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From the Funny Eye for the Corporate Guy Blog series, Apprehensories.

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Producing social media content for the BMA conference in Chicago came together quickly and was an incredible learning experience. It was also incredibly rewarding to work with a diverse group of writers & video people to create content for the conference.

Amy Lillard was at my right, tweeting, blogging, and sometimes, being snarky, throughout the general sessions. In her own words, Amy “helps smart, talented people find the words to express their smarty-pants-ness. She specializes in marketing writing for agencies, social media campaigns, technical writing, and medical writing. Her new blog on ‘Making It Better,’ which highlights how a turn of phrase and well-chosen word can improve any marketing piece, is coming soon; in the meantime, visit Wayfarer Writing for updates, case studies and contact information.”

I asked Amy to share her take on learnings from the social media experience at BMA09. She’s done so, in addition to using one word that’s never appeared in Brainzooming before….enjoy!

What will social media get you?

In my case, a response to a LinkedIn question and three days of blogging and tweeting got me a seat at the sold-out Business Marketing Association 09 conference, lots of cool leads, a chance to wear some new suits, a guest post on Brainzooming, new friends over margaritas, and free breakfast at the Drake Hotel. Not necessarily in that order.

When Gary Slack, Chair of the Business Marketing Association, posted a LinkedIn call for bloggers, tweeters and videographers to attend the Unlearn conference, I jumped at the chance. Through luck (and minimal stalking) I joined Mike Brown and eight other folks on the social media team at the jam-packed conference. After three days of non-stop blogging and tweeting, my brain hurt, my fingers ached, and I needed (several) drinks, but I was exhilarated and educated.

What exactly did I learn from the experience?

  • Think you know how to multi-task? Yeah, I did too. I can listen and take notes with the best of them, and I pride myself as a writer at getting to the meat of what’s being said. But keeping it up over three days? Tweeting main points, responding to questions, retweeting, and taking notes for blog posts, all while paying attention to the nice gentleman/lady and their nifty slides on the podium? Good gravy, my head was mush. I’m lucky I didn’t resort to “Picture’s r pretty, man has beard” as a tweet summation.
  • When people know what you’re doing, you’re seen as an expert. We’re talking palm fronds and lots of bowing and scraping. (Wait – that may have been a dream.) Gary Slack was kind enough to call attention to our row of computer junkies at the beginning and in the midst of each day, and as a result attendees visited our section for social media questions and technology support. It led to some great discussions and tutorials.
  • When people don’t know what you’re doing, dirty looks will abound. For most of the conference we were in the main room, and our team was seated in a fixed location. During breakout sessions, however, we weren’t as easily identifiable. As I typed away (on an older Dell that sounds like a typewriter or drum kit), I’d often get the pursed lips, the creased eyebrows, the stern librarian shush, and some eye daggers of death. Next time perhaps I’ll wear a tablet: “I’m not a rude prick. I’m part of the social media team.”
  • DMs are like the new version of passing notes during class. Full disclosure – I stole this line from Mike. But my theft does not diminish the truth of the statement. During one egregiously bad presentation that had slides and examples from 1982 (all B2C, no less), direct messaging on Twitter] allowed some team members to vent and practice their comedy routines – without the chance of a teacher picking up the note mid transit and reading it to the class.
  • Social media and conferences: a match made in geeky heaven. No matter the hard work (or because of it), my experience at the conference was deeply enriched. I was able to increase my understanding of presentations, meet fellow attendees and tweeters in instantly-bonding fashion, generate new leads for my writing business, and expand my social media skills. All good things.

It was a tremendous experience and rockin’ good time. And it was a clear demonstration of the conference theme – Unlearn. Rethink what you know about conference attendance. Reconsider what you think about presenting information and gleaning insight. Unlearn, and embrace social media to do it. - Amy Lillard


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The Business Marketing Association national conference was a tremendous learning opportunity, and not only because of its presentations. A small group of us were afforded the opportunity to live tweet, blog, and video the conference to produce content for the BMA website during the conference. It’s worth taking a look at the posts written by the social media team for overview of the range of content.

In the interim, here are tweets from three of the stand out presentations:

David Meerman Scott

  • amylillard: Old rules – beg, buy, bug for attention. New rule – earn attention by publishing your way in. Power to the people!
  • PaladinStaff: “on the web you are what you publish”
  • BlueSilverInc: Great example of viral video. Happy Birthday Sarbanes Oxley. YouTube: http://tinyurl.com/4xwkeq
  • EvaEKeiser: Be cool in social media… Don’t do anything your mom wouldn’t like.
  • johndigles: :The web, social media isn’t about tech or products, it’s about people. Why fear it? Play fair. “Word of mouse” marketing.
  • simasays: Stock photos = Visual gobbledygook. Those sleek multicultural peeps are so not your customers.
  • BzoomingLive: Learn to get comfortable w/ losing control of ur content. Challenging for marketers! Grateful Dead did it!
  • BzoomingLive: German B2B Marketing Company: CWS – Example frm @dmscott Created World Wide Rave http://bit.ly/11QZoY
  • BzoomingLive: Web very efficient for reaching targeted group – allows you to reach tiny audience, no matter where, if understand them.

