Here are some examples of what I consider to be idiot marketing messages:
- Last chance to sign up is Friday!
- Hours left to save – register today!
- Early bird pricing extended!
- High-level content at ABC Conference!
- Elite Expertise at XYZ Summit!
- Breaking News: XYZ to keynote Acme Conference
You may ask why I characterize them as idiotic. Perhaps you’re thinking “I use that approach in my email subject lines all the time!” However, I’d argue that these messages are for situations where you know that people are interested in attending your event. In those circumstances a price reduction, some kind of promotion, or additional information on an event’s content may be what’s going to get them to register. But otherwise this kind of marketing is clueless.
The thing that always gets me about poor marketing tactics is when the presumed ‘buyer path’ is based on faulty assumptions, the biggest of which is that the recipient of your messaging actually cares about what you’re writing or already is a raving fan.
Given that most events are not considered to be indispensable, to assume a prior year’s attendee is predisposed to return, if given the right incentive or information, could be a mistake. Was the event valuable for them or memorable in some way? Or was it just an interruption of their daily business and a waste of time and money? How do you know?
If someone hasn’t been convinced of the value of your event – or worse, doesn’t pay attention to your marketing and therefore doesn’t know what you are talking about – do you think they’ll care that the early bird discount ends on Friday or some other marketing offer or further meaningless information? If you are not segmenting your lists and tailoring your message for your key personas, then I’d argue you are guilty of lazy marketing. You haven’t put in the time to know whether a price incentive is the right offer to the right person at the right time then you’re just guessing. I am also suggesting that an early bird deadline be based on the time that you have found to be the right time for the prospect, not necessarily the date you’ve arbitrarily picked.
You should be able to segment your past attendees into 4-5 main categories. Then you should ensure you have a buyer path for each category, a path that is not based on assumptions but rather is grounded in data, like past history, surveys, conversations with prospects, etc..
Assuming you have the metrics to indicate that the members of a segment are at a point in the buyer path when they’re ready to sign up, the messages I referenced as idiotic might have an impact. If you are crafting the same message for everyone- get ready for the marketing panic I referenced in my last article though……
Prospects are getting smarter. They’ll avoid you and your messages unless you also are smart about them and know how to build value and trust so they covert into attendees.
One of my touchstone books is “Looking Out for Number One” Sounds like a selfish idea right? Wrong. Knowing what your needs are and ‘delivering’ them to yourself is a critical first step to making sound transactions and building lasting relationships. Of course, you need to meet the expectations of partners, customers and friends for it all to work, so you need to understand the wants and needs of others for it all to work. I urge you to check Robert Ringer’s book, as it has provided some of the guidance I’ve followed in running my own business since 2005.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Robert:
“Enjoy life, but be flexible in your planning. It’s dangerous to base your decisions on the assumption that everything is going to continue as it now is. It won’t. Worse, because circumstances have a habit of changing with little warning, you are often caught off guard.”
“Unfortunately, most people live in a totally unreal world. They create a world in their own minds based on the way they would like the world to be rather than the way it actually is. They would much rather delude themselves by ignoring the facts, even if their self-delusion only prolongs the inevitable.”
“When it comes to custom and tradition, people tend to spend a great deal of time and energy doing things for which they hope to be appreciated. It’s nice when it happens, but it’s a big mistake to base your actions on the desire to gain the gratitude of others.”
“Never do anything with the expectation of being appreciated. The most valid reason for taking an action is that you sincerely want to do it.”
“People who use bad breaks as excuses are often victims of the World-Owes-Me-a-Living Theory, which states: Anyone who believes that others—or, worse, ‘the world’—owes them something are destined for failure and disappointment. Until a person cleanses this poisonous notion from his mind, he is unlikely to leave the starting gate, much less win the race.”
“People who see themselves as victims of bad luck have a difficult time understanding that the surest road to success is to create one’s own breaks. Sadly, most of them are victims of the Waiting-to-Be-Discovered Theory, which states: If you’re waiting for something to happen, you’re not in control of your destiny. Don’t wait for something to happen; make it happen!”
“Remember: People will bother you until you no longer allow them to.”
