CMWorld 2017: What I Learned as a First-Time CMWorld Attendee

CMWorld 2017: 9 Top Attendance Takeaways & 3 Event Networking Tips (What I Learned as a First-Time CMWorld Attendee)

by | Sep 11, 2017 | Events

I’ve always wanted to go to CMWorld.
Like, since I started out 6 years ago in the industry.
If you know anything about me, you know that I started Express Writers back in 2011, at 20 years old, with $75: and through consistent content creation, I’ve been able to reach clients and grow to a team of over 40 writers, serving over 5,000 clients over the last 6 years. The sole marketing we do is content marketing. We are a realization of our services: literally, we ARE a content creation agency marketed and fueled by the content we create for our brand. This is done through my content on the Write Blog, my guest blogs on Content Marketing Institute, Search Engine Journal, and SiteProNews, to name a few. By now, we have over 4,000 organic keyword spots in Google.
So this year, I finally went and gathered in a crowd of people that were my kind – over 4,600 content creators and marketers, at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio. I took one of my team leaders with me.
The verdict?
We experienced a dynamite week at CMWorld.
I walked away with four potential new clients, three (maybe four) sponsors for my new course, AND some key lessons learned that I’ll be implementing for the good of my company and the web (seriously – I’m about to get a lot realer and create even better content in the days ahead – I’ve been strategizing and mapping since the moment I left).
Here’s a recap. Keep reading for 9 main session takeaways – simple, favorite takeaways – and 3 critical lessons I learned as a content marketer attending #CMWorld, about the event in general and how to network effectively.
cmworld 2017 express writers

CMWorld 2017 In Pictures

How fun is this? Our designer took the 30+ pictures I shot at the event with some of my favorite content marketing people, and made an infographic collage! Enjoy. 🙂
[clickToTweet tweet=”Experience #CMWorld 2017 in pictures: #infographic of event pictures via @ExpWriters” quote=”Experience #CMWorld 2017 in pictures: #infographic of event pictures via @ExpWriters”]
cmworld 2017 express writers collage

Arriving in Cleveland September 5 for CMWorld 2017: Day 1

Tuesday, September 5, started off the event with an amazing networking night where each one of us 4,000+ marketers hung out together at the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I’d never been, and it was incredible – a beautiful venue.
Hannah, my Content Director at Express Writers, and I landed right at 6:55 pm. Hannah came from Albany, Oregon, and I came from Austin, Texas. The networking party was from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. We dropped our bags off at our hotel and got ready to network and party! We ended up at the event around 8:15.
The trolley left our hotel, Crowne Plaza, every 30 minutes. Which was awesome. We didn’t have to call an Uber or a taxi for the CMWorld events that happened close to our hotel. Content Marketing World had all the details covered – even a printout of where you were going ready to hand out at the hotel front lobby. In fact, CMWorld signs were EVERYWHERE. We saw cars sporting magnetic roof signs, like pizza delivery cars, for the event. Content Marketing Institute did an outstanding job on event marketing. Everything was set up to be extremely helpful for attendees, especially the new ones that weren’t sure where to go (me).
At the networking event Tuesday night, we had an amazing time. I actually got to personally shake hands with and hug my industry hero, Joe Pulizzi! Funny story: Hannah and I ended up escorting Joe Pulizzi for the CMI staff up the escalator, both of us on each side of him! I also met the amazing CMI staff, who I’d emailed and tweeted with years prior to this week. It’s great to make a connection through email and/or Twitter, but there’s nothing like hugging in real life. I crossed paths with a lot more people I’d tweeted or emailed. The opening night party was loads of fun.

9 Session Takeaways from CMWorld 2017: Joe Pulizzi, Jay Acunzo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & More

The CMWorld event, true to awesome form, comes complete with a CMWorld app. CMWorld 2017 is downloadable through the iTunes store. It was an amazing way to manage the 150+ sessions that occurred from Tuesday – Friday during the week of the conference. You’re free to scroll through the sessions, pick the ones you want to attend, and add them to your agenda. Incredibly smart and useful.
Here are some one/two-liner (some are longer) takeaways from the sessions I attended. Keep reading for some hugely critical tips I learned on networking for great results, too.

