Throughout Authority Intensive, I shared some of the wisdom being shared by speakers and Copyblogger staff on Twitter, and received quite a few requests (and a threat) from friends to share my notes and what I learned at the event.
When I sat down to write my event recap post, it became quite clear that this event would need more than one post to do it justice.
Yesterday I published the first post about the event, pointing out the brilliant strategy behind the meals and parties that kept all of the attendees together, creating more networking opportunities, more new conversations, more connections being made, and more business being done.
Today I’m sharing the wisdom (and there is a lot) served up from the panels and keynote speakers throughout the event and tomorrow I’ll be name dropping like crazy and introducing you to some of the awesome people I met and hung out with.
Authority Intensive Talks Empathy
The Authority Intensive sold out three months in advance. For a professional live event, in times when filling a room is excruciatingly difficult, selling out that far in advance is truly impressive. But Copyblogger has always focused on community and cultivating relationships, and on useful, high-quality content above all else — so I wasn’t surprised.
During the event, I was asked to provide a quick video testimonial. I wasn’t prepared and didn’t have to think about what I wanted to say or how to say it eloquently, so I shot from the hip and I shared that while I’m sure the quality of content is being appreciated by all, the most amazing part of this event is by far the attendees themselves.
Authority Intensive Talks Empathy
The speaker lineup was quite diverse and while each person brought a unique background, perspective, and experience to the stage, there was a common thread connecting all of them and their content — empathy.
First let’s look at some definitions of the word Empathy:
- The power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.
- The intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
- Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person’s situation, feelings, and motives.
Throughout the Authority Intensive, speakers drove home the idea that it is no longer good enough to just create content — to churn it out like robots or drones for the mere sake of creating content. By simply following formulas, checking off boxes, and doing what is expected, you will not become an authority, but instead fall into obscurity.
In fact Ann Handley shared with us that their research shows 93% of B2B marketers are creating content (90% B2C), yet only 42% of marketers say their content is effective. This means a lot of businesses and marketers are enormous amounts of content, but very little of it is making a difference. Lee Odden shared that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years — and when you combine that with Ann’s stats, the results seem a little scary and disappointing.
In the first keynote of the conference, Seth Godin shared that “creating authority is about talking to people in a way that inspires them to share.” To do that you must show empathy. You must connect with your audience, you must understand them, you must relate to them, you must touch their emotions, you must inspire action and change, and above all else, you must help them.
Gone are the days of churning out a boring, banal, been done a million times, regurgitated blog post. Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools pointed out that quality of content is no longer good enough. Content now must be epic — and epic content is repurposeable content.
Darren Rowse stated that the maximum impact of a blog happens when readers are changed in some way. And Chris Garrett said it perfectly: “Old school authority means people listen because they HAVE to. New school authority means people listen because people WANT to.”
If you are just now having the realization that your marketing must be more meaningful — that it must matter, don’t freak out. Jason Miller took the pressure off by urging us to “hit one home run per quarter.” You don’t have to hit a home run every time, you just need to keep hitting base hit, after base hit, after base hit — because even those guys make it to the hall of fame too.
Design, Content, Traffic, Conversion
Copyblogger split the two-day Authority Intensive into four sections: design, content, traffic, and conversion. The focus on these four topics and in this order is what we at Bourn Creative have been teaching our clients for years.
I am thrilled to see the respect for design come back to the business world, and even more so to hear people stand on a stage and teach others that design matters — that design affects perceptions, sales, conversion, how long people stay on your site or in your store, whether they read your content or pick up your product from the shelf.
I am happy to see that the relationships between design and content is being discussed, and that business owners and marketers are finally beginning to understand that content and design go hand-in-hand. (Now, as a designer, I do think that content often should come BEFORE design, and that the content should drive the design — but that is a whole different blog post!)
The success of your design and content relies on traffic to your website or traffic walking in the door. When you have large amounts of traffic reaching a site with purposeful design, and meaningful content that matters, you then can focus on conversions and sales — and testing.
- You can have the best content, but if the design is terrible, people won’t read it.
