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Old 08-02-2004   #1
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SEMPO Meeting at SES San Jose 2004

There has been some interesting discussion in the Mike Grehan Stirs Up SEMPO Controversy thread. It might just be the most popular topic in this forum to date. The moderators at SEW have decided to close that thread and start a new one based on SEMPO's response. Let me first summarize the issues brought up in the SEW thread.

- Barbara's salary
- Lake of communication to members
- What is SEMPO doing for the industry?
- SEMPO's goals are unclear
- Board member elections
- the list goes on

Please check out the Mike Grehan Stirs Up SEMPO Controversy thread for more details.

I will follow up this post with my coverage on SEMPO's San Jose 2004 meeting at SES. Feel free to continue the discussion at this thread based on my notes from the members only meeting. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
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Old 08-02-2004   #2
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SEMPO Meeting Notes

First, they checked everyone who walked in to make sure they are a SEMPO member - this was not done at the Chicago meeting. They locked and closed the doors right when they started. The room is packed, a lot more members since the last meeting I attended in Chicago in December 2003.

Dana Todd said we are going to be very formal but hold all questions until the end. Lots of tension in the air. She introduced Barbara Coll as our fearless leader. Coll started off stating that she has looked back and SEMPO accomplishments and she is proud of what is done.

- Formed a 501c(6)
- 249 members
- 9 press releases (half a million impressions from this)
- numerous mentions online and offline
- sempo site referenced often as a resource.

She says UK is the second largest member base. She talks about how to improve international awareness. Raise awareness of SEM is a goal of year two. They launched an advertising campaign today which they will go into later. Lobbying for SEM panels at advertising and marketing conferences to get SEMPO mentioned (example AdTech had one SEM panel and next time they will have 5 panels). Press campaigns. The new SEMPO tag line is "Top of Search = Top of Mind." SEMPO has 50+ volunteers, 9 subcommittees (they want someone in the UK, they need someone to stand up and do it), interim executive director role established, new committees and new chairs and they still need more resources. They promised to clean up their act in member communications. They said it was an oversight and they apologize. In March they looked at the budget and saw they can afford an executive director. She said that in March they decided to hire an interim executive director. The board offered to pay Barbara for 2 hours per day ($300/hour) because she was really spending 5 hours per day. They are going to bring someone new in but she is just temporary. They are going to ask us who we want to have as our board. She said, "there was no reason for not telling you (sempo members), they were sloppy." Barbara doesn't want to be in this role, they want someone with experience with non-profits to run it. But they can not afford a $350,000 salary but they will do their best.

They raised $266,830 to date. Members bring in 77% of the income and sponsors only bring in 23%. They admit they are not good at creating value for their members.

Year One Accomplishments:
- They established themselves
- Research started
- Marketing plan and campaign outlines
- Formal budget for 04-05
- Press and visibility worldwide
- SEMPO public site
- Member site with job listings, RFP postings and restricted content
- Discounts on tools, research and conferences.

Year Two Goals:
- Better membership communications
- Executive Director hire no later then December 04
- Public elections
- Staggered replacement/election for BOD in 2005
- Offline ads
- Heavy press activities
- Defining Best Business Practices
- Increase membership by 100%
- Increase sponsorship by 200%

That covers Barbara's speech, she introduces Dan Boberg from Overture.

Dan Boberg from Overture: He discussed overture's network and product suite. They support SEM (were the first to support SEMs) and they support SEMPO. Overture has an "Ambassador Program", and about ten of the reps stood up to show they are here. He introduced them all and told us how to work with them for more info.

Darrin Rayner from Verizon SuperPages was next up, they are a new SEMPO sponsor. I personally don't have a good history with Verizon SuperPages or AOL Yellow Pages, they just did not perform for me. But that doesn't mean it won't perform for you. They joined SEMPO to get feedback from us and they know they are far from where they need to be to make it worthwhile for SEMs. They want to develop a communication with us to build a better product. Verizon says they power local search (i.e. MSN local). In March 2004 they launched a new site with natural search, category taxonomy and more. They clapped him off the stage because we all want to hear from SEMPO more, not Verizon.