1. Joe Pulizzi, Welcome to the Content Marketing Revolution (Opening Keynote)

Favorite takeaway:
“You need a loyal and trusting audience. Traffic and shares are good: but without a loyal audience, nothing is possible.
9/10 marketers that are successful at content marketing, say that they focus on building an audience.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”Without a loyal audience, nothing is possible. @joepulizzi #CMWorld” quote=”Without a loyal audience, nothing is possible. @joepulizzi #CMWorld”]

2. Linda Boff, GE, “Imagination at Work: Lessons in Storytelling from GE,” General Session Keynote

linda goff cmworld
Key takeaway:
“Stories are right under our noses—we just might need to change the lens every now and then. Content that tries to sell, doesn’t.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”Content that tries to sell, doesn’t. @lindaboff” quote=”Content that tries to sell, doesn’t. @lindaboff”]

3. Jay Acunzo, “Be the Exception: How Brilliant Marketers Find and Follow What Makes Their Stories Different in a World Full of Average Content,” General Session Keynote

Key takeaway:
[clickToTweet tweet=”Pay more attention to your customer than your industry, and your customer will pay more attention to you. @jayacunzo ” quote=”Pay more attention to your customer than your industry, and your customer will pay more attention to you. @jayacunzo #CMWorld”]
“Be exceptional. Spend your time doing truly remarkable work and building something worth subscribing to. Pay more attention to your customer than your industry, and your customer will pay more attention to you. What is your aspirational anchor? What is your intent for the future? What kind of hunger do you feel about work today… and what is your unfair advantage? Use these as both a filter for endless advice and your differentiator in your content.”

4. Michele Linn of CMI, Creating the Ultimate Content Marketing Team (45-Minute Session)

Favorite takeaway:
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Creatives with skills outside their specialty are highly marketable. Don’t just hire a ‘writer.’” @michelelinn ” quote=”‘Creatives with skills outside their specialty are highly marketable. Don’t just hire a ‘writer.’” @michelelinn #CMWorld”]
michele linn cmworld
Michele mentioned that originally she’d thought about making the presentation about “roles,” then realized that every marketer she spoke to in researching her presentation topic had a different role title. Role titles didn’t matter as much as the skills and actual responsibilities. Michele also shared a great Cameron Conway quote: Behind every great content marketing effort, there’s always a driven, well-organized team.

5. Amanda Todorovich of Cleveland Clinic, The Inside Story of How Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials Drives Consistent Web Traffic and Builds an Audience (45-Minute Session)

Amanda, with the approval (and cheerleading) of the health clinic’s CMO, took the Cleveland Health Clinic’s online presence from zero traffic to an on-track goal of hitting 5 million hits per MONTH this October. They publish 15 blogs/day, and right now, the number one way they win new patients is through their content, with multiple blogs set up where they post content to. Way to go, Cleveland Health Clinic–and Amanda!
Amanda says: Look at your content AND your audience as an asset. She recommends dropping the stale monthly reports and reporting back when you see a change, improvement, follower movement–which could be a daily occurrence. Also, patience is key. It’s taken them years to build their tremendous presence and audience.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Look at your content AND your audience as an asset. -@amandatodo from Cleveland Health Clinic #CMWorld” quote=”Look at your content AND your audience as an asset. -@amandatodo from Cleveland Health Clinic #CMWorld”]

6. Garrett Moon of Coschedule, Going Beyond Content Marketing: Turning Traffic into Leads (45-Minute Session)

coschedule cmworld
This session by Garrett from CoSchedule held some great tips.
“Drive profitable customer action. Attract an audience that is excited to discover your product. What do your customers really care about? To get leads, you must understand your customer.
Focus on having a content core. Have one clear CTA message in your content, never two. Place them in the top and bottom. Use the HelloBar and package your content with value. Instead of just asking your readers to subscribe, give them something for free that’s of value along the way.
Goal setting and tracking is important. Understand how to measure your lead generation, and remember that different phases of business mean different goals.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”Find a topic that your customers care about and map it to an angle that provides value. @garrett_moon #CMWorld” quote=”Find a topic that your customers care about and map it to an angle that provides value. @garrett_moon #CMWorld”]

7. #AMA – ASKMEANYTHING – How Marketers Can Deliver Better Speeches and Presentations, with Cathy McPhillips, Donna Moritz, Scott Stratten, and Tamsen Webster (Lunch & Learn)

Favorite takeaway:
“Speaking can be deeply uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Passion trumps polish EVERY TIME.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”Passion trumps polish EVERY TIME. @tamadear” quote=”Passion trumps polish EVERY TIME. @tamadear”]

8. Joseph Gordon-Levitt Keynote – Hollywood, Media and How to Collaborate to Build Something Truly Great

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, film star and director, built from scratch, a community of collaborators and work together to get paid for their creative skills (over $2.5 million has been paid out to their creatives).
joseph gordon levitt cmworld
Favorite takeaway:
Although Joseph’s speech was awesome, my favorite short-liner would have to be Joe Pulizzi clearing up what “content marketing” means to Joseph.

