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Monday, September 08, 2008

How To Respond To A Blog Crisis In 5 Steps

A blogger has just said something bad about your company and it's getting picked up and repeated by others rapidly online ... what do you do? One of the toughest things to understand about responding to a negative situation on blogs is the speed with which the conversations happen. Speed matters because in a matter of minutes, content can go viral and not responding early means that your voice is missing in the crucial early conversations and therefore not represented as anyone carries the conversation forward. Aside from that, if you do not respond quickly, you give others a chance to respond for you - and perhaps not favourably. So how do you deal with a negative blog situation if one did arise, and do it quickly?*

Here are a few tips:

  1. Identify the participants: Every blog crisis has three categories of participants: the source, the commenters and the promoters. The source is the place where the story started, the commenters are those who are discussing it, and the promoters are the people spreading the story online. By far the easiest way to build a picture of these people is to simply follow links ... visit the original site, click on "About" pages, click on people's name in blog comments and keep a list of these people.
  2. Evaluate the conversation - In addition to tone of comments (positive, negative), look for frequency, how many different people are commenting and the date and time of last comment to see how active and wide reaching the conversation is. Going beyond blogs, read the "backchannel" of conversation by searching for your keywords and the source blogger on Twitter Search. Often bloggers will offer a running commentary through Twitter, giving you vital background information and possibly even a way to engage the blogger in a real time discussion.
  3. Respond authentically - On blogs, as opposed to other less immediate and personal forms of media, you cannot rely on a carefully crafted press release to create some ambiguity or delicately respond to a crisis. You need to actually have a point of view and share it authentically. This may be an apology, or a promise to investigate further, or a correction of fact. Doing it authentically means you need to have a real person comment (not an anonymous company account).
  4. Publish your point of view - Simply commenting, however, is not the most powerful way to respond to a negative situation. The best way is to publish your point of view on some form of social media that is an asset for your company. This means publishing something on your own corporate blog (if you have one). Then every comment or subsequent discussion can point people back to this content, and even bring the conversation about the issue onto your site.
  5. Monitor and respond to conversation - The most challenging thing about responding to a blog crisis is that you need to keep monitoring the conversation and responding to commentary and dialogue. At some point, it will usually die down ... but in social media and on blogs you need to follow through on any conversations you have started, or else risk undoing any positive work you may have done as people feel you are not paying attention to them.

* As you may have realized, this post assumes already that you will be responding to a blogger. There are some very real situations where we have counseled clients NOT to respond to particular blog attacks and where I personally have chosen not to respond to bloggers who may have posted negatively about me. Unfortunately, there is no hard rule for when to respond or when not to as each situation is different.

Note: This post is republished from the original on the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence Blog.

Monday, August 25, 2008

An Insider's Guide To Marketing On Flickr

Now that I am getting back on the grid after three weeks in Asia, I thought a good follow up post to my time covering the Olympics in Beijing would be sharing some tips on one site that I ended up very actively using throughout the Olympics: Flickr. I have had a Flickr account for several years now, but always looked at the examples of Brian Solis and Josh Hallet (among others) and felt I wasn't quite the super user of Flickr that I aspired to be. While I'm not as profilic in capturing the people from all the events I attend as those two, I do consider myself an enthusiastic amateur photographer and at one point even considered doing it professionally. Now that I find myself squarely on the amateur side, I do have the same drive to have my photos seen and appreciated (below is a "Best of Beijing" gallery I just put together) ...

While working on the Lenovo Voices of the Olympic Games project from Beijing, I also rapidly discovered that Flickr can be a marketing goldmine for the right project. Over about ten days, I uploaded hundreds of photos into 21 sets covering everything from scorpions in the street market at Wangfujing to an epic (and underreported) women's beach volleyball match between Russia and Georgia. The biggest lesson I learned is that Flickr offers one of the largest image archives and communities online and one that is often not targeted because marketers aren't yet good at creating the one thing they need to have credibility in Flickr ... quality non-marketing images.

This is a big deal because Flickr is not just a community of photos, it is a community where high quality photography is appreciated. Sure, people use Flickr to share their point and shoot photos with family, but the power users of Flickr and the communities that you would care about as a marketer are usually looking at very high quality images. So before you try to use any of the techniques in this insiders guide, you need to make sure your photographs are actually good enough to bother. Assuming they are, here are a few things I learned about using Flickr for marketing ...

