Content Marketing World 2016: 43 Experts Share Their Top Takeaways

I had the extreme pleasure of attending my 6th Content Marketing World conference this year. I can't emphasize enough how amazing this conference is. Not only is it a good time put on by good people, but you won't find a better line-up of speakers anywhere in the world; and for sure won't find a group of people more knowledgeable about content marketing. We thought it would be great to collaborate the top take-aways from these experts. Below are the insights from 43 gurus and speakers. See what they had to say!

Jay Baer



"The major takeaway from Content Marketing World 2016 was to do less content, but better content. This is perhaps counter-intuitive as just about every content marketer breathing created more content this year than in any prior year. But, faced with an increasingly competitive landscape for views, shares, clicks, and leads, one of the differentiating components can indeed be quality."


Marcus Sheridan

President, The Sales Lion


"My biggest take-away was the incredible discrepancy between marketing & sales professionals in terms of attendee numbers.  I took a live poll of people that were attending a sales track session, and only 11 out of 200 said they were in sales.  Until we get sales people to attend these awesome marketing conferences we are going to continue to struggle to get them believing, engaging and utilizing content marketing in their sales efforts." 

Gini Dietrich

Founder and CEO, Arment Dietrich


"The best takeaway—and I’ve been waiting for years to see this—is everyone is FINALLY talking about measurement and how to use data to inform content marketing decisions. The industry is getting to a point that we can prove content marketing is the hub of every marketing and communications program and that it drives all tactics, both on-website and off. We’re starting to grow up and I LOVE seeing that!"


Lee Odden

CEO, TopRank Marketing


"My big takeaway from Content Marketing World 2016: Bigger is not better. Whether it's bigger content, bigger influencer networks or a bigger conference with 13 concurrent tracks - the "bigger" differentiator going into 2017 will be about quality, craft, and personalization."

Matt Heinz

President, Heinz Marketing Inc


"Add humanity and empathy to your story.

Too often, B2B stands for boring. We write and create content as if buildings are reading them. As if buyers who completely lack emotion are engaging.

This is more than just adding emotional triggers to your story-telling. It’s about humanizing your brand, humanizing your people.

Sharing details about what makes you tick outside of work isn’t irrelevant. It’s magnetic. It creates connective tissues between people that carry over into business contexts. Old-school sellers called this relationship-building. Today it’s that plus a critical competitive differentiator that puts something unique and irreplaceable between you and your buyer.

This requires sometimes being comfortable with vulnerability and sharing personal details. You still get to choose which of those details to share, of course. Just know that leaning into them can help your cause."


Andy Crestodina

Co-founder, Strategic Director, Orbit Media Studios


"Be strategic. Both Kristina Halvorson and Matt Heinz pounded on the point beautifully. Nothing is for it's own sake. Everything is for the business goal. If your content doesn't align with a business objective, you're probably wasting your time.

But when your marketing activities and business objectives align, you have the chance to make a huge impact. You'll align your values with your writing. You'll align your channels with your audience. It sounds simple, but it might just be the key to everything we're all doing everyday. Root each of your actions deeply in the purpose of your business. Document this connection and focus on it obsessively."

Joe Pulizzi

Founder, Content Marketing Institute 

Author, Content Inc. 


"My one takeaway is this - even though content marketing has been around for hundreds of years, the approach, though maturing quickly, is still just getting started.  Global enterprises are starting to put major resources behind the practice, and the positive energy behind content marketing is fascinating.  This is all good news, for marketers and, especially, for customers who will be receiving better communications from the brands they know and love."


Peter Loibl

Vice President of Sales, Content Marketing Institute


"While it is difficult to only pinpoint only one takeaway from CMW 2016, I found it equally humbling and rewarding to see how many huge brands have bought into content marketing. In a span of about a half-mile walk through the Huntington Convention Center, I either listened to sessions or personally met executives from Legos, Visa, IBM, LinkedIn, Citrix, GE and Google. What was once a "nice to have" has become a "must have" with these Enterprise brands (in fact 40 of the Fortune 100 were represented at CMW this year) ... amazing how much has changed since our inaugural event in 2011."

