Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I'm trying to get into the heads of business owners. Specifically, those who come to marketing conferences to learn how to get more business, tomorrow, at a lower cost of acquisition. But I'm thinking about the needs of all growing businesses, in the end. Those who do not attend events may not attend because it doesn't seem to sync with their immediate priorities. That's important information in itself.
So I just went through a major conference agenda with a scoring system in hand. The criterion is simple. I ask if each session satisfies this condition: "Talks about how my company can get more leads or sales."
The way that's worded, it will certainly assign a lower score to sessions that could be characterized as "Important, but not Urgent," and may overrate some sessions that focus on "quick tips" that make people money fast (supposedly) while neglecting to situate those tactics in the context of priority-setting and overall grounding.
Still, as brutal as this scoring system is, I think it's a good way to identify session material that may only be there because of a sense that the topic might be hot. Or material that found its way up there because insiders debate it a lot to show off.
The scoring system goes from 0 to 4.
0= not at all.
1= very indirectly.
3= pretty well indeed.
4= yes, entirely. this session totally talks about how my company can get more leads or sales.
At a high level, the first thing you notice is that sessions that discuss industry politics, tugs of war in and across organizations, vendor priorities, etc. are going to score low. Sessions about the state of the law in some aspect of marketing are going to score low on this scale as well. Surprisingly, "advanced" and "technical" tracks also often score low. "Advanced" shouldn't just be used as a cover for someone getting up on stage and showing off. (We're all guilty at times.)
There is no doubt that many business owners need and want their people to be attending a diversity of sessions. But I certainly hope that this isn't to the exclusion of the low hanging fruit stuff that really makes people money.
In the end, both sides are important. If you don't understand search algorithms and fundamentals, you are completely out to lunch. But for conference organizers, if you start stacking the program with sessions that seem of merely academic interest, you risk turning it into a whole different type of event. Some attendees, unfortunately, will take that as a cue that the show's really about a few days off work, instead of about optimizing business when they get back.
Are you kidding? I don't think I want to get into trouble today. It's just too nice out. Here's a few thoughts though - consider them to be based a composite sketch of search marketing conferences.
Sessions that rank 0-2 on my scoring system, but people need to go despite that:
Sessions that rank 0-2 that frankly may bore you, and often bore me, at least if I'm trying to figure out how my clients are going to increase their bottom line tomorrow:
- Anything about information architecture or search engine friendly site design
- Universal & blended search
- Quality Score
- A limited selection of SEO topics that address technical issues like 301's and major no-no's that could haunt your organic presence for months or years to come
At the other extreme, sessions about conversions, actionable insights from analytics data, specific tactics (especially when labeled "amazing"), and pretty much anything with "ecommerce" in the title ranks closer to the "4" end of the scale. Take that for what it's worth. No matter what the session is called, chances are they aren't handing out money in the aisles (with the exception of Tim Ash). When they are, you should take it.
- Anything about agency politics, organizational process, etc. Oh, it matters. But then again, if it doesn't apply to you, it really, really doesn't matter.
- Squabbling about attribution and getting "credit" for sales
- Meeting the vendors, especially from second and third tier traffic sources
- Um, I'll just come out and say it. PageRank Sculpting.
- Arcane legal debates
- Debates about what color someone's hat is
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