Over the past 12 months, the most popular reads on MPG’s website have been the 9 Strategic Success Factors in Event Marketing blog series by Kirsty Joynson and How successful events can transform a B2B media business – a report based on research conducted with some of the most well-respected leaders from our community of B2B events professionals.
These pieces have resonated because they provide experience-based frameworks and guidelines for growing events and creating value.
Unsurprisingly, many conversations I have had with senior executives recently have been on how best to invest in events and event marketing, and how to structure organisations and event teams for success.
Here are the six areas I always recommend organisations focus on to achieve strong growth for their events:
1. Customer Research
Don’t try and take shortcuts when determining what your customers need and want. Relying on ‘existing knowledge’ and/or instinct (no matter how well informed!) is not enough.
Remove all guesswork by conducting a thorough programme of primary and secondary research – which is essential in identifying your customers’ most critical pain points, opportunities and burning needs. This research will give you the accurate insight you need to attract and engage your target audience with:
- an event programme focused on the right themes
- content arranged in the most suitable formats
- the most compelling and relevant speakers
Research is not a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘one-off’ when launching events. It is a completely essential and ongoing requirement. As you move into new event cycles for a repeated annual event or related events, your content and formats need to continually evolve to remain relevant and valuable.
2. Advisory Boards
Putting in place a strong advisory board is one of the best ways to secure the success of your event or series of events. This should ideally be done in the early stages of your research and should become a key enabler in engaging with the right people.
Concentrate on recruiting progressive thinkers who have ‘clout’ and a strong reputation within your event’s industry and community. They’ll help you build industry support and can also aid in researching and refining your event’s value proposition and content.
You would usually invite advisory board members to speak at your event, or at least attend (free of charge if you’d usually charge a delegate fee!), but it is not essential for them to participate ‘on the day’. Their involvement alone will add weight and credibility to your research, speaker acquisition and event marketing – bringing together the best possible event for the best possible group of attendees.
3. Key Partnerships
Both paying sponsors and other types of non-paying strategically important partners usually play an important role in the success of an event or a portfolio of related events.
Associations and specialised media outlets can be very valuable partners, especially for launch events and events that sit at the heart of an industry already served by credible membership organisations and media brands. They are particularly helpful in gaining exposure and traction in their ‘ready-made’ audience of members and subscribers.
Speakers should also be thought of as strategic partners and handled as such. High profile speakers can be the best partners you have when it comes to adding weight to your event proposition and engaging your audience.
‘Quality over quantity’ should be your mantra for engaging event partners of all types, and it is essential partners are fully aligned with your event’s purpose.
4. Commercial Focus
Many organisations looking to launch or grow events often have existing and established revenue streams not related to events. These legacy income streams are usually key to the survival and overall success of an organisation and are often also areas strategically targeted for growth.
While it is very important for events to be aligned and integrated with your brand and related products from a customer’s perspective, events have a different DNA to other types of products. They operate on a faster cycle, are highly changeable and dynamic and are tied to a very hard deadline. They also require a thorough approach when executing a large volume of activities – accurately, rigorously and ‘at speed’.
If your core team, which is focused on your organisation’s more established revenue streams, has to start working on events – it is very likely the distraction and ‘overload’ will pose significant financial risk and often results in poor performance.
Ideally, you will have a separate operational team dedicated to your events. This ensures the potential for revenue generation and growth of both events and non-event products is maximised, and you don’t end up with an underperforming, burnt-out and resentful team.
5. Building Your Events Team
Assuming you are able to create a separate team to run your events, we recommend the following organisational set-up:
- Production: A dedicated content production function is essential. Producers are responsible for research, agenda creation and speaker acquisition. They must work closely with editors, marketers, sales people and other subject-matter and target audience experts to gain the best knowledge internally before conducting their external research.
- Marketing: A specialised and dedicated event marketing resource is essential to attract the event sponsors, exhibitors and attendees. This is usually a combination of inhouse staff and external specialists – both of which should ideally have event marketing expertise. Some organisations outsource their event marketing entirely as it requires a specialist, and in many ways highly technical, skillset which is often difficult to recruit for and manage (MPG has some case studies you might find useful – request them here).
- Sponsorship and exhibition sales: This function can either be integrated with the organisation’s existing/main sales team, or can have a unique focus on events. This sales operation requires excellent internal communication and a good CRM tool.
- Logistics: Logistics managers should have the responsibility for the sourcing and management of venues, catering, audio-visual equipment, event badges, signage and other key areas that need focus in order to run a well-organised/seamless event. This function also often looks after speaker support (arranging accommodation etc), ensuring all sponsorship and exhibition commitments are fulfilled and the delivery of customer services for attendees.
6. Onboarding and Managing Great Event Talent
Event specialists with specific experience in event production, marketing, sales and logistics are in high demand and short supply. This, along with the often ‘seasonal’ nature of event resourcing requirements means that organisations will often have a core team of event managers and then look externally to bring on board flexible and cost-effective resources that can deliver the exact specialist skillset at the time and scale needed.
Regardless of resources being internal or external, it is critical to set clear, measurable objectives for each party and ensure there is strong project management in place to optimise the investment in all areas.
A framework for success.
If you’re looking to grow your events, then we recommend you focus your time, attention and money on these six areas. Investing in events in the right way will nurture this vital and often high growth revenue stream, while creating a loyal and engaged community around your products and brands.