What I Learned at The Honest Conference

Last week Strategy Lab partnered with our good buddies at Pidgeon Social to present the first ever Honest Conference. The idea for the conference was simple: Get some amazing marketing leaders in our community together to have a frank and honest discussion about they know and even what they don’t. I wasn’t personally involved in a lot of the planning, so I don’t feel too bad about tooting the team’s horn when I say it was absolutely amazing. The lineup of speakers was the best I’ve ever experienced and the amount of value they offered was unreal. there’s no way I could even begin to cover each speaker’s background and presentation (head to honestconference.com for more info on that), but I felt it was important to jot down some of the big ideas from the day:

Create First and Improve Over Time

One of the big common threads that tied together all of the presentations was the idea that doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you have an idea idea for something you can create (be it a vlog, an Instagram, or a jewelry company), just do it, even (or especially) if it’s not perfect. Over time, you’ll figure it out and get better, but the first step is just to try. As human beings we have an unlimited capacity for talking ourselves out of things that have virtually no downside. Changing that is one of the first big steps towards doing something amazing.

Always Ask for Feedback and Act on It (in Moderation)

This feeds nicely into the idea of feedback which just about very speakers touched on at some point as well. As marketers, business owners, and people, we’re always wondering what we should actually be doing to succeed, when in reality the answer is very clearly right in front of us in the form of feedback from our people and our customers. Asking these people what we can do to improve our product, customer service, or marketing tactics gives us the road map to success. Now, this piece of advice comes with a caveat as not all feedback is helpful when you’re trying to innovate. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

(Photo credit: Sprout Catering!)

If You’re Uncomfortable, You’re Probably Doing Something Right

This is another idea that seemed to emerge somewhere along the way in each presentation. Hillberk and Berk COO Mary Weimer got some laughs from the crowd when she revealed that she is in a perpetual state of discomfort, and never really knows for certain the right thing to do. The truth is, comfort is the cost of doing something that will never really move the needle. Justin Reves’ “80% and Go” rule of thumb I think sums this up perfectly: Get to the point where you’re 80% sure of something and then just go for it  (as Richard Branson would say, “Screw it, let’s do it!”)

Always Keep it Human

Whether it was HB&B’s policy of giving their employees sparkle balls to give out to strangers, or Wheelhouse’s “Wheel Mile” of encouragement at the Queen City Marathon, the stories that really resonated with people at HonCon were those that demonstrated honest to gosh humanity and compassion. In other words, the companies that succeed will be the ones that genuinely treat the people around them (customers and non-customers alike) like human being and not just numbers, dollars, or “stakeholders”. This was particularly evident when the Roughriders’ marketing coordinator Miriam Johnson spoke about their recent influencer campaign during the opening of the new Mosaic Stadium. They did a deep dive to find out what was important to key people in their community to find out what they truly cared about, then customized swag packages for each person along with a handwritten note specific to their lives and personalities. There was no hard-sell or expectation, just a true sense of caring and a desire to do something awesome.

At the end of the day HonCon was a tremendous success. I strongly believe that each and every person in attendance walked away having learned a lot about what other people in this new marketing world are doing to succeed, not only from the fabulous lineup of kick-ass speakers, but from each other as well.