The Common Thread in Marketing - Learnings From Conferences

I'm always on the hunt for what's new and trending in the marketing world.  A few months ago I had the chance to look at marketing through both the mountain bike industry lens and on a broader scale. To get the lowdown, some colleagues and I attended DigiMarCon in Toronto, ON then a few short weeks later we hosted the 2018 Whistler Bike Conference, here at Crankworx HQ. Although they sound like opposing conferences, there were quite a few common themes that emerged. Here's what's hot in marketing this season and the people behind it:   

Email Marketing

Digital Transformation Strategies – Derek Lackey

Lackey, DiGiMarCon speaker, focused heavily on the consumer journey through email to conversion. My key takeaways from him were, when it comes to email audiences, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Focus on quality. He suggests that it’s the messages consumers don't get that matter in communications most because of successful segmentation. A notable metric to measure in the the consumer purchase journey is intent. When tracking this metric on our own websites, respect a user and be transparent.

To read more, check out a couple of his interesting articles on the blog, Newport Thompson.

Marketing Automation Emily Sloan-Pace, Zoho

Email sequences have evolved. They can be used for customer service, customer marketing (an educational drip), partner marketing (CRM specific), internal communications, recruiting and on-boarding. Sloan-Pace suggested a good place to start with autoresponders is to focus on the top performing traditional autoresponders: Back in Stock, Anniversary, Welcome and Complimentary Purchase Ideas. According to her research 77% of marketing autoresponder sends see a lift in sales. Some of her best suggestions for marketing automation included:

  • Write copy as if you are writing to one person

  • Sprinkle in personalization

  • Don’t try to sell to everyone aka segment your messages for higher success

  • Don’t ask for the sale until the 4th email in a drip campaign

  • Emails should be 80% content 20% pitch

Watch her full talk here: “The Art of the Autoresponder”

Social Media Marketing

Social Selling - Anita Windisman

Windisman focused her DigiMarCon session on the power of social selling and the idea that it creates a shorter buying cycle. If done right, it creates relationships which are more valuable than one-off sales. At the back end of a sales cycle customers tend to voice their opinions online, making social selling also about social listening.

Learn more about Social Selling by checking out this Forbes article: How To Win Business By Social Selling Via LinkedIn.

Facebook Advertising Amanda Bond, The Ad Strategist

Bond, in my humble opinion was the best session of the DiGiMarCon conference, hands down. She guided us through the construction of Facebook and Instagram ads that target the major pinch points of the conversion funnel for customers. She asked the attendees to map out three stages of our buyer funnel from the data we have in social media audiences, email/CRM audiences and Google Analytics audiences. The funnel looked like this:

Top: Lookalikes of people that currently engage with our brand

Middle: People that currently engage with our brand

Bottom: People that engage with our website specifically.

In other words, leads that range from cool to hot. She had such a refreshing and goal oriented focus on ad spend that I left eager to map out our plan and test it on upcoming ticketing and awareness campaigns for Crankworx. Bond’s blog, The Ad Strategist, is a wealth of information on the topic.

The Social Advantage How to Start Demonstrating Social ROI in 4 Steps -  Eva Taylor, Hootsuite

Taylor opened her session during Whistler Bike with a cool stat. “The adoption rate of 50 million people to Instagram took 18 months versus 75 years for the telephone.” Closing in on social media spending, she said that 80% of brands have adapted their marketing to include Facebook but only 20% are able to prove it’s worth. She explains that uncovering social media ROI requires some social media maturity on behalf of brands/companies. A key metric to review in our social media marketing campaigns is engagement. Engagement data can help us uncover:

  • Is the strategy working?

  • What content resonates with our audience?

  • How do we measure up against competitors?

Taylor suggests mapping social KPIs directly against business objectives. To develop a metric to measure return on investment, factor in:

  • Cost of tools

  • Time spent

  • Budget given

She’s written more about the topic on the Hootsuite Blog.

