When putting together an interactive marketing strategy, it’s very easy to overlook what isn’t there.
As notions of online community evolve, marketers must not only keep pace with the practices of their online constituency, but also with the emerging tools available to reach and create these communities.
For example, think of all the reasons you attend trade shows and industry parties. For attendees, there’s the opportunity to meet new people, gain knowledge in your field and get out of your cube for a day or two. Exhibitors, hosts and speakers, meanwhile, are in a unique position to educate a captive audience regarding their business objectives. This interaction between client and customer, product and market is what it’s all about. Now ask yourself how this process might be improved by gathering trade show attendees online via a mailing list.
Traditionally, businesses have marketed to trade show attendees through direct mail, billboards and the ubiquitous show dailies. With e-mail, the opportunity exists for event hosts to create one-to-one relationships with their guests. I’m talking about nomadic marketing – the ability to create online communities instantly. Nomadic marketing is creating online communities to service and support specific industry events. These communities are created for a limited time, with an explicit agenda and for a very specific audience. We’ve all seen the show dailies at Internet World and other large trade shows; but the possibility now exists for real-time commentary, participation and information dissemination via event-specific mailing lists.
For example, I recently acted as one of the list hosts for [email protected], an online adjunct to Web marketing conference Web Attack, held in San Francisco. We created a mailing list forum for each speaker to post their contact information, presentation outlines and supporting documentation. We also created a place for participants to ask questions of each other and of the speakers. As the list was open to non-attendees, we provided reports from the show floor reaching an audience scattered throughout 11 different countries.
We were able to foster a sense of community among geographically dispersed but like-minded individuals. The list provided a forum for the discussion of issues important to this audience such as the notion of online vs. offline brand-building tactics. Conference speaker John Hlinko of MoveOn.org enhanced his presentation on e-mail marketing online by answering specific follow-up questions via the list. In an informal survey at the conclusion of the conference, 100 percent of attendees who responded said they’d like to see another list like this and would like to opt in for the next discussion.
What has made such communities a possibility? First and foremost, the ubiquity of e-mail and the recognition that business travelers in the technology industries are checking their e-mail accounts at least daily. Second, the recent development of tools and technologies has made online community development a snap. Technical infrastructure today makes this process extremely simple to set up and administer. Individuals can subscribe, unsubscribe, receive digests, check archives and manage multiple subscriptions through a single interface. For the Web Attack conference, we used Topica’s mailing list features. Mailing lists, once the domain of techies and trekkies, is now a simple process. The technical barriers to create and administer a mailing list are gone, and as a result, mailing lists are flourishing.
From the very beginning, the Internet has been a marketer’s dream because of individuals’ online self-identify. By joining the German Shepard list at Topica, for example, we know an individual is more likely to respect an offer from PetPlanet.com than from Hewlett Packard. I anticipate that nomadic communities will become a new focus for advertisers, marketers and e-commerce companies that are looking to take advantage of this form of permission marketing.
Community building online is now easier than ever. From chat to Yahoo clubs, Deja.com to ICQ, the tools are in place to enable marketers to further segment their online constituencies, and in the process, further personalize the marketing message.
Tim Smith is president and founder of The Stencil Group, San Francisco. His e-mail address is [email protected]