Dominic Bird

Recent Posts by Dominic Bird

How to create an effective messaging strategy for a virtual event

Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. Questions remain around how long it will take to get the in-person event components up and running again, but one thing is for certain: digitally enabled events are no longer a temporary solution until in-person events return. A sizeable chunk of events in 2021 will surely remain virtual, potentially with some never returning to large scale in-person equivalents.

It is therefore time for marketers to confidently move forward with communicating the value of these events to their audience. We’ve observed a trend of event organisers viewing virtual events as ‘damage limitation’ – something to retain their audience and revenue until things return to normal. This mindset permeates the organisation, and can lead to marketing messages that are almost apologetic of the virtual format, ignoring the very real benefits digital offers.

In this blog we share how to create an effective messaging strategy for digital events. The fundamentals we outline aren’t exclusive to virtual events – they can be applied to hybrid, in-person and even subscription and membership offerings.

 


How to construct a messaging strategy

There are 6 key concepts involved in successful messaging. Use these as guiding principles when putting together your marketing strategy and you’ll be able to consistently push out comms that engage, excite and convert.

1. Relevancy

This is about hitting the right people, in the right place, at the right time and – crucially – with the right message. Missing the mark on any of these 4 ‘pillars of relevancy’ will hamper the effectiveness of your messaging. To understand how to create relevant comms, ask yourself: What is keeping my audience awake at night – right now? What important and current problem(s) of theirs does our event solve? What are we helping them achieve that is hugely valuable and important – now or in the near future?

2. Positioning

Your audience will have a very particular perception of your brand and product. The position of your brand in their minds, when compared to other events and information sources competing for your attention, will have a huge impact on how they engage with your event. You need to ensure your USP (unique selling points) and benefits of attending your event very clearly position your event as ‘must attend’.

3. Brevity

The objective of any piece of messaging is to communicate something. The faster and more concisely you communicate your message, the more effective it will be. In the digital world, attention spans are short and distractions are aplenty. In simple terms: construct messaging that gets to the point fast and leaves readers in no doubt of what you’re trying to say, and what action they should take.

4. Holism

No communication should ever be written in isolation. Your marketing efforts consist of various touchpoints – from a single social post to your website itself – where your audience will interact with your product and brand. Consider how your messaging at different touch points work together to tell the story of your event and create a consistent view of your brand/product and its benefits.

5. Repetition

This doesn’t mean making all your comms identical. Instead, clearly define what your USPs and benefits are and agree a consistent way of presenting them. ‘The rule of 7’ dictates that people must see your message at least 7 times before they fully process and accept it, so bake in your core benefits messaging to all comms.

6. Keep it consistent and simple

Combine all of the above into a formalised messaging strategy captured in an accessible, centralised document. This will allow you and your team to agree on what your key benefits are, how they should be communicated and what tone of voice best fits the brand. A simple messaging strategy structure consists of 3 parts: who your audience is (what’s relevant), who your competitors are (what’s different) and what the messaging should contain (USPs and benefits).

Understanding these points will naturally improve your messaging. A simple, concise and specific message that ‘hits the mark’ with what matters most to your reader right now will beat a generic, verbose message that shows you don’t understand them.


Messaging for virtual events

The important first step in forming messaging for virtual events is to avoid seeing a digital event as temporary ‘damage limitation’ while you wait for live events to return. This mindset will be apparent in your messaging and compromise how effectively you’re able to communicate the unique benefits of a virtual event. Common examples are:

  1. Attend from anywhere – while still getting the same content/insight as a live event
  2. Join and network with a truly global audience – connect with your peers all over the world
  3. Catch sessions you missed on replay – any time, any place
  4. Interact directly with speakers – get your questions answered via easy, online chat

Depending on your event format and audience – there are likely to be many more! Consider what is specifically important and valuable to your audience and highlight how your virtual event will work to serve these needs.

For virtual events, two concepts are important to communicate – particularly if it’s your first online event:

  1. The value of the event
  2. How the event will look/feel

Potential attendees may have reservations about the value of a virtual event compared to an in-person offering, and/or they may be intimidated by the unfamiliar format and technology involved. It’s your job as a creator of event and messaging to clearly communicate the value of your event, and gently educate them on what to expect and how to get the most out of their digital event experience.

Remember: you are still presenting the same brand – a brand which has an established reputation and level of trust within your community. Leverage this to confidently speak about your digital event and turn your community members into advocates.

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Don’t take marketing skills for granted: they’re precious and need investment

When I started in my first marketing job, straight out of a marketing degree at university, I quickly discovered my theoretical understanding of marketing concepts wouldn’t be enough in the real world. My knowledge had to be paired with practical skills, especially those involved in digital marketing.

Ansoff’s matrix won’t tell you how to create an effective PPC campaign, but a fellow, experienced team member who has successfully done so for numerous organisations certainly can. It’s this kind of ongoing on-the-job training, coupled with ongoing learning via online resources and events, that has enabled me to continue growing my skill set.