“Remember, everything worthwhile has a price. The price of friendship varies in amount and form, but, make no mistake about it, there is always a payment involved. The payment may require your investing a certain number of hours per week in conversation, it may mean that you are counted on for continual inspiration, or it may translate into your having to forego a facet of your life that is important to you. Whatever it may be, just be aware that there is a payment.”
Enjoy and prosper!
The more attention you can commit to things, the more value you will derive. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of awareness; attention spans are now shorter than ever and paying attention is a challenge. With the many information inputs available, people are easily distracted in ways that interfere with the focus needed to understand what they are seeing.
What’s the impact? You are making decisions with ‘shallower’ information than before. Thus, the chance of making a bad decision is proportionately greater.
Let’s look at this “attention economy” differently: as a way to create competitive advantage. How about this? I challenge you to find ways to devote more attention to the things that are important, assuming you can distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. That means avoiding the often guilty pleasure of distractions. A complementary skill would be to train yourself to focus on a fewer number of things. That could mean you are spending less time overall, but a getting the bonus of making better decisions.
How do you put yourself in such a ‘resource-rich’ position?
Put away the phone, turn off internet access, and do something in disconnected mode. Change things up by finding opportunities to do things in completely different ways. Maybe it’s having a business meeting outside while walking around the block or your office campus. Or perhaps it’s reading a book that has nothing to do with your day to day work activities, but gives you a perspective that extends beyond the here and now. Meditate. Find ways to force yourself to pay attention to (or think about) something without distractions for 5, 10, or 15 minutes.
Try it for a week and see if your attention span is longer and, as a result, your understanding is deeper. Having done some of these things myself, I’ve certainly seen huge improvement…..
Extra Credit articles on the Attention Economy:
Most of the sales people who I know have lots of confidence. With some, it might even border on arrogance. Confidence is a critical attribute for successful sales, as believing you can get a result is vital to making it happen. But another attribute is almost as important: the often-underappreciated trait of gratitude.
Ridiculous, you might think. Why would someone in sales need to be grateful? How is humility helpful?
Consider this. How many of you find overconfidence to be a turnoff, particularly when the offender is trying to sell you something? The feeling conveyed is that the seller is smarter, knows more, and overall is just better than you are. Of course, nobody likes that feeling. But so many in sales behave that way and never change.
What about gratitude makes it a great quality in a salesperson?
A grateful sales person is grounded in reality and can see things for what they are.
A grateful sales person does the necessary homework on an opportunity, doesn’t try to wing it in a presentation, and doesn’t assume that personality will overcome objections.
A grateful sales person can walk in the shoes of others, recognizing that while they may represent a different perspective, they are a peer with respect to any transaction or relationship.
A grateful sales person doesn’t push ideas too hard, recognizing that a sale should come more naturally, and the case made that it’s obvious that the prospect should buy, rather than be forced.
Who wants to feel that they are being forced to buy something? Don’t get me wrong, gratitude without confidence is a non-starter. But having the right balance can be the difference in a well-rounded sales approach.
In sales, as with many things, being grateful for what you have is the right foundation for getting what you want and perhaps what your prospect needs.
A couple of questions:
- Could you quickly secure a new job solely on the strength of your connections?
- Could you start a business and achieve self-sufficiency immediately based upon your connections?
I suspect that the answer is ‘no’ to both questions, as it proved to be for me in December 2005 when I chose to start my business. At the time, my thinking was “Hey, I used to run Macworld. Once people know I have my own company the phone will ring off the hook.” Unfortunately, reality proved to be different and I struggled for the first two years.
The Event Mechanic! struggles
The main reason for my early struggles? My network was only 10% of what was needed to make a living. With both time and considerable effort that network now is much healthier and now financially I do well. As a result of my network, I often get referrals for new opportunities or, because of the range of my network, I can usually reach whoever I need through a couple of connections.
If you have the six months to two years of savings to support the lean times between jobs, then you might be fine. If not, you should be working on your network. And the time to work on it is when you don’t need it, not when you are scrabbling for financial survival.
How can you create a vibrant network?
- Focus on connections that offer value.
- Make sure that any connection is recognized as being mutually beneficial, rather than a one-sided ‘extraction.’
- Offer value before expecting it from others.
- Be open to making connections on behalf of others.
- Don’t neglect your core network in deference to focusing on new connections.
