Nearshore Americas

5 Marketing Lessons from SXSW Interactive

By Fernando Labastida

I just spent five days at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, a conference that focuses on emerging technologies such as social media, web 2.0, development tools, cutting edge marketing and startups.

It’s a wild and woolly cornucopia of ideas, networking, presentations and parties.

As somebody who is in the business of helping nearshore software development companies market themselves to U.S. buyers, I am always on the lookout for new ideas to help generate awareness and bring in customers. Since SXSW provided too many great ideas to list here, I narrowed down what I learned into five key lessons that Nearshore providers can implement in their businesses.

1. Think like a startup

SXSW Interactive is THE conference for startups. Many of them launched their products right there at the festival, or participated in the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator, or their founders were panelists in one of the 400 or so presentations.

The one determining characteristic of all startups is their resourcefulness. Most startups these days are not flush with millions in venture funding like their counterparts in the late 90s, so they have become really good at doing a lot with a little. There are many creative tactics to employ, such as holding social media contests, sponsoring free food for event goers, and of course handing out freebies to everybody.

However, my favorite is creative PR. Startups are great at getting noticed by the press, and have figured out low-cost to no-cost ways to do that. A group of local Austin entrepreneurs, known as the 5 Kilts Guys, paraded around the city during SXSW wearing kilts to promote local Austin businesses to conference goers. Crazy? Maybe. Effective: yes. They got national exposure through an article on

Action item: Brainstorm creative ways you can generate buzz or press attention. Maybe wearing a kilt is a little too much for you, but the possible ideas are endless and as a Nearshore provider you can use this to your benefit.

2. Practice real-time marketing

One of the great things about South by Southwest Interactive: you can watch presentations by complete unknowns, or by famous authors. I was pleasantly surprised that David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, and Real-Time Marketing & PR was presenting.

Scott discussed lessons from his book Real-Time Marketing. His best real-time marketing example came from the high-tech world. When Oracle announced the acquisition of Market2Lead through a press release, Eloqua, an email marketing provider and competitor of Market2Lead, immediately wrote a blog post about it. The post got higher Google results than the press release itself, and stole Oracle’s thunder. The lesson learned: monitor news events in real-time, and be ready to pounce on any relevant news item to benefit your company. Google will treat you very well.

And does it work? Scott cited the following figures: 28% of the Fortune 100 practice real-time marketing. Their stock went up 3%. Those that didn’t had a stock drop of 2%.

Action item: Set up real time social media monitoring and Google alerts for your competitors and other important organizations or key words in your industry, and be ready to act. Word of caution: get rid of strict corporate editorial policies. They’re for the dinosaur age, and can keep you from being a nimble, flexible company.

3. Practice ‘social espionage’

Umberto Milletti, CEO of CRM tool InsideView, gave a great presentation on “Social Espionage”. This is not the web 2.0 term for industrial espionage. It’s completely different, and very valuable, especially if you want to sell Nearshore services in the U.S. Market. Social espionage means doing your homework on your prospects. Why is this necessary? Your prospects are extremely busy, and guard their time jealously. Any interruption from a sales person, no matter how useful the product or service, is seen as an annoying interruption from the executives’ huge to-do list.

However, if you research your prospects and find out what their hot buttons are, you will be armed with information that can help you help your prospects. Read your prospects’ Twitter feeds, Facebook comments, or LinkedIn profiles. In my case, I was researching a prospect on LinkedIn and noticed the VP of Marketing stated in his profile: “2011 is the year for content!”. That was my cue to contact the prospect and offer him my services.

Action item: Make it a habit to research your potential customers through social media channels, and find a way to integrate this information into your CRM tool.

4. Be pointy

The young 20-something founders of today’s startups are funny. Being ‘pointy’ was the phrase co-founder Caleb Elston used to describe “focusing on a niche.” Despite the success of sites like Facebook and Twitter that can be many things to many people, smart startups like Yobongo focus on a particular niche in the market that they can dominate.

This is a valuable lesson for Nearshore software developers. With so many companies providing generally the same types of services, it’s hard to differentiate yourself. However, there are companies that are doing it. Firms like Globant specialize in new media types of applications, such as gaming and consumer experience. Colombian developer Koombea specializes in ruby-on-rails development.

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Action item: Determine what your specialty or niche is, and focus your company. Reduce the number of services you provide, don’t expand it. Become the expert in your niche. U.S. customers prefer experts, not generalists.

5. Do video

I attended a great session called “Cage Match: Social vs. Video,” comparing the pros and cons of video and text-driven social media. The takeaway? You’ve got to add video to your marketing mix. As stated during the session, 65% of us are visual learners. If you ignore video, you’re ignoring 65% of your potential customers who would prefer to watch a video than read your white paper or blog post.

Another thing to consider: decision-makers are changing. 30 and 40-something IT executives prefer video over their older counterparts.

Action item: Create videos for some of your important messages, such as thought leadership content and testimonials.

Fernando Labastida is the owner of Latin IT Marketing, a content marketing consultancy helping Latin American software and nearshore providers successfully enter the US market. Check out his other article for Nearshore Americas on how LatAm outsourcers can use social media to their advantage here.

Tarun George

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