Dana Todd now is discussing the marketing committee. They created a creative platform and marketing strategy. They defined their target audience as marketing decision makers and budget controllers. They built a new tag line. The 2004 budget for marketing is $110,000. They advertising flight schedule is Aug. 1 - Sept. 30 for first wave tests and Sept. 1 - Nove. 15 for second wave ads. the venues are AdWeek/Brandweek/MediaWeek, ClickZ Network, CoolNews, Other considerations such as fortune and others. They showed us their banner ads for AdWeek and other areas. They developed quite a few creatives, all from volunteers. They need (1) more money, (2) print ads, direct mail, (3) need more volunteers, (4) need new content for site, (5) make banners for members to put on their site, (6) members to do "booth duty", and (7) an international campaign "desired" in 2005.

Research Committee discussion from Rick Bruner (Executive Summary Consulting). We pay this guy to do our research, he does research for Amex, Gillette, MSN, etc. Key research objectives include size the search marketing section, distribution of industry spending, key industry trends, and key industry issues SEMPO should address.

SEMPO Japan, they call him 'K' (Koichiro Fukasawa) from Wasabi communications. He is launching the SEMPO Japan committee. She discussed the size of the Japan market (in 2004 $300 million so far and growing). Internet popularity is growing as well. Japan needs SEMPO because they are lacking information. http://www.sempo.jp/ to be launched the 19th of this month.

Barbara is going to complete the session with a finance discussion. Financials will posted through March 30, 04 on the Web site. Budget Q3 and Q4 will be broken out mostly to infrastructure and marketing. Three board members will be elected by members and we will be emailed next week. They want people to step up and elect themselves.

Q & A Now managed by Noel:

Q: What are members getting in return from the membership fees?
A: Noel responded saying that if your asking what is in it for me, then your missing the point of SEMPO. What you put into SEMPO is what you get. Dana Todd said that you are posting in forums but tell us what you want. Coll asked how many of you feel we did something, she asked for applause and she got them.

Q: Is SEMPO thinking about "collaborative marketing"?
A: It seemed to me that the panel were surprised, they said "they loved it". They now welcome it.

Some more statements were made to support sempo but nothing too interesting to note on.

Q: Barry Lloyd was given the mic. Does SEMPO have a constitution or by-laws? Do the members have a say in that?
A: SEMPO does have by-laws that were signed off in March. They couldn't afford an attorney so they are not so professional. They want to improve them.

Barbara is going to close the meeting. She said she admits she was nervous. Give us feedback she says, it will make for a better organization.
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Old 08-02-2004   #3
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Exclamation

Hello, there. Yes, here is my feedback.

Why we have to findout about this Netapplications.com endorsement in which she is quoted as wearing two hats in a marketing promo?

http://www.netapplications.com/sempo/

They are using the following marketing material and I quote:

"Private Label Programs for SEMPO Members

"As a Co-Branded Reseller of Hitslink I can extend my brand by offering this indispensable product to my clients. They trust WebMama.com as their search engine marketing firm to recommend tools like website statistics to ensure that their marketing campaigns are succeeding." Barbara Coll, CEO of WebMama.com (www.webmama.com) & President of Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (www.sempo.org). "

Note they are quoting this as an endorsement of Barbara Coll, by name and by the two hats she wears. They also add this to the marketing material and I quote:

"As a SEMPO member, when you sign up as a private label partner you get a free stats account to use for your own business.* See below for details..."

Again, why SEMPO let a commercial site to play the branding game involving WebMama.com and SEMPO names and let her use the two hats in the above promo? We found out webmama.com also has a business relationship with netapplications and the endorsed product. (http://webmama.hitslink.com/support.aspx)

Sloppy, lack of judgement? I bet is conflict of interests and self-promotion. The industry does not need this kind of temporary leadership. She must resign, the sooner the better. Do we have to keep digging and finding things like these? I'm sure SEMPO members can spot better leadership within the audience. Someone at SEMPO please, step in, now.

Orion

Last edited by orion : 08-02-2004 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 08-02-2004   #4
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For some reason, the majority of the sempo members are not as upset as you are. There was an overwhelming sign of support for Barbara Coll and the current board. The board did however make sure to point out that there will be a new board elected by the members. They also said the need to replace Coll with an experienced person who can run a non-profit.
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Old 08-02-2004   #5
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Rusty, I'm upset at the facts that are outthere, no more, no less. Feel free to revisit the links provided. I accept their decision and respect it.

