Last night’s Search Marketing New England (SEMNE) Event in Trumbull Connecticut was a complete success for myself and four others from ADP and BZ Results. You wouldn’t think that piling people into a car for two hours would be fun – but it was a great break for a team that has been hard at work for a quite a while now.
Before I get too far, if you need more background on the event please read my preview post that I published yesterday.
So – once we got settled in at the Trumbull Marriott Merritt Parkway, we headed to the hotel bar (common for a search event, right?) and killed about 45 minutes just relaxing and talking shop a while. When 6:30PM rolled around we made our way over to the networking reception where complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres waited for us along with some old friends in the search marketing space.
With the SEMNE events I have attended there seems to be a good mix of SEMNE members with others paying a one-off registration fee to attend. While I can’t knock the $49 ticket to spend the night with some great company, our company has really enjoyed the benefits of our Corporate Silver Membership.
Jill Whalen took the podium around 7:45PM and addressed the crowd on some housekeeping notes. While most attendees were already aware, Jill made mention of Vanessa Fox‘s inability to attend and speak.
Jill also took a moment to highlight the upcoming SEMNE events including November’s event which will be held at the Providence Marriott.
On November 18, 2008, SEMNE will have Nick Gerner speak to attendees on a panel called Inside the Black Box: How Search Engines Rank Web Pages. Nick is one of SEOmoz’s in-house software architects and search engineers, and he’ll be making a long trip to visit us on the East Coast.
SEMNE member Jim Kandik was also awarded with SEMNE’s free pass to SMX East. Jill continued on from there by providing an overview of that conference in addition to extending a 10% rate for SEMNE members.
Moderator Introduction: Jonathan Hochman
With the general notes out of the way Jill handed things over to Jonathan Hochman. Jonathan serves as the Director of SEMNE, and is frequently speaking at major search industry conferences. As President of Hochman Consultants, Jonathan’s work in search engine marketing is extensive and his experience showed in how he led panelists and attendees through speaking sessions and the Q&A.
Jonathan introduced the night’s topic by describing the evolving relationship from traditional marketing efforts to search marketing. The key to tonight’s theme was to use search to enhance a marketing plan and to encourage search marketing to blend with offline marketing efforts.
Robert Jackson of Hochman Consultants
The evenings first panelist was Robert Jackson of Hochman Consultants. Robert has a strong traditional marketing background and he used that as a base to start off his discussion points.
He asked the crowd a simple but thought provoking question…
What is a marketing plan?
To help better understand what a marketing plan is, Jackson provided clear examples of what a marketing plan is not. The examples are some that have come in to him and to others at Hochman Consultants, and they included:
- I have 5,000 keywords
- I have a large email list
- My site has lots of links
- My site looks really, really good
- We have lots of analytics data
Okay, so what is a marketing plan? Robert laid out the following principles to help create a solid marketing plan…
- Unique Value Proposition (UVP or USP)
I’ve always called this a unique selling proposition, or USP – but UVP sounds less sales related so I can certainly understand the terminology. A UVP is something that sets your organization apart from the herd. Do you offer a lower price? Do you provide better service? Have a wider selection? A newly patented product or service?Either way, a Unique Value Proposition is the first fundamental to creating a marketing campaign.
- Knowing Your Customers
Any marketing plan relies on customers to be successful. And, any successful marketing plan requires you to know your customers. Robert recommends setting your business on what your customers are doing, and reminded us to use tools like surveys to help monitor our customer base, what they’re doing, where they’re spending time online, etc.
- Know Your Brand
While it’s one thing to know how your brand stands out above the rest, it’s up to you to develop an intelligent marketing plan that pushes your brand out in other offline media buys. Making sure that a consistent brand message is repeated through various mediums is important for your audience.
- Competitors: Analyze Their Strengths & Weaknesses
Maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace is only possible if you know what your competitors are doing. Performing strength and weakness reviews can provide you with much more insightful information from which to build a marketing plan with.
- Write it Down!
Simple enough… Make sure you write your marketing plan down and really understand it. I know that for me my comprehension of things is enhanced dramatically when I rewrite any notes or plans – so I can attest to the value of this.
Dawn Briggs of Business.com
Next up was Dawn Briggs, the Director of East Coast Sales for Business.com. I believe that Dawn has spoken in the past at other SEMNE events – but this was the first time I had attended one of her panels. One of my teammates, Hunter Satterwhite felt Dawn’s material was the most rewarding on the night.
Here are my notes on Dawn’s materials…
- Dawn’s Background
Formerly with Looksmart, Dawn has been selling search solutions to clients for more than 10 years… Long enough to be in the game before Google even had a search engine. No joke.
- A Telling Statistic
Dawn quoted a study of B2B clients conducted by iProspect, and the numbers simply blew me away. Of all the companies doing traditional and search marketing, only 55% linked the same efforts together. Of that 55%, only 26% utilized the same keywords in their search marketing. Maybe I’m jaded by the effectiveness of search marketing but this scares me. Imagine how well the industry would work if advertisers in general understood how to push complete marketing plans?
- Tips for Developing a Strong Marketing Plan
Dawn brought us through a number of ways in which marketers need to start with a well defined objective. Otherwise, your efforts can get confused along the way resulting in poor results. While she felt that the integration of SEO and SEM could get better she effectively labeled the combination as a no brainer strategy that every marketing plan should include.
