Last week, Ellis and I spent the day attending Leicester Digital Live, a digital marketing conference based right here in the centre of Leicester and with speakers from all over the world. Having previously been involved in running the event, it was a welcome change to just be there as a delegate and be able to sit back and enjoy what the event had to offer.

The lineup was impressive, with the kind of speakers you’d usually expect from higher-profile conferences that typically only run in London or Manchester, or that you might see at Brighton SEO. The organisers did a brilliant job of pulling together an international line up that included speakers from Microsoft, Sky, HubSpot and SEMrush amongst others.

With so many experts gathered in one room, there was a huge amount to take on board. And there was far too much to cover in full, I’ve picked out some key insights from just a few speakers on the day.

Jason Miller — Brand Ambassador for Bing Search Advertising

“Your creativity is what makes you stand out.”

Jason opened the day by lamenting the lack of creativity in search marketers. And he has a very valid point. Often, search marketers let search data dictate where we focus our attention and budgets. But, as he continually stressed, when every brand is working on SEO, producing content and running ad campaigns “your creativity is what separates you from everyone else.”

He gave a number of examples of brands getting creative with search and adopting a ‘brains over budget’ approach. These included clever campaigns from Ikea, Snickers and a collection of campaigns by Ann Summers. The thing all of these campaigns had in common was that they tapped into search data (but were not led by it) and used it in creative ways to deliver more effective campaigns.

For example, Kleenex delivered a significant increase in ROI by tracking regional search trends for searches related to cold and flu symptoms. The aim was to target their advertising as and when different regions began to experience outbreaks, identified by an increase in relevant searches. This clever use of search data allowed them to identify as and when demand was beginning to increase, and invest their budget when the time was right.

Callum McKeefery — Founder of reviews.io

“Double down on product reviews.”

Callum is the founder of Reviews.io, a Leicester based reviews platform that is one of only a handful of Google review partner organisations. This partnership with Google meant Callum was able to bring us some insights direct from Google HQ in Mountain View, California.

For brands selling products, Seller Ratings (star ratings based on customer reviews) are an incredibly strong trust and social proof signal. With Seller Rating stars being pulled into search ads and organic listings on search results pages, it’s vital you are achieving these in order to compete for the user’s click. Results with Seller Ratings see a 17% higher click-through rate so they can make a huge difference in highly competitive search environments.

Callum was able to reveal that Google is going to be pushing more strongly on reviews. Google will be making adjustments to the requirements in order to show Seller Ratings. This will make it more accessible to smaller retailers but will require reviews to be attained on a consistent basis.

He also took the chance to introduce a new reviews widget they’ve developed that allows retailers to quickly and easily identify which of their customers are most influential by connecting sales and review data with Instagram profiles. In an age of influencer marketing and social shopping platforms, this could be a highly valuable tool for retailers committing budget to these activities.

Gareth Bakewell — Sky AdSmart

“Affordable TV advertising targeting households not TV shows.”

Have you ever considered that the adverts you see during an ad break may not be the same ones your next-door neighbour is seeing? Well, if you both have Sky TV, Virgin, or YouView then that is highly likely to be the case.

AdSmart is Sky’s revolutionary advertising platform that allows businesses to run TV advertising campaigns at a fraction of the cost of traditional TV advertising. With an entry point of just £3,000 (media budget, not including ad production) SME’s can now compete with traditional big-budget advertisers to have their ads shown during some of the most-watched shows on the most-watched channels available in the UK.

As opposed to traditional TV advertising where you booked slots during specific programmes, AdSmart allows a business to target household profiles based on Sky’s own data and third-party data providers such as Experian. By targeting household profiles, SME’s can ensure their advertising is reaching the right type of viewer, therefore increasing the effectiveness.

Sky is also committing a huge budget to help businesses develop their ads. From financial support to connecting businesses with production companies, Sky is pushing hard to eliminate potential entry barriers to this marketing platform.

Maddy Potts — Head Of Digital Content at the University Of Nottingham

Content isn’t king, authenticity is.

Maddy was the final speaker of the day and pulled no punches in tearing down some common content marketing mantras. The idea of “inspire, entertain and inform” is meaningless for most brands. No one reads your blog for inspiration. You aren’t as entertaining as Netflix. And if people want to be informed about your brand or company, they’re likely to seek out an independent source that isn’t going to be as biased as you are.

So where does that leave us when we’re looking for inspiration? Well if we’re trying to develop content that our audience will appreciate, the only place we need to go for ideas is to our audience.

By speaking to, engaging with and understanding our audience, we can develop empathy towards them. We learn to understand their issues, their problems, their difficulties and their needs. By taking an empathetic view of our audience we can understand what would be useful to them, and also resonate with them too.

But people are savvy to marketers these days and can see straight through a cynical advertising campaign trying to hop on a bandwagon. Remember the backlash Pepsi received for their ad with Kylie Jenner? Ouch.

Empathy is not enough by itself. You need to be authentic too. And you can only be authentic with your audience if you interact with them and listen carefully to their needs.

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