Marketing in a Virtual World

Last week I attended BtoB Magazine’s “Digital Edge: A Virtual Trade Show for Marketers”, a six hour online event that spoke volumes about how far marketing has come and where it is headed. For a review of the technology used to host the event, please see my article at my blog over at Vell Group.

For starters, the fact that this event took place in cyberspace was itself a metaphor for where marketing is at the moment. You no longer make the audience come to you. You go to them. Hence, rather than advertise an event where marketing folks had to buy plane tickets and book hotel rooms, BtoB brought the event to your corporate office or your home office, to view in complete comfort. Since the entire event was recorded, it is now available for replay at the attendee’s convenience. I had two presentations I wanted to attend that were at the same time. With the replay I can see both of them. Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this is marketing in the digital age. You make it as easy as possible for your prospects to get the information they need.

The virtual conference made it possible to attend five sessions, two of which had two topic choices for their one hour time-slot. The conference started and ended with keynote speakers, neither of whom were lightweights, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. Chris’ talk was entitled “Rise of the Trust Agents”, a 40 minute primer on social media strategy. Chris spelled out to the audience a slew of issues that we need to consider as we dive into social media. He reminded us that trust is a huge factor. You don’t just shout “visit my web site”. You develop relationships. Brogan’s pitch was highly structured.

NEW YORK - AUGUST 25: Internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk visits the SIRIUS XM Studio on August 25, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Gary Vaynerchuk

Vaynerchuk on the other hand was, shall we say, holistic. No slides, very stream of consciousness but with just as much impact as Brogan. Vaynerchuk, a wine expert turned social media advocate, talks about how the landscape has changed. People interact with brands as they never did before. One of his most compelling points was that a mere 20 years ago if you wanted to know what people thought of your product, you needed focus groups and surveys. Now you just surf to a Twitter search and eavesdrop on the conversations revolving around your brand and your market. It is like night and day in the space of less than a generation.

On the other hand, Gary reminds us that what was old is new again. The way we interact in social media is not much different from vendors of the 1800’s and early 1900’s who had personal relationships with their clients. In an age of limited technology, they had to be up close and personal. The radio and TV age altered that connection. We lost sight of the personal side of doing business and ironically, the most spectacular technical innovation of the past 50 years (the Internet) is putting the personal back into marketing. As Gary says, if you want to know how to succeed at social media, talk to your grandfather about how he ran his business back in the day.

I’d say my only gripe about the BtoB trade show was that the two keynotes were pre-recorded so there was no Q&A. However, the two keynote speakers are genuine social media animals and both gave multiple ways to contact them with questions. In fact, moments after I tweeted about how impressed I was with Gary’s presentation, I got a thank you from him. Clearly the man walks it like he talks it.

The other sessions I attended which did feature Q&A covered everything from using Twitter for reputation management, to forming a content publishing strategy, to different methods of social media deployment depending on where in the sales cycle you are.

The over riding message that came across loud and clear is that marketing has changed and it isn’t ever going back to the “good old days”. The impact of the Internet and social media cannot be overestimated.

As Gary Vaynerchuk said at the conclusion of his keynote, “stop making excuses and get into the trenches”. It’s a battle for eyeballs out there folks and you’ve got to be in it to win it.

About Matt Bovell

President and CEO of Vell Group LLC, Editor of Vell Connected.
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