Commercial marketing to grow sponsorship revenue: opportunities and challenges

At a recent Marketing Leaders dinner hosted by MPG, I had the privilege of chairing a great discussion about something that has become a big deal for many B2B media/events organisations: commercial marketing.

What do we mean by ‘commercial marketing’? This is a broad term we use to describe the marketing that supports the generation and growth of commercial revenue i.e. revenue from sponsors, exhibitors and advertisers. Sometimes these types of customers are called ‘clients’ or ‘partners’.

The type of marketing that applies here is very different to marketing we use to attract ‘audience’ i.e. conference delegates, exhibition visitors, magazine readers or website visitors. Marketing to attract new audience members tends to be more transactional, requiring a very high volume of activity executed across multiple channels simultaneously – some manual, some automated.

The methodology needed for commercial marketing, on the other hand, is very similar to what is needed for high-value subscription or membership product marketing, which is akin also to SaaS product marketing. The main difference between commercial marketing for events and the SaaS businesses is that events have a hard deadline. Therefore, commercial marketing to attract event sponsors is much more time-bound, with a great sense of urgency required in marketing processes and execution, as well as marketing messages.

Why do we believe commercial marketing has become so much more important recently? We believe there are three reasons:

  1. As we emerge from Covid, there is a huge amount of opportunity, with large numbers of sponsors looking to invest significant sums again in live events. When automation is applied to commercial marketing, this opportunity can be fully exploited via automated lead generation, lead nurturing, and lead management techniques that can be deployed at scale.
  2. Sponsors have fallen out of the habit of sponsoring the same event every year. In other words, they are less loyal. Event organisers therefore need to use commercial marketing to convince sponsors that their events are the best investments of sponsorship budgets – with strong messaging and well-executed campaigns -.
  3. Many event organisers are concerned that delegate revenues won’t reach pre-Covid levels. With many digital alternatives now on offer, and travel becoming more expensive, delegates may be more price-sensitive than they were. So, sponsors need to make up the shortfall. (It remains to be seen if delegate revenues will recover well or not – the jury is still out on that one, and we expect it will be for some time to come.).

The above is based on MPG’s perspective from working with a variety of event organisers globally – mostly focused on conference-style events for senior executives. To get the perspective of these companies more directly, here are the ‘key takeaways’ from the Marketing Leaders discussion about commercial marketing:

 

Opportunities:

  • In the short-to-medium term, conference organisers are expecting sponsorship revenues to recover and grow much faster than delegate revenues.
  • ABM techniques can be used to great effect when targeting specific companies, to attract them as sponsors for events.
  • When approached at ‘brand level’ (i.e. sponsorship opportunities promoted across a range of products in a portfolio), commercial marketing can work very well in terms of economies of scale and synergies.
  • Commercial marketing tactics can be built into existing delegate customer journeys e.g. by adding a tick box to ‘agenda downloads’ for the downloader to indicate if they are interested in sponsorship.
  • Applying automation to commercial marketing can deliver great results. Automation should be built into lead generation, lead nurturing, lead management, and lead scoring – all to help the sponsorship sales people be more efficient by giving them better quality, warmer leads.
  • Building a dedicated, benefit-led messaging strategy for commercial marketing can significantly improve results. Strong collaboration between the sales people and marketers is essential to develop the most compelling and impactful messaging.
  • Building data-led performance reports for commercial marketing gives all stakeholders strong visibility of how investment in commercial marketing grows sponsorship revenue, increases conversion rates from lead to sale, increases average order value, and reduces length of sales cycles (i.e. making sponsorship sales more efficient).
  • Having a strong marketing and sales alignment – through commercial marketing and sponsorship sales working closely together towards the same goal – can turbo-charge revenue growth from sponsors.

 

Challenges:

  • Senior executives, including sales leaders, are often not aware of, or have limited knowledge of, the concept and workings of commercial marketing.
  • Sales people can often be quite skeptical about the value of marketing, and sometimes don’t pay attention to the leads generated by marketing – preferring to rather leverage existing relationships or source their own leads.
  • It is very difficult for marketers to work on both delegate marketing and commercial marketing as they are two very different types of marketing, with different methodologies and cadences. Also, marketers who are experienced in delegate marketing are typically not trained in, or able to do, commercial marketing very well. It may be necessary to separate out delegate marketing and commercial marketing, in terms of the allocation of marketing skills and resources.
  • Marketing databases are not set up well for commercial marketing campaigns. Often the data is missing from the database, so email campaigns to attract new sponsors to events are difficult to deploy.
  • A substandard marketing tech stack can stand in the way of effective commercial marketing, as automation is not possible and data doesn’t flow in the way it needs to for marketing and sales processes to be aligned, efficient and effective.
  • In order to build marketing performance reports, data has to be managed well. All sales people need to be logging in the CRM when leads are followed up and closed. This does not always happen, which means that it is not possible to accurately track, analyse, and report on the performance of commercial marketing or sponsorship sales.

