The SEO/SEM circuit has an seemingly endless supply of industry conferences, trade shows or associated shows someone could attend. Throw in social media, and you could be on the road non-stop for most of the year.
Some of the most popular are Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, and Webmasterworld Pubcon.
I recently submitted a request to my company to attend SMX East in October. It ain’t cheap! To fly up and back is only about $200, but the hotel room in NYC will run about $319/night, and the conference itself is about $2,000. So the total for the week is about $4,000 when you add in food and expenses.
What’s the ROI on that $4,000 expense from your company’s perspective?
Aaron Wall of SEO Book says, “I have found most of my best business relationships have come from face to face conversations at conferences.”
Rand at SEOmoz agrees:
… meeting people in person is so incredibly important. When I sit down with a potential client, address a crowd of folks in person or just spend time with people I’ll be working with in the future, it builds a relationship that lasts and creates a bond that enables far greater communication. Once we’ve spent time together face-to-face, both parties feel both a connection and obligation to one another…
Brent D Payne explains how he relies on his trade show attendance for everything else he does all year long in an interview at Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim blog:
4:00pm – 4:30pm – Search engine relationship development (IM, call, DM, Facebook, etc. SE contacts)
Yes, I have the search engines phone numbers, email addresses, IM accounts, Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, etc. etc. I’ve had this for years. This has nothing to do with company size. It has to do with putting forth an effort to create a relationship with individuals at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, etc. We all go to the same conferences. Figure out how to connect with people at the search engines. HINT: Start with the people that nobody is swarming around (i.e. not Matt Cutts, Nathan Buggia, etc.). The people that do not have swarms of over-eager people around them are more open to communication. BIGGER HINT: Don’t be pushy. Treat them as a person not as a search engine contact. Consider it a long-term investment not something you can utilize next week. Don’t ask for things that they aren’t suppose to share.
In the end, the analysis has to based on your own personal circumstances. In my case, I think it is a no-brainer. Newspapers are trying to dream up new ways to attract visitors, yet McClatchy no longer has a full-time SEO person. There is no direction from corporate on the subject.
Would a 10% increase in traffic pay for the expense of the conference? Would a better relationship with leaders in the industry make life easier?
Leandra Ganko says
In general, I think conferences are worth it but it’s important to have goals ahead of time as to what you plan to get out of the experience. I attend both technology conferences (to sharpen my skill set) and nonprofit conferences (to meet potential clients). I will probably do a lot more note-taking at the previous and networking at the latter.
I am still a small business (just me!), so $4000 is quite a lot of money to attend a conference but I completely agree with Rand’s quote above that meeting people face to face is very important. So, if the overall conference cost is about equivalent to one potential new client project, I would call it a no-brainer. 🙂
Ricardo Bueno says
This could be a tough one… Personally, I think that attending conferences is well worth it! Face to face quite simply counts for a lot (again, in my opinion). When I speak/attend conferences it usually results in sales later down the line (I estimate 2-3 months later). So yes it’s a pretty long sales cycle, but at least I know what it is and it works.
Phil Buckley says
I agree Ricardo, I was at a conference today where I met a few new people and cemented a few online-only relationships.
Trust is built over time, real trust usually results in a shorter sales cycle down the road.