5 truths about virtual events you can’t afford to ignore

Event organisers learned a lot of important lessons in a tumultuous 2020. One of them was that virtual events need a different marketing approach to in-person events.

While the fundamentals of impactful event marketing remain broadly the same, regardless of format, there are some very specific requirements for successful virtual event marketing that cannot be ignored.

Here are 5 truths about virtual events you can’t afford to ignore:

  1. Booking and engagement patterns – people will book much later for virtual events and often during the event, especially if they can consume content on-demand post-event. It is not unusual to see the number of registrants double in the week immediately preceding a virtual event, and for 50% of the audience to only consume content post-event and on demand.
  2. Delegate ticket pricing – delegate tickets to virtual events are likely to require a lower price point than traditional live events. We are typically seeing pricing at 25% – 50% of in-person events. In some instances, it may even be best to make virtual event attendance free of charge.
  3. Registration volume targets – with some exceptions, conversion rates from registrants to attendees are typically very low. Anything above 30% is ‘good’, with 50%+ being outstanding. But often conversion rates hover between 10% and 30%. So, more registrants are needed to get a good number to attend. And the number of registrants may need to be even higher if you’re looking for more attendees for your virtual events than your in-person events – to deliver sponsor value.
  4. Larger, global reach and database – to support the much higher number of registrants needed, possibly from regions of the world you wouldn’t usually target with your in-person event, it is essential to have a multi-channel marketing campaign that reaches every corner of your target audience. This should include inbound tactics such as social media and PPC, but more importantly your database needs to grow.
  5. Conversion is king – in-person events needed a much lighter touch on conversions. For virtual events, there is no point having a good number of registrants if you can’t convert them to engaged attendees, or at the very least get them to consume content on-demand after the event. Without a strong and well executed conversion campaign – fully automated with robust integrations in your tech stack and well organised data flows, you will struggle with your virtual event audience engagement.

 

Event marketers need to think strategically and execute with sharp digital skills. It is essential they grasp the five concepts above and have the ability to incorporate what is required in their virtual event marketing approach.

Very soon we will be publishing MPG’s definitive e-book on winning virtual event marketing strategies. To be notified when it is published, please subscribe here.

 


How will you grow your event revenue in 2021 and beyond?

With strong audience acquisition and commercial marketing knowledge, MPG delivers all aspects of event marketing for virtual, hybrid and in-person events. From strategy development to delivering digital campaigns, MPG is the chosen marketing partner for organisations who want to achieve strong event growth.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you grow your events

 


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Where are B2B media & events brands investing in 2021?

This article has been co-authored by Helen Coetzee, Founder & CEO of MPG and Carolyn Morgan, Founder & Managing Consultant of Speciall Media.


Uncertainty is the only certainty there is and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.

These rather grim words from John Allen Paulos ring true for nearly every organisation.

Paulos’s work as a Professor of mathematical logic and probability theory is particularly relevant to media organisations today. In 2001 he taught a course on quantitative literacy for journalists at the Columbia University School of Journalism. This course stimulated programmes in precision and data-driven journalism at Columbia and elsewhere.

It is this type of journalism – and the trust audiences have in media brands that do this well – that has fuelled the rise of data-led intelligence products for media companies. Access to these products meets a critical need as organisations seek specific, objective, trusted data and intelligence to make real-time, critical decisions in the fast-moving COVID-19 crisis.

No wonder that offering ‘data products’ within subscriptions or memberships are the #1 priority for investment in 2021 for many B2B media businesses. It has been a hot topic in our recent conversations with B2B media leaders. And at the recent Renewd.net round-table event on ‘planning and budgeting for 2021’ it was the top investment priority. 

And what else have we learnt from our community of senior B2B media and event leaders over the past month, planning for 2021 and beyond?

B2B media and events leaders intend to invest in product, marketing, and sales for these top four revenue streams:

#1 Subscriptions and memberships: with data-led intelligence at their core

#2 Events (virtual or in person): to generate revenue, engagement, and content

#3 E-learning: a relatively new or largely untapped revenue stream for many brands

#4 Marketing solutions: pushing out multi-channel, content-led sponsored campaigns to brand audiences

At the Renewd.net roundtable it was clear that having the right skills and resources in place to make these investments is a core challenge.

Building specific expertise and skills to effectively create, market, sell and deliver data-led subscriptions/memberships, e-learning, events, and marketing solutions will be essential.

Many are embracing a community-focused and brand-led approach to become truly customer-centric. This needs consistent delivery of highly relevant content and data-driven, impactful marketing.  Both are essential for strong audience engagement, crucial to unlocking growth in all key revenue streams.

These skilled product, marketing and sales teams need to be digitally confident, both strategic and agile in their thinking and highly flexible in approach.

With 2020 seeing many staffing and agency budgets frozen or reduced, 2021 will be a year for key hires to be made, and important partners onboarded to ensure investments pay off. Investors want to keep fixed costs as low as possible while ensuring operators have the right skills and resources in place to deliver stronger products and revenue in key areas.

The winning B2B media and event brands will develop capability in four key areas:

 

1. Membership and subscriptions

  • Organisations already focussed on subscription or membership propositions had an easier ride in 2020 than those relying on other revenue streams. They now plan continued investment in growing customer volumes, audience monetisation and in corporate and premium packages.
  •  For event and/or marketing solutions (advertising) driven businesses, 2021 is the year to launch subscription and membership models.  Content created by virtual events makes a valuable addition to a membership proposition.
  • Product and sales require investment when launching or growing a subscription or membership offering. Targeted, data-driven and digitally enabled marketing will generate leads and enable customised promotions to acquire, retain, and upsell subscribers or members. Smart use of martech and automation is essential to build scale.

 

2. Events

  • Digital events have delivered unexpected value; on demand video content delivers unique and long-term benefits for sponsors and subscribers/members. This content can be packaged into valuable products and widely distributed via smart marketing.
  • 2021 will see a cautious, phased return to in person events. Risk can be mitigated and sponsors’ expectations managed through careful plans for virtual alternatives if in person is not viable.
  • Events for spring 2021 are largely planned as wholly virtual, with summer events scheduled to be in person with virtual contingency plans.
  •  In person events are preferred for large flagship events that bring the business community together, or small intimate networking focussed groups.  Mid-sized content-driven conferences work well online so are likely to stay in that format.
  • Hybrid events, although in theory a good option, are considered too expensive to run well and too risky to bank on for most organisations.
  • Sponsors like the wider audience and data from virtual events.  And they value repackaged videos of virtual event content for their own marketing channels. Organisers of 2021 in person events are briefing sponsors upfront on a go/no go decision date on postponement or a virtual alternative.

 

3. E-learning

  • Online training is a good opportunity to maintain and grow revenue.  Face to face training made a relatively easy switch to online delivery in 2020 and will remain largely virtual in future as corporates appreciate the flexibility and cost savings of online delivery.
  • Maintaining revenue levels when switching to virtual has been easy as pricing has remained largely the same for online training. Next year attendees will pay a premium for specific, practical knowledge at a time that suits them.
  • Media brands are experimenting with on-demand, self-directed online learning programmes interspersed with tutor led interactive sessions. Corporate training programmes delivered in a customised and consultative format could become a growing and lucrative business model.
  • A lack of skilled staff has been a key challenge for organisations developing e-learning. Creating, delivering, marketing, and selling e-learning requires a very particular set of technology, tools and skills, as well as subject matter expertise. Sourcing and onboarding these skills takes time and money. Partnering with external experts could help businesses move fast and remain agile while keeping costs flexible.

