Last week I had the privilege of attending MarketingProfs’ Digital Mixer in Chicago. For two solid days I enjoyed sessions and keynotes from some of the brightest stars in the digital marketing universe. Just Google the conference and you can quickly see that there’s been no shortage of excellent summary posts. For mine, I’d like to add a take from our unique perspective. First, we are an advertising agency as opposed to an in-house marketer. Plus, while we work with businesses of all sizes, we counsel several small businesses that are very interested in how new media can grow their business. Thus my post will look at some of the best conference takeaways by area (social media, search, blogging, email marketing) through the prism of agency and small business.
Without a doubt, the underlying theme of the Digital Mixer was the integration of social media marketing with traditional efforts. Many sessions also built out systematic strategies for social media success. Mike Stelzner of Social Media Examiner drove home the need to identify “fire starters” in your space and making your content easy to share. Fire Starters are social media users in your category that have power, access, and audience. However, he cautioned simply tracking them down and pimping them right away. Rather, he encouraged building relationships with them first by doing a lot on their behalf (retweets, blog posts, etc.) before asking them for anything.
Social media measurement is emerging as something to keep an eye on. According to MarketingProfs research, few companies feel they have a good grasp on measuring social media impact and ROI. One of the biggest hurdles that businesses are struggling to understand is that while social media is theoretically free, there are costs associated with it. Time — employees or agency time to listen, manage, and converse. Fellow Hawkeye Amber Naslund of Radian6 made the comparison that while social media has costs it’s no different than taking a client out to eat or for a round of golf. It’s being social.
Bill Leake of Apogee Search first had me sinking into my chair a bit when he said that agencies needed clients to find homes for their art. To his credit, many agencies do operate in this capacity. However, Westergaard has always worked to be a strategic partner first and foremost. To build on this position, I asked Bill what agencies can offer clients. “Agencies are valuable in search because they can challenge Google’s recommendations,” Bill replied. “Have you ever noticed how Google’s suggestions for getting better results are always spending more money with Google. An agency can filter these recommendations and help the client make the decision that is best for their campaign and their business.” An agency’s job is to know the clients’ marketing plan, know their concerns, and their budget.
It’s interesting to go to sessions on a topic you think you know as you often end up totally blown away by how much you do not know or are not capitalizing on the full potential of. Of all media discussed at the conference, our greatest history is with email marketing. However, Greg Cangialosi of Blue Sky Factory offered much more than a simple 101 at his eNewsletter session. The big idea here? Always be testing. Optimize your email campaigns. Think you are getting good results? Great. Test some variables and make them even better. I was reminded of one of my favorite sentiments about testing by Stephanie Miller of Return Path who said: “Even when you’re wrong you know something. There are no failures in testing.” Clients: look for more email testing from Westergaard in the months ahead.
Oh, and for all those saying that social is replacing email? (Looking at you Wall Street Journal.) Greg hit the nail on the head when he offered “Email is the digital glue of the social web.” While social media has many hot triggers to engage and persuade customers, the inbox is still a very special place be.
On Thursday, we started the day with breakfast roundtables by topic. I chose blogging (pictured above) and enjoyed a lively discussion with about half a dozen peers moderated by the great Mack Collier. Among the many great ideas Mack imparted was one that I specifically have struggled with here on this blog. As a small business, you end up wearing many hats. I more than understand the value of blogging and we have gotten tons of positive feedback and even business from it but sometimes, due to all of those hats, you just don’t have the time to blog at the quantity that others do. Mack’s advice? If you can’t write a ton, make up for it with quality and consistency. Do one good post a week (or even once a month) and deliver it consistently so your audience expects it. Make the 2nd Tuesday of the month your blog day. Look for me to be finding such a day sometime soon here.
Miscellaneous Overall Advice
In wrapping up the keynote discussion on Wednesday, the panelists were asked if businesses could do only one thing what should that be? Word-of-Mouth Marketing author Andy Sernovitz had an answer that spoke to me. “Whether it’s tweeting, texting, status updates, blogging or email, much of new media is based on writing. Be a good writer.” Perhaps this spoke to me because it is somewhat self-serving as a copywriter by trade but I think it is worth calling out. Often the focus of emerging media is the new technology while the craft put into its utilization is sometimes overlooked by the masses. Which brings me to another agency takeaway of Andy’s. “Marketers aren’t expected to be technology innovators. We talk to customers. Don’t look for the next big thing. Wait until your customers are there then listen and talk to them.”
Pound-for-pound, Ann and the good folks at MarketingProfs put on an information-packed event. I got so many great ideas. I also got a Flip Camera HD in a drawing (for the conference planners out there – you can’t beat a good, old exhibitor scavenger hunt — great way to get attendees asking vendors questions). Plus the event lived up to its name. It was truly a mixer. Idea were mixed, people mixed through networking — they even had experts in white lab coats as “mixologists” who attended all sessions in a given track and mixed up the key ideas and summarized them for the group at the end.
If you’re already a client of ours, I can’t wait to share all of this with you. If you aren’t yet a client, contact us and we’ll grab coffee and get social.
Photo credit: MarketingProfs Live