  1. Go Pro - Getting a Flickr "Pro" account is like the green fees in golf. Of course, you can upload up to 200 images for free and have an account without paying, but you don't get the "pro" icon next to your name and your account doesn't have the same authority for members of the community. If you are going to use Flickr to do any marketing, put up the 25 bucks and get yourself a pro account. (PS - I'm not getting any commission from anyone for telling you that!)
  2. Create Collection homepages - Flickr photos are arranged into sets and collections. Sets are like photo galleries or albums, and collections group various photo albums together. As you organize your photos, think about how to make each set about a certain them, and then group them together into collections. Once you have a collection homepage, this can be the public URL that you send people to. In my case, I created a Tiny URL for my public collection from Flickr at That way, I could use the same URL even as I added new galleries to the collection each day.
  3. Think thumbnails - Sets, collections and individual images are represented by thumbnails. These are the visual elements that need to engage someone before they are inspired to click and delve further into your account. When you take and crop your photos, paying attention to how the thumbnails look matters. More importantly, whenever you create a new set the thumbnail is set by the first image. Make sure you change it to the one that offers the most compelling reason to click and see the rest of the set.
  4. Tag properly - Tagging sometimes seems like the online equivalent of going to the dentist, you know you should do it but always manage to put it off in place of doing something else first. On Flickr, tags are a big reason that people can find images and tagging yours properly is a necessary step. Use the right descriptive keywords, but also check and see what people are already searching for and see if any of those tags may apply to your images. Aside from direct links, many of your image views on Flickr will likely come from people searching for these tags.
  5. Share real time - One of the most powerful benefits of Flickr is that when you are at an event or something current that people are likely to care about in a particular timeframe, speed of getting photos online matters. If you have a blog, configure it to work with Flickr. If you are using a computer, use the Flickr Uploadr tool to get your images online faster. The closer to your event you can get your photos up, the more likely it is that people will use them to refer to, share with others and drive traffic to.
  6. Join and contribute to groups - No matter what you are taking pictures of, chances are there is a Flickr group with others who are already sharing photos of it. People who are active in Flickr groups tend to also be some of Flickr's most active (and often influential) members. As a result, joining groups not only lets you be part of a greater community and conversation on a certain theme, it can often give you a direct connection to Flickr users who really matter. Remember, what you post into a group must be relevant and on topic or else you risk alienating yourself and your brand.
  7. Actively promote and approve reuse - Lots of services, bloggers and media are now using Flickr images to power their own stories and media. Once you start getting your imagery noticed, you will likely start to receive invitations from individual bloggers and services like NowPublic asking for permission to reuse your photos. This means your photos are gaining traction. Try to approve the requests quickly and encourage more people to use your images ... and credit you properly for them, of course.
  8. Sex it up - Ok, this is a pretty gratuitious strategy, but it does work to feature scantily clad people in images to get more eye traffic. In my case, this meant creating a separate gallery in my Flickr account for the dancing beach girls from the beach volleyball event at the Olympics. I'm not surprised to say that it's still the top performing gallery of all 21 and continues to bring in views which then often continue from people looking through other images in my collection.
  9. Enable stats - Flickr has a great new tool which allows you to get deeper metrics on your photos. They have smartly realized, however, that not everyone cares about using something like this. So instead of giving it to all their users, they have a step where you need to ask for it to be turned on in your account, and 24 hours later you will start to get metrics on overall views, engagement and referalls. The last point is particularly useful, as now you can see who else is driving people to your photo collections.
  10. Keep going - This is a challenge I will face as I move forward from the Olympics where I had a higher volume of photos than I may have in coming weeks. Nonetheless, now that I have started to use Flickr to promote my images, I hope to continue at future events and keep some momentum going. If you start to use Flickr for marketing, your challenge will be the same ... to avoid having one big spike and then no more activity.

This post is mostly focused on photography, but over the next few weeks I intend to try them out for some video that I created during the Beijing Games as well. I may post an update if this changes these recommendations signficantly, but for now I am anticipating using many of the same techniques to promote the videos I put onto Flickr just as I have been doing for photography.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How To Get Your Event Marketing To Go Viral

Over the last several weeks I have found myself working on answers to the same question for both client work as well as some personal efforts around Personality Not Included. The question is a simple one that most marketers will deal with at some point in their career: how to get your product or service to stand out at an event that you are sponsoring or participating in? Despite the much exaggerated death of conferences and real life events at the hands of the virtual world and social networks, in most industries these events are still alive and well. In many cases, they offer the best opportunity to get your product or service in front of the right decision makers in an efficient and big way.

So how can you be sure you are getting the best value out of the events that you are participating in and even get your efforts to be talked about by conference attendees? Here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Decide to sponsor or not to sponsor. The surest way to have a presence is to actually pay for a sponsorship. In most cases, having some kind of sponsorship is a good idea as it gives you a specific platform to build from and a guaranteed way in. This doesn't mean you can't engage in guerilla activities around it, but it makes it much less likely that you will be barred from the event or that your efforts will be shut down. The exception is if you are trying to market to an event where sponsorship is either unavailable, or far outside your price range.
  2. Think around your sponsorship. Once you finalize a sponsorship, you will have a list of things that you get. This may mean "inclusion" in the brochure and on the website. It might also offer a table at the venue for the event. This list of elements is your starting point to brainstorm. If you are allowed 4 free passes, what could you do to give those away and generate interest? What can you do to go beyond just the few pieces you are offered and make your sponsorship work harder?
  3. Distribute seeds instead of planting them. One of the keys to standing out at an event is not just reaching people individually and telling them what you do. That's the hard way to do it and you will be fighting an uphill battle to stand out among all the other brands doing the same thing. Instead, think of each person you interact with as someone who can carry the seed of your idea to someone else. Your goal isn't just to convince them, it's to give them some way, large or small to carry your message forward.
  4. Follow up by networking. The classic mistake many marketers make when planning their event marketing strategy is simply thinking in terms of "staffing." The most successful event marketing you can do is building on your sponsorship by networking with event participants. Instead of just sending the 4 junior people to man the booths, think about sending a few people to roam and attend the event. Get to know the speakers and get others interested in what you do.

