My Favorite Content Marketing World 2021 Sessions

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Content Marketing World 2021, where I got to learn from some of the best content marketers in the industry. With more than 100 sessions, workshops, and forums presented by the brightest in the business, there was so much to learn. Here are the top takeaways I wanted to share.

How to Lower the Three Drawbridges of Content Success

Presented by: Jay Baer, Convince & Convert

In a survey conducted, 65% of B2B buyers said vendors give them too much marketing material. Yet, according to another survey conducted by Forrester, marketers anticipate a 40% increase in total marketing messages in 2021. This disconnect between marketers and buyers leads to a “moat”—customers build these moats to protect their attention.

Are your customers building a moat? Look at your engagement metrics in 2021 and compare them to that of 2019.

Here are takeaways to “get moativated” and get inside the castle via a drawbridge your customers lower:

1. The Right Message

Put the “custom” back in “customer” and customize the messages for your audience—don’t treat each customer the same. Consider where they are in the conversion funnel and use the customer’s historical engagements to tailor your marketing towards them. Did they click on a specific link in an email newsletter? Send them more of that content!

Baer recommends a “5x5x5” approach to content creation: 5 personas, 5 conversion stages, and 5 primary questions. Ask, “Is this the most useful information for this customer at this point in their journey?” Baer says that if the message isn’t “radically relevant” to the customer, the “drawbridge” will not lower.

2. The Right Messenger

“95% of millennials say their friends are the most credible source of product information.”

Baer recommends not just making content for customers but making content from customers. He used a Getty Museum social media challenge as an example where the museum encouraged its fans to recreate famous paintings using household items.

Here’s how Baer ranks the relevance of marketing messages:

  • Message from customer
  • Message from influencer
  • Message from employee
  • Message from brand

Baer suggests asking, “Can your customers see themselves in your content? Or is everything from ‘the brand’”?

3. The Right Modality

The goal should be to have different formats of content. Modality preferences are primarily determined by the customer’s generation and the customer’s lifecycle stage.

Here are some examples of how modalities might differ from the lifecycle stage:

Early-stage research:

  • Listicles
  • Infographics
  • Blogs
  • Videos

Late-stage research:

  • Case studies
  • Customer reviews
  • Analyst reports
  • ROI Calculators

Instead of “We already have a blog post on that topic,” consider similar content in different formats to satisfy the other customer preferences. “Can your customers fully self-educate through the entire funnel using the modalities they prefer?”

10 Content Strategies in 20 Minutes: What Corporate Content Creators Can Learn From Content Entrepreneurs

Presented by: Joe Pulizzi, The Tilt

Content entrepreneurship is about building an audience and then monetizing it. According to Pulizzi, content entrepreneurs are winning because they don’t have to get into politics, don’t need to wait for approvals on content, are fiercely motivated, and are creating a new business model (creator economy).

Here are Pulizzi’s takeaways for what corporate content creators can learn from content entrepreneurs:

1. Plan Your Move From Rented to Owned Channels

Content entrepreneurs are more likely to use owned channels such as email newsletters and blogs. Pulizzi used Charlotte Labee as an example—Labee started on Instagram, took her 80,000 followers, and turned them into over 50,000 email subscribers.

2. Create Multiple Revenue Sources

Pulizzi says content entrepreneurs have more than four revenue channels. Some examples of revenue channels include:

  • Products
  • Subscriptions
  • Training
  • Premium Content
  • Advertising and Sponsorships
  • Affiliates
  • Donations

3. Train Your Team to Buy More Time for Your Projects

According to The Tilt, Pulizzi’s email newsletter and education program, it takes content entrepreneurs, on average, 26 months from launch, to support a single person from revenue.

Content marketing programs and campaigns have much shorter timelines to work with. Pulizzi recommends educating your organization on your purpose and goals and training your executives to buy more time to do that.

4. Only Publish on Social Channels Where You Can Be Remarkable

Pulizzi recommends only creating content on channels where you can be remarkable.

For example, Accidentally Wes Anderson concentrated their efforts on Instagram and then created a New York Times Best Selling book.

5. Do Better With Your Mission Statement—It’s Not About You

Your mission statement should focus on significant audience impact or an earth-shattering idea. Remember, it’s not about you!

