Helen Coetzee

Recent Posts by Helen Coetzee

How to use marketing to get new sponsors for your digital events

As companies finalise their 2020 H2 digital event schedules and begin planning for 2021 – a year which will undoubtedly also feature a significant digital element – the question of how best to generate sponsorship revenue via this new format now takes centre stage.

Within this issue lies several challenges. First, existing sponsors will generally be reluctant to pay the same to sponsor a virtual event as an in-person one, and secondly, some will simply not want to sponsor a digital event at all.

Event organisers now face a pressing challenge to find a large number of new sponsors for their virtual and hybrid events – in a narrow space of time.

Fortunately, the online nature of digital events has inherent benefits. The lack of physical venue means a potentially global market of sponsors, and the reduced cost of sponsoring such an event (no physical collateral, travel, accommodation or out of office expenses) opens the floor to many smaller companies.

The desire is there too. Potential sponsors have also been affected by Covid and must generate sufficient leads via their own marketing to ensure their business can survive in these challenged times. They’re on the lookout for promising new opportunities; digital events’ focused content, engaged audiences and relatively low cost for good reach and a large number of relevant leads may just be the answer.

This short-term revenue challenge for events relying on sponsorship therefore doubles as an opportunity to invest in long-term event and brand growth. Event organisers can grasp the chance to expand globally, diversify their sponsorship base and put their event firmly on the path to growth.

So, what is the best approach to attracting companies from this now larger market? And how can it be done quickly?


Generate marketing qualified leads to help your salespeople acquire new sponsors

Sponsorship sales teams have traditionally focused on – and are generally most skilled at – the retention and upsell of existing clients. They will recognise the significant opportunity to find new sponsors in a larger potential client pool, but they will need help in efficiently and rapidly surfacing this new revenue.

This is where smart and effective marketing becomes the key to unlocking the potential of digital event sponsorship. Your marketing function should not only be focused on attracting event attendees, they should also be reaching out to, engaging and converting potential clients into relevant and qualified leads via targeted, personalised and data-driven marketing campaigns.

Here’s a tried and tested process for your marketers to follow to generate great sponsorship sales leads and bring in new revenue:

Step 1: Define your target market of potential sponsoring companies and key decision-makers within these companies

Use demographic profiling, considering company type, size, sector and location, as well as the job function and seniority of the individuals within these companies responsible for marketing budgets. Consider how the reduced price point may make sponsoring your event feasible for smaller companies and how a more global audience may attract sponsors from a more global market. Create a map of this new market to understand its size and composition.

Step 2: Create routes to market

Once you know who you’re targeting, you need to reach them with relevant marketing messages. First, analyse your existing database to understand how many contacts you can already reach within your target market. Identify key gaps and fill these with targeted database research, then get started on your outbound and inbound marketing activity to attract the right people to your event website.

Make sure the benefits of sponsoring are well presented on your website, alongside (ideally multiple) lead generation forms, such as sales brochure downloads, enquiry submissions and ‘send me event updates’ requests. This is an essential first step, as your website is the end destination where most prospects will convert to a lead.

Create integrated, multi-channel marketing campaigns, incorporating email, PPC and social media, to reach out and push relevant people to your site. Make sure your messaging is informed by persona analysis and includes at least one clear USP with some compelling benefits.

Also, consider using account-based marketing if you are confident on who the ‘top 20’ (or more) companies are that should be sponsoring your event. Feed them personalised comms specific to their organisations, and where possible reach out to decision makers on a 1-to-1 basis with highly relevant and compelling messaging to elicit a response. Once key contacts are engaged via this kind of marketing it will be easier for salespeople to approach and convert them.

Step 3: Use marketing to nurture leads – to ‘warm them up’ (or keep them warm!) for the sales team

Don’t focus only on acquisition of leads. A key part of winning new sponsors is nurturing these leads and effectively growing engagement so they become even hotter leads, eager to start a conversation with one of your salespeople. To do this, build in automations such as triggered emails when forms are completed on the website (e.g. a sales brochure download) directing them to more relevant content. Your sales team won’t be able to reach every lead quickly, so automated emails can be used to keep them ‘warm’. Remarketing via Google and social channels can also be used to share relevant content and product messaging with individuals who are already engaged. Don’t let them go cold!

Step 4: Measure, measure, measure

Every campaign is a learning opportunity, but only if you measure the impact. Make sure you understand who is completing the lead generation forms and what type of lead is most likely to convert to a sale. Also, measure and analyse the average order value and length of sales cycle achieved via various lead types – sales KPIs can be improved with intelligence-led marketing.

Some marketing channels and activity types will work better than others. Make sure you focus on what works best for your audience and event.

Consider how much visibility you have of the marketing and sales funnel. Do you know how leads are coming in at the top (where they first engage)? How are they engaging near the middle? How many are dropping off when hitting the sales team at the bottom of the funnel? What does the conversion look like for each stage? Understanding these points will help you plug any gaps and improve overall performance of both marketing and sales functions.

It’s important to note that not all of the leads you generate will convert within the first few months, but there is a long ‘sell-by-date’ on sponsorship leads and you may be able to convert them for a future event (with all the hard work of identifying them and collecting their data already done!). Keep their info safe and retain them in your communications, it will pay dividends in the longer term.


Wrapping up

Employing these steps effectively will not only secure the revenue for your next digital event, but also provide you with a solid foundation for growth in years to come. Your audience will have expanded geographically, your event will be attracting new and exciting sponsors and – most importantly – you’ll have battle-ready marketing and sales teams with the know-how on generating new sponsorship revenue; whether that’s for digital or in-person events.

As we’ve mentioned frequently over the past 4-5 months; we believe the companies that invest proactively in marketing now will be the winners in 2021 and beyond. There are many opportunities in digital events, you just need a good strategy to grab hold of them.

Creating a robust, sustainable marketing function: a strategic, hybrid approach

Marketing is on the chopping block. As businesses seek cost savings, marketing spend is reduced (once again) in favour of what are often seen as more ‘core’ areas like sales and product development.

Although marketing is a vital driver of both short and long term performance, it can be frustratingly nebulous in various ways: how much resource is needed, what skills are most valuable, and most importantly – what ROI can be expected. It is no surprise that Finance Directors usually look at reducing fixed costs on marketing before looking elsewhere.

Building more flexibility into marketing investment is the way forward for most organisations.

External partners, such as marketing agencies, are an attractive alternative to build in this flexibility. But how do you balance and integrate internal expertise with 3rd party support? Do the benefits of working with external partners outweigh the risks? How do you select and integrate an external partner (or more than one partner), effectively, for short and long term gain?


In-house vs (and) outsourced: the structure of a winning marketing function

If you can only afford a single marketer (or FTE) and no – or very limited – agency spend, then a mostly outsourced marketing approach is likely best. A single marketer will not have both the breadth and depth of knowledge that is needed in modern marketing. Expecting one person to handle all strategic, tactical, digital and technical responsibilities is a recipe for failure.

If you can afford multiple in-house marketers (or FTE) and/or have a decent budget for agency spend, a hybrid model is probably your best option. Appoint an internal ‘generalist marketer’ (or have someone in your team take this on as part of their role) and then bring on board external marketing expertise and muscle. This should enable you to extract maximum value from your marketing function (as long as it is done in the right way of course!).

This will allow you to ramp up resources when needed, assuming your external partner has a team of a decent size. Larger agency teams (10+ people) should have the flexibility, breadth and depth you’ll need. Agencies are most effectively deployed when their skills complement what you have in-house, so make sure have access to both extra (flexible) capacity as well as expertise or skills that don’t exist within the business.


The hidden costs of in-house marketing

While you may feel having a fully in-house marketing team is a less risky and possibly more cost-effective solution, consider the myriad of hidden costs involved. Recruitment processes are often lengthy and costly, and ‘maintenance and overhead’ costs like IT equipment, HR, training, management, holidays/sick days, PAYE etc. must all be covered. Consider the risk of a new hire under-performing, and how draining and distracting this could become on the business.