Taking my own advice, I decided to sponsor the MashMeet San Francisco event tonight (as well as the Mashmeet LA event on Friday). I have a table where I will be selling and signing copies of Personality Not Included (that's the sponsorship). The challenge for me was bringing the book more relevance to the Web 2.0 savvy crowd that will be at the party and breaking out of just having a single table that people may or may not visit. Any ideas on what I might do? Since it's meant to be a surprise, I'll share details on what I decided in a timed post later today (check back at 6pm PST, 9pm EST)!

Monday, April 21, 2008

6 Secrets of Successful Book Marketing

I've probably worked on hundreds of marketing campaigns in my time over the past ten years working at agencies. And what I realized these past few weeks as I've been launching my own book, is that I've never worked on a book launch among all those campaigns and that it's different when it's your own project as opposed to something you work on for someone else. I thought about doing a recap of the entire marketing effort behind PNI (including the things I am still planning but haven't yet launched), but that's only something you can do a year or longer after launching the book and seeing the results of effort. Of course, waiting that long seems like way too long to share some things I have already learned, so here's a first list of some "secrets" I've learned so far about working in the publishing industry which will hopefully be useful for you whether you are launching your own book, or some other product or service:

  1. Provide a vision. Lots of people will want to try and help you with a book when you come out with it because it is exciting. The trick is to keep them excited about it beyond the initial buzz of meeting you or hearing that you have a book out.  My vision for the book had partially to do with a very short and powerful elevator pitch ("personality matters") which I have been talking about since my first post about the power of personality picking it as the trend to watch for 2008 back in my first post of the new year. The vision for the book is what people can believe in, and what has propelled much of the buzz from people so far talking about it.
  2. Avoid the big bang. Lots of books launch with a big burst of activity and then fade away. Instead, my marketing strategy for PNI extends for more than a year. There is lots of activity now and you could be forgiven for thinking that I am using the same "big bang" approach as other books ... but trust me when I say that there is a much longer term approach to how I am promoting this book.  I expect peak sales for PNI to come a year or two from now, and hopefully continue. I aimed to write a book that was international, had a shelf life beyond the usual 2 years and that would build word of mouth as more people puchased, read, and used the ideas within it. "Bum rushing charts" is great for a spike, but I am building a brand around the book that I want to last for far longer than a weekend.
  3. Know your competition. I know that I released a book in the same time frame as the long awaited Groundswell from Charlene and Josh from Forrester (both of whom I know and have great respect and admiration for). On occasion, I get a question about what it is like to be "competing" with them by having PNI come out within a week of Groundswell. I don't see it like that firstly because we have very different books (mine is only peripherally about social media and is actually more of a marketing/branding/entrepreneurship book). Secondly, and more importantly, we are not with the same publisher. My real competition is any other book from McGraw-Hill that is part of their Spring 2008 catalog which is competing for marketing resources from the MH team. So far PNI is the lead title from McGraw-Hill's entire Spring catalog. That's why we managed to presell more than half of our entire first edition run to bookstores (more than 10,000 units) before the book was even released.
  4. Get used to uncertainty. When you launch a book, there are a lot of elements that are out of your control. The actual release date, the binding, the timelines ... everything will start to seem a bit haphazard and uncoordinated. Luckily, I have a lot of experience working with big brands, so the experience of working in an environment where you are not quite sure of everything that others are doing to work on the same challenge as you is a very familiar situation for me. The main way I have learned to tackle this is by sharing more openly what I am doing and reacting to new information quickly as I get it.
  5. Build a team one by one. My book is all about how you need to make the individuals in your organization the ones that can speak for your brand and bring it to life. In publishing, this means selling the concept of the book to all the people from my publisher who may have the chance to touch it. I have been directly emailing more than 25 individuals in offices around the world at McGraw-Hill to build relationships with them and bring them into the marketing team for PNI. I know what it's like to have multiple projects to work on each day ... I've done that in agencies for many years. Now that I'm the client, I'm taking my own advice and trying to make my project the one that team members choose to work on more than any of the other ones on their plate.  I want PNI to be the project they tell their families about with excitement after getting home from a day of work.
  6. Launch quickly, iterate and move on. This is a lesson that more and more marketers are starting to embrace, in part because of the perceived success of a brand like Google in just trying lots of things, seeing what works, and then focusing on that.  The nice thing about being my own client is that I have ultimate say on whether to do something or not. And the tact I've taken with most campaigns around the book launch is to decide quickly and do it. The virtual interview idea that I had on book launch day (March 28th) which resulted in buzz on more than 60 blogs was an idea that I had just four days earlier. It fit with my strategy, was implementable and so I did it. I will soon be launching a follow up to that effort (next week) that should get even more buzz. Stay tuned for that announcement next Monday.

