On the 8th and 9th June 2017 I attended CMA Live 2017, the best conference I’ve ever been to. Big statement? Let me tell you why.
Let’s go back to June 2016
It’s the 2nd June 2016 and I’m sat at work (which is fairly quiet due to being within a redundancy situation) and I tune into a content marketing conference I’d heard a number of people talking about on Twitter and Snapchat.
It was the first morning of the conference and the opening keynote was by YouTube star Amy Schmittauer. As I sat at my desk, following whatever hashtag was used for that conference, I was totally struck by the wave of energy that was coming from people at the conference. Amy was killing it and it sounded AMAZING.
Hooked immediately by this, I continued to follow the conference via the hashtag and was even scribbling notes as people shared what they’d learned across numerous tweets!
The conference looked fantastic. The venue looked great, you could tell the rapport between attendees was great and people were learning a lot. You could sense the energy and vibe through the hashtag.
The conference ended and I then became aware of an early bird ticket scheme. It was a no brainer, I signed up immediately.
That was August 2016 and to be honest, I’d almost forgotten I’d signed up for it until March 2017 when I remembered I needed to arrange a flight and a hotel!
I had this reservation about it, I don’t know why. Should I go? Was it for me? The CMA is a community, would I be an outsider? I don’t know where that feeling came from but I thought, “You’ve bought your ticket now, so get a flight booked and get to Edinburgh”.
Fast-forward to June 7th, 2017. I’m flying up to Scotland from Birmingham and I’ve booked to attend a social on the night before the conference. As an introvert, I am not AT ALL comfortable with those first-morning-of-conference situations and I thought the Wednesday night social would be a good way to meet people and avoid feeling a little lost on the first morning.
A delayed flight meant a rush to my hotel and all I could do was drop my bag on my bed before it was time to get straight to the Hard Rock Cafe in Edinburgh.
I know I wasn’t the only person who probably took a deep breath before walking in.
All those people and I know NOBODY. Granted, I knew Anne from Instagram and I’d spoken to Chris a couple of times over various forms of social media, but I didn’t know them. I walk in and introduce myself to Chris, “where do I sit?”, he points at a space and I sit down. I start talking to the people next to me and we’re up & running.
Within 30 minutes of sitting down at that table, I knew I’d made a brilliant choice to attend the conference. People introduced themselves, made me feel welcome and I was talking about the topics I love to talk about – social media, blogging, vlogging & running a business (amongst other related topics).
Let’s get this party started.
I arrived at the awesome Hub Conference venue. An old church with tonnes of character but that’s not surprising, Edinburgh’s a wonderful city full of character and history!
Chris has worked hard to make this a conference that he would want to attend and from the very start you can see the effort and attention to detail that went into the conference.
A big welcome on arrival, bacon rolls and not just any shitty old coffee. No, we had Brewhouse coffee (and rather nice it was too!).
We take our seats in this grand arena and Chris welcomes everyone before handing over to the opening keynote, Chris Ducker.
The conference has a nice flow to it. The days are top & tailed with longer keynote speeches and in between there is a mixture of inspirational lightning talks from members of the CMA community and shorter keynotes from well-known gurus such as Janet Murray & Andrew and Pete.
I write 5-6 pages of notes during Chris Ducker’s opening keynote and I already know that when I sit on that plane back to Birmingham my head’s going to be full of ideas (I wasn’t wrong!).
So, let me navigate you through the first day.
Launching live: How to successfully launch your next product or service with live video
Chris spoke about launching a product using live video but before he got into the nitty-gritty of his content he told us about his background. It’s starting to sink in…none of these well-known entrepreneurs had it laid out on a plate for them. They’ve suffered, toiled, failed and worked hard to get to where they are today.
Chris, like others, spoke about the importance of building an audience who love you. They need to love you, your message and the way you communicate with them. This is essential if you want to do business with them.
He’s gone big on live streaming. He’s used both Periscope and Facebook Live to great effect, explaining to us how he used Live Video to launch a product.
Chris explained that there are 4 parts to launching live:
- Build an audience
- Build a buzz
He explained that to build an audience you need to create high-quality content which solves problems. He has a “rule of three” for his content, it should either Educate, Inspire or Entertain.
He’s mastered this art. Use your CTA wisely and only have 1 CTA per live video, he recommends. Ask for a share, a like or a subscription. Don’t ask for too much.
Be interactive, ask questions and engage with your audience. Re-purpose your live video to YouTube.
He started building a buzz four weeks before the launch. Get people talking about it, get them excited.
When he launched he set a date. “Set a date and stick to it”, he said. He recommended setting a date because if the date’s scheduled you can talk about it and you know you need to keep to it.
