MPG recently hosted a round-table event for some of the most senior and experienced marketing leaders in multi-platform B2B media brands. The discussion focused on how a successful portfolio of events, that are well marketed, can and should support strategic brand development.
Discussion participants were all senior marketers who oversee marketing functions that support a number of revenue streams – including subscriptions, memberships and advertising, as well as event sponsor, exhibitor and delegate revenue.
Chaired by marketing guru Ashley Friedlein (Founder of Econsultancy and most recently founder of the new professional networking app Guild), this elite gathering uncovered the key challenges and opportunities in how events are marketed, taking into consideration the role events play in growing a multi-platform B2B media brand:
Event marketing investment trends
- Overall, investment in the marketing of events is increasing – both in terms of people and direct spend, as the successful marketing of events is more resource intensive than other types of product marketing.
- As marketing investment increases, heads of marketing are expected to provide more granular marketing budgets and better measurement of the return-on-investment of various marketing initiatives.
- Subscriptions marketing generally requires less investment than events, relying mostly on SEO and other forms of inbound marketing – usually delivered by digital agencies. The high quality of this web traffic in turn supports events and overall brand growth.
- As the return-on-investment on email marketing, PPC and social media becomes more transparent, event marketers are investing more confidently in digital marketing.
- However, direct mail and telesales continue to earn their place in the event marketing funnel and spend mix – used for the nurturing and closing of prospects already engaged via digital channels.
- Direct mail is still an important part of the marketing mix for events – especially when highly targeted and creatively deployed to achieve cut through. By matching sales data to marketing data, a return-on-investment can be ‘assumed’ (if not completely accurately measured). A well-executed direct mail campaign, showcasing an excellent event, has a positive ‘halo effect’ for the whole brand.
- LinkedIn has become the important social channel for most events and continues to grow in importance. Building LinkedIn groups are no longer a focus, while targeted sponsored posts are becoming more effective and efficient in driving web traffic, leads and bookings.
Data, technology and the much-prized single customer view
- The discussion on data and technology centered on the need for, and benefits of, a single customer view – particularly for multi-platform brands. Senior decision-makers seek visibility of how customers are engaging with the full range of events and subscriptions products. For many B2B media brands, only a small proportion (approx. 10%) of subscribers become event delegates and vice versa, which is concerning when brands are seeking deeper engagement with their customers.
- Some B2B media brands have achieved the tech stack and data flows that give them the much sought-after single customer view.
- This has allowed marketers, sales people and those in product development to gain real-time information about how an individual customer, or defined group of customers, is engaging with and consuming content, products, marketing and sales.
- This should enable co-ordinated, relevant and personalised delivery of communications and content to each individual via all touch-points with a brand.
- In many cases, the single customer view is still elusive, with many organisations grappling with costly and lengthy tech and data projects. However, there was consensus that a single customer view is needed – even if it is not necessarily as straight-forward to deliver as tech vendors have promised, or as essential to effective marketing and decision-making as the ‘hype’ around a single customer view insists it is.
Event marketing skills and team structures
- There are two commonly used marketing team structures in B2B multi-platform media businesses:
- A brand-led structure – where all products within a brand’s portfolio (subscriptions, events etc.) are marketed by the same team, usually led by a ‘brand manager’
- A product-led structure – where distinct marketing teams exist to promote different product types, i.e. the subscriptions marketing team is separate from the event marketing team.
- The brand-led structure is usually deployed when an organisation is aiming to be more customer-centric. However, this approach has distinct operational disadvantages as event marketing tends to dominate the marketing team’s time and focus due to the high volume of activity and the hard deadlines associated with events.
- The group agreed that either structure can work, as long as marketing teams are well resourced and managed, and the required marketing skill sets are in place.
- The greatest challenge faced in event marketing is the lack of specialist marketing skills required to get the most out of digital channels and data.
Most event marketers in situ and newly hired tend to be generalists who struggle with the technical and analytical aspects of ‘data and digital’. Generalist marketers are usually good at strategy, planning, messaging, project management and stakeholder engagement. They tend not to focus on mastering data and digital-focused skills due to a lack of time or interest.
Round-table participants tabled a number of possible solutions to this dilemma:
- Hiring dedicated data and digital specialists into an event marketing team
- Upskilling and refocusing willing generalist marketers to become more adept at digital marketing and data-related work
- Working with external partners, usually agencies, to provide the expert delivery of ‘data and digital’ marketing elements.
Overall, participants face very similar challenges in ensuring all aspects of marketing a multi-platform B2B media brand are resourced and optimised with the right people, systems and processes.
Strategic investment in event marketing is essential for success and growth. Marketing leaders are being held more accountable for the return on this investment, which is important if marketing wishes to move up the organisational value chain. We look forward to being part of this next chapter in event marketing’s journey!
Round-Table Discussion Chair:
CEO & Founder, Guild; Founder & President, Econsultancy
Round-Table Discussion Participants:
Retail Week & World