engage-2013-logoAt the beginning of this week I spent two days at the “Engage 2013: Succeeding in Export Marketing and Sales” conference in Saint John, NB.

Over 100 business owners, executives, economic development reps and others spent two days together learning and sharing marketing and sales “tactics” that will grow your business in a global market.

The speakers included:

David Meerman Scott, best selling author of eight books, including “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”.

Jack Derby. Jack is an award-winning professor of sales, marketing and business planning. He is chairman of the second largest angel investor group in the United States.

Paul Rowan, who manages the design team at Umbra.

Chet Wesley,
 Director of Marketing & Communications at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.


For those who couldn’t make it, I’ll share five of my favorite marketing related points that were made at the Engage conference. Whether you’re looking to expand within your own country, or export Internationally, this advice is applicable.

1. Invest in Content, Not Advertising

David Meerman Scott kickstarted the Engage conference with a fantastic presentation full of real examples of companies that kill it with marketing. But not because they have massive budgets.

These companies put themselves in the shoes of their customers and created useful content that catered to them…rather than advertising about their products/services.

After all, nobody really cares about your products and services, except you.

Case in Point: The Lodge at Chaa Creek (via David Meerman Scott)

The Lodge at Chaa Creek, in Belize, doesn’t have your typical hotel website…logo in the top left corner, photo of a nice bed with fluffy pillows and reservation widget on the side.

The owners of the lodge know that visitors to their region come for a few reasons…to explore the nearby Mayan Ruins, enjoy nature, go scuba diving, etc.

So rather than simply create a website with some info about their accommodations, they created an enormous amount of content for people planning a vacation to Belize. Their website is a wealth of information about everything there is to see and do.

As a result, The Lodge at Chaa Creek has the highest occupancy rate of any hotel in the country.

A whopping 80% of their new bookings come from their website…rather than one of the many companies they’d have to pay a commission to (such as TripAdvisor or Expedia).

Spend five minutes on their website and you’ll see why. You might just find yourself planning your own vacation in Belize.


2. People All Over the World Are Using Search Engines & Social Media When Making Purchasing Decisions

David Meerman Scott has an “experiment” he does as he travels around the world giving presentations.

He simply asks the room a series of questions about how they research products and services prior to making a purchase.

Watch this video he made to see the results:

The results are the same where ever he goes. Nearly 100%, if not 100%, of those asked say they have searched online prior to making a purchase. The same can’t be said about those who use the YellowPages and traditional media.


3. Be Ready for Real-Time Marketing Opportunities

I see this all the time and David talked about it during his workshop on day two. Organizations that are so focused on their long term marketing plan fail to be adaptable to what’s happening right now.

If you’re too focused on “the plan” and require a long chain of processes before a decision can be made, you’ll lose opportunities to promote your brand that are in front of you right now!

This one piece of advice is so important that it could be an entire series of blog posts…so I’ll wrap it up with this video. Watch David explain the concept of real-time marketing in this one minute video:



4. Relationship Selling is Old-School

Jack Derby, of Derby Management, has something to say about Relationship Selling – it’s old school.

His point was that the sales process is much more condensed now than it has ever been. People are spending more time researching products and services online and less time talking to vendors.

“B2B buyers tell Forrester that they find 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision (using search, communities, discussion forums, websites, and blogs), rather than receiving it from marketing or sales.” Source: Forrester.com, via Jack Derby

The reality is, having a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you’ll always be aware of their needs or even part of their buying decision.

5. Design is Marketing

Paul Rowan of Umbra, and Chet Wesley of the NBIF both presented on the topic of product design.

Chet says that “design is the product”, I add that “design is marketing”. What I mean by this is the look and feel of your product and packaging can have an enormous effect on whether someone wants to buy it.

Have you ever purchased something just because you liked how it looked?

On the flip side, if your packaging/website/product is poorly designed, it doesn’t matter how amazing the content, you’ll lose sales. As Chet pointed out “when consumers can’t try products, they use product appearance to assess the product value”.

Design shouldn’t be an afterthought. In many cases it will be the only first impression you have.


Recap of the 5 Points

1. Invest in Content, Not Advertising
2. People All Over the World are Using Search Engines and Social Media When Making Purchasing Decisions
3. Be Ready for Real-Time Marketing Opportunities
4. Relationship Selling is Old-School
5. Design is Marketing