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.