- Analytics: Blessing and a Curse
Interestingly, I learned that Business.com does not currently provide a conversion analytics component to their advertisers. I can understand though too the responsibility that paying advertisers have to measure their own success.. Which brings us to quality analytics and an understanding of them. Dawn is an advocate for shared analytics where marketing managers and clients can review the same information and understand them as true metrics.
Chris Elwell of Third Door Media
For those who have attended SMX events, Chris is certainly a familiar face in Third Door Media‘s family. As a partner of the organization Chris spoke to attendees about the formation of Third Door Media and how their marketing plan was created, executed and continues to evolve. Here are some of the topics I’d like to highlight that Chris presented…
- Danny Sullivan as a Brand
When Third Door Media was formed, the organization sought an opportunity to build a brand around Danny Sullivan and his being the source on Search Marketing Information. Chris went on to say that the organization saw their unique value to be Danny’s thought leadership in the industry. There are certainly many followers in this industry so I can appreciate the perspective Chris described to us last night.
- Unique Content in a Vertical: Search Engine Land
For Third Door Media, “[content] is the way to start a business”. Chris described how Search Engine Land has evolved around the premise that “one vertical of unique content will cascade into a number of great things for the business” and that this content generation can put you in the position to be an industry leader and expert. The key of course is to make sure that content is truly unique and of value to your targeted audience.
- Email & RSS Subscriptions Fuled Their Growth
When Search Engine Land first launched, content was the focus. Since there wasn’t an abundance of content though, Third Door Media knew that they had to focus on grabbing subscribers to their Email and RSS channels. Organic search was responsible for generating 60% of the subscriber base for these lists. Today Third Door Media has 18,000 email subscribers and 31,000 RSS subscribers in less than 2 years of operation.
- Providing Value in Exchange for Information
In the family of Third Door Media brands SMN (Search Marketing Now) provides webinars and on-demand educational presentations. There is a high demand for this type content in our industry.
Third Door provides these presentations free of charge in exchange for opt-in marketing information. This information is then cross referenced and behaviorally targeted to develop profiles on individuals in their database. These profiles then help shape what future marketing collateral someone will receive from Third Door.
- Consistent Branding Materials
Chris also touched upon how Third Door Media views offline marketing materials such as their brochures and mailers for SMX conferences. While the materials may be adjusted a bit to accommodate the medium – the messages, colors and content remain very much the same. Having received dozens of mailers and inserts from Third Door, I know it works too. When I see their brochures sticking out of my mailbox – I know exactly who it’s from without more than a split second glance.
- Great Content is Your Foundation
Chris wrapped up by reminding attendees that the key to getting things right from the start begins with truly great content. This is what we always hear the recommendations of “do what you’re passionate about”. If you’re motivated about your materials and subject matter, you’ll have a strong foundation from which to market and build upon.
Q& A Highlights
Jonathan wrapped things up with a great Q&A session that mixed some of his own questions with those from attendees.
Much of what resonated with me was the strength in email newsletter marketing. To be honest, I had all but written it off, but everyone agreed – email marketing lists are an overlooked and untapped source. To that point, there were some tips shared. First, never send emails out for no reason. If you’re sending messages out with weak content or simply because you want to keep a schedule, your readers will pick up on that and begin to unsubscribe. A great way to accumulate email subscribers (still) is to provide freebies. The most common, especially in B2B areas remains whitepapers. You subscribe, you get our free whitepaper. Done deal – because it works.
Online Press Releases
Online press releases have always been effective. One of the most agreed upon resource among panelists and attendees was the value of PRWeb. For $200 per press release, you’ll get exposure to their network and distribution channels which includes Google News. Someone, (Chris Elwell I believe) offered stats on the conversion rates of PR Web. He said that their homepage receives 56,000 unique pageviews daily. Of that, 16,000 will see your press release’s title, and 800 to 1,400 will actually click through to the full release.
Importance of Vertical Sites & Niche Directories
Jonathan Hochman made a strong case for vertical directories being a source for new business leads. Vertical niche sites and/or directories allow you to grab strong prospects attention when they’re in the mindset to take action. He then credited the SEO Consultant’s Directory as one of the best investments he and Hochman Consultants have ever made. For the price of $50, Jonathan claims a number of his clients come to him through the directory – and closed that point by saying that “if you’re an SEO consultant you need to be in there.”
My Own Conclusions
Considering the topic wasn’t specific to organic search, I wasn’t expecting too much. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the three panelists fed off one another and brought the audience through the various stages of planning and executing marketing plans with search marketing components playing an integral part.
The networking opportunities prior to the actual panels won me over again. It was wonderful to see Tim Dineen from Indeed again, and I was able to meet Matt Crouch, one of his colleagues. I didn’t have a chance to meet his other team members – but I love the Indeed crowd. They’re making some amazing things happen in a very competitive space and it was great to see sucha strong representation from them at the SEMNE event.
Third Door Media also had strong numbers with Chris Elwell, Sean Moriaty, Karen DeWeese, KC Gausepohl and… I’m probably missing more names – and for that I apologize. I always enjoy talking conferences with the Third Door Media crowd, and with my speaking at SMX East in a few weeks, there was a lot to discuss.
I think that about wraps it up…
Again, a big thank you goes out to Jill, Pauline, Jonathan and everyone behind SEMNE for planning another great event. Props also to my colleagues who made the 200 mile trip to and from both fun and successful. :)