This list is based on a few months of promotional effort for Personality Not Included.  As time runs on, I hope to have even more insights to share ... as well as more detailed results behind them to illustrate just how effective they really are.

Monday, February 25, 2008

6 Lessons on Creating A Great Learning Event from OMS

This is not about how to throw a great party.  That would definitely be a worthwhile topic as well, but the point of this post is to share some lessons on creating a great event focused on learning.  Whether it is a conference, seminar, session or just about any other type of business event focused on learning - there are some great lessons I took from the Online Marketing Summit http://www.onlinemarketingsummit last week.  These were not from a great session, however, but from the event itself and how it was put together.  Aaron Kahlow and his team from Business Online did several things that made OMS an example worth paying attention to if you need to put together an event for your team or are trying to put on a successful industry event.  Here are 6 key lessons that may help you:

  1. Have a host instead of an "introducer" - Anyone who attended the event was sure to get lots of Aaron-time, as he led many of the sessions himself and made it his mission to host the event.  Though this was not always a good thing (like spending the first 10 minutes of our panel on powerpoint - something I doubt he would have wanted any of us to do had one of us been moderator), at the end of the day you had the feeling that there was a real person who really cared and was doing his best to make sure the event was useful for everyone.
  2. Create a great content archive - Learning is not just about what happens at an event but how easily accessible all the information is after the event.  The plan from OMS was to have all presentations online, every session video recorded and available online, and generally producing a content archive from the event that would ensure that even if some attendees were stuck on conference calls during the event (um, like me) or had to choose one session over another, the archive of learning would still be available.
  3. Encourage 1 to 1 information sharing - During the day, there were long breaks planned into the schedule, and a unique roundtable style lunch where each table was focused on a particular "pain point" that attendees identified as important to them before the event.  These topics were even included on the name badges, allowing attendees to most easily find someone else with a similar challenge to them and start useful informal conversations.
  4. Target communities where people are - OMS has its own online community and set of forums, which I have to admit I did log into but did not engage in much discussion on.  I did, however, join the Facebook group early and managed to revisit it multiple times leading up the event only because I was already using Facebook.  The conversation at the event with several people proved that this Facebook group was a key element in some people deciding to attend and for others, was a great way to connect with others.
  5. Focus on the questions - Many of the sessions throughout OMS were heavily made up of questions from the audience.  Aside from engaging the audience in this format, it also showed some of the key issues and points that attendees were struggling with and helped panelists and other speakers to focus their responses on these issues. I believe it also gave attendees more of a voice at the event than the they usually have.
  6. Pay for real feedback - Every conference hands out survey forms at the end, and OMS did that too.  But in addition to that, Aaron and the Business Online team hosted a second happy hour on the second day with the request that attendees come to share their real feedback in conversation about how they felt the event was and what could be better.  Though it was a tough crowd (standing between people, free booze and socializing is a hard place to be), the feedback that came out of that session was far richer than I am sure most events get, and OMS will likely be much better for it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

9 Ways to Stand Out As A Conference or Tradeshow Speaker

Last Thursday, I spent the day at my first event of 2008 called the Social Networking Conference (SNC) in Miami to present a session called "Secrets of Creating Talkability."  The event kicks of a string of speaking appearances I will be making over the next few months as I start to get ready for my book launch in March.  The SNC event was far more vendor-friendly than many others I have been to ... allowing vendors to do full 30 minute presentations about their products and even running these sessions at the same time as the educational sessions.  With all these competing sessions, it got me thinking about the necessity of standing out as a speaker to get the most value out of participating at these events.  So I thought this Monday I would share a few tips on what I have found works when it comes to standing out as a speaker at a tradeshow, conference or other industry event.