- Use LinkedIn as a roadmap.
- Treat your efforts as a business; develop a board of directors for advice.
More or better?
Is the goal to have more connections or better connections? My old boss, Ron Gomes, often would answer that kind of either/or question with a ‘yes,’ since ideally, you want both. But, if there’s a trade-off, I would argue that it is better to have fewer, stronger connections than have many distant connections who you don’t really know. As a metric, I’d recommend trying to develop a network of one hundred core connections with whom you connect at least annually. That number should be complemented by several hundred “secondary” connections who will, at a minimum, respond to an email or take your call on an “as needed” basis.
Don’t be an Extractor
Building and maintaining a network takes work, but you should consider it an investment in your ‘rainy day’ fund. And, as was noted earlier, remember the importance of reciprocity. To be successful with network building you should enjoy helping others, as there will be times when members of your network need YOUR help. Relationships that are one directional will not be sustainable and your network will have the fraction of the power it should have.. When you’re only seen as an extractor, there soon will be nothing to be extracted as your connections will leave in droves.
I learned the value of a good network the hard way, and now enjoy the benefits of having invested in that effort. Will you make the same effort or risk being caught short when you need the resources?
Extra Credit reading:
And thanks to Dan Schwabel for his outline of the seven steps to creating a sound network.
When I reflect upon the success I’ve achieved to date and consider the details, I’m always amazed to consider the origins and my journey so far. Given different accomplishments, it’s instructive to consider how things got started. Everything that’s happened has done so in a series of increments, some of which have been positive and others less so. Even the big achievements have come as a progression of small steps.
A Lesson from the Owner of COMDEX
My experience is not unique. A good example comes from Masayoshi Son, the founder of Softbank and someone I consider a living legend even though one of his events was a well-known competitor at a past company: COMDEX.
While Son was a full-time student at UC Berkeley, he sought a way to earn $10,000 a month. It was perhaps too challenging a goal for most of us, but not for Son. How did he do it? By investing a mere five minutes daily in thinking about new business ideas. With no support from fellow students (who thought he was wasting his time, he persevered in thinking about inventions that he could patent – but for just five minutes a day.
Now you and I would probably consider five minutes daily as trivial. Why not go away for a week or so, if you were really committed to getting something accomplished. But Son’s efforts were grounded in the belief in the “Power of the Increment”.
And what were the results? Son conceived and created an electronic dictionary that could translate words from English into Japanese, eventually selling it to Sharp for $1.7 million. Another business idea involving the importing of video games generated $1.5M. By the age of 19, he was a millionaire.
The Concept of “Kaizen” vs. Sudden Big Changes
The Japanese word “kaizen” captures the concept of making big life changes through small, incremental steps. It translates as “continual improvement” and has been implemented everywhere. With kaizen, you can tackle projects through daily routines. Rather than completely overhaul and reorganize things in the hopes of achieving success, kaizen centers on how ideas can evolve over time and how small changes can have big results if they’re nurtured properly.
The continuing nature of a kaizen approach allows for continued measurement and analysis to ensure that things are headed in the right direction. Sudden transformations often don’t allow you to properly keep track of your goals. Good processes should always allow for measurement along the way, so make sure you measure what you are doing.
The Power of the Increment really is a winner. Give it a shot!
While on a recent a business trip, I continued reading a book, The Magic of Thinking Big, that I had first started reading a number of years ago. The book has many great insights, but one that particularly struck me was the recommendation to “treat everyone you deal with as if they are important.” The idea is that if your interactions with others assume that each person is important, you will most likely notice major improvements in your attitude, positive impact on your success, as well as gaining insights regarding how you come across to others.
I thought to myself “Don’t I do that already?” But, upon some reflection the answer was “no” when you talk about everybody.. The volume of communications that I receive means that I often screen phone calls, mail, and emails. And that screening means that I am prioritizing the communications of some over that of others. In addition, face to face I may judge someone poorly if they ‘don’t look right’ or approach me in the right way. The result might be that I disregard them and lose an unknown opportunity. They could very well be important and someone I need to treat better.
I want to test the book’s recommendation. For one day in the future (in the next month) I will treat everyone encountered as though they were of equal importance – and I will report on what happens as a result.
