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Every morning, I get an email from a site called betali.st that pitches 3 or 4 new web-based startups: You get a name, a snapshot of their home page and roughly 50-100 word description – their elevator pitch. It’s like witnessing the finals of a startup competition every day, over coffee.

There are a few things that make this email absolutely fascinating.

1. Absolutely everybody has a startup now

Or at least it seems that way. This email (and I’m sure there are others) is relentless. 7 days a week they serve up a series of mini ads for new startups and the demand appears to be so high, their revenue model is based partly on offering an ‘expedited listing service’. The startup communities are growing to the point that they are fragmenting and splintering, dividing not just by location, but also by specialist roles within startups – witness Sean Ellis’ burgeoning Growth Hackers community.

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startup, apps, media

The web is currently exploding with startups.

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2. All these people are spending a shitload of time & money

When you consider that Jeremey Rappaport recently put the true cost of developing an app at somewhere in the vicinity of $120k and 10 weeks, the cumulative investment in developing all these new apps is staggering. Even if you halve that, betali.st offers direct evidence of over a million and half dollars and 3 years of work spent developing new apps, every goddamned week. Note too, that this figure is only for development. These costs, ballpark though they are, are net of marketing, support and legals. Ker-ching.

3. In the quest for differentiation, these apps are getting seriously niche.

The language of these startup pitches is incredibly variable and probably warrants a post on its own (hint: from a copywriting perspective, it aint always pretty) but what is common is how specialised they are becoming in terms of the services they offer and, therefore, the audiences they are targetting.

In recent weeks, the email has pitched apps for rugby fans, fitness enthusiasts, disorganised photographers, semi-competitive cyclists, parents of kids with allergies… you get the picture.

There are also a lot of copycats: men’s fashion, restaurant reviews, holiday planning, stock trading and group deals are about to get even more crowded, if that’s possible.

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media, apps, fragmentation, audience

What happens when everyone’s living in their own app bubble.

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A lot of the startups are offering infrastructure services for other startups (hosting, customer service, social media monitoring, budget tracking, market research) and now there’s a raft of ‘startup in a box’ startups, such as CrateJoy, that provides everything you need to launch your own ‘subscription service’ startup. Presumably these startups will also appear on betali.st in the near future.

Once you work out what it is that a particular startup is planning to do (as it’s name suggests, most of the services on betali.st don’t technically exist yet), some of the value propositions are, frankly, outrageous: “build an ecommerce site in 20 seconds” was a recent favourite.

Obviously, not all of these startups are going to survive. In fact, almost none of them will. But, statistically, that still leaves an extraordinary number of successful apps, all doing things very, very well for small, tightly-focussed audiences.

Where did all the people go?

The media ‘fragmentation’ we witnessed with the rise of the web will become complete ‘atomisation’ as we all start disappearing into niche apps, spending time with the functionality and communities that exist only within the interface of
these ‘appified’ services.

The implications for brands are significant. Just as the strategies we used to rely on in the multi-channel world became ineffective in the post-broadcast world, we’re going to have to reinvent the role of the brand again in the post-site world.

Coke is getting a lot of attention for their wholesale abandonment of ‘the corporate webpage’ and I think that this gives as an indication of how brands are going to have to re-cast their role in this world of apps and the atomised audience it will engender.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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You know? The big, tropical fruit? The one with the yellow-green skin? Bright orange flesh inside? Millions of seeds? Ok, here’s a picture:

Yes, it's a papaya. Actually, two of them. Used under Creative Commons. Image by Guah.

Used under Creative Commons. Image by Guah

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Yes. That’s exactly what an agency planner is like. Sometimes they get called strategists, or strat/planners or even ‘hey, you’, but you know who I’m talking about. As a creative, I find planners to be absolutely fundamental to the creative process. They would be the discipline I’d choose to take to my ‘agency desert island’.

I’ve been lucky to have worked with some great ones. Here’s how to tell if your papaya/planner is one too:

They are a little bit exotic.

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Planners might look different to you and me.
Or they might look normal. Either way is fine.

Papayas are not available everywhere, nor should they be. Unless you are actually standing in Tahiti, papayas always look like they’ve come from somewhere else. When they are growing locally, they’re usually transplanted. Planners, you’ll notice are often imports. Or they’ve been away for a while and now they’re back. At the very least, they’ll be sporting an accent of some description. The important thing here is that their ‘statelessness’ gives them a sense of the wider world, often born of direct experience. This shows in their thinking and their approach. Getting outside of a culture, or country or even demographic gives you a much clearer view of what’s really going on. As a creative, you need to start in this place. Your planner can get you there.

They’re only good when ripe

You can tell by giving them a squeeze – the flesh will have some ‘give’ in it. I’m mainly talking about papayas at this point, but I’ve met planners who were similar in this regard. Whether you measure ripeness in terms of age, tenure, time, immersion or some other metric, the unifying characteristic is direct experience. I’m not maintaining that young planners are not useful. They are, provided they’ve invested quite a bit of their time in a particular game (music, fashion, TV culture, cars, sports). They’ve absorbed a particular culture of genre or ‘scene’. It’s got under their skin. To ripen, both planners and papayas need some exposure to the sun, to ‘get out there’. You don’t ripen by being the guy who reads the internet before everybody else does.