- You can have an amazing site design, but if the content is terrible or poorly written, it won’t convert visitors into buyers.
- It doesn’t matter how great your design and content is if no one comes to your website.
- And, without lots of traffic to a great site where the design and content working together, you won’t have any conversions.
Authority Intensive Delivered Accessibility
The speakers at Authority were accessible — and not just after their talk, but throughout the event. And they were nice.
In the hallways, at breakfast, at lunch, at the parties, and in the audience, the speakers were present and accessible — and on multiple occasions they were taking notes right alongside the rest of us:
- I spoke with Darren Rowse and connected again with Chris Garrett, whose book Problogger was one of the very first I read when I considered starting something called a blog for Bourn Creative back in the day.
- I finally got to meet Bill Erickson in person and chat with him — as a fellow Genesis recommended developer, I’ve known of Bill for a while but hadn’t had the opportunity to meet him until this event!
- I chatted with Dennis Goedegebuure and spent time with Tom Martin, Beth Hayden, and Pamela Wilson.
- Justin Premick and I chatted over lunch and I was thrilled to see John Jantsch again in person!
- I briefly met Seth Godin, Lee Odden, John Henshaw, and Ann Handley.
- And I met pretty much everyone from the Copyblogger team, which after being connected online and through Twitter for so long, was quite amazing all on it’s own.
- Plus, I had the opportunity to connect with Brian Gardner and Tony Clark about some new things in the works!
Let’s Get To The Wisdom
Clearly, we’re Copyblogger fans.
We have been thrilled with our 2011 decision to go all in with the Genesis Framework for our site development and are proud to be a Genesis recommended developer — and after this event, I am more proud to be a part of a community that is more like a big family.
But enough of this big love-fest! I know you really want the nuggets of wisdom shared by the speakers. I know you want the best of the best — the quotables, if you will — so you can benefit from the awesome content shared too.
So, here are my notes and key points from the Authority Intensive. Enjoy!
- Freelancers get paid when they work. Entrepreneurs are people who build a business bigger than themselves. To become an entrepreneur you must stop doing anything you can hire someone else to do.
- Busy is not the same as brave.
- When fear shows up, understand that it goes never goes away. Dance with it instead.
- The question is not whether you will be successful, but whether you will matter. Are you going for votes or are you seeking to matter?
- Smart people are going to not like what you do if you are doing something important.
- No one ever gets talkers block.
- We have seen 15 years of marketing shortcuts on the internet and none of them have worked. If you’re not willing to put in the work, don’t bother.
- The problem with a race to the bottom is that you might win. Commoditized offerings are a race to the bottom. Charge more by being the only one in your category. Define it.
- If you make something unique and can connect tribe members who like it, you will create something irreplaceable.
- Don’t become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.
- You gain authority by building relationships, not tricking people into buying. Don’t ask, “How can I get more clicks?” Instead ask, “How can I earn more trust?”
- Work to be missed when you’re gone.
- Know the resistance in the back of your head — if it doesn’t warn you of danger, you’re not doing the right things or not pushing yourself far enough.
- Innovation is often the act of taking what worked over there and using it over here.
- There are no YouTube videos of people safely riding their bicycles. We notice the epic failures.
- The bigger your audience gets, the more opportunities you have to blow it by being careless. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. The room (online) is bigger than you think.
- If you do it, do it intentionally.
- Your authority is always derived from the audience. If you’ve outgrown your audience, quit trying to make them happy. If you want a different audience be a different leader.
- The difference between a lone nut and a leader is one follower.
- Never let someone dumber than you talk you out of your big idea. You’ll never be able to do something remarkable until you’re willing to suck badly for longer than you’d like.
- It’s your game, your rules — what are the rules for success in your game?
- Take the time to identify what matters to your business. If you can identity it, you can start working on it.
- Get away from the crap you believe based on stories that don’t serve you. If you have a belief that doesn’t serve you, have the courage to let it go.
- Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
- You must illuminate the path your audience will follow. Teach them. Show the transformation. Model it.
