Key Takeaways from the Minnesota Marketing Summit 2017

ICF Olson was proud to be a sponsor of this year’s event – organized by IC Summits – and to share the stage with clients like Best Buy, Sun Country Airlines, UnitedHealthcare and Thrivent Financial, as well as partners including Marketo, Acquia and Sitecore. With many Minneapolis and regional players in attendance spanning Advertising, PR, Digital, Production, and any other field you can shake a creative stick at, it was a full house at the Hyatt Regency (another shameless client plug).

While the themes from the one-day conference ranged from customer experience optimization to mobile engagement and content and agency/brand collaboration, the larger tone of this year’s IC Summits Minneapolis centered on the question: “How do I address the changing marketing landscape and stay relevant—as a brand, as a marketer, as an agency, as a category, as an industry?” And not just stay relevant, but be remarkable?

Below are my two takeaways from the day.

1. Empathy. Because it feels good. And it’s good for business.

Our very own Tom Douty, VP Strategy and Experience Planning, kicked off the day with his panel on customer experience optimization, urging the panel to go beyond the “why” of customer experience and consider the “who.” Who’s buying your product or service, and why? The discussion flowed from the challenge of tackling disparate and siloed online experiences, or “digital sprawl,” to the need to listen intently to customers’ preferences. What was crystal clear throughout many of the panels—from content to CX and brand to engagement—was that the emphasis, the end goal, was on the individual, the person on the receiving end. Lending an empathetic ear to the customer – and understanding the underlying human need – is necessary before you can land your message, build your brand, or make a sale.  

2. What do I do with all this data?

Let’s face it. We’re all hoarders, whether by design or not. We have piles of data surrounding our campaigns, channels, and sales figures. We have so much data that we don’t know what to do with it, let alone how to extract meaning from it. This theme popped up in several sessions. Client and digital marketing expert, Jay Sivasailam, VP Digital Strategy at UnitedHealthcare, aptly summed up the sentiment to the crowd when he said that perhaps “Big Data has gotten too big.” He added that as marketers, “we need to be able to filter out the noise and leverage the data that matters,” in order to deliver the right experience and connect with our customers.

Amid the buzzword bonanza that accompanies any marketing conference (optimization, KPIs, omnichannel, engagement, millennial, content, influencers… to name a few), the topic of measurement was tackled at little more than surface level. There was discussion on ROI, ad spend, engagement, reach, and other metrics, but conversation surrounding more granular and effective campaign performance, though hinted at, was not discussed in-depth.  This isn’t to say that we marketers aren’t analyzing our work, nor that we are incapable of doing so. Rather, that tied directly to the vast amount of data we collect, measurement becomes just as big of a challenge. And depending on channel, KPIs can vary on a content- or campaign-specific level. For example, on your social channel, what’s more important, reach and shares or click-throughs? This depends on clearly defining your goals at the outset, while having the flexibility to focus on different KPIs on the campaign or content level, and evolving those metrics and benchmarks as you go.

The big takeaway? We as marketers, agencies, brands and technologies are required to wear an ever-expanding array of hats. And the sentiment from this week’s IC Summits in Minneapolis was that not only are we as a marketing community up for the challenge, we’re leading the charge.