Editor’s note: WRAL TechWire co-founder and veteran journalist Allan Maurer covered the Internet Summit this week as he has for several years. And he offers insight into what all unfolded at the event based on his years of experience covering high tech and life science.

RALEIGH – TechMedia’s Internet Summit in Raleigh Tuesday through Thursday, focused entirely on marketing for the first time, set attendance records at 2,300. But that was not the only thing different about this year’s event.

One of the first things, apart from the unusually crowded hallway between sessions, was the increase in women attending the event as it increased its marketing focus over the years, must have hit some kind of high this year.

In past years, many of the vendors were primarily, although not solely regional. This year they hailed from Utah, Colorado, California, Oregon, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. They represented Denver, Portland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Chicago, among other cities. One vendor came from China, his purpose to assist those who want to business with the Asian powerhouse.

They were also all marketing connected, selling solutions for email, payments, crowdsourcing data, customer data analysis, targeting customers, content providers and so on.

Another obvious change was the lack of the high-tech coding and nitty-gritty tech geek programming. It was marketing, marketing, marketing. Perhaps because the “secrets” of marketing aren’t very secret, the messages of many sessions, large and small, were similar.

Over and over again we heard about the importance of story-telling, the need to think outside of the box, and focusing on the customer’s experience.

Grab their attention

The lunch keynote panel Thursday from major media organizations such as Netflix, Mashable, Showtime, and MaarketingProfs, made the point repeatedly.

On Wednesday, Grant Simmons from Homes.com, thinking out of the box, used references to sketches from the British comedy troupe, Monty Python, to add laugh-out-loud interest to his otherwise serious guide to content marketing.

Natasha Mulia of Mashable, at Thursday’s star-studded lunch panel, said the site looks for unusual angles when it has to cover topics that will be getting a lot of media attention. One way they wrote about the iPhone 10 launch with its facial recognition feature, was to test it using twins. “If we don’t create something different, it gets lost in all the other coverage,” she said.

The Netflix and Showtime speakers both said their marketing is all about story.

They also cited the need for customer focus. Many speakers noted that it takes research using the unprecedented amount of data available on customers to find out what they really want. Tools galore exist in this “Golden Age” of marketing, several said.

Ann Handle, of B2B company MarketingProfs said, “It all comes down to knowing your customer.”

Apart from all that, we found it interesting that Netflix knows parents and children and other share passwords. It sees the practice as trainer wheels for future customers and Netflix’s Mitch Lowe said “It’s a great loyalty program. If a parent cancels Netflix while a kid if off at college, they get a phone call right away.”

Brooks Bell: ‘Everyone has a story to tell’

Raleigh-based Brooks Bell used her own story to illustrate her session on “The power of experimentation and how it starts with a great story.” Brooks told the story of suffering a minor stroke that for a time took away her power of speech, reading, and walking well. In the hospital, her boyfriend realized he loved her no matter what and proposed. She later fully recovered and told her boyfriend, “If that’s what it took to get you to propose, it was worth it.

The point: “Everyone has a story to tell,” she said.

In a very telling example of getting a story right, she showed a video of a woman in their lab viewing a baby-related site. You could see her expressions, see what she liked and didn’t. Then a woman asked if she could bring her 9-month baby along.

They balked at first, but finally allowed it and the difference in how the woman with the baby and one unencumbered used the site was obvious.

Another point: The way someone uses a web site at home may differ considerably from some isolated lab experiment.

We could go on and on about all this. The sessions did.