Bigger, Bolder, Braver: What I Learned at Digital Summit Atlanta

Bigger, Bolder, Braver: What I Learned at Digital Summit AtlantaAs a marketer, it’s my job to continuously find new ideas. As an agency marketer, I take that seriously. Rep Cap clients look to me for advice about the latest content trends, best practices and platforms.

Sometimes I don’t realize I’m in a rut (Write. Edit. Format. Publish. Promote. Carve out a few minutes to read my favorite marketing blogs and newsletters. Repeat.) until I’m exposed to something completely different. That’s why last week’s Digital Summit Atlanta came at exactly the right time for me.

I’d never been to a Digital Summit before — they have events in cities around the country — but it was a big conference with a LOT of sessions, and I left feeling simultaneously overwhelmed, inspired, exhausted and recharged. Here are some of the ideas and resources I brought back with me.

It’s Time for Content Marketers to Think Bigger, Braver, Bolder

We all agree that Ann Handley is the best, right? Her keynote was all about being bigger, braver and bolder with our content. She thinks the biggest missed opportunity is playing it too safe. I found myself nodding along. It’s easy to get on the content bandwagon, read a few “best practice” articles and start pumping out the exact same content as everyone else. But that’s boring, and your audience won’t remember (or even see) it.

We’re living in a noisy world, and it takes real creativity to reach your audience with a memorable, relevant message. Instead of making more content, Handley suggests focusing on better content.

We’ve been moving in the same direction at Rep Cap (earlier this year I gave marketers — including myself — permission to blog less).

The question is, how do we make our content better?

  • Think about the bigger context. Instead of selling your product, create content people care about that’s helpful for them. Handley gave an example of Blue Bottle Coffee’s 1-hour Skillshare class on brewing the perfect cup of coffee. She took the class, she learned a lot and now she’s a loyal Blue Bottle customer. Instead of throwing up a quick, surface “5 tips” blog post, Blue Bottle went deeper and made her a smarter customer by providing real value. The challenge for marketers is: What story can you tell with a depth and breadth that doesn’t otherwise exist?
  • Share bolder stories. A brand is the sum of every experience a customer has with you. One brand that’s telling stories in a unique way (and creating a great customer experience) is Slack. She quoted a Slack marketing leader who calls the Slack podcast “the best landing page” for the company. I took this as a challenge to create a better experience for Rep Cap readers. How can we move beyond the industry-standard lead-generation experience (fill out a form on a lead-gen page, immediately get a follow-up email from the sales/marketing team, move to a conversation about a purchase)? It’s time to shake things up. I’m still brainstorming about what we could do differently. More interactive content? Quizzes? Diagnostics?
  • Take a braver perspective. We recently shared Handley’s writing advice, and in this talk, she zoomed in on tone of voice. As a brand (and as a person), your tone of voice is your gutsiest, bravest asset, she said. It’s your chance to share who you are, why you do what you do and what you’re like to work with. She shared a helpful exercise for defining your brand voice. Fill out this Mad Libs-esque form with three adjectives:

As a brand, we are:

________________________.

________________________.

________________________.

Then, find interesting ways to infuse that personality into everything — your About page,  your social profiles, the preview text at the top of your marketing emails. Or, in her words, “find interesting ways to say boring stuff.” (Psst: Here are my tips on making “boring” industries interesting.)

Marketers Have to Be Open to the Next Big Thing

Another keynoter, Gary Vaynerchuk, changed my mind about something big: Snapchat. I had been in the “I’m not 14, I don’t get Snapchat, moving on” camp, but Gary V. convinced me that that attitude isn’t especially helpful for me as a marketer. His argument: Every social network and sharing platform has been derided as “just for the kids” when it first launched. But every one of those platforms eventually moves into the realm of business. Why not learn how to use Snapchat now, while it’s still new and evolving, instead of playing catch-up later? You have to project how the world is going to change.

Touche. I downloaded Snapchat and I’m slowly learning how to use filters (and asking my 14-year-old neighbor for a tutorial).

On social media, he said, “I don’t love it because of the tech. I love it because that’s where people’s attention is.” For him, marketing is all about grabbing a slice of that elusive attention — “it’s all a big game of cat and mouse.”

I really appreciated his call for marketers to combine both the “sales/transaction/conversion” side of their thinking and the bigger-picture branding side of the equation, since it takes both to win a customer.

Finally, he suggested spending 20 percent of your time on the new — learning, experimenting and testing.

Start Thinking About Your Story as the Product

Vaynerchuk says he sees big potential for B2B. His advice: Think about yourself as a media company first and a B2B company second. Your goal should be to put the B2B magazine in your space out of business.

I loved that, and it was a theme I kept hearing throughout the conference.

Leigh George, CEO of the agency Freedom, encouraged marketers to look at the point of view of the people you’re trying to reach. As consumers, we’re fighting to escape all of the marketing messages and content coming our way every day. It’s worth asking, do our customers really want content? Or is it something else? And should we be focused on ways to amplify that content, or to shift what and how we deliver?

Danielle Donnelly, VP of strategy at Moxie, had advice I really connected with: We think about social platforms as distribution networks, but we’re missing that real people are on the other end. Instead, what if we thought out our stories as the products (instead of as a means to get people to buy)?

If you’re interested in digging into more ideas from Digital Summit Atlanta, the Twitter feed from the event is chock-full of great slides, quotes and links to explore. I’ll be interviewing some of my favorite speakers from the event and sharing their stories here over the next few weeks.

If you were at DS Atlanta and we didn’t meet, send me a message on Twitter @leevprice or by email (lee at repcapitalmedia dot com)! I’d love to connect.

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