Happy 3rd Birthday To Gangplank Anchor Pagely!

Startups are hard. Most startups fail. They take hours of work, more resources than you likely have and a little bit of luck.

Whenever a startup morphs into a full-fledged business, it’s reason to celebrate. When that startup makes it to its third year of existence, an even bigger celebration is deserved.

Fellow Gangplank anchor Pagely, run by Josh and Sally Strebel, have decided to celebrate their third birthday by thanking their customers in the best way they know possible: saving them money. Starting September 1 and continuing for a limited time, all managed WordPress hosting plans are $19/month.

With no contracts and zero cancellation fees, this offer from Pagely is a perfect opportunity to start that blog you’ve always wanted, to delve into the fascinating world of WordPress Multisite or give as a gift to anyone wanting to establish a web presence beyond a free offer.

Without further ado, here’s a cat video.

See you next year!

Who’s Going By Eventbrite

Guest cards

It happens before every party, event or get together. It’s something people swear doesn’t matter, but event planners know better. It’s also something that can be easily shared with those who want to know. What is it? It’s this simple question:

So…who else is going?

While it’s certainly easy for event planners to be personally offended at the question, we don’t think it’s asked out of disrespect for whomever is in charge. People asked because we’re social animals, and we like to be around people that interest us. We’re certain this question will always be asked, so instead of finding ways to not be offended, why not answer before it’s even a question?

Eventbrite already has. Their “Who’s Going” feature matches attendee information with their Facebook profile, enabling potential and current attendees to discover who else will be there before they even think to ask.

For all you privacy wonks out there, don’t worry, the feature can be turned off, but we bet most people will leave it on. Here’s why:

Skip The Small Talk
A little bit of advance research never hurt anyone, so why not use this feature to find more about other attendees? No more wasting time talking name, job title or position, making it easier for attendees to talk about something meaningful.

Make Early Connections
Those looking to make an early impression would be well served to contact attendees before the event starts. While we don’t recommend businesses mine personal data to invite attendees to marketing events, a quick cup of coffee near the registration table does wonders for relationship building.

Gauge The Crowd
Let’s face it, events aren’t for everyone. The Who’s Going feature makes it easy to discern who’s coming to town for the event, allowing those who may not attend in person a chance to meet those people somewhere else, even virtually.

Events are all about making connections, and we think features like Eventbrite’s Who’s Going will do plenty to facilitate that, which allows event planners to focus on more technical aspects.

Will we see you on the Who’s Going page?

SEO For Bloggers

Content Nazi Cartoon by HubSpot

Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been the bane of a blogger’s existence. With so much to learn and remember about linking, anchor text, nofollow and site hierarchy, quality content often gets tossed out the window in favor of content that ranks for keywords.

But no matter how often a blogger posts, no matter how awesome the content may be, it will always be (nearly) impossible to rank well on Google without some serious thought in to SEO principles. Though many content marketers will tell you it’s the quality content that counts, they forget the reason for quality content is to achieve links, shares and other promotion.

We recently read a guest post over at ConvinceAndConvert.com on SEO principles, and, while creatively not so interesting, its technical points are dead on.

But how does a blogger learn all this stuff and who has the time to both write quality content AND structure it all so Google indexes and ranks it properly?

We’d love to have answers for all of this, but in completely honesty, ranking highly on Google doesn’t matter for everyone. We’ve noticed that many people likely to click on top Google links are more interested in price than quality, just like the kind of web surfers that repeatedly click on ads.

Let’s just assume that ranking isn’t important, but usability once the user is on site is. Which of ConvinceAndConvert.com’s principles should be followed to make things as easy as possible for users?

1. Make sure your pages link to each other so your link equity is spread out
2. Flatten your blog
6. Put your most valuable keyword as the beginning of your post title

By focusing on making your blog’s information as close to the surface as possible, you’re saving readers time; time that hopefully translates into a positive feeling about your product/service.

And that should translate into sales.

