Is Your Event Marketing Working?

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Marketing experts* like Pam Slim get asked, constantly, why other’s marketing isn’t working; Twitter hasn’t brought any sales they say, or Facebook ads ROI hasn’t been what they expected. Name a digitally-based service, and there’s a story of woe about how time and money spent with it hasn’t produced results promised.

The problem here isn’t the tools, and it may not be the product or service offered, but rather the idea that marketing is just like advertising. That marketing should have a direct, trackable impact (it certainly may, but usually not as immediately as a print or online advertisement). That marketing will solve all of your event or business woes.

Marketing is a relationship. It’s not a coupon, it’s not just a series of tweets, and it’s not a QR code that saves $10 off event registration. And it takes a heckuva lot longer than the weeks or months leading up to your event. It’s a full-time, always-on practice that often costs more time than money. So how can you check if your marketing is working?

Gather
Are you keeping tabs on who clicks on your newsletters, how many people use your landing page to register, and how many people followed check-in instructions? You should be. Check out something like MailChimp and UnBounce to get these things done.

Analyzing
Data is great, as long as you know how to interpret it. While we don’t profess to be customer data experts, tracking and recording customer behavioral information is an integral first step in understanding how your choices affect your customers’.

Implement
If your analysis revealed site visitors preferred 30 second videos over 90 second ones (LoopLogic can reveal this sort of data), are you in a position to act? Far too many content creators spend more time gather and analyzing data than acting on it, a huge mistake in a digital world that can be changed fairly easily.

HubSpot has great tutorials if you’re just getting started.

*Not certain Slim would cop to being a marketing expert, but she’s able to answer marketing industry questions well and often, so we’re comfortable labeling her as such.

Are Video Testimonials Worth It?

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First email was the social media frontier. Then came instant messaging, followed closely by SMS-capable apps and then social networks. While most people think of social networks as Twitter or Facebook, the 10th most popular site in the world (Facebook, Google, and Twitter) is also one of the simplest: YouTube.

Designed during a time when uploading personal media anywhere online AND having the bandwidth for more than tens of people wasn’t common, YouTube’s success after nearly a decade can be boiled down to one thing: people like seeing videos of others just like them.

Like People, there’s a certain magic in seeing faces and antics of real people doing and saying real things. Marketers did certainly didn’t miss the boat here, and have used YouTube in a variety of effective ways, perhaps none more so than the customer testimonial. We’re not talking staged testimonials here, either (though actors playing roles are better than most marketing/advertising campaigns).

The real stuff is what works. But how can your average businessperson with a decent digital camcorder, microphone and video editing software make their video testimonials worth it? Rocky Walls, guest posting on Convince & Convert, says video testimonials should be treated like a great first date.

For those of you out there that are either super bad at first dates or haven’t been on one in a while, here’s a quick refresher:

Pick The Right Moment
Walls recommends asking for a video testimonial right after you’ve nailed a client project or a similar accomplishment. Nothing better than a sparkle in someone’s eye after their expectations were exceeded.

Be Irresistible
Walls’ article mentions the need for an irresistible line, but we disagree. While lines work great for TV characters, fostering a fantastic relationship over previous hours, days, weeks, months, and/or years will help turn every reasonable request into a yes. Trusted people are hard to resist.

Go Where They’re Comfortable
This could mean their place. It could mean a park or coffee shop. It probably won’t mean a sterile sound stage in front of a green screen. The point of an honest testimonial is to be honest, and that’s much harder when the customer isn’t in their element.

Remember The Golden Rule
The above title could easily be translated into “be gentlemanly” or “act as if a lady”, but what it really boils down to is that anyone looking for great video testimonials should treat their customers as they’d like to be treated. Say please and thank you, give honest feedback, and don’t expect the moon when you’re only willing to provide a few pieces of cheese.

Good videoing.

Do You Ask Permission To Help Attendees?

No matter how well the signs are placed, no matter how many maps and schedules given out, no matter how well-marked the rooms are, every event will have attendees asking questions. Some of these inquiries may be simple — like the restroom locations — others, complicated — requests to meet with a speaker privately — but every single answer will reflect on the event and your staff as a whole.

For too many of us used to being bombarded with salesy questions at every big-box electronics store, vehicle lot or restaurant, staff and attendee interaction is perceived to be a painful experience. For one, the staff member doesn’t want to bother an attendee lost in thought, but too often we see confused attendees wandering around, wondering aloud how to find what they’re looking for.

