Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Customer is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Joseph Jaffe kicked off a B to B Magazine virtual trade show, “Demand Generation in the Digital Age,” which we watched yesterday. His presentation was based on his latest book called Flip the Funnel which sounds like it may be worth the read. The theme of cultivating customers came up in several other presentations during the show.

The notion of using new media to move prospects into and down the “sales funnel” has been repeated ad nauseam lately (often with the same thin anecdotes as “evidence”). It is refreshing to have the argument turned upside down.

Young marketers, like teenagers, need to discover “new” truths for themselves. And marketing consultants are in the business of promoting “new” truths. So as ascendant marketers begin to discover that customers are tough to acquire and hard to please, a renewed appreciation has arisen for keeping and cultivating existing customers. The self-effacing Jaffe, to his credit, advocates an integrated balance of customer and new business marketing resource allocation, not a complete rejection of the sales funnel models.

Jaffe points out that existing customers often provide the lion’s share of revenue and profit and can also provide the bulk of referrals and new business. This reality has been well understood for a very long time but we now have a new set of tools to address these opportunities.

In for-profit real events, the big money has always been renewals – returning attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. Now, with cheaper ways to connect with customers, we have no excuse for letting these relationships atrophy while we work on the urgencies of the moment. The “show must go on” year-round regardless of how often we stage the physical event.

For industries that use face-to-face media as a marketing tool, event goals should include customer cultivation as well as prospect generation.

A real, live customer is a terrible thing to waste!

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Publishers Can Learn from the Platypus

Live events are a “huge” part of “content that you can experience," according to Larry Weber, author of Marketing to the Social Web and a new book, Stick & Stones. Real-time, experiential and rich media, he says, are parts of a new “World 2.0” spawned by today’s communications technology. Weber, chairman of W2 Group, spoke last week at a regional American Business Media Seminar, in Boston.

The platypus, that peculiar duck billed, beaver-tailed, egg-laying, venomous, aquatic mammal from “Down Under”, is Weber’s metaphor for an integrated marketing paradigm which unites disparate search, branding, analytics, PR, performance marketing, social media and mobile communications as a single animal. In Weber’s taxonomy, traditional advertising isn’t in the mix.

Traditional advertising is dying,” Weber asserts. He predicts that by 2015, there will be no newspapers or nightly news (media gurus can't be shy). The new role of advertising, according to Weber, is to “...get you to a digital or physical event…The content comes first, then the transaction.”

“It’s all about customer connections thru content,” said Weber, in an email exchange. Micro-segmented (deep topic) physical events supported and continued thru digital are going to be increasingly important.”

Evidence from publishers supported Weber’s thesis about events. John Craven, Founder/President of which garners significant revenue from events, said “People still want to meet.” Brian Randall, VP eMedia at Diversified Business Communications (describing a case we hope to detail in the future), credited a social media effort for 26% of paid registration at a recent trade event. Social media is getting “butts in seats.” said RD Whitney, the CEO of Tarsus Online Media.

However, the platypus has other lessons for content providers and marketers. The platypus is, after all, not an evolutionary all-star but a primitive oddity that survived in continental isolation. You may not need online social media any more than you  need a platypus bill for a mouth. A consumer show executive we checked with told us that, in contrast to what the B2B companies at the ABM meeting, “Social media is only a tiny part of what we do.” The shape of your business depends on who you serve and who you compete against.

One thing you can count on is that there will always be a place for face-to-face. And whether you are in World 1.0, World 2.0, or somewhere beyond, you have creative opportunities to combine events with online and other media to meet your goals. Even if we are hit with the political-economic equivalent of an asteroid, the weightings of the media mix - the size and characteristics of the media “species” that can survive, prosper and sustain themselves over time -  are as varied and wonderful as the creatures of the earth.

That’s why we love this business!

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