What Can You Do In Person that You Can’t Do On the Phone?

Both my seminar on how to host effective User Conferences (which I will post some day), and Seth’s recent post on the pressure that the hassle and expense of travel is putting on conference planners, stress the same thing:

 “…a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement.” – Seth Godin

Travel used to be fun and exciting; now it’s dull and tedious.  If you’re going to make people do it, you have to give them a reason.  They have to expect that being there in person will add value that they couldn’t get from a conference call, videoconference, online virtual event, webinar, DVD, or some other remote technology. 

And what is a bar, really, but a conference venue that hosts a new event every night?  Just as a conference is going to have to offer people something that they can only get by being there in person, successful bars have to offer people the chance to interact with other people in a way they can’t otherwise.

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Interruption vs. Permission

Today it’s another one of my marketing seminars adapted into a Blog post.  This one explains the concepts behind Seth Godin’s idea of Permission Marketing.  We start with the acknowledgement that almost all marketing done up until now has been interruption marketing.  The marketer interrupts whatever it is you’re doing (reading a newspaper, watching a TV show, visiting a Web site or even idly glancing at the back of the car in front of you at the red light) and shows you their message (print ad, TV commercial, pop-up or banner ad, the car company’s logo).

Interruption

This is not sustainable.  As the interruptions grow in number, we begin to tune them out.  So they get louder, sexier, funnier, viralier (that’s more viral), bigger – to try and get our attention back.  But then they’re all louder, so nothing stands out except the overwhelming cacophony.  And it fails.

So what’s the alternative?  Send personal, relevant, anticipated messages to people who want to get them and have given you permission to send them.  The most prevalent current examples are RSS feeds and opt-in newsletters.  There’s another technology-based concept that I love that never really got off the ground before the tech-stock bubble burst, but I hope it makes a comeback: WebGrocer.  The idea is that you place your grocery order and pay online, and someone packs it all up and delivers it to your door.  So far, no magic.  But what if I gave them permission to keep track of my order patterns?  After a while, a sufficiently smart database application could begin to predict what I’ll be needing and when I’ll be needing it.  They might send me an email saying, “Dear Stephen, we think you are going to need one 4L Tide with Bleach and a dozen eggs tomorrow.  Shall we add it to your next order?”  I would go check my supply, and seeing that they were right, I would agree.  After a few times, I wouldn’t even check, I’d just assume they were right.  After a sufficiently long string of accurate predictions, I’d want to give them even more permission: I’d say, “Hey, if you think I need something, just send it. Don’t bother asking.”  It would be like having a valet or personal shopper.

Permission

You might think that vast amounts of technology like Amazon’s recommendation engine or Google’s search algorithm would be required to achieve that kind of trust and permission.  I’ll give you a couple of examples from the past, then:  every autumn of my childhood, we gave Sears permission to send us 300 pages of advertising.  In fact, we welcomed it.  It was the Sears Christmas Wish Book.  A catalog that both I and my parents welcomed.  I could pick what I wanted, and my parents could see what it cost.  Sears was doing us a service

The other example was our home heating oil.  I don’t believe we ever actually ordered any; some guy would just show up periodically with his big smelly truck and hose, and dump a bunch of dead dinosaurs into a pipe on the side of our house.  And send us a bill.  We trusted him to give us oil when he knew (or guessed) we would need it.  We gave him permission.

How to Do a Press Release

I periodically present short seminars, each touching on how to execute one aspect of marketing.  They are not in-depth at all; instead they are meant to give an overview of some activity that is second nature to experienced marketers, but that normal business people, especially technically-oriented ones, would not know anything about.  Here are the slides from the latest one:

1. Make sure your press release has meat:

Meat vs. Fluff

More advice after the jump…

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