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PPC for B2B virtual events – a step-by-step guide

PPC in virtual event marketing – how well does it work?

From our experience, PPC is a worthwhile investment for virtual events. But only when used in the right way. When used to generate direct registrations, convert registrants to attendees or encourage form completions for lead generation and database building (or all of the above) – PPC can be a powerful and cost-effective channel within your digital event marketing mix.

In this post, we outline the six key steps you should take to maximise the effectiveness of your PPC for virtual events.

Step #1: Understand what you need PPC to achieve

PPC can be used to achieve a number of different things for virtual events, including:

  • Generating direct registrants for your virtual event – with PPC campaigns pushing your target audience to your virtual event website and online registration form
  • Encouraging conversions from registrant to attendee
  • Generating leads via web form completions, so that you can then email individuals to nurture and convert leads to registrants
  • Increasing awareness and influencing consideration in your target audience, thus supporting the performance of your other channels

Depending on your virtual event targets, marketing budget and overall objectives – you may use PPC to achieve some, or all of the above. The important thing is to know what you’re aiming to achieve and what success looks like when it comes to PPC for your virtual event. If your PPC approach is not informed by well thought through objectives, it can be very easy to spend a large portion of your budget ineffectively.

 

Step #2: Create a solid strategy

Once you know your objectives, you need to formalise a high-level PPC strategy. The aim of this strategy is to provide direction for the more detailed campaign plans that will come next.

In this PPC strategy, include:

  • The objectives: it’s important to detail these in your strategy to ensure the decisions you make on specific campaigns are directed by your overall goals.
  • The channels and campaign types: based on what you want to achieve and your target audience, be clear what channels and campaign types are likely to work best. In the below table we’ve listed the most common channels, campaign types and targeting methods based on level of engagement of audience groups. But every event is different, so consider this a starting point:
Reaching new contacts Reaching website visitors Reaching existing data
Google Ads Paid Search (keywords) Google Display LinkedIn
LinkedIn (professional attributes/groups) LinkedIn Facebook
Facebook (lookalike audiences) Facebook Twitter
Twitter (follower lookalikes) Twitter Google

 

  • The budget: split your budget by channel and campaign type based on your priorities and where you are in the campaign timeline. PPC is very scalable when it comes to budgeting, so you can commit a small amount at first (£100-200 per channel) to test the waters.
  • The timeline: map out when your campaigns will start and finish. Due to a sense of urgency and FOMO, virtual event PPC campaigns tend to be at their most effective in the final 2 weeks before the event – so allocating more of your budget to this period is a sensible move. It is also important to hold some budget back for after the event to encourage people to engage with the content on demand, especially if the number of people who watch the replays are important for your event model.
  • The campaigns: briefly outline the role each campaign needs to play in your timeline. Consider your whole marketing funnel and targeting of contacts at various stages of engagement with your event.

 

Step #3: Create detailed campaign plans

Using your PPC strategy from step #2 as a guide, lay out specific campaign plans by channel. This is where you get more tactical and detailed with your planning.

These plans should include – in detail:

  • Campaign objective(s)
  • Targeting
  • Campaign budget
  • Ad content (text and images/videos)
  • Any ad modifiers/extensions

When creating these campaigns, your primary consideration should be relevancy. To achieve relevancy, ask yourself these three questions, in this order:

  1. Are we targeting people who are very relevant to our virtual event, or is there a risk we include too many irrelevant or ‘not relevant enough’ people with our targeting options?
  2. Are the ads we’re running relevant to challenges and/or opportunities this audience is facing right now?
  3. Are the ads considerate of where the audience is in our marketing funnel? Is this the first time they’re seeing our virtual event information? Or are they likely to already know about our event (e.g. if they have already visited the event website)

It’s best to complete these detailed plans just before setting up each campaign so they are as current and relevant as possible. You’ll then want to factor in and apply any learnings from your results as you go (more on this in step #5).

 

Step #4: Set up and set live campaigns

This step seems the most straightforward, but there are two important things to consider.

  1. There are numerous settings to get right when setting up every campaign. The potential issues an error in setup can cause range from a campaign running for more days than you have planned or budgeted, to an ad group targeting completely the wrong people. It’s vital to get a second pair of eyes on your campaign setups to ensure your campaigns are pushing the right people to the right places at the right time (MPG has this baked into our internal process checklists so that a campaign one of our team sets up cannot go live without someone else checking every detail of the setup first).
  2. Every PPC channel offers varying levels of automation. These can be simple start and end date triggers and budget caps, but can also include more complex elements like auto-populating audiences that exclude registrants and smart bidding strategies that maximise conversion rates. Make use of these systems to free up marketing resource and reduce the possibility of human error in campaign changes.

