(And yes, that’s totally a word; look it up.)
I got to hear from an absolutely amazing lineup of internet marketing luminaries including Brian Clark himself, his gal Friday Sonia Simone, Ann Hadley of Marketing Profs, Darren Rowse of Problogger, Lee Odden, Beth Hayden, Joanna from Copyhackers, and this guy you might have heard of: Seth Godin.
It was a lot to take in. Two REALLY full days of content, and I have to admit that my brain was threatening to explode a bit. After two full days of learnin’, and three open bars, I needed to go home, put my feet up, and just let things percolate for a bit.
Yeah, that lasted about a day before I wanted to DIVE back into my notes and pull out all the goodies I had scribbled down.
There’s SO MUCH I want to tell you about what I learned—and I will be over many blog posts to come—but one of the most amazing things I found as I read back through my notes were the common themes that popped up over and over again.
And let’s just face it, folks: When a panel of smart people of this caliber all start saying the same things, you’d better sit up and pay attention.
Know Your Story
The very first thing I wrote down for the whole conference was a line from Brian Clark as he was warming us all up:
I wanted to draw little sparkly red hearts all around it—but I didn’t have time, because there was too much other amazing stuff going on. But as you all know, storytelling is very close to my heart.
And, apparently, not just my heart, because the metaphor kept coming up over and over again.
- Dennis Goedegebuure with AirBNB told us about the strategy his company uses of storyboarding the perfect user experience in order to visualize every touchpoint with the customer.
- Chris Garrett explained that the customer is the hero of the story in everything we write and sell, and that we (in that universal archetype speak) are the wise mentor leading her on her journey.
- “We tell ourselves stories to know who we are,” Sonia Simone told us, and we tell our customers those same stories so that they know who we are—and in turn, who they are.
- Darren Rowse talked almost about a character arc for our customers: What change happens for them when interacting with you? What change do you want to see in your readers?
- He also talked about the culture of our blogs, and the fact that culture grows around a shared story. (What’s your community’s shared story?)
- Ann Hadley urged us to tell stories about people, not products, and to tell our true stories impeccably well.
Don’t Chase the Empty Like
Another major theme was the dramatic increase in internet “fluff”—all that content that is just begging for eyeballs, but doesn’t take us any deeper than a surface glance.
- Seth Godin cautioned against the “industrialization” of content. (We’re looking at you, Buzzfeed.)
- Darren Rowse urged us to create meaning. “Don’t compete for the moment,” he said, “compete for the meaning.” He talked about the emptiness of asking for a “like” as your call to action—and instead calling our readers to change their lives. (But, P.S. you’ve got to have life-changing content to pull that off.)
- Lee Odden warned us about “content shock” and encouraged us to optimize everything for experience, not just visibility. Are you providing your customer the best possible experience on your blog? Or just counting eyeballs?
- Tom Martin gave a brilliant talk about the difference between a click and a conversion and told us, don’t chase the click, chase the customer. (BRILLIANT.)
Maybe one of the most powerful quotes for me from the whole event came from Darren Rowse, who attributed this to a member of his editorial team:
“The trend is to chase eyeballs; they can have the eyeballs. I want the hearts and minds.”
POWERFUL reminders to ensure that everything we’re doing is really creating meaning.
Putting it into action
I have quite literally 14 full-sized pages of handwritten notes from this conference, and every page carries diamonds, every line a gem. It can be a bit overwhelming, trying to pick out all the actionables, prioritize them, figure out my next big ideas and get the ball rolling.
Sonia Simone gave the advice to work on what matters for 20 minutes a day. Even doing that much will put you miles ahead of most people.
I’ve already implemented some things. For example, I realized that my newsletter wasn’t offering my very best to my readers, and so, if you’re signed up, you’ll see some changes starting this week, including exclusive content for subscribers only.
But my bigger question was this:
How can you tell your story powerfully on your own blog?
Because the change I want to see in my readers is going from confused and paralyzed about their blog content to empowered and excited about turning their blog into a business-building machine, I am thrilled to announce the return of my Blogstorm ecourse!
The course will run June 16–July 4, and registration will open in early June.
It’s all about finding the thread of your business blog’s story, creating rich content for your heros (readers) to consume, and putting it all into actionable bites so you can actually GET IT DONE. In three weeks, you’ll strategically plan out the next six months of your blog’s posts (which will take you right through the end of 2014!) so that you can be absolutely SURE that your blog is working as hard for your business as you are.