Prague “Expanding Beyond Classifieds” Conference Report

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After a bit of a crazy start including a missing passport, misplaced wallet and lost luggage, Lisa and Shay were welcomed to the luxurious Intercontinental Prague hotel early Monday to ensure the rest of the week went as smooth as possible.  The morning was spent checking out the social venues – confirming all was in order and that we knew which way to lead the troops during our various activities. The afternoon was spent walking through the conference programme with the hotel staff.

Tuesday saw the ICMA Board of Directors and Shay meeting for the full day while Lisa and Lara from Sanoma set up the make-shift ICMA office, collated the conference packs and worked on any finishing touches. Thank you again Lara for volunteering to help us out!

WEDNESDAY

Those who arrived early enough on Wednesday enjoyed a beautiful (albeit chilly) tour of the Prague Castel – the largest ancient castle in the world dating back to the 9th century.

Next up was the first-ever Intensive SEO Boot Camp facilitated by Evan Fishkin, Director of SEO from Microsoft, which kicked off at 13:30 sharp.  We are delighted to report it received top marks from the attendees, who learned how to conduct an SEO site assessment, keyword research tactics, how to attract high-quality, authoritative links, how to gain valuable info through competitive research and solid tools and services to streamline SEO – just to name a few. Due to its enormous success, we plan to offer more specialised boot camps at future conferences.

110 delegates from 24 countries were welcomed by Martha de la Torre, CEO of El Clasificado and Chair of ICMA at the welcome reception on the top floor of the Intercontinental Prague. The location provided our delegates with panoramic views of the Old Town, Prague Castle and Vltava River. She also welcomed onboard our newest members, first time attendees, and thanked the associate members and vendors for their continued support of ICMA!

THURSDAY

Martha de la Torre kicked off Thursday morning highlighting the recent Nielsen Global Adview Pulse report on Global advertising trends. She mentioned that in the first six months of 2013 over $160.7 billion was spent on advertising worldwide, up by 2.8% from 2012.  Martha also followed up on the answer to the question she had asked in her welcome letter – where she shared the quote of a famous Czech – “If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.”  Congratulations to the winners of the Amazon gift cards, Ricardo Reyes from Newspan Media and Kirill Tripolski from Sanoma Baltics, who were the first to respond with the correct answer of Ray Kroc.

Peter Lamb took on the emcee role for the morning, welcoming ICMA members to provide a “sneak preview” into their businesses. Veli-Matti Vänninmaja, CEO & Jouni Lehti, Development Manager of NettiX Oy, Finland provided some solid statistics about the Finnish Marketplace, such as the growth of mobile usage by 400% during last six months, as well as an interesting preview into how, with a total of six employees, NettiX monetises without selling. Tim Scholte, CEO, Mascus (Netherlands), shared insights into his company’s successes.  With 3 million visits per month globally, Mascus is on a clear path to becoming the world-wide leader in the heavy used equipment marketplace.  Rob Paterson, MD, Erento (UK/Germany) discussed what makes his company so profitable, as well as some insights on where the rental industry is headed.

Heinz M. Schwyter, CEO of Homegate.ch (Switzerland) was on deck next, presenting the advanced marketing tools that moved his organisation from hunting to farming, offering a full list of services which allowed them to ‘move into the transaction’, allowing for the monetisation of their real estate classifieds.

After the first coffee break the delegates participated in one of three parallel sessions  – the Business Leaders’ Forum, the Business Operations Forum and the Sales Managers workshop.

Business Leaders’ Forum (BLF)

The BLF was chaired by Marja-Leena Tuomola, President, Sanoma Digital, who examined the growth of the marketplace for online advertising and why the money from print classifieds is not transforming online.  There were lots of tough questions asked and lots of conclusions made.  The BLF welcomed back a familiar face, Helmar Hipp, CEO of Ifolor Group, as well as Istvan Martis, Portfolio Director from Sanoma Media Hungary, who provided some solid insights into their respective marketplaces.