When it came to the launch date he told us it’s important to practice your pitch, you’ve got to be able to sell.
He held live broadcasts 48-hours and 24-hours before the launch to talk about it and build interest.
When he went live he started with general chit-chat and engaged with his audience. Chris told us that on average it takes 14 minutes to engage people on Facebook Live, it’s 3-4 minutes before anyone joins your broadcast.
So he built anticipation, launched the product, asked for the sale and then called people out as they bought the product.
What happened here do you think? It created FOMO! The other people on the live stream started seeing others buying the product and being called out so they wanted in too. He did 86 sales worth $18,000 in a 45-minute live video.
He then got back on live the next day and did another $4,000 of sales in 30 minutes. He earned $22,000 in 12 hours!
After the launch had been held he told us he kept talking about it, he’s launching his product every single day. He used his email list to alert them to the new product and offered a bonus to early adopters.
Whilst not everyone will be in a situation where they would use live streaming to launch a product, the strategies Chris used to build his audience are applicable to all and the process could be applied to any form of announcement.
A Brand Odyssey
After Chris’ talk we heard from Col Gray and Ross Coverdale who told us about the process they’d been through to create the new CMA logo (which looks great). A fascinating insight into creative minds, especially for someone who has the creativity of a newt.
One of the parts of this I found most interesting was when they put the old Content Marketing Academy logo up against their competitors’ logos. What an interesting exercise that would be. Of course, it looked totally out of place and the new one looks modern and well-placed.
Fighting Complexity: How to keep marketing simple from startup to big corporate
Roger Edwards then spoke about the importance of not changing the way you do things or the language you use when you speak to customers as your company grows. Talk your customer’s language, don’t use jargon and avoid the “curse of knowledge”.
What’s the “curse of knowledge”, you ask? It’s being aware of the language you’re using when you talk with prospective clients or customers. Are you assuming they know too much and going into complex detail rather than taking a step back and making sure they understand you?
There’s no such thing as a self-made Entrepreneur
Then we heard from Yva Yorston. Yva gave a powerful talk about how she’d had ups and downs in business and that, most importantly, there’s no such thing as a self-made entrepreneur. Yva spoke about the importance of using mentors, friends and business communities as your support network. She’d done this when she hit a difficult spell and it helped her find a niche and kick-start her business again.
But networking doesn’t work, right?
Stefan Thomas then spoke about the importance of networking. Stefan’s been to over 1,000 networking events! His talk really resonated with me because as highlighted above, networking events and conferences don’t always come easy. He had this great quote,
“Every big opportunity starts from a little conversation”
Love that, it’s stuck in my head.
Stefan spoke about the importance of being genuinely interested in other people, of following up with people after networking events or conferences and of moving people through a process of trusting and liking you.
We need relationships to succeed in business and we need to be responsible for developing those relationships authentically and nurturing them.
ARE YOU DABBLING OR ARE YOU ALL IN?
After lunch, Sharon Menzies gave an excellent talk in which she explained how she’d used the CMA community to build her recruitment business. Sharon had “dabbled” (own words) in her business, in part due to family situations, but realised that if she really wanted her business to succeed she needed to “go all in”.
Sharon joined the CMA and went all in on content marketing. The result? A 500% increase in website visits over a 6 month period. A rise from #184 to #5 on Google. They wrote 140 blogs in this time and have truly seen the rewards of going all in on their content.
How To Swear in Your Fucking Marketing
We then had a hilarious talk from Doug Kessler. I hadn’t come across Doug before but he immediately impressed me (and probably everyone else) when he managed to navigate his way through part of his talk without his slides due to to a slight technical issue.
Doug’s talk was really funny but it had a point.
There’s data and evidence that suggests swearing in blogs results in an increase in reach and engagement. Of course, the key is to be able to understand if swearing in your content is appropriate to your audience and to the voice of your business.
The reason that swearing has an effect on your content is because it makes people “feel” something. All content should make people feel something, swearing is just one of many ways to achieve that.
Doug told us how swearing can have the following impact: It can cause surprise, show confidence or passion, it can resonate with the like-minded, signal informality or signal that you’re being real.
Of course, it can also be seen as crass or off-brand and people might not share it as much as other content.
The message from Doug is that when appropriate, and with the right audience, it can work well in your content but do your homework first as there could be implications if you get it wrong.
THE TROLLS: TAKE BACK CONTROL
Then, in the penultimate talk of the day, up stepped Cara Mackay to talk about taking back control (from trolls). Cara had written an article on LinkedIn which contained swear words in the title and the article had an unbelievable response in terms of reach, engagement and the type of reaction it got.