Scott Davis

  • glenslens: I’m thinking CMO stands for Chief Masochist Officer…tenure is shorter than some Euro vacations.
  • Brainzooming: “Horizontal POV” – Key for marketers to see across business. Have to have P&L mindset, even if don’t own P&L
  • Brainzooming: If u haven’t had P&L responsibility, then spend 1st 6 months as CMO in the field, making sales calls, ringing cash registers. Scott Davis.
  • Brainzooming “Brand dropping” – Defn: Mentioning the well-known brands that u’ve consulted with in the last month.

Andy Sernovitz

  • amylillard: “Now is the time to build an army of fans who will advertise you for free” @sernovitz
  • Brainzooming: Point at dinner last night – key is to integrate social media activities w/ underlying strategy to drive sales.
  • glenslens: Marketing is what you do, not say, says Andy. Well said. @sernovitz
  • johndigles: :Word-of-Mouth topics are portable, repeatable, emotional. If it works in a news release, it probably won’t be WOM. @sernovitz
  • amylillard: Your customers are not necessarily your talkers. Think about who influences them, and focus there. (Ex – taxi drivers for Wynn)
    glenslens: Advertising is the cost of being boring. (Being remarkable is more than page deep.) @sernovitz
  • tkincolorado: Quite simply, happy customers are your best ads. – @sernovitz
  • amylillard: Final thought @sernovitz – Better companies that are nice to people make more money.


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3 Days of UNLearning at the Business Marketing Association Conference

“UNLearn” was the theme for last week’s national Business Marketing Association conference (quick disclosure, I’m a board member for BMA). The theme emphasized the importance in today’s environment of challenging existing knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs to lead & grow businesses more successfully.

The conference delivered on the theme in multiple ways, and each day, I challenged myself to articulate what I had “unlearned.” Here are the top unlearnings from each of the conference’s three days:

  • Day 1 – UNLearn Control: A major conference topic focused on how new communication channels have handed control to the audience for what have traditionally been company-driven messages. Operating successfully in this environment requires authenticity and openness to being part of the conversations taking place, irrespective of whether they are flattering or hurtful. For marketing & branding control freaks, it means learning new tools and means to engage in dialogue.
  • Day2 – UNLearn “Resources Before Results” Thinking: Everybody has fewer resources. One marketing VP said his budget was 25% of what it was in 2008. If defining your ability to make a positive, business-growing impact is based solely on budget & people resources, you’ll beat your head against a wall. The alternative is to realize key success factors for today’s market dialogue aren’t resource-driven. You can’t buy authenticity, experience, or passion, yet they all correlate strongly to creating results.
  • Day 3 – UNLearn “Piecemeal” Marketing: It was fascinating to hear other marketers wrestling with the expectation of delivering programs that are close – maybe 60-70% of what might traditionally be considered as ready for “prime time.” The push now is to introduce them early to try to drive sales while additional learning and tweaking go on once in market. A balance to this approach is to make as sure as possible on the front end an effort integrates with other things being done across the business. At least then the 30-40% uncertainty can be partially mitigated through strategic ties to other efforts and investments already in place.

Easy? No. Comfortable? Absolutely not!

To me though, the big learning is nearly all business marketers are facing comparable issues, and finding dramatically new ways to deal with them is what success is all about today.

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Taken at Water Tower Place last week while attending the Business Marketing Association Conference. Look for some other posts this week generated from the conference and the experience of producing its social media content team.

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Scott Davis of Prophet, author of “The Shift,” covered broad concepts from his new book on the changing perspectives visionary marketers are adopting in a business environment where senior marketers get about 2 years to make a business impact. His presentation was part of the 2009 Business Marketing Association Conference.

His underlying theme is dramatic changes in business within the past five years haven’t driven enough changes in marketing. The following list hits some of the significant observations from Scott’s fast-paced (and too short, due to scheduling) presentation:

  • The Shift is about replacing the old marketing mindset with an influence model and a clear focus on customer acquisition, loyalty, and retention.
  • With the rapid turnover among CMOs, the easiest place to signal near-term change has been through changes in marketing communications; this has reinforced a narrow view of marketing as not understanding fundamental business issues.
  • The dialogue in marketing changes when we start talking about growth, and being able to present solid trade-off decisions that tie marketing mix decisions to underlying business strategy issues.
  • Visionary marketers are creating strategic growth, balancing short and long term issues, advancing the reality that customers own the brand, driving revenue initiatives, coming to grips with moving ahead with 60% completed initiatives (that will be tweaked based on in-market learnings), and enabling collaboration across the business.
  • Five shifts are highlighted in Scott’s book:
    • Starting with business strategy (and working back to marketing strategy)
    • Galvanizing networks (with influence, pull, engagement, participation, transparency, & authenticity)
    • Driving pervasive innovation (it’s about experiences & business models, not products
    • Inspiring marketing excellence
    • Cultivating a relentless customer focus across the business (done through CEO strategic directives, clarity in positioning, and building tangible business cases).
  • Marketers have to display a P&L mindset, even if they don’t have direct P&L responsibility.
  • According to Scott, “A lot of great stuff happens in a downturn. Brands are getting scrappy, shifting budgets, and accepting more margin of error.”

- Mike Brown, Brainzooming, June 12, 2009

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This originally appeared on the Funny Eye for the Corporate Guy blog and is from an actual photograph of a Holiday Inn that was in the midst of changing its brand affilitation. Somewhere a brand manager should be dying a slow death.

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