Bloggers need not follow every SEO principle out there, but they need to be aware of them.

See you in the blogosphere!

Is Facebook The Answer For Event Ticket Sales?

Ghibli Museum Admission Tickets

Facebook is good for many things, including keeping up with friends and family, sharing pictures and video and RSVPing yes to events you’re not likely to attend.

Wait, what was that last one? RSVPing to event you’re not likely to attend?

Yep, you read that correctly. Ask any event planner and they’ll tell you the same: a yes RSVP on Facebook means almost nothing. This could be because it’s too easy to say yes, people think that saying no will somehow affect their standing with everyone else that’s invited and because clicking yes keeps you informed on event and invitee happenings.

Our buddies over at the Event Manager Blog think that Facebook can and should be a part of your event marketing strategy, but not necessarily your top choice to record RSVPs.

We like most of their suggestions, but have a few thoughts of our own.

Timed Event Specials
Why not create a ticket buying event open for a limited time? Create an event, invite the people you’d like to attend, and watch them snap up ticket deals. Because we humans are addicted to sales, more tickets will be sold.

Use Tickets As Art
Most tickets have bar codes, some text and a boring image. Why not have an artist create a ticket worth holding on to, or even better, worth hanging up? Surely your audience will take pictures and share the tickets on their page, opening your event up to attendees you may have not thought of.

Create VIP Groups
There are few things better than feeling special. Creating VIP groups with open invite policies allows potential guests to invite anyone they’d like, giving them a bit of ownership in the event. While this may sound exclusive without actually being exclusive, isn’t that a best case scenario for everyone? No one likes an elitist, right?

Facebook can be more than cat pictures, baby images and businesses blatantly trying to sell to people, but only if businesses smart thinking more like the clients they serve.

eBooks As Content Marketing Tools

E-Readers

The marketing industry has been abuzz lately with advice on content marketing, how to position anyone as an expert and the amount of power in transparency. While these three are daunting tasks on their own, there is one tested method that combines them all.

eBooks.

Yes, those terrible, terrible digital things that look to supplant printed books as an entertainment option enjoyable by anyone, nearly anywhere. For months and years marketers have looked for packaged, easy to share materials that paint the creator(s) as industry leaders, and the answer to all that has been here all along.

eBooks are the answer.

These magnificent creations are cheap to reproduce, easy to transport and, best of all, can be changed as often as necessary. Let’s assume you have a staff, department or individual capable of producing a quality eBook, what’s the next step in using it as a marketing tool?

As Jeff Goins explains in a recent copyblogger post, the answer often starts with Amazon. We’ll let you click over and read his step-by-step instructions, but when you come back, continue reading to discover what NOT to do when publishing an eBook for ANY reason.

You back? Good.

Make It Great
eBooks aren’t supposed to be sales brochures or pictorials of company successes. They should be about real stories from real people.

Edit The Heck Out Of It
Anything filled with typos, poor grammar and misspellings won’t be taken seriously. If you’re looking to make a positive impression on your audience, spend the few hundred or thousand dollars for a professional copy editor. Trust us when we say you’ll thank yourself long term.

Make It Helpful And Specific
Some of the best eBooks we’ve read (not counting novels here) are about something specific. Dean Ouellette recently published a guide to Evernote For Real Estate, which, while certainly specific, can be used to learn how to do anything via Evernote. But because he made the decision to target a specific group (potential clients), tailoring it to his industry works well for him.

The internet is full of half-thought-out blog posts and SEO-friendly, keyword-stuffed marketing copy, so why not stand out by creating something people can take with them and actually use?

Should Event Planners Hire ‘Social’ Employees?

human octowiki

An event planner’s job seemingly never ends. Early morning set ups followed by day-long problem fixing followed by late night tear downs make many event planners look like they never stop working. For many of them, we bet it sure feels like it.

