On Thursday, September 16, Bibi Mukherjee of Curve Trends Marketing hosts a day-long conference at the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center on the Burlington waterfront. She calls it Vermont's First Annual Web Marketing Summit.
Mukherjee, 38, owns the South Burlington-based Curve Trends, a company she founded in 2009 after spending 15 years in the digital marketing field. Prior to that, she worked in direct marketing.
When I saw the announcement about the "first" web summit, I thought, wait, haven't there been about a zillion web marketing events in Burlington over the past few years? Heck, I've attended and even spoken at a few of them.
But Bibi insists that no, this summit is different. And I see her point. Unlike the EpikOne Online Marketing Boot Camps, this conference has a much more local focus, both in terms of speakers and participants. Bibi has lined up some accomplished presenters, all of them local, including Alec Newcomb from MyWebGrocer, Chris Middings from Seventh Generation, and Elaine Young from Champlain College.
And unlike the Social Media Breakfasts, this summit covers a wide range of web marketing topics, from search and email marketing to using analytics and social media. Check out the day's schedule here. If you're interested in attending, it looks like you can still register.
I asked Bibi to explain to me why the event is unique, and why she felt a need to organize it. In the process, I asked her a few questions about herself, like, how does somebody get into web marketing anyway? It's not a field that existed when she and I were in school way back when. Here are the interesting bits of our conversation:
Cathy Resmer: How did you get into web marketing?
Bibi Mukherjee: I’m a mechanical engineer by profession. I graduated from a school in India in 1994. During those times, there was nothing called "search marketing," there was nothing called "websites." The only thing we knew about was Hotmail, where we used to connect once in awhile. There was still pretty much snail mail going on. So, during those times, I launched my career in marketing — in marketing research, actually. I used to work for a company in India, and then they were taken over by AGB Taylor Nelson. It’s still one of the biggest market research companies in the world.
And then, when I moved to Vermont 11 years ago, I worked with DR Power Equipment, as their market research person. From there, I slowly shifted into search marketing. And in VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, where I worked, that’s where I developed the whole web marketing strategy. That’s when the whole search marketing evolved.
It started between the time I worked at DR — it was Country Home Products at the time — and VBT. Still there was no social media, but search marketing came in, and people started spending on paid search, and Urchin was taken over by Google, so Google Analytics and things like that started happening. During that time, I made the transition over to digital marketing. Pretty much all digital marketers that you see now made the transition during that time as well.
CR: Why did you strike out on your own?
BM: The results that I was getting with brands I was working with, or working for — I thought I could pretty much replicate that result, and try and help out other businesses. That was number one.
Number two was I saw the need that was there, especially with Vermont businesses, and the huge potential that was there, but the strong nervousness — it still exists, actually — in making shifts to the web, making investments in online marketing, or making any web efforts.
And number three was that I’m a web analyst. So the biggest concern that I saw happening in the industry was that there was no measurement in place. People, they had marketing budgets, so they were spending. But if you asked them, "OK, what's the return?" and "How are your channels performing?" There wasn’t too much of a clarity on those things. People still, they don’t, to a great extent, they don’t measure things. So I think that’s what I intend on changing, with my clients, with my prospects, or wherever I talk. That whole mindset of measurement. Whatever I do, it should be measurable.
CR: Is that what lead you to holding a web marketing summit?
BM: Exactly. As an analyst, as a digital strategist — whatever, however you would describe me — I had to always travel out of state, to far-off places, pay big dollars to listen to people, and then come back here. And while I was implementing it, there was help nearby in the local arena, there were experts, there were brands. I was like, "wow, I could have even learned from these folks." They’re equally good. Vermont is pretty self-sufficient in technology, in term of web marketing and other stuff. So I said, let’s start there.
CR: There have been other web marketing tutorial-type events locally. There seems to be a demand for them. How is yours different?
BM: First of all, the web marketing summit is pretty much about integrating every channel. When you talk about other events that have happened, other than EpikOne’s Boot Camp, every event has been very focused on one channel, like social media. My goal is to drive the message that social media doesn’t happen in a vaccuum. Social media is very well tied to all these channels together. Other channels need to work with social media in order to complete your efforts, or give you the returns that you are looking for.
CR: What other kinds of channels are you talking about?
BM: Search marketing channels. Email campaigns. Everybody’s talking today about "print is not working today," or "print is not measurable." Or for example, "TV’s returns only come to big brands," and "TV doesn’t work for small brands." I don’t know about that.
But two things — first of all, have you ever tried measuring? We’ll talk about measurements a lot. So that is how it’s different. I’m looking at it from a perspective of not assuming anything. Don’t assume any channel doesn’t work unless you see the results there. So start measuring.
The second thing is that no channel exists in a vacuum. Everything is tied together. You have to identify the channels that work for you. Because there is a huge surge in social media, that doesn’t mean that Twitter works for everybody, or that Facebook is the thing to do for every brand. That’s not how it works. So if you ask me how the web marketing summit is different, it’s going to tie everything together, integrate the segregated channels that have been spoken about in a lot of places in Burlington.
CR: Who should come?
BM: People who actually roll up their sleeves and work. They should definitely come, because they need to understand how things get in place. Big businesses, small businesses, individual consultants who are doing consulting to different brands. People who are trying to get started on the web.
BM: Absolutely nonprofits. Because for them, every dollar counts. They have to justify it, because it’s a nonprofit. They need to understand that there is huge funding by Google for paid search for nonprofits. Things like that.
CR: Anything else you think is important to share about this event?
BM: When people come, they need to come with an open mind. They’re going to take away, not too much about tools, but about the overall strategy that they need to adopt.
And every channel, or everything that we’re going to talk about, is going to be scalable. So nobody should get away with the perception that that works for a big company, or that works for a small company.
And then, come with an analyst’s mind. Even if I put in $100, I need to get returns out of that $100. So how am I going to do it? How can I identity the channels that are going to work? That I can understand and measure?
So, keep an open mind, and come. This is not about sharing tools. This is about sharing strategies.