Aaron was one of the best presenters at Searchfest 2008 and I had a great conversation with him at dinner following the show. Aaron will be bringing the Online Marketing Summit on the road this summer with a stop in Portland on August 5th. He agreed to answer my questions about the event as well as about search marketing in general.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living?

I wear two hats. First and foremost I am the Chairman and Founder of an educational conference called the Online Marketing Summit. My sole mission (as it is not built as a profit center) is to help raise the bar on education as it relates to the best practices in Online Marketing in areas like Search, Social Media, Website Usability, Analytics, Email, etc… We run one annual conference for 3 days in San Diego at the end of February. More timely is our Regional One Day series of conferences that is coming to Portland on Aug 5th and Seattle on August 7th in addition to the other 9 cities we will be visiting.

2) The numbers of Internet Marketing / Online Marketing conferences has exploded recently. What makes the Online Marketing Summit stand apart from the competition?

My favorite question. It really comes down to the “Spirit of OMS”. We created this conference to educate and have eliminated any sales pitches, trade booths or anything that does not support education and networking. So, no vendors or sales folk are allowed. It’s is built for both B2B and B2C brand marketers, but also applies to agencies as well. Lastly, all sessions are formatted to have at least 5 take aways that we as marketing professionals can actually use vs. a lot of the “general pontification” you see at other larger shows have. Case Studies, 1 on 1 usability and SEO labs and our now famous “Booing if you promote yourself” rule really do separate us from any other show out there.

3) Who should attend the Online Marketing Summit and what should they expect to gain from their attendance?

Any Marketing or Business professional that feels Online Marketing (Search, Social Media, Website…)is important to their business and their professional career development.

4) This will be the second year where you’ve staged conferences in 10 US cities during the summer (including a stop in Portland on August 5th). Why the roadshow concept and how does one of these conferences differ from your longer San Diego-based conferences?

The roadshow is important b/c not everyone can get to San Diego for 3 days and we do usually hit capacity. So in the spirit of “raising the bar” we felt it was important to bring the show to as many folks aspossible. We hope it really ignites a continue education effort and help grow our online marketing community that supports such.

5) Will your roadshow conferences have a local flavor or will they be pretty standard from city to city?

All shows vary per city. So, we usually get the pulse through local associations and partners and them customize to such. for example, we will have more Search and Social Media tracks in Portland than in other cities based on my experience speaking at SEMPDX and conversations with folks like Kent Lewis, Paul Ulhir and you of course!

6) How important to the overall marketing mix is Search Engine Optimization?

It’s one of the fundamentals that MUST be tackled. Everyone has a website, so everyone needs to put that to it’s “Highest and Best Use” so SEO is critical to doing so in addition to making sure the site is adhering to the basic website usability principals. Everyone needs to figure out to optimize or they are simply missing out.

7) How do you educate clients about the true metrics of online marketing success when they start talking to you about meta tags & other irrelevancies?

I really try to bring it back to Business 101. First look at business metrics, then marketing metrics rolling up under that THEN how your web analytics help measure such. As with anything else
in life, it’s about prioirities, so we advocating doing website diagnostics and strategy engagements to help with that first then get to execution.

8) How does an SEO campaign for a “B to B” company differ from one for a “B to C” company.

In principal it does not differ. It is more about spend, target audience and goals. Many B2C companies have stronger Brand iniatives as well, so their campaigns may have less “conversion”
goals than some of the lead gen campaigns for B2B.

9) What are the unique challenges faced in an SEO engagement with a Fortune 500 company?

First, corporate red tape… just getting things approved is hard. Next is the incumbent agency, they usually think they can do this and feel threatened so you need to help them into it. Lastly is the legacy platforms… big guys have spent tens of millions on these and are not about to trash them just for SEO, so working un such an environment is tough.

10) When a big brand approaches you about wanting to get involved in this new “social media” thing that they’ve been hearing about, how do you advise them?

I ask “Why”? What business or marketing goals will it serve. Once we answer that, then we get into the “What” meaning blogs, forums, rating/reviews, social networks, facebook, etc then we get to the how. We talk about testing first in finite environment and we talk about Social Media not as a stand alone campaign but one that supports other efforts (like SEO or PR).

2 thoughts on “Interview With Online Marketing Summit Chairman Aaron Kahlow

  1. The most significant thing I got from the interview is to not make social media marketing a stand alone effort. Advertising is never limited to just radio, or just TV or just print. Social Media is a powerful tool for marketing, even made more powerful if mixed with other buzz wielding media.

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