Top Marketing Tips from the 2019 AMA Madison Annual Conference
The CB&A marketing team was in full force at the 2019 AMA Annual Conference. My intrepid social media and content specialist colleagues joined me for a day of inspiring speakers and engaging discussions. The conference theme, “Elevate with Authenticity,” was embraced by all the speakers. Fast-forward to the last few days of 2019, and we’re now elevating our story and brand to be as authentic, engaging and forward-thinking as possible. And, while we can’t provide all the insights from this multi-faceted conference, we can highlight our top seven marketing tips to leverage in 2020.
#1. Word of mouth: Give your customers a story to tell.
Marketers understand the value derived from generating positive brand buzz. Food technology co-founder, marketing advisor and best-selling author, Daniel Lemin kicked off this year’s presentations with an overview of how to use word of mouth in your marketing strategy.
Lemin described a variation of word of mouth marketing powered by talk triggers, those features or aspects of your business that get people talking about your brand. The right talk triggers are strategic, operational differences that compel your customer base to discuss your brand online and in person.
‘Talk triggers are not guerilla marketing strategies,’ Lemin clarified. They aren’t an extravagant, viral campaign. Instead, they are small yet shareable details to set your brand apart from competitors. For example, what do you think of when you hear the brand: DoubleTree hotels?
The free cookie, of course.
This small gesture is a defining brand move that has inspired positive conversation from guests on social media.
Brands need to give the customer a story to tell, otherwise, you don’t know what your customers will say. “Talk triggers should be remarkable, repeatable, relevant and reasonable,” said Lemin.
If you give your audience sound bites, they are more likely to spread them organically. And, as with any campaign, it’s important to source customer feedback through surveys and interviews to find those talk triggers that define your brand without your even realizing it.
#2. Design an authentic customer experience.
“Who wouldn’t benefit from experience design?” That simple question was asked and answered in the final breakout session.
Speaker Roshelle Ritzenthaler, strategist and facilitator at The Friendly Future, dove into a discussion on how to design authentic customer experiences. She walked us through the steps of experience design, including these five marketing tips:
- Define a bold, disputable why.
- Imagine how you want people to feel before, during and after the experience.
- Invest in the before and after of the experience.
- Invent temporary boundaries, (distractions are the death of great experiences).
- Create the theater by organizing the environment, (who will be invited, what props will you include?).
#3. Putting emotional data to use.
Grant Gooding is the founder and CEO of a market research company specializing in deciphering emotional responses. PROOF Positioning uses emotional data to help organizations answer their burning questions. According to Gooding, only 1.7 percent of companies know exactly why customers do business with them. He explains it with this eye-opener: ‘Every decision is made by the emotive part of the brain, not the logical brain.’
In Gooding’s analysis, emotional data is the qualitative and quantitative measurement of emotional and behavioral intent. This data is captured in an accessible, informative and actionable volume and format. Emotional data explains why things are (or aren’t) happening far more lucidity than conventional data points.
Ways to collect emotional data include customer surveys, interviews and focus groups. Shadowing, secret shopping, sentiment analysis and facial coding are a few others Gooding mentioned. With each strategy, iterations and analysis are crucial. Having the data is useful, but you must be able to decipher its meaning.
While emotional data is valuable, it has limitations. There’s are few standards available and it can be difficult to aggregate, especially for those who do not specialize in analyzing emotional information and social cues.
In conclusion, Gooding posited that leveraging emotional data points is one way to understand which selling statements to use with different audiences. While a district administrator may need to hear about pricing and student success stories, the school’s IT Director wants to hear how your system can integrate with what they have set up already. By knowing which emotions are linked to your sales process, you can better sell your product to your customers.
#4. Journey mapping: take a walk in your customers’ shoes.
To break down the complexity of journey mapping, director of research and design at Widen Enterprises, Leah Ujda guided us through an effective approach. A journey map is a visual representation of your customer’s journey, and is often used to address pain points. Ujda explained the basics behind setting up and iterating on a journey map, covering both challenges and opportunities.
One key thing to consider in your journey map is the time that goes into collecting data, gathering skills and resources, defining your scope and gaining organizational buy-in. This time is often left out of a customer journey map, and it’s a missed opportunity to discuss other pain points.
An accurate journey map provides a variety of business benefits. You can gain a customer-centric view of your brand, you can identify opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration, and you can better align your company’s goals and strategies. This gives brands the ability to identify gaps.
According to Ujda, journey maps come in many flavors, but fundamentals include a specific user, scenario and goals. This process provides fertile ground for brainstorming, especially if you bring in appropriate company personnel to address every stage of the customer journey.
#5. Harness the soul of your brand today for a positive outcome tomorrow.
In one of our favorite keynotes, we were treated to a compelling session from Kim Brown, growth executive, nationally-renowned speaker, author and consultant. Brown illuminated the importance of making human connections. She posited that we’re emerging from a decade of technological experimentation and innovation, and we’re neglecting to build the meaningful relationships that have driven businesses for centuries.
“As technology rapidly evolved, in the process of tech adoption, we missed the human connection. Now, there’s a new human-centric shift occurring,” said Brown. “Customers crave authenticity, simplicity and transparency. We’re shifting focus back to the why, and less on the how.”
Brown outlined six marketing strategies your brand can embrace a human-centric strategy:
- Define yourself. Who is your brand? What is your mission statement? What’s your founder’s story? If you don’t know who you are, customers won’t trust you.
