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There's no shortage of digital marketing conferences, given the rapid changes in technology and convergence of purposes that can arise from these technologies. But the best conferences often have a dedicated focus on local issues or highlight local leaders, like the recent MBO15 digital marketing conference in Indianapolis.

Since 2007, the annual one-day conference in has been pulling together top local marketing firms and thought leaders to share trends and ideas. This year more than 600 attendees, primarily from the Indiana area, gathered to discuss trends that are disrupting digital best practices.

Microsoft was the title sponsor.

In an era of virtual reality, it was a worthwhile way to spend the day — sharing insights with other digital focused marketers face-to-face.

Meaningful Discussions

Presenters covered topics ranging from content marketing strategy and identity leadership to the value of storytelling and branding.

To me, the most enjoyable aspects of the conference were the tactics and strategies that highlighted customer experience. These emphasized how older tactics like SEO need to be more integrated with newer technologies to bring an effective message to intended audiences.

Kyle Lacy, head of marketing strategy at OpenView Ventures, noted that communication with customers has changed. Lacy, the author of three books (including one on which I was a technical editor), shared a quote from Millard Brown on the place that media holds in the daily lives of average Americans.

Americans spend an average of 151 minutes per day on their smartphones, more than on a laptop or TV. You can view his entire keynote presentation here.

Shane Snow, author of Smartcuts and Chief Creative Officer of Contently, addressed how marketers are moving from reaching toward an audience to building an audience. That shift has been in the making for a while.

Back in 2013, eMarketer noted that small businesses use content creating as lead generation. Snow’s observation implies building customer experiences is an evolution of content generation.

I liked the content strategy presentation from Halie Vining, client service director for Relevance. Vining explained a case study on best practices in creating and managing content.

Shared Insight


An executive panel featured executives from a cross section of industries: Kevin Bailey, co-founder, Relevance; Kelley Gay, VP, corporate marketing and communications, OneAmerica Financial Partners; Carolyn Mosby, President/CEO, Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council; Steven Schreibman, an independent marketing consultant; and Shawn Schwegman, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, DemandJump.

As Schreibman noted, "I'm excited by the way consumers are using digital and how this affects their engagement with all media, not just commerce."

Each executive spoke from an industry’s perspective regarding disruption and challenges in adopting digital marketing strategies. Mosby noted her organization’s effort to “bridge the gap” between large corporations that are incorporating new tech and the traditional minority businesses that are realizing adoption is necessary for significant growth.

The expo was capped with a closing keynote from leadership expert Stedman Graham. Graham, known for his partnership with Oprah Winfrey, is CEO of S. Graham and Associates, as well as an author, and adjunct professor. He focused on Identity Leadership, which teaches that knowing who you are — your identity — provides the foundation for strong performance.

By the end of the event, I felt attendees seeking new ways to engage customers through technology walked away with a better sensibility to navigate the chaos in digital marketing.

The Bottom Line

Big conferences are great. But make it a point to check what's available in your own backyard. As marketers, conferences in your own area are great resources. They can effectively highlight how both local abd global markets are being transformed through digital marketing practices.