Clearly there is a lot of opportunity to grow revenue fast via sponsors – as long as the right amount of attention and investment is given to building and maintaining commercial marketing capabilities. It is important to bear in mind that not all of these capabilities need be built inhouse – some external expertise and resources can be plugged into an events business to deliver great results in a scalable and repeatable manner.

As with all marketing initiatives, having a strong strategy and operational plan in place is essential for success – with good execution absolutely critical. It’s easy to talk about commercial marketing over a networking dinner, but it is quite another thing to do it well!

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5 Strategic investments being made in B2B marketing in 2021

Team MPG has unique insight into how leadership teams are choosing to invest in marketing at any point in time.

Right now, we can see first-hand how the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed marketing to the forefront of the ‘bounce back’ strategies for B2B brands, and how transformation of marketing in organisations of all sizes has been accelerated.

This article covers 5 areas of marketing where we’re seeing the greatest focus and investment at this time.

 


The state of B2B marketing in May 2021

As parts of the world start emerging from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, senior executives  are seeing that making strategic investments in marketing now is essential – not only to recover lost revenues, but (more importantly), to take advantage of the new opportunities our ‘new world’ presents.

Organisations focused on serving and monetising professional communities have a particular set of opportunities to go after: building strong, engaged communities online and offline; growing high quality, engaged, paying subscriptions & memberships; and delivering a strong portfolio of events year round in digital, in-person and hybrid formats. Marketing budgets that were previously being locked down are now being released, but with this spend being focused in areas previously ignored or under-valued.

The work Team MPG does with a range of organisations globally (B2B media, B2B events & professional associations), and the ongoing conversations we have with the community, gives us a strong viewpoint on where B2B leaders are placing their marketing bets.

Here are five investment areas that have dominated these conversations:

Investment #1: Marketing strategy development

In the pre-pandemic times, many marketing functions mostly (or only) delivered tactical marketing. The job of marketing was to just ‘get campaigns out’ – at speed and scale.

But the events of the past 14 months have forced senior executives to carefully evaluate the role of marketing in their organisations. At the start of the pandemic, those who believed their marketing had mostly tactical value swiftly cut their marketing budgets when faced with a prolonged period of risk and uncertainty.

As the pandemic fog lifts, it seems there are two types of organisations that are emerging well:

  1. Those that put their marketing function at the heart of their pivot – leveraging the digital expertise marketers have to create and execute their strategies to survive & thrive. These organisations understood that marketing is all about putting the customers’ needs and pain points first, which has been a common trait for organisations coming out of the pandemic in good shape.
  2. Those that realised after a few months of trying to work out what to do next, that a strategic marketing approach is critical for future-proofing their organisations. These organisations have started the process of rebuilding their marketing functions in a deliberate, thoughtful and sustainable way.

I urge you to reflect on your own organisation. Are you one of the above types of organisations? Or do you still see marketing as a cost to be reduced, rather than an investment to be managed and optimised?

If you’re aiming to be more strategic in your marketing approach, here are a few points for you to ponder:

  • The bedrock of every successful marketing strategy is understanding the composition of your market, or your community. This all begins with a robust and up to date market map.
  • Community marketing is coming to the fore. It is important to understand what this means for your organisation. The recent MPG Insights blog on how B2B communities work and our webinar exploring community marketing strategies and MPG’s community marketing model have been some of our most read and watched to date.
  • Once the market or community you are serving has been properly analysed, you need to find a way to cut through the noise in a very competitive space to grab and keep attention (i.e. get good engagement!). This requires a strong messaging strategy.
  • Having the right combination of strong marketing skills in your team is essential. Marketing is complex and the skills you need are varied – from very analytical and technical, to those strong in creative and communications. These are very rarely found in one person. Here are a couple of relevant MPG Insights blog articles:

Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you develop a future-proof marketing strategy.

Investment #2: Marketing technology stack optimisation 

The reality is that many organisations have martech challenges – usually including one or more of the following: the wrong tech tools; martech not implemented well in terms of system set up or new process adoption, and now needing remedial action; missing or misfiring integrations and data flows; or key pieces of tech missing altogether. Any one of these issues will mean what should be automated is painfully and expensively manual and slow.

A key opportunity cost of not having a fit-for-purpose martech stack is a poor customer experience – which is something no organisation can afford in what is becoming a very competitive digital world with lower barriers to entry and fewer ways to differentiate.

