One Nugget at a Time

One of the things I always make time for is attending events and finding engaging experiences. So how do you select which events to participate in based on the reality of time and budget constraints, and how do you measure the ROI on attending events? (Note, this post is only about attending and not sponsoring, speaking at, or exhibiting at events.)

Prioritizing Events

Prior to COVID-19 changing the event (and frankly my business) landscape, I strategically planned out the events I wanted to attend. There were well-known large tradeshows and conferences, local programs, and niche industry events. For every event on my list, I researched the cost, the audience, and the sessions (speakers, topics, format). Then I prioritized the list based on budget, time commitment, and balance of topics. My philosophy was to try at least one new paid event a quarter, and I’d compare the cost vs. what revenue I was (theoretically) forgoing by participating. It was a pure business transaction in my mind that had to have a net positive dollar amount in return.

Redefining Goals

Fast forward to the past six months, my well-thought out plan was clearly not realistic since many of the events were canceled, postponed, or reformatted. I began to view virtual events as an opportunity to take away one “nugget”. A nugget of information. A new potential project partner. A “what not to do” during an event. A moment of non-work related entertainment. Or maybe it would be a large nugget – a new long-term client relationship, a new skill, or a new perspective on life. I may intentionally select an event based on what I think I will get out of it, but remaining flexible on the result has allowed me to find value in most events. One specific example is I recently attended a webinar where I tweeted about the topic. That tweet generated the highest engagement in the past 28 days for my Twitter account. Shifting your mindset during this time – or any time of change – can reframe what value means.

New Mindset

As I think towards 2021 planning, I’ll revisit my grand plans for 2020 but with the shift in mindset. I’ll still have a budget and look for balance in topics, but the lens I’ll use to review my options will be different. You can’t always assign a dollar value to relationships and knowledge as I’ve learned during the past several months. However, I know that gathering one nugget at a time will help me build a successful, sustainable business.

And in case you’re wondering, below are some of the events I’ve attended recently.

Amplify Philly, Digital Summit, Hootsuite Events, Mailchimp Events, Philly Freelance Events, Philly Tech Week, Quorum Lunchtime Lessons & Science Center programs, Social Pulse Summit, Venture Cafe Philadelphia, Verizon Business Webinar Series, and my undergraduate and graduate school alumni events.

The Semantics of Semantics

In our digital world, we have so much information at our fingertips. But how do you sort through all of the buzzwords to find the right solution? Whether you’re looking to retain an agency for your ‘digital marketing’ or you’re looking for a freelancer to develop ‘content’, understanding what these words really mean vs. what the resource is prepared to deliver can make the vetting process more efficient and ensure you get the deliverable you need.

Let’s take a look at these two specific examples – digital marketing and content.

Digital marketing, as defined by the American Marketing Association (AMA), is “the use of digital or social channels to promote a brand or reach consumers. This kind of marketing can be executed within social media, search engine, internet, mobile devices and other channels.” Sometimes you’ll see social media marketing used interchangeably with digital marketing, when in fact it is a small subset of digital marketing. In other instances, you’ll see email or SMS (text message) marketing as a separate channel from digital marketing, but is a tactic executed within mobile devices. If you know you need ‘digital marketing,’ but you are unsure of what specific channels your business needs, look for someone with a breadth of experience in ALL digital channels; they can provide the guidance on what you should include in your marketing plan. If you already know that you specifically need to focus on social media, then go for it – look for an expert that has deep knowledge on all things social media.

Content is another example of a commonly misunderstood term. Accodring to the AMA, content marketing is “creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” So what do people mean when they say they’re a content strategist, content creator, or content consultant? It could mean they help you define the types of stories you should be telling. It could mean they help you find the right medium – text, still images, videos, etc. It could mean they know what channels to post and promote the content on. It could mean they are a filmmaker, photographer, or writer. It could mean all of the above. Be specific on your content needs because a strong copy writer might be the only resource you need if you already have a strong digital marketing resource.

The key is to ask questions – ask for clarification on exactly what the resource means when they use a common term. Anyone who truly wants to help your business will take the time to explain what they will be delivering.

One Final Note on Content

Remember more content is not always better; it needs to be valuable and relevant. And hopefully this post was both of those. 😉

Structure, Scaffolding, and Style

One of the basics I strongly believe in is having a plan. With a plan, your project has structure but also allows you to be agile because you know your end goal. You know what needs to be done, the tools to get it done, and the order you should execute the steps. You’ve thought about it. Plus, you’ll have the process in place to innovate and optimize.

But what happens when unexpected challenges arise? Or a new technology is introduced? Think of Reels on Instagram. Just when you thought you had mastered posts vs. stories and tagging someone in a photo vs. comment, Instagram introduces a new feature. Your carefully thought out social media plan might quickly become antiquated. However, that’s when you need scaffolding to support your structure and the agility to implement it efficiently. Take the opportunity to look for those weak(er) points – age or environmentally driven – in your plan and find ways to support it. Remember, not all structures need scaffolding, and not all scaffolding needs to be permanent.

Structures that are only functional can lack originality and limit your creativity. However, a good plan should define how you want to differentiate yourself, your product or service, or your business. The most successful ones have a specific style – reflective of a personal / brand identity, a corporate promise, or an organizational mission. The most obvious way you can incorporate style in a marketing plan is with the content you create – the images you choose and the words you use. However, there are subtler ways you can infuse style as your style might be that you’re a data driven marketer or you believe in MarTech to drive automation. (As a side note, I highly encourage both of those stylistic elements!)

Whether you’re building a business plan, marketing strategy, or simply your resume, you should create a structure that allows for scaffolding when it needs it and in a style that only you can bring.

The Nanosecond Test

If you’ve ever worked with me, you know that I am a strong believer in the “nanosecond test” or as others refer to it, the “sniff test.” The non-scientific experiment when you look quickly at any marketing tactic to see what you instinctively perceive from the image, text, or composition. You know, when something doesn’t look quite right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Or if you somehow end up only reading every other word in a headline, so it becomes a nonsensical sentence or worse – something inappropriate.

This nanosecond test is more important than ever in our current environment. In the last several weeks, I’ve taken a long pause at a lot of businesses advertising their reopening plans. Along with their promise of enforcing mandated social distancing practices – wearing masks and maintaining 6′ of distance between patrons – they are featuring photos or videos of customers not wearing masks. Other visuals are at angles that make the people appear closer than 6′. Likely, they are simply photos from the pre-COVID world or the only ones they have available. However, all of these fail my nanosecond test, and I immediately lose confidence in that business.

If you’re promoting your reopening plans or your safety protocols, then you should take the time to review your visuals with this lens. More importantly, if you’re investing in new assets, make sure a quick glance at them tells the story you want them to. It may have taken you hours or days to capture the perfect photo or video, but it takes just a nanosecond for your audience to see the complete opposite.