  1. Have a simple theme - Speaking is not that much different from messaging a product or brand.  You need to go in having a theme for what you will be talking about and a central message you want to leave people with.  Focusing on what this message should be to best help you get value out of your appearance (without overtly pitching or being too "salesy") is a necessity
  2. Fly solo - You can be part of a panel, moderate a panel, or have your own session.  If you can pull it off, I highly recommend trying to get your own session.  If you can create something memorable and engaging, the value of that appearance can go straight to you without being shared.  In perception also, speakers who have their own sessions tend to be looked at by other attendees as the biggest experts.
  3. Ditch the bullets, go visual - Before my presentation at SNC, I reread Garr Reynolds great book on presentations called Presentation Zen.  I highly recommend picking it up as it has many wonderful lessons on how to create a stronger presentation.  Chief among them is to use strong visuals and as little text as possible.  And definitely ditch the bullet points.
  4. Make your point quickly - Whether you have your own session or are part of a panel, this point is important to remember.  Much of the "conversation" on these panels consists of repetition.  The less you fall into this trap, the more people will respect and listen to you when you do speak.
  5. Ask and take questions - Taking questions while you talk is a great way to involve the audience, and even better is to ask questions to help tailor your presentation.  When I started my presentation about talkability at SNC, I asked who already had a social network and who was considering starting one to get a sense of the room.  It helped me to tailor my examples and discussion to what would be more useful for the audience.
  6. Talk last - Timing is another important element in standing out as a speaker, particularly when you are in a session with others.  Speaking last about a point gives you the chance to offer a unique and considered point of view, and also gives you the benefit of hearing other's points of view first.  This is not about having the last word, but about having a chance to distill other's voices and your own into a short point of view people will remember.
  7. Offer to connect - Adding a URL to the end of your presentation or mentioning one in a presentation is one way of offering to connect, but it is self serving.  Instead of doing that, I mentioned during my presentation that I love to try out new social networks and would be willing to try any new ones from people in the audience if they sent me an invite.  That alone resulted in more than a few follow up emails from people, invites to Linked In, followers on Twitter and several Facebook friend requests. 
  8. Stick around - The biggest mistake many speakers make is to run out of an event right after they present.  We are all busy, and it's tough to afford to take an entire day out to speak and attend an event.  If you need to skip the event, my advice is to skip the part before you speak.  Sticking around after you speak is invaluable to give people a chance to connect with you.  And if you don't do it, what's the point of being at the event anyway?
  9. Stay real - The last point on my list of tips for standing out as a speaker has to do with ego.  I've got one just like most bloggers and speakers out there.  The challenge is not to let it get in the way of dealing authentically with people.  Everyone has something to offer and whether they are trying to sell you something or are in a position to help you, staying real will pay off in the long term.  By the way, related to point #8, nothing helps you stay more real than actually staying to watch another session beside the one you spoke at. 

Hopefully these tips help you to get more out of your speaking appearances.  As always, I'm interested to see if they work for you and what your experience has been.  And for any others doing the speaking rounds, any other tips you would share?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Inside the 5 Badges of the Conference Caste System

At every conference or tradeshow, you get a badge.  I have a box full of them on my desk, an increasing number of them with the title of "Speaker" affixed beneath my name.  I recently had a conversation with some colleagues about the importance of being a speaker at an event.  Often, the most important benefit is not just the visibility of speaking, but the license that speaker tag gives you to have a conversation with other speakers.  If you think about it, the badges at a conference are like a caste system.  Your badge identifies which group you belong in and can often dictate how people embrace or shy away from a conversation with you. 

There are usually only five types of badges that you can get at a conference (listed in order of importance):

  1. Speaker
  2. Media
  3. Sponsor
  4. Attendee
  5. Vendor

Imb_cesbadges Being a speaker is usually the best choice, because it positions you as an expert at the event and you also have a chance to demonstrate your expertise in front of a subset of attendees.  Media is usually second best, because just about all the sponsors and vendors want to get media coverage.  Last week at an event like the Consumer Electronics Show, however, most people would agree that media was definitely number one because of the relative importance of media coverage to that event.  The interesting thing about "media" at CES (as well as at most other large events today) is that this group is usually divided into two categories: bloggers and press.  For CES, the blogger badges were gray, and the press badges were red.  Thinking this would be a good chance for a bit of a social experiment, I went and got both badges ... the blogger badge by virtue of my blog, and the press badge as a result of my writing being republished by the good folks at Digital Media Wire (sorry I missed the Insider event, Ned).

What did I learn?  Probably not surprisingly, the blogger badge got a lot less attention and special treatment.  It was an odd feeling to walk through certain booths first with my gray badge and then switch to the red one.  There were different rooms for bloggers versus press, and in the press room there was real food (not just snacks), rows of press releases that you could pickup and many invites for private parties or events.  Clearly, there is a gap in perceived value between bloggers and journalists from the organizers of CES, as well as many of the vendors exhibiting at the event.  It really is no different than a caste system where individuals are judged based on the color of their badges.  The question is, when will we see this situation change?  Already, there are signs that it is changing.  Most notably, the fact that there is a blogger room and blogger credentials at an event of this size at all.  The way I see it, in another few years, events like this will start to embrace bloggers and media on the same level and apply a similar criteria to who gets credentials.  This means the real metric will be audience and reach.  Regardless of whether you write for a blog or something else, your credentials will be based on the number of people you reach.  It's just a matter of time before it happens.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

7 Ways to Stand Out At A Tradeshow: Marketing Lessons From CES

I spent this week at what is probably the largest tradeshow in the world.  The sheer size of CES means that information overload is inevitable, and the consistent challenge for any exhibitor at a show like this is rising above the clutter.  If you think about it, this challenge is no different from any other tradeshow or exhibition ... though CES is surely more difficult to stand out at than most.  Throughout the show, there were a few vendors that did do something noteworthy to stand out.  This post is about how they did it and some marketing lessons you can learn from their efforts. 