And my marketing training will never come to an end. As an inbound marketing-focused specialist, I know that the constantly changing digital landscape will make me a ‘lifelong learner’, and that’s one of the things that makes my chosen career so rewarding.

At MPG, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by my (currently virtual) team of fellow inbound specialists, as well as MPG’s experts in other areas such as data, analytics, martech, website, marcomms strategy and campaign planning. It is this highly complementary combination of people and skills, brought together by our strong project managers, that enables me to apply my skills in order to deliver a strong marketing performance for our clients. The position I am in means I am constantly improving my skills and learning new ones.

This should be the story of every marketer in the digital age. Unfortunately, the breadth and depth of skills and expertise now needed in a single marketing function is usually underestimated by even the most astute business leaders.


The need for ongoing training and development

Every marketer should have the support from their organisation to learn new skills. This is essential if they are expected to perform well and deliver a good return on the marketing budget they’re managing.

Even the most experienced and accomplished marketer needs training.

This can be in anything from specific skills around content marketing, to more technical digital skills to ensure a particular channel like a website or PPC will work best, or even to gain the know-how to market relatively new types of products, like virtual events.

The ever-evolving nature of marketing demands up-to-date knowledge. New marketing tools and techniques come along every few months, and with competitors fighting for your audience’s attention, having the latest knowledge is essential for gaining a competitive edge.

Often organisations have stronger marketing potential hidden in their existing talent pool, they just haven’t unlocked it – yet.


Generalists plus specialists: a winning team

Don’t expect to be able to train a single person into some sort of marketing ‘superhero’. The breadth and depth of marketing is too much for a single person to handle. Inhouse marketers, who tend to be generalists, need strong, broad knowledge of how all elements of marketing can – and should – function. However, you can’t expect them to develop or maintain in-depth knowledge and up to date skills in specialist areas such as martech, data, analytics and PPC.

MPG’s own marketing managers are generalists – experienced experts in strategy, planning and project management. Every one of them started off working directly with digital tools – going through MPG’s programme of marketing training – giving them practical, foundational knowledge. This is routinely topped up by internal training and specialist colleagues always ‘on tap’ to share their knowledge. This gives the marketing managers the understanding of, and the confidence to, deploy the latest skills and tools for the best results.

But this well-balanced kind of marketing function, with the full range of skills needed, can be built by any organisation. The starting point is ensuring your own, inhouse marketers have the skills – and ongoing skills training – that they need.


What is holding back marketing skills growth?

If you expect your marketers to rapidly and frequently grow their marketing skills, here are the key questions you need to first answer:

  • Does your organisation’s culture encourage and cultivate ongoing learning and development?
  • Are marketers encouraged to learn new skills to help the business become more successful?
  • Is knowledge sharing within your marketing team, and with their marketing peers in other organisations, common and encouraged?
  • Are marketers given sufficient guidance on where their skill gaps are and how to develop, or gain access to, the skills needed to ensure their marketing delivers a strong ROI?
  • Do they have access to (and time for) the resources and training that will help them grow?
  • Is self-learning recognised and rewarded?

As the Covid-19 pandemic has developed, there are many distractions from applying usual best practices in running a business. You may have found that for the past few months it has been difficult to find the time and funds to provide support for your marketers in the right way. Many of them may have been on furlough and are now completely ‘out of the loop’ on latest developments.

So, now is the time to take a step back from what has probably been a very manic phase of business strategizing and rapid ‘pivoting’. You now need to seriously consider how well your marketers’ skills are matched to the challenges ahead.

Either you need to provide structured support and investment in your marketers’ skills development, or you need to outsource your marketing to a team that has the skills you need and will stay on top of latest developments. The logic is clear: poor skills = poor delivery = poor results.


MPG’s marketing training journey: we’re moving forward with our community

When MPG was first launched in 2014, due to popular demand, we ran a training academy. We ran various inhouse and public courses, training marketers from a large range of organisations focused on B2B events and subscriptions.

About five years ago, we decided to rather focus on hiring, training and developing our own team to best serve our fast-growing list of clients from all over the world who have invited us to be their outsourced marketing function.

We have now decided to re-launch MPG Academy to better serve our community –

  1. To address the urgent need for all marketers within our community to have strong marketing skills in new areas such as virtual event marketing and lead generation
  2. To make our expertise in these areas more accessible to more organisations who need it at a time when budgets are tight

Re-launching MPG Academy is one of the ways in which we are responding to the impact that Covid-19 has had on our community. We don’t intend to become a training business, but we do hope to be able to share our unique expertise and practical knowledge with many inhouse marketers around the world. In many ways, this is creating competition for ourselves, but we’ve looked beyond that to what really matters: we’re all in this together, and together we need to find the best, most positive way forward.

Academy Register Interest

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Growing revenue by acquiring new subscribers: here’s how the experts do it

The world has seen a significant increase in demand for valuable business information and intelligence in all sectors as senior executives face new challenges and opportunities arising from Covid-19’s impact.

