Location: The Times Center, New York City, NY
Dates: Monday, October 24th - Tuesday, October 25th
Organizer: Capacity Interactive

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A few months ago a client forwarded an email about an event I wasn't aware of. I checked it out, did a bit of research and thought to myself, "This Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts seems interesting!" It’s clearly an established event, focussing on one of our core industries, the Arts. I also liked that it was in New York City, so the majority of the attendees and presenters would be US-based, offering me a chance to meet a lot of new people.

The Event

The Boot Camp was held at The Times Center, a beautiful venue located at the New York Times headquarters. The venue was just about at capacity, with over 350 attendees over the two days of the event. The event was well put together with a light breakfast, simple lunch and just enough breaks to allow for time to meet other attendees and decompress. The only issue I had was that there were very few places to sit, so a lot of people ended up on the floor to relax or have their lunch. There were quite a few standup tables, but proper seating would have been an excellent addition.

Having been to many events of different quality over the past two decades, the success or failure of the event, in the end, hinges on one thing -  the quality of the speakers and presentations. The type of venue, food, and logistics have an effect on the comfort level, but if I don’t leave the event inspired by the speaker, and feeling like I’ve learned something, I can promise you I’ll never go back again. The quality of every speaker and presentation was solid, with quite a few offering some interesting perspectives, and I walked out feeling like I learned something I could bring back to Plank, to make our company better.

Four Key Observations and Thoughts

Focus on your strengths - partner with other experts

The core takeaway for me is that Plank is not a digital marketing company. There are times we get lumped into that group, but the more I thought about the presentations at this conference, we aren’t a company that has an interest in doing marketing and advertising. We are a company that designs and builds high-quality digital platforms to support marketing initiatives.

To better serve our clients, we need to partner with and develop relationships with digital marketing companies. We design, develop and build digital brands and platforms to deepen relationships between our clients and their users / customers, and digital marketing companies are great at finding and attracting those customers. Attracting and finding those customers makes our clients more successful and happier.

Iterative evolution vs massive redesign

The event also reinforced something that we are in the midst of building into every relationship with our clients. We are instituting as quickly as possible a new kind of work process that is focussed on ongoing, iterative, agile design principles. Recurring, massive website redesigns that organizations seem to burden themselves with every few years are not the best approach to modern digital development principles. An ongoing, constant evolution of a digital project is much better for planning, budgeting and supporting your users. A website can evolve in such a way that over a multi-year period it can accomplish the same results as a complete redesign, but with more thought, testing and evolution ensuring it stays up to date and well-maintained.

Get with it! Mobile is not an afterthought

With a decade passed since the iPhone was first released, it still amazes me we are still having the discussion that mobile is important. At Plank, we haven’t built a project in years that doesn’t fully support mobile with the same level of detail as desktop web experiences. It seems though some organizations are only just coming to the realization that if over 50% of their traffic is coming from mobile, it can’t be an afterthought. 

Make the right first impression

Finally, one point made clear is that ignoring the importance of search engines is a major mistake. Most people’s first interaction with your organization isn’t with your homepage but with how you are displayed in Google’s search results. 

“Google is the homepage of your organization.” 
— Erik Gensler, President, Capacity Interactive

It’s important to make sure all pages are optimized properly and all webmastering tools are in place. You need to work hard to ensure your site is found easily and quickly based on relevant terms and searches.

My Plans for 2017

Given how much I got out of attending this year’s Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts, it’s safe to say I’ll be back again next year. The only thing I would do differently is to invest in developing better relationships with the attendees. Since I only knew 2 people who were at the event I found myself doing a lot of “cold” introductions, which if I do a bit of planning and research in advance, could be more successful in building up relationships in the US Arts community.