Another triumph of automated marketing!

Hapless automated marketing abounds. Here’s an email I received this morning:

Subject:  Love Your Content (Collaboration Proposal)
“My name is RJ, I am the main editor at [a website about car care].

I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that we recently released a comprehensive blog post on “How Much!? Replacing A Catalytic Converter”.

While browsing your site, I noticed this page
http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/facilitating-change/2014/09/a-caveat-on-working-with-human-catalysts.

I believe our piece would be a great addition to your page.”

RJ “believes” his/her post would be “a great addition” to this post:

 

I am receiving more and more hapless automated marketing efforts like this: no careful thought, no subtlety, no serious attempt to check that the target might be relevant to the pitch.

Just spray and pray.

Perhaps some “marketer” thought that instead of just scraping page titles that mentioned the phrase “catalytic converter” (which might make more sense) they could increase the volume of useless mass emails (and extract more money from their client?) by expanding their target search to anyone who mentions the phrase anywhere on the page.

The only reason my post mentions “catalytic converter” is as an example of what the word “catalyst” means. Otherwise, it has as much in common with RJ’s content as a toothbrush has to a lunar eclipse.

Compare this waste of time and resources with an example of marketing done right.

Experienced and respected marketers have told me that expanding your email list is crucial to getting your message across, and I believe them.

But finding and/or creating the right email list are clearly crucial too, and every misdirected pitch I get like this one gives good marketers a black eye.

Please stop it guys!

Image attribution: Flickr user pnglife

How to accidentally write a popular blog post

I accidentally wrote a blog post that receives more than a million page views every year. For proof, type “delete mail” into Google. My post How to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one step is #1 of the 127+ million results.

Actually, I’ve accidentally written several popular posts, and I’ve finally figured out what happened. Want to know what I’ve learned, so you can deliberately write popular posts? Read on!

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Is paid influencer marketing ethical in the event industry?

choice_noun_86702Paid influencer marketing is spreading to the event industry, and I doubt that it’s an ethical practice.

Last week I received the following voice mail (identifying details have been bleeped; transcript below.)

Hi Adrian, my name is _____, I work for an influence marketing agency _____, and I’m reaching out to you this afternoon about an opportunity with _____, who is one of our clients, and I know you are an influencer in the meeting/event/conference planning sphere which is the focus of this campaign with _____  and we’re just hoping to have you involved in this campaign: involves a blog post, some social posting, hopefully a visit to the property with a bit of filming. If you’re interested in more details I would love to chat with you; my phone number is _____. Thanks, and looking forward to talking to you soon; bye bye.”

I was not surprised to get this call because the agency has been calling other event professionals with the same pitch. One of them, whom I’ll call InfluentialEventProf, forwarded me an email with more details of how the “opportunity” would work (identifying details have been replaced with generic terms):

From: YYY@InfluenceMarketingCompany.com
To: InfluentialEventProf@InfluentialEventProfDomain.com
Sent: 9/8/2016
Subj: Paid Campaign Opportunity: Complimentary Stay at Property Z

Hi InfluentialEventProf,

Hope this note finds you very well! Brand X’s Property in Somewhere, USA is a client of ours, and I am working on an influencer campaign to help promote Property Z’s event spaces as ideal venues for conferences and corporate meetings. Brand X would love to have you–a known industry expert on event/meeting planning–involved in this campaign!

We are inviting you to come for a complimentary stay to experience Property Z during a major Industry Sector S conference during TheseDates. Brand X would like you to review the visit and conference experience on your company’s blog and promote Property Z on social media. To give you a general idea of the campaign’s scope, here are some details regarding the influencer package and campaign components:

Influencer package:

One or two (1-2) complimentary nights at Property Z (dependent on your availability)

One (1) complimentary breakfast

One (1) complimentary dinner

$500 compensation

Complimentary parking

Campaign components:

One (1) post-stay blog post highlighting the Property Z as a venue for corporate conferences/meetings/events. Ideally, this blog post would be published both on your company’s blog and on your Linkedin page.

Two (2) real-time Twitter photo posts during your stay

Two (2) post-stay Twitter photo posts

(Use the hashtags of {3 PropertyZHashtags}, and any Property Z social channel handles on all relevant content.)

Would you be interested in participating? If so, I can send you more detailed information regarding these campaign components.

We are really hoping to work with you!

All the best,

YYY

This is classic paid influencer marketing via social media, a marketing trend that has been rapidly growing since 2014. Celebrities are paid big bucks to casually introduce positive experience of brands into their social media feeds. Now event industry influencers are being asked to do the same thing.

Will Brand X require all resulting social media posts by InfluentialEventProf to be labeled “Sponsored”? (Will “Sponsored” even fit into the tweets that are required?) Will the post-stay blog post include the information that the stay and meals were paid for by Brand X and that the InfluentialEventProf was paid a fee by Brand X?

