Highlights from MozCon: The Macro Trends You Need to Know

If you noticed a lot of out-of-office replies in your inbox last week, there’s a good chance it’s because most of your business contacts were in Seattle, WA for one of the digital marketing industry’s largest and most anticipated annual conferences: MozCon.

Brimming over with curiosity, I immediately cornered my colleagues upon their return to the office. I asked them to tell me about their single biggest highlight or major takeaway from the event. While their specific replies were all different, a few macro trends emerged.

Andy Stuckey, Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

The message of this year’s conference was humble, yet powerful – disruption or destruction. The smartest companies are willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term dominance; they are willing to radically rethink their business model in order to fend off obsolescence in the eyes of their customers.

Regardless of the multitude of algorithm updates and shiny new tools to help understand your KPIs, it’s imperative that we understand that at the end of the day we are still catering to people; customers want what they want and if they can’t get what they want from you, they’ll find it elsewhere.

If the ice cream man came to your neighborhood with his brightly colored truck and catchy jingle and then told you he was only selling broccoli, you wouldn’t blame the truck and song, you’d blame the ice cream man for not meeting his customers’ needs.

In his talk, Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive had a great quote: “It’s important to remember that marketing doesn’t fix – it amplifies.  If there’s a problem, it’ll amplify it. If your product is great, it’ll amplify it.” Amazon learned this the hard way on Prime Day.

Many digital marketers like to act as though disruption is revolutionary thinking; hint: it’s not. It’s easy to find examples of industry after industry being turned upside down by innovative companies willing to disrupt their current business model for future benefits (Apple, Google, Facebook) and even easier to find examples of companies that chose not to disrupt and paid the price (Polaroid, Microsoft, Blockbuster).

On the path to success, there are no shortcuts. Understanding your customers’ needs and being willing to adapt your business to meet those needs is the surest (sometimes toughest) path to that success. Building links and creating worthless content for ranking purposes is the exact opposite.

Halie Vining, Director of Consulting

Wil Reynolds encapsulated the idea of disruption best when he touched on a fear most marketers have: becoming irrelevant. Both as brands and as marketers, the fear of irrelevance drives this need for disruption. This is why SEOs still strive to fill the first spot in the SERPs and why PR and brand awareness tactics aren’t going anywhere, even in the age of data and measurement.

A few years ago, one of the most overused phrases was “Traditional marketers must think digitally.” Everyone at MozCon has made the turn toward digital, but what’s next and how do we get there? Wil took a step back from thinking “What’s next?” to considering “What’s going to last?”

When he said, “Understanding how people make decisions is an indisputable skill,” it really spoke to me, as it’s something we’ve been exploring and iterating at Relevance. Successful digital marketing isn’t just finding the right message or the right channel or the right audience. The most impactful campaigns genuinely help users in the purchasing process. When you can create altruistic content that helps in that natural shopping process, you’ve got marketing gold.

Ashley Sherman, Director of Digital Media Relations

I learned a lot of valuable information at Moz, but I most appreciated how it served as a terrific reminder that marketing is still about people. Marketers think in terms of keywords, search trends, target audiences and personas—but it’s ultimately people doing the searching, clicking and engaging. I think everyone in marketing needs a reminder sometimes that it’s the person behind the metric that we’re aiming to serve, and it is about service – or at least it should be. As Wil Reynolds said, a lot of marketers are “winning at searching, losing at people.” On the topic of disruption, he also pointed out something that every brand should remember: trust is hard to disrupt.

Chris Cline, Digital Marketing Strategist

On day two, Pete Meyers gave a great talk entitled “Surviving Google: SEO in 2020”. It addressed how organic results are slowly disappearing and being replaced by direct answers, ad hybrids, and the Knowledge Graph, among other things. We’ve all known that SERPs aren’t really about organic rankings anymore (and haven’t been that way for quite some time), but it was nice to see someone break down the history of the ever-evolving SERP and use that information to venture a best guess as to what we might have to work with in the future. And because many digital marketers were raised on a steady diet of link building and on-page optimizations, Pete did a great job of expanding people’s palettes to include a variety of tactics and optimization points that they will either have to learn to love or face (digital) starvation.

Additionally, on day three, Mig Reyes from Basecamp gave one of the more inspirational talks entitled “Upside Down and Inside Out” where he discussed how important it is to get outside of your own head and experiment sometimes.  Over-thinking things can often smother creativity, and creativity is vital to any marketing endeavor. As Reyes said, we need to “Spend less time on things. You do your best work when you just do what you know.” And in keeping with the “disruption” theme of the conference, Reyes also urged us to take chances and “break things.” In a world that is often too focused on “appearing” to be put together at all times, allowing a little breathing room for mistakes can breed quite a bit of creativity and success.

Looking Ahead

The messages these folks carried home with them are clear:

  1. Market with humility and heart. Never forget that you are a human and you’re marketing to other humans. Show your personality. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or to own up to your mistakes. Don’t just aim to please; aim to share truly helpful advice and guidance in the buying process.
  2. Market with insistence and imagination. In a single word: disrupt. Reject the status quo. Think outside of the box that’s outside of the box. Listen to the people and give them what they want. Or better yet, what they never knew they needed.

Were you one of the lucky ones at your organization who got to attend MozCon? What were your key learnings, favorite speakers, and best sessions attended? Let us know in the comments!

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