Brody Dorland

Co-founder, DivvyHQ


"I really appreciated Joe's opening keynote where he correlated commitment to success in content marketing. You really can't "kinda do" content marketing and expect to move the needle. Companies need to be ALL IN with their customers and their customers' needs, and consistently execute the strategy and content that flows from those needs. As a provider of a content planning and production workflow platform, I see first-hand the varying levels of commitment in companies that use our platform. Those that heavily commit are killing it, both with their content marketing process, but also the resulting performance of their content in the wild. Those that don't...well...they don't stick around long."


Michael Brenner

CEO, Marketing Insider Group Author of The Content Formula


"My main take away from #CMWorld 2016 was from Joe Pulizzi: 'You have to commit!' Or as I like to say, content marketing is a commitment not a campaign. It requires investing a consistent amount of time and money in creating content that people actually want and need. The stakes are too high to continue investing (some would say 'wasting') marketing budget on ads no ones wants."

Ahava Leibtag

President, Aha Media Group


"It occurred to me standing on the exhibit floor at CMW was the amazing community we’ve built during our years together. From the technologies and tools we’ve developed, to the professional services available, to the camaraderie and joy we feel when we encounter a friend we probably only see once or twice a year, it’s truly an incredible group of people. While there’s a competitive edge—we all want to be the best—there’s also a firm commitment to helping this industry grow and flourish. It’s hard to take a new concept and grow it from the ground up. Joe and his team have done an amazing job of continually explaining and expanding the field. Along with many other thought leaders and actual practitioners, we’re making headway and learning innovative ways to do this content marketing thing."


Bryan Kramer

CEO, Purematter


"Social with the main attraction of live video this last year will finally settle into itself and we will begin to see more business use cases. Content will also continue to target based on deeper analytics enabling a much higher level of personalization. Our definition of entertainment will share air time with more online channels. And the dichotomy of all these areas will share the spotlight with the newest up at bat….virtual reality. VR will steadily step into our lives and will quickly grow as a brand new marketing channel."

Stephan Spencer

Founder, Science of SEO, co-Author of the art of SEO


"A big takeaway I got from Content Marketing World was meeting Tamsen Webster and learning her framework for public speaking. I'm a public speaking veteran, having done certainly over a thousand speeches over the last 22 years. Yet I still learned valuable stuff from her talk. I loved her framework for first addressing the “why,” then the "what now," and then the “how” (in that order, of course). Depending on the talk, you may want to stick to just one. For example, keynotes are best as “why” talks; breakout sessions are best as “how” talks. It also depends on where the prospect is in the buy cycle. If they are early in the buy cycle, then focus on a Why talk. If they're late, then make it a How talk. Tamsen provided her favorite examples of Why, What Now, and How speeches. Specifically, she recommended we look at Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath speech  as a powerful Why talk, Amy Cuddy's Power Pose talk for a What Now, and Joe Smith’s How to Use One Paper Towel talk  for a How. I’m happy to say Tamsen agreed to be a guest of my podcast "Marketing Speak,”  so stay tuned for that in coming weeks!"


Matt Coen

Co-founder and President, Second Street: Contests and Promotions


"I was struck by the need for content marketers to focus on creating content that is not only useful but that leads to a sustained and owned relationship. Content marketers need to expand beyond one-off campaigns.

We should commit to building ongoing relationships. We are at our best when our audience looks forward to our weekly email, watching our latest video, or downloading a playbook. We want to be on the journey together with our audience."

Ardath Albee

CEO & B2B Marketing, Marketing Interactions Inc. 


"Less, but better, more relevant content that resonates is the new mandate for marketers heard repeatedly across sessions at CMWorld 2016. We need to slow down, think more intentionally about meaning and purpose as it relates to the specific audiences with whom we aim to build profitable relationships. "


Bernie Borges

Ceo, Find and Convert


"This is my sixth consecutive year at Content Marketing World. My key take-away is the continued maturation among brands to adopt a mindset of content marketing. There is more buy-in, more technology to streamline and automate elements of content marketing, yet many brands still struggle with ROI. Those who integrate content marketing into their mix according to their buyer's journey are enjoying the most success."

