Last week, five digital marketing experts from Command Partners had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC. We spent two days attending lectures, discussions and after-party events, learning and connecting with fellow digital marketers from all over the World.

Companies from Twitter, to Ogilvy & Mather to Oracle were in attendance to share their knowledge and listen to other bright minds in digital marketing. Some of the biggest hits from the conference were David Pogue of Yahoo! Tech, Robin Wheeler from Twitter, and, of course, Steve “The Woz” Wozniak, Co-Founder of Apple. With more than 40 presentations and a plethora of speakers, the Command Partners team enjoyed hearing and learning from these great presentations. We also found three large themes from throughout the conference that we would like to share.

  1. The Digital Space is Increasingly Crowded

Several times throughout the conference, speakers warned us of a day coming soon when organic reach on Facebook drops to zero. For marketers and brands who have spent years building communities on social networks such as Facebook, this is a terrifying and disappointing thought. However, speakers were also quick to offer new strategies and tactics to continue to connect with online audiences.

According to Leigh George of Ogilvy & Mather, native, or branded content is the only way to reach audiences in a world of shrinking organic reach. Branded content is form of paid advertising medium that blurs conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes editorial content. George stressed that with branded content, trust is key. If your audience ends up feeling tricked into reading an advertisement without receiving anything in return, they may revolt. Instead, George said that the branded message should be well integrated into organic content, transparent about what it is, and finally, it should be relevant to the audience reading it. Great branded content will get an advertised message across, but also offer valued information or entertainment in exchange.

Cara Rousseau from Duke University discussed harnessing the power of influencers in your network to drive organic reach. She argued that consumers today are naturally distrustful and dismissive of rote advertising. The value of word of mouth or neutral sources have increased in importance, and to reach your audience in a meaningful way, it’s critical to influence the influencer. Christine Pierpoint from McGavock Edwards seconded this belief. She promoted fighting for digital space through influencers as well and using them in all marketing activities.

  1. Email Marketing is About the Customer

Ever since marketers realized how valuable email marketing could be, every single brand has jumped on the email train, resulting in an average consumer receiving 60 marketing emails a day. This onslaught of emails has turned it from a valuable form of marketing to a very easy way to make your brand look spammy.

However, Mary Kernan of TechMedia argues that email marketing is not dead, it just needs to refocus from an obsession with segmentation and metrics to being truly about the customer. Kernan suggests that marketers can get better at email marketing by focusing on the customer’s point of view and “the 4 P’s.” Kernan’s four P’s are pervasive, participatory, personalized and prescriptive.

Pervasive

Pervasive email marketing lets the customer easily read the email where they are, on all devices. This means emails must be responsive and optimized for mobile.

Participatory

Participatory email gives customers a voice, and encourages them to use it. This entails putting social content into emails and driving cross-channel opt-ins. Email marketers should also find out what their customers care about, and use that data to craft email content.

Personalized

Personalized email marketing leverages segmentation to speak to a customer, but also focuses on still speaking to them like a human. This involves developing and enhancing triggers based on customer behavior, like post-purchase emails or website engagement emails.

Prescriptive

And finally, emails that are truly about the customer should be prescriptive. This means putting the customer in control. Customers should be able to easily tell marketers what emails they want, and when they want them. There should always be an easy and simply opt-out option, but also many reasons to “say hello” again. Keeping these four components in mind, marketers can bring back a true value to email marketing, and avoid simply spamming customers’ inboxes.

  1. The Future is Mobile

An increasing percentage of people spend almost all of their day in the presence of their smartphones. According to SilverPop statistics, people look at their phones an average of 150 times a day. This presents a huge marketing space that most brands and marketers have not learned how to fully take advantage of. Tyler Shields of Forrester Research defined this mobile mind shift as “the expectation that consumers can get what they want in their immediate context and moment of need.” Historically, companies have had the selling power, but mobile technology has empowered customer. Shields’ solution is for marketers to target these “mobile moments” when a consumer pulls out their device to get something they want in their immediate context.  He suggests doing this by plotting mobile moments based on who you are serving, what their context is, and what their motivation is. It is now up to marketers to be mobily present at a customer’s moment of need, and provide an user-friendly solution. Catering to your customers’ need for instant gratification will ultimately yield long-term results.

The 2014 Internet Summit was a great time for the Command Partners team. We learned, we had fun, we picked up pranking tips from “The Woz,” and we came back to Charlotte feeling inspired to start implementing the strategies and tactics we learned.