strategy


Keeping Your Head When All Else is Crumbling

One of the things that really has helped me in life is keeping calm when all around is going wrong. This is especially helpful at events where I must solve problems in real time and it’s not always evident that there’s a solution readily available. I have seen a real difference between those times when my response has reflected panic versus those when I remained calm. A panicked reaction is not conducive to a positive result. Frequently your clients depend on you, as the expert, to be the one who is calm and provide the assurance that “Everything will be fine!”

I just attended a six-day show (i.e. one with lots of moving parts) where the staff was calm and collected on the outside. But on the inside? Probably not so much. Though it’s likely that there were lots of minor things going wrong, you couldn’t tell from either their actions or their demeanor.

One way I have found to master this kind of situation is eliminate the extraneous elements and focus on the goal. In a crisis, you need to be able to appraise the circumstances, receive input from others, and determine an immediate path of action. Periphery details are distractions; I believe that keeping your focus depends on ridding your mind of the stuff that doesn’t matter.

From Rudyard Kipling’s “If”:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

I’ve given you the beginning and ending lines, but you can find the entire poem at the link below: 

http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/poetry/rudyard-kipling.html

To keep your head is just another skill that will help you rise above your competition. 


Idiot Marketing Messages

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……

https://www.theeventmechanic.com/six-steps-to-avoid-event-marketing-disaster/

 

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.

 


Six steps to avoid event marketing disaster

Can your events marketing staff pivot away from disaster toward success?

For most event companies, the answer is mostly no. They have staffs that were trained by ‘the  book’ and struggle with the proper and timely response to negative results, often persisting with plans that are not working. Or, as the event looms ever closer, they become paralyzed with fear.

 

What happens then? Senior staff must get involved and marshal greater resources to salvage the situation. Near-term urgencies consume assets that would be better invested in longer term, strategic activities.

 

How can you avoid this? Here are my six keys:

 

  • Make sure that you hire people who can pivot – or are capable of learning how to do so. If it’s the latter, ensure you have a plan to train them.
  • Have at least one marketing staff member who can be creative and/or have the courage to change course as needed.
  • Ensure that your entire marketing staff is “plugged into” the market having the right connections with whom they can brainstorm new marketing approaches or adjust tactics when needed.
  • Make sure the entire marketing staff is up to date on the latest tools and techniques, and make the necessary investment in training and conferences for them.
  • Have a marketing plan with milestones and metrics so you can periodically appraise results and take action if the targets are not hit (e.g. page views, email opens and click-through)
  • Ensure that every event’s marketing budget has a ‘Plan B’ allocation, comprised of money that you spend only if things are going wrong.

 

The failure to hit interim marketing targets can be the early indication of an event’s risk of failing. Don’t ignore those signs, nor miss the opportunity to pivot and change course. The end is not preordained. Proactive analysis and action – supported by the right investments – can mean that great results are yours….

 


Why looking out for #1 makes sense

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!


How to Master Attendee Acquisition When Launching a New Event

I have a few event launches under my belt, having been in the business for the past 28 years. Many elements of a launch are the same, regardless of the event, and there’s a proven formula for success. But first-time events are a different story. What is unique there is the need to get enough knowledge and ‘control’ over the prospective attendance. Oddly enough, the plan to get these future, first-time attendees is often the weakest part of a launch, with decisions based on gut feelings rather than a systematic approach. The irony is that quality attendance is one of the most important outcomes of an event, but actions often bely that importance. Frequently the philosophy is ‘if we build it, people will come.’

 

For me, that’s not good enough. So, I sought out one of the best event-marketing minds in Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes of mdg for comment on how the marketing of a launch should be done. She and her mdg Partner, Vinnie Polito, recently spent some time with me to discuss event launches in general, and their event marketing strategies more specifically.

 

Warwick Davies (WD): What’s your strategy in launching an event and what steps on the marketing side are necessary?

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes (KHG): The first step in launching a new event is writing a detailed, comprehensive strategic marketing plan. And I’m not talking about how many emails will go out or when your website will go live. That’s the tactical execution. I’m talking about identifying and quantifying the market opportunity that you perceive and how you plan to seize it. This is where you take a deep dive into the competition to see what needs aren’t being met. It’s where you’ll define and segment the target market. It’s where you’ll study the industry in terms of its size, growth, makeup, as well as the trends driving it, etc. You’ll talk to key suppliers, buyers, media, influencers, and ask a lot of questions. If you end up uncovering a solid opportunity, this plan will then serve as the foundation upon which the event will be built.