Agencies can remove, or at least simplify these issues. Agencies carry all the recruitment, training, management and overhead costs themselves. They also have to make sure the people working on your marketing are performing well – and if they aren’t, the ‘people management’ issues will not be yours to deal with. A good agency will be able to offer tangible evidence of past performance, often spanning various industries, geographies and specialisms, and will also hold themselves accountable for marketing ROI.

Perhaps most valuable of all is that full-service agencies are the ‘perfect’ marketing team. They can expertly deliver all elements of marketing, constantly honing their skills by being involved in so many projects with a range of clients. Small, in-house and mostly ‘generalist’ marketing teams often can’t match this level of experience and expertise, as they’re usually stretched too thin to develop deeper knowledge and better skills. Some businesses can afford to support these marketers with in-house specialists in more technical areas like data and digital – but this is quite rare.


The case for a hybrid approach

The issue is not binary. You do not have to choose between in-house marketers and external partners; the best approach is probably hybrid (if you can afford more than one marketing FTE). Even if you favour a fully-outsourced model, you will still need some level of oversight of, and support for, the agency’s delivery.

The demand for marketing resources within most businesses tend to vary over time, with some periods where internal teams are not paying their way due to being over-resourced, and other times where they can’t keep up with demand and become over-burdened. A hybrid approach is the best way to maintain the ‘minimum viable’ internal resource while having the option to ramp up capacity and expertise when needed.

The best kind of external partner will work in a transparent and collaborative way, enabling your internal team to gain valuable marketing knowledge and skills while working in an integrated way with your agency.


How to make outsourced marketing work

Employing external resources is not simply a case of signing a contract, throwing some money across the table and watching the results coming in. Careful selection and diligent support for, and management of, your partner will ensure optimal returns. Here are 4 things to always do when outsourcing some or all of your marketing:

  1. Look for expertise and a proven track record. Don’t fall for flashy sales pitches and hollow promises. Look for the proven substance in a track record and clear approach to make an astute decision on who you should work with.
  2. Onboard your outsourced team as strategic partners. A big mistake is to think of, or position, your agency as ‘a supplier’. From day one, treat them as part of your team, enabling them with the same kind of support you would give an internal marketer. Make sure everyone in your business understands their purpose, their skills and how to utilise them. A good strategic partner will see your business goals as their own goals, and will strive to help you achieve them by playing an active role in your business.
  3. Give an internal person overall responsibility for ensuring the partnership is successful. This does not mean this person is the main or only point of contact for the agency. The role of ‘partner relationship owner’ is ensuring the required outcomes are achieved from the partnership. This is achieved via strong, open communication and ensuring each party is delivering according to their role and responsibilities. Both sides need to be collaborative and accountable.
  4. Insist on transparency and accountability. As you would with an internal marketer, make your expectations clear from the start. Set clear objectives and agree specific deliverables to align on desired outcomes. Ask for weekly reports and hold weekly meetings to ensure the required progress is being made and good, visible results are being achieved. This weekly meeting is also essential to ensure the project team is working well together.

In these financially stressed times, the question should not be ‘should we use internal or outsourced marketing’, but rather ‘what does the most effective and cost-efficient marketing composition look like for us?’.

A hybrid solution is – in most cases – the answer. This offers the flexibility of external resource, while maintaining the baseline internal marketing function required. Marketing is a critical function. Maintaining your marketing strength now, and being able to scale up when opportunity knocks, may just give you the competitive edge!

The Marketing Mix | Monthly Newsletter

Newsletter • June 2020

#SMWONE Case Study • Subscriptions Marketing • ROI Measurement

In these tumultuous times, we’ve been heeding the very same advice we give to our clients: listen to your community.

Every industry, and every business, is bearing the brunt of their own unique set of challenges right now. Those that see the other side of Covid-19 will have faced these head on and embraced change and new opportunities – taking on short term financial pain, or making previously unplanned investments in the process.

MPG has been no exception. We are investing in transforming and upgrading our value proposition to meet our customers’ new needs in a new way. In today and tomorrow’s world, having a relevant value proposition is essential, and having an essential value proposition is the ultimate goal!

This monthly newsletter is one of our new initiatives – to share with our community a digest of the most recent and relevant case studies, insights and product updates. MPG Academy and MPG’s Analytics & Intelligence Dashboards are two new offerings we’re excited to share – both designed to help you drive more revenue with smart marketing investments.

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INSIGHTS

A smart strategic play: growing subs revenue

It’s been a fascinating time for the MPG Insights team as we’ve worked with marketing practitioners to get to grips with how marketing can make the best impact in these times. In May’s expert-led webinar we focused on marketing to grow revenue by acquiring new subscribers. About 25% of organisations that tuned in don’t currently have a subscriptions product but are looking to create a subscriptions model for their digital events.

Achieving strong audience engagement – in a very crowded space

We’re heading into a time like no other: the world will be awash with virtual events. In Standing out from the virtual conference crowd: MPG’s top 10 tips we’ve shared our guide to achieving what is essential: getting a great audience for your events.

If you aren’t measuring it, you can’t improve it

You sprint towards your next virtual event. You breathe a sigh of relief when it’s done. But what have you learnt? Apart from how the tech worked, did you gather the data you needed to work out the marketing formula that will drive good attendance to your next virtual event? How to get more intelligence into your marketing for a stronger ROI is a must-read for every business leader.

One of MPG’s biggest investments over the years has been in developing a marketing measurement dashboard ‘like no other’. It draws together key data points and delivers the kinds of insights that these days you cannot do without when marketing events, subscriptions and delivering lead generation campaigns for clients. Read our blog to see why we’ve done this.


STORIES

MPG Stories will continue to share real-world marketing case studies in what seems to be an ever-popular webinar format. Our next big MPG Story will be livestreamed in July 2020 – stay tuned!

MPG Insights

SEE ALL EVENTS


CASE STUDY

Social Media Week’s Virtually Unstoppable

As you may know, MPG is the marketing partner for Social Media Week. As such, we worked with the Social Media Week team to develop the marketing strategy for their ground-breaking virtual event: #SMWONE. In executing this strategy together, we learnt some valuable lessons we’re happy to share here.

    • Content marketing was more important than ever. The audience needed familiarity with the new virtual format to truly understand its benefits. The #SMWONE Show achieved just that. Hosted weekly in the run up to the main event, the show helped the event community know what to expect. Previews of content via speaker interviews provided real value, and the show doubled as a chance for the Social Media Week team to iron out any technical kinks. The #SMWONE Show was a top generator of leads and proved that content really is king.
    • Ensuring a strong attendance relies on ‘heavy’ conversion marketing. The online nature of the event (which means no commitments like travel and accommodation) meant a big effort was needed to encourage registrants to attend. MPG focused on a dedicated conversion strategy, with a multi-armed approach that included email, social, PPC and SMS and various automated notifications (like session reminders). This activity ran throughout the event and was critical in keeping the audience engaged, the discussions energised – and sponsors happy!
    • Selling tickets during a virtual event delivers incremental revenue. The extended timeline of the event, and on-demand nature of the content, created the opportunity for ticket sales to continue far into – and even beyond – the event date. The price point was reduced at intervals throughout the event to encourage these late ticket sales, with dedicated email and PPC campaigns highlighting the chance to buy these tickets and the savings available. FOMO kicked in and the ticket revenue kept coming..
    • Marketing measurement is essential. The marketing approach was adjusted regularly based on learnings gathered from MPG’s data-rich marketing performance reports. Having a strong grip on this intelligence helped boost the tactics to achieve a successful outcome.

HEAR THE FULL STORY

We look forward to continuing our journey with the Social Media Week team and hope to share more of what we learn as we go along!

