Reflections and takeaways from the Marketing Outpost winter team retreat at The Charlotte Digital Summit Marketing Conference.
Turns out we have an instinct for this kind of thing. ;-)
Marketing Outpost prides itself in providing exclusive one of a kind marketing plans and strategies to small businesses. We do a great deal of research to make sure we understand exactly where our clients currently land in the spectrum of their respective industries, so that we can advise them on where they can be next.
But - who advises us? We three marketers of Marketing Outpost are...
Mari - mastermind marketing guru who runs on instinct as her fuel:
You won't learn this in marketing school
Jenn - on point strategist and social media influencer extraordinaire who always goes the extra mile: Yes you can, and I'll show you how (just don't waste my time...)
Denby - artist observer who delights in the details:
The big picture is best informed by being particular about the particulars...
Shouldn't we - as a marketing solutions agency - also be thinking about where we could be next? Well, with all of this client work, who has the time...?
We do. We will. Make the time.
So says Mari Peterson. So off we go to the Digital Summit Charlotte, December 2021, for some team enrichment. We got the tickets, including access to the 4 hour masterclasses, the hotel room, and snacks for the drive (nuts - we each brought a different variety of nut, unbeknownst to the others. It occurred to us as a kind of metaphor for our team...almonds, pecans and pistachios, btw).
Setting: a boutique Charlotte N.C, hotel & Charlotte Convention Center.
Context: A menu of marketing topics and classes from which to choose, a very well stocked hotel wet bar, and a secret library.
OK, so we didn't get into that well stocked wet bar - we needed to show up at the masterclass event first thing in the am - but we certainly did appreciate the presence of the well curated snacks and adult beverages.
The masterclasses were jam packed full of information, and turned out to be the most valuable of all of the offerings. While Mari and Jenn attended "Conversion Optimization for Every Business", Denby headed over to "Advanced Email Marketing: Tactics to Build Robust Email Programs". The rest of the day and the following were full of 1/2 hour options with targeted topics covering everything from brain science marketing secrets, to strategies and tips for Tik Tok, to the most common Google analytics mistakes.
And then there was was a lunchtime keynote speaker discussing:
"The Connected Human and the Future of Marketing"
Which maybe explains why there was an alien doll in the photo opp area?
We played along anyway, despite the lack of explanation as to 'Jeff's' role in all of this.
Quite a bit of content, quite a bit data, quite a bit of coffee.
The range of topics were also a confirmation of just how many hats marketing professionals wear- especially those of us in smaller agencies. We realized that Marketing Outpost operates much like the boutique hotel we were staying at; being a smaller operation doesn't mean we do less or offer fewer services- it means we actually do more, with a multifaceted approach and an emphasis on discernment. We don't rely on just one formula for our clients, we learn and create new formulas each time we engage with a new business owner.
Not the business- but the business owner.
So, when the oft repeated mantra 'human to human' kept popping up at the conference as some kind of 'new' marketing approach, we exchanged knowing nods -quite a bit.
Besides the fact that in Charlotte you have many options to get a great meal after 9 pm and not get booted out of the restaurant (we're talking to you, Asheville), and
that every hotel should have a secret library?
There was much to take in, and we each had our own key takeaways. Here is a synopsis of the top 3:
#3: Digital Basics Still Matter: Websites, Emails and Analytics
Despite the fact that we now have so many other platforms to showcase our brands, the basics of the World Wide Web still matter, a LOT.
Don't set it and forget it when it comes to your website.
Your website is still your initial calling card, and how it is designed and updated is not something to put on the back burner while you spend all of your time on that IG Reel.
From Jenn: "Improve and tweak your website design and call to action...your website is one of your biggest tools, it's the front door to your business and if doesn't clearly explain who, what and why you are, it's not going to perform...people love being told what to do when it comes to purchasing goods and services, and making decisions is hard for so many people. When you remove anxiety from their minds, they become more invested in what you have to offer. Website design should do just that."
Your relationship with Google Analytics is a critical one - make sure you play nice with it.
Ignoring the GA data will not stop it from churning away and affecting your business - in fact it will likely affect it adversely if you don't engage with it.
From Jenn: "I've learned that not only is SEO a necessary, long term strategy to building your brand online, but your Google analytics play a huge role in how you can update and develop your marketing plan so that it is steering your company in the right direction"
People still read emails. At least if they are over the age of 3o.
Email marketing is not dead. To be effective it has to evolve into being a very specific tool rather than a generalized one.
From Denby: "Many people got burned out and frustrated with sluggish newsletter programs and the promise of email marketing being a great tool for driving sales, and for many of us- myself included- it became a burden. But it turns out that emails are still the #1 digital tool that everyone knows how to use, that people access from several devices throughout the day. If you meet your consumers there with intention and personalized content, it can still be a superb tool - just clean up that distribution list before you do anything!"
#2 : Connecting in person will always be better than a Zoom Call
Whether it is with your team or with a business prospect, being in a room with other people is always more stimulating and impactful.
From Mari: "This conference was a great example of what being personally, physically connected in a space really does - it's the best form of team building, the best way to get to know who we work with, and somehow made us more engaged with content that honestly you can get online. What I really walked away with is how well we work together, how much in sync we are, and what a great team we have."
Which leads us into the biggest takeaway of all, the one overarching key point we all intersected on:
#1: H2H Marketing works
'Human to Human' marketing is not new to us, it is what Marketing Outpost is basically built on.
Thoughts from Mari: " We were surrounded by marketing professionals from large enterprise companies listening to discussions on how to personalize and humanize their marketing to their consumers. We, on the other hand, felt like we do that already, because when you are a small, local business, it's always personal because personal relationships are the key to success."
Thoughts from Jenn: "I was delighted to hear at this conference that human connection is still one of the strongest factors for business marketing and growth....In my observation of empirical studies about how people can become more happy, human connection is always the number one factor...why wouldn't a business want to tap into that connectivity?"
Thoughts from Denby: "Leave it to marketers to come up with a catch phrase term for a concept that should be inherently intuitive."
In other words-
Talk to people like they are people, not targets.
Empathize with where they may be coming from and be transparent about what your customer can expect from you. Turns out people really value honesty.
Marketing now runs on system feedback - and that system is people. The days of dictating to the consumer are over; consumers now have the means to to tell you what they need and want and what they don't - and they will! It is up to you to listen and adjust your marketing approach accordingly.
Shouldn't this make marketing less bewildering? No smoke and mirrors, no hard sell?
Yes, but strategy still counts - but be strategic based on what is actually happening out there, not what you predicted or hoped for. Often times what is really happening with your brand is not what you had in mind when you started it, and that can sometimes be a little crushing for a business owner.
Fortunately, our team specializes in researching the facts to help small businesses come to terms with changing tides and embrace their next great wave.
Perhaps you've heard of this trendy word 'pivot' ?