Cara had to put up with some incredibly ignorant and rude comments from people who’d appeared to have a sense-of-humour bypass at an early age and demonstrated how she’d responded to those people to take control back from them.
Dealing with such comments isn’t something most of us tend to need to deal with on a day to day basis but, as Doug said, if you use swearing in your content you may need to be prepared for the impact of that (positive and negative).
How to Find Your Voice and Own Your Fucking Brand
The final keynote of the day was from someone I hadn’t heard of before, Erika Napoletano. Her talk was brilliant.
Erika’s talk provided me with one of THE key takeaways of the conference… The Big Universal Question (BUQ).
Erika spoke about the way we respond when someone asks us, “So what do you do?”. We usually reply with some droll & un-inspiring explanation of our business or day job, right?
“What about if we changed that?”, asked Erika.
Erika suggested we think of a much better way of selling what we do. Take my business for example. Someone asks me, “So what do you do?”. I say, “I run my own part-time Social Media business”. Snoozeville. What if I said, “I make people’s social media channels absolutely awesome”, or “I help people build their business and increase sales by using social media”. Make sense? Of course it does!
Erika also spoke about the importance of building trust with clients, of getting to know them, understanding their problems and showing our vulnerabilities.
She also told us how the most compassionate thing we could do in business is to tell your customers their ideas are bad (or “shit”, as she said). That’s truly being honest with them (if it’s a genuinely bad idea!).
It was a fascinating talk. Erika’s electric on stage and full of emotion and powerful speaking. She certainly captured the attention of the audience and the BUQ is a massive learning-point. As is her message to keep going and going, even if you’re in awe of people’s success around you and allowing that to make you feel a little down.
Heads & Tales Gin Bar
Day 1 finished with a social at a local gin bar. Nibbles and gin (or Belgian IPA in a frosted glass if you’re me) were going down a treat and I got to meet some more great people. It was a fantastic evening with everyone open to sharing their story, advice and a taking a real interest in each other.
I left early…ish (10.30) and took a slow walk back to my hotel. I needed to be fresh for Day 2 and had a lot of information to process!
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE
I arrived at the Hub conference venue excited about what Day 2 had in store. I arrived, grabbed a coffee and moved to a table at which there were 3 people stood and I didn’t know any of them. What happened next is one of the things that made CMA great.
The folks at the table didn’t continue their conversation, they stopped and introduced themselves to me. This wasn’t a closed conversation, un-accessible to others, it was a small group of people who were there to meet and get to know other people.
We got to know each other and discussed day one, then it was time to head into the venue…
Mark Schaefer kicked us off on Day 2 with his talk “Become Known”. I’ve read his book The Content Code but haven’t heard him talk before. He’s a great speaker. Smooth, calm & funny.
Mark guided us through a talk of advice and examples with regards to how to improve your brand, how to become known. He spoke, like Chris Ducker had, about the importance of going beyond people liking you – they need to love you to do business with you.
He told us about the importance of turning a brand into a person.
“People can’t love a logo but they can love a person”
Like Stefan on Day 1, Mark spoke about the importance of taking people through a process which starts with a weak relational link and ends with that person being loyal and actionable.
He had great examples of people who’d identified a niche and an unsaturated platform with which to deliver a message. This combination of factors, as well as their ability to deliver a great message, had seen them become known and their businesses changed completely as a result.
Mark’s talk had some great messages with regards to becoming known:
- Get in early (unsaturated market)
- Design for habit (create emotional connections)
- Stay relevant & superior
- “You have to be someone’s favourite”
- Think, “I’m going to create something timely, relevant and interesting EVERY SINGLE DAY”
- Think, “What do you want to be known for?”
The final important point was that this takes patience. On average it takes 2.5 years for these efforts to become known to show return. Of course there are exceptions but know this – you need to be patient in this game.
Pete Matthew and John Espirian
Pete has consistently delivered over 200 podcasts over a number of years whilst John has consistently delivered 1 blog per week.
Both have shown the patience and commitment required to develop and nurture an audience. Both have seen this positively reflect in their business or the opportunities which come their way.
There were some great comments which came out of this live Q&A-type session from either Mark, Pete or John. I believe John even had a moment of clarity on stage when he was asked to describe his mission and answered with, “to provide relentlessly useful content”. Sometimes we only get such moments of clarity at conferences like this.
There was other great advice though, such as:
- There’s a cost to every piece of content you create (so make sure you’re delivering content that’s going to work for you).
- Deliver content that makes an impact on people.
- Start. Then distil and deliver a more concise message over time.
“Businesses that win are those who deliver a message, not those who compete”.
