What search engine marketers should know about event marketing

Yes, yes, I know we’re search engine marketers. So, event marketing isn’t our department.

But, Don E. Schultz, Professor (Emeritus-in-Service) of integrated marketing communication at Northwestern University, said something in his opening keynote at SES Chicago back in December that every SEM should understand.

He said, “For search to ‘get respect’ among senior management and marketers, we must align and integrate with traditional marketing. We must provide ways to build holistic marketing systems.”

To do this effectively, here’s what search engine marketers should know about event marketing: One plus one equals three.

In other words, if one of your executives gets accepted to be a conference speaker and your company is already a tradeshow exhibitor, doth both. You’ll discover that the synergy created by this holistic marketing system outweighs any so-called savings by eliminating your booth once you’ve nailed down a speaking slot.

Now, I should disclose that Search Engine Strategies London and SES New York are clients. But, I’d give the same advice if you got accepted to be a conference speaker at another search marketing conference and your firm was also exhibiting at that event.

In fact, I gave this very advice in the 1980s when I was the director of corporate communications at Lotus Development Corp. And I gave this advice in the 1990s when I was the director of corporate communications at Ziff-Davis. So, why should I stop giving it now?

Just as media companies insist on a separation of church and state between their editorial and advertising departments, event organizers also insist on a church-state separation between the organizers who select conference speakers and the sales department who signs up tradeshow exhibitors.

So, if one of your executives gets invited to be a conference keynote speaker and your company already has a tradeshow booth, it’s a rare opportunity to deliver a one-two punch.

Besides, your executive won’t be able to give the sales pitch that your booth staff can. In fact, your executive will be given a set of speaker guidelines that say something like this:
Audience members react badly if they think they are being sold something. If you are too “salesy,” they definitely let us know in the feedback, and that can impact whether you’ll be invited to speak at a future event.

And, taking the high road as a conference speaker works. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen smart executives, who focus on a “real life” example of how their products have been used by customers, drive more conference attendees to their company’s booth than dumb ones who give a more sales-oriented explanation of their product’s features.

Now, if you have trouble getting your executives to “buy” this holistic marketing system, try this SEM analogy. Back in August 2003, I was a speaker in the “Balancing Paid & Organic Listings” session at Search Engine Strategies San Jose.

I presented a case study from the University of the Pacific, which indicated that getting top ranking in both organic and paid listings had tripled our click-through-rates. I surmised that finding both an organic and a paid listing from the same site was like getting a second opinion.

This case study quickly became an urban legend and I was frequently asked for a copy of my marketing research. When I explained that the “3X effect” was based on anecdotal evidence, people would invariably say, “Please let me know if anybody ever does such a study.”

Well, on March 1, 2007, iCrossing published a Search Synergy Report, which found a “symbiotic, or synergistic, effect between natural and paid search on online performance.”

For this report, iCrossing asked, “Does running a natural search campaign and a paid search campaign together create more value than running them in a non-integrated manner?” In other words, does one plus one equal three?

And, iCrossing’s statistical analyses conclusively demonstrated that “running an integrated natural and paid search campaign leads to improved online performance over running either a natural search or paid search campaign alone.”

I wrote about their findings in an article entitled, “Yes, Virginia, there is a natural and paid search synergy,” for the Search Engine Watch Blog.

So, if there’s a positive synergy between natural and paid search, then why wouldn’t there be a similar symbiotic, or synergistic, effect between a conference speaker and tradeshow booth? In other words, if one plus one equals three for search engine marketers, then why wouldn’t the math work for event marketing, too?

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