SEMrush Selfies: Paul Goes to SMX & 6 Steps To Growing Your Personal Network


Ray Kroc, one of the original cofounders of McDonald's, famously said:

The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.

After experiencing my share of failures, setbacks, and successes as a digital marketing strategist, if I could add one thing to Ray’s statement it would be, "…with the right person!"

But, how do you find the right person? If you are anything like me, when you first got started, you were all alone, pulling out your hair, trying to discover the perfect strategy to crush your competitors.

Well, I am here to tell you that this is not the quickest way to success as a digital marketing strategist.

Steve Jobs once said that, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” so, if you want to learn from my mistakes, and not fall victim to the same traps I did, then consider the advice of noted scientist and mathematician, Isaac Newton who recommends “standing upon the shoulders of giants” to advance your goals.

Come meet, network, and pick the brains of people who are actually thriving in business, and build the tools and services that give marketers and business owners, just like you, the power to do the same.

12 PM, on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 I hit the SMX East floor and after my trip to this prominent marketing conference in New York, I thought I would take a moment and reflect on my experiences and share some of the strategies I personally used to not only build my network of “giants,” but also make some great friends along the way!

Before revealing my insider secrets to the world of SEMrush readers, here is a picture of our wonderful booth and team at SEMrush.



Step 1: Make a List of Conferences and/or Events in Your Industry.

Being part of the SEMrush team, I can tell you first hand that the “giants” of our company always attend events, but like most great opportunities, the window to meet them is not open for long.

Eventually the event doors close, the booths vanish, and the “giants” are brought back home and locked away in the SEMrush den, promoting and supporting the suite of tools responsible for delivering life-changing results to marketers and business owners just like you.


Step 2: Make a List of Exhibitors and Presenters!

In the words of Warren Buffet, “The more you learn, the more you earn,” and as you know Mr. Buffet is easily one of, if not the most successful investment minds of the 20th century.

When coming to a great search engine marketing conference like SMX East, it is typically a good idea to prepare yourself for an educational experience before you even step foot onto the event floor.

With so many interesting people in attendance, these events can become quite lively, so it is a good idea to come prepared by planning and researching these two important factors ahead of time:

  1. Exhibitors and their product line. Larger events have hundreds of exhibitors, making it hard to stay focused and easy to lose track of your goals. (More on this in step 3)
  2. Speakers and workshops that peak your interest. Because there are so many workshops at these types of events, I recommend that you take a deeper look into their websites and make a list of everything that captures your interest.

Click here to see a list of workshops that were available at SMX East 2015.

The table at the bottom of this post will give you more insight into the events that our own Director of Marketing, Michael Stricker, will be attending and speaking at this year!

So, if you have any questions for the man in charge of all the marketing efforts at SEMrush, the events would be a great opportunity to ask them directly!


Step 3: Prepare to be a Social Butterfly

Photo taken atthe Bruce Clay, Inc. booth. Twitter: @BruceClayInc


Remember, one of most important value propositions of a conference or event is networking and relationship building, so don’t be shy; simply walk over to anyone, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation about your interests. That’s the secret to finding like-minded people!

To transform myself into a "social butterfly," I simply stack up on lots of energy by consuming large volumes of caffeinated teas and coffee!

You’re going to need every little bit energy you can get to keep up with all of the activities available at these seminars.

I know; it’s not very scientific, but it works!

Photo taken with our amazing Pro and Guru SEMrush users.


More amazing Pro and Guru SEMrush users! Sean McQuide and Michael Bartholow. Twitter: @seanmcquaide and @michaelb3600


Step 4: Create a “Goal” For Each Event or Conference You Attend


Once you activate your Energizer bunny following the process I lay out in step 3, get ready to run around, mingle and build friendships with some really smart people.

Remember, the connections you make in this step are of the utmost importance, as they will pave the way for growth in your career for many years to come.