As with the lightning talks, it was great to see how Pete and John had taken on board the message from Mark and Chris (as they’re CMA members) and were able to show the positive effect it had on their business.
Avoiding Content Crickets: How to Create Shareworthy Content People Love
After a coffee break it was time for Andrew & Pete to step up and talk about content crickets. A great talk but I’ve written about it as part of another blog so I’m going to point you there if you’d like to find out more about their strategy for delivering awesome content.
NO MORE NIGHTMARE CUSTOMERS
Up next it was time for a lightning talk from Pam Laird. Pam owns a hair salon and told us how she wanted to attract better customers. You know, the type who arrive on time, pay on time, keep to expectations, are fun to work with etc etc
Pam gave a great talk about how she’d identified the type of client she wanted to attract and used content marketing to work on attracting more of those “ideal clients”.
She wrote blogs and did videos and started to see the business change for the better. They had growth of 12% and then 22% and are now looking to explore who the ideal customer is for each of the stylists who work there.
IS PR THE MISSING PIECE IN YOUR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY?
THE POWER OF THE NICHE
Next came one of the stand-out talks, for me. I went into the conference thinking about the fact I needed to niche down. I feel my business is too broad and that’s impacting both my content and my ability to attract new customers. But I needed help to do this.
Fortunately for me along comes Karen Reyburn with an absolutely brilliant talk on “The Power of Niche”.
Karen told us how the more niche you get the more opportunities tend to open up. “You have to think small to grow bigger”, she told us.
A niche is a targeted, focused area that you serve really well.
She had four questions that you need to ask in order to find your niche.
- What’s the one thing you keep coming back to?
- Who or what do you understand the best?
- Where do you get great results for people?
- Where are you or could you be really profitable?
Karen told us about her background. She’d worked in and around accountants as well as having a successful business as a photographer. She realised that there was a gap in the market for Digital/Creative agencies who specifically served accountancy firms, and hence along came The Profitable Firm.
It was a great example of identifying a niche and Karen’s team have done a brilliant job with the website. It really gets the point across that they are in this JUST for accountants and has some great messaging around the value and purposes of the business.
Inbound + Content Marketing without Blowing Your Budget
Following Karen’s talk it was over to George Thomas to talk about tools, or rather “Inbound + Content Marketing without Blowing Your Budget”…I’m listening, George!
This was a fast-paced, in-your-face overview of tools that you can use for analytics, conversion, landing pages, social media, contacts and keywords. I loved it.
There are gaps in my website and my process for attracting leads and George gave some great advice which I’ve got written down to address once this blog is completed.
Indeed, I could and maybe will write a blog post specifically on what George covered in his whirlwind talk!
Then came the surprise, a mystery speaker. I hadn’t a clue but there were rumours flying around from those who’d been closer to CMA than I’d been prior to the conference. Who would it be?
Up stepped Danielle Sheridan, the 16-year-old daughter of Marcus. Imagine being 17 and standing up at an event like CMA to talk to a bunch of adults in another country? Sod that!
Danielle gave a love talk about how she’d been offered the chance to go travelling with her dad and how, upon returning to the US, she set up an Etsy shop which was now turning over around $3k per month in revenue. Indeed, she’s done so well that she’s employed someone to work for her – a remarkable story!
7 timeless quality of Personal and Professional Services
Finally, and to close proceedings, Marcus Sheridan got up to talk about “7 timeless quality of Personal and Professional Services”. I hadn’t heard Marcus talk before and he was different than all the others. He was down on the floor, doing his talk at eye-level and bringing people into his talk. Depending on the nature of the person, you’re either going to love that or avoid eye contact at all costs!
Marcus spoke about focussing on progress rather than goals, of focusing on metrics that matter (not vanity metrics), of not measuring yourself against others – we all start somewhere, of letting go of negative people around you, of seeking opportunities for kindness, learning to ask questions and of owning your story.
The messages from CMA were becoming clear:
- Stay positive, stay focused, be patient, don’t judge yourself against others.
- Be kind, ask questions, listen.
- Own your story and brand, act fast, deliver solutions to people’s problems.
And now, the end is near…
Marcus’ talk brought an end to CMA and all that was left was a rousing reception to Chris Marr who’d delivered a fantastic conference with the support of Cara and Vicky, and a group photo.
I left to head to the airport and as I sat on the bus I honestly couldn’t remember a time when I’d last felt as mentally drained as I did at that point in time.
My head was full of ideas.
After eating and caffeinating at Edinburgh airport I sat down and started to jot down some ideas around my niche and so it began…
I’m going to create content for …. so that they can … because…