 

4. Marketing solutions

  • Many media businesses have invested in creating internal marketing agency-style teams to provide commercial clients with content-led campaigns pushed out to their brand audiences across multiple media.
  • Event sponsors are looking for more reliable, year-round digital exposure to a media brand’s relevant and engaged online audience – rather than counting on a few large annual events (virtual or in-person) to achieve their branding, thought leadership and lead generation objectives.
  •  An ‘internal marketing agency’ capability (also known as ‘native digital marketing services’) has been a reliable and growing media revenue stream during 2020. It is seen by many B2B media brand leaders as a key area for investment to continue revenue recovery and growth in 2021 and beyond.
  • As the economy recovers from COVID-19, marketing budgets will expand again, but there are still uncertainties in many industries. A highly flexible and agile approach will be essential for spotting opportunities, creating enticing and valuable marketing packages for clients, and delivering clients’ marketing objectives.
  • Skilled, agile, and flexible commercial salespeople, creative content producers and strong digital marketers will be needed to deliver value for clients in a highly competitive and price sensitive market.

B2B media and event leaders have developed robust strategies on where to invest to build stronger businesses, after a year of setbacks and uncertainty.

The winners will execute well and make sure their investments are focused on creating flexible, agile, and sustainable businesses where product, marketing and sales are delivered by the very best people their money can buy.

 

About the authors

Helen and Carolyn are both members of Renewd.net, a free to join community for professionals dedicated to sharing best-in-class practices for increasing subscriptions, building communities, and enhancing live and virtual events.

Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched, and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014), she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.

 

Helen Coetzee has led marketing teams and advised senior executives on marketing strategy in a variety of large and small B2B organisations. In 2014, Helen co-founded MPG, a marketing agency and consultancy focused on communities, memberships, subscriptions, and events. MPG’s team of specialist marketers is engaged by a range of B2B media and events businesses globally to provide skilled, flexible marketing resources and team development – working as highly collaborative partners with internal teams to ensure marketing is a driver of sustainable revenue growth.

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4 Things you should be doing for a high performance website

Considering your website is your most important marketing channel, do you give it as much attention and investment as it needs? As the host of your branding, messaging, content, lead generation and often also online sales/ecommerce, it acts as the end destination for all of your other marketing activity – so if your website is not performing at its best, the rest of your marketing channels won’t be either.

Optimising your website is critical for your bottom line, especially as we enter a year with continuing remote working and increasing digitalisation and the world’s business will be done online. The smartest companies who will be able to make the most of the post-Covid recovery will have the best websites!

Every brand, value proposition and audience is different, but the key success factors of having a well optimised website are universal. This post focuses on four of these key success factors needed to create a high performance website, whether your core offering is events, subscriptions, membership or community – or a combination of some or all of these.

1. Don’t make your users think (the 5 second rule)

Don’t make me think is well-known adage in the world of website UX. Website users have extremely short attention spans, so when constructing and populating your website, making the user journey as smooth as possible should be a core consideration in your decision making. Slow loading pages, improperly formatted mobile pages, rambling copy, confusing navigation – anything that forces the user to engage their brain to try and figure out what’s going on is an issue makes your website ‘hard work’ for your user. You need to make it very easy for your user to quickly get what they need from your website – whether it’s information, a newsletter subscription or a delegate ticket purchase.

A good rule of thumb is the ‘5 second rule’. Imagine you showed your website to an audience member for 5 seconds, before hiding it again. What would they know about your product/service? And would they have been able to at least have found on the ‘form page’ you want them on e.g. lead generation form or event booking form? They will probably need another few seconds to fill in the form – but if they can’t find the form they’re looking for in 5 seconds your website is not in the ‘high performance’ category!

 

2. Don’t try to make everything stand out – or nothing will

A common pitfall with website design is to try and make too many things stand out.

This can lead to an overwhelming and confusing experience for users, where they can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do next or what is most important about the organisation or product.

This can result from too many CTA (call to action) banners or buttons, links, text boxes and/or images. It can also occur when elements are all made an equal size or visual ‘weighting’ or positioning. Elements that are given more breathing room are generally more likely to be noticed and clicked on.

How do you know what’s important and therefore what should stand out? Consider what primary and secondary objective you have with your website.

For many, direct purchases or enquiries are the most valuable action a user can take, and ultimately the one you want to them to take at some point (even if it’s not during their first visit). This is your primary objective.

The design and structure of your site should place the most importance on content and CTAs that serve this primary objective. The button in the top right of your navigation bar (prime real estate on any website) should be reserved for your primary objective – e.g. ‘Buy now’. The main CTA in your header section should be the same. All content on your site should – in some way – further encourage users to take that final conversion.

For other sites, a primary objective may be lead generation. Filling in a data capture form may be the action you want users to take. Lead generation often works well across a range of touch points, at various levels of the funnel e.g. signing up for a free newsletter subscription, downloading a report advertised in a newsletter and then enquiring about a specific product via a link in the ‘thank you for downloading the report’ email or a link in the report itself.

Even if lead generation isn’t the primary goal, every website should include some form of lead generation as it captures valuable customer data that can be used to enrich and grow your marketing and sales database.

 

3. Build in lead generation intelligently

Lead generation is much more than just sticking a data capture form on our website and waiting for users to find it.

CTAs to your lead generation forms should be integrated as naturally as possible. Is someone viewing the ‘membership benefits’ page? If so, encourage them to download a member case study and ‘enquire about membership’. Are they viewing your event agenda summary? Then push them to download the full version. Work out what you would like your user to do next and point them to that next, desired action.

More generic lead generation opportunities (e.g. ‘Register your interest’) should be accessible from across your whole site, including CTAs and a presence on your top navigation menu. This will ensure users always have a ‘next action’ to take, regardless of where they are on your site. These kinds of more general and ‘low commitment’ lead generation options create an easy way for users to engage with your brand without committing to buying something before they’re ready, but keeps them in your marketing list so that you can further nurture them.

Also consider that visitors may land directly on your lead generation forms; whether from an email campaign, organic URL or social post. It’s important to ensure your lead generation forms/pages provide ample context and persuasive messaging as to why the visitor should surrender their data. What benefit does completing the form give them? A short descriptive paragraph, simple bullet points about the benefits of completing the form and possibly a relevant image (e.g. report cover) are simple but important ways to increase conversion rates.

 

4. Make sure Google can find your site

SEO is an ongoing process and one that is always baked into good website design. Search engines – with the most important one being Google in most regions of the world – want to serve the most relevant and valuable websites. A key factor in their ranking is user experience, which is determined by things like content, time on site, pages visited and device optimisation. Therefore, a good website generally means good SEO.

Also consider your keywords. If your website is for an event about financial technology, then you want to make sure ‘financial technology’ and ‘fintech event’ are scattered across your website content. It’s important this is done naturally within your copy. ‘Stuffing’ keywords – the practise of including the same keyword an excessive number of times on a page – will harm not only the user experience, but also your SEO.

You can also apply keywords when considering more ‘on-trend’ issues. If there’s a new piece of technology that could revolutionise fintech, consider publishing a blog or news article on it with the name included in the headline and within the main body. This will help you rank for a relevant keyword that potential attendees will be actively searching for as it is a ‘hot topic’.

A final consideration is how you can ‘win’ links to your website. Links from other websites (e.g. your homepage URL on a media partner’s site) effectively function as votes for your website in organic rankings, lending authority and trust. Producing great content is a sure-fire way to win links, as users will want to share content they find interesting/valuable on their own sites and via social channels. This should be proactively managed via an advocacy marketing programme that results in your site linking to multiple other highly relevant sites and your content being shared more widely on social media.