In our recent webinar, Expert Panel Discussion: Marketing to Accelerate Acquisition of New Subscribers, Carolyn Morgan of Speciall Media chaired a discussion between Jonathan Perry, Global Marketing Director at PEI Media, Olivia Jones, Head of Membership Marketing at Procurement Leaders, and MPG’s own Helen Coetzee.

WATCH REPLAYGET WEBINAR INSIGHTS

Attendees gained practical advice on developing and growing a subscriptions service via PEI Media and Procurement Leaders’ real-world experience in developing high-performance subscriptions and membership products.

Here are 5 key learnings from the webinar:

1. Free trials can have a negative effect

Procurement Leaders’ experiment with free trials for their membership resulted in an increase in lost opportunities. The issue? The structure of PL’s service meant free access to the website alone did not showcase the full range of benefits the membership offers. Careful analysis of the marketing and sales data meant Procurement Leaders were able to rapidly move on to more effective promotional methods, where they discovered…


2. Events are excellent platforms for promoting subs products

Offering prospects free passes to their customer events proved successful for Procurement Leaders. Visitors were able to network with existing members, providing powerful and authentic word of mouth accounts on the benefits of the product.

Events can also act as a showcase for subscriptions and membership products, providing a sample of the valuable intelligence, data and connections the service provides year-round.


3. Automation is key

Both PEI Media and Procurement Leaders find value in marketing automation for their subscriptions and memberships. From automated lead-scoring (based on level of engagement) to enable highly-targeted and relevant comms, to a series of automations that convert leads from cold to hot, both companies understand the near limitless potential of marketing automation.


4. Lead nurturing is a calculated process

Procurement Leaders’ point-based lead scoring model enables real-time reporting and analysis and a deeper understanding of their audience. The two bases of scoring, demographic and behaviour, ensure only the most relevant and interested parties are targeted with comms. Mapping the score model against the sales funnel allows rapid identification of any dips or spikes. This process means leads are nurtured effectively and sales teams are fed the optimal number of hot leads.


5. Business growth requires marketing growth

PEI Media found their strategy of spreading marketers across their events, subs and other products was not feasible as their business grew. The specific requirements and complexities of each format meant specialised teams had to be formed.

Increased digitisation created further demand for specialist skills. A dedicated operations team was given responsibility for martech and automations, while a team of product marketers were tasked with handling brands, customers and lead and sales targets.

Procurement Leaders found giving the same marketers responsibility for both subscriber acquisition and retention led to better outcomes, as marketers were able to develop a deeper understanding of their customers.


WATCH REPLAYGET WEBINAR INSIGHTS

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our latest webinar, and those catching up on the valuable insights now.

If you need support in marketing your subscriptions or membership, make sure you contact MPG to hear how we help the world’s leading B2B community brands grow their subscribers, audiences, businesses and revenue.

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How do you get registrants to turn up to your virtual event?

For all the opportunities virtual events offer, one of the biggest challenges vs an in-person event is ensuring registrants follow through to becoming engaged attendees.

This is where conversion marketing, the practice of converting registered delegates (especially those who registered for free) into attendees via targeted comms, plays such an important role.

Achieving a strong conversion rate is essential. Just like in the real world, events live or die on their attendance rate. Too low and sponsors and exhibitors become frustrated at lack of lead opportunities; speakers will in future seek larger audiences elsewhere; and delegates will tune out as they’ll think their peers don’t value the event enough to attend, and will also recognize that without their peers, attending the event loses its value around opportunities for discussion/Q&A and networking.

An inherent benefit of in-person events is that their very nature encourages participation. Attendees often need to make prior travel and accommodation commitments that further tie them to attending, they clear their calendars and shift deadlines to commit to attendance and often also schedule face-to-face meetings with current and potential clients and partners.

The virtual world requires far less commitment. Attendees can be very focused on something else up to 5 minutes before the ‘doors’ open; with notifications, emails, to-do lists and their immediate surroundings fighting for their attention.

We’ve been working hard at MPG on our clients’ conversion campaigns – i.e. the very important marketing you need to do leading up to the event and during a multi-session event – to get attendees to turn up, get fully engaged and stay engaged. And we’re very pleased to be able to share some of these learnings with you now.


Six essential ingredients for a high performance conversion campaign

#1 Evaluate your audience’s needs and consider your event format

Every event and event audience is different.

If your event takes places over several days or even weeks, you will need to construct a plan that keeps delegates engaged throughout. Do not think that just because they attended the first few sessions that they will stick around.

If your audience demographic means they’re less keen on or comfortable with the digital event format, you will need to carefully construct comms that educate them on the benefits and process of attending to make them feel more confident they’ll have a good experience engaging with your virtual event.

If you’re offering free tickets, your conversion campaign is even more vital. These delegates may think they will lose nothing by not attending, so you need to convince them the event will deliver value in return for time and attention.


#2 Start early

Your conversion efforts should start as soon as your first registration comes in. While it can be tempting to focus email, social and other comms on getting people to book, neglecting the people who have already registered will probably mean you lose them.

