Unlocking the Potential of Marketing: Some Sage Advice for Events Business Leaders

Our guest blogger – experienced event and content advisor Tim Mann provides insightful tips on how events business leaders can be confident in the return on their investment in marketing.

“By improving the reporting process for the marketing team, you are also helping the marketing team communicate with other functions, enhancing their value to the organisation. Marketing reports, made accessible and actionable, should be shared with all functions in the business – especially sales.”

As is the case in all types of organisations, senior executives focused on the success of B2B events have to quickly process information from a variety of sources to make good decisions – on an operational and strategic level.

A cause of frustration I often encounter when working with senior executives is how difficult it can be to efficiently receive and understand data provided by B2B community marketers.

Frequently, meetings with B2B community marketers or the reports they provide tend to overflow with analytics – where important context and actionable insights can be difficult to pinpoint. It can be unclear how marketing spend is being allocated, which channels or elements of an B2B community marketing campaign are working best, or what is being done to optimise marketing performance in the months and weeks leading up to an event.

This can strain relationships between marketers, executives and other stakeholders.

So, what are the reasons for this and how can you address this challenge?

The language of leadership and the language of marketing

Marketing is a frequently misunderstood function. The analytics and language of its reports can be impenetrable to ‘outsiders’, especially when compared to other functions such as sales – despite the fact both functions should be closely aligned.

CEOs, Managing Directors or Divisional Directors (P&L holders) in B2B Media and events businesses still tend to come from a background of content or sales – giving them a stronger, innate understanding of how non-marketing functions operate. Even if marketing has been a career path to senior management, the function has changed so much in the past five years that marketing experience gained years ago is probably of limited use.

Compounding the problem, changes in recent years in the technology and tools being employed by marketers has resulted in marketing spend and the reliance on marketing investment increasing, as well as the volume of data and analytics rising.

This growing cost and complexity of marketing has widened the disconnect between marketers and their senior executive team who see vast resources being sucked up, but hard-to-find or difficult to understand evidence of a return-on-investment.

Make sure your marketers know what analytics and insights you need...

Ask the right questions…

As a CEO or MD, you have to make sure your marketer(s) know what analytics and insights you need to see on a regular basis.

Establish the data points, metrics, context and resulting insights and recommendations that are most valuable to your decision-making process and provide clarity for marketers on when and how you wish to see this information presented – usually in a combination of routine reports and meetings.

…get the right answers

Ensuring reports and meetings provide the information you want may involve rebuilding the whole process from scratch, which you need to be prepared to do in order to effectively manage your marketing function. Also be prepared to improve and refine this reporting and meetings process as you go along – building on what you learn about the value and accessibility of information your marketers can provide.

A useful comparison and possible starting point may be your sales report. As marketing should be, sales is focused on financial results and customer engagement, and is effectively a marketing channel.

Sales reports tend to speak the language P&L holders understand – communicating activity, engagement, forecast revenue and commercial outcomes. Good sales reports will also include a focus on quantity and quality of leads generated and conversion rates.

Ideally marketers should provide the analytics and insights ‘further up the funnel’, and while showing joined up results with sales where relevant, ensure their reports also answer the following questions:

  • “What, where and how are we spending?”
  • “What are we aiming to achieve and what is the expected ROI? What does success look like?”
  • “What results have been generated by marketing investment to date? How have these results been generated?”
  • “Are there signs we should adjust or change our approach for better results?”
  • “What is marketing doing to analyse results on an ongoing basis and flex to respond to results to maximise ROI over time?”

Asking these important questions and insisting on context, benchmarks and insights will result in an intelligence-based approach to marketing decision-making, strategising and investment.

Better Information, Better Communication and Better Teamwork means better results

Bring all functions into the conversation

By improving the reporting process for the marketing team, you are also helping the marketing team communicate with other functions, enhancing their value to the organisation. Marketing reports, made accessible and actionable, should be shared with all functions in the business – especially sales.

‘Sales and marketing’ are effectively one process and need to be joined up for optimal results – yet they often operate in silos. I’ve regularly seen campaign meetings and plans launched by sales with no input from marketing and vice versa.

Are sales people aware of the content and messaging marketing is communicating? Do marketing know who sales are talking to?

Get marketing and sales people in the same room to understand each other’s strategies, activities and results so they are better able to align and integrate.

Better information + better communication + better teamwork = better results

As a business leader, you have the responsibility to ensure all functions are pulling their weight and well-supported and enabled to do so. The contribution marketing makes and how to lead marketers effectively can often be one of your most difficult tasks – often made more difficult if you’re not ‘speaking the same language’. But, if you work on this relationship and ‘help them to help you’ make good decisions, your investment in marketing should pay for itself many times over.