MPG Newsletter June 2020
MPG Newsletter June 2020

VOICES

MPG has done a great job introducing and embedding better digital and data-led marketing practices into our business, meaning we can now target and engage our audience much more effectively. We really like MPG’s transparent and ROI-focused approach. Their regular analysis and intelligence reporting on marketing activity and performance is quite unique and has delivered a lot of value to our business.”

Alex Williamson, Co-Founder & CEO, Bio Market Insights

BioMarketInsights


There is great hardship in the world today. We are in a unique time where revival, reconfiguration and reinvention of almost every industry and institution is underway.

The positivity, dedication, creativity and innovation MPG’s clients and wider community have demonstrated is truly inspiring.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. Enjoy the sunny summer days. Remember to breathe – deeply. And let’s crack on!

How to get more intelligence into your marketing for a stronger ROI

“I see investing in more and better marketing as the best way to gain a competitive advantage and proactively drive my business forward. But I need the marketing to be more accountable. We need marketing ROI to be better measured and more visible.” The words of a senior business leader in conversation with MPG’s CEO.

What’s missing in this business are the tools and processes needed for good, consistently delivered marketing measurement and reporting.

At MPG, from day 1, we have always put marketing intelligence at the heart of our business. We’ve just released the 4.0 version of MPG’s Analytics & Intelligence Dashboard – now covering virtual events, sponsor lead generation and subscriptions acquisitions.

If you don’t currently have marketing measurement and reporting in your business – here’s a guide on what it is, why it is important and how it’s done.


What is marketing reporting?

Marketing reporting is the process of recording and presenting marketing performance data in a dashboard.

This should cover the revenue or bookings being generated by marketing and sales, as well as the detail on channels and tactics, such as social media, email, PPC and website.

To ensure the focus is on the most strategically important metrics, we work closely with our clients to understand what’s important to them and tailor our reporting tool to give them the most valuable intelligence.

To make sure they have the right marketing reporting tools and processes in place, it’s important for senior decision makers to know what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to reporting formats and metrics to focus on. Armed with this knowledge, they know what to expect from marketing teams and how to ask the right questions about marketing ROI measurement.


The value unlocked by marketing analytics and intelligence reports

1. See how marketing is performing in achieving commercial goals

The simplest, but arguably most important, benefit is providing high-level insight of marketing’s performance overall. Tracking how many sales/bookings are being made and/or how much revenue is being generated compared to forecasts and the previous periods provides a high-level understanding of how marketing is driving results.

2. Understand how your audience is engaging with content and products

Marketing data can provide invaluable insight on how your customers are reacting to your products and content, revealing what is of most interest to them, what their concerns are and what else they may buy/engage with.

3. Understand the profile of your audience

Who is reading, registering, and buying? Where are they from? What company do they work for? What is their job function? These are all important questions that regular reporting can answer. Understanding the composition and behavior of your audience enables not only more effective marketing, but also more effective data-led decisions across business as a whole.

MPG Insights

4. Enable better marketing performance

Reporting provides regular, valuable insights on the marketing channels and tactics that are performing best.

This gives marketers ownership, showing tangible results for their efforts and providing context on how they are performing against targets. They will also feel more confident in making decisions, as they can base their thinking on data instead of a ‘feeling’.

Reporting also holds marketers to account, challenging them to explain how they are making decisions and how they plan to address challenges and make the most of any opportunities.

5. Highlight any potential issues, even outside of marketing

Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint issues or inefficiencies – things that are holding a business back from engaging with their audience and achieving more revenue.

Reporting should show all elements of the sales pipeline so you can find these issues. For example: low engagement across all marcomms could indicate the product not being right for the market, or you could find leads are dropping off when passed to the sales team because a key step in the lead management process is not working as it should. Identifying the problem is the first step towards fixing it.

MPG Insights


So, what does good marketing measurement and reporting look like?

Added insights and intelligence

A marketing report is of no use if it only consists of ‘a whole lotta numbers’. The stats on their own are not valuable. What makes a marketing report valuable is the insights you can pull from the numbers and the important actions you can take based on these insights.

So, before sharing a report with the business, a marketer should spend time analysing and interpreting the data, putting numbers into context and drawing out insights and recommended next steps. This is the ‘intelligence’ element that unlocks all the value and should therefore be on ‘page 1’ of every report.

Updated at least once a week (or even better, in real time)

Feeding intelligence into your marketing should be ongoing, so reports should be produced weekly, at a minimum. This consistency and frequency will allow you to react to opportunities and challenges as they arise and keep marketing ROI front of mind.

Simple integrations between your marketing dashboard and martech stack can enable real-time reporting and reduce manual updates.

It is also essential to have a weekly meeting – a firm commitment in the diary for all key stakeholders – to review key findings and agree on next steps. This keeps everyone aligned and committed to marketing ROI.

MPG Insights

Mapping against predictions, targets and benchmarks

It is essential to know what ‘good’ looks like when analysing and interpreting marketing reports. Without this important context, you can only guess at what the various data points really mean for your performance.

The following three data sets will help you add the all-important context:

Predictions/targets: tracking performance against targets is essential in understanding how likely you are to achieve your end goals.

Historical data: comparing against your past performance is also important – even if a lot has changed.

Benchmarks: comparing results to your relevant internal or external averages allows accurate performance ratings.

It is best to use as many of these points of comparison as possible as they can be tied together to reveal the full picture. For example, you may find your revenue generation is tracking below your target which prompts analysis of the individual channels via historical data/benchmarks. This could then reveal a specific channel, for example email, is under-performing. Deeper analysis may reveal that recipients are opening emails at a high rate, but not clicking anything. You now have a specific, actionable insight: we need to improve our email messaging and layout to encourage more clicks.

MPG Insights

Marketing intelligence reports are essential for understanding the performance of marketing and the ROI it is delivering. CEOs benefit from greater visibility, allowing them to make informed decisions on marketing investment, as well as to hold marketing accountable for ROI.

Marketers gain access to the stats that matter most and can respond practically and with a sense of confidence and ownership.

Marketing reporting and analysis has been at the heart of MPG’s philosophy and our core methodology since our inception. We are proud that our clients are able to hold us accountable for results and push us to continuously improve and innovate. Our data-led, scientific approach to marketing has revolutionised the marketing of many businesses. We look forward to continuing to help our clients make intelligent marketing investments in the months and years ahead.


MPG’s Analytics & Intelligence Reports are custom-built to meet your requirements. To learn more about how we can help you develop an intelligence-led approach to marketing to drive more growth and value for your business, get in touch.

Standing out from the virtual conference crowd: MPG’s top 10 tips

In every industry, the second half of 2020 is going to be packed with virtual conferences. With all the postponed events from H1 now crammed into H2, along with most of the events that usually happen in H2 still planning to go ahead, we’re entering a unique six months of an over-abundance of virtual events – at a time when the world is coming out of lockdown and people won’t be spending as much time staring at screens as they have been over the past few months.

So, how will you ensure your conference stands out from the crowd of digital events and keeps your audience glued to their screens? The most engaging events will be those with the most relevance – in content, speakers and attendees. Having decent tech that works should be a given. Tech is not your point of differentiation.

The winning virtual events will be those with:

  1. The most relevant product
  2. The most relevant marketing

Product and marketing usually go hand in hand, and as we enter the virtual events world, the two will become more blended. Where virtual events are free (or very cheap) to attend, your digital event is essentially a substantial content marketing initiative. As has always been the case with content marketing, attention and engagement relies on relevance. The more relevant your content and marketing is to your target attendees, the more likely you are to get, and keep, their attention. And if you have the audience’s attention, you have the sponsorship dollars (and hopefully also some delegate revenue!).