The four key success factors we have covered in this blog are important, but certainly not comprehensive when it comes to having a well optimised website! And each of the four factors we have covered could each have their own, very long blog (or even an e-book!).

But, the most important thing of all is to ensure your organisation is investing well in your website. Your senior leadership team must recognise that your website as your shop window – and the shop your users are wondering around in before they agree to buy anything or speak to a salesperson. How your customers and potential customers experience your website could be the difference between surviving and thriving in 2021 and beyond…or becoming a Covid (and digital revolution) casualty.


Get your website optimised

MPG’s website experts can help you optimise your website for optimal performance. Or we can design and build a brand new, high performance website for you!

Whether you’re offering events, subscriptions, memberships or a community – our team can set you up with a winning website.

FIND OUT MOREGET IN TOUCH


Get website optimisation skills into your team

MPG Academy’s trainers can work with your team to ensure they have a strong strategy and the right skills to optimise your website. Download the prospectus or request more information about training and development for your team on website optimisation, as well as other key areas of marketing for communities, subscriptions, membership and events.

DOWNLOAD PROSPECTUSREQUEST MORE INFORMATION

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PPC for B2B virtual events – a step-by-step guide

PPC in virtual event marketing – how well does it work?

From our experience, PPC is a worthwhile investment for virtual events. But only when used in the right way. When used to generate direct registrations, convert registrants to attendees or encourage form completions for lead generation and database building (or all of the above) – PPC can be a powerful and cost-effective channel within your digital event marketing mix.

In this post, we outline the six key steps you should take to maximise the effectiveness of your PPC for virtual events.

Step #1: Understand what you need PPC to achieve

PPC can be used to achieve a number of different things for virtual events, including:

  • Generating direct registrants for your virtual event – with PPC campaigns pushing your target audience to your virtual event website and online registration form
  • Encouraging conversions from registrant to attendee
  • Generating leads via web form completions, so that you can then email individuals to nurture and convert leads to registrants
  • Increasing awareness and influencing consideration in your target audience, thus supporting the performance of your other channels

Depending on your virtual event targets, marketing budget and overall objectives – you may use PPC to achieve some, or all of the above. The important thing is to know what you’re aiming to achieve and what success looks like when it comes to PPC for your virtual event. If your PPC approach is not informed by well thought through objectives, it can be very easy to spend a large portion of your budget ineffectively.

 

Step #2: Create a solid strategy

Once you know your objectives, you need to formalise a high-level PPC strategy. The aim of this strategy is to provide direction for the more detailed campaign plans that will come next.

In this PPC strategy, include:

  • The objectives: it’s important to detail these in your strategy to ensure the decisions you make on specific campaigns are directed by your overall goals.
  • The channels and campaign types: based on what you want to achieve and your target audience, be clear what channels and campaign types are likely to work best. In the below table we’ve listed the most common channels, campaign types and targeting methods based on level of engagement of audience groups. But every event is different, so consider this a starting point:
Reaching new contacts Reaching website visitors Reaching existing data
Google Ads Paid Search (keywords) Google Display LinkedIn
LinkedIn (professional attributes/groups) LinkedIn Facebook
Facebook (lookalike audiences) Facebook Twitter
Twitter (follower lookalikes) Twitter Google

 

  • The budget: split your budget by channel and campaign type based on your priorities and where you are in the campaign timeline. PPC is very scalable when it comes to budgeting, so you can commit a small amount at first (£100-200 per channel) to test the waters.
  • The timeline: map out when your campaigns will start and finish. Due to a sense of urgency and FOMO, virtual event PPC campaigns tend to be at their most effective in the final 2 weeks before the event – so allocating more of your budget to this period is a sensible move. It is also important to hold some budget back for after the event to encourage people to engage with the content on demand, especially if the number of people who watch the replays are important for your event model.
  • The campaigns: briefly outline the role each campaign needs to play in your timeline. Consider your whole marketing funnel and targeting of contacts at various stages of engagement with your event.

 

Step #3: Create detailed campaign plans

Using your PPC strategy from step #2 as a guide, lay out specific campaign plans by channel. This is where you get more tactical and detailed with your planning.

These plans should include – in detail:

  • Campaign objective(s)
  • Targeting
  • Campaign budget
  • Ad content (text and images/videos)
  • Any ad modifiers/extensions

When creating these campaigns, your primary consideration should be relevancy. To achieve relevancy, ask yourself these three questions, in this order:

  1. Are we targeting people who are very relevant to our virtual event, or is there a risk we include too many irrelevant or ‘not relevant enough’ people with our targeting options?
  2. Are the ads we’re running relevant to challenges and/or opportunities this audience is facing right now?
  3. Are the ads considerate of where the audience is in our marketing funnel? Is this the first time they’re seeing our virtual event information? Or are they likely to already know about our event (e.g. if they have already visited the event website)

It’s best to complete these detailed plans just before setting up each campaign so they are as current and relevant as possible. You’ll then want to factor in and apply any learnings from your results as you go (more on this in step #5).

 

Step #4: Set up and set live campaigns

This step seems the most straightforward, but there are two important things to consider.

  1. There are numerous settings to get right when setting up every campaign. The potential issues an error in setup can cause range from a campaign running for more days than you have planned or budgeted, to an ad group targeting completely the wrong people. It’s vital to get a second pair of eyes on your campaign setups to ensure your campaigns are pushing the right people to the right places at the right time (MPG has this baked into our internal process checklists so that a campaign one of our team sets up cannot go live without someone else checking every detail of the setup first).
  2. Every PPC channel offers varying levels of automation. These can be simple start and end date triggers and budget caps, but can also include more complex elements like auto-populating audiences that exclude registrants and smart bidding strategies that maximise conversion rates. Make use of these systems to free up marketing resource and reduce the possibility of human error in campaign changes.

 

Step #5: Monitor and optimise your campaigns – every day!

While the strategy and planning elements of PPC are vital, do not be afraid to adjust your approach as you go. You’re very unlikely to formulate the perfect plan and set up the best performing campaign first time. For PPC, assuming you’ll need to improve on what you initially set up is part of the process.

In practical terms, this means re-allocating budgets to the channels and campaigns that are performing best, adding and updating ads to campaigns that are performing well, as well as the myriad of other tweaking options that PPC platforms provide around locations, devices, demographics and bidding strategies.

It’s often easier to further improve winning campaigns than it is to fix underperforming ones. While you shouldn’t abandon your struggling campaigns immediately, the real ROI growth often lies in maximising your star performers.

Paying close attention to what is and isn’t working will allow you to uncover the optimal formula for your PPC. The importance of this step cannot be understated.

 

Step #6: Measure and analyse results – feed this intelligence into your marketing strategies

Right from the first campaign going live, PPC should be included in your marketing performance reporting and analysis. Key metrics to track are:

  • Cost-per-conversion (CPC): the amount you pay for each conversion (registrant, form completion) per channel. This should trend down as a result of your ongoing optimisations.
  • Conversion rate (CR): the percentage of people who click on your ad and then convert to a registrant, attendee or lead. This should trend upward.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR): the percentage of people who click on your ad after seeing it. Higher CTR indicates high relevance.

It’s not enough to just report on the raw data. A layer of analysis needs to be applied to pull out insights that enable intelligent, data-led decision making and create actionable steps to further improve the campaign ROI.

 

A winning formula

This article shares MPG’s winning approach to PPC campaigns for virtual events. Follow these 6 steps with consistency and rigour and we’re confident you’ll see a good return on your PPC investment!

 

Interested in learning more about how PPC can work for events?

Join our next Digital Marketing Intensive open course for B2B event organisers for a full rundown on PPC for events.