This disconnect must be solved, but helping without annoying isn’t easy, and it must be initiated from your staff in order to work. We rely on three things to help make this process a little bit easier.

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Eye Contact
We’re not talking eye contact when face to face with attendees, your staff should already know that. The kind of eye contact we’re referring to here is from across the room, over a table, or at the registration desk. Staff members should be looking up and scanning the room in search of troubled expressions, make eye contact with those people, and work their way over to help.

Locking eyes is a quick and easy way to determine if someone needs help; if they don’t, they’ll look or walk away. Careful not to give them a death stare.

Open Body Language
Whether it’s due to long days, little sleep, the chaos of any large event or simply laziness, we see far too many staffers talking with attendees while their arms are crossed, their eyes dart off into the crowd or their bodies turned at least partially away. While the need to keep an eye on the room is understandable, too much necessary body language is being wasted or misinterpreted when staffers don’t give attendees their full attention.

We’ve also found that staffers giving undivided attention to attendees (this shouldn’t take all that long, maybe 30 seconds) tend to answer their questions better because they’re listening more intently.

May I Help You versus What Can I Help You With
The first statement above is passive; it’s asking permission. The second is active; it’s moved beyond asking permission toward the actual problem faced.

Event staffers aren’t retail employees, they’re not there to sell stuff. Remember to instruct staffers to solve attendee problems first, worry about asking permission to do so later.

Solve attendee problems first. Ask permission to do so later.

Coping With Downtime

No one online is immune to downtime. Whether it’s a hurricane, flood, fire or you just forgot to pay your monthly hosting bill, downtime will affect us all.

With greater reliance on cloud computing, we suspect businesses will be affected by unforeseen downtime (or as was the case with the Windows Azure downtime this last Leap Day, which unluckily kept our services from working for a few hours, wish-we-coulda-foreseen) that can wreak havoc on planned launches, services, or, in the retail environment, be very costly around the holiday gift-giving season.

The team over at HubSpot already has a few great ones — especially the first; why doesn’t every website have a cool site down page with their address and phone number?

Have a back-up plan
Whenever we don’t have internet access (think crowded WiFi at conferences) or our server goes down (very, very rare when using Azure), our system has the ability to access and print from the database that was synced locally via the last refresh.

Backup/sync often
While cloud computing does save us the hassle of being forced to repeatedly sync each client computing station (we typically have 2-4 set up for event check-in), it’s important to keep everything up to date, and it couldn’t be simpler for us. In our earlier days, frequent syncs saved us from downtime caused by local crashes, now our habit often insulates us whenever there’s a server or WiFi hiccup.

Remember the people
Whenever we have service outages, it’s often because of WiFi connectivity issues while large groups of people check in. While we certainly can’t control the local network — be sure to get to know the resident IT person before your event — we can make the best of it by not ignoring the attendees waiting to check in. Talk to the people in line. Help them plan the rest of their day. Listen to their concerns.

Because our smartphone app relies on WiFi connectivity to talk with our server and check-in/printing stations, we’ve found that a dedicated MiFi works very well in preventing any issues. Highly recommend that for any time you don’t have direct access to the local network’s setup screen.

See you in the cloud.

Factory-Worker Thinking Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

You’d think it would be hard to hire someone that thought like a factory worker today. By factory worker we don’t mean someone assigned to add one part to a product on an assembly line, but rather a person incapable of reacting properly to a work situation without being trained to do so. The world doesn’t need more factory-worker THINKING.

How often do you hear retail employees say:

“I don’t know”
or
“We’re out”?

While both may be true, such factory-worker thinking just doesn’t fly in the events business. No matter how any of us may try to streamline our check-in processes, registration line set-ups or day-of scheduling, they are never the same, so factory-worker thinking just doesn’t fly. But that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t see if far too often.

As Adrian Segar points out in Wirearchy Not Hierarchy, a post from his blog Conferences That Work, anyone concerned with job security in the events business would be well served to start thinking of tradeshows, conferences, and seminars as two-way, collaborative learning opportunities.

While this sort of “everything should be collaborative” mindset isn’t new in the tech world, it’s not something traditional businesses have had much experience with. And if you’re the type of person that thinks adopting new technology for issues like check-in (we hear EventDay does some good stuff in that realm) means you’re modernizing both your processes and your approach, we thank you for your business but warn you that it’s not enough simply to upgrade, in is as much as sharing office equipment doesn’t make you a coworking space.

