“The City of Brotherly Love.” “The Birthplace of America.” “The Place with the Weird Sports Mascots.” Auspicious nicknames are befitting of Philadelphia indeed, and in this fine city did an equally auspicious event recently take place: Hero Conf 2019. We had the pleasure of attending one of the online advertising industry’s largest conferences, at which thought-leaders from all over the world gather to share, challenge, and provoke the eager minds of the equally global attendees. Featured topics were wide ranging, from cutting edge theories on consumer behavior to optimal campaign setup for up-and-coming advertising platforms such as Quora, Reddit, and Amazon (if you can even call them up-and-coming anymore). As with previous years, the conference was spread over several days, with the bulk of the sessions taking place over a 2-day, inspiring, information-crammed, PPC marathon – and we are happy to share a summary of some of the event’s themes and takeaways for you here!
Day 1 Highlights
Even while armed with our carefully groomed schedule at an event like this, it’s hard to feel totally at peace with your chosen sessions; for each one you attend, you miss out on three others because they take place in the same time block (my kingdom for a clone)! However, the plus side is that healthy competition means every session is high quality, so off we went.
Topics we absorbed during breakout sessions on day 1 included: dissecting Facebook’s ad auction and delivery, getting online advertising and CRM software to play nice, the Reddit ads platform and how it’s one of PPC’s best-kept secrets, case studies and best-practices for campaign structures in Amazon Ads, and optimizing post-conversion user experience to improve the MQL to SQL ratio.
The closing keynote of the day came to us courtesy of JD Prater of Quora. A prominent PPC authority, speaker, blogger, and content contributor to many industry publications, JD was no stranger to the annual conference. His keynote, titled What Happens When Performance Marketing Isn’t Enough, was full of theory, exercises, and many case studies on the confounding topic of how consumers are influenced in their decision-making. JD issued a challenge to both performance-based marketers and the companies who hire them to take control of the marketing funnel and fight the temptation to fixate just on the “low-hanging fruit,” or those users who are nearest to conversion. The realization that businesses/marketers could isolate and analyze the lower funnel consumers was the best thing to happen to digital advertising years ago, until it became evident that totally abandoning the higher funnel under the assumption it will handle itself turned out to be a swing in the wrong direction. In other words, you might have a good month or two allocating all your marketing resources toward the bottom level of the funnel, but it will hamper the ability for the business to grow if/when the pool dries up.
Day 2 Highlights
I was never much of a breakfast burrito guy, but the breakfast served on day 2 might have converted me. Outstanding.
Fueled up, on we went to more sessions, topics including: lead generation strategies for the full marketing funnel, transitioning multi-channel reporting to omni-channel, leveraging chatbots for PPC, tools for competitive intel, and advanced LinkedIn Ads strategies.
The standout keynote for me from day 2 was less of a keynote and more of an interview, with a roundtable discussion between a group of marketing managers and CMOs of some large American companies. The discussion was centered around the concept of what businesses/brands look for in an agency partnership. This was a notable shift of gears, going from the perspective of people who have their noses buried in ad accounts all day, to hearing from the side of people on the receiving end of the reports and strategic recommendations, and how those things truly affect their ability to link all moving parts in their world together to be successful. Especially interesting was hearing their thoughts on the agency/client onboarding process, because these individuals had dealt with many different agencies of varying sizes in industries of wildly different scale; local and global, e-commerce and nonprofit. They repeatedly referenced the importance of the human element in the relationship, from things like understanding the cadence at which they wish to communicate, to the level of trust in evaluating data-based recommendations because statistics can be selectively presented to push an agenda. It may at times feel that our world of evolving AI and automated tools elbows aside the human element, but we should never forget the importance it plays or diminish the attention we put into the relationship.
If I were to grasp for an overarching theme between these wildly varying sessions, one idea that kept coming up in my notes is that sophistication doesn’t help if you don’t master the basics. Which is not a new idea; it’s true in sports, it’s true in marketing, it’s true in just about everything.
And speaking of mastering the basics, I obviously digested all this after the conference’s conclusion along with the culinary icon of the region: a cheesesteak from Sonny’s downtown.
Shout out to Hanapin Marketing for another top-notch conference, and we look forward to its return to Austin for Hero Conf 2020!