Or you can commission an in-house, tailored PPC training programme for your team where our PPC experts will create and deliver a bespoke course that meets your exact requirements, and exclusively for your in-house team.

Download the MPG Academy Prospectus here.

Enquire about MPG Academy’s in-house and open courses here.

 

Or…do you need to outsource PPC for your events?

MPG can create the strategy and detailed plan for your event PPC, and we can manage and measure it for you too. If you want direct support from our team of PPC specialists, please get in touch about your requirements.

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Social Media Week case study: lessons from virtual events, launching the ‘Netflix for Marketers’ and what’s coming next…

As the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns swept the globe, Toby Daniels and his team at Social Media Week had to very rapidly transform two large face-to-face conferences to something that would suit a world in which large gatherings were prohibited and home working became a universal norm. And so SMWONE was born – one of the first ever large-scale conferences globally to pivot from an in-person format to all-virtual.

MPG, as Social Media Week’s marketing partners, were given the challenge of coming up with and executing a new marketing strategy – fast.

In April, two weeks before the virtual doors were due to swing open on SMWONE, Toby and MPG’s Helen Coetzee, Kirsty Joynson and Alicia Drew joined forces to deliver a ‘pivot to virtual’ webinar series to share with MPG’s community the SMWONE event product and marketing strategies, and the lessons learned to that point.

7 months on, Toby has kindly agreed to share more insights on how SMWONE performed, the full set of lessons learned, and most excitingly – what Toby and team have been working on since.

Here is our Q&A piece – we hope you find it valuable!


Why did you decide to pivot to virtual so rapidly, instead of waiting to see if in-person events could be postponed?

There were a number of reasons, informed in part by the Governor of New York’s executive order, which forced our hand in having to cancel one of our two US based in-person conferences. We also believed that the second half of the year, regardless of whether we could host something in-person or not, was going to be saturated with competitor events postponed to later in the year.

We were faced with cancelling two huge events and knowing that if we were going to pivot to virtual, we needed to do it fast and early to get out in front of the competition.

We also felt a great obligation towards our attendees and partners to launch a virtual event and bring our New York and Los Angeles Social Media Week communities together for one virtual experience that would create a sense of unity and togetherness, at a time when we were all feeling isolated and apart.

What went well with the hard pivot to virtual?

From the point where we made the decision to pivot, to launching SMWONE was around 4 weeks, and about 7-8 weeks prior to actually kicking off the event. Despite how challenging a period that was for everyone – the adjustment to working remotely and with everything going on around us – I was very proud that Social Media Week team, together with MPG, was able to move so quickly and execute at a pace and level of quality that really stood out to so many people. In addition to speed, I was especially pleased with the quality of the program and how we were able to refactor almost every single session to cater to what was happening in the moment.

In total we hosted over 170 hours of live programming over four weeks, featuring some of the most senior, inspirational, and leading minds in our industry. The virtual format and nature of events like these also afforded us the ability to reach more people, and by the end of the event we had over 10,000 people register and participate in the event.

Scaling virtual events while driving audience engagement is not necessarily new to us, but it represents a different set of challenges from a marketing standpoint, and we would not have been able to achieve these numbers and reach so many people if it wasn’t for MPG’s ability to help put in place the operational and executional pieces that really drove much of our marketing efforts.

What would you do differently if you were to run another large virtual Social Media Week event?

Creating meaningful opportunities for people to connect and engage around live events is always a huge priority for us. We believe that content provides the context that in turn drives conversation and connection. In addition to having a thirst for new knowledge, our audiences are also inherently social people and seek opportunities to meet and develop relationships with their industry peers.

We have found this to be much more challenging in virtual environments. This was certainly the case during SMWONE. While this proved to be hugely difficult for us, we have invested considerably to figure out how to create a better and more engaging experience for our attendees and look forward to rolling out some new initiatives in 2021.

Do you see Social Media Week running virtual events in 2021 and beyond?

Since SMWONE in May we’ve hosted a number of virtual events, from private executive roundtable events to a large-scale event series we’re hosting with Facebook, called The Business of Empathy, as well as a huge client appreciation party we’re hosting later this month. During this period, we have quickly developed a capability in executing virtual events at almost any scale. When we think about the next 12-18 months we are fully committed to continuing to develop this capacity and to serve our industry in as many different ways as possible. We believe that virtual will be the primary means by which we do that, at least through the end of 2021 and perhaps beyond.

If we have learned anything this year it is that virtual events bring with them a ton of new and exciting ways in which to convene and engage audiences, and that they will continue to be an important part of our programs and offerings in the future.

In August, you launched a new subscription service. What is SMW+ and who is it for?

SMW+ is a streaming platform that provides marketers with opportunities to connect to and learn from some of the smartest and most accomplished leaders within our industry, through live and on-demand programming. The content is designed to educate and inspire and help marketers level-up in their careers.

Think of it as the ‘Netflix for Marketers’, or the ‘Peloton for Professionals’, with an incredible library of shows, content series and educational programs which members can consume live or in their own time through the on-demand experience.

Why did you decide to create SMW+?

SMWONE taught us that people consume content and participate in virtual events in a range of different ways. Some tune in live, some have it on in the background and some are binge watchers and prefer to watch/attend in their own time.

I felt that virtual events didn’t really cater to all of these different user behaviours, and that there was a whitespace opportunity to build something that had the look and feel of a premium streaming service but that catered to the needs of marketers who are looking to advance themselves and their careers.

We also felt confident that we had the team in place to do this. MPG’s contribution here again was very important – with the martech and data work they have done an essential part of the mix, along with the contribution they’re making to all other aspects of marketing SMW+.

What’s gone well with SMW+ that made you really feel the investment was worth it?

Too soon to tell, but we’re excited to now be rolling out a new version of the platform, together with a range of subscription options for users who are looking to invest in their professional education and learn from the smartest minds in our industry.

One thing we’ve learned – which we’re incredibly excited about – is that our presenters are loving the opportunity to create episodic content series rather than giving one-off talks or participating in one-off panel discussion. Our audiences in turn love this approach also as they can tune in each week, really get to know a particular host or presenter and also go deep into a particular show’s topic through the on-demand experience.

What are the biggest challenges you face with SMW+?

Building audiences and capturing people’s attention, especially today, is a huge challenge.

Professionals are completely overwhelmed at this point, experiencing Zoom fatigue and are probably waning in their enthusiasm for virtual events. This is our biggest challenge. How do you cut through the noise and reach, engage and truly enrich people with these challenges in mind? Our general approach has been to make the content feel unique, to invest in the production quality and overall experience and to provide people with something truly unique and valuable.

We obsess over how to best serve our stakeholders and I believe SMW+ stands out as something that all marketers should experience and enjoy.

What can we expect from Social Media Week next?

We’re about to launch our 2021 program of events, all of which will be virtual, together with some new updates and announcements on SMW+.

We are also about to announce the global theme for 2021, which I am feeling very passionate about as the topic feels urgent, important and incredibly timely. More on this and our 2021 program very soon!


Want more like this? Subscribe to MPG Insights and we’ll notify you of new posts, as well as other resources and news on upcoming free-to-attend webinars!

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Event Tech Live: Helen Coetzee reveals MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale framework

Speaking on the main stage at Event Tech Live 2020 on 5th November 2020, MPG Founder & CEO Helen Coetzee shared MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale Growth Marketing Framework.

This framework covers a 3-step approach focused on a strategic and sustainable path to growth for B2B community-focused brands.

Developed from MPG’s experience of working on B2B community marketing strategies for brands in multiple sectors globally, this approach comes of age in 2020 – plotting a path for 2021 and beyond for brands to engage, then monetise, then scale their communities.

