Ask an Expert: Three Things We Learned at HERO CONF 2018

When was the last time you attended a conference? Do you remember anything you learned – if you learned anything at all?

Our team just landed back in Maryland after spending a few days in Austin, Texas for HERO CONF 2018. We already miss the beautiful weather, the incredible Southwestern food, and the amazing, highly-educated people that we spent our time with. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring any of those home with us. However, we did return with a ton of valuable insights from the nation’s leading PPC marketers.

Did you miss this year’s conference? Not to worry; in this week’s edition of Ask an Expert, we’re sharing our top three takeaways from HERO CONF 2018.

Meghan, as our Director of Sales, you felt this would be a very productive conference to attend. What did you learn from this experience?

I went into HERO CONF 2018 feeling pretty optimistic about the show, and I was right! This was our first time attending the conference, and we decided to go “big”… in fact, we were the marquee sponsor! It felt great to have such a huge, visible presence at the show. As a busy exhibitor, I wasn’t able to attend any breakout sessions. However, because this show was organized around a single large stage, I was able to stay at the booth while learning from the keynote speakers.

We were especially interested in the keynote presentation delivered by John Chen of Google. He spoke in great detail about the importance of calls, especially from the perspective of businesses that sell high-consideration products with large AOVs or more personalized services. Now, here at CallTrackingMetrics, we’ve been emphasizing the importance of calls for years, so it was interesting to hear Google speak to the value of a phone call. One figure that stood out to me was that in 2017, there were 39 billion calls to businesses from mobile searchers; and in 2020, that number will rise to almost 60 billion. Clearly, even while personal contact is filtering to text messages and email, calls to businesses are not going away anytime soon.

In addition, we learned that on average, calls to businesses convert into sales at about three times the rate of website clicks. This tells us that businesses who focus on PPC and paid search for website traffic should absolutely still pay attention to the attribution and management of their calls.

You were in a lot of discussions with visitors to our booth. What did you bring back from those conversations?

You’re right, I was! We had so much traffic to our booth, from a very educated and highly specialized audience. HERO CONF featured a strong gathering of digital marketers, contact center developers, and online advertising experts. So, at this conference, we were able to delve quickly into the theory and process behind our software.

Our conversations at HERO CONF developed quickly into rich discussions about the customer journey, attribution pain-points, and how call attribution can be paired with a cloud phone management system (hint: we’ve got it covered!). All-in-all, I really learned a great deal from this audience about what our market is looking for, and the type of hurdles they’re facing. Now that we’re back in the office, I’m able to speak to similar potential clients with a much deeper understanding of which conflicts they’re trying to resolve.

Matt, as our Digital Marketing Manager, you were able to sit in on a few learning sessions. Did you pick up anything good?

It seems one of the most common buzzwords – or, I suppose, buzz-acronyms – these days is “AI.” No matter what conference you are attending, which webinar you’re listening in on, or what new technology you’re reading about, artificial intelligence (AI) is almost always part of the discussion in some way, shape, or form.

The recent HERO Conference in Austin, TX, added a lot of confirmation to this observation, as AI often took centerstage at different times and even during discussions of very different parts of the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In full disclosure, I’m including AI’s close cousins machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) into a broader AI category that encompasses of the different variations of computer-based intelligence.

There are volumes to talk about when it comes to AI, ML and DL in the PPC industry, but specifically regarding this HERO Conference, I had one clear takeaway on this subject: Sure, AI should probably be a part of your future PPC strategies moving forward, but AI should not be your entire strategy.

In an industry that depends on human analysis of fine details so much, it’s impossible to imagine a scenario where the bots “take over” the PPC industry and leave the humans fighting for the few tumbleweeds dancing around in the silence.

Imagine a scenario where 10 different AI-driven PPC accounts are in competition with one another for the same “butter-yellow widget” term. What would ultmately be the differentiator there? Which of the 10 accounts would “win” and achieve top position? I’ll go out on a limb against the bots and say it’ll be the account that uses the great data brought by AI, but then combines those insights with a veteran human PPC-focused mind to find that perfect combination that’ll drive results.

Don’t tell the bots I said that, though, in case I need them later.

 

HERO CONF is the go-to event for quality PPC education, featuring highly vetted speakers and the best food we’ve ever had at a conference. We hope to see you at HERO CONF 2019 in Philadelphia!