 

WD: How do you go about creating the attendee revenue and volume goals that will be necessary to have a successful launch?

KHG: We will usually get this from the clients with whom we work. They are usually familiar enough with the budgetary limits and revenue necessities to be able to calculate those. Actually, Warwick, that’s an area you are pretty well versed in. What would you say?

WD: You’re right about the budget and revenue side. I would say that giving a thumbs up on the quantity metric would depend on doing some testing of your database to see whether the concept you developed, at the date and time you picked, is compelling enough to calculate educated guesses on the number of paid/non-paid attendees and, therefore, your revenue and likely attendance numbers. There are various ways of doing that, and until you ‘know’ and feel confident about these numbers, it’s hard to get sufficient confidence to know whether the event will be well received. Best to do this before you spend lots of time, effort, and non-cancellable contracts with facilities, hotels, etc.

 

WD: What constitutes ‘research’ from other perspectives that can give the team a ‘thumbs up’ that the stated revenue and attendance goals will be met?

KHG: Let me bring in Vinnie to answer that.

WD: OK Vinnie, what do you think?

Vinnie Polito (VP): I think, as you well know, you can answer this a variety of ways.

For me, the key drivers are an ability to clearly answer ‘who is this for’? And what are the options for your target audience to garner this elusive “x”, whatever it might be, that represents the show’s focus? There obviously can’t be an easy alternative.

We counsel those managing these projects to achieve certain milestones prior to launching. These would be in the area of exhibitor participation, partners (media/association) willing to ‘actively’ support, and influencers/speakers demonstrating a desire to speak/actively promote to their networks. For each of those groups, a willingness to have their name attached to an event in some fashion is as strong or stronger indication than would be financial commitment during the pre-launch Although I wouldn’t refuse any pre-launch financial commitments either. Depending on the risk tolerance and size of the proposed event, the level of necessary commitment will vary.

Personally, I like a mildly crowded and fragmented marketplace. That tells me that the interest is there on both the attendee and exhibitor/sponsor side, but that no one has yet sorted out how to address the opportunity successfully.

 

VP: Other questions I’d like to know:

Why hasn’t someone else seized this opportunity – what’s the competitive landscape?

Does this event have a life span worthy of the risk? I’d say if you don’t comfortably feel this has at least a 5-year run to it, other opportunities might be better.What likelihood is there that a category killer might change the game in ways that are to your disadvantage? Examples are plenty if you need them.What’s the likelihood of an economic incident changing the landscape? For example, cheap natural gas cost me $$$ when I was in the energy space.

 

WD: Great stuff, Vinnie. Now Kimberly, once the plan is set and you’ve made a decision to move forward, what’s next when launching an event?

KHG: Next comes the development of the brand or identity of the event – including the name, the event logo, the creative platform on which the campaign will be based, the messaging planks, etc. This step is essential in ensuring that attendee and exhibitor prospects receive the right messages, those that create the perceived value needed to drive their decision to participate. The importance of this step is often underestimated by event organizers, but it’s not easy building a compelling case to attend a brand-new event. Why take a chance on a new event when it’s so much easier not to? It’s easier to stay home, not travel, and not book a room, not leave the office that day, or not drive into the city, etc. Despite these hurdles, many organizers still don’t allocate enough budget and effort on attendee acquisition as compared with speaker acquisition, picking the right venue, and managing every other detail. And those details are HUGELY important, don’t get me wrong, because if the experience isn’t right, then we won’t get attendees to come back. But if we haven’t made the necessary investment in marketing, it’s unlikely we’re going to get them there in the first place.

 

WD: What do you believe are the required deliverables from the non-marketing team members to assure a successful launch?

KHG: Clearly, the roles of sales, content, operations, etc. are all vitally important to a launch. What’s even more important, though, is that the launch team takes a truly holistic approach to event planning and promotion. This means that if the sales team is selling a lot of space to exhibitors that want to see a certain kind of attendee, the marketing team should ensure they are making a concerted effort to attract those buyers. And the content team should be developing educational programming that will attract them. Teams need to be communicative, collaborative, and agile – as plans may change and several pivots may be required based on actual versus perceived performance.

 

WD: Are there any other tips to get outside support?