Lindsay Tjepkema

Director of Content Strategy, Relevance


"Generally speaking about Content Marketing World, I just love that there is such a large-scale conference dedicated to content - the strategy, the execution, the measurement and the impact it can make when done well. As a content strategist, I truly believe that the key to any successful marketing program is a content strategy founded on research, supported by technology, executed with quality and measured against tangible goals. All of that is covered at Content Marketing World - and delivered in a variety of ways so marketers of all levels can come away with actionable information they can use to be more effective.

For me, one of the greatest statements made was by Joe Pulizzi when he said that businesses without a solid content strategy - marketers who feel “meh” about their ability to be effective - are better off not producing content at all. It’s a powerful statement, but there’s a lot of truth in it. If you’re not going to produce meaningful, purposeful content, then you’re just adding to the noise."


Travis Wright

Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Technologist, CCP Digital


"My key takeaway is that content is everywhere and more brands are producing more and more of it... But that doesn't mean the right people are seeing or engaging with your branded content.

In fact, Beckon just released a report saying that only 5% of enterprise content is engaged with. Meaning 95% of the stuff created out there isn't hitting the mark. 

Having said that, don't be afraid to put paid amplification behind your best content. One of the things my agency http://CCP.Digital has been so successful at has been at amplifying our client'scontent that is working, to the exact targeted audience that needs to see it.

For less than the price of one TV commercial ad spot, you can typically amplify a year's worth of great content. Amplifying influencers or journalists articles taking about how great you are,l can have a greater inspect than you always talking about how great you think you are.

Content is king, but paid amplification of that content to the right audiences can be a tool to help you build your kingdom."

Allen Gannett

CEO and founder, TrackMaven


"Content Marketing World isn't just about content anymore. It's about demand generation, and account-based marketing, and building brand equity, and delivering indisputable results to corporate stakeholders. Content Marketing World has become just Marketing World, and that's a GREAT thing. It means that content isn't just a nice to have; it's essential to a healthy business. Because strong content is a reflection of a customer-focused organization. The level of conversation at Content Marketing World proved to me that in the next five years, the performance gap between organizations that have fully embraced content marketing and those that have not will become a gaping chasm. To cross that chasm, build a bridge of content — or prepare to be left behind."

Jeff Julian



"This year, I spent most of my time behind the microphone, conducting 23 interviews with speakers, influencers, and attendees. Overall, they were ready to dive deeper into topics and asked some amazing questions. These types of discussions are exactly what our industry needs and I can’t wait to see what resources become available as we continue to have them. Goodbye, Introductions and 101s!"

Stacy Adams

Head of Marketing, GoAnimate


"As content marketing has now become mainstream, marketers are trying to figure out how to elevate their game beyond simple email and PDF downloads. Video is a big growth area - it's a dynamic and visual way to tell a story - and marketers are looking at not only how to create it, but how to move past YouTube to get the detailed analytics they need to determine reach, engagement, and ROI."


Aaron Dun



"CMW this year felt to me like the true maturation of an industry. We have moved beyond just an interesting side project to something that organizations are finding a core to their mission. With that comes a required sophistication to ensure that content marketing is well aligned with the goals of the company, not just a “publish more content and hope” pilot. The conversations I had with attendees centered on how to create better, more dynamic experiences that will engage audiences, and deliver a result for the business. This is the hard work needed to ensure that content marketing is a critical, ongoing strategy, fully supported by the business. It’s great to see the industry growth, the energy in the room was palpable and gives me great confidence in the future of content."

Jonathan Kranz

Principal, Kranz Communications, Author of writing copy for dummies


"There’s a greater maturity to content marketing and the professionals applying it. This year, my colleagues seemed less interested in discovering what works in general, to learning specifically what can work for them: for their companies, their customers, within their industry contexts and the practical realities of limited time, budget, and resources."


Rebecca Lieb

Analyst, Author, Advisor


"I think I can sum up my CMW takeaway in one word: Strategy! The smartest speakers, the best presentations at CMW focused not only on the What but more importantly, the Why of content marketing. Without a strategic approach to the discipline, you're just blogging or making videos. That all important business reason that brings value both to the organization as well as your audience is what coalesces good content into great marketing."