So, smart business leaders have spent much of the lockdown getting their martech stack in order. Rather than slashing marketing spend altogether, they spotted a gap to make strategic, impactful investments in getting their martech stack working well to monetise and scale their audiences and offerings in a more digital world.

And they have also recognised this is not a ‘one off’ exercise. Martech stacks need ongoing maintenance and regular tweaks and upgrades as new tech emerges and their businesses grow.

Good things will come to those who have fully embraced martech and invested well, and continue to invest well, in this area. Well done if that’s you.

Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you get, and keep, your martech stack in good order

 

Investment #3: Stronger marketing databases

Marketing databases are often neglected for three reasons:

  1. They’re not well understood
  2. They’re hard to manage well
  3. They’re not as exciting and visible as the creative parts of marketing

But, having a strong marketing database that is always growing, and is well maintained, is essential to B2B marketing success. The best creative comms in the world won’t work if you’re not getting them in front of the right people – and this is where your database comes in.

We’ve seen a definite trend in senior leaders suddenly paying attention to their marketing databases. They have recognised that being more digital requires good database management. 

Marketing automation, which is critical for effective monetisation and scale, just isn’t possible if your marketing database is not well set up and well managed on an ongoing basis. This was particularly important for virtual and hybrid events, where a much larger pool of potential customers and marketing automation is needed to achieve good attendance rates.

It is therefore no surprise that many of my recent conversations with CEOs have been about how best to invest in their databases, and MPG’s database and marketing automation experts have been in high demand.

What is also clear is that organisations of all sizes have similar needs and require a similar approach when it comes to setting up, growing and maintaining their databases. Over the past 12 months, MPG has worked with very large and very small organisations (and all sizes in-between) to successfully implement the tried & tested database development methodology we’ve used since we launched MPG in 2014. Even back then it was GDPR-proof!

We’re hoping to release an ‘explainer video’ soon about MPG’s database development methodology. So, make sure you subscribe for MPG Insights emails to be notified when this resource is available!

Get in touch if you’d like to have a chat with MPG about your database.  We love all things data!!

 

Investment #4: High performance websites optimised for search engines and conversions

Large parts of our lives have been lived online over the past 14 months. And a legacy of the pandemic is that most of us are likely to stay more ‘digitised’ in behaviours and preferences.

Having a marketing website that is substandard in any way is therefore no longer an option. Your customers will judge you on how your marketing website looks and works – fact!

Your brand, messaging, content, lead generation mechanisms and, in many cases, sales – are now hosted mostly on your website. And all your other marketing channels drive traffic to your site. So, if your website is not optimised for search engines and conversions – on an ongoing basis – then you have a big problem.

What has been interesting about conversations I have had with CEOs about their websites in recent months, is that they now understand how important it is to plan, build and optimise a website with a strategic marketing mindset. Before the pandemic, websites were often largely left to the tech team, with tech people making key decisions about how a website should look and work.

Let’s hope the change to treating websites as the most important digital marketing channel is one that sticks!

MPG can help you optimise your existing website, or build a new one that works really well, to drive high performance marketing. Get in touch to find out how.

 

Investment #5: Pay-per-click (PPC) via Google and social channels

PPC is a category of marketing tactics where MPG has seen definite increased investment. To fund this investment increase, it seems marketing spend is shifting from direct mail, and in some cases ‘cold calling’ sales – to Google Ads and paid advertising on social media.

However, this seems to be poorly served by dedicated PPC agencies at present as marketers are switching regularly from one agency to another, and in many cases pulling PPC in-house.

I believe the reason PPC is not working as it should – even with more investment – is that too much attention and money is going into clicks spend, rather than strategy and planning.

Once again, as per Investment #1 in this newsletter, you need a strong marketing strategy to make your PPC work well. PPC needs to be well integrated with all other channels and it needs to be carefully measured, and performance analysed in the context of the full marketing mix. This is where most PPC agencies go wrong:  they just focus on tactics and clicks spend, rather than delivering PPC services that are an integrated part of a robust marketing strategy.

My advice: don’t spend a penny or a cent on clicks if you have not yet invested in an overall marketing strategy, followed by an aligned, robust PPC strategy. Otherwise you’re just making Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn even richer – without anything to show for it. Short term, this will be an irritating waste of money. Long term, this is a massive missed opportunity.

Don’t get fixated on ‘in-house versus agency’, and don’t get bamboozled by very slick PPC agency sales people. Focus on making sure your marketers:

  • Understand where PPC strategically fits in your marketing mix
  • Set clear PPC objectives
  • Have the tracking and analysis tools in place to measure PPC ROI

…and only then look for good digital marketers to set up and manage your campaigns – whether in-house or outsourced.

