Unbounce CTA Conference 2017

Five Marketing Themes That Tie Together The Unbounce CTA Conference

Have you ever had so many ideas, you didn’t know where to start?

I remember countless times in my life, staring at the same mess of notes. Bullet points, exclamation marks, circles and doodles – all seeds of ideas, ready to spring to life in an engaging piece of content.

The only problem is – what do I want to focus on? What are the underlying themes?

These are the questions we asked ourselves after attending the CTA Conference, hosted by Unbounce from June 25 through 27. 1,300 marketers from around the world gathered to share their thoughts, ideas and results on how to create outstanding marketing campaigns.

We absorbed literally hundreds of new marketing ideas from the greatest minds in the industry, and are excited to share some of them with you!

Finding Five Marketing Themes To Act Upon

The first step to action is identification, and it’s important not to be overwhelmed by too many ideas, data points or directions. Even if you have a hundred ideas – whittle them down to a couple of points so you can remain focused in your strategy. For us, this means that we wanted to pick 5 themes that formed the core of many marketers’ presentations throughout the conference.

Here they are:

1. Do The Right Thing

I think one of the most memorable speeches from the CTA Conference was from the author of UnMarketing, Scott Stratten.

Using very humorous approach, Scott tells the story of how he outed The Bell’s underhanded approach to create false reviews for their online app. Scott’s message was simple: In an age where everyone’s goal is to “do things first,” he urges us to “do the right things first.”

Protecting the integrity of advertising and the internet is our responsibility as marketers. We have wondrous capabilities at our hands – the ability to shape words and share them to a mass market – and we’re proud of people like Scott who endorse integrity.

If you don't have integrity, you have nothing - Henry Kravis Share on X

Thinking outside of the CTA Conference, I think back to the Real Talk Summit in March 2017, featuring Gary Vaynerchuk. One takeaway from Gary’s speech was to be authentic, because you’ll be ousted as a phoney in no time.

We love it when people like Gary and Scott talk to authencity and moving away from vanity metrics. For this reason, Do The Right Thing is our number one takeaway. Always.

2. Tell A Story

Ask any CTA Conference attendee and they’ll tell you that “Tell A Story” was the most prominent theme throughout the conference.

The concept of storytelling was mentioned in no less than five presentations throughout the two days, with the framework alluded to three times.

The main takeaway is that storytelling works. Humans naturally love stories, but the problem is that most brands don’t tell a story with their marketing.

Instead of focusing on features, the storytelling framework can be summed up with the following:

Storytelling is comprised of a Beginning, Middle and End

Seems simple, right?

When using storytelling to guide your marketing strategy, it equates to telling the following:

  • Where are you (the customer) before learning about the product? How much does your life suck?
  • How easy was it to adopt the product? Why didn’t you do it sooner? Aren’t you glad that you did!
  • How awesome your new life is after adopting the product.

Too often are we pigeonholed to focus on the results, that we forget about the beginning. The beginning of the story allows the marketing message to be relatable to a human audience, and explain why they might want to adopt a new product or service.

3. Be Strategic

I will be honest here and say that my favourite presentation was by Andy Crestodina, content marketer. He provided 7 ways to improve the content creation process in a way that benefits SEO – quickly and efficiently.

One of my favourite points from Andy was the concept of LBOW – your Lifetime Body of Work. Everything you’ve ever written – including emails – can have worth. Every time you’re answering a question on Quora, helping a colleague or guiding a friend, that content has value. By keeping the content you’ve created in a document, then separating all the content you’ve created by theme, you have access to a huge body of knowledge – without doing any additional work.

Another excellent presentation was by April Dunford – who discussed positioning, and argued that “context can kill even a great product.”

By framing your product in a new way, you’re placing it in an environment where its unique capabilities can shine. Instead of marketing cake pop as a “cake with a stick in it,” you can position it as an “adult lollipop that you can eat while on the go.” With new positioning, the players in your market will change (and your entire perspective, with it).

I could go on and recite hundreds of golden nuggets of knowledge – but that isn’t the point here.

The point of Being Strategic is that it allows you to be efficient.

Before even typing a single word, you must have a strategy in place for how you will use your content, and where you imagine it will go. If you’re creating visuals for an ad – is there anywhere else you could place it? If you’re writing new ad copy – are you creating it with the right competitors and market in mind?

Taking a step back to be strategic, allows you to save a mountain of work. This is the hidden message across all CTA Conference speaker presentations – never spend time on something, if you don’t know what to do with it.

It’s at this point that I would want to gush about our learnings from Joel Klettke, Wil Reynolds and Rand Fishkin – but their insights on SEO and CRO are better suited for a different blog post. Let’s move on…

4. It’s Important To Acknowledge Faults

This is another “hidden message” in the CTA Conference, and one that is quite sensitive.

In Michael Aagaard’s presentation about combating confirmation bias, he mentioned that he would actively seek out critique for his insights and observations. He welcomed the devil’s advocate, which is a stance that I wholeheartedly agree with.

One of my personal favourite quotes of the conference is as follows:

Insanity (for a marketer) is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting the same results.

For those of you who are unaware of the reference – this is the direct opposite of the quote “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” by Albert Einstein.

Acknowledging faults means that you can not only address potential biases in your arguments, but you’ll be able to redefine your position to make it better. April Dunford humorously described her product as “poop” – that is, nothing of value. But it’s only after she accepted the product’s strengths and weaknesses for what they were, that she was able to grow a product from a business of $1 million in revenue – to a business of $17 million in revenue.

5. Out With Personas

This topic was addressed twice, once by Wil Reynolds and once by Claire Suellentrop.

“I’ve never kicked it with a Persona.” – Wil Reynolds

The concept of a Persona is simple – to identify the demographics, psychographics and tendencies of a population to figure out which marketing message(s) would appeal to them the most. It’s an old school marketing technique that’s employed by many.

The problem with Personas is that they don’t address why someone may want to buy a product. It takes the “human” element out of marketing, which is why it doesn’t work.

We love the idea that Personas cannot perfectly describe a market – because humans aren’t just another mass of numbers to market to. Every customer is another human being, with reasons for doing what they do, their own story, their own purpose.


We began this blog post with “Do The Right Thing” and ended it with “Out With Personas,” two points that closely resemble each other in terms of their purpose.

Ultimately – marketing isn’t the art of selling. Marketing is the art of understanding.

By being authentic, being you, marketing is a way of thinking of humans, for humans. And we love that.