Consider also how you can leverage conversion marketing to generate additional registrations – encouraging registrants to share information about your event with their network not only increases your reach, but people are more likely to attend if they can see the event is being supported by someone in their peer network.


#3 Get to grips with and leverage the capabilities of your virtual event system (+ the rest of your tech stack)

Many virtual event platforms have features baked in that can support your conversion efforts.

For example, Bizzabo features both push notifications and session summary emails, which can be sent to registrants a set time before a session to remind them to attend.

When marketing teams are likely already strained with running an effective acquisition campaign, these automations can save precious resources. Often they come pre-set with useful integrations like ‘Add to calendar’ links too!

Other elements of your tech stack are also important. For example, email providers like Mailchimp offer easy segmentation of data and PPC platforms like Google Ads let you build intelligent multi-touch campaigns based on past behaviour.


#4 Build a dedicated conversion marketing communications plan

Once you understand your audience, the implications of your event format and the capabilities of your digital platforms, it’s time to formulate a detailed and robust plan to execute the required marketing.

Map out what your registered delegates will be receiving and when; including emails, targeted PPC campaigns and automated messages and notifications. Consider all touch points, e.g. do they need an automated message that reminds them to save sessions to their agenda? And what social media announcements are needed just before the event to create a sufficient buzz and fear of missing out?

Email is your most important channel here, mostly focused on targeted, automated campaigns. Social media is also important and can be used to create discussion between delegates about what they’re looking forward to. PPC also has a part to play in creating highly targeted ‘micro touchpoints’. Think about how you can use chat platforms (like Slack) to provide a space for delegates to interact both in group and private channels.


#5 Ensure you have the right skills and resources in place

A vital piece of the puzzle is ensuring you’ve got enough knowledgeable people to plan and execute your conversion comms well. Ensuring your plan is achievable from a workload perspective – when you also need to put a huge marketing effort into generating registrants in the first place – could mean the difference between success and failure. If the volume is not feasible:

  1. Identify what can be automated or pre-scheduled to avoid crunch periods.
  2. Remove less critical elements to lighten the load.
  3. Consider engaging additional support to add some much needed marketing muscle.

#6 Track results and adapt

Measuring ROI on conversion campaigns is a bit trickier than measuring the performance of acquiring registrants. While data on the channels that influenced a sale should be quite easy to access and analyse, understanding how effective your conversion marketing is in getting someone to sign in on the day is less straightforward.

Generally, there is a direct correlation between how a person engages with conversion marketing and how likely they are to turn up – so make sure you measure this and analyse after your virtual event what behaviors lead to the best outcomes, so that you can predict for future events what is most likely to be effective and what results are likely to come through in terms of event attendance.

Getting in people’s diaries/calendars is a simple and highly effective way of encouraging attendance. Not only will it prevent them making other commitments, but most calendar apps will do a lot of the work for you – providing automated reminders of the upcoming event.

The usual suspects of reporting (interaction rates, open rates) are still useful indicators of performance, and tracking clicks on important CTAs like ‘Add to Calendar’ can help you understand how effective your comms are in achieving your objectives.

When you know your most effective channels and techniques, focus your efforts (and money) on them. Don’t be afraid to cut a channel if its performance isn’t up to scratch.

The data you gather from your first conversion campaign will also contain vital lessons for your next one, so spend time examining the data to understand what was effective.


The key to success in conversion marketing is to apply the main principles of successful B2B community marketing in the current age:

  • Be community-focused and ensure your creative approaches to messaging and visual branding hit the mark.
  • Automate as much as you can to enhance the customer experience and achieve scale and essential efficiencies.
  • Measure all you do and makes sure your decisions are data-led.

Get converting!

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Focusing on lead generation? You need a community map!

Virtual, hybrid and live event organisers are currently facing an unprecedented challenge in sustaining their event revenue, both in the short and long term. Monetisation via spex sales and ticket revenue are under threat, and many organisations are quickly transitioning to digital event formats without a robust plan to protect this income.

The game has changed, so to speak, but there’s one tool that remains as relevant and valuable in the digital space as it was in the physical environment. A tool that we recommend all events undergoing any sort of transition to the digital space employ.

What is a community map?

Simply put, a community map (sometimes called a market map) is a tool for understanding the composition of your end-user target market, which is essential if you’re going to work out how to best serve this audience and thereby build the right kind of monetization model.

Creating one will help you engage effectively with your community to maintain and grow brand trust, as well as retain and grow your sponsorship and exhibitions revenue in the coming months.


How do we create a community map?

There are 3 steps to creating a comprehensive and accurate community map:


Step 1 – Make sure you understand who your community is

Make sure you can broadly define your end-user community in one or two sentences, and that you can easily identify who the ‘core’ group is that matters. Then ensure your whole brand team is 100% aligned on this.



