At the recent SIIA Previews event, which kicks of the annual SIIA Information Industry Summit in NYC, I heard a remarkable presentation by Roger Ehrenberg, Managing Partner of IA Capital Partners, LLC. He gave a lively talk about how to fail successfully, outlining what he learned through his own spectacularly failed start up, Monitor110. Many aspects of his insightful examination resonated with me, but one in particular: The need to stay attuned to the needs of the customer. Sounds obvious, eh? Fact is, through “failure” Ehrenberg exposed a bug that could likely infect many a company whose developers have a “brilliant idea” that they develop in a dark room, away from sales people who have frequent conversations with customers about what ideas would be brilliant to them.
Another topic of interest to me at Previews was the ribbing I took about our Kindle promotion for BSeC (in which we offered to give Kindles to the first 30 conference registrants). Some took it as a sign of desperate times calling for desperate measures. Others believed that it exposes (through a countdown of how many Kindles remained) how slowly conference attendance was building. These ribbers (you know who you are) have all attended BSeC many times and I know for a fact that a couple of them will be at the show this April. So, they are my customers and yes, I listened.
Regarding desperate times and like measures, at Previews, I heard a whole lot of angst-filled questions, in near-whispered tones: “How are you doing?” “How’s business?” which began to take on an almost absurdist quality—doom as foregone conclusion. Believe me, I’m hunkered down for a difficult year in events and publications, but I don’t plan on being road kill and I attend events like Previews & BSeC to look for the kinds of fresh thinking that are going to see me through.
I also find it interesting to see how event planning and marketing are interpreted by those outside the business. For example, giving away loot to early registrants. Um, we’ve always done it for BSeC—for the past several years, it has been iPods, but difficult times call for creative thinking and giving away something new is certainly a means of getting a promotion noticed (and you noticed!). This sort of marketing tactic doesn’t get me to go to shows. And it certainly isn’t what brings people back to BSeC year after year (like those ribbers above). What it does is generate early registration from “new blood” and guess what: it worked. I’m very happy to say we are ahead of the last four years of our registration numbers at this early date.
Yet our attendees don’t need to know why we market or choose to do so in any particular way. Frankly, I am pleased that these regular customers care enough to pay attention to such things, and to comment, email, and post about it. The level of engagement with the product—in this case, the BSeC conference—demonstrates its value. They are part of a conversation that goes on every year at this event, and I look forward to hearing more.