Even if InfluentialEventProf provides all this information, there is plenty of research that shows that such paid marketing biases influencers to be more positive about their review than they would have been otherwise. (See, for example: High bias found in Amazon reviews of low-cost or free samples, where the provision of free or low-cost products boosted ratings from the 54th percentile to the 94th percentile!)

I think such practices are ethically questionable. The CMP Standards of Ethical Conduct Statement and Policy includes the pledge “Never use my position for undue personal gain and to promptly disclose to appropriate parties all potential and actual conflicts of interest“, and I’d argue that what is being offered here is “undue personal gain”. In addition, any event professional who is employed should review their employer’s ethics policy. Additional questions to consider are:

  • “In what way could you justify participation to your employer?”
  • “In what way could you justify participation to your clients?”
  • “Are there ways that this participation could influence site selection?”

What do you think?

[My thanks to InfluentialEventProf for permission given to reproduce the above email, and for suggestions that improved this post.]

Paperback versus ebook popularity over time

Paperback versus ebook popularity over timeMy book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love has now been available for over five years in both paperback and ebook versions and is still selling well. I thought it might be of interest to share how the proportion of paperback versus ebook sales has changed over time. The following figures include both indirect (mainly Amazon) and direct (my web store) sales.

As you can see from the above graph, paperbacks were, on average, 82%, of sales when the book was published in 2009. Although there’s significant variation from month to month, due mainly to bulk sales of one format or the other, the five year trendline shows that by March 2015, the most recent month for which I have full indirect sales figures, paperback book sales dropped to just over 60% of all sales.

The paperback is priced at $27.95 (Amazon) or $26.00 (from me directly), and the ebook format costs $11.00 (only from me). I haven’t changed any prices over the years, though Amazon plays tricks with the paperback pricing from time to time. These pricing levels provide me approximately the same income per copy for direct sales, regardless of the format.

One factor that affects the quantity of new paperback sales is that, these days, there are usually a few used copies of the paperback available on Amazon for a few dollars under the new price. Sales of used copies reduces new copy sales. On the other hand, I expect some copies of the ebook get shared too.

An additional trend I am noting for my website sales is that combination sales (both ebook and paperback versions of the same book) have been increasing over the last year. I offer a discount when both formats are purchased simultaneously, and this is worth considering if you are selling your books yourself.

Conclusions

  • People still like paperbacks! Even though the ebook is 40% of the price of the paperback, I’m still selling more paperbacks than ebooks.
  • The ebook format is becoming more popular over time. If, and that’s a big if, the trend continues, both formats will become equally popular some time in 2017. Interestingly, my new book The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action which has only been available for three months has sold about equal numbers of each format to date.
  • Don’t read too much into my experience. Conferences That Work is non-fiction, priced higher than most ebooks, and is only available as an ebook directly from me, so there’s no comparable Amazon sales channel. Your mileage may vary.

Are you an author with book format sales history of your own? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below!

Suppliers and Vendors: To market to me—join my conference tribe!

Tribes

It continues to amaze me how few suppliers of products and services bother to attend educational sessions at conferences, restricting themselves to the associated trade show. Folks, you’re making a mistake! Peter Evans-Greenwood explains why:

“To sell to members of a tribe you must be part of the tribe. It’s not enough to be in conversation with the tribe, your identity needs to be interwoven with the tribe.”
Identity is a funny thing, Peter Evans-Greenwood

Is there a better place to join the tribe of the attendees to whom you’re selling than the conference sessions themselves?

I don’t think so.

Even if the sessions are lectures with time for Q&A at the end, you’ll get an opportunity to hear what someone—hopefully with expertise and experience—is sharing that’s relevant to your market, and the audience questions may supply useful clues on pain points and selling propositions that you can address (perhaps during the session, if it’s done without a crude pitch).

And if you’re participating in interactive peer-to-peer sessions (like the sessions I’m facilitating at PCMA EduCon 2015 this week) you are bound to meet and connect with potential clients. Smart suppliers and vendors know the value of building these kinds of relationships, and spend time cultivating them. Paying for a trade show booth but skipping the associated conference sessions is simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Instead of marketing to the conference tribe, why not join the conference tribe?

How to sell me stuff right

Muster MeLibby O’Malley rocks. I haven’t met her (yet!) but she read my 2012 post A letter to event technology companies trying to sell me stuff and—wow!—actually took the time to figure out how to introduce me to her new product Muster Me in a way I would like.

A vendor who really listens and responds appropriately; how refreshing! Yes, the flattery doesn’t hurt, but Libby clearly made sure that the complaints in my post about the hundreds of event profession product and service pitches I receive each year were addressed.

This is the best product pitch I’ve ever received. Fantastic work Libby!

I am not endorsing her product (though the demo on the website worked fine for me) but I’m happy to reproduce here what she emailed me today, as an example of how to do selling right.

