Over the weekend I attended Create & Cultivate, a conference for professional women looking to create the careers of their dreams. Seeing so many driven, passionate, and creative women in one place was an awe-inspiring experience unlike anything I’ve ever attended. The single-day conference was packed with panels, pop-up shops, and Instagrammable moments everywhere you turned. I did my due diligence and took several pages of notes (in the cute notebook they provided of course). Here are a few key themes that were woven throughout the day by several of the industry professionals in attendance.
1. In an industry that constantly changes at the whim of the Internet, emerging trends were a big topic of several panels.
- Video, specifically live video, was probably the most talked about trend by influencers and large-scale companies alike. Most notably, Instagram Live is providing a service for these brands that Snapchat was never able to quite capture. The immediate and intimate connection that live video creates is an invaluable marketing tool for building affinity and loyalty among an audience.
- Experiential marketing is also a major up-and-coming trend with things like pop-up events and showrooms becoming increasingly prevalent in major cities. Even the online giant themselves, Amazon, is pushing into the physical retail space with pop up shops in malls and at events. Not that Amazon is struggling in any sense, but a lot of smaller, independent online-only brands are finding difficulty closing the path-to-purchase loop without physical experiences.
- Although partner marketing is no new trend, brands are now looking for long-term effective and authentic partnerships rather than one-offs. This means that brand ambassadorship has become more desirable over standard sponsorships or product placements. Along the same lines, micro-influencers are having a moment. Providing high engagement to a smaller audience can be particularly valuable especially in niche markets.
2. In the world of freelancing and brand deals, finding a price for your services can be extremely difficult, especially when you’re just starting out in your career. The best advice I heard was to first decide how much you need to cover your expenses for the year, then decide from there what the hourly rate necessary to reach that amount is. And after that, whatever you think you’re worth, double it! To put it in perspective Amanda Manna, from Lowe’s Innovation Labs, said “I’ve never walked away from a client because they asked for too much”.
3. Every working woman’s achilles heel is figuring out how to balance it all while still maintaining the hustle-hard work ethic. Prioritizing things like work, family, and self-care can become an overwhelming juggling exercise all too quickly. Panelists were eager to defend the idea that it’s ok to prioritize yourself and your family over your career.
4. Spend your time where you get the biggest bang for your buck rather than expending unnecessary energy on tasks that don’t serve you. While it may seem obvious, it’s important to take a step back and objectively evaluate which strategies are working for you and which aren’t. Molly Moon, the founder of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream, shared a simple but inspiring story about her experience fretting over Yelp reviews of her business. She said when she responded to every review on Yelp people came in and bought ice cream, and when she didn’t respond to every review people still came in and bought ice cream. Find the things that aren’t moving the needle and refocus your time elsewhere.
5. Content should do two things- it should make people feel connected and like they are empowered to do something. Giving someone the agency to make decisions based off the content they’re consuming is key to successful content creation. If you keep in mind how your content will do these two things, you’ll find more engagement and success overall.
6. Bloggers and social influencers are constantly faced with the big question of how to create boundaries with their time and the level of intimacy they share with an audience. In a career that thrives on connection and personal branding, it can be hard to separate yourself from your brand, thus making it all too enticing to spend personal time on social media. The answer? It’s all up to you. Some influencers find it important to be always on and 100% authentic, but others find more value in curating their online lives. Choose what feels comfortable to you.
7. Half the battle is reaching out. One of the panelists shared that she had participated in the mentor power hour at Create & Cultivate in the past, and after handing out her personal email she only had one woman reach out. Contacts are invaluable to building a brand or business, and following-up is key!
8. If you’re an influencer working with a brand and that brand is not ok with you layering your voice over the brand’s voice, then it’s probably not the right fit. Finding the right fit is difficult, but essential to authentic content that will serve both the creator’s and the brand’s goals. Remember that no is not a personal rejection.
9. Find your one thing. Figuring out how to define yourself on a simple, fundamental level is key to creating an effective elevator pitch for yourself or your business. The example from the conference is “I work in online media”. From there you can continue to add “ands” to further define yourself. Depending on how long you have for your pitch, you can continue to expand on that core notion.
10. Women need more funding. It’s as simple as that. The stark realization that women are only getting 2% of venture capital funding is a statistic that needs to change. As founders of Finery, Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, put it, this is an upsetting statistic but an exciting opportunity. Imagine what we can achieve with even more funding when we’ve already achieved so much with so little!
I would highly recommend attending a Create & Cultivate conference if they come to a city near you. The insight and inspiration is so valuable and can provide a fresh perspective to help you get where you want to be in your career.