Knowledge Drop Recap of 2018 Midwest Digital Marketing Conference

The 2018 Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC) was full of “gold nuggets and knowledge bombs left and right,” according to Stephanie Liu, one of the entrepreneurs in attendance:

“All of the speakers today are crushing it! I’m sitting there, tweeting on my phone, my battery is practically dead at this point […] it’s absolutely great!” (2:30)

The largest number of entrepreneurs, digital marketers and business go-getters from all across the U.S. to ever gather at MDMC, there was no shortage of excitement. EQ and Vidzu Media tapped into the energy of the event and spoke with entrepreneurs like Liu about their work, their thoughts on the conference and some of their greatest tips and takeaways for fellow business owners. Read on for the highlights.

You Are Your Own Media

Speakers were pushing a powerful message at the conference: self-empowerment. President of YE Publishing Group Sylvester Chisom pointed out that every business, no matter the industry, has the tools and opportunity to generate content.

“To take the stress off, instead of just creating something for the sake of creating, think of it from the standpoint of wanting to document the experiences—show people what’s under the hood,” (2:31) Ye said.

“We are all creators,” said Chris Strub, an entrepreneur made famous by his trip to 50 states in 100 days spent using live-streaming and Snapchat to tell the stories of youth-related nonprofits across the U.S.: “We are all famous to a few people. When you understand that you have this group that wants to hear from you, you can really take what you learn from MDMC.” (4:43)

Strub used his talk to encourage smaller and growing businesses to recognize how digital tools can help level the playing field when it comes to competing with larger, more established, companies: “The best content is what is going to surface to that top level. You no longer have to be associated with a top brand or have call letters behind your name. It really comes down to the value of your message.” (5:08)

But creating maximum value for your brand with digital marketing is not as easy as downloading Instagram and posting the content most handy. As Strub points out, “The tools that we have are getting easier and easier to use, but the power of creating a story, and the power of having a story that cuts through all of the noise is becoming more and more difficult.”

Startups and businesses need to think big—50 states in 100 days big—to effectively reach the audiences that want to hear from them. As Gina Steffens, digital strategist from Save-A-Lot brazenly puts it, “If you aren’t creating badass content, why are you here?”

Press That Damn Button!

Working in the nonprofit sector allows Strub to help businesses that might feel like they are behind the curve and stifled by uncertainty over the rapidly evolving digital landscape. His message to the business owners insecure about delving into digital market? “Press the damn button! We want to encourage you to get out there and create.” (4:24)

Dre Baldwin’s advice for business owners falls along the same lines. A former professional basketball player, Baldwin’s business, Work on Your Game, seeks to inspire business owners using three main principles of sportsmanship: Discipline, Confidence, and Mental Toughness. It takes a strong commitment to these principles to perform at the times when you are under pressure but still need to deliver.

“When those lights come on and that red lights starts blinking, and somebody calls on you, you’ve got to perform right there in that moment. That’s what all that work is for. 99 pieces of work for one opportunity, and if you don’t perform in that one opportunity, you might have to do 99 more pieces of work.” (4:35)

To optimize the impact of the stories they have to share, businesses need to be prepared to strike the iron while it’s hot and be bold in making the most of new and upcoming digital tools.

“I do hear some fear in people’s voices,” said Erika Weber, Digital Strategist from Nestle-Purina, who acknowledged the challenges that traditional-minded business might face in making the dramatic switch to digital. “But what’s great is that they’re here and taking first steps.” (6:39)

Interviewees agreed with Weber that MDMC is a conference that not only delivers important information about the changing landscape of Digital Marketing, but also helps entrepreneurs gain the confidence they need to grab hold of the advantages of joining digital spaces.

Cutting Across Industry boundaries

Attending entrepreneurs love the exposure that MDMC gives them to new ideas, trends and people. Cami Thomas, a storyteller, creator, and producer at For The Culture TV, an underground blog site and content channel, found that the best way to approach MDMC was with an open mind. She encouraged business owners to attend talks they might not immediately think pertain to them.

“You never know what you can learn from someone in a different industry […] I heard stories today about people connecting with different opinion leaders in the community and connecting with athletes, even if what they did was charity in a different way. Partner with people who are very different but have similar stories, and you’ll find you can connect with them through a shared story. That way, you widen your audience and can build a well-rounded community.” (3:54)

Recently awarded the honor of being named president of the new organization, Women in Digital St. Louis, Steffens similarly told EQ about the value of having a diverse group of professionals in your network who you can call on in times of need: “We do a lot of asks and gives, every ask you do a give. It’s a give and take community and its great to be involved in it.”(6:00)

MDMC provided the space, the network and the resources to get business owners thinking about how to deliver their stories to the people who don’t know they are looking for them yet.

Now, it’s time to turn strategy into reality.

Interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Time stamps are in brackets.

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