Friday, September 18, 2009

The Employment Picture for Direct & Event Marketers

Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC released results of a job search survey they conducted last week, focused on the direct marketing industry, with results which were very telling. I found the results insightful first of all because, of course, the Events Marketing community is a subset of this group. And secondly, because … well … participants in the survey were, like me, people in the Events Marketing industry looking for employment in a very challenging industry and economy. (I’m one of the 9.7% of the workforce in seeking employment.)

You can read the details of the survey results here – detailing length of time direct marketers are out of work, as well as details parsed by salary. Two points jump out at me:
  • Survey results showed direct markers duration of unemployment as longer – almost double – the national median as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison (survey responses to federal statistics), but certainly shows the tenure of unemployment for event marketing professionals is longer than the national average. And the national average is, of course, too long as a whole.
  • 50% of the responders have been looking for work for seven months are longer. This, obviously, is an alarmingly large percentage (the survey did not include national averages as a benchmark.) The only silver lining is that “only” 20% of the respondents had been looking for work between 1-3 months – which, to take a leap of faith, could imply a lower # of layoffs over the past three month period. (The report also notes that unemployment may be “bottoming out.”)
In short, the employment picture for direct marketing professionals is more challenged than in other professions. And, of course, it’s challenged all over. Which begs the question “what’s an Event Marketing professional to do?” Trust me, unemployment is no fun, and I also have empathy for people fortunate enough to be employed, as I’ve certainly heard stories of individuals doing multiple jobs to compensate for lack of staffing.

While I wish I had a magic wand (I would have selfishly pointed it to myself if I did!), lacking that, a few thoughts and suggestions to Event Marketers on both side of the employment fence – ones that have kept me sane at times throughout this process:
  • Positive attitude: I am a firm believer in the importance of this. Karma carries, both internally and externally. Go to a job interview resentful that you’ve been out of work for seven months, and it will show. Let the situation eat at you and it will negatively impact the effectiveness of your search. The same obviously goes for attitude at work. When you feel negative clouds building, take a break – go for a walk, a cup of coffee, clear your head and get back to being positive.
  • Keep yourself relevant: The landscape for event marketing is changing – if you’re unemployed, take the time to learn about new initiatives in Social Media and think about how you’d implement that into a multichannel strategy. If you’re employed, make the time to do the same. Learning something new is a “feel good” activity, and it adds value to you as a commodity. Hubspot, by way of example, offers Inbound Marketing University certification (which I completed in August), with a new round of testing taking place the end of October, and would suggest exploring.
  • Networking: I’ve found my last two jobs through networking, and suspect, the end of the day, I’ll land somewhere this time because of it as well. And – as I keep learning – keeping your network fresh while you’re employed is important. You don’t want to spend time dusting off old names if you ever need them in a hurry!
With regards to networking, I’ve had discussions questioning the value of this in these tough economic times. And if you’re employed, I’m guessing you’ve fielded a number of calls. But I’d heard (and unfortunately don’t have a source) that, on average, a large job board posting receives 800 applications. So quick math: even if the job is perfect for you, it’s probably perfect for 10% of the others. Putting you up against 80 people who are (hate to say it) on par with you, from which the employer will choose maybe 10 candidates to have an initial round of interviews with. If these assumptions seem reasonable, that leaves you a 1.25% chance of getting called in for a job board interview for a job you’re perfectly qualified for. Given those numbers, I again suggest the networking route.

I again do wish I had the magic wand to wave – but lacking that do hope the above provides some thoughts and encouragement. The landscape is not one we created … but need to be diligent in improving our situations.

Good luck!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DM Should Not = Desperation Marketing

I am floored. Flabbergasted. And, honestly, a bit saddened: saddened to see that, even today, some events organizations' direct marketing efforts are not only not getting it right, but are getting it very wrong.

The background: I recently registered on a (reputable) portal which, along with producing blogs, newsletters, etc., supports an online community, which struck me as a smart Social Media-based initiative. The company also organizes well-known industry events, including a fairly sizable event in a couple of weeks.

As part of their event marketing strategy – which may work perfectly well for this organization – the Early Bird deadline was set for two weeks prior to the event [this strikes me as a late Early Bird – more on that later]. Unfortunately, the deadline fell on September 4 – which, in the U.S., was the beginning of the Labor Day holiday.

