Kathleen Visited Seattle for Digital Summit Last Month (And Wrote This Article to Tell You All About it)

by: Kathleen Martin

Seattle Skyline

It's true! Last month I had the opportunity to attend Seattle's Digital Summit Conference, a two-day affair covering a wide range of topics that are important to us marketing types. Below are my thoughts on the sessions, speakers, and of course what I ate in Seattle! -KM

The Preparation

Sunday, March 26. 6:00 p.m.

After a long trip up from Portland due to Portland-Vancouver-Tacoma-Seattle traffic (take your pick) I arrive in Seattle, slightly bedraggled but ready for action.

I make a quick stop at the Mediterranean Inn rooftop (recommended by hotel staff upon check-in and truly impressive even for a cranky, travel worn curmudgeon like myself) to snap a few compulsory Seattle skyline photos before setting out on the age-old quest for food. Luckily the Digital Summit and my hotel are nicely situated in the Queen Anne neighborhood so I won’t have to venture far to find it.

I decide to treat myself to an old-fashioned burger at retro-looking joint Dick’s Drive In. The restaurant is busy. Everyone inside looks happy. I can already tell this is going to be worth the caloric splurge.

7:00 p.m.

Dinner update: Dick’s sucks.

The fries are... not good. The fries are in fact a failure of epic proportions, somehow managing to be both overly greasy AND painfully undercooked at the same time. On the plus side the service is friendly and fast. The burger is…. Well, it’s fine. 

The restaurant, on the other hand, is as dirty as I’ve ever seen (yeah I don’t know how I managed not to notice this before ordering, either). I silently pray that ten Little League teams have just exited the building and my intestinal fortitude is strong today.

I persevere and by bedtime, I’m even feeling a little accomplished. I’ve managed to text friends, update my social media, and game plan for the day ahead. All I need now is a good night’s sleep and I’ll be ready to take on the next two jam-packed days like a marketing boss.

12:24 a.m.

It has become clear to me that my upstairs neighbors are NOT here for an early morning conference. So much for that well rested thing.

The Pre-Conference

It’s early the next morning and the presenter in my Pre-conference session, Shana Sullivan from Vertical Measures, has just asked the room if they know what the Google Algorithm is. A very small percentage of the room has raised hands. More coffee, please!

Throughout the morning I find myself being drawn to the idea that writers should do a lot less asking “what can I write about” and more “what can I help educate audiences about?” A matter of semantics, maybe, but it seems like an important one.During the session, Shana throws up several interesting statistics:

Companies who blog 15X or more basically wipe the competition off the board
15 posts in 30 days. That seems like a lot on the surface of it, but I quickly do the math and realize even small teams could easily meet these numbers if everyone on the team wrote just ONE post/week. I feel, for a moment, rather inspired. Minutes later, however, I arrive for a quick stop in Heartbreak City as Shana reports:
Audiences only read about 20% of blog post content.

That means, dear reader, you are probably not even reading this right now! Long, deep, dramatic sigh. It is a great personal disappointment to me that people don’t read much anymore. As a marketer, I should just be excited about all the new ways people are digesting content now, right? Yeah, ok, yes I am actually excited about that but deep down I really just want everyone else to love reading as much as I do!)

But let’s talk content promotion.

In today’s crowded spaces, organic promotion needs its counterpart: paid promotion. That scares some people but luckily, there’s good news too. You don’t have to go out and spend thousands of dollars to make a difference. Starting small, a few hundred bucks even, can still give your organic results a needed boost so people get to see and engage with your awesome content!

And let’s be clear.

Content marketing is not a 30 day R.O.I.

So true, Shana, so true. And I think every agency/marketer gets asked this. A lot. A small part of me wants to get this tattooed somewhere, possibly on my forehead, so I can just point to it when people ask us how long content marketing takes to be effective.

The Main Event

In the afternoon, content maven Ann Handey kicks off the full Digital Summit Conference. I’m already pretty into her outfit, especially her shoes, so she has my attention from the word “Go.”

But after listening to Ann for 20 minutes, I’m suddenly struck with anxiety—does my agency have a point of view? Or do we sound like everyone else? Frantic 'notes to self' follow closely behind.

3:00 p.m.

Back in the swing of things after a dead computer battery briefly puts me out of commission. (Friendly feedback for event management: More charging stations please!)

Working out my inner Millennial, I attend a session about Snapchat. The key takeaway: Snapchat should be organic, a snapshot of real world applications, and generally informal to the extreme. Today's consumers are getting pretty damn savvy about advertising, and less interested daily in being sold to. Those brands that can create the most authentic connection with their customers can expect to come out on top.

Tuesday, March 28

Back at it Tuesday morning after a quick stop at Starbucks (I am in Seattle after all) which proves a wise move. A woman stops me on my way in the door to ask where I got it because rumor has it the conference has Run. Out. Of. Coffee. I silently pat myself on the back about my coffee smarts.

First up this morning is Melissa Metcalf, Brand Marketing Manager at Mailchimp talking about emotional marketing and the importance of making an emotional connection with our customers.

I follow this up with a session with Cliff Seal, UX Lead for SalesForce. I think he’s pretty spot on when he says a lot of B2Bs, due to risk aversion, choose to continue just “doing what works”, i.e. what everyone else is doing. He argues talent and creativity aren’t being used enough if we’re simply trying to keep up with trends. B2B needs design thinking, which means being solution oriented and creative, valuing divergent thinking and letting the best ideas rise to the top. It’s bold, but I like it.

Oh yes and #deathtoboring is definitely the best hash tag of the event.

One other notable session is Michael Barber of Barber & Hewitt, a good speaker with a great topic: Removing friction from business. Because…

More friction = more time wasted = unhappy people = less likely to do business.

This is the era, he posits, where the easiest always wins. Save people time. Provide them with a constant experience, and whatever you do… No surprises. Ever. (No that doesn't mean no good surprises, like free money or gifts, I'm pretty sure people still like those just fine).

There are too many other session to even include here. Some really stand out, others are fairly forgettable, but all of them are a reassurance that there are smart people out there on the daily who are trying to do better marketing. Marketing that doesn’t just sell another widget, but tries to truly connect to people.

So, after two busy days and this lingering lesson firmly implanted, I pack up my suitcase and jump back on I5, excited to head home with fresh ideas to share with the Outlier team (and happy to leave the Dick's Burgers experience behind me forever).

Outlier

Video, Web, and Design Agency