Daniel Westcott chose to attend the 2016 Digital Commerce Summit for his fourth PED experience. An educational and networking event for entrepreneurs who create and sell digital products and services, the Digital Commerce Summit provided Daniel with a plethora of content information, knowledge he felt could be vital to Simpleview's successful growth. He feels the key information he gathered at this conference could truly benefit our new digital content department, specifically.

The main takeaway?

Everything is story. "Story arc seemed to pervade everything," said Daniel. "Reading between the lines, I saw that there were common threads of content and story arc that worked through all of the presentations."

Daniel attended the summit interested to hear what other marketers are doing in their field and knowing he wanted information on delivering relevant content, in particular. Acknowledging that search engine optimization and strong content need to work together to deliver useful results that keep users coming back, Daniel wanted to learn more ways for creating and delivering successful copy for client websites. "I was hoping to get insights into our clients' motivations, and perhaps a little cross pollination from the non-travel sector marketing crowd," said Daniel. "I would say that goal was accomplished."

He added, "There were a number of good, well known speakers in the SEM and Social Media content spaces. It turned out to be a fairly well attended event and the speakers shared slightly rougher presentations than they might in higher profile events. This led to a lot of open realism about the industry rather than the somewhat canned speeches that are often seen at larger conferences ... including some rather candid QA spots."

From Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer, Daniel took away the message that people care about their story. "Do not try to sell them with your story. Be a player in their story and tell them that."

The final speaker at the DC Summit was Jeff Walker, author of the New York Times #1 best seller Launch. He reviewed his process for creating a successful launch, and Daniel felt such successes were all built on the same concept: "Everything was the hero's journey." He felt the overarching message was that there needs to be a story arc-an extended storyline like that in a book or across television episodes-for every piece of copy written. "Nobody cares about your story, they want their story," is the primary concept he absorbed.

How does this apply at Simpleview, you ask?

Lewis Carroll Slide

Daniel pondered this. "The basic gist is, in travel, if we could craft a story that puts the reader on a path to where we want them to be ... if we actually gave them stories in places, instead of lists of things to do ... could we, via story, drive why this is the right destination?" In other words, an engaging storyline can illustrate that a vacation is not just a destination, it's a collection of experiences that the visitor is going to remember. We can potentially reach readers emotionally through story or give them an entertaining or educational experience they want to share or use for inspiration. This type of storytelling and relevant content can appeal to and potentially convert both the changing market and the current one, it seems.

"Millennials will spend money for the experience today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow," Daniel postulates. "Baby Boomers are still spending more, however. Most Boomers in their first year of retirement will spend 10% on travel." AARP estimates Baby Boomers spend more than $120 billion annually on leisure travel. Both of these audiences will require travel content that truly resonates on destination websites if we want to convert them into visitors. Think original blogs written by locals who have insight on both hot-spots and off-the-beaten path experiences in a destination. Consider persona-driven travel itineraries for outdoor adventurers, foodies, or families with kids.

Useful, informative content is also becoming more vital to search engines, who are constantly evolving in the services they are providing their advertisers and users. "As search engines and AI involve, they can already parse content, decide what is good content and what is not," said Daniel. "Google sells ads to search users. But if, as a user, I get more relevant content from another search engine, I will use that search engine. So Google will start promoting better content," he suggested. In other words, not just copy full of repetitive keywords and links, but useful, interesting, inspiring content worth reading and sharing and significant to the right audience.

Our audience, and our DMO's audiences, are often made up of leisure and business travelers. The DMO's goal is to convert these audiences, these site visitors, into destination visitors. "This conference was about conversions-converting prospective travelers into your travelers. This is something we could do more of, " said Daniel, who feels this conversion drive is important for leaders in this industry.

"The fact that someone came to this conference is a conversion for us. I was a conversion for Denver. Not only are we going out and learning in the city to bring back information to Simpleview, but we are actually a conversion for that client. I found my hotel via the VisitDenver site. I used listings that I had worked on for this client to find places to eat. The hot jalapeno burger I enjoyed at 5280 Burger Bar was under "American Food" on the site." 

Daniel's Digital Commerce Summit experience didn't stop with the conference and dinner. He may have been converted to booking travel and dining out through the destination website and its listings, but the experience he had beyond that lends itself to storytelling, an important component of compelling content.

"The schedule for this event was non-stop so there was not much time to do more than eat, but I managed to take in a few of the local church buildings from the late 1800s. The conference was held in the Paramount Theatre in Denver which is a 1929-30 construction, full of history and lush acoustics. The theatre seats 1870. After the final keynote, once the theatre was empty, I asked the stage crew if they minded if I sang. They invited me onto the stage and I sang a little "Pagliacci". Everyone working stopped and when I finished the only thing said was, "More, more." The room sounded beautiful and I sang "Vesti la Giubba". From a local attraction standpoint, that was perfect for me."

Daniel had traveled to Denver before and was familiar with the city. He ate locally, walked, used the bus, and took the new light rail that just started running this year to get around. He enjoyed the convenience of the light rail schedule, which runs every 15 minutes, making it easy to get where you need, when you need. He also found the airport easy to fly into and out of now.

"Weather was amazing the entire time. Denver's food and sights are always fabulous and I was able to try a few places off the beaten path, as well as a few names that I recognized from working on listings."

Learning a craft, experiencing a destination, seeing the work we do from the eyes of a customer/traveler ... all of these are advantages of PED. Bringing what we've learned back to the office, sharing our experience and the insights and perspectives of others in the industry and fellow travelers, and figuring out how to better meet the needs of our clients are all tangible results.