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Budapest GM Report
GM Budapest

It seems as though I wasn’t the only Klomp Bueters headed for Budapest on Monday morning as I stepped off the plane and ran into my sister-in-law, an unexpected surprise which made for a much cheaper taxi fare (always looking to keep costs down!) when making my way to the Intercontinental hotel to set up for the autumn GM. With the help of our local members on the ground, Josef Kogler and his team at Inform Media, I felt well prepared for the upcoming days.

The Intercontinental didn’t disappoint with the spectacular views over the Danube, Buda Castel and the Chain Bridge, with the view being even better after the sun set. We kept the curtains wide open to enjoy the views from the ICMA on-site office. Shortly after arrival I made the rounds to meet with Gundel restaurant to go over the details for the Gala Party, next up was Karpatia to ensure I remembered the best walking route, and then finally with the hotel where I met the team who would be looking after us throughout the event.

The ICMA Office was set up on the very rainy Tuesday, folders collated, badges prepared, presentations photo-copied, speaker gifts wrapped and last-minute registration changes handled with the help of Zsuzsanna Biacsko and Melinda Boda from Inform Media as well as Jean-Paul Gaiser, our Audio Visual Guru and Bart-Jan Klomp Bueters, an ever so helpful husband later on in the week.

WEDNESDAY
GM Budapest

Luckily the weather made a change for the better, which was a great way to kick off the Welcome Reception. Rob Paterson, Group Managing Director of Friday Ad and Chairperson of ICMA welcome dover 110 delegates from 30 different countries, introducing our eight new members, first time attendees and thanking the exhibitors and sponsors for their attendance (ISV, Joshua, Bluerank, Sensi Soft, X-Media, Fiare Oy, ATG and Matchwork). There was a true buzz in the air as the mingling was in full swing!

THURSDAY
GM Budapest

Rob formally opened the conference sessions, first with a tribute to celebrate the life of the late Craig McMullin, former Executive Director of the AFCP and along-standing partner with ICMA and on a brighter note to follow up with another round of applause for proud new papa Ricardo Amaro who’s son Vicente was born 4 days earlier (thank goodness his wife was willing to let him join us!) Congratulations again Ricardo! Rob then opened with “How do we monetize classifieds?” and highlighted that innovation and niche are a few keys to monetization – Dogster, need we say more?

The Keynote Address was given by Tomasz Józefacki, President OPA Europe and Vice President and Head of Internet Division for Agora in Poland. Tomasz touched on what some of the greatest challenges are for online publishers aggregators, free content, social sites and the users advertising blindness and followed up with some recommendations on how to overcome them. He also touched on how Google is both and opportunity and a threat for classifieds.

After the coffee-break, we moved into the Monetizing Model session in which Sebastian Ross Managing Director for Strategy and International Business Development, Grupo Intercom, Spain who gave us an overview of a number of new varieties of business models that online businesses can support. The top four take-always being – 1. patience 2. go for the revenue that still allows growth 3. micro-segment the users and 4. don’t over deliver; be sure to distribute attention intelligently. Making Search Pay was the next session on deck which looked at classified search and how to make money. Loren Dalton, President of PenySaverUSA.com, USA gave an excellent recount of their experience with AdSence Optimization giving some very useful and practical optimization tips and also expanding into SEM. Loren stated that surprisingly their “no results” page had the highest CTR and eCTM. Next up we welcomed Bill Fisher, Co-Founder of Work Digital Ltd/TwitterJobSearch.com in the UK. Bill informed us that the social networks will continue to play a bigger role in classifieds also mentioning that Google doesn’t give a positive classified search experience for classified listings. Lastly, Katrina Gosek the Product Marketing Manager from Endeca based in the USA highlighted the SEO fundamentals, their forte being in sitemaps, url’s and landing pages. She informed us that approximately 86% of users click only on the top three search results. Excellent questions were asked and there was much conversation about these presentations as delegates headed to lunch.

