In Review - #1NLab15: Digital Working in Concert

One North’s fourth annual Experience Lab was the biggest and best yet, with nearly 80 digital marketers attending from more than 40 professional services and B2B organizations. This year’s theme, Digital Working in Concert, examined the many parallels between orchestration in the musical sense and in digital marketing — both are rooted in bringing together an ensemble of moving parts in order to create harmony.

Each session focused on how to best orchestrate digital marketing experiences that represent your brand with a message that is more than noise, and delivered with resonance and impact to your customers. Music was weaved seamlessly throughout each presentation, and modern classical music (e.g. instrumental Taylor Swift) set the tone between sessions at the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel’s gorgeous ballroom. If you're curious to hear the event playlist, you can listen to it here.

More than 20 speakers from One North’s internal team of Technologists, Creatives, Developers and Account Managers delivered the perfect mix of aspirational and tactical content, covering the latest trends in digital marketing. They did not disappoint.

Here’s a look at some of the underlying themes from the event.

Differentiation is key to developing real loyalty. Contrary to a common belief, professional service firms are NOT all alike. That being said, these brands often find themselves in a sea of sameness. To find differentiation, you need a clear point of view (POV). And to get there, you need to know what you sell. Hint: It’s not your practice areas, or your innovation or your expertise. You sell a feeling: confidence, security, perspective. Make this part of your identity. Next, surprise your audience by how well you know them. What drives them? What does your work do for them? Then, understand why they picked you. Be bold and ask why. And own that idea whether you like it or not. Once you determine your POV, the work isn’t done. Remember, it is an ongoing process and is constantly evolving.

Customer experience is the future of marketing. A series of digital and non-digital touch points make up a client experience. If it isn’t well-thought-out with a clear point of view, it’s a huge misstep. One North’s Dawn Michalak equates the customer experience to the old school “mixtape” or today’s “playlist” that you curate/create to evoke a feeling and experience. Look at your client experience, listen to feedback, do your research and then, tweak the experience to surprise and delight your customers. Dawn reminds us not to forget the internal experience for your employees, too.

Let go of control and allow for creativity. Marketers must embrace uncertainty and harness creativity, rather than attempting to control it. Several companies are good at unlocking creativity and innovation, Google being one of them. As part of their 80/20 program, which began in 2007, employees were encouraged to come up with an idea and if approved, they could dedicate 20 percent of their time to developing it. Gmail is one of the many iconic Google products to come out of this program.

Empathy is required in user experience. “Think like your user.” Easier said than done, right? Marketers talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. A basic example is found in Heinz ketchup bottles: How long did it take to update their packaging to be user-friendly? To think like your user, you have to do your homework. User research doesn’t have to be expensive. Usability testing is shown to be effective with just 5-8 people. Another effective method is secondary research, like eye tracking. Once you can get in the mind of your user(s), you can create a winning user experience, both online and off.

Marketers are keepers of the narrative. Marketing communications’ role is centered on editing the story and perfecting the brand, but, at the end of the day, brand is enabled by purpose — what is the difference you make in the world? Brand purpose is not only for external audiences; the concept can, and should, be adopted by internal stakeholders and employees as well. Employees who embrace their organization’s purpose are typically more engaged, more productive and more likely to be brand advocates. During a panel discussion on brand communications, Jocelyn Brumbaugh of The Brumbaugh Group emphasized the importance of utilizing a well-designed intranet to not only drive positive behavior among employees, but also help create true brand advocates.

Tech guys know a lot of stuff. The last panel, Tech-Know Marketing, was made up of One North technologists that know a lot about, well, a lot. A truly unique group, they threw out many great nuggets of information to ponder, including data that shows 40 percent of visitors will abandon your website if they have to wait longer than 3 seconds for the page to load. This proves that while web design and aesthetics are important, optimal performance is a non-negotiable for digital success.

These takeaways were only the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for our more detailed session recaps, which we’ll be sharing in the coming weeks.

Bummed you missed out on this year’s event? Reduce your FOMO and check out some of the photos on the event here.


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Nicole Benzer Director, Digital Marketing - Tell Your Story

Nicole is the Director of Digital Marketing for Tell Your Story, collaborating with clients and agency partners to define marketing goals and strategies, and manage, execute and measure ongoing lead generation programs for clients in a variety of B2B industries.

Amanda Pollard Director, Content & Social Strategy - Tell Your Story

Amanda Pollard is a Director, Content & Social Strategy experienced in the development and execution of strategic, award-winning Public Relations and Social Media programs. She takes a metrics-driven approach to Social Media and PR and is passionate about integrating social and digital media with traditional public relations.

George Rafeedie Founder, Tell Your Story

George Rafeedie is the founder of story marketing agency Tell Your Story. The purpose of the agency is to tell great stories through Social PR and marketing communications so organizations can be successful and its people happy.

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