3/23/09 – San Diego, 1:45 pm PDT: An attendee told me he’s been trying for years to get ASPPA officials to include a marketing keynote at their annual 401(k) Summit, and he was proud he finally got his wish. Scary; he supposedly had to beg conference planners for “years” to get marketing education included in the program. Don’t know if I believe it. It’s a well-run show, and I don’t think organizers would make such a basic mistake.

Patrick Galvin with Portland, Ore.-based Galvin Communications (Galvanizing, get it?) took the keynote stage, and stiff doesn’t begin to describe him. This from a “marketing” guy. I honestly though he had his whole speech memorized. Thank God he eventually loosened up, and what he had to say was pretty good. Granted, at this point, if you’re unfamiliar with the marketing value of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, you’re probably typing up your promotional material on an old Underhill and giving it to the telegram boy on a bike. But his statistics on word-of-mouth marketing got the audience’s attention. For example, citing TARP Worldwide (an unfortunately named research company Galvin believes will soon be rebranded), one vocal client with a complaint equals 27 clients with a similar complaint who are not vocal with you, but nonetheless tell 16 of their friends. Multiply the 27 clients by 16 friends and you can see how quickly a complaint can get out of hand, and completely ruin your brand.

Other session highlights include:

o Use Google Alerts to monitor your own buzz. It will allow you to see what’s being said and catch problems early, before they go viral.

o Give your knowledge away. Sounds crazy, but free, quality information on your Web site will solidify you as the expert, and prospects will think of you first when they want more detailed information for which you can then charge. Look to Morningstar’s model as an example.

o Today, it’s all about the e-mail. Personal thank you cards are so old school. No one is using them anymore, which is exactly the reason you should. Ditto for follow-up thank you phone calls. Clients and referral sources will appreciate it, and they’ll remember you the next time a referral opportunity arises. According to Galvin, “Low tech equals high reward.”

o Use Google Alerts when reaching out to the media to see which journalists are writing about which topics. Saves time, and your more prepared in the initial contact. Also, take the time to answer journalist inquiries on sites like www.helpareporterout.com. Reporters from national publications are listed, which translates to national exposure for you and your business.

Nothing groundbreaking, but nuggets of solid information, which if we’re honest with ourselves, is why we come to these conferences.