Monday, December 28, 2009

Refocus on Decency for 2010

Update: January 25, 2010 - I do want to mention a brilliant article regarding this post which appeared in yesterday's New York Times giving a very succinct case-in-point. Thank you Neal Hirschfeld!

I don’t think I’m the only one who is very ready to say goodbye to 2009 and anticipate 2010. Not to say there have not been success and new initiatives this year – but it has been difficult for many, including the event industry and the event marketing profession.

Given the challenges of the past 12 months and its impact on our interactions, in the coming year there is one thing we should all incorporate – both professionally and personally: DECENCY.

Not to imply that the difficulties of the recession have turned us into indecent people. Far from that, I think the impact of the economy has grown our collective stress level and flipped the Self-Survival Switch on high, causing us to lose focus on the professional decency and connectivity which has served the event marketing community so well over time. And it’s time to get it back.


• Take the call/answer the message. Yes, there are deadlines, meetings and a “Things to Do” list a mile long. And no, you don’t want to work endless hours. But picking up the phone – even to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ - is the professional alternative to not taking a call, and more in the vein of how we should be conducting ourselves. Also, realize this: by not responding to a request for marketing partnership / barter, ignoring a call from a vendor or somebody in transition seeking your help in looking to network, you could well be incurring opportunity cost. Now is as good a time as any to be open to innovation, talk to new people, try a new initiative and break away from the “we don’t do that” mentality.
• Be respectful of others’ bandwidths – on the flipside of the above, be sensitive to others' constraints and schedules. While being as quirky as to adhere to Larry David and his Stop and Chat rules is not a necessity, but be cognizant of others’ time in the work environment. Anybody who knows me knows I have an open door policy: if they needed to bounce an idea off me, discuss an issue, etc; as I’m not the best at saying “come back later.” That's my issue. But making a mental note to ask “do you have a minute/five minutes” – and stick to it – when grabbing a colleague’s ear is the an invaluable tactic.
• Be cognizant of the impact of words and actions – and in turn, how they can impact us. The additional workload (or, ironically, the lack of work) can put anybody on edge. Take a deep breath and think before replying, hitting the ‘send’ or the ‘publish’ button. One bad moment can mar a professional reputation you’ve spent a lot of time and effort to establish!

Again, I get it: time is tight. It’s been a tough stretch (trust me I know!). But although it’s not something they cover in business school, I’m a big believer in karma, that making the investment of acting and treating people decently repays itself tenfold. And that we should, as event marketers, look to make the personal comment to professional decency in 2010. The ROI will be there.

A Happy, Safe and Successful 2010 to all!

Good luck!


Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the Season for Retention

The plethora of Top Ten Lists are out – either Trends for 2010 or Best/Worst Lists of 2009. As you’ve probably perused enough of these lists at this point, I’ll truncate and offer my list of One Priority that Event Marketers Need to Focus on in the Coming Year:

1. Retention

Given the year the economy – and in turn the events industry – has been through, it is time for Event Marketing leaders to strategize and make an investments in developing and implementing strong attendee retention strategies. In many cases, event marketing has been in “churn mode” for too long – continually putting time, effort and investment into attendee acquisition activities without a plan in place to manage attendees post-event. Part of this is understandable – managing the frequency and volume of events from a marketing perspective is a daunting proposition. However, now is the time to develop, execute and – most importantly – stick with – a retention strategy to ensure long-term survival.

Why now? A couple of reasons:

1. Cost – although there is not a set metric in place, it is more expensive to acquire a prospect than it is to retain them – in other words, bringing a cold prospect through the entire AIDA cycle costs more than a person who is already beyond, at least, the Attention/Interest phases. (Tracking and testing the cost per attendee without any retention initiatives in place vs. how the initiatives impact the cost is also important – if nothing else, as an internal benchmark.)

2. Reputation – A retention program in place will re-focus your communication channels so that they map to the various audience segments you define. As you learn more about your attendees – their functionality, buying patterns, needs, etc. – and develop actions around this knowledge, it will lead to their receiving and (hopefully) registering for future events via the channel and timing they prefer – and will decrease push communications and, by extension, challenges around today's SPAM prevalent environment. Having a program in place will also, almost by definition, ensure a new focus placed on the customer/attendee - pre-event, onsite, and post event, cross-functionally various stakeholders should be working to ensure there is a renewed urgency on customer satisfaction (especially if the emphasis on Retention is coming driven top-down!) if the strategy is to encourage them to come back next year/for another event.

3. Most importantly, The Tools are There: Database modeling services have been with us for a while; however, over the past year Social Media had developed into something that can provide Event Marketers with a number of tools to effectively incorporate into a retention strategy. Facebook fan pages and groups, LinkedIn groups, Webinars, communities built with Ning, YouTube, Twitter, Slideshare, etc. are some of the portals that can be utilized to share information and knowledge and keep your contacts abreast of your content and activities. (Of course, traditional offline and email channels are part of the mix as well.)

How you do it is up to you – but the timing is right for you to plan and execute on this. And do plan for the long-term – results, by definition, will not be immediate, but will be worthwhile.

Good luck!

And all the best for a Happy Holiday and a terrific 2010!!!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marketing Tip: Word-of-Mouth for Speaker Engagement

One of the challenging strategies Event Marketers are faced with is speaker engagement – or effectively answering the age-old question “how do I get my speakers to reach out to their clients and prospects?” I’ve seen numerous tactics employed – from arranging discounts to developing a tailored package/communication to website buttons and banners for speakers to utilize. And these efforts are, more often than not, not fruitful.

Part of the challenge is bandwidth – a speaker, typically a consultant and/or plenary thought-leader is, to turn a phrase, just not into to your event – they’re into to their content. Looking at the scenario through their eyes, as good as your event is, to a speaker it is a block of time in their calendar, a commitment to contribute content, their presence to a target audience and, with any luck, a decent honorarium. They are typically not equipped or aligned to help promote your event to their contacts – as beneficial as it may be to them.

Andy Sernovitz, in his Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That blog, recently detailed a great promotion he used to promote Gaspedal’s upcoming Word of Mouth Supergenius! conference (being held next week in Chicago.) Using Word of Mouth Marketing (Gaspedal’s forte), the campaign cut through clutter and engaged speakers to blog about the initiative. And the event. AND actively promoted a personal Speaker discount, to boot.



Check out Andy’s blog post and video to learn about the promotion, but in a nutshell, for the promotion, personalized T-shirts were sent to each of the 30 speakers, each with a speaker-specific discount code, with a note attached asking the speaker to a) photograph themselves with the T-shirt and b) blog about what a fun, great promotion it was and, of course, tie it into the upcoming event.

The subliminal supergenius around this effort is that, despite what Andy says about it not being about speakers blogging about their participation (having them write, as he says, “Yes I’m speaking about a conference, please go,” which he notes is not interesting), in the end it really is doing just that. It’s speakers writing about a fun Word of Mouth effort for … well … a Word of Mouth event.

And while I think this is a great idea and do want to pass it on, I am not suggesting everybody reading this Google “personalized T-shirts” as the lesson learned; for example I’m guessing this type of promotion would not be as germane for the Society of Neuroscience’s annual event. This was an example of event marketing recognizing it’s audience and it’s speakers and thinking through and executing a promotion which would engage both. So, as Event Marketers, the take-away is for you to think through and strategize how to engage your speakers for your event; how to get them to start an interesting conversation and get people talking and thinking about your event.

And please do feel free to share any success stories you may have!

Good luck!