Dsc_1153 There was one vendor that I discovered while walking through one of the exhibition halls called Ectaco that had one of the most interesting handheld devices I have seen - the Ectaco iTRAVL NTL-9c.  It was basically an automatic translator which could immediately translate words and phrases into one of 36 different languages.  I gave it a try with English to Hindi, and it translated several phrases perfectly and delivered them in a non computerish sounding voice.  Most surprising of all was that they were selling them right off the floor for $599.  This was not future technology or experimental, it was a real product being sold today.

Now for all I know there are 12 vendors that all make the same product and this company is no different than any of them.  So what made this one so different?  I think the answer lies in 5 critical things that the product manager with whom I spoke, Boris Krol, managed to do to help his product stand out from others:

  • Get a third party endorsement: I did not meet Boris at an ordinary booth, I met him outside a display case where his product was showcased as a 2008 Innovation Technology and Engineering Award winner.  As a result, I was already predisposed to listen to his pitch because the show's organizers had already picked his product as one of the best.  This is a basic ingredient of PR, but one that matters: get someone else to talk about how great you are so you don't have to. 
  • Be where your competitors aren't: This is often the one thing that makes a brand or product stand out more than anything else.  If you have been to any interactive marketing tradeshow, you're probably used to having dozens of booths of affiliate marketing networks lined up next to one another.  This may work in the real world when you put gas stations near each other, but when it comes to tradeshows it is the kiss of death.  Being lined up in the same location makes it infinitely harder to stand out.  In Boris' case, he was the only vendor standing next to his product in the Innovation Awards area and giving a demo.  As a result, he had an uncontested opportunity to promote his product.
  • Market outside of what you paid for: A big mistake that many exhibitors make at tradeshows is sticking to what they believe they have paid for.  This means only marketing from a booth, following all the rules of the event and not venturing out.  This is the easy path, and one that is often taken because the staff at a booth is not incentivized to do more.  If you think about the tradeshows that you have been to, the brands that stand out most are the ones that are wandering the halls, attending and asking questions at sessions, and generally taking a more proactive and guerilla approach to marketing.  Boris was likely not supposed to demo his product on the floor, but he did and it worked.
  • Know your hook. Boris' hook was asking people where they were from so he could demonstrate how his product worked in their language.  In my case, that meant showing me the Hindi functionality (a language I did not expect his device to handle, quite frankly).  This was his hook that personalized each demonstration.  It is also something that many vendors forget as they get caught up in talking about their products and leave out having something relevant to talk about.
  • Have something worth talking about.  This will likely be the toughest piece of advice to follow, but in order to really stand out at a tradeshow, you can't be hawking a product that is crap or a service that is identical to everyone elses.  Some marketers could argue that this is simply a branding challenge.  Perhaps it is ... but let's remember when you talk about tradeshows, you are usually talking about standing out in a place where people generally know what they are looking for and are informed about it.  Bullshit meters are high and branding alone is unlikely to solve your problem.  Even if you are able to generate buzz about a substandard product or service, it will not last once people uncover the truth about your solution.  Boris' product actually worked, and it was worth talking about. 

In addition to the automated translator, there were a few other marketing lessons from elsewhere in the event.  Here are a few other lessons I would add to the list of things to consider the next time you are exhibiting at a tradeshow which don't relate to Boris and his automatic translator, but are interesting nonetheless:

  • Dsc_1165 Spend on the giveaways, not the booth. Everyone knows that nothing spreads faster at the tradeshow than a brand with a really big or valuable giveaway.  In fact, one of the booths that had great buzz at the event was a tiny (but well located) small booth in the Concierge tent from Jawbone - a maker of high quality bluetooth headsets.  The booth was tiny and could not have costed more than a few thousand dollars to create.  No expensive signage or flashy lights ... yet they were doing a Bluetooth headset trade-in where you could give them your old one and they would give you a new Jawbone (valued at $119 retail).  It was a great promotion for a small company to generate big buzz.  We also used this lesson for a great Virgin America promotion (a client) at the CES Blogger Party.
  • Reach out to the right influencers ahead of time.  A key to maximizing the benefit of your sponsorship and display at a large tradeshow event is to do as much prep as you can to identify the influencers you want to meet.  After my post last week about the NBC Universal booth, I was contacted by a company called MediaPort to check out their kiosk solution which NBC was using for their instant content downloads.  As a result, I went by their booth, got a demo of their solution and maximized my time there as well by knowing who to ask for.  The solution was relevant, the outreach was smart, and as a result they are mentioned here. 

All in all, CES was a great place to learn about marketing at tradeshows simply because there are so many examples and techniques people are using.  Standing out at a Tradeshow is not an easy thing to do.  Standing out at CES is even harder.  If you have a show that you are exhibiting at coming up, hopefully this list of ideas helps you get ready to see the most benefit from it.  Let me know if any of these ideas work for you.

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Shortest 2008 Trend Prediction Ever ... Two Words

I love lists and I love trend predictions.  So a trend prediction list would be an obvious choice for my post today, on the last day of the year.  Throughout the past week I have been reading lots of smart projections on what to expect for the year ahead.  With all the discussion of microtrends, the evolution of how we consume media and highly useful recap lists of smart thinking from 2007, I thought I would take a different approach.  This post is an attempt to go "macro" and look at one major trend that I believe will shape many other aspects of marketing in the coming year (and likely beyond).  This is not about online marketing, but about the way that businesses everywhere will embrace a new style of marketing in the coming year.