- Laziness is often resistance or fear.
- Be selfish with gossip. Listen but know 97% is made up. Don’t pass it on.
- People need to know what they’re looking for. They need to follow a scent and get an idea they’re on the right path.
- Your funnel is the story. Your content is the mentor. The customer is the hero!
- If you give people a sense of progress, people will follow you.
- Think about pre- and post-click experiences
- Urgency and Scarcity marketing tactics should only be used if it is authentic and real. Don’t fake it and risk losing credibility and trust.
- Commitment and consistency are key to success.
- Understand: What I’ve got, What I will do for you, Who I am, What to do next.
- New social proof: share counters, testimonials, number of people on your list, customer counter.
- There are 10 billion internet connected devices in 2014, with an estimated 50 billion in 2020.
- Empathy is the most important thing you can have as a writer.
- Consumers discover through social and validate through search.
- How do you want to be known? Decide and go for it. Make every action count.
- What questions need to be answered to get people to make the decision to buy from you?
- Sales Cycle: awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, retention, advocacy.
- Discover where your ideal clients hang out, find out how they consume their content, and learn what gets them to take action.
- Give people a simple way to not be a passive participant.
- Community is not “I will do something and you can all watch” — that is a movie.
- Outreach is about borrowing communities.
- Relationships always start out cold, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t secretly lukewarm.
- Always focus on empathy and experiences, relevance and inspiration, and usefulness.
- What would your marketing/content look like if your customer signed your paycheck?
- Think of a content ecosystem, not a campaign. Everything belongs in the overall context.
- Authenticity is a squishy word in marketing. Everyone wants to be authentic, but what does that mean?
- The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.
- Your content must be an experience, not a one-way narrative.
- Content marketing means you OWN the media! You GET TO talk directly to people, not beg for their attention.
- Great content = useful x empathy x inspired. If any of these elements are 0, the equation works out to 0.
- Writing a book is like birthing a Volkswagon. You’re really sweaty and unattractive the whole time you’re doing it.
- If you write content, they will not come. If you create a traffic machine they will come.
- Brands have an identity and it isn’t something you can half-ass. Generic WordPress themes do not communicate brand.
- Brands include their authors, especially with Google Authorship. The quality of content news to match your brand.
- Make reading an experience. The layout of content determines how long people stay on your site and how many times they come back.
- Site navigation helps emphasize the focus of the website to both readers and search engines.
- Make content easy to share — unless you don’t want it shared.
- Speed up your site for a better user experience. If it doesn’t load fast, people will move on.
- Comment on other people’s posts and reply to all comments on your posts to build up your sharing equity.
Brian gave us a sneak peek behind his personal site redesign and simplification. He shared that he felt he needed to be authentic to himself and the journey he is going through personally — and that his site needed to reflect that.
He shared that in design, you need to ask yourself three things:
- Where are you going and what are you bringing with you? (research your destination (niche) and know your tools (gear))
- Who are you going to take with you? (who you need — copywriter, designer, developer, coach, audience)
- Why are you doing it and how is it going (your story, meaning, truth)
He also shared:
- Don’t over do or do because you should — do because it is a must. Make sure everything has a purpose.
- Responsive design, colors, fonts, spacing, margins — everything matters.
- Don’t fall into the trap of doing what’s expected, do what’s best for you.
- Design is not equally important at all stages of your business.
- “Life is lived on levels and arrived at in stages.” — Edwin Louis Cole
- Stage 1: Minimum viable design — 2 colors, 1 accent color, 2 fonts, a wordmark logo.
- Stage 2: Business is growing up. Develop brand standards, tagline, story, and message.
- Stage 3: Build design into the DNA of your business. Apply high design standards to everything. Put 1 person in charge of brand management.
- Dark side of design: Busy with distraction. You can lose precious and valuable time moving your business forward, when you spend it tinkering with design — and in reality nothing is getting done.
- You can attack issues without attacking people.
- You can’t think about traffic before you figure out design and content.
