Reviewing Ascend Summit 2014

26 10 2014

10608268_10152699765736880_3145006299031809068_oLast week I attended a marketing conference. I’ve been to dozens in my career and I am very careful choosing which to attend. With the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing and because I’m very picky, very few have been disappointing in giving great information.

But I was completely blown away by last week’s Ascend Digital Marketing Conference put together by AWeber Communications. It was billed as “an exchange of ideas, information, strategies and success stories designed to elevate your business to the next level”, and each presenter was a top expert in the field of content creation and digital marketing.

It was tough to whittle down all of the information I received, but here are my top five takeaways from an outstanding two days…

1. “We don’t need more content, we need better content.” The first presenter, Ann Handly, set the tone that this conference was going to be something special. I was halfway through her book – “Everybody Writes {Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content}” – so I was well aware of her fresh, honest approach to writing and content creation. The formula is simple – Useful x Empathy x Inspired = Great Content. The importance of the math is the multiplication, and if one of the key aspects is missing your product is a big fat zero. But to ensure relevance, ask yourself after every point… “so what?” You’ll end up with focused content that your customer will come back to.

2. “Having an audience is a privilege, not a right. Like wearing spandex. So you better be relevant.” Clearly the spandex part was an attention-getter, but Peter Shankman doesn’t need that. His upcoming book – “Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans” – is about creating fervent fans that help companies massively increase their customer base, brand awareness, and most importantly, revenue. I ordered the book as soon he was done. Shankman’s high energy presentation included tons of great information and best practices gleaned from years of entrepreneurial experience. The highlights included:

  • “Never underestimate the power of getting up early. Before everyone else. You’ll do your best work with the perception of that edge.”
  • “Put ten times the amount of help into the universe to one time you ask for it.” Sounds like obvious karma, and a tough number to hit, but I’d like to do more things for the good of the game.
  • Call ten people in your contact list everyday. Check in. “What are you working on? How can I help you?” More good going out…
  • In America… we expect to get treated like crap by customer service. The simple things make us loyal. “Treat your customers one level above crap.”

3, “Only 60% of marketers do A/B email testing.” As one of the disgraced forty percent, I squirmed in my seat during Anne Holland’s presentation. Methodologies are documented in many places, but my important takeaway was to get off my ass and do it. Getting better results from our current list reminded me of a sales belief I have repeated so many times – the greatest opportunities lie within your existing base. I need to make sure I am getting the most from my current list.

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4. “Treat your customers as you would like to be treated.” No one works the room like Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion. His stunningly simplistic approach and equally stunning results should change the world of marketing, if we can get all out of our own way. His many rules included: “Treat your customers as you would like to be treated”, “Become the Wikipedia of your space”, and his four word philosophy… “They ask. You answer.” Sheridan’s ultimate belief is that “Honest and Transparent content is the greatest sales tool in the world. Period.” That last statement left everyone clapping and invigorated. But seriously… who in the room is going to have the balls to fully implement?

5. “Don’t worry about the fold. Embrace the scroll.” Our partying group unsuccessfully tried to get Justine Jordan from Litmus to hang with us late into the night. We were rewarded by HER good decision to make it an early night. Her leadoff presentation on the importance of formatting your email for mobile devices perfectly set the tone on day two. Forget about the increasing number of emails that are delivered to your phone… the real grabbing statistic is that over 80% of users delete emails if they don’t look good on their device. And a growing number of people will unsubscribe. Lesson learned! Maybe I’m late to the party, but now EVERY email I do will be optimized for mobile.

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Commander AJ and his little buddy…

Some other great tidbits and soundbites from the two days of sessions:

“Consume more than you produce! Subscribe to ten blogs in a day, leave ten comments. Follow people on social – set an example, show the initiative.” – Lynette Young (AWeber Communications)

“Stop driving clicks and start building cliques.” – Will Reynolds (SEER Interactive)

“Next time I need advice from someone, I’m going to ask someone who hates me.” – Peter Shankman

“Analyzing audience needs? Get out of your own head. We don’t need segways, but cup holders are a must!” Jessica Ivins (Center Centre)

“Email is not an eblast. Blasts are weapons of mass destruction.” – Justine Jordan

“Your website is mousetrap, your marketing is the cheese.” – Andy Crestodina (Orbit Media)

“Brand everything you do. If people can’t get back to you, what’s the point?” – Peter Shankman

Last but not least, the conference attendees were also the cream of the crop… so the networking opportunities were fantastic. Plus.. some great food and swag! Few conferences give this much bang for the buck. I joked with Hunter Boyle, AWeber’s Sr. Business Development Manager, at the end of day two that they had nowhere to go but down. Can’t wait until my expectations are exceeded again next year.

Please share your thoughts on this conference. What were your takeaways? Also… What would your theme music be? I’m going with “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, but I’m a known head banger… Hope to see you next year!

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