Yes, I know. Conferences. Yawn.

But what if you could attend an event (let’s call it that, shall we? Much more excitement potential.) that would inspire you to change the way you market your business?

That featured world-class inspirational speakers who stuck around during the whole event and were happy to speak with you in snatched moments?

That actually had coffee which didn’t taste like it had been scraped off the floor?

You may at the moment be thinking I’ve had rather too many happy juices. But such an event does exist.

I have the all-important social proof, I’ve just attended it.

CMA Live is the brainchild of Chris Marr who runs the Content Marketing Academy in Edinburgh. In its 2017 incarnation it has grown significantly and welcomed lots of first time attendees. The CMA has a wide selection of members from all walks of life – I connected with a superstar photographer Laura Pearman to get some headshots done the afternoon before the event began. There was also a social at the Hard Rock Cafe the night before, where we were able to meet each other and make some new friends. Here’s Day 2 speakers Andrew and Pete.

Photographer Andrew Pete







So what to look for in a good marketing event?

The biggest draw for anyone has to be the speakers. I like a mix of big names and new faces, and CMA Live certainly fulfilled this criteria. The venue ticked the boxes too – central, good transport links, good catering and a wow space.

awesome cma schedule







Chris Ducker

chris duckerChris Ducker was the opening keynote speaker and he kicked it all off with some Youpreneurial inspiration peppered with actionable ninja tips such as live testing potential tag lines and hashtags on a live audience. He impressed upon us the memorable quote that in 2020 90% of content will be video. If your business hasn’t got its video hat on yet it’s time to get it on! He also told us that just being liked wasn’t enough anymore – we need to be someone’s favourite.



Ross Coverdale and Col Gray

Next Ross Coverdale of Rad Creatives and Col Gray of Pixels Ink were up on stage talking about the sexy rebrand of CMA, and branding in general. It was fascinating to see some of the designs that didn’t make it, and also an eye opener to realise just how much the old logo faded away when viewed next to strong logos. Safe to say it doesn’t fade into the background any more. This is exactly how I am going to assess my new logo, thanks Ross & Col!

Roger Edwards

Body combat instructor and financial marketing guru Roger Edwards was up next, and his main message was to keep your marketing simple. Cut out the jargon, the mumbo jumbo, the muppetry. Avoid the ‘curse of knowledge’ where you assume your reader knows what you are talking about. If the cat is sitting on the mat, that’s all you need to say!

Yva Yorston

Lightning speaker Yva Yorston is a CMA member and talked about her business struggles. She relaunched after help from Chris Ducker and his membership community Youpreneur, and was eloquent on the value of communities like Youpreneur and CMA.

Stefan Thomas

Networking expert Stefan Thomas has been to over 1000 networking events in the last 10 years – that’s a lot of cups of coffee! He was keen to emphasise our need to be ‘real’ and to build a rapport over time. If you do that, you can be in the right place at the right time, as he was when asked to write Business Networking for Dummies.

Sharon Menzies

Sharon Menzies, owner of Influx Recruitment, was the next lightning speaker. Her business has grown tremendously, showing astonishing growth of 566% in 6 months after a website revamp by fellow CMA member Martin Huntbach‘s Jammy Digital.

Doug Kessler

After lunch things got serious with Doug Kessler of Velocity (new office in NYC just opened!) teaching us how to swear in our fucking marketing. We don’t currently have any clients at Socially Contented who would appreciate us using the tactic of swearing in their marketing, a fast exit out the front door might be forthcoming, but if you have the right client it can be a very effective way to grab attention. Doug pointed us towards several campaigns where swearing really worked as a marketing tool.

If swearing is not for you, we should still make sure these things are present in a marketing campaign:

  1. Surprise people.
  2. Signal confidence.
  3. Resonate with the like-minded
  4. Be authentic.
  5. Let yourself be funny.
  6. Add mojo to your voice.

Cara Mackay

Next up: Cara Mackay, otherwise known as Natty Shed Girl of Gillies and Mackay (They probably make the best sheds in the world. I aspire to one, I have earmarked the space already!). She schooled us on how to defeat the trolls and be an authentic voice, and showed the impressive results of her controversial sweary LinkedIn post. You are probably getting the idea that sweariness was one of the themes of CMA Live on this day, and you’d be right. But only sweariness (which is not a word, but should be, so I’m going to use it anyway.) in an authentic way.

Erika Napoletano

The closing keynote speaker of day 1 was Erika Napoletano, who told us to show vulnerability as a brand and, again, be honest. Kind of a keynote theme! She also suggested we find out our customer’s Big Universal Question (and this time the answer isn’t 42). Ross Coverdale was lucky enough to get some live coaching on this to illustrate the point.

Much gin was imbibed at the evening social, probably less sleep, and then it was back to The Hub for some delicious breakfast.

Mark Schaefer

mark schaefferA big standout for me and many others present was the opening speaker of Day 2, Mark Schaefer. He gave an inspiring presentation on the necessity to become ‘Known‘, incidentally the title of his new book which sold out at the book stall within minutes of the presentation ending! Amazon is my friend.