Tim Mann currently works with a number of privately owned events and media businesses on overcoming the challenges of scaling and achieving faster growth. His work encompasses developing leadership capabilities, building and executing event and portfolio growth strategies and all actions that lead to sales growth. Previously to this Tim worked as Managing Director for several businesses involving conferences, executive forums, exhibitions, publishing and research. Connect with Tim on LinkedIn.

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B2B Events Growth Framework: Six Areas for Strategic Focus

Over the past 12 months, the most popular reads on MPG’s website have been the 9 Strategic Success Factors in Event Marketing blog series by Kirsty Joynson and How successful events can transform a B2B media business – a report based on research conducted with some of the most well-respected leaders from our community of B2B events professionals.
(more…)

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Event Marketers: Brand Experience is your new Strategic Priority

In recent years, the remit of the B2B community marketer has expanded – mostly to cover more strategically critical areas of an event’s value proposition.

The marketer’s role is no longer limited to planning and delivering a pre-event campaign to get ‘bums on seats’.  It extends to how customers experience the event itself – i.e. the ‘brand experience’, or more often called the ‘customer experience’. (more…)

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GDPR for B2B: A Practical Approach and a Strategic Push

No business will be left unchanged by GDPR. Publishers and events businesses that rely on large data sets are particularly vulnerable if they lack a solid strategy to deal with the emerging opportunities and threats.

Digital brands very reliant on advertising revenue will be particularly hard hit if Google gets away with its GDPR-instigated plan to force publishers to work with a limited number of ad-tech vendors.

GDPR for B2B - Practical Approach and Strategic GuideFor B2B, legitimate interest has been seen as the ‘get out of jail’ card and provided great relief. However, this still comes with a tranche of GDPR compliance requirements and tasks.

But those companies that are focused only on ticking the boxes in their compliance checklist are making a gross misjudgement. There is a lot to be gained, in terms of sustainable growth and competitive advantage, from aligning your whole business strategy with GDPR.

Three critical insights

As the MPG team has worked through a number of GDPR projects over the past few months, we’ve identified three essential things business leaders need to acknowledge about GDPR and its impact:

  1. The individual elements of GDPR are not difficult to understand or execute. But, even for small businesses, once they are combined as comprehensive GDPR compliance project there is a lot to do, and a range of interdependencies and decisions to be made. Getting your tech, data flows and processes fully lined up to become and remain compliant takes time and money, and if done well, should reap great rewards.
  2. Every organisation has a different starting point and end goal. A good GDPR compliance strategy will take these in to account, while balancing commercial risk with legal risk. So, it’s not a simple ‘box ticking’ exercise to be swiftly delegated down the line. Those who treat it as such are missing a golden opportunity to get their platforms and data in to good shape for future success.
  3. The winners in B2B media will be those who already have a brand-led gated ‘content and community’ model or can relatively quickly put one in place. But this is only possible if your audience prizes your brand’s content and community and trusts you to use their data to consistently serve up timely, unique and valuable information and connections.

Coalface priorities

As 25th May is nearly upon us, most business leaders will want to first ensure the following most urgent compliance tasks have been completed:

  1. Decisions made on which of the six lawful bases for processing personal data will be applied to customers and prospects. Usually, current customers who have signed up for a paid for service can be dealt with on a ‘contract’ basis, whereas others can generally be processed under ‘consent’, or if B2B ‘legitimate interests’ is also an option. If you have chosen legitimate interest, make sure you do a legitimate interest assessment.
  2. Ensure you have a privacy notice on your website that explains, in plain language, what you do with personal data of customers and prospects. See the ICO’s guidance on how to do this. Link the cookies message on your website and a message below all data capture forms on your website to this privacy notice.
  3. Under the ‘right to be informed’ requirement, send an email to all customers/prospects data (not under contract) you wish to continue processing after 25 May:
    1. If you’ve chosen legitimate interest: informing them you intend to process their data and why, letting them know why you have their data in the first place, what you intend to do with it and giving them the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of the relationship
    2. If you’ve chosen consent: asking them to consent (or re-consent) based on information you have included in your new privacy notice.

Getting these three things done by 25 May will not make you GDPR compliant but will certainly help mitigate the risk around non-compliance.

GDPR’s strategic opportunity

GDPR for B2B - Practical Approach and Strategic GuideThe most successful organisations are looking beyond GDPR compliance requirements to the strategic opportunity: to build stronger, more engaged audiences that become valuable communities. To achieve this, it is essential to get your strategy right around gated content and networking opportunities for a curated audience. In other words, using a combination of free and paid for content with subscriptions products and events to attract a defined group of business people with common challenges and who get value from intelligence and connections you can provide via a ‘community-led platform’ or membership model.

