Digital Growth Conference 18: Explore the Future – Review

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Digital Growth Conference at The Village Hotel in Chilwell. I attended the afternoon’s talks, so I can’t comment on the morning’s activities though I heard they were very good.

Personalisation and the Rise of the Chatbot by Paul Ince

I really enjoyed this talk by Paul. Paul is an expert on social media marketing and many other topics, and is the co-found of MarketEd Live, a marketing conference for the marketing professionals.

Paul talked about the rise of chatbots and how they can be hugely useful in helping customers in the digital age where instant answers are expected.

Chatbots can be pretty simple or complex. They can perform basic tasks such as taking table reservations, to helping you select a new lipstick (not my best selfie but check out that peach colour!).

Chatbots have the power to streamline your business and keep your customers happy. But there are many people who are cautious of chatbots. Artificial Intelligence is still in its infancy, and like an infant, can be quickly influenced by the wrong people.

In 2016 Microsoft launched an AI chatbot on Twitter. The internet can be a place of wonderment, humour, good intentions, and cat memes. The internet is also a place of racism, sexism, and a hub for the not so savoury attitudes of humanity.

Placing an innocent AI chatbot into the hands of Twitter – what could go wrong?

A lot in fact.

In less than 24 hours the chatbot denounced the Holocaust and echoed said Trump’s statement for building a wall around Mexico. It learned pretty well but the chatbot nose dived pretty quickly. Microsoft were quick to pull the digital plug.

Chatbots which are used on websites and messenger apps are more contained than the Microsoft AI, thankfully. You don’t have to worry about your AI suddenly going rogue.

The key takeaway from Paul’s talk was that whatever you did with a chatbot, the content has to be good. It would be important to plot out several streams of conversation and refine over time as customers used the chatbot.

This knowledge really helped me when I was chatting with a prospective client about their social media, she hadn’t been aware her Facebook page currently had automated messaging. This ensured she was aware of its presence and we worked on how she can manage her messages so she can meet her customer’s expectations.

Case Study by Thorntons Ferrero, John Alexander Rowley

John is a digital marketing manager for Thorntons, and he certainly knew his stuff about the value and impact of digital marketing for businesses of all sizes.

John’s focus was understanding client avatars and then looking at channels that will have the most impact. This was refreshing as I take the same approach to marketing, especially with new clients. I aim to understand their ideal client demographic to ensure I can create a plan that will be effective.

Whilst the focus of his talk was largely on digital marketing, John did say that offline marketing is still hugely powerful. In the age of digital marketing, direct mail can be hugely impactful and work in perfect tandem with a digital marketing campaign. The success of a direct marketing campaign can still be tracked through redirecting to an online webpage or discount code.

I often see on a Facebook group called Copywriter Cafe where new start up copywriters are advised to create a mailing list of local companies they’d like to work with, and send them a physical sales letter. From what I’ve heard, this is an effective exercise for writing sales copy, and focussing on companies that need services and are a good fit for the copywriter.

The world of online marketing is ever more busy and complex, but the principles remain the same. If you know your audience well, then you are already on your way to finding the best channels to market to them.


A very well attended conference and a great chance to meet the big digital thinkers in the area. Plenty to take away and mull over for your business, with ideas you can easily apply.

My one gripe with the event was I wanted to see more female digital marketing experts, so hopefully the event will have a more balanced panel of experts for 2019.

Overall, a good conference to keep in the diary for next year.

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