It is said that success hinges on “whom” you know, not “what” you know, but I like to think that both carry an equal amount of weight in developing a winning strategy and successful business. Here is a list of sample goals you can set:

  1. Find a like-minded rock star marketer that you can connect with, and bounce some ideas around over Skype, Google Hangout or at local meet-ups.
  2. Discover new products or services that can give you a competitive edge, put your business into complete overdrive and help you crush your competition!
  3. Introduce yourself as a potential partner or consultant by engaging in discussions about business problems. So many people come to events seeking products, services, and people to help solve their business issues, so take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge by offering solutions to problems.
  4. See if you can set a few information only interviews with some potential clients and business. You never know what this type of networking might shake loose once you get recognized by the grape vine.

One of my favorite books regarding the topic of “relationship building” is “How To Win Friends & Influence People” – By Dale Carnegie.


In the case of my visit to SMX East, my goals were to make some great friends, and find potential webinar partners so we can continue making great educational webinars for all of you.

Whatever your goal is, I recommend you define it and make it clear!

Step 5: Define Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and Start the Conversation

Photo Taken AtThe Webcertain Group Booth. Twitter: @WebCertain


Because events are typically very chaotic, with hundreds of people walking the hall, it becomes a great place to start a conversation, but not necessarily the best place to continue one.

By using the following 3-step process you can start a conversation quickly, and incentivize the continuation of that conversation at a later time, and in a more appropriate environment.

1: Introduce either yourself or your business.

Tell Stories. People never forget a good story! They will forget everything else, but never a great story! Every business and person has a yarn to spin, so bring yours out and tell it.

For more information, check out one of my favorite books by Joseph Campbell, "The Hero With A Thousand Faces," one of the inspirations behind George Lucas’s Star Wars screenplay.


2.Create an opening loop

At the end of your story create an opening loop with a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), and make sure to include a call to action, so they know exactly how to follow up on the conversation!

An “opening loop” is when you tell a person the first part of the story, and then leave them to anticipate the conclusion that is revealed much later.

If you ever watched a TV series, you see them all the time in the ending trailers, enticing you into tuning in for next week’s episode.

A call to action can be as simple as handing someone your business card, and setting a time to reconnect via email or phone.

Here is an example “loop” that I used at SMX East!

Following the story format I told every exhibitor a bit about my role in SEMrush, and how I came to work there. This only took me two minutes to do!

Then, after building some rapport, I started to probe into their business concerns to see if they have the qualifications to make a potentially great content partner for a webinar.

After all, we only want the best strategies, and top experts to engage our users.

Here is my “USP (Unique Selling Proposition)”

In exchange for some free exposure on our blog they allowed me to take a photo with them in the booth, and even requested that I email them a link to both the article and photo when it’s live.

The proposition to take the photo was unique, as no one else was doing it. The real selling proposition was the content partnerships; but let’s looks at the end result to see how it all flows together.

The End Result:

Now every exhibitor knows who I am, and not only expect an email from me, but is waiting for it!

Suddenly I’ve become a “welcome guest” in their inbox rather than a pest when emailing them. Perfectly positioning me to extend the conversation in any way that I want! In my case, I will email each exhibitor with the promised photo and this post and guide the discussion to a potential content partnership that we started discussing at the event.

Check out our past webinars here ⇒

We had some amazing partners!

Here is my strategy in action!

Photo Taken AtThe Microsoft Bing Booth: Twitter: @bing


Photo Taken at the SimilarWeb Booth: Twitter: @SimilarWeb


Photo Taken At The Yext Booth: Twitter: @yext


Photo Taken at the SweetIQ Booth: Twitter: @MySweetiQ


Photo Taken at the "THEHOTH" Booth: Twitter: @the_hoth



Photo Taken at the Jumpshot Booth: Twitter: @jumpshotinc


Photo Taken at the seoClarity Booth: Twitter: @seoClarity Photo11_665_Clarity_SEO

