20 plus Marketing Lessons and Thoughts from TCMA2016 Conference Edinburgh

“Find interesting ways to say boring stuff!” said Ann Handley.

One of the top quotes from The Content Marketing Academy Conference 2016 in Edinburgh.

I’ve done marketing for 25 years but I never call myself an expert. Like you, and everyone in the ever-changing digital world I’m learning all the time.

At TCMA2016, 120 of us learned many new lessons.

Were inspired by countless new ideas. Were motivated to be bigger, bolder and braver. And we were reminded of the basics of content marketing that we should never forget.

“Finding interesting ways to…” became the theme for my lessons and thoughts from the conference.

How many conferences have you been to in dull featureless hotel function suites?

With low ceilings, no air conditioning and no character. TCMA mastermind Chris Marr chose The Hub in Edinburgh as the stage for his content marketing extravaganza.

A converted church, it gave us high vaulted ceilings, space to mingle, clear acoustics and an immediate feeling of being somewhere special.

Wander up to the balcony for a birds eye view of the setting and great photo opportunities.

How many conferences have you been to where the speakers appear to be aloof, almost “above the audience”.

They hide in the green room and bugger off as soon as they finish their speech. Chris Marr chooses speakers who want to hang out with the delegates. To mingle, laugh, joke and debate. To answer questions the audience may not want to shout out for everyone to hear.

Just two examples of Chris Marr finding interesting ways to do stuff differently.

Great venue. Tick. Great speakers who hang out with you. Tick.

And great delegates as well.

Everyone at TCMA, at whatever stage of their business journey, were sucking in knowledge. Motivating each other. Networking. Sharing ideas. Making friends. Arranging mutually beneficial business connections.

Speaking to many of the people there, they agreed that the delegates were just as important a part of the experience as the speakers.

So here are 20 plus marketing lessons and thoughts from this must attend event.

If you were at TCMA please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Amy Schmittaur – Just use your bloody phone and start doing video.

Marketing Lessons

Okay I added in the word “bloody” when I wrote my notes. Accomplished speaker and video producer Amy Schmittaur is American and wouldn’t use that word. But she’s right about using your phone. It’s a TV studio in your pocket. Start shooting.

Amy’s Authority Video Formula is a powerful template (see picture above). Use it to create engaging videos. And never forget that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Use it to find questions people are asking and then answer them with your videos.

I’ve been dabbling with video and intend to do more. Here’s my latest effort. How close does this fit to Amy’s formula?

Amy encouraged everyone to overcome their fears.

  • Fear of gear – use your phone!
  • Fear of personality – Practice. Starting now. And don’t stop learning.
  • Fear of ROI – always ask for your call to action. Clearly. And audibly.

And in a genius piece of audience participation, Amy got us to record a video whilst she dictated the words, and told us to post it on Twitter! Great interaction. And idea to steal with glee.

Col Gray – Your Brand is Important

I could have said your “brand is bloody important” but I won’t over use Brit speak here!

Chris Marr came up with the inspired idea of peppering the international keynotes with shorter “Lightning Talks” featuring local business people. Col took his 10 minutes to remind us and teach us about the importance of brand.

Caroline McKenna – Building Trust is the Charity Sector

In the second Lightning Talk, Caroline reminded us that one of the main aims of content marketing is to build trust.

The classic formula of “Know. Like. Trust.” is a key principle.

Caroline is helping the charity sector clean up their act. She deserves to be successful.

Kate McQuillan – A pet sitter who lives “they ask you answer”.

Kate runs a pet sitting franchise in Ireland. She’s built her successful business by blogging. In classic content marketing style she listens to the questions people ask about their pets. And answers them in blogs. It works for people selling swimming pools. It works for pet sitting. It can work for you.

Kate gave us a check list for stand out blog posts.

  • Commitment – blog regularly
  • Have a great title
  • Use subtitles
  • Have a strong call to action
  • Use images
  • Have good SEO
  • Share it – and pay for boosts on Facebook at £3 a pop. I actually boosted one of my own posts on Facebook during her talk, for £3, just to remind myself that “this shit works”.
  • Analyse the results

“Great presentation from someone who can legitimately use cats all over her marketing.”

Richard Tubb – Just take control of your life

Richard is a Doctor Who fan. We’d been tweeting each other in the run up to TCMA. Does anyone else other than Richard and I know who Frobisher the Penguin is?

His presentation was about work life balance. About planning and how to be more efficient. And to make time to do stuff for you.

Some great take always.

“Do you own a business or does a business own you?”

You need to take control back.

He uses the Pomodoro Technique to get work done. Chunk your work into 25 minute bursts. Set your timer. Start working. No email or social media interruptions.

 Reward yourself with a coffee or a walk before the next chunk.

“Email is someone else’s way of dictating how you’ll spend your day.”

Don’t let it. Get a virtual assistant. Build a virtual team.

Richard also encouraged us all to Tweet at a couple of his friends and his PA. Imagine their surprise as their phones went into “alert meltdown”. I’m going to nick that idea for the Protection Review Conference in the summer.

Julie Christie – Power of Webinars – even automatic ones!

In the third Lightning Talk – photographer Julie Christie shared her successful formula for automated webinars. Money whilst you sleep. Another inspiring presentation from a local business superstar.

Pete Matthew – 500K Downloads for a Financial Services Podcast? You’re joking!

I’ve known Pete for a few years now. We both come from a financial services background. But he’s ahead of me in the content production stakes by about 60 podcast episodes and over 400 videos.

Marketing Lessons

Amy said earlier we should never bin our old content. Even though our first video will undoubtedly suck. Pete shared his first video with us.