For factory-worker thinking to be pushed out, we must stop the passive learning conferences that encourage so much sitting and listening that it becomes repetitive and likely feels antagonistic. Community events like AZ Groups do a great job making sure conference goers have access to the speakers after they’re on stage, and we’d like to see far more of this at industry events.

Some of our best tips result from sharing stories with other professionals…isn’t it time we created conferences that facilitated that over everything else?

TechPhx | The New PodcampAZ

When it comes to events focused on non-geek, beginner-type techies in the greater Phoenix area, no one event comes to mind more so than PodcampAZ. This year, in an effort to rejuvenate attendance, reach new people and to be able to explain exactly what the volunteer-led event is all about, they switched the name to TechPhx.

“It began as PodcampAZ, a national unconference focused on podcasting community,” Organizer Dani Cutler said. “Phoenix evolved it into video, blogging, web design, social media, etc.”

With that name change brought more focus on teaching and renewed interest in learning about how social media integrates with technology and business — along with a universal EventDay ticketing system that works on PC and Mac via any major browser.

While our service has worked great on any browser, the task of creating a universal printer app has been a project we’ve long been excited to unveil. Any laptop, along with a DYMO label printer and internet access, can be paired with a smartphone using our app to creating on-demand ticketing with all the usual check-in services we’ve always used.

“It was nice to have someone outside to scan QR codes to print out name tags,” Cutler said.

Our reports say TechPhx had 170 attendees over both days of their early November event, and each were scanned, badged at our registration table and registered in the database. We’re proud to be able to contribute to local, volunteer-run events like this, and know that they are important steps in creating a culture of discovering, making and doing.

Like Pressnomics over the same weekend, TechPhx was focused more on conversations than lectures.

“We all were very pleased with the speakers — 42 in the end, “Cutler said. “The speakers really liked the energy — more casual, more of a conversation…really happy with it.”

Looking forward to again helping out in 2013.

Pressnomics – Year One

WordPress has had its share of conference love. From WordCamp to prominent placement in beginner-focused conferences like TechPhx or heavy usage during Startup Weekends, the publishing software/CMS now powers at least 8,343,412 sites online, with over a million of those among the web’s most visited.

But until last weekend, there hadn’t existed many (if any) high-profile conferences focused on B2B companies that use WordPress to make money. Pressnomics, run by Pagely co-founders Josh and Sally Strebel, was created to give bigger, more serious (enterprise and other large-budget projects) businesspeople a chance to talk shop and exchange notes on how they use the still-free WordPress to provide customer solutions.

“After attending [and sponsoring] MANY WordCamps while evangelizing Pagely, they bored me as a business owner. The most valuable part was the conversations in the hallways, and I wanted an entire conference focused on those hallways conversations,” Josh said. “I wanted to learn more, interact more with people on my level.”

As with any new conference looking to get a bit of marketing buzz going, Josh seeded the industry with invites to specific companies with larger-than-average presences in the commercial WordPress community. After that, spots were first come, first serve.

Tony Perez of Sucuri.net understood the approach.

“Invite process was interesting,” Tony said. “Exclusivity builds buzz, [it’s] good marketing.”

Tony especially liked being able to network with other companies just like his, instead of the typical beginners and solo shops prevalent at other events like WordCamp. And because Pressnomics wasn’t under the WordPress Foundation umbrella, the focus was more on sharing business stories, rather than typical developer or designer needs.

“It IS about money, it is about marketing,” Tony said. “[It was] an event tailored for the business ecosystem — looking to engage with other pros, extend your ideas or posture [about solutions]. If you’re looking to build a widget or design one, [it’s] not the event for you.”

Director of Engineering for sponsor New Relic Darin Swanson likened Pressnomics to an untapped market of movers and shakers of B2B of WordPress land. While Darin would have liked more questions to be asked during sessions, he though the quality of the presentations were, on average, above average.

“The information flow was awesome. One of the better ones,” Darin said. “Daily emails, Uber for airport pickups and the Twitter presence was great. Hotel was easy, too. It just worked.”

While the Strebels wouldn’t commit to another Pressnomics, feedback shows the event was useful and necessary, as having attendees from all six continents showed there wasn’t anything comparable around the world.

No official word on a sequel.

Is Google+ Better For Event Marketers?

Fairly accepted marketer wisdom is this: Twitter is for real-time news, Facebook is for family and friends, and Google+ is for interests.