Download Helen’s presentation slides to learn more.

ACCESS SLIDE DECK

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Standing out from the virtual conference crowd: MPG’s top 10 tips

In every industry, the second half of 2020 is going to be packed with virtual conferences. With all the postponed events from H1 now crammed into H2, along with most of the events that usually happen in H2 still planning to go ahead, we’re entering a unique six months of an over-abundance of virtual events – at a time when the world is coming out of lockdown and people won’t be spending as much time staring at screens as they have been over the past few months.

So, how will you ensure your conference stands out from the crowd of digital events and keeps your audience glued to their screens? The most engaging events will be those with the most relevance – in content, speakers and attendees. Having decent tech that works should be a given. Tech is not your point of differentiation.

The winning virtual events will be those with:

  1. The most relevant product
  2. The most relevant marketing

Product and marketing usually go hand in hand, and as we enter the virtual events world, the two will become more blended. Where virtual events are free (or very cheap) to attend, your digital event is essentially a substantial content marketing initiative. As has always been the case with content marketing, attention and engagement relies on relevance. The more relevant your content and marketing is to your target attendees, the more likely you are to get, and keep, their attention. And if you have the audience’s attention, you have the sponsorship dollars (and hopefully also some delegate revenue!).

To stand out from the crowd, here is what you need to do:

#1 Know what is keeping your audience awake at night right now

Put together event sessions and marketing messaging that specifically address the issues that are most important and relevant to your audience at the moment. Not only will your registrants turn up to your digital event if it’s highly relevant, they’ll also share your content and marketing with their colleagues and network.


#2 Get a speaker line-up your audience really wants to hear from at this moment in time

The people who have the most relevant and important things to say about the current situation faced by your audience will be your ‘must-have’ speakers. Pay them if you have to – at least you won’t need to also cover flights & hotel costs! For virtual events, having fewer, highly relevant speakers is better than having lots of mediocre speakers. In fact, don’t have any mediocre speakers – only invite the very best and most relevant onto your digital stage.


#3 Create a good customer journey

Your customers need to move seamlessly from landing on your event website, registering for the event, receiving registration confirmation, being updated/reminded of the event, attending the event and then receiving the post-event comms. So, once you have chosen your event product tech, make sure it integrates well with your marketing tech. At every touchpoint, make sure your brand identity is strong, consistent and feels relevant to your audience.


#4 Invest in developing a robust, content-led marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is not only about how many emails you send out or whether or not you use PPC. It’s about so much more than that. It should focus first and foremost on the following two things:

  1. A detailed market map and market segmentation plan: ensure you reach the most relevant audience in large enough numbers, with the most relevant messages
  2. Strong messaging strategy: focused on relevant USPs and benefits addressing your target persona’s needs and motivations at this time

It is essential to nail down these two strategic priorities to make your marketing relevant.


#5 Deploy an integrated, multichannel campaign – focusing on the most relevant channels

A businessperson – regardless of industry – probably spends most of their time hanging out in three places: their email inbox, on LinkedIn and on websites (found via Google). So, when you’re trying to get the attention and build ongoing engagement with your audience, focus on these relevant channels – ensuring all the words & images you put out there (your marcomms) are relevant, consistent and reinforce one another.


#6 Have a great project manager on your event team to make sure things get done

When running a virtual event, you will have many plates spinning and a very long list of tasks that need to be completed in a highly co-ordinated way – at speed. It’s great if your team is using good project management software, but it is even more important to have a person responsible for ensuring the right things get done at the right time. The most relevant content and marketing will fall flat if your execution is not synced. Project management software is not accountable to anyone. Put an actual person in place who is.


#7 Measure all your marketing and make data-led decisions

As you move through your event cycle, measure the impact of all your marketing across all channels. Do this in a granular way and make sure you pull out the most important, relevant insights on at least a weekly basis to inform your marketing going forward. The beauty of digital is all the wonderful data it gives us on audience behaviour and engagement. If you’re ignoring this data, you’re ignoring your customers.


#8 Make sure your marketing database is well structured and includes enough relevant contacts

You cannot reach out directly to the right people with your relevant content and messages if they’re not on your database. And you won’t be able to find them in your database or pull them into a targeted email list if they’re not correctly categorised. The competition you will face in the coming months from other virtual events will be very intense. Having a strong, well-structured database so that you can run effective, targeted email campaigns will give you the edge.


#9 Automate as much of your marketing as possible

Virtual event marketing campaigns work best with a shorter lead time than what we typically would plan for face-to-face events. This means you need to push out your marketing messages in a shorter space of time at a faster pace, and this needs to be highly responsive – so automation is essential. If your marketing is all manual, it will feel clunky and less relevant to your audience and will put a huge amount of strain on your team.


#10 Follow through with strong conversion-focused marketing

Don’t stop your marcomms to an individual once they have registered for your virtual event. Make sure that once they’ve registered they continue on an engagement journey with you – remind them regularly of the value and relevance of your event content and speakers, update them on any valuable new features, such as new networking opportunities, and encourage them to log on at the right moment to participate in your virtual sessions. It is in the last few days and hours before an event when automated marketing really comes into its own.


Nobody said creating a great virtual conference and marketing this effectively would be easy. If it was easy, you’d have started running virtual conferences years ago!

We know that conference organisers, sponsors and attendees are pining for ‘the good old days’ of simple, face-to-face events. But these are not coming back. For the rest of 2020, the world will have an abundance of virtual events to choose to attend and sponsor. Beyond 2020, the standard format will be hybrid events – taking ‘the best of virtual’ and combing this with the ‘best of face-to-face’ to create some very valuable experiences for our customers.

So, at this moment in time, you now have a choice: either embrace the challenge and aim to make your virtual event’s content, speakers and marketing more relevant and valuable than your competitors, or don’t – and get lost in all the noise – in 2020 and beyond.

For further insight on virtual events and advice on how to maneuver the ‘pivot’ from live to digital, read about our webinar case study looking at world-leading B2B events brand, #SMWONE.

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How do you get registrants to turn up to your virtual event?

For all the opportunities virtual events offer, one of the biggest challenges vs an in-person event is ensuring registrants follow through to becoming engaged attendees.

This is where conversion marketing, the practice of converting registered delegates (especially those who registered for free) into attendees via targeted comms, plays such an important role.

Achieving a strong conversion rate is essential. Just like in the real world, events live or die on their attendance rate. Too low and sponsors and exhibitors become frustrated at lack of lead opportunities; speakers will in future seek larger audiences elsewhere; and delegates will tune out as they’ll think their peers don’t value the event enough to attend, and will also recognize that without their peers, attending the event loses its value around opportunities for discussion/Q&A and networking.

An inherent benefit of in-person events is that their very nature encourages participation. Attendees often need to make prior travel and accommodation commitments that further tie them to attending, they clear their calendars and shift deadlines to commit to attendance and often also schedule face-to-face meetings with current and potential clients and partners.

The virtual world requires far less commitment. Attendees can be very focused on something else up to 5 minutes before the ‘doors’ open; with notifications, emails, to-do lists and their immediate surroundings fighting for their attention.

We’ve been working hard at MPG on our clients’ conversion campaigns – i.e. the very important marketing you need to do leading up to the event and during a multi-session event – to get attendees to turn up, get fully engaged and stay engaged. And we’re very pleased to be able to share some of these learnings with you now.


Six essential ingredients for a high performance conversion campaign

#1 Evaluate your audience’s needs and consider your event format

Every event and event audience is different.

If your event takes places over several days or even weeks, you will need to construct a plan that keeps delegates engaged throughout. Do not think that just because they attended the first few sessions that they will stick around.

