Tag Archives: MARCOM

Your Free Event Is Too Expensive

Product presentations are like a long horned steer. A point here, a point there with a lot of bull in between. (Attributed to Alfred E. Neuman)

Time is the least thing we have of – Ernest Hemingway

If you’re like me, your inbox is seldom empty of invitations to events. “Opportunities” to learn about industry trends, hear from “leaders,” network, and, by the way, see, try, or experience the hosts products. Throw in some tchotchkes and a free meal – what have you got to lose?

Plenty, it would seem – either as a host or attendee – especially if you value your time.

Against my better judgement, I allow hope to prevail over experience and go to some of these events. You can occasionally learn a few things and meet some interesting folks. There is that little voice in your head intoning “you never know/unless you go.” Even without an explicit charge, the cost of these benefits can include:

  • Travel time
  • Parking and tolls
  • Extra waiting time – Starting “a few minutes” late waiting for stragglers. I. e., let’s hope a few more attendees show up, so the forum won’t look so lonely.
  • The gratuitous irritation of overly long, dumbed-down sales pitches pretending to be knowledge and insight
  • Adding injury to insult, the events are often prolonged by adding
    coffee breaks. Opening coffee is fine; but why should the event require another caffeine boost? In any event, the coffee is seldom drinkable
  • Lunch – cold pizza, stale sandwiches, grim buffets – yet another reminder that there is no such thing as a free lunch
  • Drawings for “Prizes” such as the tsatskes they couldn’t give away at your last trade show
  • An “inspiring” lecture from an “industry guru” a.k.a. an executive at the host firm with time to kill before his next flight
  • The assumption that as long as you’re there, they can add just one more demo or product pitch

As a result, both you and the host spend too much time for too little benefit. From the the piles of undisturbed collateral and untouched pastry and sandwiches, one might gather that the opportunity cost in time was too high and people bailed. As an added bonus, you may also alienate prospects, who are actually interested in and would benefit from your offering.

This is not that difficult to improve if not solve.

  • Keep it short
  • Increase the ratio of signal to noise or content to fluff
  • Leave the audience wanting to comeback for more rather than raring to get out the door
  • When tempted to add more slides to your presentation deck (while you’re at it) – don’t
  • Archive and publish the events online promptly

Your attendees may be so grateful four your respecting their time, that some become customers.

Forget B2B and B2C — it’s B2E

To judge by their messages, many firms make much of the dichotomy of business to business (B2B) vs. business to consumer (B2C) – be this in marketing, hiring, or packaging. Indeed B2B vs B2C can appear quite dissimilar. For example, in their choice of

  • Channels
  • Pricing
  • Media
  • Business Models

None of these differences is absolute. For marketers B2B vs. B2C is frequently not a useful perspective. Traditional hallmarks of B2B such as a high priced dedicated sales force, long selling cycles, or “rational” vs emotional appeals in branding, could apply to B2C.

Increasingly B2B vs B2C is a distinction without a difference. From the importance of social media to advertising, the two camps seem to be converging. Smart marketers seem to get that ultimately marketing is marketing. This is clearly illustrated by B2B campaigns executed in a distinctly B2C manner.

Consider the campaign from corporate IT services firm CDW. It features the redoubtable Charles Barkley. The commercial has a consumer look and feel but its message of outsourcing IT services to CDW is all business.


If CDW isn’t business enough, consider marketing by SAP, the “grey standard” of business to business.


In your next campaign, don’t fixate on B2B or B2C. Think about marketing B2E. E as in everybody.

A Good Read?

Customers don’t usually curl up by the fireside and devour your collateral. If they look at it at all, they browse it – often while doing other things.

No matter how profound your insights, it makes sense to follow the KISS principal – as in Keep It Simple Stupid. If you’re writing a graduate school thesis, don’t expect anyone but your committee to read it. I’m not recommending that you dumb down your prose. Say what you need to say, but clearly and briefly.

