After conferences, most marketers crank out a post about their “key takeaways” and “learnings.” We’re not going to do that.
Why? First of all, those posts are usually pretty boring. (You know it’s true.) But also, Moz was awesome enough to publicly upload all of the speaker decks, and Unbounce even took notes so you don’t even need me! You can read the content and form opinions of your own.
Instead, I want to talk about MozCon as one of Moz’s own marketing tools. Because that’s what it is, really. MozCon is a way for Moz to earn customers and build brand loyalty for their tools and services. That’s why any company puts on a conference. But it’s rare to find a conference that delivers amazing content and is also worthy of the content it shares.
Moz took their speakers’ advice seriously, and everywhere I looked MozCon was a living, breathing expression of great marketing. Here’s what I saw:
MozCon lesson #1: Give people what they need, not just what they want.
If you’ve been to lots of conferences, you’ll know that most are set up with a handful of keynotes and a wealth of smaller sessions and workshops to pick and choose from. Many of them also have tracks, so you can choose which area you want to focus on.
Those conferences are a lot like a build-your-own sandwich shop: If you know exactly what you want, that’s great, but you might never try anything new. If you’re somewhat uncertain about what you want and you try to wing it, you might end up with something that tastes less-than-delicious. There’s a lot of unknowns, which can give you serious FOMO if you’re not careful.
The truth is that although sometimes we know what we want, we might not know what we need (or what tastes the most delicious). The idea that people want a choice is a myth. We don’t want choice; we want what’s best suited for us.
So, instead of offering us a menu of ingredients, Moz offered us a 27-course, 3-day experience, curated specifically for expert search and digital marketers, and told us to trust them. And we’re really glad we did.
Also, it’s obvious that when Rand Fishkin and the other great Mozzers sat down to plan MozCon speakers, they didn’t ask, “Who will draw the biggest crowd? Which C-level exec can we get to give the keynote?”
Instead, I think they asked, “Who do we think our attendees need to hear? Whose ideas have we found most valuable?” Moz made the right decisions for their audience, not just for their bottom line. And in return, we got a curated experience from all sorts of disciplines, that gave us not just what we wanted to hear, but what we needed.
MozCon lesson #2: Embrace diversity.
When you’re looking through the speaker decks (as you definitely should), you’ll find that many of the speakers are not actually SEOs. MozCon 2015 speakers were social media strategists, project managers, account managers, designers and content strategists. It’s one of the few conferences where we could have brought our entire agency and each person would have gotten something from it.
But wait, isn’t MozCon a search marketing conference? Yes, technically, it is. But in the past few years, Moz and its communities have realized that no one discipline can succeed alone. For years, SEO was nearly synonymous with “gaming the system.” But when Google evolved and all the spammy tactics failed, [smart] search marketers realized that to be successful, you have to transcend the system and deliver what people need and want from your company.
And when you work in that space, delivering amazing content that serves your customers and is spot-on with your brand, you’re doing much more than just “search.” Your work now involves the whole company, the whole agency, the whole brand.
Aside from marketing disciplines, nearly HALF the MozCon speakers were women! That’s huge. As marketers, we’re often asked to think like people different from ourselves, so when we embrace diversity, we become better marketers, and (in my opinion), better humans.
— Loryn Thompson (@lorynwithaY) July 14, 2015
MozCon lesson #3: Think like the big guys.
One of the big themes at MozCon this year was “if you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else will” — taken directly from a little book handed to new Facebook employees. And I believe this is something that Moz has really taken to heart.
Despite being part of an industry that’s been proclaimed “dead” many times over in the past 3 years, Moz persevered and saw beyond Google, beyond the tactics, to a bigger and better future. And that mindset, the “disrupt yourself” mindset, is the only thing that’s allowed them to blow up everything they’ve known and evolve with Google and our own internet behavior.
Lots of industries and marketers could learn from this mindset, but I think social media marketers really need to hear this. Instead of trying to play within Facebook’s system, gaming the likes game (because we all know where that ended up), figure out what Facebook’s going to do next. Facebook is trying to disrupt itself — they don’t give two-point-five sh*ts whether or not they disrupt you in the process. The same goes for Instagram, Twitter, Reddit… all of it. If you’re playing in somebody else’s sandbox, you have to anticipate their next move and hopefully transcend them by staying true to your brand and your audience.
