10 lessons learned from Create + Cultivate Seattle
Last weekend, more than 1,000 curious creatives, entrepreneurs, and side hustlers met up #createcultivatesea to spark passionate conversation around topics ranging from getting a seat at the table to influencer marketing, and brand building to raising money. The Seattle conference, which was held on the Microsoft Campus, provided a catalyst for ladies with a vision to meet other talented, like-minded women, all while learning tips and tricks from some of the best in a variety of industries.
As an attendee, I had access to a full day of highly curated, impactful workshops, mentor sessions, and panels, as well as delicious snacks, pop-up shops, cocktails, photo opportunities, gift bags, and so much more.
It was definitely a day filled with inspiring moments, nonstop learning, and exciting, new connections.
Here are 10 pieces of advice we took away from our time with the Create + Cultivate crew in Seattle.
Audience over everything
More than anything for your brand or business, word of mouth matters. Whether it be someone on social media with millions of followers or your neighbor next door, influencers are everywhere.
And they are talking about you.
How do you make sure they are staying good things? By treating your audience the same whether you have five customers or 500,005 customers.
Focus on what they want to learn about, their habits, and how they behave. Always use a sincere and welcoming tone, not a cold, strictly business one in your messaging. Most importantly, follow your customers home.
But not literally, because that would be stalking.
By following your customers home, panel experts meant educate yourself on what your customers do when they get home from interacting with you. Where do they live? What do they like to do? How do they spend their free time? What do they use your product for? How does it impact their life? What other products do they use in conjunction with yours?
All of these questions are excellent answers that can help shape your companies marketing, messaging, outreach efforts, new product development, and collaborations.
Your audience really is everything.
Niche your brand
It’s critical for businesses to have a super strong brand position early on and stick to that position.
Why? Because there is so much noise in the marketplace today.
Finding your brand’s niche and being strong in its positioning makes it easy for you to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Knowing who your brand is, by developing mission and vision statements, will help you stay the path—not matter what is thrown at you.
This allows your business to target new customers throughout its tenure or to even make a massive business shift after months or years.
A strong brand also allows you to tell your business story across all available promotional channels—social media and otherwise.
The best part? Your brand position doesn’t have to be flashy or even perfect. It just must represent your business.
Brands that understand finding their niche position and staying true to it are the ones that succeed.
Give up (some) control
As a public relations professional, I have always preached to my clients—and basically anyone who will listen—the importance of drafting your key messages and then using them to promote your business or brand. Like nonstop. In everything you do. From blog posts to interviews to Instagram and beyond.
But then, stop there.
That’s right. Remember how we discussed audience over everything above? Let your audience do the legwork for you. It’s what they want to do.
If you have already written and properly communicated how you want others to think, speak, and share about your brand or business, you’ve done all you can do.
Don’t be a control freak.
Give your audience the reins to take your messaging from there. Invite them to become a part of your brand’s community by telling your brand story in their own way.
Embrace the unique point of view each member of your audience brings to your brand. You’ve already built the framework of your brand’s story, let your customers and fans write the chapters.
To continue garnering great audience interaction, engage with your audience, and interject authentic and human comments into their conversations on social media. Most importantly, make a sincere effort to thank them often.
Your numbers and sales will grow.
Engagement is life
It’s hard on social media to not become obsessed with the numbers—whether it be followers, likes, comments, or shares.
Funny thing, big brands don’t care about those things.
Yes, they do still care about the influencers who have large followings; however, they are more interested in those who have strong engagement.
Why? Because likes and followers don’t guarantee sales. Engagement does.
Successful brand notice if you are authentic and only engage with brands that resonate with you. They know that your following, no matter its size, knows that you wouldn’t recommend or promote a brand you don’t believe in. For this reason, they trust you.
Which is why one’s engagement with others is what makes an influencer an influencer.
While some may think it’s great to have more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, what good does it do a brand (or you) if only five people comment on your post?
That’s the opposite of engagement. And a brand isn’t interested in that. To them, your popular account is a waste of any promotional or advertising dollars.
You must engage others.
Rather than looking at those who will take on any brand or sponsored post, successful brands are being drawn to influencers and bloggers who only link to sources and brands that are authentic to them and their values.
These influencers engage their audience and have numerous comments on every post. Plus, they take the time to respond to their audience and answer any questions posted back to them.
To be an influencer, you first have to build a community. You can’t do that without first engaging.
Let’s face it, we all have spent more time than we are comfortable admitting playing the comparison game. It’s hard to ignore what others are doing, how much further along they seem than you, or how much more successful they appear.
The reality of the situation, however, is that they aren’t you. And you’re wasting your time trying to be like all of them.
Don’t you think it’s time we all started following the mantra, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”?
I do, and every panelist at Create + Cultivate does, too.
