I belong to a group of over 200 digital agency CEOs who meet twice a year to discuss customer success stories, new approaches technology and market trends. The digital marketplace is changing at warp speed. Our Mastermind group provides a means for CommonPlaces to keep up with all of the developments and trends. Combined with conferences like HubSpot's Inbound 2013 and MozCon, we are able to stay on top of current trends. The following is an abstract of what I learned in Las Vegas this week.
Gillian Muessig (@SEOmom) took us through the story of Moz and Gillian's brilliant son Rand Fiskin (@randfish). It's no wonder 250K people show up every day to read the Moz blog (http://moz.com/blog). Gillian and Rand have created a level playing field for both Davids and Goliaths with the Moz Pro suite of SEO and social media tools. Small companies can now take on powerhouses found on the web. What impressed me the most wasn't the end product, but how Gillian overcame so many obstacles nurturing Rand's genius to create one of the industry's most successful companies. Gillian shared her TAGFEE principals of Transparency '- Authenticity '- Generosity '- Fun '- Empathy '- Exceptional. These principles create a culture which empowers your employees to do amazing things. We follow similar principles at CommonPlaces, and there have been times when my employees blow me away.
David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) delivered an incredible presentation based on his book Real Time Marketing & PR. The traditional marketing approaches of buying ads, begging the media with PR, and trying to sell to people by bugging them one at a time just doesn't work anymore. David explained how companies 'fear' the new approaches. Well, 'There is nothing to fear, but fear itself!' as FDR famously said.
Customers today want to be self-educated, not sold to. They really don't care what you or your building looks like. They want to know how you can solve their pain. They want information that will make their job easier. This necessitates creating buyer personas, and learning the questions your customers are asking. The key points of his message are clear:
- It's not about you; it's about your customers.
- Create a website focused on your buyers, not products and services.
- Remember, your customers are people, not businesses.
- Be human. It's okay to have fun.
- Speed and agility are decisive competitive advantages.
- Provide timely information when a story breaks aka 'NewsJacking'. Be part of the conversation.
David firmly believes that anyone can play in the game, no matter what industry you're in, and I completely agree. I see what our marketing team is doing for small companies, and these ideas really work.
Michael Lieberman, of Square2 in Philadelphia (http://www.square2marketing.com/), spoke about Cracking the Code to Inbound Marketing. It's no wonder that Square 2 is the leading Inbound Marketing Agency in the country. They have delivered more successful implementations that any other firm. Michael shared with us his scientific approach, with a well-defined process, that's producing more traffic, more leads, and more conversions. Results don't happen overnight, and you have to commit to 12 months if you want to see the proverbial hockey stick of results.
Utilizing these methodologies, CommonPlaces has seen an increase in results after 3 months. In order to turn on the fire hose, businesses must remain focused and committed to a year long program at a minimum. The key ingredients are a well built website, and utilizing the HubSpot Inbound Marketing platform to automate your calls to action and sales processes online. As a certified Hubspot partner, I am really excited about what my team is doing for our customers utilizing these concepts. It's important that we educate our customers' marketing teams on these principles, and that executive management buys into and is committed to this new approach to marketing. The results will be a game changer for your company.
Geoff Wilson, President/CEO of 352 Media Group in Atlanta, spoke about how the Agile development process is revolutionizing website development. He drew a parallel with TV show Extreme Makeover, where they build a house in a week, comparing the old approach to construction projects that never seem to end. Only 14% of web projects are on time, on budget, and with the features promised. With Agile development, you focus on short 1 to 2 week bursts where the team is dedicated and focused on the job at hand. The customer stays intimately involved where you break in between sprints to innovate and iterate. They are finding that the quality goes through the roof, there is tremendous employee satisfaction, and the end result comes in on time and on budget.
CommonPlaces has been practicing Agile development since 2008. Our variation is called "Wagifall", where we do an initial Waterfall project and work in an Agile mode in an ongoing basis. In fact we have several customers who are enrolled in a monthly Agile development process. I agree with Geoff in terms of the quality, efficiency and results these type of arrangements produce.
There were a number of other incredible presentations relating to Digital Marketing that produced 'Golden Nugget' takeaways, as we call them. We commit 25% of our time to educating our staff and staying up on the latest trends. Fortunately, we have access to this Mastermind collection of brilliant executives and industry visionaries who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences, keeping us as a leader in the fast paced and ever changing world we live in.
Ben Bassi, founder and CEO of CommonPlaces, is a seasoned Internet veteran and marketing executive. His extensive experience in Web-related business dates back to the early 'Ö90s; with a career specializing in digital strategy, planning, and marketing.