Joe Pulizzi (talking about what Joseph does): So what kind of marketing category does that fall into?
Joseph: Brand marketing.
Joe: Why not content marketing?
Joseph: Well, what is the difference between brand and content marketing?
Joe: Brand marketing is marketing that serves the brand. Content marketing is marketing that serves the audience.
Joseph: Okay, then, I guess I do content marketing.

9. Jay Baer, How to Get Promoted by Creating Less Content, Not More (45-Minute Session)

I apologize – this one isn’t going to be a one-liner takeaway.
I was inspired by this particular session by Jay Baer so much, that I’ll be writing a standalone blog on a guest blog platform just around what I took away from listening. This was a powerful wake-up speech that every content marketer should know about. Stop doing crap volume content – it’ll kill you, eventually. Here are a few key notes from the session.
First, Jay shared core statistics that are pretty crazy:

  • 76% of marketers plan to create more content than ever this year
  • Yet more than half of all content gets LESS THAN 4 social shares
  • And more than 75% earns no links

Being relevant to your audience is the hugest content need today. Content fails when it doesn’t matter enough to trade time for information.
jay baer cmworld
Jay identified a wonderful solution by building multiple personas. He introduced a “5x5x5 topic archaeology:” determine 5 key questions that must be answered for your audience to progress through the sales funnel. Create a persona for each stage of the funnel. 125 questions (5×3 stages of the funnel) will net you 60 questions. Then, you can figure out the content type to create to answer their questions. FAQ, blog, etc.
Think of creating consistent content shows. On your site; and in other places. Thematic content is key. Stop creating content randomly. Jay’s Social Pros podcast has ran for 7 years. Whiteboard Friday. With shows, you stop random nature of creating content. Your audience will tune in. Easier to test and optimize. Repurposing content is easier this way, too.
The most persuasive content is created by real people, not brands. The more content customers and fans you create, the less you have to create. More trust, less work.
Robots that can write well, WILL happen – they are happening now. In just a few months they could replace your job. Add the secret sauce of humanity to keep your job as a content marketer. Have a laser focus on relevance, trustworthiness, memorability…not volume.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Add the secret sauce of humanity to keep your job as a content marketer and stand out against the robots. @jaybaer ” quote=”Add the secret sauce of humanity to keep your job as a content marketer and stand out against the robots. @jaybaer #CMWorld”]

3 Key Lessons I Learned From Successfully Networking and Attending CMWorld 2017

At CMWorld 2017, I walked away with several potential new clients and three, maybe four, course sponsors.
How did I make THAT happen?!
Let me be specific, so you don’t think these were just “leads:” we walked away with at least two new client relationships (brand new, direct emails and contact info exchanged, and “I will be hiring you” actually said to my staff member and I). We’re working on potentially two more of those, too.
With my course, I have meetings that I discussed and set from the conference floor with three executives that are definitely interested in sponsoring the course. Granted, when it comes to the course, these were people I have had connections with for years – yet I think meeting in person at CMWorld was a huge key to successful communication regarding it, and the trust factor just gets so much “realer” when you’re in person.

1. If You Want to Get a “Lead” That’s Worth Something, Don’t Pitch Cold. But, Look for Opportunities & Make Friends.

How interesting is this tip?
Dave, my client at Magnificent Marketing, who was at #CMWorld too, told me that pitching while at a party or doing dinner together just feels “slimey.”
I agree, but I think there’s a balance. The odds also seemed to be heavily in my favor to naturally find opportunities, since we were the lone content creation agency (everyone else was a consulting agency, marketer, SaaS creator, etc).
For example, I was standing in the middle of the Expo Hall (which is giant) and was talking to my friend, the Director of BuzzSumo, Steve Rayson. The minute I finished talking to him, two people came up to me. Turns out they led marketing at an agency, were looking for writers, and had read my badge while I was talking to Steve – “Express Writers.” They said they were in need of writers yesterday and we instantly exchanged information. This happened a couple times.
I think you should go prepared to pitch if you find someone that needs you, and you’re confident you can deliver. However, don’t just “pitch.” Look for the opportunity, make a friend, and then make the connection.
There was one booth there where the guy, an obviously seasoned and salty “salesperson,” walked up to me and tried to sell me on a webinar system I didn’t need. Within five minutes, he’d sent me a LinkedIn request with his calendar link to book a call.
That was a major, major turnoff. You’re at a content marketing event, where the theme was “audience comes first.” Never do what the overly-salesy sales guy did to me.