If your audience demographic means they’re less keen on or comfortable with the digital event format, you will need to carefully construct comms that educate them on the benefits and process of attending to make them feel more confident they’ll have a good experience engaging with your virtual event.

If you’re offering free tickets, your conversion campaign is even more vital. These delegates may think they will lose nothing by not attending, so you need to convince them the event will deliver value in return for time and attention.


#2 Start early

Your conversion efforts should start as soon as your first registration comes in. While it can be tempting to focus email, social and other comms on getting people to book, neglecting the people who have already registered will probably mean you lose them.

Consider also how you can leverage conversion marketing to generate additional registrations – encouraging registrants to share information about your event with their network not only increases your reach, but people are more likely to attend if they can see the event is being supported by someone in their peer network.


#3 Get to grips with and leverage the capabilities of your virtual event system (+ the rest of your tech stack)

Many virtual event platforms have features baked in that can support your conversion efforts.

For example, Bizzabo features both push notifications and session summary emails, which can be sent to registrants a set time before a session to remind them to attend.

When marketing teams are likely already strained with running an effective acquisition campaign, these automations can save precious resources. Often they come pre-set with useful integrations like ‘Add to calendar’ links too!

Other elements of your tech stack are also important. For example, email providers like Mailchimp offer easy segmentation of data and PPC platforms like Google Ads let you build intelligent multi-touch campaigns based on past behaviour.


#4 Build a dedicated conversion marketing communications plan

Once you understand your audience, the implications of your event format and the capabilities of your digital platforms, it’s time to formulate a detailed and robust plan to execute the required marketing.

Map out what your registered delegates will be receiving and when; including emails, targeted PPC campaigns and automated messages and notifications. Consider all touch points, e.g. do they need an automated message that reminds them to save sessions to their agenda? And what social media announcements are needed just before the event to create a sufficient buzz and fear of missing out?

Email is your most important channel here, mostly focused on targeted, automated campaigns. Social media is also important and can be used to create discussion between delegates about what they’re looking forward to. PPC also has a part to play in creating highly targeted ‘micro touchpoints’. Think about how you can use chat platforms (like Slack) to provide a space for delegates to interact both in group and private channels.


#5 Ensure you have the right skills and resources in place

A vital piece of the puzzle is ensuring you’ve got enough knowledgeable people to plan and execute your conversion comms well. Ensuring your plan is achievable from a workload perspective – when you also need to put a huge marketing effort into generating registrants in the first place – could mean the difference between success and failure. If the volume is not feasible:

  1. Identify what can be automated or pre-scheduled to avoid crunch periods.
  2. Remove less critical elements to lighten the load.
  3. Consider engaging additional support to add some much needed marketing muscle.

#6 Track results and adapt

Measuring ROI on conversion campaigns is a bit trickier than measuring the performance of acquiring registrants. While data on the channels that influenced a sale should be quite easy to access and analyse, understanding how effective your conversion marketing is in getting someone to sign in on the day is less straightforward.

Generally, there is a direct correlation between how a person engages with conversion marketing and how likely they are to turn up – so make sure you measure this and analyse after your virtual event what behaviors lead to the best outcomes, so that you can predict for future events what is most likely to be effective and what results are likely to come through in terms of event attendance.

Getting in people’s diaries/calendars is a simple and highly effective way of encouraging attendance. Not only will it prevent them making other commitments, but most calendar apps will do a lot of the work for you – providing automated reminders of the upcoming event.

The usual suspects of reporting (interaction rates, open rates) are still useful indicators of performance, and tracking clicks on important CTAs like ‘Add to Calendar’ can help you understand how effective your comms are in achieving your objectives.

When you know your most effective channels and techniques, focus your efforts (and money) on them. Don’t be afraid to cut a channel if its performance isn’t up to scratch.

The data you gather from your first conversion campaign will also contain vital lessons for your next one, so spend time examining the data to understand what was effective.


The key to success in conversion marketing is to apply the main principles of successful B2B community marketing in the current age:

  • Be community-focused and ensure your creative approaches to messaging and visual branding hit the mark.
  • Automate as much as you can to enhance the customer experience and achieve scale and essential efficiencies.
  • Measure all you do and makes sure your decisions are data-led.

Get converting!

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Key insights from MPG’s ‘Pivot to Virtual’ webinar series

With large in-person events unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future due to Covid-19, Toby Daniels and the team at Social Media Week decided in March to launch a new, completely virtual event – #SMWONE – in place of two large scale, flagship conferences that were due to run in New York (May) and Los Angeles (June).

Toby generously offered to share the #SMWONE journey and learnings with MPG’s community (thank you Toby!). So, last week, over 100 of MPG’s ‘friends and family’ joined us for a 2-part webinar series breaking down ground in our industry (thank you friends and family!).

In part 1 of our webinar series, I had a ‘fireside chat’ with Social Media Week founder Toby Daniels to explore the strategy and practicalities of ‘going virtual’.

This was followed in part 2 by a marketing-focused session, where MPG’s Kirsty Joynson and Alicia Drew shared unique insights on how they developed the marketing strategy and then executed an innovative, fast paced marketing campaign to launch #SMWONE – with only a 4 week lead time.

Due to popular demand, we’ve put together a ‘content package’ to share with you:

 

Our top 7 takeaways:

1. Social Media Week have always had a strong digital presence and 365 content-led offering for their community. They’re just taking digital up a notch with a fully virtual, large-scale event – at a time of crisis, when their community really needs the knowledge and networking #SMWONE can deliver.

The most forward-thinking and ‘future-proof’ event organizers think first and foremost about their purpose around serving the needs of their community. Then they think about how best to serve that community – be it delivering and creating value via a 2-day in-person event, or a 4-week virtual event. The format/platform is there to serve the community’s needs in a way that is practical and engaging at a point in time. In 2020 – that’s digital.


2. It’s very important to focus on how you can create something new that is truly valuable for your community, instead of obsessing over when you can ‘go back to how things were’.

Brands that view adversity as an opportunity to innovate for long term success will be the winners. Event organizers that focus purely on cutting costs and damage limitation over the next 6-12 months will fall (far) behind. Our ‘new normal’ will inevitably look different and we should be embracing the unavoidable change, not shying away from it.


3. Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. The tech you choose must support the needs of your community.

Virtual meetings are not a new idea, they have been around for a long time. We all have a vast (and often confusing!) choice in digital event platforms. Social Media Week chose a new platform from Bizzabo to run #SMWONE because it promises the best combination of features to best serve Social Media Week’s community. Work out your community’s needs first, then choose the tech.


4. A virtual event creates new opportunities (and challenges) for marketing

With the physical constraints of an in-person event removed, marketers can now reach out and engage a truly global audience.

However, virtual events demand marketing that is more digitally sophisticated and precision-targeted, at a higher volume and a much faster pace than live events. This can create significant operational challenges if the right skills and level of resource is not in place.

Plus, event marketers are facing a very new, essential requirement: planning, setting up and running automated and effective conversion campaigns to ensure a high percentage of registered attendees turn up to the event and engage with the content and networking opportunities.


5. There are 5 pillars to marketing a virtual event…

…and they aren’t dissimilar from marketing a live event. These are:

(1)  An effective marketing funnel – with the right message, sent at the right time to the right audience to generate and then convert leads
(2)  An optimized pricing strategy – to achieve the right balance between revenue, delegate volume and attendee quality
(3)  Effective positioning – around your event’s USP and key benefits
(4)  Excellent execution – with a strong focus on digital enablement and automation to achieve the relevance and volume of marketing activity needed
(5)  Ongoing measurement and analysis of results – to ensure ongoing data-led decision making can enable a responsive and high-performance marketing campaign

These will all be familiar to event marketers, but their application must be adjusted to fit the virtual environment.


