If you didn’t get a chance to attend Sloss Tech, Birmingham’s first technology conference, I’d like to offer a marketer’s perspective on what you missed. Or, maybe you did get a chance to attend but didn’t quite catch the subtle nuances that were discussed revealing some of the trendiest insights from some of the country’s leading business minds as you prepare your business strategy.

I’m not your typical marketer, I don’t have agency experience and the vast majority of my education has come from being a nitty gritty practitioner of social platforms based on what is holding the attention of my client’s customers. That’s not to say, a bachelors in business and a master’s level mass communication certificate have not played their part. They have and I’m grateful to hold that competitive edge.

Speaking of competitive edge, it’s no surprise to those in the tech world that Augmented and Virtual reality will be the next major cultural breakthrough since the creation of the internet. But what does that mean for your business in the very moment you are reading this? I believe Tech Birmingham, who brought us Sloss Tech, had the foresight to invite the most innovative thought leaders to help the Southeast expand the scope of vision for what next 5-10 years will look like.

With a lineup that included local innovators like Dr. Bart Guthrie, Gary York, and Bill Smith as well as national thought leaders involving Gary Vaynerchuk, Robert Scoble, and Andy Grignon there was certainly no lack of experience in the room to shed light on all aspects of the launch to growth business process.

The following reasons sum up why I believe a tech lover, business owner or marketer would all share in regret from missing Birmingham’s first technology conference. Have no fear, I’m about to get you up to speed.

  1. Passion fuels business, not funds.

The morning started strong with a panel discussion made up of local entrepreneur’s responsible for executing solutions to problems that resulted in some of Birmingham’s most creative success stories. Led by David Powell, VP of Marketing and Strategic Development, Teklinks, this group of leaders discussed the advancement they’ve experienced through the evolving startup process. The greatest take away, for me, came from Shegun Otulana, CEO of Theranest as he discussed the importance of developing the business & human culture aspect of growth. Humanity applies to family and life relationships as well as employee culture that should be considered as the business strategy develops. Shegun went on to explain the importance of establishing clear communication with those closest to entrepreneurs. Lack of communication could sadly have a negative effect on the overall business outcome.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely life and often times all the passion we carry around inside of us gets poured into the idea in an unbalanced fashion. Share your passion! Don’t fear it! Allow it to come out in all aspects of life and “things will just fall into place,” said Kate Hayden, Director of Research, Blondin BioScience

Later in the day the topic of passion came full circle when Gary Vaynerchuk reminded us in his famous fiery passion the mathematical difficulty it takes just to become a human! “You could have been born a tree!” But you aren’t! You are created magnificently and have a purpose that means something. Follow that purpose, share your passion and share the light with others to help build a connected business community. You will quickly see that we can become the emerging tech capital we know we can be and passion will spread like wildfire inspiring all to accomplish what we are meant to.

  1. Tell your story, or die.

For this segment it’s real important to introduce you a an Apple member who was part of a group responsible for creating the iPhone. If you don’t know who Andy Grignon is, let me give you a quick rundown according to the bio on the #SlossTech event site. “He has made a career out of creating and shipping highly visible consumer products. He started out at Apple in the Advanced Technology Group developing QuickTime Conferencing and QuickTime Streaming technologies. A couple small companies later, he was back at Apple building iChat AV and the iSight camera.” In a nutshell, he’s instrumental in creating a few of the most advanced devices we currently have in use around the world.

His insightful perspective has been paved with massive successes and failures so he certainly had my attention as he shared the events that caused those along the way.

  • Where startups are concerned, the government must get behind the community to not only build an infrastructure but also the capabilities to act quickly. Although I believe Andy’s insight, as an entrepreneur I struggle with this concept as I never consider asking help or permission from anyone. I see a problem I know I can solve, I act. It’s that easy. However, his insight has shown me the importance of taking a step back to build vital connections with local city officials in order to advance the startup culture as an effective community entity to bridge the achievement gap.
  • Although Andy was quick to admit that money is the biggest startup challenge he followed that through by making it abundantly clear that even with ample funding, “a lack of story and the ability to connect will cripple a business in the launch phase.” This fact made me leap from my seat because as a marketer I sometimes go blue in the face trying to explain this very concept to clients. It was exciting Andy was able to back me up as he echoed that telling the business story is one of the main pillars used to build a successful launch.

Later on Gary York confirmed this advice in a simplified statement, “You only need two roles to create a successful startup: someone to build your product and someone to sell your product.”

But selling your product does not consist of beating the market with a sledge hammer! It consists of **tight** tipped spear like focus in order to share your vision quick and easily to your awaiting audience.

This matters because those investors you’ve got your eye on are experts at what they do and can quickly tell how well you know your business. Developing the story allows you to further understand your trade and will make or break that pitch you have planned.

  1. Smile, you’ve been punched in the face!

There was no short of shocking quotes that came from the speakers, and I’m not talking the stat or inspiration kind. But because we had the chance to hear these business leaders communicate in such a raw setting we quickly became the recipients of some rather edgy, yet introspective perspectives.

Like when Bill Smith, CEO, Shipt said “A startup is like waking up every day to a punch in the face. I just smile, get up & do it again!”

Or when Gary Vayncerhcuk, CEO, Vaynermedia said “When I have a fail it’s like a punch in the face! With my head turned, I spit out my tooth, face forward and then peer at my competitor and say NOW what, b#tch!”

I’m fairly certain these business moguls did not conspire together on this point, but they confirmed the pain you feel in starting and growing your business.  It’s just a part the life of an entrepreneur.

Take heart, there is a whole group of folks just like you! I’m one of them and here’s how to find a whole bunch more! Feel free to reach out anytime.

