Online Marketing Summit, Seattle

I attended the Online Marketing Summit, Seattle on August 7th, 2008. OMS is geared towards marketing professionals looking to improve their skills and network with their peers. The summit was well worth the time. Kudos to Aaron Kahlow, his staff, and the speakers for a focused, relevant conference.

Conference themes included social media, user-generated content, and user-centered design. The most consistent message I heard during the day is that marketing is about improving communication, “It’s about people, not technology”.

The content was a great mix of theoretical discussion, “What are the leading minds in marketing thinking about?” and practical advice, “What can I do today to improve my communications?” The best example of the latter, in my opinion, came from the talk titled “Email Marketing Boot Camp” by Joe Colopy. I’ll be posting my notes from that talk in a later post.

Below I’ll share the thoughts and notes I jotted down throughout the day that were particularly pertinent to my web design business. There were many other ideas presented, but this is what stuck with me.


If marketing is about communication, usability is about making your communications easy to use.

Usability is achieved by adapting the system to the person, not by building a system that requires the person to adapt and learn it. Usability is 80% information architecture (IA): labels, categories, and good organization. Good IA bridges the gap between visual display and content—in other words, between the “user” and the “system.”

Start with conventions of human behavior (don’t reinvent the wheel), then define your audience-specific elements. What is a convention, you ask? If over 50% of people are doing something a certain way, it is considered a convention. Unconventional functionality will require lots of testing.

Be sure to keep in mind universal cognitive behaviors: images trump text, group like items together (good organization is a big deal), and remember that humans scan big to small, dark to light, irregular to regular, and saturated to less saturated.

Write well: people scan websites—they don’t read. Use headings, put the conclusion/summary at the top, and be concise. Put elements in conventional places: home link at the top left, help and shopping cart at the top right, and navigation along top or sides (on the left is the most common).

Relevant Ads

Display ads when it is opportune to do so. “Pull, not push,” meaning you should wait to hear what a person wants before you send ads their way. After your customer accomplishes a goal on your website, you can then provide relevant ads to them. Don’t display ads that aren’t appropriate to the task at hand. If it doesn’t relate, it will be (1) ignored or (2) be very annoying.

Being relevant means solving a problem people don’t even know they have. For example, Amazon suggests items that other people purchased; this type of relevancy can be very powerful.

If your ads are relevant, they can actually boost your customer’s trust in your communications.

Social Media and User-Generated Content

Danielle Ferguson, speaking at the conference, said, “User-generated content means conversations are happening between you and your customers as well as conversations between your customers without your intervention.”

These customer conversations (without your intervention) can have positive side effects: it can drive up search engine rankings, provide company transparency, and engender loyalty and trust.

The big trends in social media marketing include video, mobile, and conversation-builders like blogs and forums. Several of the sessions were about social media specifically (which I did not attend), but every single session I attended mentioned it at least once.

Marketing With Limited Resources

Choose low-hanging fruit to get immediate results:

  1. Define your goal: what action do you want people to take?
  2. Make priorities, tackle the highest first, and say no to the rest.
  3. Digital marketing can be done low-cost (website, blogs and other social media).
  4. Use free tools like Google’s Website Optimizer to perform basic tests for your campaigns and landing pages.

Buzzwords and Industry Jargon

I am not immersed in the marketing industry, so it was interesting to hear industry jargon and accronyms, some of which I knew and some of which were firsts for me. Here are several of oft-mentioned terms: B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer), SMB (small- and medium- businesses), ERP (enterprise resource planning), ECM (enterprise content management), “user gen” (short for user-generated content), and CRM (customer relationship management).

Thanksfully, most presenters did a great job of staying away from the hype and buzzwords such as “leverage”, “Web 2.0”, and “synergy.” Overall the message was: if you communicate your brand and products clearly, meet your customers’ needs, and maintain a trusting relationship with your customers, you will be well on your way to success.

Note: I found about the conference through the Digital Web events feed.

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Lance Willett

My name is Lance, I am a blogger, product manager, software developer, and business executive creating high-quality, engaging, and customer-centered experiences for people online. México-born.