 

Step #5: Monitor and optimise your campaigns – every day!

While the strategy and planning elements of PPC are vital, do not be afraid to adjust your approach as you go. You’re very unlikely to formulate the perfect plan and set up the best performing campaign first time. For PPC, assuming you’ll need to improve on what you initially set up is part of the process.

In practical terms, this means re-allocating budgets to the channels and campaigns that are performing best, adding and updating ads to campaigns that are performing well, as well as the myriad of other tweaking options that PPC platforms provide around locations, devices, demographics and bidding strategies.

It’s often easier to further improve winning campaigns than it is to fix underperforming ones. While you shouldn’t abandon your struggling campaigns immediately, the real ROI growth often lies in maximising your star performers.

Paying close attention to what is and isn’t working will allow you to uncover the optimal formula for your PPC. The importance of this step cannot be understated.

 

Step #6: Measure and analyse results – feed this intelligence into your marketing strategies

Right from the first campaign going live, PPC should be included in your marketing performance reporting and analysis. Key metrics to track are:

  • Cost-per-conversion (CPC): the amount you pay for each conversion (registrant, form completion) per channel. This should trend down as a result of your ongoing optimisations.
  • Conversion rate (CR): the percentage of people who click on your ad and then convert to a registrant, attendee or lead. This should trend upward.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR): the percentage of people who click on your ad after seeing it. Higher CTR indicates high relevance.

It’s not enough to just report on the raw data. A layer of analysis needs to be applied to pull out insights that enable intelligent, data-led decision making and create actionable steps to further improve the campaign ROI.

 

A winning formula

This article shares MPG’s winning approach to PPC campaigns for virtual events. Follow these 6 steps with consistency and rigour and we’re confident you’ll see a good return on your PPC investment!

 

Interested in learning more about how PPC can work for events?

Join our next Digital Marketing Intensive open course for B2B event organisers for a full rundown on PPC for events.

Or you can commission an in-house, tailored PPC training programme for your team where our PPC experts will create and deliver a bespoke course that meets your exact requirements, and exclusively for your in-house team.

Download the MPG Academy Prospectus here.

Enquire about MPG Academy’s in-house and open courses here.

 

Or…do you need to outsource PPC for your events?

MPG can create the strategy and detailed plan for your event PPC, and we can manage and measure it for you too. If you want direct support from our team of PPC specialists, please get in touch about your requirements.

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Social Media Week case study: lessons from virtual events, launching the ‘Netflix for Marketers’ and what’s coming next…

As the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns swept the globe, Toby Daniels and his team at Social Media Week had to very rapidly transform two large face-to-face conferences to something that would suit a world in which large gatherings were prohibited and home working became a universal norm. And so SMWONE was born – one of the first ever large-scale conferences globally to pivot from an in-person format to all-virtual.

MPG, as Social Media Week’s marketing partners, were given the challenge of coming up with and executing a new marketing strategy – fast.

In April, two weeks before the virtual doors were due to swing open on SMWONE, Toby and MPG’s Helen Coetzee, Kirsty Joynson and Alicia Drew joined forces to deliver a ‘pivot to virtual’ webinar series to share with MPG’s community the SMWONE event product and marketing strategies, and the lessons learned to that point.

7 months on, Toby has kindly agreed to share more insights on how SMWONE performed, the full set of lessons learned, and most excitingly – what Toby and team have been working on since.

Here is our Q&A piece – we hope you find it valuable!


Why did you decide to pivot to virtual so rapidly, instead of waiting to see if in-person events could be postponed?

There were a number of reasons, informed in part by the Governor of New York’s executive order, which forced our hand in having to cancel one of our two US based in-person conferences. We also believed that the second half of the year, regardless of whether we could host something in-person or not, was going to be saturated with competitor events postponed to later in the year.

We were faced with cancelling two huge events and knowing that if we were going to pivot to virtual, we needed to do it fast and early to get out in front of the competition.

We also felt a great obligation towards our attendees and partners to launch a virtual event and bring our New York and Los Angeles Social Media Week communities together for one virtual experience that would create a sense of unity and togetherness, at a time when we were all feeling isolated and apart.

What went well with the hard pivot to virtual?

