Content Jam 2015 Recap: 60-Second Takeaways to ‘Level Up’ Your Content Marketing

Content Jam 2015 marketing conference Chicago

I’m still cleaning up the mess after having my mind blown at Content Jam last month. But it’s a good mess. Besides expanding my thinking and learning some new tricks and strategies, I’ve already taken some action to step up my content marketing game. A couple of my clients have benefited from the tips I picked up, too.

Plus, I met some super-cool people. (That’s what happens when you come out of the cave and meet with other smart, creative people in real life.)

If you couldn’t make it to Chicago, you missed out BIG TIME.

Never fear! After the conference, I reached out to each of the rockstar speakers and asked them to boil down their presentations into bite-sized takeaways for anyone who couldn’t make it.

Here’s what they shared with me:

If you had 60 seconds or less, what’s the #1 takeaway from your presentation you’d share with anyone who couldn’t make it to Content Jam?

Tim Ash, about “Context and the Power of Framing – Biasing Your Offer with Irrational Neuromarketing”

The brain is the real ‘operating system’ for marketing. Understanding the evolution of it, as well as the strong and often irrational built-in biases will help online marketers a lot more than focusing on the latest technologies.

Tim Ash Neuromarketing

Note: All the “graphic recordings” in this post were created by Alphachimp.

You can see Tim’s full presentation on Orbit Media Studio’s YouTube channel here. As a bonus, I heckled Tim from the audience right around the 10:00 mark. To get the context, start paying attention at 9:22. Yep, that interruption is me.

Tim handled it like a pro. Threats of physical violence were made, but we were able to reconcile after the session.

Angie Schottmuller on “Holy Grail of On-Page Content Optimization”

“You can’t optimize what you don’t measure.” Jumping into content updates without data-driven insights is time consuming and foolish. The “holy grail” event tracking approach replaces guesswork with strategic wisdom for content optimization that confidently drives measurable results.

Angie Schottmuller conversion optimization

Check out Angie’s slides on Slideshare and watch the presentation in its entirety here.

Nancy Goldstein, about her presentation “The Creative Brief: The Secret Ingredient That Will Make All Your Content More Powerful and Effective”

Creative briefs are critical. You have to make absolutely sure that everyone who has accountability for content – strategy, implementation, or approvals – is in agreement about how the execution is going to deliver on the strategy. The only way to do that is to get it on paper and have a conversation about it. If you skip this step, you risk going through round after round after round of creative approvals, debates, and frustrations.

You can find the slides from Nancy’s presentation on her Slideshare page.

Amy Schmittauer on “How to Develop and Execute an Effective YouTube Strategy”

Do not waste any time. When your perfect viewer stumbles upon your content because they wanted to discover more about a topic you’re covering, the worst thing you can do it make them wait for you to get to the point. The more time at the beginning of a video with extra stuff YOU think is is important are precious moments wasted that you could be proving to your viewer that you are the resource they need to stay subscribed to for the long-term.

Amy Schmittauer YouTube Strategy Savvy Sexy Social

Watch Amy’s presentation in full on here.

Mana Ionescu speaking about her “Guide to Results-Driven Email Marketing and Automation”

Stop worrying about making emails pretty and start thinking of how to make them quick to read and easy to click on mobile devices. Shorten paragraphs (have an average of one link per 8-12 words), increase font size and increase size of links and calls to action so it’s easy to tap them with your fingertip.

You can check out the slides from Mana’s presentation on Lightspan Digital’s Slideshare page.

Jeannie Walters on how to “Become Your Company’s Customer Experience Investigator™”

Understand your customer’s entire journey to improve how your content is relevant to them. Think about your customer on his or her worst day, struggling with whatever product or service you offer, and understand your brand is not what they think about 24/7. Make sure your content strategy supports their true goals. It’s not just about who they are, it’s about where they are in their journey with your brand.

Check out this video of Jeannie talking about customer experience


Andy Crestodina, speaking about “Fortune and Glory: How to Make Friends, Rank High and Get Famous”

Social media isn’t just about sharing links and hoping for clicks. It’s not about counting likes and favorites. These things are nice, but they don’t help your marketing very much at all. Maybe you’ve noticed.

Yes, social media CAN drive traffic, but the quality of that traffic tends to be low. So the DIRECT benefits of social media are often very small.