  1. Making the most of emerging technologies.

From Google’s Tilt brush which allows you to paint in the third dimension in the space around you, to Google Tango, to Magic Leap VR and Facebook’s plant in the sky I can say with confidence there was no lack of future predications as Robert Scoble, Entrepreneur in Residence at Upload VR, walked us through the current hi-tech dabbling’s happening right now with some of the world’s most progressive technological advances.

I can understand how our generational counterparts felt at the inaugural World’s Fair in 1851, we are now watching the future’s potential unfold before our eyes. Robert made measurable predictions based on the capabilities of these current tools and the impact they will make on society as early as the next 3 years.

Some of his specific forecasts included the fall of the phone company in 5 years due to Facebook’s plant in the sky. iTracker (with the ability to calibrate to your eyes) allowing us to communicate with devices based on what you look at. Virtual overlays, currently used to create virtual trauma teams, allowing team members to complete a job from a distance as more experienced employees physically walk less experienced through a technical process, while in a virtual world.

But as a marketer and entrepreneur it’s very difficult for me to hear about this technology, stand in awe and then walk back to life as usual. I can’t help but want to push the envelope and start figuring out effective ways to tell a story that leads to targeted sales.

The immediate action we can take to get the ball rolling is in finding ways to use current operational technology to change the user experience. Right now, we’ve got PokemonGo. Regardless of your opinion, it’s holding the attention of most of the country. How can we use that create a better business experience for our customers? There are a few answers to that right now that we can easily learn from and run with, like in the recent Forbes article “6 Ways To Use Pokémon Go In Your Local Marketing Campaign.” But what I’m most interested in is how businesses will use these advancing tools to target the message to specific communities and customer base.

In fact, I plan to shift a bit of my development focus on this over the next few months.

  1. There is NO such thing as Social Media!

Although this comment may seem counter intuitive at an advancing technology conference, the fact is some of the most complicated concepts have the simplest answers.

There was a questions asked to Gary Vaynerchuk about the future stability of having a social presence for a business and his response was, “first of all lets’ get this straight, there is no social media, it’s just a slang term for how we interact on the internet.”

Although his answer seems like a duh moment, it was quite profound. Think about it, businesses tend to get so caught up with “social media” that they forget they are dealing with humans and understanding what tools hold their attention as opposed to understanding how to foster that attention. The “tool” will always change. Today it’s “social media” tomorrow it will be “virtual reality.” We already see that in how we choose platforms and it will only continue to evolve as new technologies emerge. The question is will your business adapt at the rate customers are adjusting?

  1. Community Growth Hacking.

I’ll admit I have not been as active on twitter as I should be as a marketer. But, as we all know Twitter is struggling & personally has lost my attention. Marketing is moving to a one on one communication strategy and with Twitters fire hose of content, that just isn’t possible at the moment without a bit of specific creativity. Simply using the platform as is, won’t get you very far in building communities.

However, as I sat in the upper balcony of the Lyric Theater my attention was held by the two TV screens that showed me live tweet feeds of attendees using the hashtag #slosstech! The first thing I thought was, “I want to be on that board!” Then I thought, I can’t miss the opportunity to connect with some like-minded folks I may have never met outside the conference.

The Aquos Board provided by Business Electronics displayed tweets in such an interactive way that my husband and I actually discussed what may be an interface move Twitter might want to consider. Not sure if this was the case but it seemed the most recent tweets flew to the forefront of the screen based on some sort of priority. While other tweets flew around the outskirts of center screen and had to wait their turn to come into focus.

The point is this, I was able to immediately take part in the conversation going on between upwards of 500 tech affiliates conversation taking place. Even with the #slosstech hashtag trending Twitter became a much smaller, less noisy, place that allowed me to feel part of a community all moving towards a single goal. Like the good old days of Twitter!

Under that hashtag friends were made, business connections thrived, and the online social experience once again did what it was meant to do; create a place for people who share a common interest to connect and build lasting relationships. Thank you Sloss Tech, I’m once again encouraged for the future of Twitters platform.

  1. SWAG, the new business card.

There is nothing better than receiving a useful gift and when a business gives the kind of gift that elevates the nature of their product we end up with and epic win! At check-in, we all registered and were delightfully handed a bright green, insulated, zip tote bag with a white space Shipt logo on it. When I got settled I was so thrilled to look at my new treats! Out of curiosity, the first thing I did was look up the Shipt company online to see what they were all about it. It didn’t take me long to learn they’re a grocery delivery company that got their start in Birmingham, AL.

My marketing mind immediately went to work (what, I can’t help it) and I gave Bill Smith, CEO, Shipt a high five in my mind for perfectly positioning himself and his business during the Southeast’s largest technology conference.

You see, in marketing, just as in life it’s the one who offers value that gets remembered. A business card is not inherently valuable. I know we can argue that point depending on how you use your business card, but for the most part it’s not offering anyone much value so it ends up in the trash at some point or another.

My Shipt swag bag on the other hand, will be used more than any business card would have been. More importantly, that simple gift has caused me to become a Shipt evangelist. Although I don’t live in Birmingham and can’t yet benefit from their amazing service I have already started evangelizing through some of my clients in the Birmingham area.

Although you can’t track the ROI of a bag, you can inherently count on human behavior and that is, they will market for you when high value is delivered. Boom! A business card can’t do that either, I promise.

In the final analysis of what came from Birmingham’s first technology conference it’s clear communication is the key to any successful business. Whether that be with your investors, customers, employees, close friends and relatives, community members, city leaders and even yourself it’s what your startup hinges on and requires your immediate attention.

If you have any questions feel I’ll be happy to help you resolve “the single biggest marketing problem you are facing right now?” Lets Chat!