The trend can be summed up in two words: personality matters.  On first glance, this may not seem like much of a prediction, or even a trend - but stay with me.  The idea of putting more personality into marketing is obviously a big one for me.  By personality, I mean having a real identity that customers, partners and employees can associate with.  I'm writing an entire book on the topic, after all.  But the reason why this is the one trend I chose to focus on is not only because of my book, but because the reason I even chose to focus on it in the first place is that I believe it represents an entire shift in marketing that we have already started to see happening and one that will continue to pick up speed throughout 2008.  Though I know I promised the shortest trend prediction ever, this post feels incomplete without a bit more detail on why I think personality is so important.  Here are just a few reasons why personality matters and how it is likely to impact what we see happen to marketing in the coming year:

  • Everyone wants to have a more authentic voice. The authenticity factor plays heavily in favor of brands that have personality, because they are more "real."  As social media continues to provide a layer of transparency between brands and customers, authenticity will continue to be a major buzzword for businesses in all industries.  Personality helps brands become more real. 
  • Accidental spokespeople are becoming more common.  A concept I have blogged about before (and one that I explore in detail in the book) is the idea that often the key voices for brands are accidental ones from either employees or customers.  In 2008, as more blogs pop up and social networks continue to draw large audiences ... this will only continue to rise.  That means individual personalities will even more frequently shape perception about a brand.
  • Creativity will be key.  This is a point that many have repeated, but was most prominently made by Bob Liodice in his AdAge trends for 2008 article.  In this point, he talks about how brands will need to find unconventional methods to target their audiences and stand out.  Being unconventional also means having a personality.
  • Word of Mouth is real and intentional. Most smart marketers could probably have told you well before this past year that word of mouth is a key ingredient in marketing.  Over the past few years, though, it has become much more quantifiable (ie - real) and brands feel far more than they ever have that WOM is something you can actually impact on purpose.  Personality can give brands something talkable that encourages WOM. 
  • Social networks make conversation a necessity.  Just about every marketing trend prediction talks about the rise in importance of social networks as a way that people build brand preferences.  Brands with personality are also those that are willing to participate in conversations.  The opposite are closed brands who have to approve every type of communication and rarely share an individual point of view. 

The lesson here for most marketers is fairly simple.  Social media is becoming more trusted, and people trust one another more than they trust standard marketing messages.  Social media offers a tool for more authenticity, but at the end of the day what you are aiming to demonstrate is the personality of your brand.  It is this personality that is talkable and fosters word of mouth.  The three hottest macro topics in marketing right now are WOM, authenticity and social media.  Brands that focus on having a personality in 2008 will be the ones best positioned take advantage of all three.

Update (12/31/08): There is a piece in USAToday that interestingly calls 2008 the "Year of Getting Real."

Monday, December 03, 2007

12 Things I Learned Reading My Own Blog

About three weeks ago, I signed off from blogging for an extended period to focus on being a new dad for the second time and asked a group of bloggers that I highly respect to take over the reigns for a few weeks.  Over that time, I had the unique chance to be able to read my own blog as a spectator and it was a great experience that was well worth the break.  Of course, as any blogger will be able to understand, I wasn't able to fully turn off my blogging radar or stop collecting ideas.  I'm sure I'll be writing about some of those in the coming weeks ... but in my first post back I wanted to extend a big THANK YOU to all the bloggers who stepped in and contributed a post while I was out.  As a tribute to all of them, here is a recap of all their efforts mixed in with some things that I learned as a result of reading all of their insights:

