Last week, I piled 4 suitcases, a jogging stroller, an Orca cooler, myself, my husband, and my 6-month old into our white Rav-4 and made the 12.5 hour trip up to Denver, Colorado for the 2016 Digital Marketing Summit (plus a visit with some family along the way).

The drive was long but the experience was well worth it. Not only was I able to geek out with fellow digital marketing enthusiasts, but I got to hear from some of the best people in the industry.

And because I love the heck out of you, my fellow business owner who isn’t afraid of selling online, I’m spilling the best of my notes here for you. Buckle up. There were quite a few exciting takeaways from this year’s conference. 7 to be exact.

1. 3 Compelling Questions

The Summit kicked off with Rand Fishkin from Moz (a company I’m openly a fan of and use regularly in my biz). He has quite a compelling story about how he got started in business. As with any tumultuous startup, he has a few lessons he learned. He also had some takeaways of what he’d do the same if he had to do it all over again. And of course, he was open and honest about not knowing a few things still (which was refreshing, lemme tell ya).

After his presentation, he presented those same 3 questions to us and I urge you to think them through too. If you had to do your journey (any of your lifelong journeys) over again, what would you:

  1. Do differently?
  2. Do the same?
  3. Aren’t sure of still?

2. Listening is a Big Deal

Next up on the stage was Tara Gentile, a fellow kickass copywriter. She was talking all about listening. She dove in deep on how to use various channels to listen to what customers are saying so your biz has a better chance at jumping into the conversation seamlessly and uniquely.

My favorite of her seven? Social listening.

Too often, social media is used as a broadcasting tool. Tara (and I) urge you to use it more as a way to get to know what your customers are feeling…

… because they won’t tell you themselves. Most of the time, your customers don’t know. Stop asking what your buyers need and start listening (truly listening) to what they’re struggling with. Then, do the work to find out how you can solve those pains.

In other words, less “sell, sell, sell” and more “I hear you and this is what I can do to ease your struggle.”

3. You Are an Original and You Have a Duty to Share That Originality With the World

I admit. This post doesn’t feel super original since I’m basically summarizing some major takeaways from some incredible speaker presentations. But, one of the big takeaways was this (as contradictory as it seems): You are an original.

Chris Ducker took the stage to shake everyone of the temptation to be a me too brand and instead, urged the audience (and you too) to don a cloak of originality. The world wants it. The world needs it. You owe it to your customers to give them your original ideas, voice, and content.

Which leads into the next point…

4. Content, Email, and Copywriting Continue to be the Trinity of Digital Marketing

digital commerce summit Day 2 kicked off with a glimpse into the world of digital marketing. Brian Clark, owner of Copyblogger Media, which is now Rainmaker Digital (which is the platform this very website is built on), took to the stage podcasting style (which is to say interview style for today’s digitally based world) to talk about where the online marketing world is heading. He’s been right in the past, so there’s no reason to not listen this time. Plus, what he said makes total sense.

The big takeaway: content, email, and copywriting remain the trinity of online marketing. These are the crux of how consumers are finding businesses they want to work with, building relationships with those businesses, and deciding who to buy from online.

If you don’t have content, you’re not offering value. If you don’t email your list, you’re swimming upstream trying to nurture your audience (social won’t cut it). If you’re not copywriting well, you’re doing your customers a disservice by not properly explaining how you can help solve their pain (notice that didn’t read: selling your stuff because copy is about persuading a person to buy through value; not push).

Brian told a story that drove this point home.

In the past, a startup needed to have a hustler (someone to drive, drive, drive the development engine in a business), a developer, and a designer to bring a product to market. Now, startups need a hustler and a writer. The market will dictate what it wants after that, and then you can hire the developer to build it out. But you must start with a writer who can reach your audience first. Without that, it won’t matter how great your thing is. If you can’t get it in front of your people, you can’t make money.

5. Content is Context

Melanie Deziel took the stage next to talk about how important context is in content marketing. The case study of what she did for Netflix told it all.

Are you familiar with the show, Orange is the New Black? *Hand up* I sure am! I love the show. It’s a dramatic comedy based off the true story of a woman named Piper who goes to a woman’s only prison. Although it’s infused with a lot of humor, the underlying message of the show is that there’s a lot of corruption in the prison system.

Netflix wanted to drive awareness about this corruption and drive viewership (but more importantly, awareness). So, they took to other websites to share the story.

On the first website, Buzzfeed, they were targeting viewers who enjoyed a good laugh, they talked about the “fun” side of prison complete with animated gifs. (I don’t have the link to the specific article right now, but you get the idea, hopefully).

On the next website, the New York Times, they told the darker side of females in prison. The only mention of the Netflix show was at the end. The context was different. This article was meant to be more serious and so it was put on a more serious website.

The goal was for awareness and boy did they get it. I don’t have all the details of how successful each campaign was, but it’s safe to say, both were a huge hit both with the audience and with the executives who saw how effective this type of content was in each context.

The point and lesson for you: Where you write/publish matters. Think of the context of the where the reader is reading your article and who the reader is. Two different articles served the same purpose for Netflix. Can it do the same for you? #Foodforthought

6. Long Copy is Something to be Embraced

It’s easy to think that longer content is more of a chore for your audience. It takes a little longer to read and looks daunting on the surface. That’s why many C-Suite Execs tend to shy away from it.

Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers says to stop.

Once again, I couldn’t agree with her more.

Joanna gave a compelling example of how she took a short email campaign, beefed it up with words, and over doubled the amount of conversions for a company. The words she chose mattered a lot. 

Instead of using watered down, jargon filled, appeal-to-everyone style copy, she chose one person. Just one. Then, she used storytelling to tell the reader’s story – not the company’s. Instead of talking about what the person would see when using the features of the product, she showed the reader why it mattered to them.

I don’t want to steal her example but here’s a more generic example of what she did and what she’s seen get results:

This: “Bake cookies in 20 minutes.”

Could be turned into this: “What’ll your girlfriends smell as they open the door for afternoon coffee at your house? If you’re mixing up this mix with one egg and a cup of water, your friends will take a deep breath, close their eyes, and say, “what did you make for us today?” with a smile on their faces. You? Well, you’ll be the afternoon’s hero all because you opened up this box and whipped up these cookies in less time than it takes to watch a rerun of Friends.”

See the difference? One paints a picture. The other is boring. One’s also longer, but you can see why sometimes more really is better.

There was a lot more info at this conference including why books and software could make great revenue streams, how and why to run a membership site, the importance of online courses and more but if you’re here, you’re probably more interested in the benefits and best practices of content and copy.

To see more takeaways and quotes from the speakers, click here (my Twitter feed) where I was live tweeting the conference.

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