In Europe, GDPR and ePrivacy regulations poses significant challenges for B2B event marketing – where large databases of contacts gathered via research and list buying, not consent, are still relied upon by most event organisers to reach high numbers of prospects to attract delegates, exhibitors and sponsors to their events. And putting changing data privacy regulations to one side for a moment, at a global level, customer expectations are changing. People really don’t like being spammed anymore. They expect the communications they receive to be highly relevant and personalised. So how should we be building and improving our databases going forward? The answer lies in tackling the following four areas head-on – without any further hesitation: Inbound marketing – fuelled by outstanding content and distributed with social media, PPC and SEO muscle. The time has now truly come in event marketing for the inbound movement to take hold. Influencer marketing – engaging and leveraging the right event advocates (e.g. advisory board members and speakers) at the heart of a well-defined community. 3rd party partnerships – find organisations to work with that have excellent, engaged and consented audiences, such as subscriptions-based information brands and trade associations. Consent gathering – ensuring our ‘tick boxes’ and privacy policies are ‘bullet proof’ in terms of compliance and also to be considerate to our customers – enabling you to build high quality and properly engaged contacts. (We also recommend keeping a close eye on the latest news and guidance about GDPR, ePrivacy regulations and Data Protection Bill 2017 as there are still some unanswered questions about what will be allowable for B2B event marketing). But before we even think about how we’re going to reach our target audience – let’s take a step back and think more strategically. Do you really know your target market? Rule number one: don’t assume anything. Being in a certain sector for many years and having a ‘feel’ for the market isn’t enough. Your knowledge of the market must be underpinned by robust and up-to-date analysis. If you don’t know exactly who you are targeting, how big your target market is, where they’re based and what their characteristics are then reaching them via any means is going to be severely hampered by a lack of focus. The first thing you should always do is clearly define your target market in terms of specific characteristics, including: Company sector/industry (e.g. retailer, civil engineering firm, etc) Ignore standardised industry coding for this exercise – you need to use the most helpful definition for your strategy, not shoehorn companies in to often irrelevant and outdated classifications. Company size This is usually best measured by annual revenue as ‘head count’ is a pretty outdated concept when we’re living in a ‘gig economy’. Job function This is essentially the department your target customer works in – e.g. marketing, operations or often something as specific as ‘digital transformation’. The more specific you can be, the better. Seniority Usually organised in to four levels: C-Suite, Director, Manager and Other. To attract the right audience to your event and ensure they gain value from attending it is essential they can network with their peers. Geo location The most simple one of all and essential for events where the physical location is a significant factor in how likely someone is to attend. Just remember to ensure this is at individual level, and not where the company headquarters are! Size matters Now that you know who you’re trying to reach, you need to size your market. If you’re working with a limited budget or don’t have much time, this can be done by using LinkedIn to search for how many people you can find within a certain function in a certain region. For a more comprehensive insight you can invest in a customer insight or research specialist to more thoroughly investigate the size of a market. We find it’s best to do this market mapping and sizing exercise in clearly defined target market segments – ideally the segments you will be using for your customised and targeted messaging. This granular approach increases accuracy and focus. Think of your target market segments as puzzle pieces – some bigger than others. Give yourself time to put the puzzle together so that the ‘big picture’ of the full audience you’re trying to reach is built iteratively – with every puzzle piece fitting exactly in place, in its turn. Start with your contactable database Once you have defined and sized your market, you can work out how many people you have on your contactable database (taking relevant regulations in to account). Compare your database, ‘puzzle piece by puzzle piece’, against your market map. This will allow you to quickly identify the most important gaps in your database, where target market segments that matter most to your event should be the focus for your audience development. Now grow your reach Using highly targeted research that includes the required level of ‘opt in’; inbound marketing; 3rd party partnerships; influencer marketing and consent gathering via your website – you can now confidently grow your reach in to your target market. Always ensure you’re focused on the most important (not the largest) market segments, which are usually the most senior decision-makers within end-user companies. The bad news is that there are no short cuts. The good news is it is all possible – the tools, best practice approaches, processes and skills to get this ‘new’ approach to marketing right are now all accessible, even to small companies. And they’re tried and tested. It does work! And the very best news of all is that this approach gives you a highly engaged and high quality audience, forming a sustainable and valuable marketing database that will grow organically over time. Just make sure your overall business is taking a strategic, long term view and is focused on growing your brand and your community in a genuine and sustainable manner. If this is not the case, our only advice is quite simple: quit your job and find an organisation to work for that ‘gets it’. Measure, measure, measure Bosses that ‘get it’ also seek accountability and value event marketers who measure their own performance, regularly updating their stakeholders on the ROI they have achieved for the organisation. So, as with other elements of marketing, measuring the success of your data sources – data lists, inbound marketing channels such as PPC (paid search, remarketing, etc…), third parties – is crucial. This will allow you to track the performance of your database, inbound marketing efforts and influencer marketing throughout the campaign, enabling you to make confident decisions on where further investment should go. Your data sources should be measured against the following metrics: Engagement rates via email stats – are their data lists that are engaging more with your email campaigns? Leads – are their particular data sources that are generating more leads for you? Bookings – are their data sources that are converting at a higher rate? So, stop measuring the size of your database, and stop aiming to send the highest number of emails possible to ‘get your delegates’. Start measuring the only things that really matter: engagement, referrals and conversions. So, stop fretting about GDPR and ePrivacy regulations, and start thinking about and doing all these important things with your B2B event marketing databases. Lead with strategy and you’ll win every time!