Step 2 – Divide your community into segments and identify the most important ones

Once you’re confident in the community you serve and its core group, it’s time to break the community down in to further segments and identify the most important ones. To do this:

  1. Consider the different groups your sponsors want to most engage with
  2. Define parameters of each group in terms of sector, company type, job function and seniority.

Group your segments into tiers to make the hierarchy clear and improve internal efficiency in understanding, using and growing your database and other routes to market. Then as you work through your marketing comms plan, your plan becomes as simple as “we need to grow our Tier 1A database and reach them with a 4-stage email campaign” and “our next LinkedIn advertising campaign needs to target Tier 1B”.

There are several other benefits to segmenting and targeting your community in this way:

  1. Close new sponsorship deals. Being able to share exact figures on your community’s composition is a powerful leveraging tool to use on potential sponsors who are looking to engage a very specific audience.
  2. Retain more partners. In a similar vein, existing sponsors will become addicted to you if you’re feeding them valuable audience insights, as well as consistently growing the segments that matter most to them.
  3. Improve your marketing. Segmentation enables deeper, more personalised targeting of comms. Serving each group of your community with the content that is most relevant to them is an important step in engaging any community.
  4. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it enables the most important step of all…


Step 3 – Size your key community segments and analyse your current database to identify gaps

Knowing the composition of your database is one thing, but avoid viewing it in a vacuum. Having your most valuable segment make up 80% of your database looks good on paper, but you could only have > 10% of the total contacts available in your core market.

This may look good in isolation…

…but when you look at the wider market, the gaps become clear.

If your most important segment is HR directors at the world’s 50 largest banks, and your database only has 20 of them – that means you’re reaching less than half of your most important community members.

To fill these gaps you should conduct database research where data privacy rules allow. If your research is small scale, try conducting this internally; your teams may be able to identify relevant contacts via social media and company websites. If you have a large pool of contacts to identify, consider employing an external agency to do the heavy lifting at pace and cost effectively.

If this is not allowed due to privacy regulations in your target region, or there are still contacts left to identify, you can move to outreach such as PPC and organic social media to try and draw your contacts to your website via inbound tactics. LinkedIn ads will allow you to target based on useful parameters like job title, industry and even individual companies – you just have to make sure your ads and website are effectively encouraging them to share their data (and grant consent for comms) via a lead generation form.


Wrapping up

Community mapping is a vital tool for any business to survive and thrive. In a recent blog post, we outlined why understanding your community, and their needs, should your #1 priority – read the full article here.

At MPG, we’ve been creating community maps for the world’s leading B2B media and events brands for years. To find out more about how we do this for specific markets, please do get in touch.

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13 key learnings from MPG’s webinar on postponed events

Following the forced postponement of most events in the first half of 2020, we ran a webinar for conference and B2B tradeshow organisers on key marketing considerations needed in this unique period of time. Over 100 CEOs, MDs, department heads and marketers from across B2B media and events attended our two instalments of the virtual event.

Here are the 13 things we learned about marketing postponed events that we’d like to share with our community:

Ensuring success for your next event…

1. Collaboration is key

The events industry is moving into a new era. Close collaboration between all stakeholders will be vital in forming a winning strategy for the months and years ahead.


2. This is a great opportunity to build new digital formats

Digitally-enhanced and fully-virtual events started running successfully some years ago, but it is clear that the current crisis is a catalyst for a very rapid digital transformation of events businesses. Winning event brands will leverage tech to engage their communities year-round, not just at the events or in the immediate run up to an event.


3. Longer lead time is an opportunity

For all the doom and gloom of the situation, longer lead times and the opportunity to generate more digital engagement with their audiences presents a wonderful opportunity for marketers. New digital formats and creative approaches to comms will push some of our marketeers out of their comfort zones initially; but they will build up their knowledge and confidence in the right areas quickly – they will need to!


4. Engagement and lead generation must be the focus

In times of great uncertainty, events revenue is hugely challenged. Maintaining the interest of prospective delegates online and over a longer time period is essential in securing revenue over the long term. With this in mind…


5. Content marketing is now the magic ingredient

Knowledge banks, resource centres, speaker Q&As, podcasts, interviews, webinars, whitepapers – all of these will serve your community well in the coming weeks, keeping event stakeholders and audiences engaged and trusting in your brand
Read more >


6. Now is a good time to grow your audience and database

Having more time to engage with your audience presents a great opportunity to add more relevant names to your database. Whether you decide to invite them to your event or invite them to take out a subscription – having more of the right prospects’ details on your database can only help you! More downloadable content on your website will allow you to capture contact details of key contacts. Your marketers can also start engaging with more media partners to extend your reach further. And adding more contacts to your database via targeted research will really pay off.


7. You should aim to make your events even more valuable

Prospective delegates, speakers and sponsors will applaud if you use the extra time you have to enhance your product. Enhancements could include virtual event formats, digital add-ons, new speakers and the aforementioned content production.