Time and time again, each session repeated the message that it’s important to always maintain your originality and remember who you are.
Be authentic. Be yourself.
Don’t worry about what others are doing. Stick to what resonates with you. What sets you a part is your authenticity.
It’s your truth. People will be drawn to and will engage with you.
Know your audience
Your brand can’t be everything to everyone. For this reason, it’s important to know who your exact target audience is.
Remember, audience is important. Just as staying true to your brand position is.
Dormify’s approach to knowing it’s audience was both shocking and refreshing. They stay so true to their brand position, they do something I think is pretty badass—they skip marketing to males altogether.
Instead, they focus on speaking directly to the females with purchasing power, the moms. After all, it is this specific audience who has the final say in what to purchase for their sons or daughters.
What do they do when they want to reach an older male crowd? They work with influencers’ husbands or the like to style their lifestyle and reach them that way.
Need help narrowing down who your target audience is? This post can help <LINK TO HEARSAY POST>.
One of my biggest questions heading into Create + Cultivate, was how these brands encourage consumers to become brand influencers.
The insight of multiple panelists didn’t disappoint.
Having an arsenal of fun and lighthearted social media content, sweepstakes, and partnership experiences with professional sports teams helped many of the brands to build their international communities of loyal fans.
Hands down, however, every speaker was quick to point out that experiential giveaways were they biggest successes for them in building an engaged community.
Which makes perfect sense. As human beings, we all want to feel as if we are a part of something. Getting the chance to experience an event or similar occurrence we wouldn’t normally have the chance to, with the help of one of our favorite brands, only endears us to that brand more.
It’s a win-win for everyone when brands engage their community and encourage them to engage back.
As someone who is no stranger to letting fear of failure stand in the way of following her dreams, I was particularly moved by listening to Ellen Bennett, of Hedley and Bennett, speak.
First, Ellen is an excellent and engaging speaker who isn’t afraid to be real. Plus, she is comfortable swearing like a sailor and I felt instantly aligned with her vibe.
She also isn’t afraid of failure. Or to admit she’s failed in the past.
Her path from line cook to head of a multi-million-dollar brand wasn’t easy. She struggled, she sold tacos out of a truck in Mexico, she couldn’t afford to make prototypes to launch her product, she leaned on social media connections to get her foot in the door with top chefs, and even after her company took off, she worked three jobs to make her business happen.
She failed. A lot.
But Ellen kept trying. And look at her now! Think of what we all could achieve if we kept trying after we failed, just like Ellen? We could move mountains.
Be a good listener
Every conversation you have about your brand is a focus group.
Whether it is with your team or a customer, every bit of feedback points you in the direction your business or brand needs to go. Through these conversations, you quickly learn what your audience likes, doesn’t like, or looking for.
Why ignore such amazingly free research and development insight?
Spend time engaging with your fans and followers on social media. Respond to their comments with questions back at them. Give them a choice of what your next offering may be by letting them vote between two items on Instagram.
Sure, there’s bound to be a naysayer or troll in the bunch. I’m not encouraging you to engage with him or her; however, even they might spark an idea (or two) that can help take your brand to the next level.
Have fun with it, but keep your eyes and ears open. Paying attention to what your customers are saying all the time will make your business soar.
Collaborate, don’t compete
Repeat after me: You’re not in competition with other female founders, CEOs, influencers, or business owners. Collaborations are necessary. For all of us to succeed.
A rising tide lifts all boats, you know?
Even if the world of being an influencer feels oversaturated, there’s always room in the sandbox for a few more friends. The same goes for brands looking to establish themselves.
So, you blog about fashion and travel. Or sell lifestyle luxuries. Congratulations! Many others do, too.
Except you are all writing from your own unique experiences. Or providing products with exclusive details influenced only by you.
Embrace those differences. They’re what makes each of you unique—and worth following.
When you choose collaboration over competition, you build relationships. Good relationships make you better at business. They also open you up to a whole new variety of opportunities, like partnerships, friendships, and things outside your nice. Being better at business translates into success and achieving your goals.
Collaborating rather than competing also encourages creativity, vulnerability, and risk taking.
Collaborations don’t have to be anything crazy, either. They can be as small as teaming up with another influencer for a giveaway on Instagram or as large as a $100,000 tropical adventure giveaway hosted by multiple brands.
It’s collaborations like these that help launch businesses and make brands household names. Ergo, collaborating, not competing is what will make both you and I successful.
Overall, the vibe of the day was about community over competition—women, we need to support other women. Events like Create + Cultivate make that possible. Plus, as an entrepreneur, they help you make like-minded friends and be crazy inspired at the same time!
Don’t forget to enter the awesome Create + Cultivate swag bag giveaway our founder is running on Instagram. All the details are here.
Did you attend #createcultivatesea? What inspiration did you draw from the event?