Ruben Sanchez

Director of Marketing, Skyword Inc.


"To see maximum content marketing results, publish consistently, tell original stories, and don't be afraid to ask your friends for a little help along the way. Interviewing experts automatically creates a built-in group of stakeholders who will be willing to distribute your published stories. " 

Doug Kessler

Co-founder and Creative Director, Velocity


"What a nice bunch of smart, talented, collegial, collaborative, generous people we content marketers are. [Also how the discipline is actually the aggregation of a whole bunch of other disciplines and they’re all innovating faster than I can keep up with."

Stephanie Stahl

General Manager, UBM/Content Marketing Institute


"Great content marketing requires a team effort – great storytellers, great editors (even the best writers need editors), great planners, and a well-thought-out promotion plan. The blast-it-out-on-every-channel-approach is a waste of time. Find the channel(s) that is most effective for your content and make the most of it."


Andrew Spoeth

Director of Digital Marketing,
CA Technologies 


"It's a fantastic time to be in digital marketing. The ongoing evolution of technology allows us to connect with customers more than ever before. But it's also getting noisier for consumers. As a brand, you'll also have to constantly evolve and adjust to raise above the noise."

Mike Azzara

Principal, Content Marketing Partners


"Had two big takeaways from CMWorld 2016. But the one that resonated most was Joe Pulizzi’s “Be all in or get all out,” said after sharing that only 20% of marketers say they’re fully committed to content. “Mediocre content hurts your brand more than doing nothing at all,” quoth Joe. It matches my experience of the vast majority of clients who are following the herd into content but don’t grasp its power or how to wield it. My second big takeaway was that content governance in a large enterprise doesn’t have to suck. Lisa Welchman explained this point with far greater eloquence, though, comparing enterprise-wide content strategy and governance to jazz, or a symphony. Like those art forms, governance has structure, rules and norms within which individuals can exercise great creative freedom. If executed with care and authenticity it, too, can lead to fabulous shared joint outcomes in which everyone contributes by doing a different job."


Robert Murray

President, Skyword


"Storytelling isn't a content marketing novelty, it's something people now are coming to expect. But to tell stories that people will remember, brands have to understand why they're in business in the first place. The best brand storytelling uncovers the "why"."

Cameron Conaway

Content Marketing Manager, Flow


"The event isn't about the slides or the great quotes; it's about the magic that happens from the collective swirl of our ideas."


Jordan Koene

Vice President of Services, Searchmetrics


"DATA! Becoming a content intelligent marketer requires the use of data to inspire great content. Everything from identifying topics to optimization recommendations, data has become the tool of success for content owners."

Zontee Hou

Strategist, Convince and Convert


"I was excited to see that so many people in the industry are developing tools and best practices for tracking, measuring, and analyzing the results of content marketing. More than any other year, specific measurement goals were integral to the overall conversation. I think this is absolutely key to our work, not only because it allows us to create more relevant and valuable content for our audiences, but also because it allows us to connect the work of content marketers to business objectives at every step of the game."


Christoph Trappe

Senior Director of Content Marketing + Content Creation, MedTouch


"It was so great to connect with new friends and reconnect with long-time connections at the 2016 Content Marketing World conference. One of the recurring themes that I kept  hearing is that people are looking for the answer to all their problems and struggles. But really, there’s isn’t one answer to surefire success. Content marketing works when it’s done with a purpose, goals and the mutual zone of relevance in mind. It’s great to see what others are doing, apply some things to your situation, learn and move forward. And don’t forget that it is a numbers game. The larger your relevant audience, the more likely success long-term."

Rebecca Geier 

CEO & Co-founder, Trew Marketing


"Be a center of excellence for customer-focused content in your organization.

Stephanie Losee, Head of Content at Visa said content marketers need to have a conversation with their subject matter experts and sales team about what matters to their customers, and build an effective customer-focused content strategy from there. “Think like a customer—wear that hat,” she said.