To stand out from the crowd, here is what you need to do:

#1 Know what is keeping your audience awake at night right now

Put together event sessions and marketing messaging that specifically address the issues that are most important and relevant to your audience at the moment. Not only will your registrants turn up to your digital event if it’s highly relevant, they’ll also share your content and marketing with their colleagues and network.


#2 Get a speaker line-up your audience really wants to hear from at this moment in time

The people who have the most relevant and important things to say about the current situation faced by your audience will be your ‘must-have’ speakers. Pay them if you have to – at least you won’t need to also cover flights & hotel costs! For virtual events, having fewer, highly relevant speakers is better than having lots of mediocre speakers. In fact, don’t have any mediocre speakers – only invite the very best and most relevant onto your digital stage.


#3 Create a good customer journey

Your customers need to move seamlessly from landing on your event website, registering for the event, receiving registration confirmation, being updated/reminded of the event, attending the event and then receiving the post-event comms. So, once you have chosen your event product tech, make sure it integrates well with your marketing tech. At every touchpoint, make sure your brand identity is strong, consistent and feels relevant to your audience.


#4 Invest in developing a robust, content-led marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is not only about how many emails you send out or whether or not you use PPC. It’s about so much more than that. It should focus first and foremost on the following two things:

  1. A detailed market map and market segmentation plan: ensure you reach the most relevant audience in large enough numbers, with the most relevant messages
  2. Strong messaging strategy: focused on relevant USPs and benefits addressing your target persona’s needs and motivations at this time

It is essential to nail down these two strategic priorities to make your marketing relevant.


#5 Deploy an integrated, multichannel campaign – focusing on the most relevant channels

A businessperson – regardless of industry – probably spends most of their time hanging out in three places: their email inbox, on LinkedIn and on websites (found via Google). So, when you’re trying to get the attention and build ongoing engagement with your audience, focus on these relevant channels – ensuring all the words & images you put out there (your marcomms) are relevant, consistent and reinforce one another.


#6 Have a great project manager on your event team to make sure things get done

When running a virtual event, you will have many plates spinning and a very long list of tasks that need to be completed in a highly co-ordinated way – at speed. It’s great if your team is using good project management software, but it is even more important to have a person responsible for ensuring the right things get done at the right time. The most relevant content and marketing will fall flat if your execution is not synced. Project management software is not accountable to anyone. Put an actual person in place who is.


#7 Measure all your marketing and make data-led decisions

As you move through your event cycle, measure the impact of all your marketing across all channels. Do this in a granular way and make sure you pull out the most important, relevant insights on at least a weekly basis to inform your marketing going forward. The beauty of digital is all the wonderful data it gives us on audience behaviour and engagement. If you’re ignoring this data, you’re ignoring your customers.


#8 Make sure your marketing database is well structured and includes enough relevant contacts

You cannot reach out directly to the right people with your relevant content and messages if they’re not on your database. And you won’t be able to find them in your database or pull them into a targeted email list if they’re not correctly categorised. The competition you will face in the coming months from other virtual events will be very intense. Having a strong, well-structured database so that you can run effective, targeted email campaigns will give you the edge.


#9 Automate as much of your marketing as possible

Virtual event marketing campaigns work best with a shorter lead time than what we typically would plan for face-to-face events. This means you need to push out your marketing messages in a shorter space of time at a faster pace, and this needs to be highly responsive – so automation is essential. If your marketing is all manual, it will feel clunky and less relevant to your audience and will put a huge amount of strain on your team.


#10 Follow through with strong conversion-focused marketing

Don’t stop your marcomms to an individual once they have registered for your virtual event. Make sure that once they’ve registered they continue on an engagement journey with you – remind them regularly of the value and relevance of your event content and speakers, update them on any valuable new features, such as new networking opportunities, and encourage them to log on at the right moment to participate in your virtual sessions. It is in the last few days and hours before an event when automated marketing really comes into its own.


Nobody said creating a great virtual conference and marketing this effectively would be easy. If it was easy, you’d have started running virtual conferences years ago!

We know that conference organisers, sponsors and attendees are pining for ‘the good old days’ of simple, face-to-face events. But these are not coming back. For the rest of 2020, the world will have an abundance of virtual events to choose to attend and sponsor. Beyond 2020, the standard format will be hybrid events – taking ‘the best of virtual’ and combing this with the ‘best of face-to-face’ to create some very valuable experiences for our customers.

So, at this moment in time, you now have a choice: either embrace the challenge and aim to make your virtual event’s content, speakers and marketing more relevant and valuable than your competitors, or don’t – and get lost in all the noise – in 2020 and beyond.

For further insight on virtual events and advice on how to maneuver the ‘pivot’ from live to digital, read about our webinar case study looking at world-leading B2B events brand, #SMWONE.

Key insights from MPG’s ‘Pivot to Virtual’ webinar series

With large in-person events unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future due to Covid-19, Toby Daniels and the team at Social Media Week decided in March to launch a new, completely virtual event – #SMWONE – in place of two large scale, flagship conferences that were due to run in New York (May) and Los Angeles (June).

Toby generously offered to share the #SMWONE journey and learnings with MPG’s community (thank you Toby!). So, last week, over 100 of MPG’s ‘friends and family’ joined us for a 2-part webinar series breaking down ground in our industry (thank you friends and family!).

In part 1 of our webinar series, I had a ‘fireside chat’ with Social Media Week founder Toby Daniels to explore the strategy and practicalities of ‘going virtual’.

This was followed in part 2 by a marketing-focused session, where MPG’s Kirsty Joynson and Alicia Drew shared unique insights on how they developed the marketing strategy and then executed an innovative, fast paced marketing campaign to launch #SMWONE – with only a 4 week lead time.

Due to popular demand, we’ve put together a ‘content package’ to share with you:

 

Our top 7 takeaways:

1. Social Media Week have always had a strong digital presence and 365 content-led offering for their community. They’re just taking digital up a notch with a fully virtual, large-scale event – at a time of crisis, when their community really needs the knowledge and networking #SMWONE can deliver.

The most forward-thinking and ‘future-proof’ event organizers think first and foremost about their purpose around serving the needs of their community. Then they think about how best to serve that community – be it delivering and creating value via a 2-day in-person event, or a 4-week virtual event. The format/platform is there to serve the community’s needs in a way that is practical and engaging at a point in time. In 2020 – that’s digital.


2. It’s very important to focus on how you can create something new that is truly valuable for your community, instead of obsessing over when you can ‘go back to how things were’.

Brands that view adversity as an opportunity to innovate for long term success will be the winners. Event organizers that focus purely on cutting costs and damage limitation over the next 6-12 months will fall (far) behind. Our ‘new normal’ will inevitably look different and we should be embracing the unavoidable change, not shying away from it.


3. Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. The tech you choose must support the needs of your community.

Virtual meetings are not a new idea, they have been around for a long time. We all have a vast (and often confusing!) choice in digital event platforms. Social Media Week chose a new platform from Bizzabo to run #SMWONE because it promises the best combination of features to best serve Social Media Week’s community. Work out your community’s needs first, then choose the tech.


4. A virtual event creates new opportunities (and challenges) for marketing

With the physical constraints of an in-person event removed, marketers can now reach out and engage a truly global audience.

However, virtual events demand marketing that is more digitally sophisticated and precision-targeted, at a higher volume and a much faster pace than live events. This can create significant operational challenges if the right skills and level of resource is not in place.

Plus, event marketers are facing a very new, essential requirement: planning, setting up and running automated and effective conversion campaigns to ensure a high percentage of registered attendees turn up to the event and engage with the content and networking opportunities.


5. There are 5 pillars to marketing a virtual event…

…and they aren’t dissimilar from marketing a live event. These are:

(1)  An effective marketing funnel – with the right message, sent at the right time to the right audience to generate and then convert leads
(2)  An optimized pricing strategy – to achieve the right balance between revenue, delegate volume and attendee quality
(3)  Effective positioning – around your event’s USP and key benefits
(4)  Excellent execution – with a strong focus on digital enablement and automation to achieve the relevance and volume of marketing activity needed
(5)  Ongoing measurement and analysis of results – to ensure ongoing data-led decision making can enable a responsive and high-performance marketing campaign

These will all be familiar to event marketers, but their application must be adjusted to fit the virtual environment.


