The digital world is an invaluable tool with an immeasurable impact on our lives, both personal and professional.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Amberlee Huggins.
Beginning with her small business in Australia, Amberlee’s ability to envision, develop and market a successful brand began when she patented and sold the rights to a unique product by age 24. During her 20 subsequent years in hospitality and earning an MBA in marketing, Amberlee has dreamed, inspired, and produced events that resulted in exceptional experiences worldwide. Later, Amberlee met her mentor and began an event management career, working with companies producing conferences, meetings, and experiential programs. Joining CSI in 2003, Amberlee’s innovative approach fuels the CSI DMC brand “To Create an Exceptional Experience, Every Time.” Her marketing influence and thoughtful brand positioning is the cornerstone that’s elevated CSI DMC from one office in DC to nine U.S. offices with 140+ employees in 60+ destinations.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
I haven’t had one single mistake that sticks out in my mind. When I was first getting started, it took a few mishaps before I learned to follow my gut over following the trends and I’ve definitely had to course-correct a few times in order to find a balance that works for myself and the company.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Breathe! New trends and tools pop up all the time. The greatest skill marketers can hone is the ability to recognize a good fit when they see it. So much of marketing is about understanding gut instinct, so successful marketers need to know how to trust their instinct. Leave space to test and explore while developing a sustainable strategy that works for you. Sometimes, this will mean passing on the latest trend and that’s okay! The quality work you do using the time you save will pay off more in the long run.
Great advice. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. As you know Google and other search engines constantly update their search algorithms. Today, do you believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an important part of any long-term marketing plan? Can you explain why?
SEO is important, but not as important as your perspective on SEO. The strategy has to be in thinking about people, not algorithms. Search engines update their algorithms to better serve their users. Isn’t it better to join them in that goal than to try and “beat” the algorithm? The priority for CSI is and has always been to be an exceptional resource for our clients, our partners, and our industry — a goal which extends to our online presence. A marketing team is a limited resource. We would rather spend as much time as possible creating and releasing great content rather than trying to manipulate algorithms.
Can you share some basic Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?
Create the content that your target market actually wants to see! Pay attention to your FAQs — what are clients asking the first time they work with you? What do your returning clients expect you to be an expert in? Are there elements of your industry or services that tend to be the most confusing to those on the outside? For every one person that asks you a question, there are many more that look to a search engine.
What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?
- Keep it personal, even when it’s old school. We still hand-deliver invitations with gifts to our signature events or, at a minimum, send them individually via personalized emails.
- Let your partners “borrow” your marketing team. We offer our hotel and tourism council partners co-branded materials and partner with them to create live activations. We’ve worked with CVBs to create interactive experiences which showcase a destination and give prospective groups a taste of the local flavor wherever they are. Recently, we created an Experience Chicago destination packet for a property in the city. It’s a great tool for them when groups are bidding cities and serves as an intro to CSI from the beginning.
- CSI’s marketing team is two-fold — we have a core team who handles largescale projects and works with our local marketing committee, which produces smaller activations in their respective destinations. This model works great for us because it sets the framework for consistency while leaving space for our local experts to share their destination knowledge. We formalize this process with monthly marketing committee video meetings in which everyone is invited to share their upcoming plans and help each other brainstorm.
If you were only allowed to run paid ads on 1 platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
This may be a loose interpretation of the word “platform” but since you said to have fun with it, I’ll go with industry events. Tradeshows, conferences, and networking events are essential because the events industry is so social. Even with all of the tools we have at our disposal, we still find that nothing compares to a face-to-face connection.
One more question! You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The digital world is an invaluable tool with an immeasurable impact on our lives, both personal and professional. I would love to inspire a movement which encourages people to use their digital presence, particularly on social media, as an avenue to promote human connection both on and offline. I believe that, with the success of the meetings and events industries, we’re already seeing increased importance placed on physical gatherings. I would love to, and work every day to, help bring people together in a way that’s meaningful and facilitates connections beyond what’s possible from opposite ends of a screen.
Thank you so much for sharing so much value with us!