Mark talked about the difficulty of building loyalty to a brand when consumers increasingly distrust attempts to build loyalty. He suggested the need to build love instead of loyalty and told us the story of when he was quite literally hugged by a brand, and how that earned his loyalty. Mark also interviewed two CMA members, John Espirian and Pete Matthew, who appear in his book as success stories. John told us he creates loyalty to his brand by being ‘relentlessly helpful’ which means he is probably a corner stone of content marketing!

Something which resonated with a lot of people in the room was Mark’s notion of a ’30 month mindset’. He has seen a lot of businesses give up too early, when in fact it takes around 30 months before you can tell whether you should plunge forward, pivot or stop. There’s still plenty of my 30 months to go, so I will continue plunging (and boy does it often feel like that).

A shout out here too for Karen Reyburn and her wonderful sketch notes – don’t we all wish we could make notes in the form of a work of art?

Andrew and Pete

Having sat with Andrew and Pete at dinner the previous evening, I knew that they were great fun, but little did I expect them to rename the CMA as Chris Marr Aerobics and post a series of images that have proved among the most memorable to be shown at the event! I imagine Chris will remember them for a long time too…

andrew peteAndrew and Pete practice what they preach, and publish stand out content – nothing boring about their channels! (They also might just possibly be the happiest guys on the planet.) They asked us to think about our brand values, and to focus on the ones that weren’t essentials (professional, friendly etc). All brands should have these essential values, so using them as your USP (Unique Selling Point) doesn’t make sense. There’s nothing unique about them. Instead pick something unique to your brand.

We all know that we need to understand our ideal customer, but Andrew and Pete suggest that we need to know our arch-enemy too. And we need to produce awesome content that doesn’t send people to sleep (if you’re starting to nod off as you read this, wake up before I get into trouble). They gave a really fun presentation which gave lots of laughs but had practical takeaways too, and I am looking forward to seeing them again at MarketEd Live in September.

Pam Laird

Pam is another member of the CMA who was asked to be a lightning speaker. Her hair salon business Fin and Co Hair is doing really well and Pam attributes this to figuring out who were their ideal clients (for Pam, it’s Bernie, and not Betty. We all need to ditch our Bettys).

Janet Murray

janet murraysoulies






Janet Murray talked about PR being the missing link in your business marketing. I’m in Jan’s Soulful PR membership community and can safely say she knows her PR stuff. Just go and do what she says. Apart from sacking your dad, possibly. Unless he’s not up to the job, in which case boot him out with both of our blessings.

Jan’s presentation contained a wealth of actionable takeaways, including how to use agencies like Response Source and how to get journalists’ attention.

Karen Reyburn

Now personally, I don’t think this is the last time Karen will be speaking at an event! She was talking about finding your niche, and she gave me lots of food for thought about my own business. It can be difficult to niche down when you first start. Initially, when you start up your own business, you need to take whatever clients you can to pay the mortgage. Choice is a luxury you don’t have. But eventually you will start to find areas where you can be most profitable. Karen suggests you look at the following:

  1. What’s the one thing you keep coming back to.
  2. Who or what do you know best?
  3. Where do you get great results for people?
  4. Where are you or could you be really profitable?

Currently I’m only at the stage of knowing, from unfortunate experience, the kind of client I DON’T want, and trusting my instincts more about that. But I am going to be keeping these questions in my head to find my niche.


George B. Thomas

George B. Thomas works with Marcus Sheridan at The Sales Lion and gave a fast-paced presentation crammed with useful information. A summary would be that you don’t need to spend a fortune on something like HubSpot, you can do it yourself but you will need to invest the time to learn how to do it properly and invest a modest amount of cash on the right marketing tools. I have already actioned some of his tips and will be actioning more when I actually have a moment to breathe.

Danielle Sheridan

Danielle’s spot was secret on the list and we found out why – she is Marcus Sheridan’s 16 year old daughter. She had amazing stage presence for such a young lady and is already making her way in the world with a profit-making business and an employee.

Marcus Sheridan

This was the first time I had heard Marcus Sheridan at an event, and he didn’t disappoint. Roaming the crowd, addressing people by name, he really connected with the CMA crowd. I promise to own my story Marcus.

And as Marcus said in Gavin Bell‘s official CMA vlog, it was one of those events where ‘you’d better journal it because you don’t want to forget it.’ That’s why this turned into such a mammoth enterprise, because I didn’t want to forget any of it. I’m sure by the time January comes around I will have forgotten that Chris Marr’s accountability sheet will be coming through the letterbox but I hope I will have actioned some of the goals I wrote on there.

And who are the keynote speakers for CMA Live 2018 (which I have already booked, without realising it will be in the middle of my son’s GCSEs. Oops.) Chris Marr announced the opening and closing keynotes – Brian Fanzo and Ann Handley, who was instrumental in me booking for next year. Ann might not be able to wait for the Buckfast, but I can’t wait to hear her!

There has just been so much buzzing around my head since the event finished, I hope that I can put it all into action – new branding and website coming soon – and I would love to keep in touch with all the great people I met.

Till next year. And don’t forget to be awesome.