6. Test and learn is the name of the game

With a shortage of ‘case studies’ on how large, paid-for conferences have successfully transitioned to virtual formats, we need to be brave and truly agile. It’s essential that senior event professionals and their marketers quickly embrace tech and get stuck into working out how to deliver value to their communities digitally. The only way to really know if something will work is to do it. We don’t have time to wait for someone else to do it first to reduce our risk. Move fast and break things. Test and learn. Then quickly switch your focus to building stable infrastructure.


7. Have a back-up plan

Technology will always be prone to hiccups, as the MPG team discovered when our chosen webinar platform encountered technical issues 45 minutes before we were due to go live for ‘part 2’. The world’s fastest platform switch (citation needed) commenced and the stream started on schedule on a different platform. Digital event organizers should be prepared with some ‘Plan B’ options and the ability to make a quick switch if needed. The show must go on!


Part 1: Strategy – Replay

Part 2: Marketing – Replay

During part 1 of the series, our audience members’ combined challenges were prevalent as we saw an influx of questions surrounding both the short- and long-term considerations when taking a previously large-scale conference fully virtual. With input from Toby Daniels @ Social Media Week and MPG’s Alicia Drew and Kirsty Joynson, we have reviewed all the questions and provided full answers here for you to download.

We hope you found the webinar content package useful and that you have been able to gain some valuable new insights on how to approach your virtual event strategy and marketing approach going forward.

MPG contact us

MPG’s advice and predictions: overcoming the crisis and winning in the new world

The last two weeks have been very busy for my team. Not because we’ve been swamped with new business enquiries, unfortunately. I hope these will come in in a few weeks once the world has worked out that nobody can ever cost cut their way out of a crisis in customer confidence. Especially if most of those cuts are in marketing investment!

So, what have we been so busy with? The phone has not stopped ringing. Clients and others in our network have been calling us to ask the following three questions:

  1. What is everyone else doing with their live events for the rest of 2020? Are they still running them or cancelling them? Or making them virtual or hybrid?
  2. Do you think we should be planning for virtual or hybrid events?
  3. What tech should we buy to ‘digitize’ our events?

 
And in response to these 3 questions, I have said three things:

  1. There is very little, if any, precedent here. So, whatever advice we give you will be based on our best judgement and what we think is logical and sensible. Anyone who claims to have the absolute answers right now is probably someone writing a blog to flog a virtual event platform (I almost got taken in by one of these very well-disguised pieces just this morning…it was the ‘request a demo’ at the end that gave it away…)
     
    AND…
  2. You may be asking the wrong people, and…
  3. You are most certainly asking the wrong questions!

But before we proceed any further: it’s important we’re clear about our very strong views on the future of events. Events will HAVE to either be fully virtual or hybrid in 2020. And from 2021 onwards, anyone who wants to continue running their events in the same way they did before Covid-19 is being at best unambitious and at worst oblivious to how much our world has already changed.

If you’re planning to run live events in late 2020 or early 2021, your PLAN A should be to run these as hybrid events. So, keep your in-person offering on the table and build livestreaming (for content-led events) and digital directories (for tradeshows) into the fabric of your event, making it clear to all stakeholders that all content, showcasing of products and many of networking opportunities will still be available digitally alongside the in-person experience. And also make it clear you have a strong PLAN B to just run with the digital event, should it suddenly become impossible to host large gatherings, or gatherings of any size due to a further ‘waves’ of the virus making more lockdowns necessary.

But to get back to the issue of ‘are you asking the right people the right questions?’…

The conversations I’ve had over the past few days have gone something like this in terms of my response:

“Before you called us, how many of your customers did you call?

Of these customers, how many were in your ‘end-user audience’ i.e. the ‘core’ of your community as attendees, visitors, delegates to your events – the people you attract to your events to buy from your sponsors and exhibitors?

And for those end-user conversations you did have, did you ask them the following questions?

  1. What do you think you’ll need in the coming months in terms of learning, knowledge sharing and networking?
  2. How can we help you get what you need here?
  3. If we were to run all or part of our events in digital format, possibly alongside some in-person events – how do you see yourself participating and benefiting?”

My team and I will always encourage you to ask the above three questions of your community before doing anything else.

And then we will offer you the following six pieces of advice that we think could help you not only save your events and your business, but more importantly, help you take advantage of the immense opportunities facing B2B media and events businesses in becoming ‘community first’ brands:

  1. Make understanding the shape, size and needs of your community your #1 priority.
     
    By this, we mean ‘end-users’ – that valuable audience that you sell on to sponsors, exhibitors and advertisers. Because we tend to ‘follow the money’ and most of this tends to come from vendors selling to our audience, we’re putting the cart before the horse by starting with tactical responses to their needs.

    This can degrade our content and the value we’re creating for the valuable members of communities who make up our audience. Audiences WILL disengage and they will disappear. And then what do you have to offer your clients?

  2. Don’t think about your events just as events. ‘Events’ are just a format. Think about what goes into your events and what makes them valuable.
     
    Ask your core community members what they value most and work out how to serve this up digitally – to replace in-person experiences in the short term and be the ‘core’ of the events product in the long term, with in-person experiences then added on (not the other way around!).

    We’re working on some strategic projects where clients have seen great opportunity in either rolling digital event content into their subscriptions product to create a more community-focused membership offering, or launching a membership with digital event content they’ll be creating (and in some cases have already started delivering).

    The thing to do here and now is to ‘think different’. Essential innovation happens by turning your current formats inside out and upside down and shaking them about to see how you can get the most valuable stuff out and serve it up in a way that gives your community what they need – digital for now, then digital-first with face-to-face added on in the longer term.

  3. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep your valuable content and networking opportunities you can facilitate, in-person or online, front and center.
     
    What is hugely valuable right now and potentially unique, is the relationships you have with the ‘biggest names’ and senior decision-makers in the community you serve, along with their confidence in your content and ability to help their businesses move forward.

    Continue to invest in these relationships. They are the key to collecting valuable knowledge from these ‘top minds’ and then curating and packaging up this up for your community – along with facilitating important connections and discussions between people who really need to talk to one another right now.

    You hold a privileged position and have an important role to play in helping your community face their current challenges and identify potential opportunities that may present themselves in the coming months.

  4. Only choose your tech once you’ve worked out what your new value proposition needs to be, based on what your community needs.
     
    Tech companies have fantastic salespeople who usually won’t ask you what you really need before they sell you their kit. So, it is up to you to first figure out what your value proposition should be, then what your requirements are, and only then evaluate what is out there in terms of tech solutions.

    And remember – it is the content you put in to the tech, how you manage the data and customer journeys around and in through the tech and how your people make the tech work for your communities and clients that matters most. No tech can make up for poor content or bad operational delivery.

  5. Double-down on marketing. Invest in the skills you need to make content marketing, marketing data and marketing technology work in the way you need it to.
     
    Of course, I do have a vested interest in recommending this. But the truth is that now is not the time to be cutting investment in the internal people and external partners who probably understand how to make digital events work better than anyone else in your business – the marketers!

    You need strong marketers now more than ever to make your 2020 events portfolio work. Digital and hybrid events need even smarter and a higher volume of digital marketing than traditional live events ever did. Getting your audience to notice, commit to and engage with your virtual and hybrid events will take strong marketing skills and lots of hard work. If you under-invest in marketing over the next few months, you’re making a fatal mistake. Your delegates and sponsors won’t want to invest in your events going forward unless they can see you’ve invested first. And what more obvious way to show them you’ve invested than with good marketing – which stakeholders will notice. And they will certainly notice absent or bad marketing even more.