To help make it easier for your potential customers, consider using a measure of readability. Educator Rudolph Flesch, author of Why Johnny Can’t Read and early advocate of phonics, proposed a readability index*. You can get Flesch’s Reading Ease score automatically – it’s built into the spell checker of Microsoft Word. (You may have to turn this feature on, before using it for the first time.) If you don’t use Word, you can use free online sites such as Edit Central.

More readable text has a higher index. Consider an example from an Iowa public health program:

Reading Ease of 48.0:

Babies born to women who are covered by one of Iowa’s health care programs are covered through the month of their first birthday, provided the baby continues to live with the mother and reside in the state of Iowa.

Reading Ease of 80.1:

Are you pregnant? Do you get health coverage from an Iowa program? If you do, your baby will also be covered. Coverage will last until the end of the month of your baby’s first birthday. The baby must live with you in Iowa.

If you were marketing the program, which copy would you use?

As a simple test, I grabbed some copy from websites of major brands. The easiest to read was from Sony Playstation; the most difficult from a consumer publication of the Federal Reserve. In this sample, the firms offering easier reading also tend to be more successful.


Ease of reading is, of course, only one ingredient of good copy. Since it’s so easy to test, why not grade your latest masterpiece before pushing the publish button?

* Reading Ease score = 206.835 − (1.015 × ASL) − (84.6 × ASW)

Where: ASL = average sentence length (number of words divided by number of sentences)
ASW = average word length in syllables (number of syllables divided by number of words)

Your Company University

The success of a complex product depends on customers knowing how to use it well enough to succeed. Whether you’re selling devices, technology, or services, a knowledgeable user is a better prospect. Sometimes selling is teaching.

Manuals, white papers, and other content may help, but they seldom get the naïve customer from zero to sixty. Workshops or classroom teaching are expensive, inefficient, and inconvenient.

There is another way. Recent progress in on-demand training (ODT) is a promising way to get your team, your customers and yourself up to speed on a wide range of topics. ODT is typically a step or more up from the simple How-To demos common on YouTube.

Unlike a traditional classroom, ODT leaves you in control. Learn at your own pace and schedule. If you didn’t understand all of a particular lesson, you can pause and repeat it. If you have a question, you may be able to post it to a forum, email it, or use online chat. Like conventional courses, graded assignments are often included.

Business models of on-demand learning vary. Some charge by the course, others charge a fixed fee per month, during which you may take as many courses as you wish. Some include textbooks, and some offer tiered pricing for extra services.

Prices tend to be a small fraction of tuition at colleges. At the ODT sites I visited, they ranged from free to $250. A typical price is about $30. These exclude on-line degree programs, which can be expensive. What you pay for with ODT is knowledge – not credentials. Despite the low prices, many on-demand portals offer money back satisfaction guarantees. How many universities do that?

I’ve been testing a number of ODT providers studying everything from Graphic Design to Online Marketing to Electronics to Database Programming. Here are some favorites:

Khan Academy

This popular site states it has delivered millions of lessons through over a thousand short (generally less than 10 minutes) lectures on math, science, engineering, economics, finance, business, and even on unexpected subjects such as art history. Most sessions are given in clear informal style by founder Salaman Khan, which gives them a consistency of style. All courses are free.


Hundreds of courses focused on how to use popular software and programming languages but also on subjects such as photography and design. A typical course is four to eight hours divided into lessons of ten minutes of less. The service costs $25 a month or $37.50 a month with downloadable example files. There are discounts for annual subscriptions. Quality of the instructors ranged from excellent to uninspiring.


This library of online books and courses is primarily for web developers and designers. Courses include lectures, downloadable content, and access to a Q&A forum. Far fewer courses than Lynda.com, but only $17/month and includes unlimited access to an online library.


As in “You Academy,” has wide indeed eclectic variety of subjects. In addition to instruction in technologies, it offers hundreds of courses on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, marketing, psychology, languages and music. Quite a number of the courses are free including live recordings of university courses.

If none of these servicesdirectors chair offers just what your customers need, consider imitating them by creating your own miniseries. There are a number of free or inexpensive utilities for drawing (MS Paint), narrating slide shows (slideshare.net,) and making web cam videos (jing.)

Get yourself a directors chair and enlighten your customers.