Digital Summit 2019 Recap

tyler tullis

Tyler Tullis
Senior Director of Marketing

Feb 19, 2019

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Last week I attended the 2019 Digital Summit in sunny Phoenix, Arizona (a welcome reprieve from the snow-pocalypse in the Pacific Northwest, I might add).

Digital Summit takes a holistic approach to digital marketing and building brand ecosystems online, integrating presentations and workshops across a variety of strategies and tactics:

  • Inbound / content marketing
  • SEO
  • Paid media
  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Influencer marketing
  • User-generated content
  • Analytics
  • Online reputation management

Here a few of my big takeaways for content specialists, webmasters, CMOs and everyone else who touches marketing at your organization.


1. Everything starts with strategy and knowledge of your audience.

Big idea: Many marketers are getting better with frequency of quality content — but as they’ve picked up the pace, some have lost clarity around the purpose of that content. What is the specific KPI your content is meant to achieve for the business? Is that content going to resonate with its intended audience? You can’t know that until you have a detailed understanding of each audience segment.

Implication: Always map your strategic marketing initiatives back to business goals. Start with a strong strategic plan and invest the time into building detailed audience personas — they will be your guiding light when developing content.


Sample persona — traffic safety for teenage males.

2. Content must align with your customer’s journey.

Big idea: Confession: I have looked at this Dragon Ball Z lamp for my desk at the office several times. I’ve clicked on it. Read the reviews. Priced it. I am aware of the product. I have considered it. It’s decision time. The emails I’m getting are filled with user reviews and testimonials from happy DBZ fans with the lamp on their office desk. The paid media is showing me the lamp with a clear call-to-action — to buy. This content is finding me where I’m at in my consumer journey — it’s pushing me along the path to purchase, not making me aware of their catalogue of anime lamps. I’m being retargeted for my interest to create conversion. Furthermore, if I were to revisit that item and place it in my cart, I can expect to see “cart abandonment” reminders to complete my purchase.

This is the level of customized, intentional owned and paid media content that you need to deliver to customers to increase conversions. Also, consumers are now at the point where they not only expect customized content, but they’re annoyed when brands don’t recognize where they are in the consumer journey. Consumers are looking for answers to their questions — if they don’t see those answers or resources to them in the content you deliver, they’ll jump ship to go looking elsewhere.

Implication: Make sure that you are developing creative that reaches consumers where they’re at. Different stages of the journey require different content types:

  • Awareness (general, about, informative) — social, blogs, video
  • Consideration (more detail, deeper industry analysis)  eBooks, webinars, newsletters
  • Decision (product description, how to get started, conversion-based) case studies, pricing, demos
  • Advocacy (thank, ask for reviews, encourage sharing) videos, testimonials, reviews, asks for social sharing, deals for future purchase

3. “Hub and Spoke” content strategy — owned, paid and earned work together.

Big idea: Great organic content is not enough. Neither is targeted paid media. And earned media from news or consumers won’t do it alone. It takes all of these disciplines working together to move the needle for most brands. Here are some of the key tactics in each category:

  • Owned
    • Blogs
    • Email
    • Social
    • Website
  • Paid
    • Sponsored social
    • Paid search
    • Influencer posts
    • Programmatic
  • Earned
    • Social mentions
    • Media coverage
    • Reviews
    • Link-backs

By the way, earned media is the hardest to create because you can’t control it, but remember this equation: owned + promoted = earned.

Implication: Consider how to get the most out of each piece of content and extend it across the marketing spectrum. We call this the “Hub and Spoke” model — if you have a great piece of content, it will probably start as a blog, be supported with a series of social organic posts, a boosted post or two, a programmatic or re-targeted ad, and maybe an initiative to ask influencers to talk about the product or idea in question.

4. Influencer marketing can require less “paid” spend but more management.

Big idea: Much was said about the rise of influencer marketing at the Summit. 80% of what influencers post — sponsored or organic — is ravenously consumed by their following, far outpacing most brands. So, partnering with credible, relevant industry experts or enthusiasts to share stories about your brand can push your in front of large volumes of devoted followers. And while most consumers are now savvy enough to spot when influencer posts are tied to a paid deal (everyone from Kylie Jenner to Pewdiepie includes “#ad” on their Instagram posts now) one of the reasons they following such influencers is to hear their views and preferences on products and services. Many brands report that influencer marketing has delivered higher consumer engagement than pure paid advertising, and as a result, they’ve been able to budget out of expensive advertising campaigns that see lower conversion rates. But of course, there’s a catch. Influencers are like any strategic vendor — you need to invest the time to build a relationship, and manage them over time. From the discovery and vetting process, collaborative content creation and approval, and mutual reporting, influencer marketing is resource intensive.

Implication: Ask yourself — do you have a B2C or B2B product or service that an influencer could champion to their legion of fans? Do you have the resources to provide them with content and cultivate an influencer over time? Then maybe it’s time you looked around your industry or region to see who commands relevant followings on social channels. Drop us a line if you want to chat more about how to identify and vet potential influencers.

5. Big or small — start somewhere.

Big idea: I bet you’re sweating a bit as you read this — this level of content customization and production is resource-intensive and scary if you haven’t tried it before. But don’t panic yet — you can dip your toe into these waters over time with a series of tools you’re probably already using.

Implication: You don’t need to go out and invest in a large EMM or other marketing automation solution tomorrow. As you’re building audience personas and workflows for campaigns to reach your audience segments with customized content, you can use a series of free or lower-cost resources like Google Console & Analytics. Platforms like Mailchimp are also becoming more robust in their ability to not only send email, but manage audience databases and schedule drip campaigns. You can build basic workflows in Excel to map content to your audiences — the challenge is to start somewhere.

We’ll be talking more about digital strategies as we continue into 2019. Stay tuned!

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