8. Newsletters are likely to make a comeback

How do you communicate the evolving nature of your product (without pushing the ‘hard sell’) and get people to buy tickets when they’re not yet sure if they’ll be able to attend? A simple newsletter could be the best way to keep your audience informed, engaged and well served with useful product updates and content. And if the newsletter is valued by your community this could be the start of a new subscription product and a new way to generate revenue.


9. Monitoring results is more important than ever – ‘test & learn’ will be critical!

Where there is uncertainty, hard numbers and data are your guiding light. Keeping track of everything from website traffic to the channels driving revenue will enable informed decisions on how to approach your marketing – one week at a time. If your marketing team is going to be trying new things – you’ll need to know if they work.


 

Looking long term…

10. 2021 events may have a shorter cycle due to later 2020 events

Events organisers will need to think carefully about how they approach this challenge. Don’t underestimate the impact a short lead time will have on your content production timeline, as well as how your marketing and sales team will need to adjust their approach to generate required levels of revenue. Start working on your 2021 event before your postponed 2020 event to get ahead!


11. Will digital enable expansion?

Virtual events can be attended from anywhere in the world, meaning the reach of your event is now truly global. The size of your event is also no longer restricted by the size of the venue, and the increasing logistics and catering costs that come with scale are not an issue in the virtual world.


12. Will this spark more creativity in the sector?

Hardship breeds resourcefulness, ingenuity and innovation. The event organisers that respond well to this challenge by adapting fast, developing new models and ways of engaging with and serving their community will define the way we approach events for the coming decade.


13. What are the skills needed in 2021 and beyond?

As digital comes to the fore and businesses try to understand their new place in the world, agile and tech-savvy teams will be needed. The shift to year-round community engagement will require marketers who can think long-term, instead of focusing on short-term results. It will also mean that people who can learn quickly and move forward fast and confidently are likely to be the stars.

Find out more about how to win in the new world here.


To see more on what was discussed in our webinar series, you can watch the full webinar below.

The webinar slide deck is also available, including answers to questions on numerous challenges and issues highlighted in the webinar Q&A.

ACCESS WEBINAR SLIDES

We will be running more webinars soon on the challenges event organisers are facing, as well as how B2B media and events brands can get stuck into building and engaging their communities better with digitally delivered content and virtual networking opportunities. If you would like to suggest a topic or issue for us to cover, or if you would like to contribute a case study, please get in touch.

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Running a conference or exhibition in 2020? Your event marketers must do these 5 things

In our previous blog post, we covered what B2B event marketers should do in the wake of an event postponement due to Covid-19. In this post we explain the actions needed for an event scheduled to run this year. Whether you’ve postponed a spring event, or you’re preparing for your annual Q4 conference/exhibiton; revisiting your approach to marketing is essential.

In this tumultuous period, a spotlight has been shone on the events industry. Sponsors, exhibitors, suppliers and – of course – delegates look to their favoured conferences and exhibitions for a response to the Coronavirus outbreak that now dominates headlines.

If you have an event scheduled to run in 2020 there are several key considerations for your event marketers who play such a key role in event success.

We’ve put together a list of the top actions event marketers need to take now:


1- Release a statement to your entire community

Your event community wants to see that you are responding to the situation.

  • As your top priority – directly communicate an update of your position via email to your key event stakeholders. These are individuals who have in some way invested in or made a commitment to your event, including delegates, sponsors, partners, speakers and suppliers.
  • Add a clear statement to your event website homepage. Also add a dedicated web page about your decision to run the event this year and include information and links that support your position e.g. official government advice. Consider adding a pop-up to appear to anyone visiting any page of your website to maximise visibility. If you have a FAQ section on your website, add Covid-19 related questions to the top of the list.
  • Share this news on all channels, ensuring you reach as many people in your community as possible.
  • Consider producing a video alongside your statement to condense it into something easily digestible and engaging, and to add a trustworthy face to the decision. Here is a great example from Money20/20.

2 – Share your contingency plan

With a global situation that’s changing almost hourly, showing you have a robust back-up plan will give attendees, speakers and sponsors alike the confidence to plan to be part of your event.

  • Explain how and when (provide a specific date) stakeholders will be informed of a possible postponement.
  • Include when the postponed event is likely to take place if a postponement becomes necessary. At a minimum, state the likely month or date range, even if the specific date is not yet known.
  • Be as specific as you can about where the postponed event will take place, especially if you’re considering a different venue.
  • Take inspiration from this example, and other events’ contingency plans to ensure you’re covering all bases. This coronavirus response guide for event organisers from professional networking platform GUILD also includes some great examples of ‘going ahead’ statements.

3 – Make it clear how you are ensuring visitor safety

With health concerns top of mind in the public consciousness, sharing how you plan to reduce the risk to attendees is vital.

  • Share what measures your venue is taking, e.g. more frequent cleaning and the installation of hand sanitizers
  • Explain how, as the event organisers, you are further mitigating the risks. This could be by:
    • Advising against handshakes
    • Adjusting session formats
    • Providing on-site medical facilities

4 – Adjust your marketing communications strategy and campaign plan

It may be tempting to stick to the original, familiar plan. But considering a slightly different approach to your marcomms to take in to account the new coronavirus shaded world could be beneficial to campaign performance.

