The 4 Most Important Takeaways from the SiriusDecisions 2018 Summit

7 minute read

Upland Admin

Breaking down silos is key to marketing success.

But I’m not just talking about silos within your organization. I’m talking about the broader marketing community. When we as marketers keep our heads down to crank out content and work simply to keep our heads above water, we get stuck. 

Stuck in the habit and comfort of how things have been done, instead of how we could do them. Stuck on how changing processes just isn’t worth it, because we’re getting along just fine—or are we?

SiriusDecisions Summit 2018 was a chance for us marketers to lift our heads, roll our shoulders back, and start conversations about how to be better marketers.

So, if you couldn’t make it to Las Vegas this year (or the neon glow of Las Vegas affected your memory), here’s a recap of what the top marketers are saying about the future of content.

Key Learnings from SiriusDecisions

Over three days, there were several educational tracks—Content Strategy and Operations, Sales Enablement, Account-Based Marketing, and so on—as well as fantastic keynote speakers, ROI award winners, and case studies that featured marketers who have implemented new processes and technology to absolutely crush it.

Here are the significant takeaways that stood out brighter than the neon.

Content Operations Transformation Is Imperative

This is certainly the most exciting thing I learned. If you know anything about Kapost, you know that content operations are the very foundation of why we provide software and services.

As such, having analysts and thought leaders talk about the importance of content operations teed up our offering perfectly. But that’s not actually why I’m so thrilled about it.

Hearing (over and over) that a content operation is the future of content means that marketers are actually on their way to thinking smarter about content. After all, the first step to relieving pain is acknowledging the true issue.

We all know the symptoms: silos, wasted content, and lack of visibility. These lead to poor customer experience, marketing-sales tension, and a painful amount of dollars, hours, and brain cells lost.

These are nasty symptoms that aren’t going to go away with time. And point solutions, poorly implemented technology, and/or misaligned teams aren’t going to cut it.

The real issue at hand is much deeper and needs a more strategic solution. Successful marketers are abandoning simple content marketing to adopt a content operation. That’s why there was an entire track, Content Strategy and Operations, devoted to educating marketers on exactly how they can be more strategic about their content. It included sessions like The State of B2B Content: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (look out for Sirius’s benchmark to be released soon with their findings), Reimagining the B-to-B Content Factory, and more!

Of course, more strategic content has been on marketers minds for years, but Summit took the step to the next level of really digging into what content operations look like. It was also super exciting to hear conversation at the conference that matched how Kapost defines content operations:

A content operation is the set of processes, people, and technologies for strategically planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content. When properly implemented, it unifies the customer experience across all departments and channels and allows marketers to focus on authentic, resonant, messaging that drives revenue and growth.

If your organization still believes content marketing will be sustainable for the next five years, it’s time for a reality check. I challenge you to dig deeper and continue the conversation SiriusDecisions facilitated—and that Kapost has been leading for years.

Building a business case for a content operation starts with identifying the real issue at hand.

Technology Isn’t the Silver Bullet

Have you ever heard a vendor tell you that technology isn’t the solution to your problems? No? Well, let me be the first.

Christine Polewarczyk hit this point perfectly throughout the Content Strategy and Operations track. Technology is meant to support your teams and processes, but it will not change behavior for you.

Implementing a new technology without team, stakeholder, and executive buy-in is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. It’s not going to stick, and it’s certainly not going to solve the problem of ineffective marketing efforts.

The solution? Of course, a content operation. Sensing a theme yet?

In order to succeed in this audience-centric era, marketers must recognize the behaviors that contribute to negative customer experience.

Here are key warning signs to look out for:

  • Having no documented (or a poorly documented) content strategy
  • Having no single source of truth for approved content
  • Not establishing service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Using Product-centric messaging
  • Producing reactive random acts of content rather than strategic plans

Of course, technology does help support and streamline these behaviors—but without complete alignment across stakeholders to change behavior, the tool will ultimately go unused.

Be the Seeker of Digital Disruption—Not the Victim

Digital transformation is happening throughout product, marketing, and sales. Don’t be afraid to change your model. Trying and failing is going to ultimately bring you learnings to be better, but staying stuck in the comfort zone of what your organization has always done will leave you in the dust of digital.

The “Digital Transformation: What Does It Mean, And What Must B-to-B Leaders Do To Make It Successful?” keynote by Marisa Kopec and Gil Canare of SiriusDecisions highlighted three common types of business change most organizations target:

  1. Relate: change how you interact
  2. Operate: change how you work
  3. Evolve: change who you are

Of these, they most often see organizations trying to change how they relate.

Here’s the problem with that: it’s only part of the way to actual growth. To effectively be part of the solution, you’ll need to change how you interact, the way you work, and who you are as an organization.

Digital disruption didn’t end with the invention of the Internet. Marketers are constantly improving the process—but to do that, you’ll need to take risks, which means experimenting and possibly failing. But this kind of failure leads to learnings and, ultimately, growth.

In the age of digital, true failure looks just like standing still.

Don’t make the mistake of falling into the comfort zone of what has been. Meet the customer where they are—digitally.

Be Empathetic: A Note to Marketers, Leaders, and Humans

Have you ever left a B2B marketing conference session with tears in your eyes? What about tears actively rolling down your cheeks as you somewhat awkwardly check to see if your fellow attendees were so moved?

Sure, conferences can be tiring. After a week in Las Vegas, the neon color of everything certainly almost inspired some tears.

But don’t be mistaken—as the conference attendees left photographer Platon‘s keynote presentation, the tears in our eyes were not from exhaustion. (Well, only 20% exhaustion.)

Not a marketer by trade, but certainly a man with a remarkable talent for connection, Platon reminded us all of the importance of being marketers.

Our job—as marketers and humans—is to show empathy. Not just to our prospects, but to our customers, leaders, managers, fellow marketers, and pretty much everyone we come in contact with.

A cliche, perhaps, but as Platon flashed through slide after slide of incredibly impactful stories that struck at emotional chords, the importance of relating to your audience on a human level crystallized. Seeing former President Obama lighting up the expansive room was certainly powerful, but the stories behind the photos soon overtook the power of the people depicted.

I’d argue that this was by far my most impactful—and unexpected—takeaway from SiriusDecisions Summit 2018. Of course, the tools and foundational strategy behind a content operation gave the tactical roadmap for how to engage prospects and customers, but the reminder that connection is really what marketers aim for was hugely needed.

Wrapping Up SiriusDecisions 2018 Summit

So, fellow marketers, our mission is clear: The future of content is a content operation.

Technology is certainly a must (and content is the number one area of increased budget, according to SiriusDecisions), but it’s not going to get your team to the finish line.

Be agents of change, embrace the digital disruption, and most importantly: recognize that the prospect you’re talking to is seeking connection and empathy, not a product or service.

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