An SES New York Review: Past, Present & Future

By Lance Neuhauser, Managing Director, Eastern Region

Forgive me Father, it has been nearly two years since my last Search Engine Strategies Conference.

And that’s how I felt as I read the list of available sessions at the New York show. The session list had changed dramatically since I last attended, and it certainly made me feel as though by not attending I would miss out on a potentially sacred experience.

In the past, I attended the SES shows religiously and did so for years. I believed in their ability to aggregate the voice of the search marketer. I believed in their value as a lens into the industry and as a catalyst to thought provoking strategy development and partnerships. Sure I found the content elementary at times, but there was always a nugget of information to be had and a bustling exhibit hall to peruse, not to mention it was a solid place for new business leads.

However, the shows underwent a metamorphosis. They began to resemble conferences of more mature marketplaces like auto shows and sporting goods, where it was more about tchotchkes and booth attractions than substance and evolution. And the bloodied waters of new business became transparent when the sessions themselves were nothing more than feeble attempts at masking new business pitches.

Then the nuggets dried up. The hall became barren. Top level marketers stopped attending.

Yet, search marketing itself has evolved over the past few years. It is regularly used within the marketing mix. Fortune 500 executives are no longer glazing over when a marketer discusses SEO implications of a web redesign and CMO’s specifically are truly beginning to embrace the information available to us from a single consumer query.

The companies involved in search marketing are beginning to take on new challenges with new responsibilities, and as I read the totally revamped SES session list that targets these new discussion topics, I once again became excited to attend SES!

The specific SES session that jumped off the page was ‘Selling the Integrated Plan to the C-Suite’. It’s relevant, engaging, will likely draw serious attendees ready for healthy dialogue and addresses a forward looking topic.

Session Observations:
· Attendance was thin but the panel was energetic
· There was very little new business pitching going on at all
· The panelists really attempted to speak on the issue

Session Realities:
· There was NO C-SUITE EXECUTIVE on the panel
*Strong Recommendation – Include a C-Level Executive on the panel so they can speak to how/why they began listening to & integrating search into the marketing plan
· Panelists ranged in their ability to tell a unique story
· Very few hard-journalist quality questions were asked

Quality Nuggets:
· Irene Rigos – Wyndam: “Do not raise execution difficulties up the flag pole” & “Speak in results”
· Jessica Bowman – (Job hunting): “Get a progress follow up meeting on the calendar at the first meeting and include past slides as well as a progress slide (e.g., How far you’ve climbed up the goal mountain)”
· Barbara Coll – “Ask the C-Level exec what they want people to do after they see a TV ad? And then show them an actual searching experience”

The session was reminiscent of early SES days where the panelists make or break the session, but people truly attempt to add value. After speaking with colleagues, it was clear that the sessions have not brought SES back into the limelight. But that is not to say all was lost.

The real value for me came when I re-immersed myself into the Exhibit Hall. I heard quality business discussions. I had quality business discussions. I became excited again about the fact that our industry is growing and growing up.

The Hall represented a positive future:
· Technologies are not just being created to be created. They are solving problems and creating efficiency and it is exciting to hear about so many in one place.
· The application of search is broadening and agencies are not just expanding because they are getting paid to do so, but because it makes sense.
· The engines are not just recognizing the search ecosystem, but helping evolve it by working closely with end marketers, technologies and agencies, and the exhibit hall was a place for all of them.

All in all, SES once again has a foundation from which to grow. It has a long way to go before spending the entire 4 days in attendance is worthwhile, but I can assure you it will not be another 2 years before I attend again.

Posted by: Lance Neuhauser, Managing Director, Eastern Region


CJeffCampbell said...

I forgive you, Lance.

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