It’s going to be weeks before I’m recovered from the two days I spent at Digital Commerce Summit last week.

Not just because I need to process all the powerful lessons I took away from the talks – but because my introvert batteries need recharging after all the deep, life-changing conversations I had with the attendees and speakers!

I had already planned to pull some friends together for a small group dinner Thursday night, but that quickly spun into a BIG group dinner and two group lunches as people invited others to join us. I can’t even begin to tell you how rich the conversations were.

Jessica Mehring and Lacy Boggs

Jessica Mehring and Lacy Boggs settling in at the Paramount Theater for the event.

 

Our little lunch group at 5280 Burger Bar. Starting in the left front corner and going clockwise, that's Lacy Boggs, me, Joanna Wiebe, Laura Roeder, Torill Bye Wilhelmsen and Mindy Crary.

Our little lunch group at 5280 Burger Bar. Starting in the left front corner and going clockwise, that’s Lacy Boggs, Jessica Mehring (me), Joanna Wiebe, Laura Roeder, Torill Bye Wilhelmsen and Mindy Crary.

 

DCS dinner group

Starting at the front and going to the right, that’s Mindy Crary, Tara Gentile and her partner Sean, Joanna Wiebe, Jessica Mehring (me), Torill Bye Wilhelmsen, Mary Ianotti, Jill Allison Bryan and Lacy Boggs.

Jessica Mehring and Joanna Wiebe

Jessica Mehring, Joanna Wiebe and Mary Ianotti

Jessica Mehring, Joanna Wiebe (copyhackers.com) and Mary Ianotti (digitalmarketingdeva.com)

 

The bulk of this blog post is dedicated to detailing my takeaways from the conference – but I would be remiss if I didn’t first talk about the #1 most important lesson I learned that had nothing to do with a presentation:

Actively connecting with others is the best thing you can do for your business – and your life.

Whether you’re a copywriter, a marketer or a business owner – reach out, then get out.

Reach out to people to make an initial connection.

Few people make this effort. This continually amazes me. Send an email to that person you admire and let them know you loved their latest blog post. Speak up (or at least post a chat message) during a webinar. Join their group course or mastermind as an opportunity not just to learn from them, but to get to know them and make a connection.

And when you have an opportunity like I did at Digital Commerce Summit, where you know several people who are going, make the effort to coordinate a gathering and personally invite people. Don’t assume someone is busy or “too cool” to join you. The worst they can say is “Thanks, but I already have plans.”

Get out from behind your computer screen.

Go to events where you will learn from people outside your niche, and/or where you will connect with prospective customers. You never know who you will learn from.

Joanna Penn’s talk about turning e-books into multiple streams of income is a great example. She spoke about creating assets that will outlive you and provide income for your grandchildren. Though e-books were only a small part of my overall business strategy, I’m now inspired to publish more and make them a bigger part of my plan.

In fact, when I went to lunch on Friday with a few friends at a fast-casual salad place close to the conference, we noticed Joanna eating her lunch alone and invited her to join us. She did – and the lunchtime conversation was so much richer for it.

I wouldn’t have experienced any of that from behind my computer screen.

Nor would I have experienced the rush of being there live when Tara Gentile quoted me …

Tara Gentile speaking at DCS

Okay – ready for my Digital Commerce Summit takeaways, now? I thought so.

Focus on Building ONE Outstanding Offer

Don’t get sidetracked by shiny objects.

Don’t hire a bunch of people to do a bunch of different things.

Focus on one idea, and pay to hire the best people to bring that to the world. This was the lesson Rand Fishkin brought to the audience during his opening talk.

Listen to Your Audience to Learn About Their Fears, Pain Points and Goals

Listen to your audience – really listen. Do interviews, conduct surveys, listen on social media, pay attention to your analytics and keep an eye on market trends.

Though Tara Gentile focused her entire talk on this topic, other speakers brought it up as well, including Melanie Deziel and Chris Garrett. The importance of listening cannot be overstated!