The holy grail is being able to directly monetise such a membership model via intelligence-led subscription products and ‘must attend’ events, with further revenue possibilities from limited number of premium packages for carefully selected vendors to access the community.

Organisations that have, or plan to religiously pursue this holy grail will understand the value of the new regulations. GDPR rewards companies that build strong customer relationships and trusted brands, and who also put the tech and processes in place to look after these relationships.

In order to take advantage of the rewards GDPR can offer, a commitment to full compliance is essential.

A practical and comprehensive approach

Under the new laws, every organisation that handles customer/prospect data needs to comply fully with GDPR. There are no short cuts and no exceptions.

Even companies not compliant by 25 May should commit to working towards comprehensive GDPR compliance – to operate lawfully and to take advantage of the opportunity to put in place and execute a winning strategy.

So that you can understand the ‘shape and size’ of a GDPR compliance project, here is an outline of four of the main compliance project elements:

  1. A data protection plan: MPG’s template contains 48 tasks in 5 categories: accountability, external visibility, suppliers, relationships with other companies, international data transfers and staff training.
  2. A map of customer/prospect data you collect, process and store
  3. A database of suppliers, as well as a supplier questionnaire completed by and data processing agreement signed by all suppliers that process data on your behalf
  4. Documentation: privacy policy, data protection policy, data retention policy, record of consent (if needed), legitimate interest assessment, IT security policy, data subject access request procedure, data protection impact assessment procedure, data breach response plan.

To get things done you need to take the following steps:

STEP 1: Appoint a senior executive to take ongoing responsibility for data protection.

STEP 2: Set up a formal and dedicated GDPR compliance project, sponsored by senior management and supported from the whole organisation.

STEP 3: Determine the skills and resource levels you will need to plan and implement your GDPR compliance project.

STEP 4: Allocate a dedicated budget for your GDPR compliance project.

STEP 5: Start!

There are no loopholes, quick fixes or short cuts. GDPR will arrive on 25th May and will be here to stay. Those who tackle GDPR head on – strategically and comprehensively – will be rewarded.

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2018 is the Year of B2B Communities

Entering a new year is traditionally a time people reflect on the future and how they plan to tackle the potential it offers.

Which is why I wanted to take this opportunity to lay out the vision which will be driving MPG in 2018. Here I make our ‘statement of intent’ – the philosophy that both inspires and drives us to help our clients not just survive in an ever-changing B2B marketing world, but thrive.

B2B communities

From tribes to communities

Since the 1990s, the marketing gurus like Seth Godin have talked about the concept of tribes in marketing. Essentially, people are social beings and as a result identify with and belong to groups and that – in the most basic terms – form target market segments for marketers to focus on.

From this emerged the concept, mainly in B2C, that communities should be at the heart of marketing strategy. Despite the success of this approach in B2C, the B2B world has never fully translated this philosophy into its own practices. Have we wrongly assumed this model cannot be replicated in B2B? Or have we never really had to think about things in this way before?

It is MPG’s belief and conviction that B2B tribes – or communities – are a key concept that should be built into marketing strategies in 2018 and beyond. We’re committed to supporting our clients and partners to enable them to move forward confidently into the ‘B2B community era’. MPG’s own community centres around B2B media, intelligence and events brands – a tribe of people who spend a great deal of time and energy bringing their own B2B communities together and trying to strengthen engagement with and within these communities.

We’ve had a seat with a privileged view of the ‘B2B tribes’ movement that we believe has now come of age. And what we have learnt is that sustainable growth comes from a focus on delivering unique value to a defined community, and definitely not from blinkered, product-focused short termism. This is an even bigger concept than ‘putting customers at the heart of your business’. It’s about marketing providing the strategic leadership to drive a community-focused organisation forward.

Your target audience is the foundation, not the ‘all’, of community

Many marketers who have embraced a community approach have limited their sights to their target audience only. This is a mistake.

Think of a B2B community as a town. It’s not just made up of the local residents. It’s also made up of shopkeepers, doctors, police, schools, politicians, officials and so on. A true B2B community isn’t composed of only the people you want to sell to. It also includes other partners important to your community, including other suppliers they use, the media they read, the thought leaders they follow, etc. The success of your B2B brand depends on being at the centre of the whole community.

Humans make communities

A key factor to success is recognising that communities consist of people. In this sense organisations must think always in terms of H2H (human-to-human).

