor.”—Christoph Trappe

“And if your target audience of the ideal people to see your content is only 500 people, then your going viral is a very different number than somebody with a more general audience.”–Erika Heald

Customer case studies should focus on the customer, their journey, and their voice, not the brand messaging. 

“Customer case stories or customer case studies by their intrinsic nature are supposed to be about the customer’s journey and the customer’s experience. Yet for many companies, case studies are all about the company and about their branding and trying to shoehorn a description of what they did for the customer into something that’s basically the brand language.”—Erika Heald

“When you go back to the source interviews or conversations, there’s really juicy content there. I have been given the original recordings and said ‘Why on earth would you take all of these great words coming from the mouth of your customer and not put those words into this content?’ It’s so much more impactful than an abbreviated summary by somebody in product marketing saying, ‘Oh, they found it to be very helpful, and they will definitely use us again.’ No one cares that the brand is saying that. You want to hear the customer talking about their problem and how much better it has gotten to be.”—Erika Heald

“Everybody talks about themselves. So it does take a little bit of practice on how you adjust it to your customer and how you talk about the problems your target audience faces and not just yourself. Certainly, you want to share your unique stories, that’s how you stand out, in my opinion, on Google. AI can’t make that up.”—Christoph Trappe

Q7: What will you do differently, as a content strategist, as a result of attending IIEX? 

It’s hard to unseat the incumbent. Make speed a priority when reaching new buyers. 

“Somebody asked me why I use this specific piece of software. Because it solves my exact pain point. Okay, are there other tools that do the same thing? Probably, but I can’t make it my life’s mission to test every tool that may or may not solve my problem. Until that thing can’t solve my problem anymore, why would I look anywhere else?”—Christoph Trappe 

“This is why it’s so important to get out there, be fast, and get in front of people. Because once you have that spot, it’s actually quite hard to unseat the incumbent, but it is not impossible.”—Christoph Trappe

“For example, I used social media scheduling tools for a long, long time, and I don’t use any anymore. I schedule natively on LinkedIn, and that’s basically it. So things evolve, and the incumbent can be unseated, but it is hard.”—Christoph Trappe 

“I use Grammarly right now, and I couldn’t even tell you how another software tool could come in and unseat Grammarly. I can’t even picture it.”—Christoph Trappe

“Nobody wants to learn a new suite of technology. Nobody wants to integrate new technology into their existing workflows. You want to keep using what’s working.”—Erika Heald

Put technology workflows into place today. 

“Teams who are not putting technology workflows into place and who aren’t figuring out how they’re going to use AI effectively, I think, are really going to be struggling. Because the expectation in most decent-sized companies is that you have to figure out how to use AI in order to do more with less. Because do more with less is always the marketing mantra, and people are really trumpeting AI use cases.”—Erika Heald

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