Carl Ferrer, CEO, Backpage.com, USA was nominated as chair for the ICMA Business Leaders’ Forum for the upcoming ICMA “Monetising Digital: Show Me The Money” conference taking place 21-24 May 2014 in Helsinki, Finland. He has accepted the nomination.

Business Operations Forum (BOF)

When looking into topics to cover for the BOF, one that continued to come forth was how to best use big data. Lukáš Čech, Web Analytics Heavy Lifter, Etnetera a.s., Czech Republic chaired this session, which defined objectives and KPIs, discussed data-driven activities and described key conventions.  Attendees also learned how to map the data sources, identify stakeholders and pick the right solutions.

Sales Managers Workshop (SMW)

The SMW was facilitated by Andrew Martin, Director Corporate Development, Borrell Associates (Canada).  The Sales Managers were divided into small groups and shared their experiences in leading a sales force in times of transformative changed in the media industries.

Thursday evening had the majority of delegates enjoying a complimentary drink on Click Performance Group’s sponsorship before boarding buses and heading towards the legendary brew hall U Fleku, which has housed a brewery since 1499.  Despite one bus leaving without any ICMA staff to direct them (well done Peter Lamb and AJ Lemke for being resourceful and leading the way to the brewery!) the evening was enjoyed by all – with live music, traditional Czech food and beer.

FRIDAY

MEMBERS MEETING

Martha de la Torre chaired the Members Meeting and discussed ICMA Head Office projects, highlighting the webinar series, the Future Leaders Network projects, the increase in membership fees, the current membership count and the recruitment plan to bring on new members and vendors for 2014.  The 2014 budget passed unanimously. Thank you to those who participated in this meeting. We continue to welcome any feedback and suggestions you have to improve upon the Association.  Please email shay(at)icmaonline.org.

PLENARY SESSIONS

Friday kicked off with a Keynote from Greg Sterling, Internet/Mobile Analyst, Sterling Market Intelligence from the USA, titled “The New Marketplace.”  Greg stressed the need to change the language in order to open up the discussion by focusing on the markets, market opportunities and solving buyer/seller problems.  Next up we welcomed Mirelle Bos, Manager, Kieskeurig.nl & Kieskeurig.be, who shared the astounding fact that a whopping 92% of consumers use product comparison sites, checking an average of 10.4 sources before they actually make a purchase online.

The second session of the day kicked off with a 2 minute sponsorship presentation from Moboom. Next up was David Blake, Social Selling Consultant from LinkedIn Ireland, who shared the WHOs, WHATs and HOWs of social selling.  Benedict Evans, Consultant at Enders Analysis from the UK arrived just in time to highlight some very interesting stats on how consumers are using mobile sharing.  One of many that stood out was the fact that in the UK in 2013, children between the ages of 12-15 sent 250 + SMSs, 175+ app- based messages, and made only 20 actual phone calls – per week! These astounding statistics help confirm ever-more that mobile is an essential part of business.

The “Shaping Your Future Vendor Workshops” took place in the ICMA lounge where our vendors  presented solid case studies in small group formats.  A good turnout and high ratings from the members and vendors ensure this offering is here to stay.

WORKSHOPS

The afternoon was taken up with five rotating round-table workshops covering the following subjects:  “Preparing your website for 2014,” last minute fill-in “KPI’s for the Boardroom,”  “All you need to know about legal mobile dating sites,”  “SEO skills,” and “Maximizing Facebook”. Delegates were invited to attend 3 of the 5.