And in the same vein, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for Marketing Profs said, “Before you write content, ask yourself ‘so what’. Then reframe the idea and answer from a customer perspective, not your own. 90% of your content should be educational, stressing benefits to the customer; only 10% of your content you be promotional. Be the exception and not the rule."


Mike Agron

co-founder, WebAttract


"The biggest take-away is how much the "content marketing" value chain (e.g., providers from technology firms and consultants) are growing that validates both this space and more importantly, shows there's a lot of upside to provide value added services to support this growth, as the "human factors" are still the backbone that will sustain and keep content marketing front and center in how we market for the foreseeable future."

Anthony Hearne

Vice President of Global Sales Marketing, Outbrain  


"One of the overriding themes that I observed during this years CMW was the role that Data is playing in transforming the category. This topic dominated the conversation and spanned areas from new and smarter targeting capabilities and the ability to demonstrate clearer ROI, through to data as the driving force behind some of the newest and most interesting services emerging from a maturing content marketing ecosystem.

While exciting to see, my only fear is that this sophistication is getting out in front of the expertise of most marketers. Market education, structured training and clarity on the benefits of these new capabilities will be key."


David MacLaren

Founder & CEO, MediaValet


"In one word, Focus.

Focus on truly understanding your customer.

Focus on creating content that your customers will find truly valuable.

Focus on making your content truly intelligent."

Patricia Travaline

Chief Marketing Officer, Skyword Inc.


"Brands are using more content marketing technology than ever before. To get the most out of all this tech, companies need to make a strong effort to educate their users, take advantage of vendors' customer success teams, and be able to prove exactly how the technology is driving ROI so they can continue investing in effective products."


Chad Pollitt

Vice President of Audience, Co-founder, Relevence


"There were countless takeaways to be had, but the biggest wasn’t from any speaker. The greatest takeaway I learned was from my session audience – Google ruined content marketing.

That’s right, ruined it.

It’s responsible for the nearly impenetrable wall between digital paid and owned media that exists at so many brands, today. Many top-funnel content marketers in my session communicated to me that they have no access to a distribution budget for native channels or they have to give their content to the media buyer or “PPC guy.”

This is problematic because these people aren’t concerned with engagement KPIs. They’re concerned with clicks and impressions. Content marketers don’t care about that. We care about engagement. This causes a disconnect between creative and distribution.

It’s also much of the reason some current native ad units look like click-bait, use racey images, or are downright bait and switch. I blame Google for causing this current brand silo. I thoroughly explore this topic on Relevance."

Pam Didner

Global Content Marketing Strategist, Author of Global Content Marketing


"I love the quote by Joe Pulizzi. “In content marketing, you are either all in or all out.” It takes time, money and trial-and-error to optimize and continuously optimize. It's a never-ending journey that requires commitment."


Dechay Watts

Content Marketing Strategist, Co-Founder, SPROUT Content Inbound Marketing Agency


"I was fascinated by the number of sponsors/ vendors who offer an element of artificial intelligence or machine learning in relation to content marketing. We work with a machine learning company that specializes in automated ticketing for support departments, which is now an expected application in most organizations.  But to see AI listed as a key feature in content marketing tools like like Scripted and Curata made me realize how close the marketing industry is to being altered by automated intelligence - from developing editorial strategies and reporting to writing and creating content.  Paul Roetzer delivered a fantastic presentation on the key players in the AI Marketing realm and has started the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute that I highly recommend checking out to get your footing on where this trend is going.

What I learned from Content Marketing World 2016

My takeaway is that the content marketing landscape, just like other forms of marketing, continues to change and evolve at a rapid pace. You can't leave any stone unturned; be it on-page elements or off-page strategy. It can feel overwhelming, but going to conferences like this, as well as following and learning from these experts, will give you a fighting chance. They truly give you the pointers and information you need- you just need to apply them!


David Reimherr



In this podcast, we team up with some of the very best marketing experts in the country. We dig into problems that marketers deal with on a daily basis. Our goal is to keep you up to date on the rapidly changing marketing world. We know, the more we can help you the better off we will be. Click below to subscribe and start learning!