The Digital Summit series made its first trip to Kansas City on July 26-27, and we took full advantage of the two-day digital marketing conference being right in our backyard. Digital Summit Kansas City hit the mark with a variety of digital marketing topics, presented by a series of speakers from well-known brands and organizations.

Related: Five best-practice themes from the Corporate Social Media Summit.

As a Platinum sponsor, we were out in full force throughout the event. While we were particularly excited to watch our own John Stauffer present on “Closing the Empathy Gap,” the conference was filled with thought-provoking ideas.

DEG’s John Stauffer presenting at DSKC.

Our experts have shared their thoughts on the biggest themes and takeaways from Digital Summit’s first year in Kansas City.

Jen Forrest, Director of Social Media

Last week, the Digital Summit Kansas City conference brought together a breadth of digital marketing professionals hungry to network and learn. The KC event was the largest inaugural event of all Digital Summits so far (way to represent KC!), and covered topics ranging from marketing innovation, social media, personalization, automation, email, and data. The coffee was strong and the GIF game on Twitter was stronger, so I highly encourage you to read through the highlights on the #DSKC hashtag.

The opening keynote from Mathew Sweezey was a highlight for me – showcasing five key traits for high-performing marketing organizations. Funny enough, low and high performers can do the same things, yet high performing marketers see two-to-three times the value from the SAME tactics. Bookmark this presentation for later if you want to lead a high-performing team!

Whether Snapchat or Twitter are here in a year is beyond our crystal ball.

I also met and watched Carlos Gil (Social Marketer at BMC Software) present on Snapchat (and much more). The question on everyone’s mind, “Is Snapchat here to stay?” was immediately debunked by his upfront statement that social media evolution is inevitable (preach!). Whether Snapchat or Twitter are here in a year is beyond our crystal ball. What we can tell you is that generational preferences will prevail and change is the only constant. This is a nice reminder to focus on a modular social strategy that doesn’t put all your eggs in one bucket. Pick your priorities, but don’t be afraid to test, learn and adapt to the evolution of social.

Factoid slide between sessions

Bethany Andrew, Senior Paid Media Manager

The two overall themes I took away from the conference were being more genuine with brand marketing through personalization, and storytelling and making media buying decisions based off very specific data.

The first theme’s sessions were focused around the importance of content and storytelling, with examples of gorgeous creative from brands in Instagram and Facebook canvas ads. In the Snapchat session, the main point was that Snapchat is a channel for engagement and “normal/everyday” people, and not something that brands should shoot to have five-star production for their snaps or use the channel for revenue-driving ads. The key takeaway: be a part of the conversation instead of forcing the conversation.

Too often brands try to force stories onto the world, instead of letting customers tell their stories for them.

One thing I really agreed with is that “it’s more about the story, not the telling” from keynote speaker David Shing of AOL. I think too often brands try to shove their story out into the world and tell people what to think, instead of letting real customers and people tell their story and let that speak for itself.

For the data side, a lot of the sessions discussed how each customer should have his/her own experience. By leveraging DMPs (like H&R Block does per Amy Hu’s presentation), marketers should be creating customer journeys with sequential messaging by leveraging big data from DMPs like Adobe or Krux. With countless data at the fingertips, using it to dictate ad buys, creative, messaging, and on-site experience will just lead to higher customer engagement and hopefully conversion.

Tony Toubia, Senior Relationship Marketing Strategist

For only having made it to the conference one of the two days, I was surprised by the turnout, enthusiasm, and quality of content. When many think of where digital marketing is most prominent, their minds typically go to the coasts – San Francisco/New York. But Kansas City is a sleeper in terms of its collective digital marketing prowess. We have some of the best and brightest minds in digital, and that was clear from speakers to attendees alike.

Kansas City is a sleeper in terms of its collective digital marketing prowess.

As an email strategist, I focused on sessions surrounding email and digital transformation in general. Here are a few hot takes on some of my favorite sessions:

Matthew Sweezey from Salesforce highlighted “Five Key Traits of High Performing Marketing Organizations.” Sweezey is a highly dynamic speaker and really knows how to engage an audience. His dive into these five key traits exposed that “tactics don’t matter,” and focused on what it is about high-performing marketing organizations that helps them outperform their competition by 96.3X.