6. Test and learn is the name of the game

With a shortage of ‘case studies’ on how large, paid-for conferences have successfully transitioned to virtual formats, we need to be brave and truly agile. It’s essential that senior event professionals and their marketers quickly embrace tech and get stuck into working out how to deliver value to their communities digitally. The only way to really know if something will work is to do it. We don’t have time to wait for someone else to do it first to reduce our risk. Move fast and break things. Test and learn. Then quickly switch your focus to building stable infrastructure.


7. Have a back-up plan

Technology will always be prone to hiccups, as the MPG team discovered when our chosen webinar platform encountered technical issues 45 minutes before we were due to go live for ‘part 2’. The world’s fastest platform switch (citation needed) commenced and the stream started on schedule on a different platform. Digital event organizers should be prepared with some ‘Plan B’ options and the ability to make a quick switch if needed. The show must go on!


Part 1: Strategy – Replay

Part 2: Marketing – Replay

During part 1 of the series, our audience members’ combined challenges were prevalent as we saw an influx of questions surrounding both the short- and long-term considerations when taking a previously large-scale conference fully virtual. With input from Toby Daniels @ Social Media Week and MPG’s Alicia Drew and Kirsty Joynson, we have reviewed all the questions and provided full answers here for you to download.

We hope you found the webinar content package useful and that you have been able to gain some valuable new insights on how to approach your virtual event strategy and marketing approach going forward.

MPG contact us

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B2B event marketers: for now, digital content is your product

Q2 is here and things are looking… interesting. We’re taking a step back to think about the #1 priority event marketers should have for the next couple of months.

Events have been postponed or cancelled. Virtual and hyrbid events and digital ‘add-ons’ are being created and launched at lightning speed. But budgets are frozen.

Many B2B event marketers are feeling uncertain about what they should focus on in the coming weeks to deliver value to their business and prove their worth. They are so used to be being pushed every day to deliver results in the form of revenue or ‘hot leads’ for the sales team. The job they may feel they have been hired to do cannot be done. So, they’re sitting at home, probably feeling quite anxious, in a makeshift – yet now permanent-feeling  – home office, wondering what do to.

For marketers looking for something to get their teeth into, that will deliver great value for their businesses in the next few weeks and over the longer term, content marketing via digital channels is the one true path.


Digital content’s new role

The value of content marketing to drive growth in B2B events and subscriptions has long been known, but until a few weeks ago seldom properly thought about or invested in.

For years speaker interviews, industry reports and podcasts have been a powerful way to grow engagement, reach new people and capture data of individuals who find most value in our products.

B2B community marketers now need to get very comfortable with the process around creating and distributing strong, engaging digital content to their communities. This will not only solve the short-term problems around maintaining engagement of valuable communities – but more importantly, will prove to be a great asset that can continue to be leveraged as we push ourselves into recovery mode in a few months’ time.

Digital content, and the marketing of this content, is an asset that needs investment – now more than ever. And this investment should pay off in the short, medium and long term. Who wouldn’t see that as an attractive place to put their money right now?

What makes content so valuable

At its core, content solves problems. People watch webinars not because of a flashy social post or catchy name, but because the subject addresses a challenge they face in their working lives. It’s fair to say nearly every worker in every field is facing a myriad of challenges in our working lives right now!

When community members ‘purchase’ our content, they pay with us three valuable things:

1. Their time
2. Their attention
3. Their data

These three things are the currencies we’re trading in right now when dollars, pounds and euros are being kept firmly in companies and investors’ zipped-up pockets.

What does good content look like?

Now is the time for producers and event content specialists to use their knowledge of the most pressing pain points and burning needs of their community.

At a time when people cannot gather together at events, or their companies may be limiting how much they can spend on the most valuable information sources, your content is a life raft.

Faced with huge uncertainty over their flagship events series Money20/20, industry titan Ascential put their community’s needs first. The Moneypot addresses the issues the fintech community faces right now in short, engaging pieces. Frequently updated content incentivises community members to subscribe while also referencing their event series to keep their conferences top of mind in a smart, customer-friendly way.

Social Media Week has always been a leader in content marketing. Their latest #5Things podcast covering some incredible work being done by some of the giants in the world of marketing in response to the Covid-19 challenges the world is facing.

How should marketers promote & amplify content?

For optimal results – marketers need to treat their digital content as their product.

That means deploying all the usual marketing strategies and tactics in promoting it:

Use your audience personas and map out your community to understand who the content best serves and how it solves challenges they are currently facing.

Create a messaging strategy that communicates the USP and benefits of your content consistently across channels.

Deploy a multi-channel comms plan to achieve strong reach within your community. Host the content in a dedicated spot on your website, announce new pieces via email and social media and re-target past users to pull them back to your site.

Collect data and segment accordingly to create the most relevant and welcome communications. The data you collect now can also be used later to push subscriptions and events sales – so make sure it is collected, stored and structured in the right way.


Thinking of digital content as a product may feel strange to many event marketers, especially those used to be focused on revenue. But this new mindset is absolutely essential in maintaining your brand & position, and in ensuring you are doing all you need to for your community right now. If you look after your community now, they will look after you when things get back to the new normal – however that may look. You can read more about our advice on winning in the new world here.

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13 key learnings from MPG’s webinar on postponed events

Following the forced postponement of most events in the first half of 2020, we ran a webinar for conference and B2B tradeshow organisers on key marketing considerations needed in this unique period of time. Over 100 CEOs, MDs, department heads and marketers from across B2B media and events attended our two instalments of the virtual event.

Here are the 13 things we learned about marketing postponed events that we’d like to share with our community:

Ensuring success for your next event…

1. Collaboration is key

The events industry is moving into a new era. Close collaboration between all stakeholders will be vital in forming a winning strategy for the months and years ahead.


2. This is a great opportunity to build new digital formats

Digitally-enhanced and fully-virtual events started running successfully some years ago, but it is clear that the current crisis is a catalyst for a very rapid digital transformation of events businesses. Winning event brands will leverage tech to engage their communities year-round, not just at the events or in the immediate run up to an event.


3. Longer lead time is an opportunity

For all the doom and gloom of the situation, longer lead times and the opportunity to generate more digital engagement with their audiences presents a wonderful opportunity for marketers. New digital formats and creative approaches to comms will push some of our marketeers out of their comfort zones initially; but they will build up their knowledge and confidence in the right areas quickly – they will need to!


4. Engagement and lead generation must be the focus

In times of great uncertainty, events revenue is hugely challenged. Maintaining the interest of prospective delegates online and over a longer time period is essential in securing revenue over the long term. With this in mind…


5. Content marketing is now the magic ingredient

Knowledge banks, resource centres, speaker Q&As, podcasts, interviews, webinars, whitepapers – all of these will serve your community well in the coming weeks, keeping event stakeholders and audiences engaged and trusting in your brand
Read more >


6. Now is a good time to grow your audience and database

Having more time to engage with your audience presents a great opportunity to add more relevant names to your database. Whether you decide to invite them to your event or invite them to take out a subscription – having more of the right prospects’ details on your database can only help you! More downloadable content on your website will allow you to capture contact details of key contacts. Your marketers can also start engaging with more media partners to extend your reach further. And adding more contacts to your database via targeted research will really pay off.


7. You should aim to make your events even more valuable

Prospective delegates, speakers and sponsors will applaud if you use the extra time you have to enhance your product. Enhancements could include virtual event formats, digital add-ons, new speakers and the aforementioned content production.