Given that, I received an email on August 31st (last Monday) letting me know the Early Bird deadline was expiring on Friday. A perfectly reasonable communication to push the deadline and associated savings.

Then I also received another reminder on Tuesday.

And Thursday. And Friday. All with fairly similar messaging around the Early Bird Deadline discount which I Could Not Miss.

Of course, I missed it. So, on Monday (on Labor Day itself), I received an email that the deadline had been extended until Tuesday. And two emails on Tuesday letting me know The Deadline Was Near!

In short, in the course if six business days, I, Joe Prospect, received seven emails with fairly identical messaging that the Early Bird savings to this event was ending soon. Interspersed with a pair of emails (one last Wednesday – the one day I didn’t get an Early Bird email – and one today) letting me know I could get a free Exhibit Hall pass.

I forwarded one of these emails to a colleague, Roger Jarman, who very succinctly replied “They think that DM is short for Desperation Marketing.” I initially laughed … but then it bothered me. It’s these strategies and tactics which continue to present the Event Marketing in a negative light – historically, as perpetrators of “spray and pray” direct mail, and more recently as spammers. And of course, it does smack of desperation.

As Event Marketers, we need to move beyond such tactics. In this case, with proper planning, an alternate Early Bird deadline should have been utilized. (Also – see this previous posting regarding Early Bird strategies.) A longer lead time (more than two weeks) would have also allowed contingencies to be implemented if attendee numbers were below internal targets.

I certainly know and empathize that the industry continues to struggle both in generating attendees and sponsor revenue in our down economy. But in short, in the face of these challenges, resorting to a series of fairly identical daily emails is not the answer. Far from it, I would be surprised if this campaign doesn’t drive up opt-out rates and drive down open rates.

We, as Event Marketers, need to ensure our efforts and campaigns are using industry Best Practices, that we continue to go to market strategically and innovatively, and that we really need to think before we hit the “transmit” button.

Good luck!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Live Events: "I'm Not Dead!"

Forbes Insights just published an Executive Report, “Business Meetings: The Case for Face to Face.” While the report, for the most part, is positive news for live events and events marketing professionals, there are also results which provide some food for thought.

The good news for live events is – to quote the peasant in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “I’m not dead.” That was proven very true in the survey – of the 750 business executives surveyed, 84% responded that they preferred “in person, face-to-face meetings” to “technology-driven meetings” and 87% said face-to-face meetings had "tangible benefits" over technology-driven meetings. So despite speculation and discourse around technology squeezing the live event business out of existence, there is a strong recognized, identifiable value to convening. In this light, the struggles the industry has recently seen can certainly be attributed more to the economic environment than technology replicating or replacing the value of the face-to-face.

There are valuable points for Event Marketing professionals to consider regarding the identified benefits of face-to-face events. In a nutshell (and to not reiterate what’s in the report), there is a strongly embedded value in networking, meeting people, reading people, and being able to take deeper, more strategic onsite dives into issues and challenges attendees face. To that end, a couple of questions/observations:
  • Is your marketing message leveraging networking/face-to-face interaction as a USP? While content delivered at an event is critical (if the event is not presenting anything germane, don’t expect huge turnout), in this day and age this information, overall, is not truely unique. The unique value is the interaction – and marketing messaging needs to drive that home throughout the course of the campaign.
  • Structurally, is the event geared towards leveraging on-site interaction? I’ve contributed to and seen some very innovative initiatives around small discussion roundtables, attendee networking badges/pins which indicated attendee verticals or expertise (to facilitate discussion) as well as traditional show floor interaction, sponsor receptions, etc. These all improve the on-sight experience - and score well on attendee satisfaction surveys - and provide a facet of the event to manage your marketing message around, as well.
  • To bring the social media aspect to the live event – do you have, or are you planning on building communities around attendees? Outside of traditional “Alumni discounts,” the SM technology available should be utilized to continue the interaction initiated onsite to build greater lifetime value for the attendee.
The lesson overall is to survive the storm – business executives still value the live event for a set of identifiable, unique reasons. However, event marketers do need to be diligent in communicating this value, and working to ensure the advantages inherent in the live setting are leveraged and delivered.

Good luck!


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