Bryan Williamson showcased how Hallmark underwent a digital transformation over the last few years, giving the company the opportunity to remain relevant in the most competitive market ever by focusing on the customer experience across all channels. Having personally worked with Hallmark over the last nearly two years on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud side of their digital revolution, I can attest to the immense amount of work and talent that has been poured into this initiative. From turning retail stores into localized warehouses and enabling buy-online-pick-up-in-store to maintain parity among product offerings from online to offline, Hallmark has made massive strides to ensure that the brand will be a part of consumer’s meaningful moments for generations to come.

DEG’s own John Stauffer presented an amazing session titled “Closing the Empathy Gap: Six Ways to Develop Better Consumer Insights.” The session was a big hit and one of those that I think catches many conference attendees off guard. Let’s face it, by the end of the day, we all wonder how valuable the next session could possibly be, but John did not disappoint. The session exposed flaws in simple personas, accurate, yet useless, reporting, and the industry’s general difficulty in scaling strategy to affect the masses.

Stauffer discussing tools used to close the empathy gap.

The reality is, marketers need to do better to contextualize the motivating factors behind consumer behavior.

Besides all the fascinating first-person anecdotes and recommended reference materials, I thought it particularly interesting that this concept applies to more than just marketing. Consumers, clients, partners, agencies, consultants; we’re all people and at the end of the day, people may be have very similar motivations despite very different demographic attributes or persona values. The reality is, as marketers we need to do better to contextualize the motivating factors behind consumer behavior, and furthermore, we should have the same mentality when recommending strategies and tactics to clients or working on a campaign with partners. A little empathy can go a long way toward our collective digital success in a world where we are interfacing with each other more and more through non-personal interaction.

Jeremy Sterling, SEO Manager

The pre-conference workshop “Current Search Strategies that will Increase Your Exposure” was a great way to see into the mind of a fellow SEO expert. Seeing the timeline and structure of how others go through a normal SEO audit and review gave me great insights on how to improve my own processes. Discovering new tools from the presenter will supplement my own array of skills and increase my abilities to audit new things.

Marjie Goodman, Content & Collaboration Strategist

Attending the first-ever Digital Summit KC offered me many new concepts for developing and marketing content in today’s fluid, digital atmosphere. I also bumped into a ton of colleagues, which speaks volumes to the quality of this new conference.

Since it was a “digital summit,” I worried it might be too technical for me as a content strategist. However, it had several content-focused sessions and speakers who offered new insights on how to optimize digital content so your audience will find and view it.

DSKC’s content-focused sessions offered how to optimize digital content so your audience will find and view it.

One of my favorite sessions was the pre-conference intensive workshop with Quinn Tempest called “Content Marketing Workshop: The proven 8 step formula.” Quinn gave me validation on what I’m already doing, plus new ideas on how to ideate content and successfully market it. For instance, Quinn spoke about using a “hub-and-spoke model” to create and distribute content with purpose. I’ve been practicing this method, but not to its fullest extent. The beauty of the hub-and-spoke model is that you can use evergreen content as the hub, like a white paper or ebook that promotes your company’s expertise.

Quinn Tempest presenting “Content Marketing Workshop: The proven 8 step formula.”

From storytelling and Snapchat to developing more video and Beyonce Making Lemonade, each speaker gave me a refresh on how to develop the right content for the now, while highly considering the appropriate digital channels for the target audience. For instance, video is great for Facebook and Instagram, and Snapchat content should be fun, creative, and educational for its vast millennial audience. And PS…don’t forget to develop content with SEO and keywords in mind.

Attending professional conferences is always a great way to refuel the idea tank. I left the #DSKC with my tank full and ready to conquer the next content mountain.

Sydney Jones, Paid Media Intern

As a recent college graduate, being able to learn about the industry’s standards, news and methods right from the professionals themselves was inspiring. The most interesting topics for me, were experiential marketing, B2B marketing, and hearing the Kansas City Chiefs discuss their social channels.

Seeing the immense opportunities within each of these topics allowed me to see each business differently. Each are very niche platforms, but they are all trying to accomplish the same goals. Also, hearing about the challenges that they combat and how they problem solved to get where they are now was encouraging for a young advertising professional.

Did you make it out to Digital Summit Kansas City? Let us know what resonated with you most.

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