You know you've thrown an awesome party when the neighbors call the police to complain about the noise. And you know you've organized an incredible marketing conference when the fire marshal calls to complain you've attracted too many people.

That's what happened two years ago at DigitalMarketer.com's fifth Traffic and Conversion Summit. This year, to keep the health and safety people happy, DigitalMarketer's founder and CEO Ryan Deiss restricted the number of tickets to just four thousand.  He sold out two months early. Another thousand people turned up just to hang out in the lobby and network.

What those four thousand people heard in San Diego was three days of presentations covering topics that ranged from the perfect content marketing strategy and proven email marketing tricks to "sideways listbuilding," onsite retargeting, and successful podcasting. In between, they were treated to case studies, models and examples backed up with tons of figures and detailed explanations.

The talks were delivered by the staff of DigitalMarketer, a company that spends all year putting its sales ideas into practice before spending three days telling other people what they've learned. The team, which is mostly made up of people in their twenties, has run more than three thousand A/B tests and spent more than $15 million on marketing campaigns. The keynote this year came from Gary Vaynerchuk, a decision that had the DigitalMarketer team as excited as the audience... and running a book on the number of f-bombs he would drop.

"The over/under was twenty," Ryan Deiss said, "and he blew through it in the first ten minutes. Fortunately, even our most conservative attendees saw value in his message, and I truly believe he created a necessary mind shift in our attendees."

The Fortune 500s Still Don't Get Digital Marketing

That mind shift was necessary, he says, because digital marketing still suffers from a large divide between branding agencies who look for long-term messaging, and direct response marketers who rate success entirely by the number of conversions. "We believe this is a false dichotomy," Ryan says. The over-arching theme of this year's summit was the merging of direct response and branding using relatively new advertising media such as retargeting and social ads.

The message is getting through. The Traffic and Conversion summit used to cater exclusively to small businesses and to solo entrepreneurs. Now they make up about 40 percent of the audience with the remaining 60 percent consisting of marketing agencies and professionals. What's missing are the really big companies, even though they're still getting the benefit of the knowledge shared at the summit.

"While we know it will change very soon, the 'Fortune 500s' still don't get digital marketing, and they believe it's the kind of thing that can be abdicated to agencies," Deiss explains. "What they don't realize is that the agencies they're paying are usually learning what's working at T&C."

What the Fortune 500 companies are missing, the rest of us have already figured out. Digital marketing is now as much a part of business as packaging and caring customer service. If you want to know how to do it, you need to be at the next Traffic and Conversion Summit... and get there before the fire marshal turns up.

Published on: Feb 17, 2016