With presenting sponsors like EY and IBM, and presentations from the likes of Walmart Canada, ComScore and the lead marketing strategists behind Canada’s three main political parties, Dx3 was busting at the seams with cool ideas.
And by cool I mean some of these people build robots for a living; they sell stat tracking systems that spit out freakishly accurate user information, and glasses that monitor the way people view a website to find out what will get them to the checkout faster. [Above: Amber Mac's Tech Spotlight presented by EY: The tech journalist and PEI native interviewed a series of hot start-ups in the financial tech and e-health sectors.]
There were about 4,000 attendees in all, including me. I soaked up the presentations, learning sessions and Brain Dates, all with the goal of picking up fresh marketing insights to share with our business community: tips and tricks from the pros that might help you grow your clientele or spread the word about the products and services you provide.
I also need to enhance my own communication tool box in order to promote the Centre’s services, and to make it even easier for women to connect with our team.
It’s a challenge. Our clients are millennials who have grown up with Google; they are Gen Xers like myself who caught the tech train in college, or shortly thereafter, and boomers - some late to the party, other masters of the hashtag. The ventures vary. Many are here in Halifax, but others are based in communities you may not find on the map.
Still, all of our clients share something in common: they’re strapped for time, money or both.
One of my favourite Dx3 presenters, neuroscientist Mark Organ, CEO of B2B marketing firm Influitive, summed it up quite nicely:
“I’m done,” he said, speaking of the promotions and offers he receives on a daily basis. “I don’t think I can read any more emails. I can’t handle any more content. Beyond what is necessary, unless someone I know and care about tells me I need to pay attention, I just can’t.”
Organ’s presentation, How to Disrupt Your Marketing with Influencer and Advocate Marketing, focused on his experiences as a young entrepreneur who founded six tech companies, including the marketing automation software company Eloqua, which was sold to California software giant Oracle for $871 million.
Organ is a firm believer in advocate marketing, “because it works, whether you run a small business or a huge corporation.”
In keeping with Mark’s aversion to content, here’s a video clip of him explaining it (click to view):
With that, I would like to offer my top take aways from Dx3: quick tips you can use now, to help grow your business and spread the word about what you do.
And best of all: they will cost you little or nothing to implement!
Mobilize your tribe.
This is Mark Organ’s mantra, and it’s a good place to start, especially if you’re new to business. You’ve done the leg work: you’ve taken the Blueprint for Success course offered at the Centre for Women in Business (you should!); you’ve put out your shingle. Now it’s time to promote your company far and wide.
Your first instinct might be to start buying ads, but Organ would tell you to hit pause.
First, focus on collecting some genuine endorsements from people who truly love what you do (even if that number is small right now). Then, incorporate those ‘testimonials’ into your ads, or better yet, find inexpensive ways to share those endorsements with the public.
Social media is an obvious choice, but he suggested hosting an event and offering loyal customers complimentary access; this could be a taste testing, a VIP sale, or a new product preview. Tell them to bring a friend and let them know that admission is exclusive to valued customers.
With their permission, take pictures: post them and tag them. Thank them publicly. Organ stressed that this is worth infinitely more than giving them a free “thing” or discount that no one beyond the recipient may ever know about. Throughout his career, he said he has witnessed the power of advocate marketing time and again, and attributes it to some of his most lucrative deals.
A happy, valued customer will recommend you to a friend or 20: they’ll want to retweet you, because it makes them feel involved. That has value, not only in terms of potential sales, but in credibility and support.
To illustrate, he shared this Tesla commercial [below, click to view]:
“Tell me how much you think that cost to make?” he asked the crowd.
The answer: nothing. Tesla famously avoids paid advertising, Organ explained; the commercial’s director, Sam O’Hare, is a self-proclaimed Tesla fan who created the commercial for free as a way of showing support for company CEO Elon Musk, and his vision to change the world with electric vehicles.
“We’re hard wired to seek affiliation and to find our tribe,” said Organ. “That affiliation can be with a product, a company or an organization.”
Narrow your focus.
If you have been in business even for a short time, you should have a good idea of who is most interested in buying your product or service. These are, of course, your bread and butter customers.
Sandra Sanderson, Executive Vice-President of Marketing at Walmart Canada and member of the Canadian Marketing Association’s Board of Directors says that while 90 per cent of Canadians shop at Walmart, one demographic dominates the check-out line: it’s millennial parents.
