Q&A with Danny Sullivan: Search Marketing Expo l Exclusive

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Danny, thank you for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. I don’t think you’ll need a formal introduction so let’s jump right into the topic. Looking at the calendar for the rest of the year, one can probably find a dozen of major conferences and countless smaller ones. What will SMX offer that others don’t already offer and what value is it providing for the industry?

It’s important to understand that SMX isn’t the same show but rather a conference series, where we have a variety of different shows on different topics. SMX Social Media, for example, will look at the intersection of social media sites and how the impact search marketing. It’s a unique, focused show. Why attention? Precisely because of that — you are a search marketer that wants to learn more about this particular topic, and we have the unique event that does that.

Overall, I think you should attend an SMX event because we’re offering great content along with an exceptional conference experience. Chris Sherman and I have been doing search conferences for years. We’re putting all that knowledge into having SMX provide the quality panels that people know we can assemble, plus we want to ensure people are getting the most out of networking and the conference experience overall.

The June event is labeled “Advanced” so I assume it is targeting marketing professionals, correct? Who is the target audience for the other SMX conferences planned this year, like SMX Mobile & Local and SMX Social Media?

The advanced show is aimed at the high-intermediate to advanced search marketing professional, the veteran who wants to attend panels that aren’t going to get bogged down in the basics.

Our other shows are aimed to help people of any skill level and are more topic or location oriented. Mobile & Local are for those who want to drill-down on local and mobile search. Social Media aims to help those looking to learn more about social media marketing. Travel, no surprised, is aimed at those who want a focus on travel search marketing. Our newly announced Stockholm and London shows will cover search marketing in general, a variety of topics, but with local speakers and an emphasis on those regions. SMX West is our first big show, appealing to all skill levels and many different topics.

Compared to the Search Engine Strategies conference, which you are still hosting, SMX is going to be a lot smaller. Is there any particular reason for limiting the number of attendees?

SMX Advanced is smaller because the audience it appeals to is smaller, plus we want it smaller. We wanted a more intimate conference to enhance the networking. Several of our other shows are smaller for the same reason – it makes sense for them to be smaller. Think of them as boutique or specialty shops. When you want a particular item, hitting a small specialty shop is often a better experience. However, there are times you want a supermarkets. And we’ve got that for you, as well — SMX West, which will be designed for a much larger, broader audience.

The format and the agenda of the show are quite different from what we’re used to seeing with other industry conferences. Why did you decide to change it? Are you at all nervous about how it might be received?

You can’t help but be nervous about a new show and new format. But I’m confident, as well. I’ve got a conference full of advanced people. My assumption is that these people would especially benefit not from formal presentations but by helping to influence and shape change in the industry. So this is almost a quasi-summit.

Are you having any difficulties attracting exhibitors and sponsors, since the conference targets such an advanced crowd?

No, it’s been doing very well. Search marketing has grown and matured to the point that you’ve got this advanced audience out there that actually seems really grateful and receptive to the idea there’s an event just for them.

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About the Author

Andrey Milyan was the first editor-in-chief of Search Marketing Standard, the leading print publication covering the search marketing industry. He has been following and reporting on industry developments for over 10 years. Andrey now works in the paid search sector of a prominent search marketing agency.

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