From the point where we made the decision to pivot, to launching SMWONE was around 4 weeks, and about 7-8 weeks prior to actually kicking off the event. Despite how challenging a period that was for everyone – the adjustment to working remotely and with everything going on around us – I was very proud that Social Media Week team, together with MPG, was able to move so quickly and execute at a pace and level of quality that really stood out to so many people. In addition to speed, I was especially pleased with the quality of the program and how we were able to refactor almost every single session to cater to what was happening in the moment.

In total we hosted over 170 hours of live programming over four weeks, featuring some of the most senior, inspirational, and leading minds in our industry. The virtual format and nature of events like these also afforded us the ability to reach more people, and by the end of the event we had over 10,000 people register and participate in the event.

Scaling virtual events while driving audience engagement is not necessarily new to us, but it represents a different set of challenges from a marketing standpoint, and we would not have been able to achieve these numbers and reach so many people if it wasn’t for MPG’s ability to help put in place the operational and executional pieces that really drove much of our marketing efforts.

What would you do differently if you were to run another large virtual Social Media Week event?

Creating meaningful opportunities for people to connect and engage around live events is always a huge priority for us. We believe that content provides the context that in turn drives conversation and connection. In addition to having a thirst for new knowledge, our audiences are also inherently social people and seek opportunities to meet and develop relationships with their industry peers.

We have found this to be much more challenging in virtual environments. This was certainly the case during SMWONE. While this proved to be hugely difficult for us, we have invested considerably to figure out how to create a better and more engaging experience for our attendees and look forward to rolling out some new initiatives in 2021.

Do you see Social Media Week running virtual events in 2021 and beyond?

Since SMWONE in May we’ve hosted a number of virtual events, from private executive roundtable events to a large-scale event series we’re hosting with Facebook, called The Business of Empathy, as well as a huge client appreciation party we’re hosting later this month. During this period, we have quickly developed a capability in executing virtual events at almost any scale. When we think about the next 12-18 months we are fully committed to continuing to develop this capacity and to serve our industry in as many different ways as possible. We believe that virtual will be the primary means by which we do that, at least through the end of 2021 and perhaps beyond.

If we have learned anything this year it is that virtual events bring with them a ton of new and exciting ways in which to convene and engage audiences, and that they will continue to be an important part of our programs and offerings in the future.

In August, you launched a new subscription service. What is SMW+ and who is it for?

SMW+ is a streaming platform that provides marketers with opportunities to connect to and learn from some of the smartest and most accomplished leaders within our industry, through live and on-demand programming. The content is designed to educate and inspire and help marketers level-up in their careers.

Think of it as the ‘Netflix for Marketers’, or the ‘Peloton for Professionals’, with an incredible library of shows, content series and educational programs which members can consume live or in their own time through the on-demand experience.

Why did you decide to create SMW+?

SMWONE taught us that people consume content and participate in virtual events in a range of different ways. Some tune in live, some have it on in the background and some are binge watchers and prefer to watch/attend in their own time.

I felt that virtual events didn’t really cater to all of these different user behaviours, and that there was a whitespace opportunity to build something that had the look and feel of a premium streaming service but that catered to the needs of marketers who are looking to advance themselves and their careers.

We also felt confident that we had the team in place to do this. MPG’s contribution here again was very important – with the martech and data work they have done an essential part of the mix, along with the contribution they’re making to all other aspects of marketing SMW+.

What’s gone well with SMW+ that made you really feel the investment was worth it?

Too soon to tell, but we’re excited to now be rolling out a new version of the platform, together with a range of subscription options for users who are looking to invest in their professional education and learn from the smartest minds in our industry.

One thing we’ve learned – which we’re incredibly excited about – is that our presenters are loving the opportunity to create episodic content series rather than giving one-off talks or participating in one-off panel discussion. Our audiences in turn love this approach also as they can tune in each week, really get to know a particular host or presenter and also go deep into a particular show’s topic through the on-demand experience.

What are the biggest challenges you face with SMW+?

Building audiences and capturing people’s attention, especially today, is a huge challenge.

Professionals are completely overwhelmed at this point, experiencing Zoom fatigue and are probably waning in their enthusiasm for virtual events. This is our biggest challenge. How do you cut through the noise and reach, engage and truly enrich people with these challenges in mind? Our general approach has been to make the content feel unique, to invest in the production quality and overall experience and to provide people with something truly unique and valuable.

We obsess over how to best serve our stakeholders and I believe SMW+ stands out as something that all marketers should experience and enjoy.

What can we expect from Social Media Week next?

We’re about to launch our 2021 program of events, all of which will be virtual, together with some new updates and announcements on SMW+.

We are also about to announce the global theme for 2021, which I am feeling very passionate about as the topic feels urgent, important and incredibly timely. More on this and our 2021 program very soon!