    Looking ahead to 2021 events: it’s nearly May! If you want your large annual events in the first half of 2021 to succeed you have to start working on the marketing now. Start now in building the strategies, databases and pipelines of sponsor, exhibitor and delegates leads if you want to make 2021 events a success. If your events in 2021 fall flat after the pain you and your event stakeholders have experienced in 2020, you’ll most certainly enter the dreaded ‘event death spiral’ that is almost impossible to reverse.Not investing in planning and marketing your 2021 events – starting now – could cost you everything in the long term.

  6. Help your clients – sponsors and exhibitors – understand and realise the value of digital event formats.
     
    What they may lose in the ‘intimacy’ of in-person events they will almost certainly gain in scale. The digital reach of your events will be far greater than your live events could ever be (if you invest in marketing of course).

    Also consider how you can help sponsors develop and execute their strategies to qualify, nurture and convert leads generated by digital event formats. Instead of taking direct enquiries, orders or doing deals in the live event format, as they’re used to doing, sponsors and exhibitors will have to work out how to identify and engage with their most likely future customers in different ways. So, take the initiative! Set up a ‘sales and marketing taskforce’ to help your clients build and optimise their lead funnels so that they end up with a good and measurable ROI from your events.

We all know that most of the money in the world of B2B events comes from clients. It will take some time to shift our models towards the safer subscriptions-led, recurring revenues. You will notice in our list of top six areas to focus on – I have still put ‘clients’ last. Because that is how the value chain works. Whatever you do, don’t let short term tactical moves to ‘keep our clients happy now’ sabotage the strategic priority of putting your audience first and in so doing creating and looking after your community.

Play the long game. Focus on delivering community-first value and hold your nerve. Don’t let the bumps in the road and inevitable setbacks knock you out of the premier league of the smartest and most valuable B2B community organisations. Like top athletes, winning is about being determined, intelligent, psychologically resilient and laser focused on the end goal.

B2B event marketers: for now, digital content is your product

Q2 is here and things are looking… interesting. We’re taking a step back to think about the #1 priority event marketers should have for the next couple of months.

Events have been postponed or cancelled. Virtual and hyrbid events and digital ‘add-ons’ are being created and launched at lightning speed. But budgets are frozen.

Many B2B event marketers are feeling uncertain about what they should focus on in the coming weeks to deliver value to their business and prove their worth. They are so used to be being pushed every day to deliver results in the form of revenue or ‘hot leads’ for the sales team. The job they may feel they have been hired to do cannot be done. So, they’re sitting at home, probably feeling quite anxious, in a makeshift – yet now permanent-feeling  – home office, wondering what do to.

For marketers looking for something to get their teeth into, that will deliver great value for their businesses in the next few weeks and over the longer term, content marketing via digital channels is the one true path.


Digital content’s new role

The value of content marketing to drive growth in B2B events and subscriptions has long been known, but until a few weeks ago seldom properly thought about or invested in.

For years speaker interviews, industry reports and podcasts have been a powerful way to grow engagement, reach new people and capture data of individuals who find most value in our products.

B2B community marketers now need to get very comfortable with the process around creating and distributing strong, engaging digital content to their communities. This will not only solve the short-term problems around maintaining engagement of valuable communities – but more importantly, will prove to be a great asset that can continue to be leveraged as we push ourselves into recovery mode in a few months’ time.

Digital content, and the marketing of this content, is an asset that needs investment – now more than ever. And this investment should pay off in the short, medium and long term. Who wouldn’t see that as an attractive place to put their money right now?

What makes content so valuable

At its core, content solves problems. People watch webinars not because of a flashy social post or catchy name, but because the subject addresses a challenge they face in their working lives. It’s fair to say nearly every worker in every field is facing a myriad of challenges in our working lives right now!

When community members ‘purchase’ our content, they pay with us three valuable things:

1. Their time
2. Their attention
3. Their data

These three things are the currencies we’re trading in right now when dollars, pounds and euros are being kept firmly in companies and investors’ zipped-up pockets.

What does good content look like?

Now is the time for producers and event content specialists to use their knowledge of the most pressing pain points and burning needs of their community.

At a time when people cannot gather together at events, or their companies may be limiting how much they can spend on the most valuable information sources, your content is a life raft.

Faced with huge uncertainty over their flagship events series Money20/20, industry titan Ascential put their community’s needs first. The Moneypot addresses the issues the fintech community faces right now in short, engaging pieces. Frequently updated content incentivises community members to subscribe while also referencing their event series to keep their conferences top of mind in a smart, customer-friendly way.

Social Media Week has always been a leader in content marketing. Their latest #5Things podcast covering some incredible work being done by some of the giants in the world of marketing in response to the Covid-19 challenges the world is facing.

How should marketers promote & amplify content?

For optimal results – marketers need to treat their digital content as their product.

That means deploying all the usual marketing strategies and tactics in promoting it:

Use your audience personas and map out your community to understand who the content best serves and how it solves challenges they are currently facing.

Create a messaging strategy that communicates the USP and benefits of your content consistently across channels.

Deploy a multi-channel comms plan to achieve strong reach within your community. Host the content in a dedicated spot on your website, announce new pieces via email and social media and re-target past users to pull them back to your site.

Collect data and segment accordingly to create the most relevant and welcome communications. The data you collect now can also be used later to push subscriptions and events sales – so make sure it is collected, stored and structured in the right way.


Thinking of digital content as a product may feel strange to many event marketers, especially those used to be focused on revenue. But this new mindset is absolutely essential in maintaining your brand & position, and in ensuring you are doing all you need to for your community right now. If you look after your community now, they will look after you when things get back to the new normal – however that may look. You can read more about our advice on winning in the new world here.

Excellent project management: a game-changer in event marketing

Why is project management so important in event marketing?

Marketing an event is a complex process. The end deadline is immoveable, multiple channels must be kept aligned and firing at optimal times, the product evolves daily with new speakers, updated sessions and new features and customer data must be continually updated to ensure marketing messages hit the right people, at the right time.

With all this complexity, it isn’t surprising when event marketers struggle to meet deadlines, or sometimes don’t achieve or demonstrate a good return-on-investment in their marketing efforts

A high-performance event marketing function relies on strong project management.

Without effective project management, you’re missing key campaign opportunities and limiting the return on investment you get from your marketing function.

In this blog post we outline best practice in project management for event marketing campaigns, and how you can ensure that your marketing team has the right skills, support and tools to deliver high performance marketing campaigns – on time, every time.


What does good project management for event marketing look like?

  1. The marketing manager is given full ownership of project management to enable their campaigns
  2. The wider event team – content producers, sponsorship salespeople etc. – are encouraged to support the marketers as project managers
  3. The marketing manager always works to a solid campaign plan, with key deadlines and tasks – visible to the whole team
  4. The marketing manager takes responsibility for coordinating the campaign contributions of all stakeholders
  5. The marketing manager works well ahead to build in all the steps needed to develop and deliver strong marketing collateral and campaigns – incorporating the contributions of various stakeholders.
  6. The marketing manager breaks down project elements into individual project tasks, with a clear brief and deadline for each task.
    Top tip: invest in a project management solution for your marketing team. These are not expensive and are highly effective in driving efficiency and effectiveness into your marketing – when used correctly. We use ClickUp, which has been game-changing for MPG and AGNC!
  7. The marketing manager runs a weekly project meeting, for each event, for all key internal stakeholders – usually the event director (P&L holder), content producer and head of sales. Ahead of this meeting (ideally the day before), the marketing manager should circulate a report on event performance and an agenda of key points to discuss to ensure marketing stays on track.

If you put these essential ingredients of good marketing project management in place, you will start seeing results.


