Aweber ASCEND SUMMIT 2015 Recap

Last week, AWeber rounded marketing troops for the 2-day #ASCENDSUMMIT in Philly. The conference featured some of the best speakers in content marketing, social media, lead generation, and email marketing.

We heard speakers from companies like LinkedIn, Unbounce, Heyo, Litmus and CopyBlogger. Topics covered included content marketing and strategy, social media, lead generation and email marketing. If you didn't get a chance to make it, below are some of my key takeaways from the conference.

Content Marketing & Strategy

Jason Falls (@JasonFalls), Senior Vice President & Digital Strategy at Elasticity, kicked the conference off with a 6-point, no-nonsense blueprint for digital marketing. The main idea here is that relevance is key; you need to know your audience.

"There’s no easy way out, you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the work." Everything we create needs to be engineered to make customers say, "Holy smokes that's [insert adjective here]!" - Jason Falls

Knowing your audience is how you create content, and without content - valuable and relevant to your audience - you do not exist. For a rundown of his 6 points, you can see his presentation slides here.

Takeaway: Know your audience. Create content that’s compelling and relevant to them, and focus on optimizing for search!

Jason Miller (@JasonMillerCA), Sr. Manager of Content & Social at Linkedin, followed up with ways to create content that’s full of value and easy to repurpose. Has anyone ever downloaded a piece of content and said, "There's too much content here, I want to return it.”? I don’t think so.

A favorite among the crowd was the fact that content can and should be repurposed like leftover turkey on Thanksgiving. Sounds weird...but it makes sense. Marketers should create awesome content that can be reused time and time again. It's not about having more content, it's about having relevant content. He had an awesome slide deck (with tons of rock n' roll references) that you can get here.

Takeaway: Create content that resonates with your audience. Focus on short, anecdotal stories your audience can relate to. Repurpose and restructure your content as many times as you can to generate as much ROI as possible. What is your Big Rock? What are your Turkey Slices? This is where the magic happens.

Ardath Albee (@ardath421), B2B Content Marketing Strategist, shared her experiences with strategy as it relates to content and marketing. When it comes to content and conversions, moving the needle requires a solid plan around connecting the dots for your buyers. Spend a day in the life of your customers.

Takeaway: Create personas by looking at a day in the life of your buyers. Content and marketing should be focused around these personas. Remember to find a way to connect all of your content so that it tells a story - one that’s relevant to your buyer’s story!

We heard from Jerod Morris (@JerodMorris), of Rainmaker.FM and Copyblogger Media, on creating user experiences through your blog. Marketers are responsible for this, but it shouldn't stop here - make experiences remarkable! He also mentioned Leadpages's podcast ConversionCast as a great example.

Takeaway: The four things your content needs for a truly remarkable audience experience: Authenticity, Usefulness, Sustainability, and Profitability. If you don't get something out of the content you create, it's a lose lose.

Content & Social Media

Heyo's Nathan Latka (@NathanLatka) provided tons of examples for creating remarkable experiences in his presentation about generating leads from Facebook Contests. "Consistance in content brings trust to your audience, and it helps you to win." Nathan rocked the stage (and the crowd) with 6 things every content must have to be successful.

Takeaway: When running contests to generate leads, you have to give away something that emotionally compells your audience to move. Never give away your core product, it kills and devalues your brand.

Co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies, Andrea Vahl (@AndreaVahl) shared some awesome examples of how companies are killing it on social media! 90% of what you're sharing should be some type of visual, and you should be asking, "will my followers find this interesting?". If the answer's no, then it's a sales message - and you likely shouldn't post it.

Takeaway: Use social media for the right things - to get closer to your audience, not to sell them! Inject humor, give them something they'll love, and have objectives. According to Andrea, @blab is a great way to connect with customers, ecperts, and your community.

Switching up the pace a bit, we heard from RocketHub's CEO, Brian Meece (@rockethub) . He shared the amazing story of how he used his own crowdfunding platform to raise money for a life long interest. What was most important here is that feedback on your work is a key factor to its success - even if it’s not the feedback you’re looking for.

Takeaway: Social proof is super important. Don’t just listen to feedback, do something about it! If you have an idea or a project and you want social proof, start a crowdfunding campaign and see who else buys in.

Andy Crestodina (@crestodina) talked a lot about networking, and how to create remarkable experiences when building a network - or making friends. "If you aren't making friends you're doing it all wrong." Andy shared numerous ways to do this including blogging, guest blogging, interacting on social networks, and becoming a thought leader.

Takeaway: Never waste a good conversation by keeping it private.

Chris Ducker (@ChrisDucker), Virtual Freedom Author & Founder of Youpreneur, closed out the first day with tips on personal branding and solving problems.

Takeaway: Put yourself in the shoes of the people you're trying to sell to. Personal branding is what people say about you when you're not around - start thinking people to people.

Lead Generation & Email

Oli Gardner (@oligardner), CEO of Unbounce, went through his 12-step landing page rehab program, providing some simple, actionable insights for landing pages and lead generation. Insight #1: Never start a campaign without a landing page.

When it comes to optimization of landing pages and forms for capturing leads, distraction is the enemy of conversion. He also shared with the crowd an awesome, free resource for more persuasive landing pages: Attention-Driven Design: 23 Visual Principles For Designing .

Tim Paige (@TimThePaige) of Leadpages spoke on a topic near and dear to marketers hearts: growing an email list. Content is awesome, but content upgrades can really spike list growth. Think extra content in a blog post that requires opt in to access, such as checklists, worksheets, and webinars. He also spoke about squeeze pages and lead magnets, with 1-step and 2-step optins - this can be huge in terms of conversion.

Takeaway: Always consider where someone is when you want them to opt-in, and make it easy for them. Your blog content can/should be a powerful conversion channel.

SumoMe's Chief Sumo, Noah Kagan (@noahkagan) went on to talk more about building email lists, and how he got 50,000 new ones in just 8 months. If you are doing what others do, how will you win?

Takeaway: Get more email subscribers without doing more work. Set goals, work backwards, map plans, and gauge results. Focus on one specific goal at a time!

Justin Jordan (@meladorri) of Litmus, hit the stage with a bold statement. This one really hit home with the marketers who wear 500 hats - with email marketing being only one of them. Marketers should pay more attention to things like mobile responsiveness, broken and frustrating emails, and emails you cant read. Email is a personal medium, and if your's insn't contextually aware, you're subsribers WILL OPT-OUT.

Justine provided tons of examples on how to improve email responsiveness and how to stop living in fear of ‘pressing send’. Litmus also has free resources to help marketers help emails 'suck less'. You can also get the slides from Justine's presentation .

Takeaway: For every dollar you spend on email, you get around $45 back. Email is very important to you and to your customers - knowing your audience, making email as responsive as possible, and creating an awesome email experience is a must!

ASCEND SUMMIT 2015 was an awesome event to attend! Stay tuned for speakers’ videos which will be available by AWeber in the coming weeks. Check out their event recap as well!

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