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Old 08-02-2004   #6
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I am not arguing with you, they were not 'diplomatic' decisions made by "SEMPO's fearless leader'. But its a new role for her and its obviously a position she should not be in at this point. I am pretty sure she understands this and looking to get out asap. But she can't just step out without having someone to step in. (maybe she can but I personally think that would be a bad decision for the betterment of SEMPO's future)

I think threads like these have helped SEMPO greatly.
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Old 08-02-2004   #7
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Rusty, I know you are not arguing.

The outcome sounds reasonable to me. I applaud this outcome and give her credit for stepping down in the near future. I also give you credit.


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Old 08-03-2004   #8
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Quote:
The room is packed, a lot more members since the last meeting I attended in Chicago in December 2003.

...

- 249 members
Quote:
the majority of the sempo members
From your estimate then, most of the members were at the meeting?
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Old 08-03-2004   #9
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Orion, I shy away from making an opinion on SEMPO, so I deserve no credit.

Steve, there were obviously non-members allowed it. When I walked in, they stopped me to make sure I was a member (they had a list and checked my badge). Maybe they also allowed "press", "exhibitors" and others in. Maybe people stopped manning the door. I don't know.

I just report what I saw.
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Old 08-03-2004   #10
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I wasn't trying to make any point to you, rustybrick - just to get a picture (for example, if most SEMPO members attended the meeting and if the majority of SEMPO members attend an SES in California).

Thanks for your report.
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Old 08-03-2004   #11
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Steve, I really don't know. "SEMPO Only meeting" but there were more then 300 people in the room (at least I think there were). Is that possible based on there only being ~250 members? Obviously not. So they must of let others in. I hope someone else who was there can comment on this.
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Old 08-03-2004   #12
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It may be that these early shortcoming were merely errors of judgement by inexperienced but well intentioned individuals but the plugs for the individual businesses seem to continue even in the latest Press Releases. This is not the hallmark of a professional organizations who will often provide a biography of a person when they are appointed to a position, but do not continue to provide links to that persons company in Press Releases etc.

In my opinion I see SEMPO setting themselves up as the voice for the entire SEM community, but having a membership of perhaps less than 1% of that community, and being perceived by many in that community as an organization mostly to foster the affairs of the top circle members. Having closed meetings does not help this impression at all, and what is the point if there is nothing to hide? How do they expect to attract new members if thier meetings are not open to all?

I sincerely hope that SEMPO can reinvent itself into an organization which serves all in the community it purports to represent, and this IMO will require that all memberships and privelges are offered on an equal opportunity basis.

I agree that Ms Coll is to be applauded for the beginnings that have been made, but I really doubt that setting her salary on a $300 per hour basis is rational at all. This would equate to $624,000 per year for a full time position, and this is simply unreasonable for a nonprofit organization with 249 members. Anyone competent company manager would have no trouble at all filling this position (full time) at a salary well below $100,000 per year, so IMO this is either incompent management or profiteering.
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Old 08-03-2004   #13
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Well said, Mel.

Great reports, Barry -- thanks for being the eyes and ears for all who can't be there. Perhaps it's a good thing this all hit the proverbial fan in many forums, because it sounds like there wasn't much of a stink raised in person....

Quote:
Noel responded saying that if your asking what is in it for me, then your missing the point of SEMPO.
See, that's the problem. Seems like many in the industry don't see the point of SEMPO, other than to benefit those who are in SEMPO. Kind of a Catch-22. They need to either REALLY focus on serving the industry as a whole, or change the mission statement to become a group that benefits its members.

Quote:
Give us feedback she says, it will make for a better organization.
Well, feedback alone won't do anything. Action will. Transparency, communication, integrity, focus on serving all -- the meeting is over and now it's time for deeds. I really do hope SEMPO can flourish for everyone's benefit and that these are just growing pains.
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Old 08-03-2004   #14
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Originally Posted by Mel
I agree that Ms Coll is to be applauded for the beginnings that have been made, but I really doubt that setting her salary on a $300 per hour basis is rational at all.
Hi There - I went to the meeting. It is $150.00 per hour at a maximum of 2 hours a day for Barbara. Just to clarify.