MozCon lesson #4: Don’t compromise on your brand promise.
One of the best talks, in my opinion, was Dana DiTomaso’s discussion of brand strategy. Her argument was one I’ve long championed: every single consumer touchpoint comes together to make your brand, so you can’t miss an opportunity to deliver on your brand promise.
MozCon was an excellent representation of the Moz brand. From the full espresso bar to the curated speakers, you can tell Moz put serious work into delivering the community-driven, quality, personal experience that they’ve become associated with.
Case in point: The Roger bobbleheads they gave each of their 1,500 attendees? Yeah, those ain’t plastic.
You can tell that at every decision point, the makers of MozCon asked themselves, “What would we want out of this experience?” In fact, I know they did. During MozCon, I tweeted about how much I appreciated the tea selection, and got this in response:
— Nick Sayers (@nlsayers) July 14, 2015
They got a TEA DRINKER to curate the tea?? What a revolutionary idea! It seems obvious, but we all know that most companies don’t go that far for their customers.
And then there’s the gender-neutral bathrooms, which got a lot of attention on Twitter. They explain it all on the sign, so I’m not going to belabor it, but it truly was a statement by Moz that said, “We know our community, and we’re going to serve them no matter what.”
— Erica McGillivray (@emcgillivray) July 11, 2015
MozCon lesson #5: Be active in your audience’s communities.
And finally, one of my favorite things about MozCon was that it was so obviously a community. When Cyrus introduced speakers, it was obvious he knew several of them personally. People were tweeting in support of upcoming speakers that they knew. Many speakers referenced other speakers in their presentations, and several of them stayed to tweet about the other presenters! It made the whole conference feel complete. And not only was it great to experience that community, but it says a lot about Moz as a company, too.
How often, as an agency or even a brand, do you get the opportunity to go and physically meet your clients and customers? Moz realized that they have a unique opportunity at MozCon to really hear from their customers, which is why they set up feedback booths, and why they encouraged Mozzers to go out and mingle with attendees. I had good conversations with several Moz staffers myself.
I said already that it felt like Moz created the conference they wanted to attend, and the reason this works so well is that Moz knows their community. They’ve created it, and so they know what their audience likes. If you don’t know your community, then you better work hard to go find it, build it, and participate in it.
So, now that you’ve read my blog, get out there and read some of the speaker decks! We’ve linked our favorites below (which was an incredibly hard list to curate, so just go read ’em all, okay?). Enjoy, and see you at MozCon 2016!
How to Make Your Marketing Match Your Reality, Dana DiTomaso – Great primer on brand strategy and why it’s so important.
The Time to do the Web Right is Incredibly Short, Wil Reynolds – Great reminder that knowing Google, Facebook, or whatever is not as important as knowing our customers.
How to do Content Strategy (Probably), Kristina Halvorson – Great frameworks and how-tos for content strategists, by the gal who literally wrote the book.
An SEO’s Guide to the Insane World of Content, Matt Brown – Challenges brands to create 10x content, not just “good content.” Complete with some killer examples.
Too Busy to Do Good Work, Marta Turek – Real talk about our work environment, why we never have enough time, and how to fix it.
The Perfect Pair: Using PPC Data to Influence SEO, Stephanie Wallace – Genius ways to meld SEO and PPC through testing, analysis and more.
Surviving Google: SEO in 2020, Pete Meyers – The name says it all. Don’t miss this.
Become a Mobile SEO Superhero, Cindy Krum – Teaches you how mobile SEO works, and how to do it right.
Dark Search and Social – Run Rabbit Run!, Marshall Simmons – If you’re not interested in this topic, you’re in the wrong industry.
Parole, Parole, Parole: Practical, Modern Keyword and Topical Research, Gianluca Fiorelli – Great tactics for improving your keyword research beyond Keyword Planner.
Onsite SEO in 2015: An Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Marketer, Rand Fishkin – No explanation needed. Read it.
Online Personalization that Actually Works, Cara Harshman – Inspiring case studies about and ideas for A/B testing personalized landing pages, emails and more.
Rocking Your CRO Efforts with Radical Redesigns, Chris Dayley – Though this is something many brands might be scared to do, Chris makes the topic approachable.