Twitter: what’s happening now.
Facebook: what people I know are doing.
Google+: where to find more about what I’m interested in.

How
While the statements above are certainly not fact, they may explain why Facebook’s valuation has dropped so far, so fast: people don’t like to be interrupted or advertised to while talking with their family and friends. People like it when our social networks reflect how we see our lives and live them online, rather than needing to conform to technical limitations and advertiser demands on how their messages are served to us.

Why
As social networks are wont to do — new ones especially — Google+ has developed its own norms and etiquette. For instance, one user reports that when he signs off for the night, he uses #offline to signify such and has seen it catch on elsewhere. While some may scoff at the notion of Google+ or any social network using such chat-room-like signifiers, today’s always-connected, always-on world often does need both a tangible and digital on/off switch.

Justify
While many marketers, digital or otherwise (is there even a difference anymore?), claim to be using Google+, we sure haven’t seen anyone stand above the rest. Perhaps this is because our interests seldom require commercial purposes, perhaps it’s because most marketers have no idea what they’re doing.

Success?
While we think there ARE plenty of marketers that do actually have a clue, we’re curious as to how and if Google+ will ever become viable for them over the long term. For short-term projects or events, it’s great, but like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter before, it’s going to take a concerted effort, authentic effort to be able to justify any time or budget in doing so.

Maybe that’s Google+’s greatest strength: users really have to care about why they’re using it.

Video Walkthroughs – Pro Or Amateur?

There’s a lot to be said for hiring a professional videographer to film your next event. From their storytelling prowess to next-level editing skills, the ability to showcase what your event is about from a third-person perspective can often do wonders for marketing and promoting whatever you choose.

While the video came out great, many event planners don’t have the budget to hire a filming, editing and distribution crew specializing in this kind of event coverage. Thanks to a host of wearable and easily used consumer technology like GoPro, event planners can create their own event walkthroughs, albeit with less flash, pizazz and polish than the big guys, at a fraction of the price.

Below is an example of a simple museum walkthrough filmed with a fish-eye type lens available on most GoPro products. Yours truly used such for time-lapsed tours of the All-Star festivities in 2011, and has watched many an extreme sport participant create similar works of “art”.

Not everyone needs professional equipment, professional videographers and professional editors (though it definitely helps) to make great video, sometimes all you need to do is get it done.

Don’t believe us that online video is worth the time? Francine Hardaway seems to think so, and we trust her results.

See you on the videoblogosphere!

Holiday Parties Abound

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As the end of the calendar year rolls around, employee focuses shift toward family time, large dinners and plenty of gift giving. Whether it snows where you are or stays sunny year round, the holiday season means one thing for most event planners: holiday parties.

Oh, how those holiday parties are a blessing and a curse; tales from such last for years, you remember the one about the time your boss had a little too much eggnog? How about the time when someone FORGOT eggnog? Or even last year, when, overcome with holiday spirit, employees seemed to pass on the office cheer for the chance to get home — or get away from work — a little earlier?

Fear not, office holiday party planners! With a little ingenuity, you can make slight tweaks to your holiday shindig that make it a little easier on you and a lot more fun for everyone.

Plan Midweek, not Thursday or Friday, Early Afternoon
Many event planners schedule holiday parties at 3pm or later at the end of the week in hope everyone will be done working and can head out for Happy Hour soon afterward. While this seems like a great idea, what it does is take people away from productive holiday hours and often encourages overconsumption from the non-stop partying. Try a Tuesday or Wednesday shindig, just before or after lunch (potlucks during lunch work great, too) to keep off-task activities to a minimum.

Go Offsite, After Work Hours
Sometimes it’s just easier to have someone else handle the setup, serving and clean-up for large groups of people. And, while we’re careful not to be holiday grinches when saying this, moving your office party off site could also help with liability issues should someone over imbibe. We recommend paying for the buffet table, and allowing your guests to buy drinks (if it’s after work hours, and it should be because who wants to go back to the office after a good party?) on their own. Most local restaurants offer generous deals if you order buffet-style food.

Forgo Holiday Parties, Give Gift Cards Instead
Maybe much of your workforce works remotely, maybe they’re too hard to wrangle or perhaps some departments just can’t swing an afternoon party; instead of having an event with only a fraction of employee attendance, why not give gift cards? While it doesn’t have to be enough to justify as a holiday bonus, every little bit helps around the holiday season.

Happy holiday party planning, and don’t forget those sweaters!