They’re good for you

Here's a taste I'm not a fan of. Bananas. They're uniformly awful.

Here’s a taste I’m not a fan of.
Bananas. They’re uniformly awful.

Okay, so maybe you’re not a fan of the taste (I’m talking Papayas here, people), but it’s hard to argue the health benefits. Similarly, planners make you smarter by photosynthesising life + research + thinking into wisdom and then filling you up with it. Often, when you need it most, sometimes when you just want them to shut the fuck up. Either way, you should listen. You’ll be better for it.

They’re better with lime

Not all papayas are awesome on their own. They often need the tang of lime to make them truly sing. So too, he best planners are generally sunny optimistic souls with an acidic, contrarian streak. So while they are always alive to possibilities and potential, presenting strategic market challenges as opportunities for creative thinking, they also have a healthy sense of scepticism. They are pragmatists & realists, able to separate the technology from the use value, the gadget from the emotion, the fad from the trend. This ‘squeeze of lime’ is there to push your thinking, to ask you to take your idea beyond being merely cool into the realm of the genuinely useful.

A little goes a long way

This very expensive medical image was taken inside an actual planner's brain. While she was still alive.

This very expensive medical image was taken inside
an actual planner’s brain.While she was still alive.

I like papayas, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. I feel the same about planners, in the sense that, while i consider them creative partners, I wouldn’t share a room with them. They need space to roam, otherwise they can start stinkin’ up the place, getting over-ripe, over-thought. The other reason you only need small doses is because many of them are way up the I end of the I-to-E scale on the Myers Briggs spectrum. They do their thinking on the inside of their head. Which means that when they do finally speak, they’ve pretty much got it figured out. That’s the time you need to listen, consider and then see how what they’ve just told you impacts your work and thinking. Usually for the better.

They are polarising

Papayas are binary fruit, in that they are either brilliant, or inedible. There is no in-between, no sliding scale. In this regard, planners are exactly the same. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some blindingly brilliant ones (and encountered the other kind) but I haven’t actually worked with an okay planner. Or even a mostly good one. The same can’t be said of other disciplines in our industry. There are competent suits, capable production managers, solid leaders. I myself am a highly-regarded not-too-bad copywriter. And all of these people and skills and levels of ability are good and useful.
Planners, however, either need to be fantastic or they need to be doing something else.

Let @barrieseppings know what your favourite planner tastes like.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Make it easy for speakers to keep sharing the content and feedback from their sessions

The speakers you have chosen to present at your event were probably selected for several reasons: expertise, experience, presence and their ability to draw a crowd. That last factor is probably also true in the digital space, perhaps even more so than in the real world. Many speakers work very diligently at growing the quantity and cultivating the quality of their online following.

This can be used to your advantage even after an event has passed, as speakers will generally be on the lookout for new content, in interesting formats, that they can share first with their followers.

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b2b, speakers, digital, event

Your speakers want to stay connected with their audience. Give them a hand.

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So think about how you can help these speakers reach their goals first. Pay it forward and the benefits will automatically begin to flow back to you and your event. Ensure they have priority access to the content from the event – particularly the content they may have created or participated in. Capture their reactions to or commentary on the event as a whole. This gives a whole new texture to their presence and will extract more value from their appearance.

There can also be a cumulative effect to be gained from encouraging speakers to interact with each other online, particularly if they have audiences that don’t necessarily overlap, either in terms of topic specialty, geography, preferred social platform or some other characteristic.

Before you get carried away, make sure you have permission to amplify your speaker’s work. Be totally transparent about what you plan to do with their content and make sure your agreement with them agreement covers it.

This is the tenth and final installment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

If you’ve discovered a new way to boost your B2B event with digital, share it with @barrieseppings 

< Previously in this series: #9 Ongoing digital communities

 

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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After the party, move the conversation online for social lead mining opportunities

The digital world is full of simulations, some useful, others not so much. Live events themselves are meant to simulate communities, which becomes meta when you consider that digital events are a simulation of a real-world, meat-space, here-and-now gathering of people. Online communities, in turn,  are simulations of the loose collections and connections we cultivate everyday.

You might even combine your post-event content strategy with your post-event community strategy so that the place where you house your content automatically becomes the place where you cultivate these discussions and connections.

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b2b events connections communities

If they’re making connections on the floor, make a space where they can continue.

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Providing a well-designed space where attendees can keep on attending (even though the event may officially be over) can yield lead identification, segmentation and even sales opportunities. A word of advice: don’t build these platforms from scratch – leverage existing community-building platforms that are relevant to your audience: LinkedIn groups and Google+ circles are obvious examples. A more sophisticated approach is to develop a dedicated Social Lead Mining strategy, where you actively listen for discussions and, in particular, requests for assistance that relate to the solutions you are trying to promote.

