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WebFuel is Proudly CanadainIt’s 5:30 a.m. It’s dark, cold and raining. As I board a train en route to Montreal, the excitement for the upcoming day keeps me awake. I take a of sip my coffee as I begin to read Seth Godin‘s “Meatball Sundae” in anticipation. The sun slowly rises as we pass through Alexandria. I arrive in Montreal shortly after 8:00, ready for the day. So why am I in Montreal at this ungodly hour? The Art of Marketing.

The Art of Marketing is a conference that features 6 World renowned best-selling authors – Mitch Joel, Seth Godin, Avinash Kaushik, Max Lenderman, Andy Nulman and Jeffrey Gitomer – who shared a blend of inspirational, forward thinking, real-world marketing stories, tips, ideas and issues. The day on a whole was exhausting – in a good way. Hundreds of eager marketers filled a large conference room at the Palais des Congrès in downtown Montreal. Ron Tite, the host of the day’s event hops up on stage, full of energy and humor. After he welcomes the crowd, he introduces the first of six speakers – Mitch Joel.

Mitch Joel

Author of the best-selling book Six Pixels of Separation, Mitch Joel is a marketing genius and a member of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. Joel addressed several new marketing issues faced by organizations and how digital marketing and Social Media are changing the game. Joel shared numerous mind-blowing stats with the crowd, who “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed”. The one that stood out the most to me was that 20% of searches made daily on Google have never been made before. He went on to discuss the demographics of major Social Networks. Joel says that there are more grandparents than High School students on Facebook, and half of YouTube‘s audience is over 34 years old. He stressed that understanding your audience is key. Know who they are, and target them in the right places. “Stop marketing, start publishing” he preaches. People get hung up on the little things and over-complicate their marketing efforts. He explains how a negative review online more often than not leads to sales. Why? People appreciate transparency and authenticity.  “So, what’s the secret?” Joel asks. “Just word hard and be nice to people.” It’s as simple as that.

Seth Godin

After a short networking break, the day continues with super-marketer Seth Godin. Author of numerous best-sellers including The Dip and Purple Cow, Godin is a truly inspirational marketing genius. Like Joel, Godin has an uncanny ability to make things simple. “Don’t worry about what’s next, worry about what’s now” says Godin. “Go ahead, make mistakes – and learn from them!” Godin goes on to explain that we need to stop shouting our messages at people. Old marketing was all about shout – interrupting people with our message. “Don’t interrupt people who don’t like you, organize people who you’re connected with” he says. And as for these people – your customers – they all just want to fit in. Fitting in is being the most average. Godin uses the iPod as an example. Yes Apple make amazing products – he doesn’t deny that. But the reason that they sell so many iPods is not the technology behind it – it’s the marketing. “Apple doesn’t make an MP3 player. They make jewelery with a function!” People just want to be seen with those white ear buds – to fit in, to be the most average. After a short Q&A with the audience, Godin leaves the crowd satisfied and inspired as we head off to lunch.

Avinash Kaushik

Next up – brand monitoring and web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik. As Avinash takes the stage, the guy beside me sarcastically mutters to himself  “Great, an hour of listening to some guy talk about Web Analytics. This should be fun.” Well, was he ever wrong. Avinash took the stage by storm. His surprising enthusiasm and energy was enjoyed by all. His message was comprised of entertaining quotes, educational information and the occasional yelling of “Suck!” and “Puke!” As crazy as he was, in my opinion Avinash was the best presenter of the day. Referring to his books and his blog Avinash says that “People like to pay for things that are free.” His ability to make analytics the most entertaining topic of the day is beyond me. He explained how most people monitoring their brand are doing it wrong. He presents the crowd with a clever acronym – HITS: How Idiots Track Success. Like Godin, Avinash explains that people make things too hard for themselves by over complicating things. “You can’t improve 1 thing by 1000%” he explains, “But you can improve 1000 things by 1%” Great advice. He finishes by declaring that “revenue is good…but economic value is GOD!” Engaging, educational, and a little bit crazy. I guess that’s the recipe for a great marketer.