  • Review your channel approaches, considering how the situation may require them to change:
    • Is it worth investing more in re-engaging past visitors over trying to generate new ones if your returning visitor rate could drop?
    • Consider investing more in retaining booked delegates and revenue, instead of purely focusing on acquisition.
    • Exclude your digital advertising (PPC) from appearing on news sites. You don’t want your banners alongside an announcement advising people to avoid gatherings.
    • Does your wider messaging strategy need re-orienting? If your industry is feeling unease, should you focus on how your event addresses challenges instead of opportunities?
  • Don’t feel the need to completely tear up your existing strategy. Doing so will only cause unnecessary disruption when simple tweaks and diligence can keep you on the path to success.
  • Place more emphasis on lead generation and digital content creation until you are confident your event will go ahead as planned. Doing so will also allow prospective visitors to receive updates while they decide whether to commit to attending.
  • Think about how you can communicate any existing or newly built in digital elements (livestreaming, video content, networking app) to show that your event has a strong presence in the digital space, as well as the physical event itself.
  • Avoid messaging that states how many people you are expecting to attract, as you can’t be certain how many will turn up. Be wary of ‘over-promising and under-delivering’
  • Avoid using imagery that shows numerous people interacting closely or shaking hands.
  • Consider adding coronavirus related content to your event agenda – e.g. a breakfast briefing – as well as event content to your site (speaker interviews, news updates) to ‘own the conversation’ in your industry.
    • Make sure you build this new content into your comms, sharing via email and social as an agenda update, showing how you are responding to the crisis by making it a key discussion point.

5 – Provide frequent updates

As the situation evolves, your community will expect you to respond in a responsible and transparent manner.

  • Update your statement as soon as your plan or the situation changes and more clarity is needed. Include a date for when information was last updated.
  • If a significant update is made, push this out on all channels as you did when the statement was initially released.
  • Consider providing an update when a relevant news story breaks (e.g. a ban on gatherings of a certain scale) to quell any fresh concerns.

Above all, don’t be silent about Covid-19. Taking responsibility and providing clear communications is vital in times of uncertainty.

We recently published a blog with our advice and predictions on how to win in this new world and what the ‘new normal’ could look like – this is a must-read to ensure your business is taking the right community-led approach – read the full article here.

If you have any thoughts on how our industry should react and how the marketing approach should adjust, we would love to hear from you!

To find out more about short-term marketing considerations & tactics for postponed events, view the webinar outputs from our recent webinar which answered those all important questions.

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Postponed your event? Here’s 10 things your marketing team needs to do NOW

In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, many event organisers are choosing to postpone their events. We gathered the MPG and AGNC teams to discuss the immediate steps marketing teams should take in the wake of a delayed event.

You’ve made the decision. A new date is set, the venue is secured. Assuming you’ve already done the following, you may feel you have all bases covered:

  1. Key internal and external stakeholders informed
  2. Event suppliers updated
  3. Event budgets adjusted and confirmed
  4. Existing software contracts extended (e.g. event apps)
  5. Reservations moved (speaker and sponsor dinners, VIP parties)

But don’t underestimate the responsibilities your marketing function has to ensure the success of your revised event plans. The strategic and tactical steps needed extend far beyond updating the dates on the website and sending out more emails.

The below checklist covers the essentials your marketing team need to action to secure the success of not only your next event, but your brand as a whole. Forward it to your marketing manager to ensure they’re considering everything, at what must be a stressful time.

 

Your marketing team’s postponement response checklist

1 – Review price points and targets

With an extended campaign timeline and the prospect of booked delegates dropping out, revisiting the core objectives of the marketing function should be priority number 1 on any marketing manager’s list.

  • Conduct an assessment on the impact of the postponement on revenue and attendee targets and set new objectives with a clear strategy of how your team will achieve them.
  • Investigate whether your pricing strategy is still fit for purpose. Be wary of running another early-bird to spark bookings – you could irritate delegates who just paid full price! Similarly, increasing the final rate to add an early-bird could be perceived as taking advantage of the situation.
  • Ensure you’ve secured the marketing investment needed to achieve new commercial targets.

2 – Conduct internal briefings to get everyone on the same page

With revised targets, an updated strategy and a very unfamiliar set of circumstances – ensuring everyone is kept up to date is essential.

  • To avoid confusion internally – and mixed messages being delivered externally – ensure your teams are fully briefed on the revised date (and the reasons for it), as well as the policies surrounding delegate ticket/sponsorship cancellations. They will need to know the answers to questions such as:
    • I can’t make the new date, can I use my ticket to attend next year instead?
    • Can I transfer my ticket to someone else?
    • We no longer wish to sponsor – can we get a refund?
    • I have already made financial commitments (such as a hotel booking) to attend – will I be reimbursed?