  1. If it's nature vs. advertising, the ads lose - In Geeta Saini and Jinal Shah's first guest post to kick off the guest blogging, they shared the interesting example of Sao Paulo in Brazil where the mayor banned all forms of outdoor advertising.  In many cases, these outdoor ads compete with nature ... leading to Ogden Nash's famous words, "I think that I shall never see: A billboard lovely as a tree."  It seems to me that the most effective outdoor ads are the ones that are better than the alternative.  A billboard may never be lovelier than a tree, but it can certainly be lovelier than construction scaffolding along the interstate.
  2. Blogging platforms are all hot - Ann Handley from MarketingProfs blogged about some interesting data points from the Top 10 US Social Network and Blog Site Rankings published from October.  Chief among them was the observation that blogging platforms are experiencing hot growth, with Wordpress in particular at a growth rate of more than 400%.  I shared an observation through a comment about how blog platforms have also started to represent stereotypes of the style of blog that each platform fosters.  Not sure if other people feel that way, but it's an interesting topic to watch.
  3. The basic questions are often not so basic - Peter Kim shared an interesting perspective from his experience at an event he was attending in Barcelona for Forrester (side note ... I really need to get a job that sends me to places like that).  The questions he raises are surprisingly basic, until you work in a role like mine with all kinds of clients who subscribe to what our team has taken to calling a GMOOT strategy (Get me one of those).  Peter's post is a great reminder that a killer idea or campaign is no substitute for smart strategic thinking.
  4. Creativity overlaps - David Armano shared some of his trademark brilliance in a post all about the evolution of creativity, essentially sharing a perspective that the new model of creativity does not place people into defined roles where they can only do one thing, but let's them overlap.  This is a topic that is close to my heart as I went from working in an Ad agency in Sydney where I was not considered one of the "creatives" and was therefore not allowed to exercise creativity, to my current role where a large part of every day is spent generating creative ideas and bringing them out of others.  I didn't change, I just evolved into a role that valued the overlap.
  5. Blogging for the relationships, not the money - Mack Collier shared his thoughts on the power and importance of community, pointing to my example of inviting guest bloggers as one way a blog can try to keep up the bond with their readers.  His point is a great one to consider as more and more corporate blogs are started for reasons other than building community, such as promoting products, dealing with crisis, or offering a personal soapbox for egotistical executives.  Building relationships with a blog is a return to basics that is much needed.
  6. Storytelling and marketing continue to intersect - Kevin Dugan is one of the smartest PR pros I know and authors the aptly titled Strategic Public Relations blog.  It was fitting that a blogger focused on PR took on the idea of storytelling as part of marketing because it is so inherent to the art of good public relations.  He offered a strong guide for things to consider when using storytelling ... a topic close to my heart also because Chapter 4 of my book is dedicated to using the principles of storytelling in an unexpected way to demonstrate personality.
  7. Word of mouth is the ultimate discipline - John Bell leads our 360 Digital Influence team at Ogilvy and is also on the board of WOMMA ... so it's no surprise that he offered a great recap of the state of the WOM industry and laid out an argument for why WOM should be considered a discipline instead of a channel.  John knows what he's talking about, and his post is required reading for anyone who wants to know where the WOM industry is likely to head in 2008.  One interesting element I will be watching is the degree to which the growing number of experts in social media embrace the decidedly offline (as well as online) world of word of mouth marketing.
  8. The power of naming - Nedra Weinreich turned her great writing style and marketing insight to the idea of naming ... brilliantly bridging the name my wife and I chose for our new son (Jaiden) with some of the battles she has been facing around the term "social marketing," and now around the term "social advertising."  I had joined Nedra in speaking out against an ill-advised idea by naive researchers to try and redefine the term "social marketing" some time ago.  The interesting point of her post is that if you happen to be a little guy trying to hold on to a name someone else is trying to usurp, it can be a losing fight.  Especially if your opponents don't care if the name is already taken.  At least with Jaiden, my wife and I were cool with the fact that Will Smith used the name for his son too.  Will hasn't told us whether he's ok with it yet or not.
  9. Virgin America's safety announcement with personality - Karl Long shared a link of Virgin America's safety video that is far more watchable than anything any other airline has simply because it shares the personality of the brand through the video.  Ironically, this is already an example that I am using in my book ... but it's great to see that the ad agency behind it (Anomaly) posting it on YouTube and getting more mileage out of it as well.  (Disclaimer - Virgin America is a client of Ogilvy PR, however I/we had nothing to do with this safety video)
  10. Social Networks and SMO - Lee Odden is a brilliant online marketer that I have run into several times at events.  He manages to bridge the gap between search marketing (which can often be an insular world filled with "search guys") to encompass online marketing more broadly.  His post about using social networks and social media optimization to help your content travel further is a great example of that.  If you want to see how ideas like SMO can help you to spread your content wider and perhaps relate it even better to bloggers, his post and his blog are a great place to start.
  11. Focus on more than Facebook - Karl's second post offered a short and sweet cautionary tale about just focusing your marketing on the flavor of the month ... which this month would definitely be Facebook.  He may be right and people may move away from Facebook in droves when the next latest and greatest thing comes along.  In the meantime, the point is not to create the most brilliant Facebook profile and groups the world has ever seen, but to use Facebook for what it is good for and take Karl's advice to avoid putting all your eggs in Facebook's basket.
  12. Build your personal brand - Jay Berkowitz built on a previous post of mine and talked about how to build your personal brand.  This is a post worth checking out, as Jay and his skills in building his own personal brand got him (and me, through is recommendation) featured in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago.  His tips are all things that I highly recommend following, and a great resource to start (or continue) building your personal brand.

Finally, the most important lesson I learned from this time away from blogging didn't come from a blog post at all.  It came from the fact that I was able to get away from the online world (and subculture) for an extended time to really focus on what's important ... bonding with my new son.  There are some things that should always come before blogging, or work, or anything else.  Speaking of that, I think I hear Jaiden looking for some daddy time ...

Update (12/3/07):  I realized that there were two additional guest posts that I had not published or referred to in this note, and hence updated the title from 10 reasons to 12 and added Lee Odden's post as well as Karl's first post.  Apologies to both Karl and Lee for missing those posts the first time around.