In early 2023, I hosted a Marketing Leaders Roundtable on behalf of MPG, bringing together heads of marketing from B2B events businesses to share insights about their current challenges and opportunities. Participants found the discussion very valuable as they could share their experiences and brainstorm ideas to drive their marketing functions, and businesses, forward. The key discussion points were: 1. Common challenges facing leaders in B2B Media/Events 2. B2B marketing resources/skills: building a resilient marketing function From the in-depth round-table discussion, it was clear that event marketing leaders are facing many of the same challenges, outlined below. Attracting and retaining experienced event marketers has become even more costly and time-consuming Marketers with conference and exhibition marketing experience have always been difficult to find. And the pandemic has made that even harder as so many marketers left the events industry. Retaining experienced event marketers and replacing those who leave has become a much more costly and time-consuming exercise. Salary expectations have risen (for marketers with and without event marketing experience), it is taking a long time to hire new marketers at all levels, and all staff now need and expect more ongoing training than previously. Marketing leaders are having to think differently, finding new ways to ensure they have all the resources and skills they need for a strong and resilient marketing function. What needs to change? Many businesses are now giving more consideration to how they use external partners to inject all the skills and resources into their event marketing as needed to achieve their commercial goals. This smart use of external partners also helps to motivate and retain valued internal marketers. The best marketing talent demands ongoing learning and development As marketing changes so fast, smart marketers know they need to be learning constantly in order to maintain a skill set that is valuable for any employer. Marketing leaders are recognising the importance of building learning and development programmes for their teams, and delivering these carefully and consistently in order to attract and retain good people. It is, however, not always possible or sensible to have in-house marketers trained on all aspects of marketing – especially the more advanced technical areas of marketing such as martech, data, and analytics where ‘special projects’ are often better delivered by external partners. What needs to change? The most progressive marketing leaders are always thinking about how they can enhance the knowledge of their marketers while providing the inspiration and support to enable and motivate them to deliver the best commercial results – and stay with the business. This requires marketing leaders to step out of the ‘hamster wheel’ of spending all their time scrambling to find stop-gap resources, while also hiring and training new marketers. To break this vicious cycle, they need to apply some ‘out of the box’ thinking and solutions, asking themselves the following important questions: 1. How can I strategically bring in external help as a long-term solution to my ongoing event marketing skills and resource problem? 2. How can I build the business case to gain senior stakeholder support to do this? Can external partners help build this business case? Event marketers are facing unrealistic expectations and unreasonable demands No single marketer can have the full set of strategic, tactical, creative, and technical skills now needed to promote a leading conference or exhibition. Event marketers are often expected to do the impossible and are spread very thinly across multiple products and channels. This is especially damaging when it comes to flagship or high-growth events which then don’t get the attention they need. Marketers who are not enabled to do their jobs well are never going to be able to deliver the best results for these events. Leaders in B2B events businesses need to recognise how complex and demanding marketing campaigns have become, and the negative impact that a poorly resourced marketing function can have on business performance. The marketing skill and resourcing levels of previous years are no longer sufficient to succeed as a leading events business. What needs to change? The most successful, fast-growing conferences and exhibitions have strong marketing functions driving great results. These are resourced with all the required marketing skills and manpower needed – usually a combination of internal and external experts – organised well strategically and tactically into high-performance event marketing teams. Relying only on internal resources is not the smart way to grow an events business. Having the ‘best of both’: generalist and specialist marketers More marketing specialists with focused skill sets are now needed – so one event would need at least three different marketers with different areas of expertise to work together to deliver good results. Typically, a marketing generalist is needed to bring together a multi-skilled event marketing team – organising, managing, supporting and focusing all team members on clear goals. Some marketing leaders are keeping generalist marketing skillsets inhouse and outsourcing for specialist and technical skills. This gives them the scope to be flexible and dial-up and dial down their investment as required by the business or as dictated by the event life cycle. What needs to change? The most progressive event business leaders are looking at how they can bring in additional, external marketing resources to deliver the marketing for a specific event that has high growth potential, sometimes an important launch within a high growth portfolio. This kind of focused project and investment means these ‘star products’ are given a boost in terms of their marketing leadership position. When this process is managed well, with the right external partners and internal organisation, the ‘extra’ investment should more than pay for itself – becoming a ‘no brainer’ for any growth focused organisation. MPG helps Marketing Leaders achieve best results. If you would like to join one of our future round-tables, or find out about the services MPG offers to help Marketing Leaders drive the best results for their businesses, please get in touch.