Create a Product or Service that Serves Real Value to a Specific Person, and Never Stop Being a Practitioner

In the world of online business, you hear a lot of the same messages spoken in different ways. Build things that scale. Leverage your assets. Remove yourself from the equation as soon as possible – hire people or make your offering 100% self-serve.

Two things I don’t hear many people talking about are:

  1. Stay present for your people – make sure your customers get the interaction from you they need to achieve the transformation they are looking for.
  2. Remain a practitioner – continue to practice what you preach so you maintain your authority in your chosen space.

These two lessons struck home when Jerod Morris spoke. Especially as I build more training programs for The Content Lab audience, I’m finding these things are important not only to my students, but also to my ability to speak as an expert.

Self-Publishing Isn’t Just a Great Way to Get Your Work into the World, It’s a Valid Business Model

I was surprised at how much I learned from Joanna Penn’s talk about making money with self-published books. I’ve got a few e-books out there in the world, but I see now that there is a bigger opportunity there that I might be missing. Now I’m feeling inspired to write my next book!

She spoke about the future of content, too, which of course got me really excited. She touched on 3D-printed merchandise and virtual reality in the context of keeping as many of your rights as possible when publishing books. Because there’s one thing we can be assured of: There will be more merchandising and marketing opportunities as more technologies come to market!

You Don’t Have to Be a Techie to Create a Technical Product

If you’ve ever had an idea for a SaaS product or WordPress plugin and thought to yourself “I can’t do that because I can’t code,” stop right there. You don’t need to be a developer to create a technical product – you just need to hire a team and put your own skills to use.

As Laura Roeder put it, “As a marketer, your idea doesn’t have value – but your skills do.”

Laura said that you need three core team members to create a SaaS product – and none of these folks need to be full-time employees right away:

  1. A developer
  2. A designer
  3. A copywriter

Email Is Alive and Well – and Chatbots Are Growing Sentient

During Brian Clark’s panel about the future of digital commerce, we got an earful about email. Studies show that Millennials still prefer email over text – and they prefer text over video.

He also talked at length about chatbots, how easy they are to build and how they’re growing in capabilities. AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning play a huge part in this, and guess what? Copywriting has a place in all of that.

Copywriting creates the experience!

It’s copywriters who are writing the communication that these bots are displaying.

Yes – copywriting is only becoming more important as technology expands.

Create Content Around Subjects Within Your Area of Expertise – and That Actually Interest Your Audience

I teach this to my own students here at The Content Lab, so I believed Melanie Deziel was preaching marketing gospel with her talk. There are subjects you are uniquely qualified to write about, that would genuinely help your audience, that have nothing (or little) to do with your product.

She used the example of a recipe on a box of baking mix. The baking mix company isn’t selling recipes – it’s selling baking mix – but they have the authority to create content on subjects such as recipes, cake decorating and even party planning.

Think about your area of expertise. Ignoring your product for a moment, what can you teach your audience? What can you inspire them to do? What can you inform them about with authority?

Short Attention Spans Are No Excuse for Short Copy

Joanna Wiebe’s talk about long copy put anecdotal evidence to rest. Yes, people DO read long copy – when it’s done right, and when it’s appropriate.

The short attention span of the modern reader is no excuse. Give them a reason to read and they’ll pay attention.

The real threat to sales isn’t the length of copy – it’s indecision. It’s inertia. People are prone to making no decision at all. To overcome that, start by helping them see themselves on the page, first and foremost.

Joanna also encouraged us to bring subjects to life through visual language. Words can paint a picture no stock photo can possibly capture. I’m sure all the creative writers in the room sat up and paid attention when she was talking about this!

Wrapping Up

If I were to sum up my learnings from the Digital Commerce Summit in 3 points, they would be:

  1. Pay attention. There’s more going on in the world outside your little market bubble.
  2. Listen up. Your target customers are stating their fears, pains and goals clearly – you just need to listen for them.
  3. Make real connections. As Chris Ducker put it, business is now people-to-people. Not B2B or B2C. We do business with other people.

 

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