At the recent inaugural Gateway Conference, hosted by internet shopping giant Alibaba, in Detroit, the vastness of our world was shrunk down to the distance of a couple taps on a smartphone.
A bevy of heavy hitters graced the stage with pearls of welcome and wisdom. Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Quicken Loans, Rock Ventures and a majority of the buildings in downtown Detroit, exhorted the audience to “fear the status quo.” Marcus Lemonis, CNBC’s The Profit, insisted that you “can’t be intimidated” and be successful.
Anatomy of the Marketplace
Daily discussion centered around the concept of “stepping out” to expand your reach and take advantage of the vast possibilities represented by the global marketplace in general, and China in particular, which is transitioning from the role of a major exporter to that of a major importer. And what is being imported is largely American, in order to satisfy an appetite for high-quality, foreign goods.
If you sell products online, the likelihood of simply stumbling into the multi-billion dollar Chinese market is possible, but not likely. The middle-class in China – larger than the entire population of the U.S. – know what they want and how they want to be reached.
They want the best. They want American goods and they want to buy through apps on their smartphones. Plain and simple. Anything and everything is available through an app, so if you want to play in that sandbox, you have to be in the game.
The Queen of Marketing
Martha Stewart is selling everything online. Besides her home goods lines, she now has an online wine shop and Marley Spoon, which sells meal kits for about $9 per person and boasts the benefits of being a time-saver as well as a waste management tool, as everything you need is in the kit and excess food doesn’t go to waste if not used immediately.
Gerber Baby Example
Gerber, a 90-year old Michigan company, found an instant market in China, where till recently, families were limited to one child so only the best would do. Regulations are much more stringent in the U.S., so Chinese families import Gerber products to make sure their children are eating safely.
American-made goods are considered to be of premium quality and are imported through an immense global marketplace that promises 72-hour turnaround from time of order to delivery.
Large companies like Martha Stewart and Gerber certainly satisfy the Chinese people’s craving for aspirational brand purchases, but the scrappier side of the buying public wants something unique and these cravings are satisfied by entrepreneurs and small-business enterprises.
CEO Jack Ma’s Vision
This is the philosophy behind Alibaba. CEO Jack Ma’s vision and mission was to harness the power of the internet for those small-business owners who might not otherwise be able to afford access to this enormous marketplace. Ma considers himself to be a “Chief Education Officer,” teaching entrepreneurs about the intricacies of online marketing.
His philosophy is so simple, so obvious. Put the customer first. Stay focused. Embrace change. Put your employees before your stockholders and stick to your guns on this point in particular. Apparently, it works. Alibaba sold $550 billion in merchandise in the 2016 fiscal year and expects to sell $1 trillion by 2020.
Build your Brand
For those who wish to put their toe in the water and test the global marketplace, Ma says, “build your brand.” Global buyers want to know your story, and they appreciate the humble beginnings that often accompany an entrepreneurial endeavor. Tell your story with honesty and integrity.
The man who couldn’t even get a job at KFC, Ma tells his hard-luck story but doesn’t expect sympathy. He expects you to learn from his mistakes, joking that when he retires, he’ll write a book called “The 1,001 Alibaba Mistakes.” He says “today is hard; tomorrow is harder, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful.”
The internet is ubiquitous and the marketplace is the planet. With the right product or service, coupled with the right branding and a solid strategy, you can reap the massive rewards represented by a truly global market.
From the opening event, with flying drummers (yes – flying) to the last of the break-out sessions, the message was loud and clear. Attitude and fortitude can make small businesses as mighty as the big guys and I was struck by the fact that this is what we offer our clients every day. The ability to market like the big guys, on a global stage.
It was truly significant that Alibaba held its inaugural conference in Detroit, matching a tenacious CEO and his scrappy company with a city of risk-takers who appreciate hard work and entrepreneurial endeavor. It was hard to resist getting caught up in the wave of excitement.
Absolutely worth every dime. What I found most surprising is the size of this industry is still very small. I’d say about 30 percent represented an organization that wanted to learn more about digital marketing and 70 percent were representing an agency. I can honestly say I didn’t attend a bad session. I kept my attention in the advanced sessions where the presenters often spoke about real world case studies and findings. I had 3 great takeaways from SMX West and I have broken them down below:
1. SEO is alive and well. I was beginning to change my perception of the term SEO. We are proponents of using the word ‘search,’ essentially combining SEO and SEM. While there is very much a strong relationship between SEO and SEM, these are still separate practices. While many people are doing very well in non-branded and branded SEO, there are two very large opportunities that many businesses are missing out on.
a. The power of SEM as it relates to real life events, like weather, celebrities, sporting events or games. An example would be purchasing keywords like ‘score of Lions and Packers game’ for a company interested in getting in front of male viewers aged 18-24.
b. Leveraging big advertisers huge TV campaign budgets to purchase keywords about the product or industry they are building. This is also important for the actual companies spending on TV already and where the 1+1=3 comes into play. What a huge opportunity and it requires your organization to be on the constant lookout for new opportunities. The power of listening is extremely valuable today.
2. Visual communication is the future of the web. We are continuing to skim more content and faster, giving ourselves less time to decide if we are going to engage or not. By 2018, 84 percent of the communication done on the web will be visual. This means content must be more creative than just a blog or landing page. Infographics, charts, maps and digital stories with video and audio are becoming more crucial in converting a visitor into a customer. The story your brand tells is continuing to grow in importance. I know, you say that has always mattered, and it has, but not as much as it does today. Now, we have more options. Bottom line, web content is getting better and will allow us to learn and absorb information much faster.
