Don’t take marketing skills for granted: they’re precious and need investment
Rapid revenue growth from conferences and exhibitions is a high priority for many B2B media businesses. ‘Flagship’ events often generate much of this growth. The momentum and profit generated when a flagship event grows fast creates business value in the short and long term – especially if a chunk of the profit is then invested in strategic development of a B2B community and subscriber base served by the flagship event.
But, in many cases, a flagship event won’t grow as fast as it should – or grow at all – due to under-performing event marketing. A very common complaint I hear from CEOs is that they’re investing more in event marketing every year – but they’re not seeing the return they hoped for.
Why is this problem so prolific? Usually because of one or both of the following:
- The event product isn’t strong enough
- The event marketing function is not set up as it should be to deliver growth.
If your event product is strong – it’s your event marketing function that needs attention.
But how do you fix this? Which areas should you invest in? And how do you ensure your investment in marketing your events delivers a good return?
We can answer these questions by looking at the essential ingredients of high-performance event marketing.
1. Create a solid strategy to market your event
- Marketing decisions should be based on analysis. One of the best things digital marketing has given us is the ability to measure marketing performance – in every channel and at every level. Analyse all the data points you have available and if needed, invest in a customer insight project to ensure you’re on track with your strategy.
- Making sure event marketers are always focused on clear objectives is critical. What are we trying to achieve in terms of event attendee and sponsorship/exhibition revenue and number of attendees? What profile of audience do we want to attract to the event to make it super-valuable to all attendees and sponsors/exhibitors? How do we want to grow the event in the long term? How do we want our brand to be perceived?
- A clear, well-defined and well-understood event audience makes or breaks an event campaign. Does your event solve pressing pain points? Can you group your audience into segments based on job roles, company function or experience levels to deliver highly targeted and relevant messaging, at the right time? If you can’t answer these questions with a resounding ‘yes’, it is time to invest more in truly understanding your target audience.
- A strong messaging strategy ensures you’re positioning your event and brand as you want them to be perceived. The first step to developing a robust messaging strategy is making sure you have a firm grasp on your USP (unique selling point). From there, you can craft a strategy that communicates the unique value your event offers – with authenticity and confidence.
- Develop a pricing strategy that ensures you achieve your revenue targets. Finding the right pricing is a delicate balance, but by analysing competitors and crunching your historical data around how your customers’ buying patterns respond to pricing changes, you can determine the best pricing to maximise revenue.
- Developing a strong multi-tactic & multi-channel strategy to effectively reach, engage and persuade your audience via multiple touchpoints. There is no single winning channel or tactic for event marketing – you need to reach your audience via multiple channels and means, with the emphasis on what works best for your customer. By consistently monitoring, measuring and analysing the performance of channels and tactics, you will determine the winning formula for your event.
2. Measure your event marketing and evaluate performance regularly
What does effective event marketing measurement look like?
It starts with the ability to collect and compare the metrics that matter – starting with sales and revenue versus targets, then looking at engagement level across channels, and then drilling down into the detail of what is driving results (e.g. email click through rates, website bounce rates etc).
The insights gained from this kind of regular and robust analysis will be gold dust and make all the difference in the return you achieve from your marketing investment.
3. ‘Safe hands’ in your marketing team covering the range of marketing skills you need – ideally in the following defined roles:
- Event marketing manager
To provide direction and objectives for all marketing efforts, communicate on behalf of the marketing team with all event stakeholders and deliver strong campaign project management to ensure objectives are achieved.
- Marketing communications assistant
Providing the ‘muscle & speed’ to execute the marketing – making event website updates, setting up and email sending emails, keeping your social media channels buzzing – building up the momentum of your marcomms as you sign up more speakers, sessions and sponsors.
- Marketing database specialist
To keep your valuable target list of contacts on your database well organised, ‘clean’, compliant and growing.
- Martech specialist
To select, join up and effectively manage all the tech you need to ensure you’re engaging your audience effectively via all channels.
- Design specialist
To ensure your visual communications are of high quality & effective in communicating the value of your event.
- Website specialist
To keep your most important channel functioning well and fully optimised to attract and convert web visitors to leads and customers.
- PPC (pay-per-click/digital advertising) specialist
To help you reach new audiences and more strongly engage those who are already aware of your event and just need a bit more convincing to come back to your website to become a customer – or at least fill in a form to gain more information.
- Marketing analytics specialist
To provide vital insights on campaign performance, so you know where you need to put your investment in marketing to generate the greatest ROI.
That’s eight different skill sets – some of which can be grouped together in to one role. But you certainly won’t get all the required skills in one person!
Many event organisers put in place event marketing managers and marcomms assistants and expect them to deliver to a high standard across the full range of skills needed. Some also invest in developing inhouse specialist roles & skills, and when managed well, this can be very effective.
But most event organisers, for various reasons, can’t ‘hire in’ all the skills needed. This is usually due to organisation or department size, budgets, business structure, or downward pressure on head count. Often it’s because they just can’t find the right people to hire; and once hired, retaining them can be very tricky.
The best way to build a high performance event marketing function is to strategically engage with strong external partners – to compliment what you can manage and deliver well inhouse.
These partners, like all good employees, need attention and investment to ensure they are engaged and fully integrated into your team. It’s a mistake to treat valuable and strategically important partners as mere ‘suppliers’. The right kind of partner will respond very well to being treated as a valuable ‘member of the marketing team’ – delivering the unique value to help you succeed.
The most successful events businesses are built on putting in place, investing in and effectively managing highly skilled and highly valuable internal resources and 3rd party partners. Events business leaders are acutely aware of the importance of excellent content people, sales people, venues, AV partners etc.
But when it comes to the marketing function, focus and an event leader’s attention and investment can be less forthcoming – maybe due to a lack of confidence in event marketing as a driver of growth. We need to break this negative cycle. It will be up to event business leaders and their senior marketing stakeholders to ensure the key ingredients of high-performance event marketing are put in place with the right level of attention and investment. Then, once this investment has been made, the marketing function should be held accountable for the value and return-on-investment to be delivered.
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