Brand Building

Storytelling - Jason Falls, Cornett

Falls makes some great points in his DigiMarCon talk surrounding the idea that good stories disrupt the normal. He suggest marketers think in terms of story arcs. The classic story arcs that can be adapted to tell any brand’s story are the following:

  • Cinderella (rise to prominence)

  • Fall from grace

  • Return to grace (a comeback story)

  • Weakness to strength

  • Path of discovery

Not all storytelling needs to be focused on the top funnel dreaming phase of your event, product or service. Falls asked the conference to consider telling stories that plot the journey of a potential buyer. Visualize how the buyer weighs the value of a product or opportunity through doing research or imagining themselves with the product. One of the strongest ideas he gave was to tell the story of a consumer's "Slide of Resistance". Address what commonly comes up as a hesitation to purchase and disprove that story. Keep in mind, the greater the purchase, the greater the hesitation.

Watch Falls in a recent HubSpot talk on “Hacking the Conversation”:

Building Brands for Future Growth - Meggie Hollinger, Google

Hollinger lead her Whistler Bike discussion by asking attendees to define what our core brand elements are and how we manifest them in our products. During her time working on Google Voice and Google Assistant she found that it’s important for companies to have a scalable identity. Like Google’s “G”. To get the entire company on board with brand guidelines she suggests creating a spec & asset management system for consistency. She then touched on the magic of using design sprints to accomplish large scale projects like rebranding. A typical sprint for Hollinger flows in these steps:

1.      Assess “Lightning Talks” - uncovering the challenge ahead from all angles.

2.      Sketch - user journeys and idea generation.

3.      Dot Voting - to decide on direction.

4.      Prototype - sketching out a vision or creating a video to bring others into the fold.

5.      Validate - through user testing.

Hollinger has some innovative ways of capturing ideas to design a company and it’s products for future growth. Have a look at a few of her Google projects on LinkedIN.


The Power of Storytelling, Tapping into Community - Abigail Flora, Athleta

Flora drew from her time working on Athleta Girl to give Whistler Bike some strong storytelling advice:

First, lead with product driven storytelling. Integrate marketing into the process of developing products. During Flora’s most recent campaign for Athleta Girl, she designed the products alongside the consumer (feedback and R&D) – getting the sale along the way to completing the design process. She emphasized that consistency with storytelling across channels is key.

Second, Flora suggests rethinking the design process. Build marketing into the design. Many product features surprise and delight Athleta’s younger customers by incorporating hidden treasures into the garments such as thumb holes or pockets. Flora insists that the research is out there and easily Google-able. Get scrappy and integrate data driven marketing into storytelling for brands.

Head over to Marketing Dive. They wrote a fantastic article about a recent marketing campaign for Athleta Girl:

Tales from the Mosh-Pit, Applying the audacity of a punk rock mindset to your brand and marketing initiatives - Marc Morisset, STR/KE MVMNT

Morisset shot from the hip with the attendees of Whistler Bike about the evolution of his brand. His company fits a niche in the fitness market that is relatively new and chock-full of passionate customers. He reflected on the evolution of STR/KE MVMNT as a whole to tell a story that resonates with his customers long term. His advice to emerging brands is to be unapologetically awesome like the grassroots brands that were built from skate, surf and punk culture. To get the wheels turning he raved about getting our hands on The Brand Gap or the Designful Company.

Consumer Behaviour & Market Research

Critical Balance, Getting Ecommerce & Brand Building To Play Together - Adam Greene, SAXX

Greene joined us for Whistler Bike to explain the process his team uses for growth. He suggests starting local and then scaling outward by creating communities around the brand. 

From a technical perspective he favoured leading with data. Try reviewing transaction data to identify frequent buys and sort them based on zip code. Then overlay customer locations based on the given zip code in Google Earth to find where to place retail areas. Such a brilliant way to blend owned and public information to create a sales funnel based on concentration. 