- “I didn’t care what people said about me, so long as they got the url right.”
- Reputation is more important than short term sales.
- Trying to please everyone is a quick ticket to failure.
- Success is about doing what you already know, not looking for the secrets you don’t know.
- Get clarity about the change you want to see in your readers.
- Understand your reader profiles: needs, problems, desires, challenges, dreams, fears, goals, loves, hates, passions, language, habits.
- Lead with inspiration, serve with information.
- Become a prolific problem solver and build problem spotting into your workflow.
- Blogs grow when someone steps up to lead. People like to follow. Epic blogs are built on many consistent actions over long periods of time.
- “Don’t compete for the moment, compete for the meaning.” — Brian Solis
- Create something with soul that has lasting impact and takes readers on a journey.
- Awesomeness is the accumulation of the value you create over time.
- Two questions to ask your audience: 1) Why do you read my blog? 2) What’s your greatest challenge?
- Your blog is yours. It is not a democracy.
- The five qualities of great communication are clear, concise, compelling, honest, and sincere.
- AVA model for communication: Answer. Value. Anticipate. Answer questions with the truth. Reinforce their value to you and your value to them. Anticipate their next need/question and answer it now?
- When writing, ask someone who doesn’t know your subject to read your content. Ask them when they started skimming, then change/edit that part.
- Give credit to the people you learn from — don’t try to be your own guru.
- It’s your obligation to tell your audience what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
- How can you help someone grow if you don’t know what they want to grow into?
- Visual is the new headline. We are visual thinkers. Visuals aid in decision making. Visuals are more persuasive. Visuals provide a better and longer overall impression. Visuals connect with us emotionally.
- Don’t pick anything from the first five pages of stock photo sites when building a visual presentation.
- LinkedIn content pages get 7x more views than jobs pages.
- Slideshare is a platform for visual marketing. Keep it short and sweet. Keep it to 10-30 slides, about 19 images, and about 24 words per slide.
- Content is like turkey: slice it, dice it, serve it, and create lots out of it.
- Have a checklist for every piece of content you create — know what must be done with it.
- Recommended tools: Canva, Skitch, PicMonkey, Infogr.am, Easel.ly
- Resource to learn about using Pinterest for business: bit.ly/pinfortraffic
- The button is the point of decision.
- Why is there not more talk of buttons? There were no buttons in the days of the great copywriters! No button for David Ogilvy.
- Every conversion needs a button.
- If there is no click, there is either friction (experience: things in the way) or anxiety (emotion: fear of unknown).
- To reduce friction, make it high contrast and obvious. More contrast = better reaction = more action. Does your button blend in? Does it look disabled? Does it look unclickable? Your button must be prominent enough to be noticed. Consider using a color that is used nowhere else, except the button.
- Clicking a button is like opening a door. Anxiety occurs when someone has to open a door and they aren’t sure what is on the other side. You must make your users comfortable opening the door.
- Reduce anxiety also by making the action sound easy and simple. For example “Get My Quote” sounds like I have to do the work, whereas “Show Me My Quote” makes it seem like they are doing the work for me.
- SEO is the outcome of a great product experience. Not the objective.
- The key to a strong brand is sweating the details behind the user experience.
- Critique and review, and storyboarding are critical components of web product design.
- Context matters if you want to get found — Design and SEO working together.
- Short-term SEO tactics don’t work very long.
- Stop focusing on “SEO” and instead focus on people searching. What are they thinking and feeling? What is motivating them to take action?
- Clicks are not conversions.
- When you chase clicks and page views, you revert to sensational headlines and fluffy content.
- People say the difference between online and offline marketing is that online is measurable. We have measurement in advertising, too. It’s called sales.
Phew, That’s It!
There you have it! My notes and the best nuggets I took away from Copyblogger’s Authority Intensive 2014. I hope this post helped you feel — at least a little bit — like you were there too. And, I hope you get your tickets for next years event before they sell out!
What about you? Did you attend the event? What did you think? Did one of the nuggets of wisdom listed above speak to you or catch your attention? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!