Photo Taken at the Linkdex Booth: Twitter: @Linkdex


Photo Taken at the aimClear Booth: Twitter: @aimclear


Photo Taken at theYP (YellowPages) Booth: Twitter: @YP


Photo Taken at the Marchex Booth: Twitter: @MarchexPhoto17_665

Photo Taken at the New Jupiter Media: Twitter: @NewJupiterMediaPhoto18_665

Photo Taken at the Analytics SEO Booth: Twitter: @analyticsseoPhoto19_665

Photo Taken at the SEO PowerSuite Booth: Twitter: @SEOPowerSuite_1


Photo Taken at the Page One Power Booth: Twitter: @pageonepower


Photo Taken at the BKA Content Booth: Twitter: @bkacontent


Photo Taken at the Majestic Booth: Twitter: @MajesticSEO


Photo Taken at the Textbroker Booth: Twitter: @TextBrokerPhoto27_665_textBroker

Photo Taken at the Automated Insights Booth: Twitter: @AInsights


Photo Taken at Brafton's Booth: Twitter: @Brafton


Photo Taken at Invoca's Booth: Twitter: @Invoca


Photo Taken at the Connectivity Booth: Twitter: @ConnectivityInc


Photo Taken at the gShift Web Presence Analytics Booth: Twitter: @gShiftLabs


Photo Taken by the @getSTAT team during the setup of the STAT SearchAnalytics Booth:


Photo Taken at Moment Feed's Booth: Twitter: @MomentFeed


Photo Taken at Acquisio's Booth: Twitter: @acquisio


Photo Taken By @HeatherLutze At The @google Booth: AdWords Product Manager Q&A Panel Google_Heather_001

Step 6: Remember The Follow Up

The last step is to write the email based on the process in step 3. This could be something as simple as a short note extending your gratitude for speaking with you at the conference and sharing their experiences, to delivering an offer of services. It all depends on how productive your initial meeting was, and how good your salesmanship is.It’s that easy!

Bonus Step: The Hidden Value Proposition

The last bonus step is called the “hidden value proposition” because some of my closest friends and the best digital marketing strategists I know were not discovered on the event floor, but on the outskirts.

Here is how to "work" the outskirts:

1: Your first step is to make a list of “after parties” outside the conference.

Most conferences/events have some kind of “after hours” or “after party” option. SMX East had “SMX Meet & Greet” at the social bar.

If you reviewed step 4, and point 3, and want to demonstrate your value by offering solutions to people’s business problems, then this is a great place to do that and make some great friends along the way.

You can also learn a lot! Strategies you never even knew existed. Stuff hardly anyone is even talking about online, including in training, and speaking about at workshops.

2: Ask conference attendees and exhibitors on the conference hall about any and all known “after parties.” Many great marketing companiesand marketers hold and attend "private, invite only" after parties. You may need to find poetic ways to get an invite, but ask the question first. It’s super powerful!

3: Look around the exhibit center where the event is held.

SMX East In New York was held in the beautifulJacob Javits Convention Center with large cafeterias, a Starbucks and comfortable seating arrangement.

By simply stepping out of the conference hall during workshops, and even event hours, you will find some amazing marketers right outside running advertising campaigns, and talking strategy!

Here is a photo of Michael Stricker (right) at a “SMX Meet & Greet”


If you are interested in meeting some of the giants behind, simply reference our SEMrush event schedule below.

I sincerely hope you have found this information useful, and hope you will attend one of our exciting events soon!

I would love to meet you!

National Retail Federation ⇒ Philadelphia, PA October 5th - 7th Pubcon ⇒ Las Vegas, NV October 5th - 9th ASCEND ⇒ Philadelphia, PA October 19th - 20th Conductor C3 ⇒ New York, October 28th - 29th ad:tech New York, November 4th - 5th Ungagged ⇒ Las Vegas, NV November 9th - 11th Internet Summit Raleigh Raleigh, NC November 18th - 19th Digital Summit Dallas Dallas, TX December 8th - 9th

Goodbye SMX East! See you next year!



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