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What I Learned At The Online Marketing Summit For Digital Marketers

I just came back from Online Marketing Summit (affectionately called OMS), a gathering of 1,500 digital marketers in San Diego.  Besides the mostly perfect weather, it was a deep dive into all things digital marketing.  This was the fourth OMS I've attended, but my first since my company, UBM TechWeb, acquired the OMS conference and brand in September 2011.

Between the conversations, sessions and tweets/social media, it was a fast-paced 3 days.  A few topline observations about the pulse I picked up about the state and future of digital marketing, focusing on search, social, and content marketing.

Treat Your Prospects Like Customers. 

A simple, but powerful reminder from Bryan Brown of Silverpop.  All marketing makes sense when you approach prospects with the same courtesy and experience as you do your existing customers. In the era of lead gen, automation and sticky sites, it is easy to lose site of the end game – serving and delighting customers.

Content marketing is not a campaign, but what is it, really?

Content marketing conversations were hot and also over the map as marketers try to figure out how much of a publisher they really need or want to become. The main debate was over the definition of “content marketing.”  What wasn’t debated is that marketers don’t have a choice if they want to achieve sustained engagement; so the advice was to start organizing high quality content based on the topics and issues your consumers care about and build from there. The ultimate goal is to map content to your buyers’ journey (in B2B tech, we believe this is an organizational process vs. individual buyer journey). 

Focus on social communications, NOT social marketing.

Social marketing, which is what most of us do, will quickly pollute your brand and your communications as your mind and fingers focus on promoting your products. Sounds obvious, but it starts with mindset and, yes, it is a commitment.  General Motors and SAP had great examples of really focusing on this discipline.

The shift in focus from search to social is happening. 

OMS has many search engine marketing sessions and deep dives, including labs to analyze your site, and SEO and SEM plans.  There were many hallway and cocktail conversations about search being used less by consumers and becoming muddied in dynamic algorithms nobody really understands.  And, therefore, “social” is increasingly the driver of how consumers/users look for information.  Regardless of your point of view, one of my favorite takeaways:  segment and build personas by the way your consumers search and use social, don't just focus on their demographics.

Where the h#@! was LinkedIn in these sessions? 

An interesting question because, in B2B digital marketing, LinkedIn appears to be gaining traction and showing some early positive results.  LinkedIn is not a digital-minded company so perhaps this is why this conversation was limited amongst this group of digital marketing pros?

Should I pay attention to Google+?

No clear answer here.  My own opinion is if Google can figure out the optimal connect between search and social, they will be in the best place to bring the worlds together.  We at UBM TechWeb are testing in small efforts, as much to be played out yet.  Just don’t dismiss it.

Therapy is important; make time to go to high-quality conferences 

I was reminded both how far we have come and how far we need to go as a marketing organization by spending time with peers.  You also quickly realize you are not in this journey alone. Besides the deep learning, you can bring back at least a few actionable ideas, gain a new network of peers, and have a bit of fun.

You can see the speaker list here to start following experts for much deeper insights.

Finally, I want to thank Aaron Kahlow (@akahlow), the founder of OMS who has done an excellent job of bringing digital marketers together for the last 5 years.  Look forward to a continued partnership with OMI!

Hope you can join us for the next Online Marketing Summit, October 22 – 25 in Santa Clara.


content marketing, social media, Tech Marketing Smarts Blog