But do be mindful of the top three things that could prevent your marketers from being effective projects managers:

1. They’re not fully supported or enabled by senior management or the wider team
2. They don’t have the skills or experience needed to create a strong event marketing plan, or run complex campaigns effectively
3. They lack the confidence and/or gravitas to lead a project team

Well-supported, rigorous and disciplined project management can make all the difference to the performance of your events. Enabling your marketers as project managers helps them gain the support and input they need from other team members to deliver effective campaigns. They will be able to hit deadlines and manage their workloads effectively across multiple events.

By ensuring your event marketers are also good projects managers, you’ll improve marketing productivity while also preventing marketers from burning out. It’s the best (and possibly the only) way to improve your return-on-investment from marketing and to ensure you retain your best event marketers!

About the author

Helen has over 2 decades’ experience in the B2B events space. She is now the proud CEO and Founder of two high-performance marketing agencies – MPG and AGNC – designed to address the most pressing exhibition and conference marketing challenges facing organisations today.

How to find new sponsors & exhibitors with smart marketing

How to get new sponsors & exhibitors to invest in your event

Sponsors and exhibitors are essential to the profitability of an event, but too often sales teams rely on the same few clients that return year-after-year, neglecting the opportunities available in ‘new business’.

Why acquiring new sponsors and exhibitors really matters

Events need a variety of partners to work. Attendees expect to see new companies each time they return. Part of the value proposition of a successful event is that the event presents new and innovative suppliers and vendors in the sector. Mixing up old and new faces also protects your event long term; even the most reliable clients can change their marketing objectives and end their commercial relationship with your event, putting a key source of revenue in jeopardy.

Why sales teams neglect new business

Sales teams’ natural process doesn’t usually focus on sourcing and nurturing new business – especially for an established event. Most go first to their tried and trusted contacts to renew their contracts and secure quick wins. It’s often only when the event looks like it might miss its targets, that the urgency arises to reach out to new prospects. But by then it can be too late to source, nurture and convert clients before the event happens. This can be compounded by sales teams lacking an established process to generate new sponsorship leads.

How a sales lead generation process can deliver a 500%+ ROI

What is the solution to the ‘new business’ challenge and this often missed opportunity? You need to invest in good ground-work and forward planning in sponsor and exhibitor lead generation. This can often generate faster growth than pushing harder on your delegate marketing. Specific marketing programmes focused on generating new leads for sponsorship and exhibition sales could deliver as much as 5x on your marketing investment, based on the KPIs we have been tracking on events MPG has supported over the past year or so.

Here are the steps we recommend you take:

1. Define the sponsor value proposition

Be clear about the USP and benefits of your event from a sponsor or exhibitor’s perspective, especially the key gains for them if they commit at an early stage many months before the event.

2. Define your target market and decision making unit

The decision to sponsor or exhibit at an event is usually made by a group of people. CMOs or CEO’s may be the final decision-makers, but senior sales people and marketing managers are also key influencers. You will need to reach and convince them all that their presence at your event is worth investing in.

3. Build your marketing database & inbound channels for lead generation

Map the market, deciding the ideal size of business, geographical location, sector and job titles. Then research your database, ensuring you include all the decision-makers within one organisation. Consider how you can quickly build your database to reach out to them, using data research for rapid growth and by also feeding engaging and relevant content in to your inbound channels and optimising your website for maximum ‘enquiry form’ completions.

4. Set up your marketing funnel

For outbound marketing, plan your email campaigns, with tailored messages for different audience segments. Get your inbound marketing working well by pushing compelling messaging and content via the obvious inbound channels – PPC and social media. Optimise your sponsorship landing page (with enquiry form) on your event website and also offer carefully crafted sponsorship options and event attendee profile PDF’s behind forms for lead capture. Optimise the rest of the website to direct sponsors who land anywhere else on the site to your sponsorship page.

5. Leverage your delegate marketing

Add sponsorship and exhibition lead generation elements to your delegate marketing by including in delegate emails and on delegate focused web pages some calls-to-action pushing people to the sponsorship opportunities page. Also consider adding to all lead generation forms on the website – including those focused on delegate marketing – the option for people to tick what they are most interested in (e.g. attending, speaking, sponsoring or exhibiting) before submitting the form. Those who choose sponsorship and exhibition options are clearly very good people for your sales team to call straight way.

6. Nurture your leads

Use marketing automation to track incoming sponsor leads and set up a nurturing programme. This is an easy win as you are earning more revenue from the investment you have already made in your marketing automation systems for your delegate marketing.

7. Incentivise sales teams

Monitor how quickly sales teams follow up on marketing generated new business leads. Offer enhanced commission rates for acquiring brand new clients to reward the extra effort, or nominate one person in the sales team as the new business specialist.

8. Learn and fine-tune

In the first year, measure everything and find out which types of leads convert fastest and for the highest average order value. Consider how profile (e.g. company type, country etc) and engagement behaviour (e.g. what they downloaded or clicked on) when ‘scoring’ leads. Even if you can’t convert a new business lead for the event it was generated for, you still have a good chance to convert it for the following year’s event.

It is important to consider that generating leads for your sponsorship and exhibition sales team requires a different approach and skill set than what is required for delegate marketing. You might need to set up a specialist marketing team to generate sponsorship and exhibitor leads, or consider engaging an agency to initially run a pilot programme for you to assess how to proceed longer term for further investment in lead generation for your sponsorship and exhibition sales teams. A steady stream of new business leads is bound to make any sales person happy!

About the author

Helen has over 2 decades’ experience in the B2B events space. She is now the proud CEO and Founder of two high-performance marketing agencies – MPG and AGNC – designed to address the most pressing exhibition and conference marketing challenges facing organisations today.

Kirsty is MPG’s Marketing Director for events globally, and a seasoned event marketing campaign manager, strategic expert and marketing function leader. Her team of conference and exhibition marketing pros deliver outstanding, high performance full-service campaigns for some of the world’s most prestigious events and brands.

What will make your event marketing pay in 2020?

Rapid revenue growth from conferences and exhibitions is a high priority for many B2B media businesses. ‘Flagship’ events often generate much of this growth. The momentum and profit generated when a flagship event grows fast creates business value in the short and long term – especially if a chunk of the profit is then invested in strategic development of a B2B community and subscriber base served by the flagship event.

But, in many cases, a flagship event won’t grow as fast as it should – or grow at all – due to under-performing event marketing. A very common complaint I hear from CEOs is that they’re investing more in event marketing every year – but they’re not seeing the return they hoped for.

 

Why is this problem so prolific? Usually because of one or both of the following:

  1. The event product isn’t strong enough
  2. The event marketing function is not set up as it should be to deliver growth.

If your event product is strong – it’s your event marketing function that needs attention.

But how do you fix this? Which areas should you invest in? And how do you ensure your investment in marketing your events delivers a good return?

We can answer these questions by looking at the essential ingredients of high-performance event marketing.


1. Create a solid strategy to market your event

  • Marketing decisions should be based on analysis. One of the best things digital marketing has given us is the ability to measure marketing performance – in every channel and at every level. Analyse all the data points you have available and if needed, invest in a customer insight project to ensure you’re on track with your strategy.
  • Making sure event marketers are always focused on clear objectives is critical. What are we trying to achieve in terms of event attendee and sponsorship/exhibition revenue and number of attendees? What profile of audience do we want to attract to the event to make it super-valuable to all attendees and sponsors/exhibitors? How do we want to grow the event in the long term? How do we want our brand to be perceived?
  • A clear, well-defined and well-understood event audience makes or breaks an event campaign. Does your event solve pressing pain points? Can you group your audience into segments based on job roles, company function or experience levels to deliver highly targeted and relevant messaging, at the right time? If you can’t answer these questions with a resounding ‘yes’, it is time to invest more in truly understanding your target audience.
  • A strong messaging strategy ensures you’re positioning your event and brand as you want them to be perceived. The first step to developing a robust messaging strategy is making sure you have a firm grasp on your USP (unique selling point). From there, you can craft a strategy that communicates the unique value your event offers – with authenticity and confidence.
  • Develop a pricing strategy that ensures you achieve your revenue targets. Finding the right pricing is a delicate balance, but by analysing competitors and crunching your historical data around how your customers’ buying patterns respond to pricing changes, you can determine the best pricing to maximise revenue.
  • Developing a strong multi-tactic & multi-channel strategy to effectively reach, engage and persuade your audience via multiple touchpoints. There is no single winning channel or tactic for event marketing – you need to reach your audience via multiple channels and means, with the emphasis on what works best for your customer. By consistently monitoring, measuring and analysing the performance of channels and tactics, you will determine the winning formula for your event.