Nikki Rae, Managing Director and Founder of Future Insight Analytics UK discussed the focus for classifieds analytics for 2014. Gillian Muessig, Co-Founder, MOZ USA jumped in for a last minute cancellation to facilitate the highly rated “KPIs for the Boardroom” workshop, sharing with the attendees the top activities in marketing and business development.  Marc Lesnick, Creator and Founder of the Internet Dating Conference USA, along with Nick Dovgopolyy from the Dating Factory based in the UK, facilitated the “…Legal mobile dating sites” workshop, sharing the advantages of a mobile website vs. mobile apps.  Evan Fishkin, Director of SEO for Microsoft in the USA ran the “SEO Skills” workshop, one of the highest rated of the conference and, as one attendee stated, “Evan made SEO fun!” Elias Chavando, Business Development Sr. Director from Loud Door USA ran another one of the top rated sessions of the conference, with delegates boasting numerous take-aways (additional sources of revenue a big one), from his “Maximising Facebook” workshop.

Friday night was left free for ICMA delegates to make their own plans, and it seems most enjoyed the Prague nightlife, and, er, morning life, to the fullest!

SATURDAY

Despite the majority of the delegates returning in the wee hours of the morning, David Benoliel,  Chief Revenue Officer, Avid Life Media (Canada), and his session on “AshleyMadison.com’s Secret to Success”, ensured we had a packed house. Delegates learned that the ‘freemium’ model plays a large part in the dating site’s ongoing popularity. Andrew Martin from Borrell Associates discussed the historical shifts in auto spending across each form of media, as well as the forecast for the next five years. To round off the morning sessions, Hassan van de Riet, Sales Director EMEA for ThreatMetrix (Netherlands) took to the lectern, sharing a case study featuring ICMA member Markt.de and top fraud fighting techniques.

The second session of the day welcomed Gillian Muessig, Co-founder & Founding President of MOZ, who inspired the delegates with her enthusiasm on how to become Classifieds 4.0. Some of her proposed tactics included the following: offering targeted, curated connections with ratings, reviews, 1 click to commerce, and robust communications management platforms.  We owe a debt of gratitude to yet another fill-in, Ondřej Čihař, Passionate Marketing Consultant, Etnetera a.s. from the Czech Republic, who spoke about fostering online customer loyalty. Wrapping up the general sessions for Prague was Katja Riefler, Principal and Director for EMEA, Aim Group (Germany), who shared revenue generating ideas; whether it be via offering premium services, up-selling for convenience, or exclusive services. Katja showed us that there are many ways to make ‘freemium’ revenue generating.

SHARING BEST PRACTICE

Sharing Best Practice scores again! The Business Leaders session had an overall score of 98%!  Technology received 95%, and Sales 91%. A sincere thank you to the ICMA Board of Directors, as well as Rob Paterson, Gabriela Martin del Campo, Amy Bowler, AJ Lemke and Adam Winter who facilitated each group’s discussions.

We are working to streamline this session for Helsinki – less metrics required as well as ensuring that those who register late can still join and benefit.  Please send any suggestions/ideas to shay(at)icmaonline.org.

GALA PARTY

Letenský zámeček provided stunning views over the city for the Prague Gala Party. Despite a bit of a wiggle on the make-shift staircase (we learned this was due to the city wanting to spend un-used tax revenues), the attendees enjoyed a lovely three course dinner accompanied by the best piano player in all of Prague! From Beatles to Beethoven, he tickled the ivories non-stop for 3 hours straight until the DJ kicked in and the dance floor heated up. This wasn’t the first (nor will it be the last) castle that the ICMA delegates will boogie the night away in!

We could not have put together such an outstanding conference in Prague without the help of the fantastic speakers, facilitators and chairpersons. Thank you!  A shout-out to the associate members and vendors for their continual support and for joining us in Prague. And a big thank you to the ICMA Future Leaders Network and the ICMA Board of Directors for all you do to ensure ICMA continues to be the leading global niche association!  And last but not least, a warm thank you to the ICMA membership – we wouldn’t be here without you!

We look forward to seeing you all again at the ICMA “Monetising Digital: Show me the Money” conference taking place 21-24 May in Helsinki, Finland. Be sure to save the date!

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