Thoughts on 18 Months with SEMPO

I’m noticing my blogging will power is directly related to my current slate of activities. October has been a busy month for me, with travel and some different initiatives here at Enquiro. As much as I try to schedule some time to post some thoughts, I keep finding things getting pushed back. I’ve got a file crammed with stuff to review to see if it’s comment worthy.

A quick update is certainly in order though. Two weeks ago I was at SEMPO’s planning retreat in New York. I have to give a shout out to Dana Todd and the BOD both last year and this year. The organization is making substantial progress on many fronts and has come a long way. Now, this is to take nothing away from the original board. You know, I was one of the ones that criticized some of those early decisions. As I’ve said in numerous interviews, I don’t think the story of SEMPO is that of revolution but rather evolution. Barbara Coll and the original board got the job done. They got SEMPO off the ground, they build some incredibly valuable relationships and they laid the foundation for the organization as it currently sits. You don’t get an industry organization off the ground in a climate as charged as the search marketing industry without rubbing some people the wrong way. And sure, there were strong personalities on both sides..that’s what makes this business fun. But you know what? There are many who would have thrown in the towel and said this ain’t worth it. Barbara stuck in and handed over a fully functional organization to last year’s board. It was an organization that was still defining itself, but it was well off the ground. I for one don’t think Barb ever got the recognition she deserved for that.

The other part of the SEMPO story is that we all had different expectations for what the organization would become. Some wanted it to police SEO’s, some wanted it to be a lead generator, and some just wanted parties and free booze. As the organization has evolved, those disconnects in expectations have largely corrected themselves. Where the disconnect was too great, members have gone their own way. But the majority of members have learned, as has SEMPO, and we’ve found middle ground. Do we have it perfect yet? Not by a long shot, but we’re trying to do more things right than wrong.

SEMPO is finding its voice and building its franchise. Our State of the Market Survey is in its third year as we’re working towards launch. We had full participation of the major publishers this year, as they recognize that this has become the definitive year over year snapshot of the industry. We’re launched a scaled back version for the European Market. We’re working with Fair Isaac on the Click Fraud issue, again with the participation of the major engines, to try to get a fair estimation of the scope of the problem through an objective third party. And, perhaps most importantly, we’re forging strong relationships between the engines and search marketers, and to attempt to democratize those relationships, opening up the communication lines with smaller shops who may not be handling the budgets to give them a guaranteed ear with the Googles, MSN’s and Yahoo’s of the world.

There will always be the inevitable comments about SEMPO board members doing this for their own benefit. Having been on both sides of this comment, I have my own perspective, which I’m happy to share. There is certainly no monetary reward, and I put in about 20 to 30 hours a month on various SEMPO tasks as the Chair and as the Research Chair. Do I get some increased exposure? Probably, but to be honest, I get a lot more exposure through Enquiro’s research initiatives (something I have to start devoting more time too). The biggest benefit I receive from being on the board is the networking opportunities. Participation with SEMPO has allowed me to meet some interesting people, both at the engines and at other agencies.

A year and a half ago, I was one of the ones bitching in the hallways of SES. I made a choice: either keep bitching from the outside, or jump in and get involved. In the past 18 months, I was able to accomplish some of the things I wanted to do, but I also got the chance to have my perspective changed a bit. These are good, smart people, doing good, smart things. They’re making a difference in this industry. my soap box. I’m going to turn comments on for a little bit. Feel free to let me know your perspective on SEMPO..good or bad. You have the Chair’s ear.

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