Nicole Karlis Content Manager,

6 Lessons Content Marketers Should Never Forget from 2014
Last year was one of content marketing’s strongest — here are the biggest takeaways. 

Content marketing continues to rise in popularity year over year, and it’s not crazy to say that 2014 was one of its best years — if not the best. From Kevin Spacey speaking at Content Marketing World in Cleveland to Hubspot’s IPO, a lot happened in the space proving content marketing isn’t just another marketing ploy. Here are the biggest takeaways and advice on how to jump on these trends:

1. The Traditional Advertising Model is Dead

Dave Roth took the stage at Pubcon last year and explained to attendees that the days of traditional advertising are long gone. Instead, the representative from non-profit web marketing service Emergent Digital told the audience there’s a new model: tell your product’s story well and reach your audience on a deeper level.

How to begin: Check these articles on provoking emotional responses and our piece on reaching different age groups on a deeper level.

2. Creativity Wins, Always

Big brand’s cutting-edge content marketing techniques have always been the envy of the industry. This year, Coca-Cola let the public in on what they see as the integral part to their content marketing success: fostering a creative work environment. Coke’s VP of Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, Jonathan Mildenhall, told the Content Marketing Institute the brand’s acceptance of failure, risk taking and comfortability — with occasional creative “madness” — have produced content of generally higher quality and greater originality than its more tradition-minded competitors.

How to begin: To help orient your marketing department for maximum overall creativity, check out YouEarnedit’s barebones list of ideas and creativity killers. For a longer read, check out award-winning psychologist Ron Friedman’s book, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace.

3. Inbound Marketing Is Here To Stay

While it’s best to have a diversified approach to marketing, the question of which method reaps the greatest reward has gone unanswered — until this year. Hubspot’s State of Inbound Marketing‘s 2014 report studied the marketing behaviors of countless marketers, making one very notable finding: marketers who prioritize blogging were found to be 13 times more likely to produce positive ROI. This beats out all other marketing priorities, cementing inbound marketing’s importance and proving that content marketing is reliably successful.

How to begin: Scripted has produced a ton of content geared towards new content marketers. If you’re looking for blogging basics, peruse “The Essential Ingredients for Writing a High-Quality Blog Post.” If you’re looking for help getting quality content written, we have a great overview of content writing services that offer blog content for fair prices.

4. Customer Retention Is A Problem For Many

Not everything we learned this year was derived from success. Unfortunately, content marketers last year overlooked a crucial aspect of business. The B2B Content Marketing Report found many companies neglected their existing customers in favor of generating new clients. This is an especially interesting development, considering the recent wave of high-profile interest in customer retention. Statistics show that 61 percent of consumers will take their business to a competitor after ending a business relationship. Reducing the rate of customers leaving your business — known as the “churn rate” — can increase you profits from 20 to 125 percent.

How to begin: Well-designed and targeted content is a great method to increase customer retention. MediaWizardz has a great guide that explains how to calculate your churn rate and how to use inbound marketing to reduce that figure.

5. Quality, Quality, Quality!

MarketingProfs stole Content Marketing World by raising an important, often-ignored question: Would you read your own content? The process of content marketing involves so many hours, so much time and so many decisions that it’s easy to lose sight of making content that reads and informs well. Does your content hold the attention of your writers, editors and content production staff?

How to begin: We wrote a few pieces last year that identified the components of content quality from an analysis of a viral blog post, a guide on recognizing quality content without a writing background and seven methods for writers to write high-quality posts.

6. Know How To Tell Great Stories

Sometimes content marketing wisdom comes from the last place you expect. Content Marketing World surprised many by inviting actor and insightful content marketing-advocate Kevin Spacey. His speech connected the storytelling skills he’s gained from his years in Hollywood with the challenges of modern content marketing. He recommended content marketers get back to the basics and abide by three core components of storytelling: audience, conflict and authenticity. Content marketing, he suggested, said needs to excite audiences — just like Hollywood.

How to begin: Uberflip has a guide that explains how to apply tried-and-true literary plot devices to modern content marketing.

You may have seen significant content marketing success in 2014 or you might need to refine your approach. Either way, these lessons hold valuable insights for 2015 and beyond.

What were your biggest 2014 takeaways in content marketing? Share your thoughts with us below.