- Demystify the jargon. Break down complicated ‘techy’ words and company slang. What does it even mean? Replace complex words with ones that are widely understood.
- You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know where it is. Map out a customer journey to identify gaps; if you can’t bridge them, you’ll at least know where they exist.
- Become a journalist. As marketers, it is not always about us. Make it about the content, celebrate the simple and become comfortable with speed. A story doesn’t need to be groundbreaking to be successful.
- Start simple, then scale. Conduct testing to see if a change is possible, and if it’s not, move on.
- Redefine innovation. Encourage every team member to identify as an innovator. There may be different types of innovators, but everybody is one in their own way.
Defining your brand and adapting to change take time and effort. “Lean into the discomfort and acknowledge it, own it,” emphasizes Brown. Not only was our team impressed by the Brown session, it was also the favorite session for AMA Madison President, Alyssa Spiel.
“I really enjoyed Kim Brown’s session. Digital communications/devices are not going anywhere – but neither are humans,” said Spiel. “We need to get back to the basics and remember to communicate and present ourselves and our companies as humanly and authentically as possible. I particularly loved Kim’s suggestion to “become a journalist.” Too often we put off writing blogs or creating marketing pieces because we don’t have enough time to make it “perfect.” Instead, we need to think/act like a journalist and get the timely information out there ASAP – rather than letting the opportunity pass us by completely.
After the opening keynotes, our team split up, taking in the various breakout sessions. These sessions featured more nuanced topics, from a discussion of emotional data to the future of AI. The speakers were exceptional, and our team was rapidly taking notes, eager to put their insights to work.
#6. AI, Alexa and Google Assistant are the future.
Nick Myers, founder & CEO of RedFox AI, provided insights into voice search. Myers is unlocking new ways to advertise as voice assistants take over the consumer world. According to Myers, voice search will be used in more than 250 billion web searches and requests by 2020 – from simple questions, “when is the Packers game?” to complicated, nuanced ones, “how do I help my Spanish language students improve test scores?” to simple tasks like, “Alexa, order me another package of toilet paper.” Voice search is exploding.
If you’re a B2C organization, Myers suggests investing time and resources in optimizing your website for voice search. Sites optimized for voice search receive a ranking bump from Google and other search engines, so now’s the time to act. Here are Myers’ five voice marketing insights for revamping your website:
- Build a Q&A-based skill or action for your site.
- Speed up your site, as only the fastest sites will be used by search engines.
- Markup your data to help search engines return the best results that highlight your site.
- Create a FAQ page. Asking and answering common questions on your site will improve your chances of being leveraged as a featured voice snippet.
- Write content that’s conversational, as people gravitate towards easy-to-consume content.
As a new marketing tool, voice search may feel overwhelming. But, it’s not as daunting as it seems.
#7. Tell your big story, small.
The final session of the day was an eye-opening, fast-paced run through more than 100 slides with motivational speaker D.P. Knudten. Knudten was a truly authentic presenter, hitting the conference’s core theme before, during and after the event.
Notably, he taught us about the unselfish selfie – where you work to bring as many people into your conversation as possible. You can even see our team in the background below. Knudten discussed the value of connections, and he not only talked the talk, but walked the walk, connecting with us on this article to share a final takeaway: “What a fun, informational, and dare I say provocative event. Being able to speak in front of such an engaged and engaging audience was an honor and a treat,” said Knudten.
And we weren’t the only ones loving D.P.’s presentation and energy. It really resonated with my AMA Madison Marketing colleagues, including the AMA Madison VP of Communications, Lindsay Daguanno.
“My favorite takeaway from the conference was a reminder to tell my company’s “big story small” from D.P. Kundten’s session,” said Daguanno. “Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest and greatest in marketing we stray from what our message really is and why it matters to the customer. If you need to put five paragraphs to a picture in your ad to explain its importance – it’s not the right picture.”
Elevating with authenticity: the conference full of marketing tips
We hope you enjoyed reading our highlights from the conference – we sure enjoyed learning all the great marketing tips from the speakers. And, for those of you in our neck of the woods, we highly recommend registering for next year’s event, as does speaker / Red Fox AI President Nick Myers and AMA Madison President, Alyssa Spiel.
“I loved the conference theme “Elevate with Authenticity,” and thought each speaker tied their presentations into the theme very nicely,” said Spiel. “There was also a good mix of high-level, conceptual seminars, as well as those that were more tactical and actionable. I felt it was a very thought-provoking, worthwhile day of learning and networking!”
“This year’s AMA Madison Annual Conference was by far the best one that I have attended,” said Myers. “The venue was absolutely fantastic and the speaker lineup was second to none given the central theme of this year’s conference ‘Elevate With Authenticity.’ The main meeting room was packed with marketers from all across Madison, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking about the future of voice assistant technology and AI with this year’s attendees. I would highly recommend attending the AMA Madison Annual Conference. You will not be disappointed.”
This was my first conference as an AMA board member, and the excitement and buzz on social media from our members and attendees was truly gratifying. Compelling speakers and marketing tips made this conference indispensable, and we’re eagerly implementing these tactics, ready to navigate the ever-changing world of marketing in 2020.
Did you enjoy our marketing tips blog? Read a few others from our library:
- Public Relations for Education Brands – 4 Public Relations Trends for 2020
- Marketing for EdTech – The Benefits of Running a Focus Group at an Education Conference
- Content Marketing in the Education Industry – Turn Every CTA into a Lead-generating tool
- Social Media Strategies for Reaching Educators, Administrators – How to Build Employee Advocacy on Social Media