Is Wormtongue or Gandalf Your Tech Advisor?

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by Steve O’Keefe, COO, InGo

Gone are the days when marketing was just about designing beautiful mailers, billboards and memorable TV ads. The digital age has created amazing new technologies for marketers and along with it, a need for marketers to work seamlessly with IT departments. A recent Harvard Business Review piece posits that there is a gap between marketing and IT executives, who “often don’t speak the same language or understand each other’s goals or roadmaps. One of the common divides is that the former is focused on adopting the latest technologies, while the latter is focused on governance, security, and enterprise architecture.”

We’ve seen this gap first hand as innovative event marketing managers get excited about the value of Advocate Marketing but run into “Wormtongue” in their tech advisor. Grima Wormtongue, for those of you have forgotten or are unfamiliar with “The Lord the Rings” trilogy, was the chief advisor to King Théoden of Rohan but, in fact, played on the fears of the King and his family to enfeeble them. Fortunately, in Tolkien’s story, the wizard Gandalf frees the bewitched Théoden, who then condemns Wormtongue, “Your leechcraft ere long would have had me walking on all fours like a beast.” 

This scene comes to mind whenever I meet creatives surrounded by tech advisors who, via similar stratagems hinder and damage the creatives’ efforts to expand their offering, grow their businesses, and serve their customers. Although this is not restricted to the marketing industry, the marketing managers’ intense focus on their customers can make them prey to these Wormtongues. In most cases, you have a savvy marketing manager who is not going to be cowed into a cage, but fear is a powerful force.  Let me give you a couple examples.

Case #1 – “On All Fours”

InGo provides advocate marketing.  A prospective customer has a fairly large professional event (30-40K attendees) which is a perennial industry favorite and very profitable.  Like many shows, their traditional marketing efforts have been delivering fewer and fewer new attendees and the show had declined a few percentage points the last couple years. We were excited to, and supremely confident that we could, turn this trend around. But then we hear the following in the kick-off meeting with marketing manager’s tech advisors: 

Wormtongue:  Social sign-on will drive people away.  Do you want the show to decline more?

Ahh, Wormtongue at his best, preying on the fears that a new technology will be too risky and hurt their attendance building efforts. Our response (after wondering why the tech team was pontificating on marketing,) was that everyone is on social.  (Is this news to anyone?) When’s the last time you’ve gone to a modern website and not seen social sign-on? Furthermore, we can show you as much data as you can handle on social having higher conversion rates by far.

Wormtongue: Our database requires us to have one and only one email per attendee.  We won’t let the social data ruin our database.

Classic, preying on the fear that the technology the marketing manager relies on will not work properly if they try to add anything to it. We suggest the problem, if it is one, can be handled with a normal database lookup. However, there is a bigger gap here than most because what the tech advisor is lobbying for is to give preference to have old, out of date data and emails, instead of having guaranteed, multiple accurate ones. 

Sadly, in this case, the creative listened and fear of having to find a new tech provider won. We’ve been down this road before. Eventually, the results will get bad enough at enough shows that the creatives or their replacements will revolt and demand a flexible platform provider, but for now fear is holding sway.

Case #2 – Trusted Advisor

Info Salons is of one InGo’s partners and their Managing Director Middle East is Wilbert Heijmans. He is the perfect advisor and his customers, the largest and most prestigious shows in the region, love him for it. Wilbert knows his customers’ success depend on innovation and he is always looking for ways to bring it to them. Wilbert and his team are continuously researching and evaluating technology, especially award winners. Wilbert proactively reached out to InGo so he and his team could understand and evaluate the solution. By the time we did dmg::events’ ADIPEC together (now one of the most important and influential oil and gas events in the world!), his team’s’ implementation of InGo was almost a “one-click” solution across 5 languages. As the customers in the region say to us, “He knows advocate marketing as well as you do.”

If you have a Wormtongue in your life, find a Gandalf or a Wilbert to liberate you before it’s too late.


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