A note of caution: dropping in, unannounced, on conversations amongst attendees and launching into a sales pitch will be as well received as an insurance salesman trying to sign new policyholders at a family BBQ. Think ahead to prepare the resources and social presence you will need to look for lead opportunities in a ‘digital social’ setting – this may include social training, creating specific nurture assets, developing a segmentation strategy and an execution plan. If you pursued any attendee profiling and segmenting strategies before the event, dust them off and aim them at your most socially-active attendees. If you are lucky enough to have your audience drawn from the local area, consider arranging a casual, real-world meet up for attendees who have remained in contact after the event.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you are 110% correct. However, you have to ask yourself: who is a better prospect than someone who can’t say goodbye to the content and connections they encountered at your event?

This is the ninth instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #8 Reaching out to no-shows  

> Up next: #10 Keep the speakers on

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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They said they would come, but they didn’t. Now is not the time to let them slip away.

Personal information is a valuable currency in the digital world, and it is the lifeblood of Demand Generation. Perhaps even more valuable, however, are time and attention. In fact, some observers have coined The Attention Economy as a phrase to describe the trade between brands (who offer value, information and utility) and their audiences (who pay with their time, focus and feedback). As a theory, it has its critics but it useful to help understand the scarcity of your audience’s attention.

Keep this in mind when dealing with the inevitable ‘fall off ’ between registrants and actual attendees. These people  had some intention of turning up or tuning in – they made a small initial investment of time and attention to register or indicate their interest in some way. Ultimately, they weren’t able (or decided not) to be there. Either way, they didn’t continue investing. The question is: how do we react now?

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b2b events digital

Maybe they got a better offer? Don’t punish your no-shows, there may be value in them yet.

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It’s useful at this point to revisit your objectives, (what did you want your prospects to do as a result of coming to your event?) and skip straight to that for non-attendees.  What can you offer a no-show to bring them back into the fold and get them to continue the relationship or respond in the way you were trying to generate with the event itself? If you were trying to match prospects with your own internal experts at the event, for example, now is the time to reach out and offer to do that, virtually, for your no-shows.

It’s really important not to relegate or punish them for not showing up – sympathise with their plight and offer them a fast-track or make-good offer. Consider a summary stream of content that makes them feel like they have broadly ‘caught up’ with what happened at the event, but with very clearly marked paths to pursue more connection or utility. You might want to consider a way that also showcases other attendees – their contributions and reactions. This re-enforces the perception that the event was well attended, not just in terms of quantity but also quality. Give the non-attendees a sense of the community that was formed at the event and an opportunity to connect and still become part of it, perhaps as part of an ongoing digital community.

Finally, work out a plan B and offer it to your non-attendees: can you direct them to a similar or related event in the near future? Offer to pre-register them and send reminders to ensure they can attend your next event.

This is the eighth instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #7 How to distribute your content      

> Up next in this series: #9 Ongoing digital communities

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Using social listening and direct communications to profile individuals and identify opportunities.

This one is a bit tricky, but if you can execute it, your sales peeps will love you forever. Essentially, this exercise starts after an individual has registered and is an attempt to profile, segment and quantify their potential in some way so the selling conversation can start the moment they walk in the door. There are 2 ways to go about this: proactive and reactive.

Let’s talk about the second one first. Reactive profiling is just like stalking, only you can do it from the safety of your own desk, without the possibility of getting arrested. Take the information that an attendee has provided on their registration form and then add to it all the information you can find, freely and publicly available, on the internet. You may discover more about that person’s current role from their LinkedIn profile. You might learn which other competing events they have recently attended from their twitter account. Their opinions of brands and products (including yours) might be flowing freely in an online forum, or on the comments thread of a series of articles or reviews on a trade site.

Play detective, and you can learn a lot about someone’s experiences and opinions regarding your brand. Incidentally, this kind of work can still be given to the intern, provided they’re whip-smart and willing to learn.

b2b, events, social, profiling

It can be time-consuming, but you can create quite detailed individual profiles from publicly-accessible information.

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Proactive profiling has the same intent, except you ask the attendee in advance to share this information with you – probably at the point of registration. Some will, some won’t. But you can improve your strike rate by constructing a compelling value proposition for the individual – a benefit or an offer or an advantage that can only be accessed by sharing their social profiles.

Ultimately, the point of profiling is to analyse the data to do some scoring and segmentation, so you can identify your best prospects as they walk in the door (real or virtual) of your event. Work with your sales team to build a simple scoring mechanism – allocate points based on job title, previous roles, experience with competitors, opinions expressed and so on. Edit the info into easy-to-read one-sheeters and present a face-book (as its name suggests, it includes pictures) of top prospects back to the sales leads who will be working the event. This is probably the best example of the ‘digital lift’ you can give a live event, by taking intelligence gathered online and applying it to your (offline) live event.

This is the fifth instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B events. We recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #4 How to make shareable pre-event content    

> Up next in this series: #6 How to encourage referrals 

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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