“They have three budgets: money, time, and effort,” she explained during a panel discussion called The New Customer Journey featuring some powerhouse women marketers, shown below, from left: Deborah Hall, co-founder and CEO of DIVE Networks; Jessica Grigoriou, Marketing Director at Unilever Canada; Elfreda Pitt Hetherington, Head of Applied Innovation at RBC; Sandra Sanderson, Executive Vice-President of Marketing at Walmart Canada, and Karla Congson, Vice-President of Dundee Corporation.
“We have the confidence of millennial parents to deliver on everyday low prices, we have everything they need under one roof, and now, they can order online," said Sanderson, adding that 4.5 million people now visit walmart.ca every week.
“We’ll deliver to their homes, or they can come to the store and have their groceries put in the back of car..it’s that intersection of physical and digital that people are looking for today,” she said. Sanderson tested out the service herself recently, driving off with a trunk filled with groceries and the feeling that by investing in their online infrastructure, Walmart Canada has gone the extra mile to make sure this group of shoppers keep coming back.
The bottom line: Make it easy for your bread and butter customers to do business with you. What that means is obviously going to depend on your business, but consider things like hours of operation, the physical presentation of your store or products, the accessibility of information on your website. Survey your key customers and get their input – that might mean a formal evaluation, but it could also be a simple conversation.
Know your numbers.
“In God we trust; all others must bring data.”
Deborah Hall, co-founder and CEO of DIVE Networks, offered up this quotation from famed statistician William Deming during her talk. She lives it: her work in mobile and brand tracking has garnered Digital Marketing Awards, Media Innovation Awards, and landed her on Mobile Marketer’s list of Mobile Women to Watch.
“Every brand needs a brand channel, activated through the magic of data,” said Hall. “Take the number of people accessing your website via mobile, record your Facebook data, and put them beside each other. That’s magic. That’s where you go, ‘Wow, if we changed course this hour, it would make a meaningful difference.’ ”
Hall was referring specifically to content: In the past year, she said mobile usage among consumers aged 35-49 has grown by 50-60 per cent. And on mobile, video is everything.
Her advice: Pull your analytics. If most of your customers are reaching your website through mobile (they probably are) make mobile optimization your top priority. Your site needs to work as well on a Smartphone as it does on a laptop. Also, it likely means less text and more video. I’ve taken this message to heart myself.
But Chris Pinkerton, Vice-President of Client Development North America at Mediative, cautioned against “defaulting to data as a strategy.”
Mediative boasts one of the country’s largest pools of consumer data, and in a session entitled, How the Science of Storytelling is Changing, he said businesses must carefully order their steps.
“Narrative can actually be wrong if you’re not layering it onto the innate human behaviour of an audience,” he warned. “You look at the data and then you apply it to a strategy. When you layer your data on a campaign, it's going to perform much better.”
Think like a party.
The political kind, that is. Three experienced marketing and PR strategists behind the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties hosted a panel called, Building a Movement, where they presented insight on campaign marketing. They related it to business, dishing on what worked, what didn’t, and why.
Their key objectives are shared by entrepreneurs everywhere: to get people out (in their case, to the polls) and to get them to buy the product (support the leader, invest in the party).
How? By reaching individual voters (customers) with a narrative that will connect with them on a very personal level.
But first things first, said Michael Roy, the former Digital Director of Canada’s NDP during the 2015 election:
“If it’s not in the database, it didn’t happen,” he told the crowd emphatically.
“Everything has to go into the database. Build your email list like crazy. Take the time so you can deliver that specific message.”
During the last federal election, the parties invested more in digital marketing than ever before, he said, with Facebook being the preferred channel.
Geoff Sharpe ran the digital campaign behind Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s successful leadership race; he said the only way you will find your preferred channel is to: “try and test and test again.”
“There’s no silver bullet; we create the narrative, we measure in segments and we measure often, across a number of metrics.”
However, no strategy or testing can mask a, “bad product” said Sharpe, addressing seemingly inevitable questions around the strategy behind Donald Trump’s “brand” as he campaigns for the Republican nomination and US Presidency.
Hamish Marshall, a pollster and political strategist for the federal Conservative Party agreed, but pointed out that regardless of the product, “Overall, media narrative still matters."
He called Trump’s Twitter account, “a masterclass in how to get people riled up.”
"If you create a narrative people will buy into, they will. And he has.”
You are the architect of your brand and its message: I hope you tell a fantastic story.