Here’s the text of Libby’s email:

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5 tips on how to market event apps to me

Traci FB comment
Traci Browne, Facebook post
Like my friend Traci, I receive a constant stream of messages from developers about their new event apps. Naturally, as a frequent commentator on the event industry, I am anxious to throw myself into the tiniest details of these innovative products that are sure to revolutionize every event professional’s life. Clearly they are tools that will:

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Market your conference with an annotated schedule

Conference marketing 5939057098_d8fd5655cd_b

Right after my last post on marketing a new peer conference, organizational and leadership development consultant Judy Warriner Walke suggested an additional way to help communicate what happens at a conference—an annotated schedule.

I like this idea! Walking potential attendees through the flow of the event helps to clarify and demystify conference process, especially if people haven’t attended an event format like Conferences That Work before. Here’s an example, written for the October 2013 1st Annual Vermont Leadership Network Conference.


Want to better understand what will be happening at the 1st Annual Vermont Leadership Network Conference? Here’s an annotated schedule!

[Note: Some details are omitted here! For more information, visit About Peer Conferences.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Registration will be open between noon and 2pm.

At 2pm, after a brief welcome and an explanation of conference ground rules, we’ll start with opening roundtable(s). Roundtables provide a structured, safe way for you to learn about other participants early in the conference. During the roundtable, you’ll discover topics of interest to explore, get a sense of the depth of interest in these topics, and find out who has experience and expertise that you want to connect with and explore further. We’ll include frequent breaks and refreshments during the roundtable, ending around 4:30pm.

After an hour break, we’ll hold peer session sign-up during dinner. In peer session sign-up we’ll visually document our wishes and suggestions for the upcoming conference sessions. Then, we’ll determine which of the suggested peer session topics are popular and schedule the chosen sessions into a conference program. This is a short process that will be held during the dinner and subsequent socializing, with a small group subsequently using the resulting information to create Friday’s program. The end result will be a Friday conference schedule that optimally matches desired topics with the resources of the group.

Friday, October 18
We’ll have time for four sets of (usually) one-hour concurrent sessions on Friday, with breaks between each and lunch served between sessions 3 and 4.

What might these sessions look like? They are typically informal: often facilitated discussions, presentations, panels, workshops, walks, etc. As an example, five years ago the class  of ’08 used this conference format for a reunion—here are the topics that were chosen (8 sessions in concurrent pairs):

Fun and team camaraderie in the workplace • Fundraising • The political process – running for office • The systematic development of informed consent • Am I doing what I want to be doing? • Technology – social networking & other applications • Getting Things Done • Appreciative Inquiry

After these sessions are over, at 2:40pm we’ll end with two facilitated closing sessions, a personal introspective and a group spective.

The personal introspective will give you a structured opportunity to think about what you have experienced at the conference, how your experiences may impact your life in the future, and what changes you may want to make as a result. After reflection, you’ll then have an opportunity to share your answers in small groups.

After a break, a group spective will start at 3:50pm. The group spective will provide facilitated time for participants as a group to evaluate the conference and suggest and begin to develop future initiatives for Vermont Leadership and the Snelling Center. We’ll use a variety of techniques to do this.

The conference will end at 5pm, and all are welcome to stay and socialize with their classmates and new friends at a reception hosted by the Snelling Center immediately following the conference.

As you can see, participation on Thursday will make a big difference to your conference experience and your influence on its form and content. Please attend the whole event if at all possible!

To summarize, here’s the outline of the conference schedule for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013
12:00PM – 02:00PMRegistration
02:00PM – 02:10PMWelcome
02:10PM – 03:10PMRoundtable(s)
03:10PM – 03:30PMBreak
03:30PM – 04:30PMRoundtable(s) continued
05:30PM – 07:00PMDinner and peer session sign-up
07:00PM –Informal chat, socializing, music, etc.
Friday, October 18
08:30AM – 08:40AMMorning news
08:40AM – 09:40AMPeer session 1
09:40AM – 09:50AMBreak
09:50AM – 10:50AMPeer session 2
10:50AM – 11:05AMBreak
11:05AM – 12:05AMPeer session 3
12:15PM – 01:30PMLunch
01:30PM – 02:30PMPeer session 4
02:30PM – 02:40PMBreak
02:40PM – 03:40PMPersonal introspective
03:40PM – 03:50PMBreak
03:50PM – 05:00PMGroup spective
05:00PM –Optional: class reunions, etc.

Notice that I’ve added a regular schedule at the end of the annotation, so attendees can still easily see when all sessions take place.

Familiarizing people with something different in advance is a great way of reducing the common resistance to trying something new. Thanks for the suggestion, Judy!