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Event Tech Live: Helen Coetzee reveals MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale framework

Speaking on the main stage at Event Tech Live 2020 on 5th November 2020, MPG Founder & CEO Helen Coetzee shared MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale Growth Marketing Framework.

This framework covers a 3-step approach focused on a strategic and sustainable path to growth for B2B community-focused brands.

Developed from MPG’s experience of working on B2B community marketing strategies for brands in multiple sectors globally, this approach comes of age in 2020 – plotting a path for 2021 and beyond for brands to engage, then monetise, then scale their communities.

Download Helen’s presentation slides to learn more.

ACCESS SLIDE DECK

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Engaging, monetising and scaling B2B communities: how the experts do it

Author: Helen Coetzee – 29/10/2020

‘B2B communities’ is a topic that has gained serious momentum over the past few months. As uncertainty remains over the continued impact of Covid, businesses are looking to pivot to a business model that will deliver security and growth in the short and long term.

This mirrors the sentiment the very communities these businesses seek to engage and build. Tremendous change is happening in all industries, and the sharing of information and connections within ‘business ecosystems’ is now more vital than ever.

In a recent webinar, we invited three B2B community builders to discuss how they have built and engaged their communities over the past 6 months, and how they plan to proceed in this vein.

Discussion ranged from the characteristics and ideal size and structure of a meaningful B2B community, to practical methods of monetising a community.

You can access all the webinar insights, including the video replay, as well as attendee poll results and Q&A, produced by MPG and the panel.

GET WEBINAR INSIGHTS


Our panel had some firm views on what a community is, what a community isn’t and how to approach building meaningful communities going forward. Here we’ve pulled out 12 of the most interesting quotes from the session:

“Controversially, I would say that an event isn’t a community. Or at least it isn’t ‘community’. It’s just one expression of the community. In the same way, if you have a local village community, the village fete isn’t the community – it’s just one manifestation of it.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Communities tend to have quite a clear sense of self, a bit like a strong brand or a strong culture which are quite hard to define or pin down. But you feel it.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Waiting for an (in person) event to happen wouldn’t be a great idea right now because our industry is moving so fast. We’re serving our community at the moment by streamlining the process of sharing information and reducing the barriers to communication”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“If you haven’t been engaging with your community in this (in-person events) ‘downtime’, you’re going to struggle longer term because you need to remain relevant. You need to remain something that your customers want to go to, regardless of whether physical events are happening or not.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“At the start, we spent a lot of time just listening and talking to the strongest advocates within the industry itself that had already acknowledged themselves as community leaders. We went through all of the data and all of the knowledge that we could gain about that community to figure out our role within it and the new products and other things we could do to bring the community together.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“Professor Robin Dunbar, who’s on our advisory board, is famous for the Dunbar number – which is one hundred and fifty. This is basically the maximum number of people we can really know. When we’re in some communities of many hundreds or thousands, the reality is we don’t really know them. It’s just beyond our brains as humans.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Events businesses are really great at that amazing physical in-person experience, but now they’ve had to very quickly get used to digital delivery and all the new skills involved.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“At the heart of community is conversations and relationships, not content. Sometimes businesses think they can just set up a community, produce loads of content and pump it at people to succeed. But then it’s just a barrage of content that most of us don’t really need.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“A lot of people rightly think ‘how do we make sure we still keep the core principles of our business?’
Don’t lose sight of that, because that’s what keeps the lights on while you’re exploring new ways of structuring your business model around communities. You could also risk losing the trust of that community if you do it wrong or maybe even try to monetise too quickly or in the wrong way.”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“In the next six months we’ll focus on engaging with our community to understand what content they want to see more of, what pain points and challenges they face and what they can do to support them.”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“My plan is to think about what the next three years might look like. My strategy is to assume that live events don’t come back. Of course they will, but it’s useful to think about what we’d do without live events. How would I serve this community? What would I do differently? How would I bring them together 365? What do I need to put in place in order to make that happen?”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“We did something that was really appreciated; we were the first movers to actually get something out and bring them together. But we also really understood how they wanted to be brought together.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

HEAR WHAT ELSE WAS SHARED


Thank you to everyone that joined us live for this session. We have plenty more webinars and written resources in the pipeline, so make sure you’re subscribed to MPG Insights so you don’t miss out.

Want to learn more about building a B2B community?

Join our Engage. Monetise. Scale. Masterclass – an MPG Academy Open Course designed to help you define your community and build a strategy for continued engagement and monetisation.

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