Last week I went to the Unbounce CTA (call to action) Conference in Vancouver, BC. I’ve been to a lot of conferences. The difference with this one is that this is the first time I’ve taken a few minutes out of my day to give a full rundown, which is really just a nice way of saying that most conferences kind of, well, suck. You tend to get stuck in these events that are heavy on product marketing and networking, but light on actual relationship-building and industry empowerment.
CTAConf 2017 just felt different, well before I crossed our northern border.
Crossing The Border While Staying In My Comfort Zone
It was my first time to to Unbounce, first time to Canada… and a few other firsts which I will get to later. The funny thing was that it didn’t feel like my first time. You see, I’m a member of the Unbounce Experts program. We share a symbiotic and fruitful relationship with Unbounce. There are 7 of us from all over the globe. Three from the United States, two from Canada and two from Europe. We are all “power users” of the platform, we are all very well versed in marketing (both technical and creative aspects) and we are all pretty fun to be around.
The Experts have a private Slack channel within Unbounce and we are able to chat with one another and with other members of the Unbounce team. Time zones make it tricky but usually at some point during the day we are all on and talking about well, something. It is usually a 50/50 blend of work and total BS, with the latter being off-peak hours at work, of course. (I know you’re reading, boss!)
No propaganda here. I just know from my own experience that if you bring enough of a network together that “gets it”, a conference seems less like a snoozy college seminar and more like an experience. That’s my backstory, now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
The Conference Setup
The kind of program that they put on was right up my alley. I have been to many conferences all with the same structure: dozens of workshops and speakers and many different “tracks”. CTA Conf is what you would call a “single track” where there is only one speaker on at a time. Everyone is either “in session” or hanging out. If the presenter’s content isn’t on your agenda, you can just hang out too. (i.e. the aforementioned “total BS”)
Unbounce had over 20 speakers including their usual suspects like Oli Gardner and Michael Aagard, and a couple of new people that hit the stage like Alexa Hubley. They also brought in top speakers such as Rand Fishkin and Tyler Farnsworth (no relation to Philo from what I am told). They all had a lot of good stuff to say, and as far as I know none were offended if you preferred to hang out during their session. This is 2017 and everybody knows that you can get the conference recap and/or video later on anyway.
Then there was the app. Full disclosure: this is the part of this entry with an admittedly biased point of view. I spent A LOT of time in said CTAConf app. Why? Well, they awarded points for updates and I wanted to win. Long story short: I won. 325 points and no “real prize” later, I had to focus on what I really got out of this conference.
The Conference Recap
For you TL;DR types that scrolled down to find that conference recap, you can find everything you need via Unbounce. Sorry, but this isn’t one of those listicles with highlights from the conference, no tiny tweetables, no 250 word distillations of a 30 minute presentation. The content was on point, and you can get the full version of all of it, for free, and determine your own highlights.
Need a listicle? Try this.
So if this isn’t a conference recap, what the hell is the point of this article? The point is that one core value of marketing proved to be the most telling example of how a conference should be organized. Two words: relationship building.
All marketing campaigns come down to building a strong, long-lasting relationship with clients, customers, and partners. The more you understand your industry, the more you can build upon these relationships. CTAConf 2017 echoed this throughout the entire time I was there.
As a part of the Experts program at Unbounce I was able to have a completely unique conference experience unlike any other conference I have ever attended. I was a part of the Experts Panel on Sunday morning, where the seven of us were able to share with a group of early arriving conference attendees some really great information. We talked about growing agencies, trends in PPC, best case scenarios for convertibles, and so on...
Outside of the Experts Panel I was able to hang out with tons of other Unbouncers. These are people who I have chatted with for years on Slack… meeting them was like saying hi to an old friend. I got time with data scientists (AI is just too cool), the product team (the builder builders), content marketing folks (I plan on being in a few upcoming pieces of content), sales and support folks… and even the founders and CEO. To say that this was an incredible first trip to Canada is a misuse of the english language.
During my time in the partner's booth I had people coming up to me to take me up on my offer to talk. I talked with people from the most unique businesses, most of which I had never heard of. I exchanged business cards (that was the point of the exercise) and made some solid personal connections.
Just Like Arnie Said
CTAConf 2017 was an unforgettable time. Seriously, I have a permanent reminder on my left tricep that will always remind me. The host city of Vancouver, and the host company Unbounce did not disappoint nor even come close to doing so. Throughout this article I have linked to the educational content that Unbounce provided post conference. Like I said, choose your own highlights!
Until next year,
- Joe Savitch
- Marketing Services Manager