Photo attribution: Flickr user stevendepolo

Useful free tools for Twitter analytics

Twitter timeline activity

Last month Twitter quietly rolled out some very useful free analytics tools. I say quietly, because I’ve seen very little discussion of them online. Perhaps that’s because they have not been made available to everyone yet. Whatever the reason, they have been eye-opening for me, so I’m sharing my initial impressions here.

Here’s how to access Twitter’s new tools. You’ll find them on the Analytics menu on the Twitter Ads page, as shown in the above screenshot. This page requires you to turn off any ad-blocker you have running in order to load—fair enough!

If you see an Analytics menu (at the time of writing not everyone does) you’re in luck. There are two options: Timeline Activity and Followers. Pick the former and you’ll see something like the graphic above.

Timeline activity
The Timeline shows statistics about your last thirty days of tweets. What is most interesting to me is the number of clicks on any link included in a tweet. Traditionally, social media mavens tend to focus on how many times tweets are retweeted and mentioned, and obviously that’s important. But I had no idea how popular some of my tweets were in terms of people clicking on embedded links. Much of my content is narrowly niche-focused, so I generally don’t see a lot of retweets. But conferencesthatwork.com receives over two million page views a year, and those hits come from somewhere. What these Twitter analytics show me is that many people are clicking on my links, even if most of the time the associated tweets are not being subsequently retweeted. And, most important, I can now see which tweets were popular. This is valuable information!

Yes, these analytics has been available for some time via other mechanisms. All the URL shortening services provide similar statistics for individual shortened links. But in practice, you’d need to use a) a unique short URL for every tweet and b) only one shortening service. a) is cumbersome, and b) is impractical because some services that auto-generate tweets from posts, like LinkedIn and Google Plus, insist on using their own link shorteners, requiring manual amalgamation of clicks over multiple services.

The timeline of mentions, follows and unfollows at the top of the page provides a nice overview that can be helpful for noticing interest peaks, but I prefer to monitor this information using the excellent Birdbrain IOS app.

Followers
The Followers option displays a graph of follower growth plus some demographics on interests, location, and gender.

Twitter followers information

This is interesting but less useful to me, though you may find it valuable. It would be great to be able to drill down further into the location demographics so I could see my followers in, say, the Netherlands, and then be able to reach out to them when I was visiting.

Conclusion
For me the gold here is the clicks per tweet statistics. Although I don’t write blog posts based on what I think will be popular, this information gives me a much better picture than I’ve had before of how interesting specific tweets are to others. Over time it should help me understand better how my tweet content and timing affect what people read, allowing me to reach more people with better-marketed content. For free, what’s not to like about that?

Are these new tools of interest to you? How would you use them?

Should you self-publish your book?

Here’s the problem with self-publishing: no one cares about your book. That’s it in a nutshell. There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each. Your book won’t stand out. Hilary Clinton’s will. Yours won’t.

So self-publishing is an exercise in futility and obscurity. Of course, there are the stories of the writers who self-publish and magic happens and they sell millions of books, but those are the rare exceptions. How rare? Well, on the order of 1 or 2 per million.
Nick Morgan, Should You Self-Publish Your Book?

741941-book-signing-lineNick paints a realistic picture of the work required to become a “successful” self-published author—if you’re defining success purely in terms of book sales. But I think there are other perspectives to consider.

My first book, about participant-driven and participation-rich conferences, was published three years ago. I have only sold a few thousand copies (though sales per year continue to rise) and the money I’ve made from selling books translates into a few cents an hour for the four part-time years I took to write the book. Not successful by Nick’s terms, right?

But. During those three years I’ve moved from complete obscurity to become a fairly well known authority in the field of innovative event design. My blog had 2.25 million page views in 2012, I’m routinely presenting at industry conferences, and a typical consulting gig brings income that’s equivalent to selling five hundred books.

If you are writing non-fiction for a niche market and you have something important to say, your book can provide wonderful exposure and authority that may (no guarantees!) translate into significant income.

I considered going the traditional publishing route and I’m glad I didn’t for several reasons:

  • Traditional publishing typically adds another year before your book is published.
  • I had complete control over the look and content of my book. I hired the same professionals—editor, proofreader, book designer, cover designer, copywriter—that major publishers use (they are often freelancers these days) and worked with them directly without the publisher as an intermediary.
  • Although you’re very unlikely to make significant money from book sales, you receive significantly more money on each copy of the book.
  • I have been able to build relationships with many of my book buyers. Although the paperback version of my book is available everywhere, I sell the ebook myself. Most of my sales come directly from my website, perhaps because I offer 30 minutes free consulting to anyone who buys the book from me. This allows me to connect one-to-one with my readers, which translates into additional consulting/facilitation/presenting work while building up a list of people who are likely be interested in my next book, due to be published later this year.

I hope my experience and thoughts are helpful and perhaps encouraging for some who have been considering self-publishing.

Image attribution: Dianne Heath