3 – Publish your statement

Once everything is sorted internally, it’s time to inform your community of your decision in a clear and confident manner.

  • Add a prominent statement to the homepage (and ideally also on a separate dedicated page) of your event website that clearly explains your decision and the reasons for it. Here’s a great example from a Summit in Singapore.
  • Make sure the statement is updated frequently to address any fresh challenges and include the date prominently to assure viewers they are reading an up to date announcement.

4 – Get the message out

Sharing the announcement on your website is not enough. To avoid frustration and confusion, all event stakeholders (including prospective attendees) must be informed.

  • As a priority – simultaneous to the statement being published – notify all delegates, sponsors, media partners, speakers and other event stakeholders via email and telephone of the new date.
  • Utilise email and social media to inform the wider market of the revised date. As on your website, make it clear why the decision has been made. Your event community wants to see that you are in control of the situation and acting in their best interests.

5 – Update your existing collateral

As soon as the announcement is out, focus on changing key information on your marketing collateral with new event dates and venue arrangements.

  • Review your existing collateral (brochures, agendas, interviews etc.) and update to reflect the revised date and venue (if applicable).
  • Consider how the change may affect the contents and structure of your collateral:
    • Was the venue a key selling point before, but now you’ve moved to a smaller site?
    • Does the collateral refer to the previous pricing strategy (early-birds) which may confuse people?

6 – Don’t forget your automated activity!

While dealing with ‘front-line’ activity, it’s all too easy to forget the systems you have running in the background. Take the time to re-group with your team on the automations in place and act swiftly to pause any activity that may conflict with your statement.

  • Check all your automated activity for outdated information or actions that may no longer be relevant. Here are some examples of what could trip you up:
    • Countdown ads in PPC campaigns that are due to start 1 week before the original event date
    • Autoresponder emails that are triggered by form completions on your event site
    • Pre-scheduled social media that still refers to the old event date
    • An event countdown widget on your website

7 – Re-focus your messaging

When getting back up to speed on your normal campaign activity, make sure you’re not just copy/pasting what came before.

  • In the short term – avoid copy and imagery that could invoke unease for prospective attendees. This could be:
    • Messaging around the size of the event (e.g. 500+ attendees) (also as your actual attendance numbers will be difficult to predict) and the ‘global’ nature of the event.
    • Images of large crowds in proximity, or of people shaking hands or interacting closely
  • Consider how the updated timelines and the Covid-19 impact may affect your event USPs and content.
    • Will you be adding any new digital elements to your event? e.g. livestreaming of certain sessions?
    • Will you be enhancing the app in any way or releasing it early so that delegates can get the most out of the networking opportunities your event presents?
    • Do you need to include a session dedicated to the impact of Covid-19? Substribe Summit has done this very well by adding a ‘breakfast session’ to the start of the day.
    • Is there a key piece of industry legislation that will now come into play before the event that will require you to adjust your program?
    • How else might the industry (and wider macro environment) change between now and the new date?
    • Can you try and secure new ‘big name’ speakers who maybe couldn’t attend the previous event? If you can have them join by video conference that may make it more likely they can speak at your event.

8 – Focus on lead gen

With hesitant prospective attendees, sponsors and exhibitors; collecting contact info to nurture and re-engage is more important than ever.

  • Make sure your ‘Register Your Interest/Subscribe for Updates’ forms are prominent on your website and in all comms.
  • Dial down the ‘Book Now’ messaging temporarily and focus on content-led comms and updates about how you’re enhancing the event (e.g. with digital add-ons) to build and maintain confidence in the event.

9 – Provide regular updates

With a rapidly evolving situation, your community will expect you to be vigilant and responsible.

  • Share what you (and the event venue) will do to ensure visitor safety. This could include increased frequency of cleaning and hand sanitizers.
  • Act on government and official advice and ensure your event attendees and stakeholders know you are heeding this guidance.

10 – Generate good content

To keep your audience engaged and further build confidence with all stakeholders that the event is still valuable and relevant, an increased focus on content production would be prudent.

  • Create and distribute high-value content (news updates, speaker interviews and collateral) that will keep both existing and prospective delegates invested until the new date
  • Consider creating content that directly addresses the effects of coronavirus on your industry. ‘Owning the conversation’ about the issue that is top of mind for everyone can be a powerful method of engaging your community and driving revenue, as well as ensuring your community is served with all the information they need.

Following these steps will help mitigate the short-term challenges an event postponement causes, for your marketing team and for your event’s health.

But the long-term symptoms of this outbreak will extend far beyond the pain caused by a single event’s postponement. The B2B events industry is about to undergo a period of intense self-reflection, and the outcomes of this could change the way we approach the medium for the next decade and beyond.

We’ll be diving deeper into the strategic implications of coronavirus on the world of B2B events in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. If you have any thoughts on how our industry should react, we would love to hear from you.

From all of us at MPG and AGNC, we wish you and your business all the best.

MPG recently hosted a webinar focused on marketing considerations & tactics for postponed events. See the webinar outputs here.

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