KHG: In addition to your internal team, it’s important to look to industry partners, too. We’ve learned that you can’t go it alone when launching new events. The more that groups out there – associations, industry suppliers, media brands, etc. – feel some sense of ownership in the new event, the more success you’re going to have in achieving critical mass. That’s why identifying strategic partners is an essential step in launching an event.

 

WD: I mentioned earlier about testing your database. In your opinion, how big should your database be for success?

KHG: It depends. mdg launched a successful conference aimed at brand marketers a few years ago with a tiny database. Instead of working to build a comprehensive network of prospects, we instead identified influencers who would be willing to serve as event evangelists. Once identified, we offered non-paid admission to the top 10% and variable admission rates based on influencer scores to the next 30%. We also used sophisticated digital tools that allowed us to provide the influencers with financial incentives for signing up members of their networks. The event was small (about 1,000 attendees) and the admission price was high, so this strategy ended up working well. For other events, I would assume a .5 to 1% rate of return on your database. So, you should expect one attendee for every two hundred in your database to show up, provided your list is of high quality.

 

WD: What is the optimal time frame from launch to the event?

KHG: In our history of marketing new events, I can assure you that we’ve never complained about having too much time to launch. Ideally, planning will start at least 18 months out. An awareness-generating campaign should begin about 12 months out, with a strong conversion campaign starting at about 4 months out.

 

WD: Any other items that I have missed?

KHG: I would just add that event launches aren’t for the faint of heart, the unimaginative, or the ‘traditional’ direct marketer. Launches require teams with special skills who can make fast-on-their-feet course corrections, who can craft messages that overcome objections and convince prospects to take a chance on attending an unproven, unknown entity. Being able to pivot when things need changing make all the difference.

 

WD: Great stuff! Thanks, Kimberly and Vinnie!

KHG: You are welcome. Good luck to those would-be launchers out there!

 

————————-

https://www.mdg.agency/people/kimberly-hardcastle-geddes/

https://www.mdg.agency/people/vincent-polito/

 


Is Arrogance Professional Suicide? 1

I’ve worked with many confident people and, as is true with other Type A’s, I’ve had the occasion to clash with some of them. There were times when it was about agreement on performance metrics; other times it was a matter of how to get things done. With respect to the latter, I have come to learn how to step back and avoid battles about how tasks are executed, particularly if there’s a track record of success. I’d characterize my philosophy as “if it’s ethical, legal, and moral, I’ll usually tolerate the errant behavior IF the results are there.”  So, substance trumps style (though, in sales, style is often a key contributor to success.)

 

Steve Jobs

But what about the world at large? Will most people tolerate arrogance in the workplace? Consider Steve Jobs. He had all kinds of failure in his life, but he was driven by an incredible self-belief that transcended those circumstances. That drive had an impact on those around him. I ran Macworld for several years and was well aware of the fear within Apple that Jobs produced. Yet, the success of most of Apple’s products is directly attributable to his vision and his dogged determination to fulfill that vision.

 

Now that Jobs is gone, people are free to analyze his legacy, both for the brilliance of his ideas and the harsh ways he treated some of the people around him. Does his product legacy excuse his arrogance? Probably yes, since he changed many of the markets with his products (iPhone, Apple 2, iPod, iTunes, etc.) Perhaps he had personal regrets at the end, but he certainly was a game changer.

 

But what about mere mortals like the rest of us? Can we get away with arrogance? Perhaps. But you had better be extremely good at what you do, as the “fall’ is precipitous if you’re not.

 

And people have very long memories….


Whose Attention is the New Currency?

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:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/attention-is-the-new-currency_us_58ef947ee4b04cae050dc526

https://www.cuinsight.com/attention-is-our-new-currency-pay-attention-to-what-matters-most.html

https://www.hrchitects.net/attention-new-currency/


Gratitude is one of your biggest sales tools

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.


Your Network is Terrible and It Will Kill You

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? 

  1. Focus on connections that offer value.
  2. Make sure that any connection is recognized as being mutually beneficial, rather than a one-sided ‘extraction.’
  3. Offer value before expecting it from others.
  4. Be open to making connections on behalf of others.
  5. Don’t neglect your core network in deference to focusing on new connections.
  6. Use LinkedIn as a roadmap.
  7. 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:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90246816/the-5-people-you-must-have-in-your-network

https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/7-ways-to-build-a-strong-network/

https://www.fastcompany.com/90265127/how-to-build-and-maintain-an-effective-linkedin-network

And thanks to Dan Schwabel for his outline of the seven steps to creating a sound network.

 


The Power of the Increment

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!