8. Newsletters are likely to make a comeback

How do you communicate the evolving nature of your product (without pushing the ‘hard sell’) and get people to buy tickets when they’re not yet sure if they’ll be able to attend? A simple newsletter could be the best way to keep your audience informed, engaged and well served with useful product updates and content. And if the newsletter is valued by your community this could be the start of a new subscription product and a new way to generate revenue.


9. Monitoring results is more important than ever – ‘test & learn’ will be critical!

Where there is uncertainty, hard numbers and data are your guiding light. Keeping track of everything from website traffic to the channels driving revenue will enable informed decisions on how to approach your marketing – one week at a time. If your marketing team is going to be trying new things – you’ll need to know if they work.


 

Looking long term…

10. 2021 events may have a shorter cycle due to later 2020 events

Events organisers will need to think carefully about how they approach this challenge. Don’t underestimate the impact a short lead time will have on your content production timeline, as well as how your marketing and sales team will need to adjust their approach to generate required levels of revenue. Start working on your 2021 event before your postponed 2020 event to get ahead!


11. Will digital enable expansion?

Virtual events can be attended from anywhere in the world, meaning the reach of your event is now truly global. The size of your event is also no longer restricted by the size of the venue, and the increasing logistics and catering costs that come with scale are not an issue in the virtual world.


12. Will this spark more creativity in the sector?

Hardship breeds resourcefulness, ingenuity and innovation. The event organisers that respond well to this challenge by adapting fast, developing new models and ways of engaging with and serving their community will define the way we approach events for the coming decade.


13. What are the skills needed in 2021 and beyond?

As digital comes to the fore and businesses try to understand their new place in the world, agile and tech-savvy teams will be needed. The shift to year-round community engagement will require marketers who can think long-term, instead of focusing on short-term results. It will also mean that people who can learn quickly and move forward fast and confidently are likely to be the stars.

Find out more about how to win in the new world here.


To see more on what was discussed in our webinar series, you can watch the full webinar below.

The webinar slide deck is also available, including answers to questions on numerous challenges and issues highlighted in the webinar Q&A.

ACCESS WEBINAR SLIDES

We will be running more webinars soon on the challenges event organisers are facing, as well as how B2B media and events brands can get stuck into building and engaging their communities better with digitally delivered content and virtual networking opportunities. If you would like to suggest a topic or issue for us to cover, or if you would like to contribute a case study, please get in touch.

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Running a conference or exhibition in 2020? Your event marketers must do these 5 things

In our previous blog post, we covered what B2B event marketers should do in the wake of an event postponement due to Covid-19. In this post we explain the actions needed for an event scheduled to run this year. Whether you’ve postponed a spring event, or you’re preparing for your annual Q4 conference/exhibiton; revisiting your approach to marketing is essential.

In this tumultuous period, a spotlight has been shone on the events industry. Sponsors, exhibitors, suppliers and – of course – delegates look to their favoured conferences and exhibitions for a response to the Coronavirus outbreak that now dominates headlines.

If you have an event scheduled to run in 2020 there are several key considerations for your event marketers who play such a key role in event success.

We’ve put together a list of the top actions event marketers need to take now:


1- Release a statement to your entire community

Your event community wants to see that you are responding to the situation.

  • As your top priority – directly communicate an update of your position via email to your key event stakeholders. These are individuals who have in some way invested in or made a commitment to your event, including delegates, sponsors, partners, speakers and suppliers.
  • Add a clear statement to your event website homepage. Also add a dedicated web page about your decision to run the event this year and include information and links that support your position e.g. official government advice. Consider adding a pop-up to appear to anyone visiting any page of your website to maximise visibility. If you have a FAQ section on your website, add Covid-19 related questions to the top of the list.
  • Share this news on all channels, ensuring you reach as many people in your community as possible.
  • Consider producing a video alongside your statement to condense it into something easily digestible and engaging, and to add a trustworthy face to the decision. Here is a great example from Money20/20.

2 – Share your contingency plan

With a global situation that’s changing almost hourly, showing you have a robust back-up plan will give attendees, speakers and sponsors alike the confidence to plan to be part of your event.

  • Explain how and when (provide a specific date) stakeholders will be informed of a possible postponement.
  • Include when the postponed event is likely to take place if a postponement becomes necessary. At a minimum, state the likely month or date range, even if the specific date is not yet known.
  • Be as specific as you can about where the postponed event will take place, especially if you’re considering a different venue.
  • Take inspiration from this example, and other events’ contingency plans to ensure you’re covering all bases. This coronavirus response guide for event organisers from professional networking platform GUILD also includes some great examples of ‘going ahead’ statements.

3 – Make it clear how you are ensuring visitor safety

With health concerns top of mind in the public consciousness, sharing how you plan to reduce the risk to attendees is vital.

  • Share what measures your venue is taking, e.g. more frequent cleaning and the installation of hand sanitizers
  • Explain how, as the event organisers, you are further mitigating the risks. This could be by:
    • Advising against handshakes
    • Adjusting session formats
    • Providing on-site medical facilities

4 – Adjust your marketing communications strategy and campaign plan

It may be tempting to stick to the original, familiar plan. But considering a slightly different approach to your marcomms to take in to account the new coronavirus shaded world could be beneficial to campaign performance.

  • Review your channel approaches, considering how the situation may require them to change:
    • Is it worth investing more in re-engaging past visitors over trying to generate new ones if your returning visitor rate could drop?
    • Consider investing more in retaining booked delegates and revenue, instead of purely focusing on acquisition.
    • Exclude your digital advertising (PPC) from appearing on news sites. You don’t want your banners alongside an announcement advising people to avoid gatherings.
    • Does your wider messaging strategy need re-orienting? If your industry is feeling unease, should you focus on how your event addresses challenges instead of opportunities?
  • Don’t feel the need to completely tear up your existing strategy. Doing so will only cause unnecessary disruption when simple tweaks and diligence can keep you on the path to success.
  • Place more emphasis on lead generation and digital content creation until you are confident your event will go ahead as planned. Doing so will also allow prospective visitors to receive updates while they decide whether to commit to attending.
  • Think about how you can communicate any existing or newly built in digital elements (livestreaming, video content, networking app) to show that your event has a strong presence in the digital space, as well as the physical event itself.
  • Avoid messaging that states how many people you are expecting to attract, as you can’t be certain how many will turn up. Be wary of ‘over-promising and under-delivering’
  • Avoid using imagery that shows numerous people interacting closely or shaking hands.
  • Consider adding coronavirus related content to your event agenda – e.g. a breakfast briefing – as well as event content to your site (speaker interviews, news updates) to ‘own the conversation’ in your industry.
    • Make sure you build this new content into your comms, sharing via email and social as an agenda update, showing how you are responding to the crisis by making it a key discussion point.

5 – Provide frequent updates

As the situation evolves, your community will expect you to respond in a responsible and transparent manner.

  • Update your statement as soon as your plan or the situation changes and more clarity is needed. Include a date for when information was last updated.
  • If a significant update is made, push this out on all channels as you did when the statement was initially released.
  • Consider providing an update when a relevant news story breaks (e.g. a ban on gatherings of a certain scale) to quell any fresh concerns.

Above all, don’t be silent about Covid-19. Taking responsibility and providing clear communications is vital in times of uncertainty.

We recently published a blog with our advice and predictions on how to win in this new world and what the ‘new normal’ could look like – this is a must-read to ensure your business is taking the right community-led approach – read the full article here.

If you have any thoughts on how our industry should react and how the marketing approach should adjust, we would love to hear from you!

To find out more about short-term marketing considerations & tactics for postponed events, view the webinar outputs from our recent webinar which answered those all important questions.

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