Now that social media is nearly a 24/7/365 channel, event planners accustomed to handling all aspects of event planning really ARE working all the time. Because digital conversations can happen at any time, it’s important for event planners to stay on top of the chatter, whether it’s about their event, their client or something related.

But how does a busy event planner keep track of all those goings on? We recommend hiring someone to help out, but not an intern fresh out of college. ‘Social’ employees (we really need to figure out a better term), because of their job requirements, tend to not mesh well with existing structure, especially in a typical 9-5 environment. While we’re not suggesting that anyone in charge of monitoring and responding social media should be able to work from wherever they want whenever they want, it’s a good idea to adjust their work schedule based on their actual work.

Here are a few things most social employees need to thrive:

Access To Company Decision Makers
Even if it’s brief, having the ear of those in charge allow those responsible for the image and face of your company to do their job better. “Yes, that’s true, I just spoke with CEO yesterday” sounds a lot better than “Well, my manager said this is the direction we’re going, but she’s not sure”.

Flexible Work Schedule
Because conversations happen at any time, requiring social employees to be in the office 9-5 every weekday is sure to wear them out. Not only are they responsible directly to you for 40 hours a week, they’re heading home to continue their job duties. That’s not healthy for anyone.

Give Them Power
Customers like when problems are solved satisfactorily and hopefully quickly. By giving your social employee a threshold (if it costs less than $50, do it) and some leeway when it comes to customer service, you’ll make an even better impression on whomever they’re serving.

Being on the front lines isn’t for everyone, but with proper thinking and an eye for preventing problems, event planners can use social employees successfully.

See you on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Pinterest/Google+!

Marketing With(Out) A Conscience

amorality

There’s no crying in baseball. Coffee is only for closers. Multi-level marketing is totally not a pyramid scheme.

There’s no question plenty of people will do or say whatever it takes to succeed. They will lie, cheat, steal and knock you over in order to get what they want. While most of us might think this type of attitude is only for the old-school sales department, there’s no question the practice of using time-honored stories to sell or marketing product/services is in no way a recent occurrence.

That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Dave Van de Walle recently wrote about what looks like an MLM company using a dying man to help promote their company and their product. While we don’t have any additional information than what Van de Walle published, it’s no doubt disturbing to see an ill individual propped up in front of a camera.

But it does raise this question: what if James Cordova WANTED to spend his dying hours surrounded by friends and colleagues celebrating him? Does that make it any less depressing?

We certainly don’t think so, but we’re not friends with nor do we know the Cordova family, so we’ll stay out of it. But what does this mean for event marketers looking to showcase willing participants who may not come across all that well to an audience?

It’s simple, really: make it about the person, not the product or service. There’s nothing wrong with anyone wanting to be part of a team or anything wrong with them wanting to celebrate that on camera for the world to see, but when that promotion is the ONLY reason the event is staged, you’re going to get more than a few uncomfortable looks and concerned comments.

The world has plenty of stories to tell, why not focus on the ones not centered around a dying man with hours to live?

Best wishes to the Cordova family.

Why Stories Matter

“All we got to do is tell the story right.” -Pike (Taye Diggs in Basic)

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

The movie Basic is about a group of Army Rangers on a clandestine mission. The plot centers around an investigator attempting to uncover the story behind the disappearance of a few members, as well as questions about what really happened in a cabin in the jungle.

What does this have to do with events? Plenty.

The oft-repeated quote “all we got to do is tell the story right” could be ripped from the film and used on any number of marketing events, but there’s a slight difference: event planners can construct the story from scratch, they don’t need to worry about ‘telling’ it right, more ‘creating’ it right.

All great events tell stories. From helping attendees garner knowledge they could not find on their own to providing networking opportunities for people from around the world and private demonstrations to public launches, each event travels along a hero’s arc (of sorts) in an attempt to solve a problem that attendees may or may not know exists.

Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, recently interviewed fellow author Jonathan Gottschall. The topic of their discussion? Gottschall’s latest book The Storytelling Animal, which talks about how stories make us human, and how conditioned we are to share them.