Where he stood on a beach, in a gale, and talked financial services. He’s never looked back.

Pete again reminded us of one of the key principles of content marketing. You know this. I know it. But it’s good to be nudged.

Educate. Entertain. Inspire.

Ann Handley – Bigger Bolder and Braver Poop

Opening day two, Ann Handley was funny with great comic timing.

I loved how she used the often confusing differences in American and English phrases to great effect. I challenge you to get the word “Poop” into your next piece of content. Littering her presentation with real examples she reminded us that:

“The biggest missed opportunity in marketing is playing it too safe.”

How true is this? How many companies are happy to be the same as everyone else? Or to follow rather than lead?

And remember:

“Engaging content is more about brains than about budget.”

Be mindful of that when you see big brands spending multi-millions on rubbish TV adverts. Or campaigns designed to win agency awards rather than engage customers. 

Spend your time on quality rather than wave your cheque book around.

Ann reminded us we must be Bigger, Bolder and Braver.

Marketing Lessons

Having a great chat with Ann during one of the networking breaks, I asked her about those companies who fear this.

That their efforts might be too big. Too brave. Or too bold.

Her answer. Simple. Big, brave and bold have degrees.

You only have to push a little to stand out from the followers. But imagine what would happen if you pushed hard!

Kev Anderson – Personally Speaking. Or in other words. Write for yourself

Kev stole the show with his 10 minute Lightning Talk. Heart felt. Engaging. True.

We might all be content creators. Writing. Making videos. Recording podcasts. But sometimes it’s therapeutic to just write stuff down. Your thoughts. Fears. Aspirations.

Marketing Lessons

Kev received a well deserved standing ovation. I had tears in my eyes as I clapped.

He also gave us a competition to write a 6 word story inspired by a photo. What a fabulous way to exercise the mind. Here’s mine.

Marketing Lessons

Colin Gray – Use Podcasting to Drive Fanatical Fans.

As a podcaster approaching episode 100 could I learn anything from The Podcast Host?

Of course.

The concept of the “season” made my imagination cart wheel. My podcasts are random interviews around a general framework. Seasons allow you to focus, plan, batch and take breaks.

Such a simple ideas and so easy to do.

Laura Lucas – Making a Pile of Cash Your Blog

More high energy engagement from Lightning Talker Laura. Remember your content has a call to action. Create the trust so that eventually people will do business with you.

Bert Van Loon – Content Marketing Strategy Framework

As a career marketer, with many years spent on strategy, I was looking forward to this session.

But TCMA invited me to take part I their live Blab at the same time. I’ll have to catch the replay.

Ali McGill – Don’t Market Service that Sucks

The last Lightning Talk for the irrepressible Ali McGill.

Marketing Lessons

There’s so much rubbish service around from companies who claim to be passionate about customer experience. Are you reading this BT, Virgin Trains, most Financial Services companies (yes – even my old one)?

Ali set out a great blue print for building an awesome customer experience.

Don’t forget:

  • Before
  • Beginning
  • During
  • After

Are you a service design Super hero?

Mark Schaefer – Content Ignition

A stonking keynote, 90 minutes long, to finish an incredible two days.

We’d learned so much already. Been reminded of things we should do. Was there anything left to be said?


A huge presence, Mark dominated the high vaulted hall as well as the stage.

Lots of value bombs on how to stand out in a world of content shock.

Marketing Lessons

When the starting cost of creating content is near ZERO you have to work hard to stand out. You need shock and awe.

Why Mirabeau had 13 million hits on a video showing how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe? Others had done it before but after 222 videos Mirabeau had the audience.

Other gems:

“You can trick people into clicking. You can’t trick them into sharing.”

“Trust not Traffic.”

Look after your alpha audience. That’s maybe 2% of the people who consume your content. Turn that 2% into 3% and then 4%. Wow!

Mark talked so much sense on ROI. Bean counters want to see profit immediately. Mark urge us to measure qualitative results at first not quants. And look at each stage of the game. It’s not just what we measure but when. Have different measure for each phase.

And the final nugget, apart from making Taco Content?

“Be more human.”

A rousing, entertaining, engaging, motivating and funny speech climaxing in a standing ovation.

Don’t forget the delegates!

In this very long blog post I’ve only just scratched the surface of the lessons, thoughts, inspirations and motivations from TCMA2016. And I said that the delegates were just as important as the speakers.

  • Yva Yorston – taking business support to the next level.
  • Marion Thompson – the world’s most interesting accountant.
  • Stefan Thomas – Networking might be not working for some but he’ll help you make it work.
  • Pascal Fintoni – another video producer extraordinaire to whom I grateful for his encouragement of my own video endeavours.
  • Andrew and Pete – a remarkable couple of marketers from Newcastle who have a great online conference called Rule Breakers.
  • Janet Murray – a journalist and entrepreneur with an awesome podcast.
  • Chloe Forbes-Kindlen – one of the nicest and most passionate social media marketers I have met.
  • Vicky Gunn – fun and engaging beach hut entrepreneur.

During the conference Chris Marr asked the audience what a content marketing. Across the interwebs there are many technical ways of describing it.

Embracing “Know Like Trust” and taking in “Educate Entertain Inspire” and finding interesting ways to say things differently – my working definition is now:

“Making stuff that teaches, entertains and inspires people to know like and trust you, so they’ll love to do business with you.”

Sign up for TCMA2017 here.

Now it’s your turn.

If you read this far well done. If you were at the conference let me know what you think of this summary. If you like it please share it.