SHARING BEST PRACTICE
GM Budapest

The “Sharing Best Practice” sessions, were once again extended to the full afternoon sessions. In the Business Leaders session we had a record amount of data submitted from 39 companies and a total of 55 participants – thanks very much to Tomasz Odrobinski of Mascus as well as the ICMA committee members – Rob, Josef, Pekka, Koen and Martha for facilitating each group’s discussions. The overall score of nearly 93% satisfaction demonstrates how valuable participants continue to find this session. We plan to continue the SBP sessions with new and improved metrics for the Berlin GM. Please send any suggestions to shay@icmaonline.org.

The sales managers were not to be left out, an ever growing group, led by Rickard Peterson of Mascus and Benny Kerkhofs of Koopjeskrant (a huge thanks to you both!). They dove into a series of sales-oriented metrics with their respective groups have already offered up some excellent suggestions for the Berlin SBP Sales session.

The evening thankfully stayed dry and we enjoyed a nice walk through the main shopping street the Váci Utca, fortunately not losing anyone to the great shopping! At Karpatia we enjoyed a wonderful Hungarian feast starting off with the traditional Goulash, with the main course of pork medallions served on pumpkin seed-potato fritter and finished of with the classic warm Hungarian sour cherry and apple strudels, all the while enjoying the festive Gypsy music, in which all my tablemates will be able to enjoy time and time again after purchasing the CD!

FRIDAY
GM Budapest

To ensure everyone was truly awake and energized –Loren Dalton’s “Saver Time” video was played to jump start the Friday session. A great kick off to The Great Classifieds Strategy Debate where Rob Paterson, Group Managing Director of Friday Ad, UK started us out by listing the top 10 reasons to go niche. Felix Erken, Managing Director of Junk Mail, South Africa then spoke on the benefits of sticking with the single monster property. Jack Humphreville, Director of Acquisitions, Target Media Partners, USA stepped up to moderate this heated debate in which some great questions were thrown at the opposing sides and by a show of hands niche took it for round 1.

Rob Hage Publisher of Farm Country Trader in the USA, was the lead panelist for the Dealing with the Dealers session. Rob explained in detail the AutoConx systems used for their ad management, track ability and reporting tools. Next in line was Fredrik Larsson, Managing Director of Mascus.com in Finland, who spoke on the characteristics of Mascus dealers today and the world wide presence and premium media they will need to continue future monetization. The final panelist was Paul Cruise Operations Director from Boatshop24 based in the UK who focused on multiple their experience of selling multiple listings – hitting on the media owners, the customers, the sales person and the solution. Another excellent session the attendees found to be very relevant. Community-building and social networks was lead off by Frank Schultheiss, CEO of Deine Tierwelt and Director Internet for der heisse draht in Germany. The main message Frank hit on is that the communities are already out there so the time is now to start engaging your customers! Next up was Suchi Mukherjee whose energy and enthusiasm captivated the audience. Suchi stated that the global classifieds market is estimated to be a $100 billon dollar industry and to tap into that you need to build trust and go after what the users want. A truly cracking session with the questions flowing, once again, into the lunch break.

WORKSHOPS
GM Budapest

The afternoon was taken up with three rotating round-table workshops on SEO (Advanced), Video and Online Sales, of which delegates could attend two of the three.

SEO (Advanced) was led by Ricardo Amaro, Internet Director from Ocasião Classificados in Portugal who stressed that content is key but the link is king. This session was jam packed and one of the top rated sessions of the conference (we hear you loud and clear J) there will be more to come on SEO in Berlin. In the meantime, feel free to check out Ricardo’s blog on SEO Development and Internet Strategies. David Ingram, CEO and co-founder of Brownbook.net in the UK led the Video workshop where he identified and listed the issues and aspects of video and the discussion that followed touched on who is making money from it and how. The third workshop on Online Sales was led by Loredana Ghejan, Sales Manager from Inform Media in Romania who got the delegates talking pricing, the pros and cons of self-service vs. sold revenues, segmentation and the productivity of the sales force backed up by a few case studies.

Friday night was left free for delegates to make their own plans. Martha took the lead for a big group of us who headed to DIO – which offered some inventive twists on the classic Hungarian cuisine (many thanks again!). And upon meeting back up at the Intercontinental bar (where else?!) it seems that everyone else also enjoyed the local flavours of Budapest.