So try this: focus on the INDIRECT benefits of social media. If you use it to build relationships, the value of those relationships are often huge.

  • Use social media search tools to find very specific content creators in your niche
  • Follow them, read what they write, get to know them
  • Interact with them within their content, in comments and through sharing
  • Connect with them on multiple social networks, keep interacting
  • Offer to COLLABORATE with them, pulling their voice into your content
  • Take the conversation offline, coffee, phone calls, handwritten thank you notes, etc.

What happens next is often magical. If you great something high value and email it to them, or if you create something together that is truly original, they’re extremely likely to share it, or better yet, mention it (and link to it) from something they’re writing.

When this happens, you just got a search optimization benefit from social media. And it’s durable, increasing the likelihood that you’re content will rank forever after.

That’s an example of how social media affects SEO. It’s an indirect benefit, but very very powerful…

Andy Crestodina Influencer Marketing

The recording of Andy’s keynote presentation can be found here.  Side note: Andy’s presentation is what inspired me to write this post. Thanks Andy!

He also did a second presentation called “Applied Analytics: Insights and Actions from 12 Reports.” Click the title to watch the video.

Jill Pollack, on “Feeding the Beast: How to Keep Your Content Flowing, on Point and Endlessly Entertaining”

Focus on the details when telling a story.

There’s nothing worse than having to listen to generalities and jargon about the state of Internet marketing across the global platform and the influx of impactful and non-impactful content that reaches multiple demographics including those in the 24-35 age range when searches are conducted with an unmet expected outcome.


How about saying: “There’s nothing worse than searching for history of Thanksgiving and winding up with ads and fake listicles about pilgrims and Black Friday sales.”

(Also, “impactful” is not really a word!)

Jill Pollack Storytelling Content Marketing

You can watch Jill’s fantastic talk here.

Susan Silver, from her presentation “Great Content Starts Here: Positioning is More Than a Statement”

Before you write a single word of content, you need to take the time to stop and think hard about your company or product’s very specific value proposition. You need to be able to succinctly and clearly answer five questions in layman’s terms:
1. Who is your primary target
2. What is the unmet need your target has that you fill
3. What is your competitive set
4. What is your unique point of difference
5. What are three real, no BS reasons that your point of difference is believable

Make sure to check out Susan’s presentation slides on Slideshare here.

Keidra Chaney’s advice on “How to Start (and maintain!) a Blog That Doesn’t Stink”

Be thoughtful and intentional when it comes to thinking about your blog. Think more about providing meaningful conversation, cutting through the clutter of content that’s already out there, by providing a perspective that you can give.

Keidra Chaney blog writing tips

James Ellis speaking about his “13 Non-Obvious Content Promotion Tricks”

Content that you promote is wasted content, so you need to build systems that force you to promote your content. They don’t have to cost you a thing, but if you treat promotion as a “oh yeah, I guess I have to” add-on to content instead of an integral process, no one will ever hear your message.

You can see the slides from James’ talk on his Slideshare page.

Joel Harvey doing his best to encapsulate “Mobile Optimization Essentials: Tips for Increasing Mobile Conversion Rates” in 60 seconds

“You should never just make changes to your site without testing them. If you can’t or won’t A/B test the changes, at least make sure you have a rigorous, data-centric methodology for doing a pre-post analysis to assess the impact of any changes you make. Beyond that, I would encourage everyone to think deeply about what kind of goals they should optimize their mobile site for. What are the questions that people at the top of the decision making funnel will be asking? Identify those questions and make sure your mobile site answers them quickly and clearly.”


Joel Harvey Mobile Optimization

Watch Joel’s whole presentation on Orbit’s YouTube channel here.

My Content Jam Regrets

  1. I wish I had taken more pictures!
  2. It would have been great to have a clone so I could have attended all the breakout sessions. Choosing whose presentation to attend and whose to miss was BRUTAL. (Thank God for these 60-second recaps!)
  3. Not writing this round-up article sooner.
  4. Not being more purposeful in connecting with the other brilliant attendees.

Content Jam Andy Crestodina Orbit Media

Content Jam 2015 was incredible. I took 17 pages of notes, filled with great ideas and insights that will benefit my business in a major way. If you didn’t make it, I hope this post gives you a little taste of what you missed.