Greene’s team can then infer where to host events, purchase out-of-home, print and digital marketing by mapping the highly concentrated areas of customers. Greene’s major takeaway, is that data transparency is key. 

See what Greene has in-store for the direction of SAXX in a recent issue of MR. Magazine. Or watch the campaign video here:

Purpose Marketing

Close The Gaps with "Why" An Optimized Buyer Journey - Tom Wood, RTOWN

Wood took us on a path through RTOWN’s sales funnel by honing in on purpose marketing. Starting at the brand awareness phase, he suggests to lead with the purposes or causes that our companies are aligned with. He explained that using license to create content that doesn’t directly sell or look like a marketing piece is a great way to engage customers. To move people through the funnel, he then suggests educating customers through purpose-driven ambassadors, tone of voice and web copy. Wood found a 20% higher conversion rate when pushing people through a purpose driven web experience. Why? Because 87% of customers are looking for a meaningful relationship with the brand. 

From a data perspective, Wood uses Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Hubspot and a Net Promoter Score to run purpose driven messaging in parallel to sales messaging. His key suggestion for Whistler Bike attendees is to get transparency of your companies data. It helps  marketers get closer to the revenue and closer to the solution. 

Conscious Connections: Strategic Purpose Marketing - Tamar Milne, University of British Columbia

A brand purpose is a reason to exist beyond driving profit.

Mic drop. 

Milne could have finished her presentation there and left us all thinking about constructing better brands on the spot during Whistler Bike but she went on to say that building a company’s purpose doesn’t need to be a tagline or a customer facing slogan. It’s holding our companies accountable for its values. It seems that profit and doing good no longer has to be a fork in our career or company’s lifecycle. She says that there are three basic areas for assembling a purpose built business case:

  • Risks if absent/unfocused.

  • Direct opportunities.

  • Indirect opportunities.

She dove into the numbers to back purpose driven consumerism. Milne explains that Edelman did a survey of 14,000 consumers in 2017 and found that 57% globally are buying or boycotting brands based on issues. And that’s up by 30%. Huge. 

Milne also discovered through her research that by having a clear purpose, companies experience a higher reduction of risk, the cost of equity goes up by 1% and the market value increases by 4-6%. She gave us a few starting points for building a strategic purpose. Look at brand heritage, customer tensions, and externalities (sustainability for example). 

Understand more about consumer behaviour in the Edelman Study here.


Driving Business Growth Through Data - Peter Housley, Indochino

Indochino is an interesting business case because the core company is based online but consumers can come into brick and mortar locations to get measured and view samples for a potential suit purchase. An inverse to the common retail experience. Housley explained that the company’s growth strategy is focused on: People, Product, Price, Partnerships, Profit and being Disruptive. Part of the strategy for retail locations is to have showrooms to give a brand beacon in the market (awareness goes up).

In regards to the company’s e-commerce practices all potential customers are driven to the website. The site drives 82% of all transactions. The beauty of the online shopping cart is that it’s traceable and optimizable. He also said that using geofenced marketing to measure devices and foot traffic helps develop campaigns for the company. Housley suggests that it’s important to know your customers. Focus on the group or persona that you are trying to target and the outer ring of potential customers that follow.

Have a look at Housley’s “How Data Saved My Life” talk in Vancouver:

In Summary

In 2018, I was privileged to attend a major international marketing conference and be the curator of our own, more modest (but arguably radder) event. It was refreshing to learn how tactics presented on a grand scale by consultants are already being used (and improved upon) by in-house practitioners.

I’m a major fan of working on the evolution of email marketing, social media marketing and data analysis for company growth. It’s also refreshing to see storytelling and purpose marketing lead campaigns across multiple verticals. Let’s hope this space continues to grow in a meaningful direction.

Noticing any rad trends in your own marketing world-view?

Know of a helpful conference to attend in 2019?

Shout it out in the comments: