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How to Get the Most Out of Every Conference Presentation


how to get the most out of conference presentationsHave you ever been to a conference presentation that felt really flat? One where the speaker seemed a little nervous walking on stage and the audience was in a lull from sitting in sessions for hours on end or not having enough coffee? I know I’ve definitely experienced both as a presenter and as an attendee.

Getting the most out of every conference presentation typically means you need to find a way to inject a high level of energy into the crowd and, most importantly, the presenter.

And that’s where the “Big Omaha standing ovation” comes in. If you’re not familiar with concept, it was started by Dave Hasuer, co-founder of, at the Big Omaha Conference in 2010—and continues to be a big part of the event each and every year.

Instead of holding your applause until the end of the session, with the Big Omaha standing ovation everyone is asked to give a standing ovation at the beginning of the session. I’m not talking about a conservative golf clap or a sporadic round of applause that sounds like the last 15 seconds of popcorn popping in the microwave, I’m talking about a standing ovation with people shouting, jumping, and clapping uncontrollably.

Talk about a great way to get people engaged and bring out the best from the speaker. Having watched a few presenters come out to the Big Omaha standing ovation, you can see the immediate reaction on their faces. Instead of being nervous, they’re smiling from ear to ear. Their posture is different. They’re more relaxed. And they’re more likely to deliver the best speech you’ve ever heard.

Check out this video below from the 25 - 45 second mark to see the reaction to the welcome from one of the speakers.

The crowd is also a heck of a lot more engaged. They’re up and moving around. They’re not sitting on their hands. They’re more likely to ask good questions. I don’t know about you, but if I’m spending 45 minutes or longer in a session, I’d much rather make the most of it instead of dozing off in the back row.   

If you are organizing a conference or plan on presenting anytime soon, give the “Big Omaha standing ovation” a try and let me know how it goes. I think you are going to find it brings out the best from the presenters, from the audience, and adds a lot of value to the entire conference.

Thanks to Kit from Fygment for the reminder about how awesome the Big Omaha standing ovation is. I can't wait until my next conference.

[Image: Silicon Prairie News]

digital marketing audit

The Best Way to Grow Your Email List at Events


best way to grow your email list at events

Growing your email list. One of the most effective ways to create a direct link between prospective customers and your business.

But while it’s easy to fixate on collecting more email signups solely from your website, you definitely don’t want overlook opportunities at events such as trade shows, sales presentations, and industry conferences.

When I was promoting my first book, I thought it was enough to just give people a handout about—you guessed it—my book. But what is the likelihood that someone would take that handout with them and then refer back to it to visit my website and then find my email signup form and share their information? Needless to say, you can’t assume handouts will automatically help you grow your website traffic or your email list. Handout or not, once people leave your event the chances of you capturing their email can drop like a lead balloon.

Paper signups can be effective, but they’re time consuming for everybody involved. If you have a strong turnout at a trade show, there’s a chance people could end up waiting in line to sign up—and that might not be a good thing. And once you get those paper signups, that means somebody is going to have to enter all of that information in—and that typically eats up time you just don’t have.

And then there’s the fishbowl. Beyond having to buy an actual fishbowl and get it to the event without breaking it, similar to paper signups—you’re still left with entering or scanning all of those business cards into a database, email marketing solution such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, or salesforce Marketing Cloud.

I think we can all agree that all of the above have their share of limitations.

Enter smartphones and text messaging. Most (if not all) of your current and prospective customers have them, use them, and can’t live without them. Instead of wasting time and missing opportunities to grow your email list by relying on handouts, paper signups, you can capture an email address from any phone in seconds.

Join By Text, an email sign up web app from Pittsburgh-based JA Interactive, has helped businesses and non-profits capture more than 50,000 emails via text messages in the first year of their rollout—eliminating the need for paper signups and saving organizations a substantial amount of time by completely automating the signup process.

If you’re already using an email marketing service such as MailChimp, Campaigner, or Hubspot to connect with your subscribers, that’s even better. Join By Text integrates with more than of the top 10 platforms which means you’re able to save even more time uploading your email signups.

Best of all, they have plans starting at as little as $19 per month—or what you would spend on 3 fishbowls.

As a consumer, I used Join By Text to signup for the Pittsburgh Tweetup email list and the process couldn't have been quicker or more seamless. Definitely something I'd recommend to businesses looking for a more effective and more efficient way to collect emails offline.

So, if you are looking for the best way to grow your email marketing list at events, be sure to check out Join By Text. You can also watch this quick video to see how it works...

Already a Join By Text customer or using a similar platform? Share your feedback in the comments below.

[Image: Death to the Stock Photo]

digital marketing audit

Writing Newsletters for Internet Marketing


Writing Newsletters for Internet Marketing Pittsburgh

A while back I wrote a post called “5 Highly Effective Email Newsletter Examples.” In that post, I shared some of my favorite examples of B2C and B2B newsletter examples for internet marketing including specific callouts of what makes them so great.

Creating an effective email newsletter requires the perfect mix of persuasive subject line, relevant content, targeted calls to action aligned to your marketing goals, and formatting/visual appeal—something I spend a lot of time focusing on when working with my business clients.

You’re competing for the attention of customers in a crowded inbox along with dozens of other businesses and organizations. To get noticed, your internet marketing and your newsletters need a rock solid strategy.  

[Image: Death to the Stock Photo]

digital marketing audit

Move The Crowd


marketing engagement pittsburgh

I spend a lot of time doing competitor benchmarking for my clients. And one of the first things that always jumps out is which companies are squarely focused on marketing.  

They understand their brand value

They’re able to clearly and concisely articulate why they exist and distill everything down into a few core themes that permeate all of the marketing messaging while also consistently reinforcing their brand value

Just the other day I was looking at marketing messaging for a company and was really impressed with how they were able to highlight their core themes throughout their website, videos, and all of their marketing content. If we asked people to describe that business based on their marketing materials, you better believe those same themes would come up time and time again.

They understand the importance of content marketing

It’s one thing to describe what you do—to talk about your products and services—but it’s another to actually get people excited about them. For that to happen, you’ve actually got to be excited about them.

Once you identify those core themes that are central to your business brand, you’ve got to look for opportunities to establish credibility, communicate value to prospective customers, and differentiate yourself from your competition. For example, you can “work with brands” or you can “partner with the world’s best brands.” Which one would grab your attention?

They align their marketing and business goals

What do you ultimately want people to do when they visit your website, read your brochure, or watch your video? I know it might sound obvious, but I’m always surprised at how many companies either don’t include a targeted call-to-action or bury it so far down on their website that it will never see the light of day.

If you want people to request a demo, make sure that’s the primary call-to-action on your website. That includes your top-level navigation and any relevant pages. Where it makes sense, incorporate any supporting materials you think would increase the likelihood that someone will take action including testimonials, awards, and screenshots (especially effective for SaaS companies).

They understand their competition

In most cases they have an intimate knowledge of who and what they’re up against. That way they’re able to quickly identify opportunities and gaps, and take action to stay ahead of the game.

If your marketing is going to get people to take action, you need to be able to understand your brand value, communicate that value through your content and messaging, align your marketing efforts to your business goals, and know your competition.

How will your marketing move the crowd?

[Image: Flickr user Martin Fisch]

digital marketing audit

Want to Improve Customer Service? Understand the Customer Journey


how to improve customer service with customer journey mapping, map

39% of buyers continue to avoid mid-sized companies 2 or more years after a bad experience*. Let that one sink in for a while. 2 or more years. Does that make you want to rethink your customer service strategy?

The number of ways customers can engage with companies and brands almost seem infinite, doesn’t it? A visit to your website, a call to customer service, an interaction on social media, an email exchange, online chat support—each touchpoint along the way defines their customer journey and ultimately defines their customer experience.  

As company/customer interactions continue to get more complex as a result of emerging technologies, real-time access to product and pricing information, and increasing competition, understanding the customer journey will become paramount for all companies, regardless of size.

And it’s up to you whether that customer journey is an incredibly smooth and enjoyable experience that leaves them wanting to tell everyone they know how awesome your company is. OR one that leaves them incredibly frustrated—wanting to tell everyone they know they think your company is terrible.

Understanding Your Customers

It might sound simple enough, but to truly understand the customer journey you need to first understand your customers—who they are, what they care about, and how they engage with your brand. What are their expectations? What types of information are they looking for when they are considering making a purchase?

Whether you create full-fledged buyer personas or just spend some time objectively trying to define who you think your customers are, those insights will be incredibly helpful as you start to understand their customer journey.

Mapping the Customer Journey

Once you know who your customers are, then it’s time to start thinking about all the different ways they can possibly engage with your brand before, during, and after they make a purchase. Their journey begins the second they experience a touchpoint with your business (no matter how big or small) and continues throughout their entire customer lifecycle.

Here’s a quick video on how to get started on creating a customer journey map. I think you’ll find it really helpful.

At each and every point, you need to identify both the good experiences and the bad—looking for ways to make sure those good experiences continue to happen while also trying to eliminate any of those bad experiences.

That’s one of the reasons I’m hell bent on companies rethinking their use of automated call trees. Nothing says “We don’t care about our customers” like automated call trees. Stop and think about your own customer journey when you engage with other brands—do you get all warm and fuzzy when you navigate an automated call tree?

Knowing Where Your Customers Are On Their Journey

Just as important as understanding their overall journey is your ability to understand where they are on that journey at each point in time. Back to the phone tree example, if they are a prospective customer that could be a huge miss as it could be their first and only point of contact.

The key is personalizing each experience based on each unique journey. That means you need to differentiate first-time customers from returning or former customers. Power users from casual consumers.

That also means you need to engage members of your team from across your organization. Understanding the customer journey and creating a culture of customer service is going to require having the right strategy, content, technology, and operational and organizational structure in place.

*Zendesk survey of 1046 respondents on the impact of customer service on customer lifetime value

[Image: Flickr user David Bleasdale]


Ready to start mapping your customer journey?

Here are 4 questions about the customer journey every marketer needs to answer.

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"When we first started working with Shawn we had 20 clients and have since grown to over 50 clients worldwide."

Nick End, Shoefitr

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