Effective communication with your community members should be genuine, personal, targeted and two-way. Communities are not built by ‘generalised’, spam-like, one-way communications. You must have a deep understanding of who is in your community and engage on a personal level – listening more than you speak, seeking to understand more than seeking to be understood.

The foundations of the community concept are built by identifying and forging strong relationships with your most engaged customers and stakeholders. These people will form your ‘inner circle’ of your core community members and brand advocates. Hopefully most of these individuals will also be influencers within their peer group. They should be strong advocates of your brand, loyal and open to cooperating with you on new ideas, innovations – sharing information and best practice.

This investment in your community’s ‘inner circle’ should reap great rewards – in the short and long term. When these people move departments or organisations, they take their brand loyalties and community connections with them – becoming your most important sales people.

MPG’s Community Marketing Model

MPG’s B2B Community Marketing Model

 

We developed this model to very simply show the B2B community development concept.

Your ultimate aim is grow both the inner circle and outer rings. Developing the centre enables growth in your retention rate, upsell and referrals; while balanced expansion of your outer circles nurture a constant fresh stream of potential new community members who should become new clients and advocates in future. If the marketing messages resonating out from your inner circle are on point – especially through your earned media – then the customers sitting on the fringes of your community should soon begin their journey towards the centre.

It’s worth noting here that there can come a point – when market share has ‘peaked’ – the circle should stop growing in volume. At this point your strategic focus should shift to the development of new products for that community (which should be inspired and informed by community insight) and the defining and developing of new communities. The Ansoff Model, beloved by management consultants since the 1960’s, still applies!

 

Strong communities feed themselves

Intelligence and data drive the success of modern B2B businesses. If you want to remain relevant and not just keep up with the evolution and trends within your sector but also help shape the future, you need to be tapping into as much of both as possible.

Again, communities are the most effective way of sourcing the vital information and insight you need. When you run a focused event for your business community, you can smartly use the content shared and created at this event by your core community members to engage and draw in members of the ‘outer circles’.

B2B media businesses have learnt they need to bring their subscribers together at physical, face-to-face events to grow brand engagement and revenue. The most successful B2B brands have their advocates bringing their communities together for them. HubSpot’s annual INBOUND event is the stellar example of this. Each year over 20,000 enthusiastic attendees gather to hear world-class speakers from an impressive range of industries. These thought leaders are bought into HubSpot’s inbound marketing philosophy and therefore become advocates for the HubSpot brand.

Every time you bring people together in a great environment to connect H2H – you are building your brand, gaining insight into the current and emerging needs of your customers and, crucially, gathering data and intelligence you can use for product development and to feed back in to the community as unique and valuable insight. You are creating a self-sustaining, engaged community whose members see your brand and people as essential members of the tribe – making an important contribution to drive value in their businesses.

 

2018 – The year of B2B communities

2017 has been a year of great growth at MPG. From the clients and partners, we’ve worked with, to the refinement and expansions of our services, community has been at the heart of our progress and will be essential to maintain our success in 2018 and beyond.

The insights we’ve gained and best practices we’ve developed to successfully build B2B brand communities so far – for our clients and for MPG – will be further enhanced by some great new projects in the coming year. We’ll be spurred on by a powerful and growing community. So, we’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to MPG’s community members, and ‘welcome’ if you want to join us!

We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas to share about growing B2B communities – please get in touch.

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B2B marketers: ‘start and own a movement’ (and how to do it)

‘Starting a movement’ isn’t just for B2C marketers, it’s something B2B practitioners should be setting their sights on too. After all, that’s what drives change, progress and success.

Marketing never stands still. Take a look at the programs sitting on your computer or your phone right now. Some of your most used applications for work probably didn’t even exist a few years ago and yet now form a major part of how you operate day-to-day. (more…)

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Enough of meek marketers, we need geek marketers shouting about ROI

For far too long the marketing function has danced and side-stepped around the issue of return on investment (ROI) on marketing spend.

A scenario played out countless times over the ages is one of CEOs asking what the ROI on their marketing spend will be and marketers arguing it isn’t an exact science.

“You need to trust us this is working,” is the oft repeated answer.

This needs to end. In fact, CEOs shouldn’t even have the chance to ask what the ROI will be. Marketers should be insisting from the very start they are measured on it and proactively communicate to the business exactly how they are delivering value. (more…)

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It’s all going so well. So we decided to shake things up.

 

I’m proud to say that since founding MPG in 2014 the company has blossomed. We’ve established a loyal and valued client base that has allowed us to expand our team and extend our range of services.

In fact, everything was going so well we decided it was time to freshen things up. So here we are with a new website, a refreshed visual look and, most importantly, a sharper strategic focus.

So why did we change a good thing?

(more…)

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