Here’s a challenge to you. I want you to do the same and email me with what you get for results. I’ll compile the responses in a future newsletter and see if we have any breakthrough ideas…..
Will you join me?
As it turns out, creating an event blueprint is pretty simple – at least in theory. These are the key components:
You need to have an idea and that idea has to be better than what already exists. It must be smarter, more exciting, have better participants, or a new model that suits the current time and/or place. Most new events mimic what already exists, so invest the time to ensure that your event will be different and that the difference is meaningful, can be marketed and you can make money doing it!
Once you have the idea, you must write up a one-pager that answers the following questions:
- What is the event?
- Where and when does the event take place?
- How many attendees/exhibitors are expected?
- Why it is compelling?
- Who is it for?
- What benefits an exhibitor will get by participating?
- What are the benefits that attendees will receive?
You’ll also need to have an idea about the fees for attendees and exhibitors.
Now that you’ve persuaded yourself, you need to get 3 or 4 others (whose judgment you respect) to agree that the event you’ve conjured up is worth doing. That agreement should confirm the opportunity cost (which could be huge), the financial risk, and the amount of you are likely to make within the initial 1 to 3 years.
Once you’ve picked a prospective date, make it real by getting a sense of the venue options available, given your event’s ‘footprint’ in terms of the number of sessions and the projected number of attendees and exhibitors. What is the required financial commitment necessary to secure that venue, inclusive of the room blocks?
Given the time and effort of above, you should be able to estimate the expenses in terms of conference room rental, A/V support, food, exhibit area, staff hotel rooms, airfares, related T&E, etc. Put those costs into a spreadsheet, together with expected revenues, to determine whether 1) you can afford to do the event, 2) what your expected profits would be, and 3) the investment and cash flow assumptions in producing it.
With the information compiled in your Event Resume, you’ll want to test the viability of your event with prospects in your database to confirm that your assumptions. You’ll want to have a call-to-action, such as ‘to get more information when it’s available, click here.’ To ensure the responses are actionable, you should target a 15% open rate and a 2% click-through rate.
Can you raise the exhibitor revenue that is part of your assumptions? Pick the top 20 most relevant exhibitor prospects and have your best sales person set up calls or meetings with each decision maker. Get feedback to confirm whether they would support the event financially. Compile the results to see whether your revenue expectations are real or a pipe dream.
Refine Event Resume and Budget, Based on Feedback
Perhaps the preceding steps have suggested that you must tweak the concept for your event or you’ve discovered that initial revenue projections are overly optimistic. Redo the numbers. Then look in the mirror and confirm that you want to do this event.
If all the above testing has left you as confident as when you started, then it’s clearer that you should launch. But if the results are only neutral or something less than that, consider delaying the initiative until you come up with a better approach. Or perhaps you should shelve the idea altogether.
If all of the above sounds like a hassle, imagine how you would feel if you chose to launch without doing your homework. Be brave! But be smart! You have the unique position of being able to see the future, so let that be a guide in building something great.
The secret to success is the ability to stand in another person’s shoes. That’s particularly true if you are trying to do business with that person.
An Old Tale Still Rings True
Remember the story of the two brothers who had to share a piece of cake? The elder brother managed the situation in a way that ensured his younger sibling got the smaller piece. When the situation repeated itself with the same result, the younger brother complained to their mother. In her wisdom, she advised the elder brother that he could continue to divide their treats into portions, but “from now on, your little brother gets to pick the piece he wants.” From that point on, you can imagine they got equal pieces.
Transaction or Relationship?
It’s the same in business. If you are going to try to take advantage of every situation, then you’ll always be doing individual transactions where you try to maximize your advantage. But those transactions will rarely lead to long-lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. Building relationships requires both sides to let down their guard and trust the other party in the long term, and to go into a transaction not expecting the other to take advantage.
Business is not a zero sum game where the gains of one participant must be achieved at the expense of another. If you take the long view where each transaction is part of a relationship to be developed and nurtured, then a concession is not a concession, but rather an investment in the relationship. Conversely, it’s usually a struggle if you are always engaged in transactional business.
Which would prefer? Are you willing to stand in the other person’s shoes?
For extra reading on this kind of thinking, I’d encourage you to check this out.