In my impression, the meeting was chaotic. I attended several sessions where speakers where very eloquent and well organized. This was not the case at this meeting. Maybe I am just new to Internet Trade groups (as they coin Sempo). I am not sure.

I do appreciate B. Coll acknowledging that she does not have a strong background in starting up a non profit org and that she does not want to be the Executive Director.

I do think, perhaps the original board. may have been the right "Face" people to get the organization going, but at this point, the organization's image is at a crux. There has been no Due Diligence, the $ in your face deal, is just ugly. Forcing people to applaud in a meeting is just weird in my opinion.

But, that said, all in all, I think if they have the time, to focus on a well thought out transition, perhaps, Sempo can be a great trade association for this industry. That is yet to be seen, but they have asked for help and the question is will they take it without resentment.

Again about the $ thing, it was everywhere. No money, can you give me money, no money for lawyers, I had to get paid as I was working too many hours ... blah, blah, blah. This is highly unprofessional for a 1 year anniversary meeting that was subject to a fairly major scandal. This meeting should have been conducted and coordinated with the so called new Go Forward Attitude, not the past attitude. And that it was not!! But ... time will tell and I wish them the best.

Short of a back link, it is not a group that I would say, give Sempo a call and they can provide you with all the research, details and more related to the professionals and SEM. Frankly, I think if I did that I would lose a potential client. Sorry, just being honest.

Happy back in Tahoe with my pups and I hope to Go Forward very soon on this one.

Last edited by bethabernathy : 08-03-2004 at 03:02 AM.
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Old 08-03-2004   #15
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Thanks for the updates Barry and Beth. Sincerely.

Barry - why don't you offer your services as official minute taker to Sempo? The more I think about it, the more annoying it is that Sempo hold meetings - and appears to have the attitude that 'if you weren't there - you don't care'. I'll be waiting with baited breath to see if there are any minutes of this meeting emailed to members - especially non USA based members.

Why don't Sempo hold their next meeting at the 2005 Sydney Australia Search Engine Summit conference?
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Old 08-03-2004   #16
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The more I think about it, the more annoying it is that Sempo hold meetings - and appears to have the attitude that 'if you weren't there - you don't care'.
Very apparent at this meeting, move the ownership of the problem onto your members. It is almost text book. There is a nice Coyote howling outside my window.

Last edited by bethabernathy : 08-03-2004 at 03:37 AM. Reason: typo - trying to fall asleep after the 4 hour drive
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Old 08-03-2004   #17
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Bit of a disparity there, Rustys notes say 2 hours per day at $300 per hour and you are saying 2 hours per day at $150 Per Hour, but regardless even at the $150 per hour rate that is exhorbitant for any non profit with less than 250 members, and which has raised a total of just over $250,000 as its total income for the year, so at least 30% of its total income goes to paying for the services of a part time CEO.

I know of no well run business or non profit who spend 30 % of thier total income on salary for the CEO. By way of comparasion that would work out to a CEOs salary of $300,000,000 based on Googles projected 2004 earnings, and even if you divide that among the three top officers you can be sure they are not spending money like that.
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Old 08-03-2004   #18
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rustybrick, nice job on the reporting of the meeting. Thanks for doing that.

It seems like all they really are going to do is try to communicate better. Frankly is sounds like the same underlying problems spelled out by Mike will still exist.

>>by-laws

Good to know they actually have some. By-laws should have, at least, been posted in a members area on the website immediately after ratification. No excuses - those by-laws belong to the members not just the annointed few. By-laws can tell members all sorts of things about an organization. (Gee, and they say they need content...)

Quote:
Q: Is SEMPO thinking about "collaborative marketing"?
What do they mean by collaborative marketing?
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Old 08-03-2004   #19
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Year Two Goals:
<snip>
- Defining Best Business Practices
What do they mean by this, how do they propose to go about it, and what will they they do with it?
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Old 08-03-2004   #20
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And what will become of those members who fail to meet the standards set by such definitions?
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