2. If You Have Prior Influencer Relationships Built Up, When You Finally Meet, It’s Dynamite & Big Things Can Happen.

This seriously applies to meeting influencers.
Don’t go expecting big things and try to meet influencers you’ve never, ever talked to before.
Why? First of all, they usually have a crowd around them. Second of all, the connection won’t be as amazing as a moment that goes… “aha! So good to meet you, finally!” It’ll be a much less impactful connection if you’re a complete stranger when you meet them at the event.
So I’ve been podcasting (the Write Podcast) since April 2016, and through that channel, I’ve been able to meet and build relationships with some amazing influencers in the industry. Same for a Twitter chat I run, #ContentWritingChat. Before my podcasting days, I’d already met a few of the influencers virtually through live events, tweeting, etc. Some of these connections went as far back as 2012. So, before I even planned on #CMWorld, I’d tweeted, emailed, and talked consistently with these amazing influencers.
When we met, it was DY-NA-MITE. Like, “let’s sit down and talk opportunities” dynamite. I had a sponsorship meeting booked and two in the works before I left the floor on Day 2. We hugged, took pictures, and the conversation flowed, too. It wasn’t one-sided with me “asking.” We were truly friends before I even got there. And the ask was easy–the influencer and I both knew it was in our favor.

3. CMWorld Is One of the “Easiest” Conferences With Short, Walk-In Sessions & Everything Set Up For You.

When I planned my trip to CMWorld, I was honestly worried how 150 sessions and 100 speakers would go. I thought I’d be completely drained – I’d been to another conference with 45-60 minute sessions back on back and was drained quickly.
The app made it extremely easy to pick my sessions. I didn’t even have to look for signs or go somewhere – I just looked at the app.

I found that CMWorld was structured so well that the sessions were short (some at 20 minutes long) and the longer sessions still allowed you to come and go very easily.
The come-and-go nature of the event, and the constantly open Main Expo Hall with a giant, comfortable lounge, was perfect. Seriously, desks and chairs were everywhere incase you needed to take a quick minute to catch up on work, and the entire convention center was rented out for us – AND the next-door hotel!
Over 4,000 attendees and you could still find a quiet corner to make or take a call. (Except for the Expo Hall when it was time for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s keynote. Forget even trying to walk through. It moved fast, though.)
In honesty, I attended less sessions than I thought I would, but the networking results were fantastic. I kept popping out early to go see who I could find at the Expo Hall, and then walking into other sessions.
The end result? I was engaged, happy, and the opposite of bored (what I would have felt if I was sitting in a session for more than an hour at a time).

Final Shoutout #1: Andy Crestodina Is An Influencer that Sets an Industry Example

One influencer that I made a new relationship with at CMWorld consistently stood out for his helpfulness, kindness, and all-around awesomeness – to me and everyone around me. Andy Crestodina.
There are a lot of amazing, helpful, kind people in content marketing, but Andy is hard to describe because of how much he goes above and beyond. I was thoroughly amazed and inspired by Andy’s above-average caring nature as a content marketing expert and influencer.
Here’s why.
We were standing in the expo hall. I had just met him face-to-face, and was telling him how much I enjoyed the book that he mailed me, at no cost, with a handwritten note – before I went to the event. (Seriously, wasn’t that nice?) I told him “so sorry I missed your session today! I ended up going to another.” Do you know what Andy said? “Skype me. Or catch me later. And I’ll give you the whole talk. It was short. I don’t want you to miss it. So I’ll give it personally to you if you want. Just let me know.”
Then, he texted me later on the second full day of the event, and got me into an amazing event hosted by Ivana of DIYMarketers.
Seriously! What influencer does that?! Content marketing has heroes. That’s all I’m going to say.

Final Shoutout #2: Thank You, Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose, & the CMI Team!

I was honored to walk out with a handsigned copy of the newest book from Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose. This one will be on my bedstand table for a while.
joe pulizzi signed book
Thank you, thank you Content Marketing Institute for a wonderful event!
For this content marketer, it was an incredible experience. I will be back!
content strategy course cta