Max Lenderman

I think most of us in the crowd felt bad for Max. I mean, how do you follow Avinash? That’s a tough gig. But, all in all, he pulled it off. Casually drinking a Molson Export on stage, Lenderman discussed branding and experiential marketing using a variety of real-life examples from around the globe. He explains that people of the world are very brand atheistic and price conscious. That’s how people continue to sell counterfeit products. But piracy and counterfeiting isn’t all that bad. It keeps the big brands on their toes – makes them compete on “the experience”. This is exactly what Apple has done with the Apple Store. They have created an experience for customers that goes up and above the product itself. In closing, Lenderman reminded the crowd to just “Be Authentic”. Simple and effective. After a short networking break we were back for Andy Nulman.

Andy Nulman

Another best selling author and marketing pioneer, Andy Nulman, was next. He shared his theories, ideas and stories about strategy and innovation. With over 35 years of experience in the field, that included a 15 year stint as the CEO of the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Andy sure had a lot to say. He opened with a favourite quote of his, by Tom Peters: “Value added in today’s economy is created by the weirdo’s and the freaks.” He encouraged everybody in the room to stop trying to be normal. Normal is blah. You want to be Abnormal! As Nulman continued, he preached to the crowd that the Impossible is possible. It might have been a long day, but the crowd became restless during Nulman’s talk. There was an overall feeling in the area in which I was sitting that he was being more self-promotional, and less educational. I over heard a woman in front of me say to a friend “Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!” referring to Nulman’s constant stories about his own successes. Give him credit he stuck it out to the end, full of energy and enthusiasm.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Last, but surely not least, Jeffrey Gitomer. The 60-something, hard nosed, no nonsense – yet hilarious, Gitomer took the stage. He immediately won the Montreal crowd over by showing a photo of the Stanley Cup on his first slide, and saying “If you’re from Toronto, this is what the Stanley Cup looks like.” Then he hopped off the stage, got down to business. A true salesman, Gitomer exclaims “I put people in front of me that will say yes to me, and then I deliver!” Walking through the crowd as he spoke, Gitomer made a real connection with the audience. “Are you still wasting money on print ads?” he asks with a tone of frustration and anger in his voice. “Good for you. Your full page ad in the Gazette is getting pissed on by some puppy the next day!” He went to explain that “the future is Social. It’s free you idiots!”

He continued by discussing marketing and selling yourself. He told the crowd to reach into their pockets and hand their business card to someone near them who they didn’t know. “If it looks like crap, rip it up and throw it back at them” he yells. The crowd didn’t quite know what to do. Surely some people thought the business cards they were handed were worthy of such destruction, but didn’t want to insult others. “Why does your business card suck? It’s your first impression – make it a good one!” He went on the explain the importance of blogging, and getting youname.com or .ca – and a quick poll of the crowd showed that only about 5% of us had done so. He was disgusted. But Gitomer’s on the edge attitude didn’t come across as cocky, or annoying. It acted as an eye opener to the crowd of seemingly clueless sales people and marketers. “Oh my god,” said one guy beside me “I gotta get my .ca tomorrow!” Gitomer’s message was heard loud and clear. He finished by encourage the crowd to use Twitter – but use it right. Don’t worry about how many followers you have. Worry about being Retweeted. That’s what gets you noticed on Twitter. “Twitter isn’t 140 characters,” he says “It’s 120 characters with space left over for a Retweet.” Excellent.

Joel, Godin, Avinash, Lenderman, Nulman and Gitomer. What a star-studded lineup. I felt very fortunate to have gone to Montreal to watch, and listen to this diverse group of marketing geniuses. I would highly encourage you to take the opportunity to listen to any of of these guys speak, or even pick up one of their books. You won’t be disappointed. Until next year Art of Marketing, au revoir!