Digital marketing minds connect in Squamish for CIMC

What’s the best way to get digital media mavens out of their comfort zone, away from the 24/7 streaming distractions of their own creation, so they can really ‘talk shop’? Get them to Squamish, BC, away from their desks and the buzz of the big city. Far enough away from Vancouver to qualify as a retreat, it’s still a comparable distance to a typical morning commute in a mountain town in the midst of glorious nature. That’s the site of the second annual Canadian Internet Marketing Conference (CIMC) happening April 14 and 15, featuring speakers from companies like Google, Twitter, and Disney Parks Canada.

Adding to BetaKit’s growing list of recent tips on strategic marketing and what it takes to be a digital specialist, courtesy of some of Canada’s top minds in the digital biz, we touched base with event co-founder Christian Thomson about what’s driving marketing trends in 2016.

Digital marketing has evolved a lot in just the last few years, with even small-to-medium sized businesses in Canada building up online brands via blogs, social media, and paid ads. What can we say that’s new in 2016?

At the conference, they’ll be talking a lot about how to integrate more channels across different platforms, not just integrate adwords with landing pages. A lot of companies looking to reach their audience are also looking at content marketing, so there will be conversations around that. We’ll also be looking at how to reach out to other markets overseas.

The theme of the conference just echoes how people search today: its multi-touch, 24/7, having channels integrated online and offline. It’s also about people being a bit smarter with strategy, tools and budgets.

The technology is evolving so fast in this space – but is this really taking down hurdles for business?

Ironically, one hurdle is the amount of choice. You’re looking at hundreds of social apps, dozens of ways to incorporate Google adwords, marketing automation and all the rest of it. It’s overwhelming for small-to-medium sized businesses. Just taking the time to research is very time-consuming.

Even on a personal level, we see first-timers are very scattered a lot of the time. There’s so much information and the knee-jerk reaction is to try to do everything at once. You get spread too thin across all different channels. The speakers at this conference will be able to address those owners looking for quick wins and low-hanging fruit.

Another big change is that there’s more focus on metrics now. A couple of the presentations you’ll see are specifically around making marketing more accountable. In the last five years, it wasn’t always possible to connect to those metrics, but now the analytics are there and it can be measurable. Is two blog posts a week really the best use of your marketer’s time? Now you can track that. Particularly with more established businesses that have been around for more than 25 years, they need some way to measure these things.

There’s a huge lag with some businesses and it’s not necessarily industry-specific. It’s just like how they can have a super-fast computer in their office but are doing the same thing they’ve always done. Enterprises need to evolve. Just blogging and promoting yourself on Facebook are not even keeping up with what you could do three years ago.

For those of us who are immersed in the digital world every day, it’s sobering to note that a solid majority of businesses today still don’t even have a website, much less a social media presence.

From what I’ve seen in BC, 20 percent of businesses are up to date or ahead. But even in the last few weeks we’ve come across multi-million dollar companies and their websites are still non-mobile responsive. A good proportion of businesses are not doing things to get ahead.

A lot of the time, they don’t act until they see their market share drop. Most of the time, it’s because the other company has created a mobile-friendly website generating better leads. They stick with a brochure website in the meantime.

Among those companies that are investing in digital brand building, what should they expect from the people they hire?

In 2016, the person in-house needs to get updated on the latest trends in newsletters, or webinars or however the intended audience wants to digest their information. And they need to spend more time looking at analytics, making sure it works right now – and focus on what opportunities are coming.

Common mistakes in digital marketing are trying to do too much with too little budget or time and not having the analytics set up right from the start to track the effectiveness of leads. Inexperienced digital marketing people try to do everything for the sake of doing everything, and they end up being on Pinterest three hours a day – with little to show for it.

Using general marketing principles – looking at someone buying a home, or flowers, or a box of chocolates, requirements are going to be different for everyone. Success comes from looking to find the best channel to find that customer at the best possible time. That might be contextual ads, search marketing, or something else. Are they visible on the web, for lead generation? Where are the customers and what devices are they using?

For the most part, most businesses are just looking for steady growth and leads. Large organizations already have that foundation and are running efficiently and can attempt to create more ambitious content. There’s always something new to learn to make it even better.

Jonathon Narvey

Jonathon Narvey

Jonathon Narvey is a content marketing strategist and BetaKit Senior Editor. Living and working in the heart of downtown Vancouver, he's watched this city's tech hub grow and start to compete on a world-class level. He has learned most of what he knows about tech startups and entrepreneurial spirit by interviewing some of the most innovative thought leaders here and abroad. He's always up for learning something new about the startups, leaders and technologies that are changing our world.