SATURDAY
GM Budapest

The final day of the General Meeting kicked off with Sahin Tulga chairing the newly named Business Leaders’ Forum or BLF in short and Clara Llamas chaired the Business Operations Forum or BOF respectively.

BLF
GM Budapest

Sahin had prepared a comprehensive programme (for those who haven’t chaired a BLF, a great deal of work goes into it before the day itself). Sahin began by covering the balanced scorecard which was an interactive analysis of finance, customers, suppliers/alliances and operations. He discussed how to approach a business problem by bringing best practices from other industries, some proprietary methodologies. A very theoretical beginning of the BLF sessions.

The second session moved into the “soft” factors which touched on the critical issues of employee and customer satisfaction, online alliances and online marketing. This session was driven by the members’ discussion hitting on the competitors such as Gumtree whose presentation the day before was very well received.

The third and final session of the day saw the return of the red and green hat’s to drive the debate – in which at one point, Pekka donned the only red hat in a sea of green. Needless to say, some very lively discussions took place. The comprehensive presentation by Sahin offered some excellent take-aways for all the attendees of the BLF.

Felix Erken, Managing Director of Junk Mail was proposed by Rob Paterson as chair for the ICMA Business Leaders’ Forum at the Berlin General Meeting, and accepted the nomination.

BOF
GM Budapest

The Business Operations Forum chaired by Clara Llamas, which focused on the three main aspects which underpin our businesses: sales/marketing, technology and product development. Five groups were given a case study in which they were to start a transactional online platform following 4 key operative areas: 1. product/platform development 2. marketing 3. sales and 4. customer service, time being the biggest constraint – as it wast ough to even get BOF attendees to break for lunch! The final session entailed each group presenting their new business and with the vote for the most innovative and feasible business ending in a tie between group 2 and group 3, respectively. A very successful first ever BOF – thank you Clara!

BUSINESS MEETING
GM Budapest

The Business Meeting at the end of the afternoon was chaired by Rob discussing the re-structuring of the Association and the changes that had been made over the summer. All agreed the changing of the revenue model has already shown a dramatic increase in membership and congratulated the new committee on making the tough choices needed to ensure the survival of ICMA. Rob highlighted the goal to market and increase membership in 2010, which in turn adds a greater value to the membership. Also planned for 2010 are a series of webinars and the continuation of the two General Meetings a year. The 2010 budget was voted on and passed as well as the motion to continue with BVVA as the accountants for ICMA through 2010. Thank you to those who participated in this meeting and we continue to welcome any feedback and suggestions you have to improve upon the Association, please send to shay@icmaonline.org.

GALA PARTY
GM Budapest

The Gala Party, this time around was held at Restaurant Gundel with high expectations given all the accolades it has received. We began with a beautiful bus ride through the city ending up by the stunningly fully lit Hero’s Square. We were welcomed with a glass of Tokaji and enjoyed the ambience of magnificent ballroom at Gundel. Albeit the dinner being a bit rushed, the main dish being a bit over cooked and a glass never going empty (these Hungarian waiters seemed to take their job a bit too seriously), people were sure to make their way onto the dance floor with a few helpful requests for the DJ to get the party started – as well as Franco and Berni helping to make sure the floor was never empty! Overall, another fun evening with two buses bringing the delegates safely back to the Intercontinental (despite the brief unexpected stop for those on the 2 nd bus). The bar in the Intercontinental was thankfully well prepared (we learned from the Tallinn GM) and I must say Rob Hage summed it up quite well in saying “I don’t want the evening to end – knowing ICMA (the Budapest GM) will be over tomorrow. “Here here Rob”! Ever more reason to make sure everyone joins us in Berlin.

All and all another outstanding GM, which due thanks should be given to the wonderful speakers, facilitators and chairs – thank you! As well – a huge thank you to the exhibitors and sponsors for their commitment and the Committee for all of their support, and of course all of you who make these events better each time!

Photos have just been uploaded – enjoy!

We look forward to seeing you all again in Berlin – 5 – 8 May 2010!