I was sitting in Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, when I began to pen this blog before my flight to Boston after a whirlwind of a week. If you’ve ever been to Content Marketing World, then you know what I mean. It’s four days of nonstop, head-spinning content craziness. There were 4,000 attendees, 225 speakers, and more going on than anyone could possibly take in. Suffice it to say that any attendee who isn’t brimming with new ideas and, well, wasn’t completely exhausted by the end of it, really missed out.

Once again, the Acrolinx team was well represented at the conference this year, including as one of the exhibitors. And I can honestly say that we were the talk of Content Marketing World — on some level at least — because of what we gave away. People were literally staring at our booth, talking about us everywhere we went, and vying for their chance to win. Any guesses as to what giveaway prize got everyone whipped up into a content marketing frenzy? Believe it or not, it was selfie toasters.

Never heard of a selfie toaster before? That’s OK, most people haven’t. As it turns out, thanks to what I can only assume are recent advances in toasting technology, it’s now possible to toast your face into a piece of bread. Admittedly, not everyone wants to butter and jam their own face in the morning, but you’d be surprised at just how popular these toasters were.

Now, I can understand that you might be thinking that a selfie toaster is a pretty random prize to offer at a content marketing conference. But actually, if you think about it, you can see where we were coming from. There really are parallels between selfie toasters and content marketing. Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

  • Innovation is essential. In content marketing, you can’t just set it and forget it. Sure you want to build up competencies and play to your strengths, but most of us can’t just do the same old things over and over again and expect to get great results. Likewise, although we mastered making toast a long, long time ago, it took a clever twist on that to create a new product that got people really excited. So the lesson here is to always look for creative ways to add a new, innovative spin to your content. Even small changes can have a big impact.
  • Personalization is key. Offer someone something generic and you’ll be lucky to get their attention. Offer them something that’s truly personalized for them, on the other hand, and you’ll have them right in your hands. If we’d been hawking toasters that burned smiley faces into your bread, I don’t think anyone would have thought twice about it. But, because this particular toaster lets you toast your own face into the bread, it really captured people’s attention. It’s the same with content. If you want it to resonate and draw people in, it’s got to be as personalized and targeted for them as possible.
  • Precision matters. If you want your toast to look like you, the heating elements within your toaster have to be configured in just the right way. If anything’s out of alignment, you’ll just wind up with a burnt mess. In content marketing, precision is equally important. That’s true on all levels, but particularly when it comes to your writing. If it has typos, uses terminology or other words and phrases that are important to your brand incorrectly, or simply doesn’t align to your corporate tone of voice, that’s a real problem. Instead of burnt toast, however, what you wind up with is confused, underwhelmed customers and, worse yet, brand erosion.
  • Iteration is critical. If you’re the proud owner of a selfie toaster, you submit a picture of yourself to the manufacturer, which they use to create a plate. If you’re not happy with the plate (or the toast it creates), you can submit another picture. The reality is that most times people don’t get things right on their first try. You’ve got to iterate and refine everything that you do to get to the best possible outcome. That’s certainly true when it comes to content. I’ve written, read, and rewritten parts of this post a handful of times now, trying to make it as good as I can. (Hopefully you like it.)

Well friends, I’m officially toasted after my time in Cleveland at Content Marketing World. If you haven’t been to the conference yourself, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s an informative and very entertaining event. And, it goes without saying, that the next time you eat a piece of toast, you should really give some thought to what you can do to improve your own content marketing.