Monday, February 8, 2010

What #EventProfs Can Learn from rockers 'No Doubt'

During our 'Creating an Online Community' panel discussion at this past Saturday's Event Camp '10, an interesting question was brought to the table by Paul Salinger of Oracle. He had asked how much content should be free? Is there a line, a limit, some way to know what is a purposeful amount of free content and what is giving away the store? Paul, great question and it couldn't be more timely.

I answered and I hold to it that the maximum amount of content that you can provide for free will net the greatest year over year returns for your physical event, association, or company. Webinars, Live Streaming of the event to virtual attendees, niche community platforms that deliver quality and hyper-focused content throughout the event life-cycle and meaningful efforts to engage the attendee and help transform them into engaged advocates, will all lead to year over year 'wins' in my opinion.

Content IS still king, but the content itself is now part of the marketing of the physical F2F experience (where of course you have to deliver even GREATER content live!). When Jason Falls described how Chris Brogan literally spent years building his influential position in the world of SM, he detailed how Brogan routinely and freely shared incredible libraries of techniques, experiences, blunders, and successes. Because of his consistency, humility, and accessibility, Chris Brogan is a trusted thought leader. The events he is directly involved in such as the Inbound Marketing Summit thrive as impassioned attendees brazenly advocate for this show series, while sponsors jockey to be a part of what he has helped build. People will say, "Not everyone can be Chris Brogan." and that is true because most don't have the internal fortitude to consistently excel. He's not dunking a basketball over Lebron or performing never before attempted spinal surgery to allow someone to walk again. He's more akin to the Social Media Tortoise who just so happens to run in a space that moves at the pace of the Hare. His meteoric rise seems to the observer as fast paced as a bullet train striking by, but inside that train he sits, lap top open, working, creating, sharing at all hours. Day in, day out and no, not everyone can do that, because they choose to watch Jersey Shore instead.

This blog was about No Doubt right? ... Yes, in fact it is. What did this creative rock act do to support their comeback tour in 2009 and why was it such a win? They gave it all away. Their entire recorded digital library up until the moment of the 2009 Tour was literally given away with the purchase of a ticket of $42.50 or more. Not the 'cheap seats' mind you, but the 'good to great' seats received every single track they ever recorded for free. Why? Because they knew in 2009 people had A) More choice than ever to stream and receive music B) Significantly tightened their personal budgets and choosing to go to a live concert was a decision that had to be seriously weighed and C) They realized (or at least their marketing department did) that the music, THE CONTENT, had shifted from being the final destination for most fans into a powerful marketing piece that nudged No Doubt fans to fork over the premiere dollars and go experience this killer act live and up close.

I do want to emphasize the "after the equation sign" side of things here as I think my call for 'Free' might be misinterpreted as some social utopian solution. Quite the contrary, the marketing moves by Brogan and No Doubt persuade, and rather effectively, multiple layers of individuals who will attend the physical event. Those who were already going feel appreciated and reciprocate socially and those who were on the fence are now highly more likely to open their wallets and experience the networking, education, and thrill the live event will deliver to them. While that next layer who can't go this year, but experiences the event virtually will share what they learned and be more inclined to take that leap next time and help grow your attendance base. Of this, I have 'No Doubt'.

I see some parallels here to discuss. Would love your opinions on the matter.

The continued conversation from Event Camp '10 is running in several places. A CrowdCampaign has been set up to discuss the #1 Take Aways from #EC10, so please participate here.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Clinton. This is the ol' "why #eventprofs should be like famous chefs" argument. Famous chefs write and sell cookbooks (ostensibly giving away all their trade secrets) yet people still eat at their restaurants. Go figure.

Jenise said...

Great post! The idea that free content provided online can cause people to want to attend an event is fascinating. It seems clear that virtual communities also hold great promise for enticing people to events. I think we all need to discuss how the events industry can benefit from online interactions that compel people to want to have live face to face experiences.

Adrian said...

So true. One of my mentors, Jerry Weinberg, wrote about this in his classic book Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully (published in 1986 and still in print! - see

He taught me to teach my clients to solve their own problems, so they didn't need me any more, rather than trying to be the outside "hero" and believing that would keep the money rolling in. Although this may sound like a recipe for unemployment, it helped me enjoy a 22 year successful IT consulting career, thanks to continued word of mouth recommendations from happy clients.

Clinton Bonner said...

@Bucchere thx of course and that is another great analogy to draw from.

@Jenise Exactamundo and thanks for the kind words.

@Adrian ... nice parallel drawn here Adrian. You could have kept nuggets to yourself, essentially keeping clients 'in the dark' and you 'needed'. Instead, you grew your business and your book of people who were proud to recommend you to hundreds more. Nice points.

If we're not connected on twitter, sure would like to be

thanks everyone,


Sam Smith said...

Great Post!

To me an event offering free content, is like a grocery store offering taste tests, P&G sending samples, a car dealer offering a test drive, or Macy's creating window displays.

You give away stuff for free, because you believe that you will have a shot at making a bigger sale (and repeat sales) after the trial.

For events, I think this is especially important.

Events are intangible. You can't put one in your hand and say - "oh I see how that would work. Excellent" It's not like a drill or screwdriver. You have to experience the event to understand the value. I don't think that brochures, website copy, etc do as good of a job of communicating the event's value as - video, virtual event experiences, community participation, etc.

Great Post! It was great to meet you at Event Camp. I am sorry that we did not get to talk more!

- Sam