6. Work Hard to Develop a Community

Pulizzi says that your job search days are over if you build a community instead of just an audience. For example, Bankless paid attention to the contributors of their Discord community. When they had open roles, they knew who and where to turn to (their Discord).

7. Look Into Creator Coins as Part of Your Community Initiative

Creator coins are digital currency that can be used as payment for products and services. Pulizzi believes everything will be tokenized in the future, including Starbucks Rewards. Creator coins win because it allows for more loyalty, audience rewards, and community-building.

8. Experiment With NFTs While You Still Have the Time

According to, NFTs stand for non-fungible tokens — they’re “internet content that has a “record” that allows its ownership to be tracked as it is traded from person to person.” Pulizzi says that if you’re not experimenting with NFTs, you’re behind on the curve. Experiment with NFTs while you still have the time before everyone else catches on!

9. Make Your List of Content Brands and Creators to Buy

Pulizzi recommends buying defunct domains so that your brand doesn’t start with a 0 domain authority. Think about where your target audience likes to hang out and make a list of brands and domains to consider acquiring.

10. Start Working on the Plan for Your Audience to Make Money Through Your Content Program

There’s a new media model called DAO: decentralized autonomous organization. With DAOs, users make all decisions. If a project succeeds, the users make money. Pulizzi believes Web 3.0 is about building an audience, building a community, and then offering financial rewards and incentives for that community.

B2B Content: The B Doesn’t Have to Mean “Boring”

Presented by: Jonathan Crossfield

The number of downloads or clicks on whitepaper content does not indicate how helpful the content is, but rather how well you enticed people. Crossfield says, “It’s how people respond at the end that counts.”

Crossfield challenges us to rethink B2B content—it doesn’t have to be boring! Here are the takeaways from Crossfield’s session:

1. Find the Humanity

Most content lacks humanity, and so it doesn’t appeal to users on an emotional level. Stop writing about things; products and things aren’t interesting on their own—people make those things interesting. Place your writing in the real world and provide real-world examples rather than focusing on the abstracts.

2. Use a Creative Angle

Consider leaning on a highly creative analogy or metaphor and blend some fiction with fact to create a blended world. Crossfield says people will be more inclined to stay and see where it leads.

3. Mind Your Language

Your writing should be easy to read and understand. Anything that makes reading harder also makes the writing less efficient.

Crossfield says most people, including the business managers your B2B content targets, do not have a university reading level. Use reading levels to gauge readability.

4. Manage Stakeholders

Often, stakeholders can have competing opinions. Rather than argue with them, take your stakeholders on the creative journey with you—explain your decisions as you make them and invite your stakeholders to offer input. This way, the stakeholders won’t be surprised by the end-product.

That’s a Wrap!

Content Marketing World 2021 provided an awesome opportunity to hear from content marketing experts from around the world. I’m looking forward to applying the strategies and insights I learned to help my clients achieve their content marketing goals.

Tammy Yu

Content Strategy Team Lead
Content Strategy Team Lead

Tammy is the Content Strategy Team Lead at Portent with experience in SEO and content strategy. With a background in Informatics, she is passionate about understanding how users utilize the digital space. Tammy loves the connection between people, information, and technology, and helps her clients execute content strategies that deliver the right information to their target audiences. Outside of work, you can find Tammy trying out a new recipe with her favorite sous chef, a Yorkie named Mia.

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  1. Hi Tammy!

    Right in time for the weekend, I opened up my e-mail and found this.
    It looks like our lists are very similar.

    Personally, since I work a lot with enterprise SEO and large e-commerce clients where people work in many different departments, I especially think the info about dealing with stakeholders was good stuff. Wish there was more about it, but nice to see it getting attention.

    Without anchoring in the mindset of peple in leadership positions, things can‘t scale.

    So, so important! 🙂

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


    1. Hi Trond! Glad to hear you also enjoyed these sessions. As marketers, it’s so easy to get buried in our work and forget about the people we need to bring along with us.

      If you’re interested in learning more about how to talk to leadership about SEO or Content Strategy, consider checking out Portent’s blog posts on “How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge: A Manual for Marketers“, “How to Sell Content Strategy to Your Boss“, and Tom Critchlow’s SEO MBA newsletter.

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