I also hope you’ll start following the speakers who’s advice you read above. Each of them will help you sharpen your content marketing “axe” to make you more effective at your craft.

Oh, and I hope to you see you Content Jam 2016!


Workshop: How to Create Irresistible Offers


Who is the most persuasive person in the world?

I bet it’s not who you think it is. In fact, it may be the last person you’d consider.

And I’ll be happy to tell you…if you attend Blue Top Marketing‘s workshop tomorrow (Saturday, June 7th) in South Holland, IL.

We’ll be talking about how to create irresistible offers. This will be my most in-depth treatment of this topic to date. We’ll talk about persuasive techniques as ancient as the human race, cutting-edge discoveries in neuroscience and the secrets behind blockbuster Hollywood movies.

Get the details on Blue Top Marketing’s registration page.

Here are a few of the specific topics we’ll cover in this 2-hour long session:

  • a method proven to “transform insignificant objects into significant ones,” so much so that people happily pay as much as 132.5 TIMES their original value. Your “significant” products and services can skyrocket in perceived value in exactly the same way.
  • why the truth isn’t good enough and how you can fix that — without the slightest bit of deception
  • what kind of marketing messages are magnetically repulsive
  • how one sentence changed the entire TV home shopping industry, breaking sales records left and right — and how you come up with a similar sentence to revolutionize your customers’ perception of your business
  • 3 biological reasons the human mind rejects most perceived attempts at persuasion and
  • how to flip the mind’s resistance using its own force.

I’ll take a look at your marketing materials and make suggestions on how to make your offers irresistible. You’ll leave the presentation with specific advice you can put into practice the same day.

Not sold yet? Let’s sweeten the deal a little bit.

All attendees will get

  • a DVD of all 3 of the Marketing Strategy Implementation sessions courtesy of Boss Lady at Blue Top, Stephanie Walters,
  • a free copy of my book Stealth Selling: Non-Pushy Persuasion for Professionals
  • a second round of sales copy critiques any time in the next 90 days. I normally charge $200 for critiques, but attendees will get a freebie.

When an offer is strong, saying “yes” is easier than walking away. During this workshop, we’ll help make that a reality in your business. Register now

P.S. Sorry for the last minute reminder.


Worst of Signs, Pt. 3

Same Day Appointment Sign - Calumet City

I took a picture of the sign above at a dentist’s office in my Calumet City neighborhood. (That’s in Chicago’s south suburbs, if you’re curious.) What’s wrong with this sign? On the surface, nothing. But think about the wording “Same Day Appointments” for a moment. Is this dentist so efficient that he can guarantee to look at your teeth the same day that you call? Or is business so slow that there are always open slots in the schedule?

(To be fair, I’ve never visited this office, so I can only speculate about any specifics about the business and it’s success.)
Speaking of slots, The next sign is a doozy.
Slots Sign - Calumet City
This photo is from a bar, also in my neighborhood.

The bar changed the sign after about a week. Must not have worked as well as they thought…

Either that or the slots really do pay out too much and they started losing more money than they made in drinks…

In which case the lead generation method really was brilliant. The lifetime customer value was just too low or the owners were too short-sighted.

Like the dentist’s office, I’ve never been inside this bar, so I’m speculating again.

A few people told me I took the whole thing too seriously; the sign is probably just a joke. And maybe they’re right. (I could just walk down to the bar and ask the owner.)

But even so, marketers have to be careful; if customers feel misled, they’re not going to be happy.

That’s one of the reasons humor is risky in marketing.

What do you think?

Don’t miss these related posts (with pictures from my neighborhood!):

It Was the Best of Signs, It Was the Worst of Signs

Worst of Signs, Pt.2

Small Restaurant, Big Lesson

Pork Chops and Big Promises


Marketing Lessons from a Snowstorm

We had our first real snowstorm in the Chicagoland area yesterday.

While I was outside removing snow from the sidewalk and driveway this morning, I felt a little pride. Shoveling is not my favorite activity, but I think I did a pretty good job. I took care of it early so that the kids waiting on school buses wouldn’t have snow invading their shoes, making their Monday morning socks cold and wet. (Mondays are tough enough on school kids anyway, right?) The walkways are well-cleaned and salted to prevent slippery ice patches.

Yeah, I did a pretty good job. I don’t like to brag, but I might even be the best on the block.

