Ask a country music geek what CMA stands for, and they’ll probably tell you it’s the Country Music Awards.
But ask any one of the 167 smart people at the CMA Live 2017 conference in Edinburgh last week, and they’ll tell you it’s actually The Content Marketing Academy.
I was there.
We didn’t listen to country music.
And frankly, I’m really glad about that.
But we did listen to some international experts and thought-leaders inspiring us and telling us how to produce great content.
Now when I say “telling us”… I don’t mean like when you go to some of those boringly dull business conferences.
Nope. This was practical. And fun. And inspirational.
Why Were You at CMA Live?
But why were you there David? You don’t have a big marketing business.
Good question. And you’re absolutely right.
Most of those at the event had their own businesses. Some extremely successful businesses.
I’m hopeless at selling things.
It doesn’t come naturally to me.
Yes, I do some affiliate marketing.
But that’s different, ‘cos I don’t have to push my own products.
But, you see…
I love writing articles and blog posts (such as this one).
And I make websites – such as How To Cruise (that’s a great resource if you want to go on a cruise – shameless plug).
Then there’s material for Facebook, Twitter, Facebook Live video, YouTube video, and so on.
So I’m into creating content.
In fact, I love creating content that benefits, helps, and inspires people.
And that’s why I went to the Content Marketing Academy Live 2017 conference – or as it’s better known: CMA Live 2017.
What is Content Marketing?
Let me share a good definition of “Content Marketing” from my friend, Richard Tubb, which I borrowed from his excellent Tubblog blog (with his permission, of course!):
If you’re unfamiliar with the term content marketing, then you’ll surely be familiar with content marketing. It’s a type of marketing that most progressive businesses now use. It involves creating valuable online material (such as blogs, videos and social media) that aims to educate and stimulate interest rather than explicitly sell. Rather than think of traditional marketing, where you’re encouraged to buy, buy, buy — think of your favourite blog or YouTube channel, where you come away from reading or watching the content feeling educated and/or inspired.
Hey! That definition fits me! It’s where I’m at. Producing quality content which, ultimately… will result in a sale because of trust.
And that’s why I attended the CMA Live conference – for the second year.
It was quite a big investment. There’s the cost of the conference ticket, then the hotel, and the rail fare, and the social events…
So why did I go?
Two main reasons:
- The British and international speakers bringing their wealth of wisdom and experience.
- The people I could connect with and get great ideas and inspiration from.
Now being an introvert, this “networking” malarky doesn’t come naturally to me.
But that wasn’t a problem at the CMA Live conference.
Thankfully, the CMA has a great community with amazingly friendly people. Perhaps it’s the natural Scottish way of doing things. So I didn’t feel uncomfortable.
And also, I’ve been a member of the actual Content Marketing Academy for over a year. The CMA is an active membership community, where we learn, share ideas, encourage each other, and help one another.
It’s the brainchild of the amazing forward-thinking Scottish entrepreneur, Chris Marr.
So I felt I already knew many people before actually meeting them. It was quite a strange feeling talking to people I knew and regarded as friends, even though I’d never actually met them in real life. Such is the power of community.
So yes, the “networking” was organic. It was just like a friends’ social night out. No selling, no marketing. Just great chat, banter, and getting to know people – whether over lunch or a cup of coffee, or at the planned evening social events.
By the way… it wasn’t that tasteless coffee you tend to get at conferences. It was quality. Personally, I don’t like coffee, but lots of the coffee drinkers raved about it (just to confirm: my favourite, the green tea was rather good too).
Isn’t that a sign of a well-planned event? Small details matter.
Coupled with the setting of the prestigious venue in The Hub – which is right by Edinburgh Castle – with its spacious hall, high ornate ceiling with hanging chandeliers and beautifully carved woodwork – it was designed to be the perfect conference setting.
Perhaps that’s just one the reasons some of the international sought-after speakers honestly declared it to be the best conference they’ve been to in the world.
Hey! I said I wasn’t into selling stuff.
But if you do want to get a ticket for CMA Live 2018, the early bird offer lasts until the end of June. Here’s where you can check it out: cmalive.co.uk.
So what were my main takeaways from the CMA Live 2017 Conference?
All the speakers were excellent. But rather than tell you everything that everyone said (‘cos I get it that a long description might be boring for you if you haven’t been there)… instead I’ll give you an extremely brief overview with a few personal highlights and key points I picked up.
Chris Ducker kicked off the conference with the first keynote speech. In his talk about doing video, he told us about the forecast that “by 2020, 90% of all content consumed on the internet will be video.” Now I’m most comfortable with written content. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a face for video (hey, you don’t have to agree so strongly!). But that tells me I need to have a shift in my mindset and do more video; otherwise, I could be left behind. What do you think?