Sales pitch? Story. Marketing campaign? Story. Asking someone for a favor? Usually a story involved there, too.

Smart event planners will take note of this and craft event elements to support a simple plot line. Perhaps it’s ‘attendee identifies resources, meets other interested parties, hears experts tell him how to solve problems and then makes that happen’ or something like that. Aligning you agenda so it looks like a plot will help, too.

But the most important part? The stories attendees share after they leave. What are you doing to give them something to talk about?

Too many options? | Simplicity rules

Simplicity rules. Say what you want about complexity, multiple choices and myriad options, when it comes to efficiently working with groups of people, the simpler, the better.

Greek Minimalism (III)

Whenever our staff travels without head honcho Scott Cate and his multitude of frequent flyer privileges allowing him to bypass seemingly every line the TSA throws at him, we end up a bit confused by the Family, Casual and Expert traveler lines.

What makes a Casual traveler? Is there any penalty if you go in the Expert line if you don’t understand how to quickly unpack your carry-on? What about Expert families that have unpacking down to an efficient art?

If only one of those lines are open, am I allowed to cut in line if I’m an Expert? If I mess up, will my name be added to a no-fly list? May I report people if they’re casually waiting in the Expert line?

In this case, even as little as three choices seems overwhelming. Without clear criteria separating the lines (most people seem to consider themselves experts, while the majority of families are pretty quick through the line), even regular travelers can get confused.

Now imagine this same thing happening at the registration line at an event. If there are multiple check-in areas, are they divided by company or name? First or last name? The name of the person that signed up, paid the fee or is actually attending?

That’s why we love our QR codes. There’s one line for everyone, with an overflow area for anyone who didn’t print out or bring their admittance ticket. The one line allows our staff to check people in via iOS or Android apps, eliminating confusion and bringing the number of choices attendees have to make to a manageable two, instead of three plus with no clear reason for two of the three choices.

Why make life complicated? Simplicity rules, and we bet your customers agree.

Why Your Name Badges Suck

Name badges

It happens at nearly every conference. The organizer wants to impress the bosses, and as such the badge is designed highlighting the conference or a company that’s sponsoring. The badge probably looks very attractive on the table when attendees pick them up, but when they go to meet other attendees, speakers and exhibitors, they have a hard time doing what they’d expect to be able to do with others’ badges: read people’s names.

Here at EventDay, we don’t have that problem. It’s not that we’ve invented a revolutionary way to introduce people sans badges, we’ve focused on what’s most important about name badges and highlighted those parts. Here’s what we think more conferences should do:

Make the name bigger
At least the first name. Last name and company can usually be a little smaller, as we don’t think people greet each other by last name and “what company do you work for?” is a fantastic introductory question. Highlight that first name above all else.

Don’t worry about the conference logo
Unless the badges are sponsored, there is no good reason to have a large logo on them. None of the attendees need to be reminded where they are, and they probably take off the name badge when they leave the premises, so advertising the event is pointless. Leave some white space so others can focus on that important information on there.

Color coding is easier to recognize than labels
Any event that has vendors, presenters, attendees and any other distinct groups can use color coding to determine access or material type. For the people that run the event, choose bolder colors, as they’re easier to pick out in a crowd. For the attendees, lighter colors works, as they’re more inviting. 3-5 segments is probably the max, as too many will confuse you, too.

Use two holes for hanging name badges
No one likes a twisted name badge, even if the content is on each side. A better solution is to have two holes to secure the badge on top, even if it’s a little pricier. This also means you could put content useful to the person wearing the badge on the back, in a smaller font, and not have to worry about readability beyond a few inches. Also, room for sponsors.

Make friends with technology
QR codes, RFID chips and NFC capabilities can provide extremely useful data to conference organizers and allow attendees easy access to information. Real-time crowd traffic flow, contact information sharing and even purchasing power can all be integrated.

Anything we didn’t mention? Are you usually happy with the name badges at events you host or attend?