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Jun 26, 2002
Event Wrap-up

Official @d:tech Show Wrap-Up Report (+ How to Be a Speaker at the Next Show)

SUMMARY: Last week more than 1,600 marketing and advertising pros gathered at the LA @d:tech show, and guess which email newsletter publisher @d:tech asked to write the Official Show Report?  (Us!) Find out what the buzz was about (search engine marketing) and was not about (email marketing), plus hear the best tips from speakers and most revealing quotes from the show floor.
by Alexis Bonnell, Contributing Editor

Overheard in the exhibit hall:
“This is my first conference since the bubble burst, I
actually had a nightmare last night that I was the only
person in the exhibit hall. I should have known it would be
fine when I had to wait a half hour to valet my car.”

Most attendees' first impression of @d:tech Los Angeles show last
week seemed to be, "Wow, there are lots of people here." (In
fact, more than 1,600 attended.)

However, unlike @d:techs of the past, far more attendees came
from the client than the agency side. They were not Internet
marketing newbies either.

“We are seeing a much savvier attendee,” White Page’s Susie Kang
told us, “The attendees seem to be much more educated and are
asking very specific questions." In fact, the attendees took
control of the show, asking demanding, hands-on questions, and
wringing the speakers out for the very last drop of useful data.
No hype allowed. Here are some highlights:

-> Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Listings (PPC)

Attendee overheard talking on a cell phone after a session:
"Go set up an account at Overture right now, and call Search
123, and Google also.”

Remember how hot email marketing used to be? This year it is
search engine marketing.

There was no denying that @d:tech LA belonged to the search
engine marketing companies. The exhibit floor showed vast
diversity from SEO’s, paid placement, portals, and paid
inclusion; while related sessions were among the most attended of
the show.

Paid inclusion (PPC) was hottest of all. Top 3 tips we picked
up:

1. Measuring how much traffic you get is not (nearly) enough.
Improve your metrics and trackability and drill-down to find
the true profitability of your paid listings.

2. Improve your traffic conversion efforts so you get the
biggest bang for your paid listing buck. As one attendee
said, “Now that the fish find me, I just need to go to the
'underwater basket weaving session' to learn how keep them
once they’ve jumped in.”

3. Google's deal with AOL in May (now Google powers AOL's paid
listings) means they are not just for B2B marketers anymore.
B2C marketers are seeing substantially more traffic from
Google Adwords Select listings already.

-> Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Speaker Detlev Johnson of Positiontech:
“The beauty of the natural listing is that it exists for
years and you don’t have to pay a dime beyond the original
optimization cost.”

The consensus among all search engine specialists was that paid
placements are not enough. You still have to optimize (design)
your site so it appears in "natural" listings (those that are not
paid for).

Partly this is because it makes sense; search engines are such a
powerful traffic driver and optimization is still fairly cheap
especially compared to other marketing campaigns. Partly this is
also because most sites are not optimized yet (strange but true) so there is significant room for improvement.

Most interesting tip: copywriting really matters.

While a great deal of optimization requires highly technical and
specialist knowledge, you can improve your site rankings simply
by learning how to rewrite visible copy on your site. If your
keywords and key search terms are not melded into the copy on
every page of your site, now is the time to add them.

-> Lessons on the email front

Overheard at @d:tech last year:
“Email is the savior of all interactive advertising.”

Overheard at @d:tech this year:
"Email has given us a great example of a way to piss off the
consumer enough to involve the government in business; I
think the rest of us are trying to overcome the damage done
by the email industry to the rest of interactive
advertising.”

Thanks to spam, viruses, and blatantly junk email, email marketing
is having a harder and harder time getting past the filter,
getting opened, getting taken seriously by recipients.

The topic of blacklisting was almost nervously shied away from
(nobody wants to admit they have been blacklisted, although it is
fairly common even for reputable mailers these days) but it
hung over the email sessions like a dark cloud.

Also, thanks to all-too-many marketers (especially on the B2B
side) sending out email newsletters that are nothing more than an
excuse to promote their own wares, newsletters are also seeing
lowered impact.

What works? "Content is king" still and again. If your message
has true value to the recipient, they will still open and respond.
Yes, it is still (much) cheaper than direct postal mail.

Naturally vendors and speakers talked excitedly about rich media
email campaigns; it would not be @d:tech without rich media
proponents. However, mailers were reminded that most recipients
are still on 56k dial-ups, and frankly getting full-bodied HTML
email through AOL is hard enough these days without adding Flash
and/or audio to it.

-> New technology: Test it first

Roy de Souza, ZEDO
“It was about cost before, now it is about innovation and
new features, the advertisers are driving our technology
now, they want bigger ads, flash, and more intrusive ads.”

Newer and richer forms of media such as wireless, iTV and rich
media in email, advergaming got their share of the spotlight in
various case studies and on the exhibit floor.

However, although attendees are interested in new technology, the
words “How can we test this, and how much will it cost” were
heard ad nausea. No one wants to spend big sums on ad
technology that is not really, really, really proven. Overheard,
"There is no money for out of the box anymore, now we need 'out
of the wallet.'”

This was frustrating for some vendors. One told us, "I am sick
of testing, people are constantly saying they want to test a
proven marketing tool. I wish they would just start investing in
an actual program, where they would make decisions on more than
one-weeks results at a time.”

Overall, the trend seemed to be less about introducing new
technology, and more about making your money work harder and
longer to achieve sweeter results.

-> ROI & ROR

Overheard on the show floor:
“Now ROI is everything. My clients want more ways to
efficiently look at their ROI and be able to compare it
to all other marketing efforts.”

Nobody is doing online advertising or marketing because it is
"cool" anymore. It is about acquiring and retaining customers
cost effectively. Period.

As one attendee admitted, “Cash is tight. Need I say more? I
think it is time for us to all come out of the closet and admit
we are direct marketers.”

Three rules of thumb emerged:

1. Be realistic about where your customers are coming from and
make sure your advertising budget is appropriately allotted.
Yes, this is a rallying cry for online media salespeople who
are sick of seeing major advertisers spend loads in
traditional media, even though consumers have migrated online.
It is also good advertising sense.

2. When it comes to customer acquisition campaigns (online or
off), do not do a thing unless you can measure it's conversion
rate and set a benchmark. Otherwise you do not know what is
really working and what is wasted money.

3. Do not forget that retention is where the real ROI is. (It
costs more to get new customers than to keep old ones.) Jana
Friedman, ePrize, revealed, “Our clients seem to be more
interested in retention than acquisition.”

Keynote speaker Stan Rapp, Chairman MRM Partners Worldwide
emphasized this, encouraging the attendees to look beyond the
ROI to Return on Relationship (ROR) for greater profit. A
famed proponent of database marketing, he added, "Whoever owns
the database owns interactive access to the customer.”

-> In Summation

One attendee described the current state of the industry best:

"This industry acted like a drunk sorority girl at a three year party,
then she woke up one day, and realized she had a hang-over that killed
many of her brain cells. She nursed the hangover. Finally the aspirin
started to kick in, and she realized it was a nice day. She wasn’t
really going to die of pain like she thought and a walk in the fresh air
would do her good, she just remembered to walk slow and breath deep.”

To put it another way, test proven tactics and watch your
metrics.

NOTE: Interested in speaking at @d:tech's next show in New York
this November? Content Director Melanie Flavin says she is
especially looking for speakers with specialties in metrics, ROI,
campaign measurement, and measuring results across media. If
you are interested, email Flavin at mflavin@imark-com.com.
Deadline: July 2nd.

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