Despite the high quality of my work historically, no one’s walked up to me and offered to pay me to shovel the sidewalk in front of his house. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen, either.

The same is true for your business. No matter how great what you offer is, having a customer randomly approach you with cash in hand is not very likely. Your product or service may even be the “best on the block.

This is why marketing is so important. You have to tell people who you are, what you do and how choosing you will improve their lives. They need to know why they should do business with you.

A few other thoughts popped into my freezing cranium while I was taking care of my winter duties this morning:

  1. There’s never a shortage of people willing to pay to avoid pain. I can’t think of any surer way to position yourself to win in the marketing game. I mean, who likes to have people ringing their door bells early in the morning? But when he’s offering to relieve you of the necessity to face frostbitten toes, he’s a pretty welcome sight. Think of ways to solve problems or erase pain for your prospects, and you’re well on your way to success.
  2. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to be the only person who does what you do, either. How many industrious individuals are out there making money cleaning up snow for other people? Quite a few. There’s plenty of action to go around. Don’t let the fact that you’re not one of the “big dogs” stop you. Davids beat Goliaths every day. Even if they don’t wipe them out completely, lots of them get big enough pieces of the pie to make it worth their while. Never let competition scare you off from chasing your aspirations. Find a chink in their armor, and go for it.
  3. Finding a “hot” market is the best way to go. A snowstorm like this one produces all the ingredients of a hot market. There’s a large group of people facing an ugly problem. Almost no one wants to deal with this problem (who doesn’t hate shoveling snow or scraping ice?), but it has to be resolved. The few people willing and equipped to take on the task have an immense potential to profit. Do you provide an solution to a pain, problem or fear that your core audience feels acutely? Are there enough people in that group for you to generate the kind of revenue you are looking to earn? If so, you have a very solid foundation.

December is a funny time of year. Depending on your seasonality, this could be the busiest time of year or your slowest. But no matter what, targeted marketing gives you opportunities to gain ground as a business, even if it’s just planting seeds that will begin sprouting a few months down the line. Keep at it.


Shop Calumet City: The Coupon Book Quandary

Supporting our neighboring communities is a great idea. It’s just not the stated purpose of the Shop Calumet City program or this coupon booklet.

Says the Alderman Jones in the booklet,

When you shop and support local businesses in Calumet City, there will be more dollars available for local school districts, more money to improve our roads and streets and more funding will be available for our parks and libraries.

If we’re trying to encourage shopping in Calumet City stores, why is one of the twelve coupons in the booklet belong to a store based in Midlothian? Doesn’t that encourage people to spend money in a suburb other than Cal City?

Cal City - Midlothian Coupon

Coupons are marketing devices. They can be a great way to generate interest in what a business has to offer and drive traffic to their locations.

Or they can go end up hidden at the bottom of kitchen drawers until spring cleaning time.

I applaud the 12 businesses that have coupons in this book for having the guts to take action to improve their business and participate building up the local economy. But to be frank, the decision-makers in these businesses should demand more from their marketing efforts.

Here are a few points worth noting about this coupon book:

  1. Again, 8.3% of the coupons direct shoppers to spend money outside of Calumet City
  2. Of the 12 coupons, eight of them are worth about $2. For example, a free McDouble with purchase of medium fry at McDonald’s or $2 off of a $20 dry cleaning order. In  most cases, any resulting sale will probably be profitable, but how many sales will result from the distribution of these coupons?
  3. One of the more seemingly valuable coupons is $5 of free gasoline. That’s pretty hard to resist. BUT how much does it help the gas station? With the less-than-razor-thin profit margins on fuel, it’s practically impossible to recoup the value of the coupon on a gas-only purchase.
    • What makes it even worse is that there’s almost no chance the customer who redeems the coupon will suddenly start buying their gas at that particular station. People buy gas a) at convenient locations or b) where it’s the cheapest. The coupon basically gives away gasoline for nothing in return (unless the driver buys snacks while getting their free fuel); it will not change buying behavior.
  4. For long-term economic impact, these coupons should include some way of building relationships with customers. The businesses should get these people’s contact information and follow up with them.
    • They could offer bounceback coupons to turn one-time shoppers into customers (people who make it a custom/habit to buy from you).


I don’t mean to “go negative” here. I really love this town and the people in it. I honestly want things to get better. Why should Orland or Tinley Park enjoy more prosperity than us?