Col Gray and Ross Coverdale showed how they created the new branding for the CMA. What a skill. What an insight into how good branding is done.
Roger Edwards told us how to drop all the “corporate-speak” and keep the language simple to make your content more effective. I hate gobbledegook – so I enjoyed this blue sky thinking particularly awesomely spectacularly (sorry Roger!).
Yva Yorston‘s emphasised the value of a good business community and showed how it helped her.
Stefan Thomas made that dreaded networking a lot easier for me by telling us how to be authentic and genuinely interested in the other person. And Stefan should know what he’s talking about ‘cos he wrote the excellent Business Networking For Dummies book.
Sharon Menzies teased us with a slide which simply said “722”. That turned out to be 722% growth in her Influx Recruitment business in the past year. It was great to see that and find out how she got there.
I can’t say I was looking forward to Doug Kessler‘s talk, “How to Swear in Your F****** Marketing”. I choose not to swear (but I don’t have a problem with anyone who does – as long as it’s not simply done to be offensive, of course). Doug’s conclusion, however, was like a lightbulb being switched on for me. “Even if you don’t swear…” he told us, “you need to…
- Surprise people
- Signal confidence
- Resonate with the like-minded
- Be authentic
- Let yourself be funny
- Add mojo to your voice”
Now that’s talking my language!
Cara Mackay told us, from personal, tough experience (after her controversial Linkedin post went viral), how to take back control from the trolls.
Erika Napoletano encouraged us to find our voice and own our brand. I loved the way she did a live coaching session with one conference delegate to illustrate that.
Mark Schaefer reminded us of the importance of personal branding. We might not love a logo – but we can love a person, and even hug them! Mark’s talk was based around his most recent book, Known, which I’d read just before the conference (one of the most practical business books I’ve read, by the way, with many case studies – so I heartily recommend it). It was great to see two guys, who’d been featured in Mark’s book, sharing the stage and some secrets of their success. Well done Pete Matthew and John Espirian.
The personal brand theme was continued by duo Andrew and Pete (the Ant and Dec of Marketing?) with a practical and fun session on how to be outstanding and memorable by getting rid of boring brand values such as “professional”, “friendly”, “caring”, etc. and coming up with outstanding and memorable ones. Theirs was another book I simply had to buy after their talk (and get it signed, of course!) – nearly finished it; it’s very practical and helpful. It’s here on Amazon if you want to check it out: The Hippo Campus.
Pamela Laird joined the CMA because she heard Chris Marr (the CMA founder) speak on “How to Get Better Customers”. She applied that knowledge successfully. And today she appeared on the programme herself as a speaker, explaining to us how she picks her perfect clients in her hair salon business – and how we can do that too.
Janet Murray is a PR specialist who brought us some practical ideas. Did you know that #journorequest is where you’ll find journalists asking for help on Twitter? Help out a journalist – who knows when you might need their help.
Karen Reyburn encouraged us to niche right down. Contrary to what we tend to think, the success is in what she called “backward thinking”. Be less, think smaller, niche down.
And George B Thomas taught us how to use a collection of free and inexpensive tools to create what some companies would charge thousands of pounds for. Now when I say tools, I’m talking “internet” here. I’m not talking about building a mahogany cabinet. Although George would probably find a smart way to do that too!
We all speculated on who the Secret Speaker could be. It turned out to be Danielle Sheridan. Danielle is Marcus Sheridan’s daughter. She told us about her entrepreneurial journey in her teens. And her decision to join her Dad as he travelled the world to speak and teach. What an inspiration!
Marcus Sheridan closed the conference with some pearls of wisdom. One of these was:
Don’t just be kind, but seek opportunities to show kindness.
But what’s that got to do with content marketing? Well, remember Richard’s definition? It’s not about selling to people, it’s about benefiting them. With some practical life examples that kept us on the edge of our seats, Marcus exhorted us to learn to ask better questions because effective communication is the most valuable skill in the world.
Meet The Speakers
One other thing which I forgot to mention…
Access to the speakers.
Talk to them. Ask them questions. Eat lunch with them. Ask them to sign your book.
Not too many places can you get that sort of access.
Good or What?
Can you see how good the conference was, and how rich the content?
However, there’s one last thing I forgot to mention:
There wasn’t a single sales pitch from the stage (apart, of course, from the occasional tongue-in-cheek “do you know I’ve got a book out?” quip!).
Just 100 percent quality content.
It was well worth the investment.
And I’ve already booked my ticket for next year.
Are you joining me?