Today was the first of two days of the Digital Summit in Minneapolis, a conference where marketers gather from all over the country. The day was filled with motivated attendees and smart and inspiring presenters.


Well known Seth Godin kicked things off as the keynote speaker and had great insight and advice to share with marketers and their managers alike.

This was my first time seeing Seth present live and I was impressed. He is able to quickly but concisely articulate ideas and connect non-obvious things to one another to make a point. He’s definitely a sharp thinker and is motivating to hear present.

With so many great presentations going on at the same time, I was only able to attend four sessions, excluding the pre workshops and keynote. With that, here are five things I learned or observed from today’s conference.

1. The Need To Cut Through The Noise - Be An Empathetic Human

There is an increasing amount of noise online and everything is trying to grab our attention.

During multiple presentations, marketers mentioned the need to bring empathy and humanity to your messaging. Realize you must be human to human thinking in your marketing rather than presenting features.

A fun example that was shared was based around comedians: What is the ultimate goal of a comedian? Nope, it’s not to make us laugh. Making us laugh is an outcome of the true goal that all comedians share. Their goal is to make us think they are funny. To achieve this goal, they show us that they are funny by, well, being funny. They don’t stand in front of the audience for 10 minutes saying, “I’m funny. I’m funny. I’m funny!”

So why is it that so many marketing messages do this?

2. Study The Competition

Multiple presenters mentioned how uncommon it is for marketers to study their competitors strategies to find out what works and what doesn’t work for them.

This allows multiple benefits for you: If you see something not working for a competitor, it could mean their execution is poor, which is a fantastic opening for you to do a better job and see success.

It also means that it just might not work for your industry. By studying your competitors, you also learn how a page should be structured to have a chance at ranking well for a desired keyword. By simply taking the time to learn the competition’s strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures, and staying on top of that, you can know where there are gaps you can fill or where the bar is set so you can aim to do better.

3. Marketers Struggle To Keep Up With Trends - You Don’t Have To

Often times marketers become marketers because they are creative and see the potential to use marketing as their creative outlet. Often times, many fall into a new mindset, one of a researcher. Researching what the latest marketing trends and technology are.

Sure, research can be fun but if that’s all a marketer’s role has become the creative outlet is no longer there. How is this solvable? By bringing the creative process back into marketing and creating campaigns that are effective and what you want to create. Instead of mimicking what’s out there and saying, “Hey! Me too!,” start creating original and fresh content that doesn’t follow what everyone else is doing.

4. Marketers Have Many Disjointed Databases - And It’s Solvable

Many marketing departments use many tools across the web, from different vendors, to create their “marketing stack.”

Many of these tools can capture information about your audience and track that within each respective tool but their identification system between each varies. There isn’t a cohesive way to connect each of these pieces of data together, which means there's a lot of lost potential because of this fragmented picture. By unifying the data from every source we can more accurately market and make informed decisions.

What can be done to solve this?

By creating a standardized ID that can be included with each record that is consistent no matter the database or service. This is something that is being worked on right now so it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on.

5. Don’t Be Data Driven, Be Data Informed

There is so much data created and tracked when it comes to digital marketing. Often times marketers are easily caught up in making their every decision based on what the data shows them. This can work but what if there’s a better way?

According to multiple presenters, there is. Being data informed. It’s about understanding the data and what it means but not forming every single decision based on it. You’re still making informed decisions but sometimes you may want to test something that is outside of a data set or you can’t always only listen to what the data shows.

One example given was from a recipe website that said something along the lines of, “If we listened to the data, we’d only have pork, pancakes, and burger recipes on our website because those are the top categories by far.”

If they listened to that data, they wouldn’t have the success they have today.

Why do marketers often focus on vanity metrics rather than real performance? What if instead of looking at open rates for emails, we focused more on what readers did once they opened the email?

Why do marketers use so much brain power to often focus on tiny, incremental improvements to things like email open rates rather than using their creativity to create new, interesting, engaging content that will grow their audience by leaps and bounds?

Bonus - Market To A Small Group & Stand For Something

Figure out what it is that you do and who you do it for. Create your messaging for that group and don’t divert. This is the mentality that many very large and successful companies have taken and have seen work.

There was so much great content today and it will take me time to digest it all as I go back over the slide decks and my notes. However, this is an important step to do to get the most out of any event or class. For what is new knowledge if it isn’t applied? Wasted.

I’ll leave you with this.

Relax, don’t stress. Focus on the people, do good work, don’t be afraid to fail because failing is the best teacher, and the rest will follow.