What we need is not short-sighted marketing ploys created by government officials. We need gutsy, intelligent entrepreneurs to lead the charge to a better future.

Since when do entrepreneurs rely on the government, anyway?

P.S. Next time, we’ll talk about specific business growth methods entrepreneurs in our area can use to start building a better tomorrow for our community.

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Shop Calumet City: The Article that Didn’t Make Quite It

I submitted the following article to our local newspaper, the Shopper.

More than news, I guess it sounded like a letter to the editor, so it was printed in the “Speak Out” section of the paper, without a byline. (Maybe that’s not such a big deal. I’ll have to be more specific next time.)

I wasn’t going to publish it here, since news articles are printed on the Shopper’s website. But because this wasn’t considered news, it’s not. So here it is.


‘Shop Cal City’ is a Two-Way Street

Residents of Calumet City have probably received a post card introducing the new “Shop Calumet City” program.  This project, the brainchild of Alderman Thaddeus Jones is designed to boost the local economy, support our local business community and generate revenue for schools and other municipal projects.

It’s a great idea. Probably long overdue.

It also seems to be somewhat incomplete in its scope.

In recent months, we’ve seen several major businesses pack up and leave town (Sears, Old Navy, etc.). Numerous small businesses have had to shut their doors, as well. River Oaks mall looks like a ghost town sometimes; Wentworth Woods looks even worse.

Shopping local is the responsibility of citizens in communities everywhere, isn’t it?

I often hear people grumble, “THEY need to put more stores here.” Well, the fact of the matter is, WE need to make setting up shop here in Calumet City a profitable endeavor.

But shopping local is a two-way street.

Businesses need to understand how to promote themselves and provide top-notch customer experiences for their local clientele. Owners can’t complain about a lack of customers if they’re just sitting and waiting for us to come.

It’s the responsibility of those people running the businesses to give customers a good reason to spend money with them.

We want to support you! But you have to let us know you’re there. You have to show us how we will benefit from shopping with you.

You have to be a real part of the community and create real value for the people in our neighborhoods.  Then we’ll happily patronize your store.

That’s the give and take of a shop local program. I think both  lanes on this two-way street could use some repairs. Hopefully Alderman Jones program will be a major step in the right direction.


My buddy John Breese also posted an interesting perspective (his point of view is always interesting) over on the One Hour Startup blog. Check out The Dark Knight of Marketing Takes Over the City.

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Shop Calumet City: My Introduction

I noticed the banners around town a few weeks ago.

To be perfectly honest, I thought they were not-so-subtle propaganda. Calumet City isn’t the greatest place to shop. Anyone familiar with the area knows that; outsiders would find out quickly.

About two weeks ago, a postcard mailer came out introducing the “Shop Calumet City” program. 3rd Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones is spearheading an attempt to stimulate the local economy and support the business community here in town.

Now the banners make a little more sense.

As a Cal City citizen and businessperson, I feel compelled to comment on this program and it’s resulting effects. I plan to do so here on my blog over the coming days. I believe my gifts, expertise and experience could make valuable contributions to this effort.

As much as it will probably seem like it, I’m not attacking Jones or his ideas. But sometimes the best way to improve something is to point out weaknesses or inconsistencies, and that’s one of the things I do to help people and businesses get better at what they do. I come off harsh sometimes, the same way a trainer may seem rough on his boxing students.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts and I hope to hear from my fellow citizens in Chicago’s south suburbs and northwest Indiana. A lot of our neighborhoods are going through similar struggles. Many businesses will find insights that can help them reach higher levels of success.

If you’re interested in going even deeper, you can sign up for my email list specifically for Chicago’s South Siders. Here you go:

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Small Restaurant, Big Lesson

Just Turkey Sign - Calumet City

It only takes half a second to know exactly what this restaurant specializes in. You already know what they’re about, even though you’ve never been inside. You’ve never seen an ad for the place. In fact, most of you have never even heard of this joint. But you can tell a whole lot from the sign.

Question of the day: do your prospective customers know what you do? what you’re about? How clear are they about what you have to offer?

What condition makes for a better customer: confusion or clarity?

(This picture was taken at a restaurant not too far from my home in Calumet City, IL.)

Related Post

Pork Chops and Big Promises