2. Measure your event marketing and evaluate performance regularly

What does effective event marketing measurement look like?

It starts with the ability to collect and compare the metrics that matter – starting with sales and revenue versus targets, then looking at engagement level across channels, and then drilling down into the detail of what is driving results (e.g. email click through rates, website bounce rates etc).

The insights gained from this kind of regular and robust analysis will be gold dust and make all the difference in the return you achieve from your marketing investment.


3. ‘Safe hands’ in your marketing team covering the range of marketing skills you need – ideally in the following defined roles:

  1. Event marketing manager
    To provide direction and objectives for all marketing efforts, communicate on behalf of the marketing team with all event stakeholders and deliver strong campaign project management to ensure objectives are achieved.
  2. Marketing communications assistant
    Providing the ‘muscle & speed’ to execute the marketing – making event website updates, setting up and email sending emails, keeping your social media channels buzzing – building up the momentum of your marcomms as you sign up more speakers, sessions and sponsors.
  3. Marketing database specialist
    To keep your valuable target list of contacts on your database well organised, ‘clean’, compliant and growing.
  4. Martech specialist
    To select, join up and effectively manage all the tech you need to ensure you’re engaging your audience effectively via all channels.
  5. Design specialist
    To ensure your visual communications are of high quality & effective in communicating the value of your event.
  6. Website specialist
    To keep your most important channel functioning well and fully optimised to attract and convert web visitors to leads and customers.
  7. PPC (pay-per-click/digital advertising) specialist
    To help you reach new audiences and more strongly engage those who are already aware of your event and just need a bit more convincing to come back to your website to become a customer – or at least fill in a form to gain more information.
  8. Marketing analytics specialist
    To provide vital insights on campaign performance, so you know where you need to put your investment in marketing to generate the greatest ROI.

That’s eight different skill sets – some of which can be grouped together in to one role. But you certainly won’t get all the required skills in one person!

Many event organisers put in place event marketing managers and marcomms assistants and expect them to deliver to a high standard across the full range of skills needed. Some also invest in developing inhouse specialist roles & skills, and when managed well, this can be very effective.


But most event organisers, for various reasons, can’t ‘hire in’ all the skills needed. This is usually due to organisation or department size, budgets, business structure, or downward pressure on head count. Often it’s because they just can’t find the right people to hire; and once hired, retaining them can be very tricky.

The best way to build a high performance event marketing function is to strategically engage with strong external partners – to compliment what you can manage and deliver well inhouse.

These partners, like all good employees, need attention and investment to ensure they are engaged and fully integrated into your team. It’s a mistake to treat valuable and strategically important partners as mere ‘suppliers’. The right kind of partner will respond very well to being treated as a valuable ‘member of the marketing team’ – delivering the unique value to help you succeed.

The most successful events businesses are built on putting in place, investing in and effectively managing highly skilled and highly valuable internal resources and 3rd party partners. Events business leaders are acutely aware of the importance of excellent content people, sales people, venues, AV partners etc.

But when it comes to the marketing function, focus and an event leader’s attention and investment can be less forthcoming – maybe due to a lack of confidence in event marketing as a driver of growth. We need to break this negative cycle. It will be up to event business leaders and their senior marketing stakeholders to ensure the key ingredients of high-performance event marketing are put in place with the right level of attention and investment. Then, once this investment has been made, the marketing function should be held accountable for the value and return-on-investment to be delivered.

How Event Marketing Can Build – Or Break – a Trusted B2B Media Brand

What nearly all of the most successful community-focused and subs-led brands have in common is a strong and growing events portfolio – where their subscribers (or members) can come together to learn and network with their community across a range of event formats. It is at these events where subscribers also come face-to-face with the information brand they rely on, reinforcing trust and building loyalty.

And it is also at these events where much of the lost advertising revenue has now re-surfaced as income from sponsors and exhibitors – now often called ‘spex revenue’. A combination of strong delegate and spex revenues from events can drive highly profitable, high annual growth for a B2B media brand.

But events present a much greater strategic opportunity – or risk – for B2B media brands, depending on how the marketing of these events is conducted.  

Event marketing can be a frantic, siloed, highly tactical exercise (often done on the cheap) focused only on attracting the largest possible number of attendees in a short space of time to satisfy internally driven or spex-driven quotas – an approach that severely compromises the quality of communication and the audience. This is very dangerous for a brand that relies on the trust of its subscribers.

Or event marketing can be strategic – with brand trust as the starting point for developing an effective strategic marketing communications plan that, when executed well, leverages and reinforces brand trust. As with building effective and sustainable subscriptions marketing campaigns, strategically approached event marketing requires longer term thinking, planning and investment.

The best kind of event marketing not only fills venues with high quality delegates representative of the brand community, it also attracts new, high-quality subscribers, thus growing the engaged brand community.

 

The 5 areas brand leaders should invest in to ensure their event marketing builds brand trust and overall brand growth:

1. A good database and CRM

A well implemented and organised database in a good CRM will enable segmentation by demographics, behaviours and transactions – meaning communications can be personalised and made relevant. In addition to ensuring event communications are relevant to an individual’s role and challenges, it is very important subscribers are treated differently to non-subscribers.

When managing data through an event marketing cycle, the best set-up of systems and processes will also enable the identification of potential new subscribers, and push them in to the subscriptions marketing funnel.

2. A strong inbound marketing engine for events

Inbound marketing should run all year-round, driving event awareness via social channels, and shared email and event leads via a well-optimised website – while building overall brand awareness and strengthening brand positioning.

Subscriber engagement and brand-trust will often be positively influenced by what they see in social channels, especially if reinforced by a third party via likes and shares, while potential subscribers will often be drawn in by a compelling event-specific message.

The impact that the presence and engagement of high profile and well-respected speakers, sponsors and other third-party event stakeholders can have on a brand’s social channels should not be under-estimated.

3. An event website that reinforces a brand’s positioning, while integrating the event with the subscription value proposition

A strong event website helps customers extract more value from their subscriptions by engaging with event content before, during and after the event.

Highlighting and serving up unique ‘subscriber-only’ event-specific content and networking opportunities via your website is a good way to drive subscriber retention and acquisition. The FOMO factor is powerful, especially if what sits behind a paywall is highly current and relevant, as with event content.

4. A well-managed event marketing and sales funnel

An optimised funnel also ensures marketing qualified leads are followed up by sales people in a timely manner with relevant communications. Team members skilled in delegate sales, as well as solution and value-focused spex sales people, can make a significant contribution to brand building.

And if you can incentivise sales people to prioritise subscriber renewals and acquisitions over chasing down delegate and sponsor revenue, you’ll have a winning formula.

5. Ongoing measurement of engagement and conversions

It is important to understand how deeply subscribers and potential subscribers are engaging with an event, and then how customers are engaging with a brand beyond the event.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, as the famous Peter Drucker said. The tools are now available to every business to put meaningful metrics at the forefront of making decisions and driving results.
 

Events are powerful. The way in which events are marketed, all year-round, is equally powerful. The impact of events can be extremely positive for a B2B subs-led brand, or can destroy a brand by quickly eroding customer trust.

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