So when I’m not wearing my content builder hat, I’m wearing my marketing one. I’m thankful for groups like Portland State University’s Professional Development Center for holding events like their digital marketing breakfasts. It’s a great place to meet local PDX professionals and hear about their experiences, challenges and current projects.

While typically a quarterly event, the PDC created this December session to focus on inspiring attendees’ 2013 marketing plans. Sean Donovan from Living Social kicked off today’s discussion, talking about a bit of Living Social’s approach in the daily deals industry. He emphasized that when marketers produce any type of content, strategy or campaign, we’ve got to ask ourselves:

Am I changing habits? Am I building advocates for my brand?

This set the theme for the morning as the various panelists shared their case studies.

Donovan explained how the daily deals industry sends urgent deals and value to consumers not just to generate quick loss-leader sales and buzz, but to change audience buying habits. Perhaps a buyer had their eyes on a particular food cart for lunch. Well, a daily deal about a restaurant down the street can have the power to change their mind via daily deals. If that food is awesome, that customer will definitely tell their friends about it, making them an advocate of the place.

Donovan hints at the latent marketing power of daily deals that marketers can tap into.. He advocates paying close attention to opportunities to contextually engage with your audience. Making those engagements matter opens up opportunities to changing habits and build brand advocates.

Brian MacDonald of Mentor Graphics brought a bit of B2B contrast to the panel, reminding the crowd that traditional media still has a place as long as your target market is receptive to it. His case study brought in telemarketing, sales visits, direct mail and in-person relationship building alongside a digital arsenal. Whether B2B or B2C, there was a continued emphasis on truly understanding your audience and utilizing the proper tools.

Alisa Zwanger of Mambo Media talked about her recent marketing success with a local startup client in Portland called Better Bean. She focused on their user research methodology as the means of fueling their marketing efforts. The development of user personas allowed the team to validate their initial marketing approach. The lesson here: fully understanding our target market allows us to better use our marketing resources, regardless of business size.

Too big to fail? Yeah right. Take a look at this recent marketing fail by gaming giant Square-Enix. I’m not quite sure if they understood their market much… or even understood what they were doing at all. Yikes.

Anyways…back to the discussion.

Scott Nielsen of Compound Photonics closed out the discussion, letting the crowd in on the fact that even growing businesses like Compound Photonics are still navigating markets on the fly. As nimble as they may be, there’s structure behind the apparent madness. Nielsen pointed out that the company doesn’t just budget, but spends strategically with the intent to help and not sell via generated content.

Marketing can be a loud, noisy topic to follow on the internet. This is where case studies and anecdotal evidence from local professionals can be so helpful. Many thanks to the local and regional professionals for sharing their cases and experience to help PDX focus on what’s actually changing behaviors and generating value.

So what are we all doing today marketing-wise? Are we changing habits? Are we creating and nurturing brand advocates?