3. Your brand can lead your industry by relying entirely on Google, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. I’m repeating, you can and should build a multimillion dollar business and only market yourself online. I knew this before I went to SMX, but it was confirmed multiple times. For example: There was a mattress company that has established themselves as the top searched branded keyword in their industry and it only took them about one year. How did they do it? They told a great story and leveraged it through the power of social media.
SMX is an absolute grind. The sessions go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for three days with only two, 15 minute breaks and half an hour for lunch each day. When you throw in networking and a couple cocktails, you don’t have much time to get your actual business work done. However, this is the cost of a really good expo. I would suggest bringing a couple people from your office and split up the events to cover more ground. The perfect combination would be someone from management and a beginner. Both will learn a great deal and at the same time learn a lot that can be shared amongst each other. Thanks to everyone who attended, all the speakers, the sponsors and #SMX.
It was a great first day at SMX West. There are probably only around 1,500 people here, which really surprises me. It also excites me because it puts SSDM in a small group of agencies that are not only attending these, but are able to come back and implement. I attended “Thinking Outside the SEM Box” which had a lot of great case studies about unorthodox campaigns. Like KitKat purchasing football team names in Adwords to attempt to give scoring updates to their every challenging 18-24 male market.
A repeating theme of the day was how social and search need to be connected in strategy and execution. Looking at SEO and Social and PPC separately is not the way to go, we know this, but it’s nice to get the affirmation. Maggie Malek (@MagsMac) was really good. Speaking about the relationship between search and social, Maggie said, “We know everything is changing but everyone is acting like nothing is happening. Brand development happens through social and search.” There is so much education that has to continue to happen in the marketplace.
Bruce Clay is basically the Father of SEO, I’d say Perry Marshall is the Father of PPC. Bruce had a lot of swagger actually. He was kind and humble but didn’t want to take anyones shit. A true sign of a man that’s been around awhile, maybe a little cynical but certainly a master of his craft. The biggest takeaway was Bruce was saying how his agency has to reinvent themselves every 6 months to remain relevant. The ‘not set’ organic change was a big hit, but uses an API from Search Council that allows him to see the actual keywords being used to generate SEO traffic.
Bruce Clay Key Takeaways:
- Pop ups should show up with the follow: average time on site divided by 3.
- Disavowfiles.com – Keep adding websites. Accumulated report over all-time.
- Outbound links are valuable. – Think like bibliography.
- “We’ve increased page ranking by removing bad/old content.”
- “If you’d been using the same website for 8 years, give it up.”
- API from Search Council to see your organic search terms.
Dynamic ads and visual content are the future. 85% of communication will be visual by 2018. I’ll have more on this for my Day 2 recap, stay tuned!
Watch the recap here:
On Feb. 15, our creative director, Michael Taylor, headed downtown to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Digital Marketing Bootcamp. Here, he and fellow panel members discussed tips and trends for improving your digital marketing strategies. Panelists discussed the evolution of social media and how not to be a robot in your social media communications.
A few key takeaways from the event include:
- Many brands spend too much time crafting their social media posts and lose the human element.
- Spend less time editing social content and more time focusing on what your audience wants.
- Before starting social media efforts, determine which platforms make the most sense for your audience.
- Apps and tools exist to help you with your social media. Some of our favorites are Buffer and Slack.
- Gary Vaynerchuk liked one of our tweets! Thanks Gary!
February has been full of fun opportunities for SS Digital Media. We can’t wait to see what else 2017 has in store for us!
We celebrated Valentine’s Day in the best way: by heading to Google Ann Arbor for an exclusive senior healthcare industry event. SS Digital Media Founder, Nick Skislak was joined by Google representatives Isha Vij and Taylor Kobryn. The discussion included a focus on digital marketing and its benefits for the senior healthcare industry.
Check out some of the key takeaways from the event:
- Social media is more than just creating content. It’s about listening and interacting with your audience.
- Life is made of tiny micro moments — moments when a customer experiences something that requires an immediate answer. Make sure you are there when your customers need you.
- The need for senior healthcare is only going to increase. The projected U.S. population ages 65+ in 2050 is 83.7 million people.
- More than 2 billion people use Google on a daily basis. If you’re not advertising here, you should be.
- In Michigan alone, Google ads for senior health care are receiving more than 1 million impressions a month.
Following the discussion, we took an exclusive tour of the Google Ann Arbor office. Did you know, at Google you’re never more than 150 feet away from a microkitchen? How cool is that!
Join SS Digital Media as we meet to discuss the senior healthcare industry and how digital is impacting marketing. The event will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017 at Google Ann Arbor headquarters. Cost is $25 and will include, refreshments and lunch.
Alongside representatives from Google NYC, Founder of SS Digital Media, Nick Skislak will discuss numerous aspects of digital marketing including:
- The continuous evolution of digital marketing
- How to track online success and failures
- Current and upcoming industry trends
- The best practices for increasing web traffic and conversion rates, and more!
You will even have the chance to tour Google Ann Arbor after the event concludes!
Join SS Digital Media and Google for a Lunch & Learn!
Interested in joining us for our senior healthcare industry event? We’d love to see you at Google! Fill out this form to register. If you have any questions, contact our Project Manager, Tessa Feeley at email@example.com or by phone at 248-629-9594. Space is limited.