aka ”F.U.D. in N.Y.C.”
The saying is ”you learn something new every day.” This week I can happily report that my rate of informational ingestion was significantly higher than that. But the gem for me wasn’t in the factoids, marketing claims, ”breakthrough technologies” or other information bits getting past my screen. It was an impression of the state of the online marketing industry I got from 4 days in New York City as an exhibitor at the Search Engine Strategies ’08 conference.
The conference attendees were online marketing professionals seeking to improve their skills with search techniques and products. The exhibitors were generally somehow involved in optimizing websites to drive more traffic, or showing off their lead generation and PPC networks. I had the pleasure of personally speaking with a couple hundred entrepreneurs, business professionals, consultants, media representatives – as well as several people who appeared to just want a free pen and a piece of chocolate.
Before I tell you what I learned, a little about the conference: There were some really solid presenters that gave high-impact advice on what / how / when / who / where in the online marketing world. Worth the price of a ticket to hear some of the better ones. There were also the prognosticators with detailed descriptions of what will happen next in the industry. The ones who got something right over the last 4 years were designated visionaries; the ones who missed on everything beyond horoscope-like generalities were also there with brand new and exciting generalities. Go to http://www.searchenginestrategies.com/newyork/ for a list of presenters as it’s not my intent in this blog to critique each or any.
As far as exhibitors, about half of them were selling quasi-consulting services to ramp your PPC or SEO – some very well-known brands, some less so. Being in the consulting category, you can’t really get any specifics from the sales people crewing the booth. It’s hard to learn much from them due to the nature of their business. (mobileStorm was the exception. Not to brag, but I really believe people left the mobileStorm booth better educated and impressed with our products.)
I really enjoyed talking to a couple companies with fantastic services/products. One standout is a company named Compete (www.compete.com). Check out the free analysis on their site, but know that there is tons of useful data that comes with a paid account. If you have competitors, and you’re online focused, you MUST have this service.
But, do you want to know what I took away from the conference at the end of the day? What was invaluable?
Many there – especially exhibitors – are scared. They are fearful that there is an economic downturn happening that will impact their business significantly and in ways they cannot yet imagine. Many people were walking around testing the statement ”there seems to be a lot fewer people here this year”¦.” They appeared to want either denial or reassurance from a statement that explains what it all means.
So what do I think it means? I think it means what it always means. The big picture of markets runs in cycles. Even if we’re in a down cycle, individual businesses do not necessarily suffer. I also believe that many people in business respond to lagging indicators, mistaking them for leading indicators. Conference passes were purchased, flights arranges, booths reserved, budgets approved, etc. months ago. Conference attendance is a lagging indicator of what is happening right now in the industry, not necessarily a leading indicator of what will happen. So I don’t read too much in to whether 5,000 people attended the conference versus 7,000 last year. It’s not an absolute.
A couple days ago comScore reported that US online searches declined by 6% from January to February. This statistic, no doubt, took wind out of sails throughout the search industry — and will directly correlate with online retail spending overall when those numbers come in.
Bottom line for me, however, having been through many major and mini business cycles I know this: The marketers that are organized, efficient, prepared, attuned to their customers – and above all FEARLESS – will grow and prosper regardless of a blip in the general economy. The people who have their act together and ignore fear, uncertainty and doubt will take the customers of those that hunker down waiting to see what will happen.
The meek may indeed inherit the earth, but victory will go to the bold.
EVP, Sales & Marketing