If your organisation runs virtual events, we recently published a step by step guide to PPC for B2B virtual events, so make sure to have a read of that!

Get in touch to find out how MPG’s digital marketers can give your PPC a boost!


And that’s a wrap – five important areas for investment that just 14 months ago were not getting anywhere near enough attention from most B2B organisations.

And as a final note: thank you so much for being part of MPG’s community!

If you would like to be even more involved by speaking at our webinars or being a guest blogger, we’d love to hear from you on info@mpg.biz

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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, and 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.

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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. 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.

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Engaging, monetising and scaling B2B communities: how the experts do it

Author: Helen Coetzee – 29/10/2020

‘B2B communities’ is a topic that has gained serious momentum over the past few months. As uncertainty remains over the continued impact of Covid, businesses are looking to pivot to a business model that will deliver security and growth in the short and long term.

This mirrors the sentiment the very communities these businesses seek to engage and build. Tremendous change is happening in all industries, and the sharing of information and connections within ‘business ecosystems’ is now more vital than ever.

In a recent webinar, we invited three B2B community builders to discuss how they have built and engaged their communities over the past 6 months, and how they plan to proceed in this vein.

Discussion ranged from the characteristics and ideal size and structure of a meaningful B2B community, to practical methods of monetising a community.

You can access all the webinar insights, including the video replay, as well as attendee poll results and Q&A, produced by MPG and the panel.

GET WEBINAR INSIGHTS


Our panel had some firm views on what a community is, what a community isn’t and how to approach building meaningful communities going forward. Here we’ve pulled out 12 of the most interesting quotes from the session:

“Controversially, I would say that an event isn’t a community. Or at least it isn’t ‘community’. It’s just one expression of the community. In the same way, if you have a local village community, the village fete isn’t the community – it’s just one manifestation of it.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Communities tend to have quite a clear sense of self, a bit like a strong brand or a strong culture which are quite hard to define or pin down. But you feel it.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Waiting for an (in person) event to happen wouldn’t be a great idea right now because our industry is moving so fast. We’re serving our community at the moment by streamlining the process of sharing information and reducing the barriers to communication”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“If you haven’t been engaging with your community in this (in-person events) ‘downtime’, you’re going to struggle longer term because you need to remain relevant. You need to remain something that your customers want to go to, regardless of whether physical events are happening or not.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“At the start, we spent a lot of time just listening and talking to the strongest advocates within the industry itself that had already acknowledged themselves as community leaders. We went through all of the data and all of the knowledge that we could gain about that community to figure out our role within it and the new products and other things we could do to bring the community together.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“Professor Robin Dunbar, who’s on our advisory board, is famous for the Dunbar number – which is one hundred and fifty. This is basically the maximum number of people we can really know. When we’re in some communities of many hundreds or thousands, the reality is we don’t really know them. It’s just beyond our brains as humans.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Events businesses are really great at that amazing physical in-person experience, but now they’ve had to very quickly get used to digital delivery and all the new skills involved.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“At the heart of community is conversations and relationships, not content. Sometimes businesses think they can just set up a community, produce loads of content and pump it at people to succeed. But then it’s just a barrage of content that most of us don’t really need.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“A lot of people rightly think ‘how do we make sure we still keep the core principles of our business?’
Don’t lose sight of that, because that’s what keeps the lights on while you’re exploring new ways of structuring your business model around communities. You could also risk losing the trust of that community if you do it wrong or maybe even try to monetise too quickly or in the wrong way.”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“In the next six months we’ll focus on engaging with our community to understand what content they want to see more of, what pain points and challenges they face and what they can do to support them.”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“My plan is to think about what the next three years might look like. My strategy is to assume that live events don’t come back. Of course they will, but it’s useful to think about what we’d do without live events. How would I serve this community? What would I do differently? How would I bring them together 365? What do I need to put in place in order to make that happen?”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“We did something that was really appreciated; we were the first movers to actually get something out and bring them together. But we also really understood how they wanted to be brought together.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

HEAR WHAT ELSE WAS SHARED


Thank you to everyone that joined us live for this session. We have plenty more webinars and written resources in the pipeline, so make sure you’re subscribed to MPG Insights so you don’t miss out.

Want to learn more about building a B2B community?

Send your team to our Engage. Monetise. Scale. Masterclass – an MPG Academy Masterclass designed to help you define your community and build a strategy for continued engagement and monetisation.

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MPG’s advice and predictions: 2021 – the year of Hybrid Communities

We’re starting to get a better view of what 2021 will look like for the world of B2B media, events and professional associations.

Many organisations drafting their plans for next year are considering whether to run hybrid events – essentially virtual events with a limited in-person element, as a further bridge back to the physical events. Others are considering launching a paid-for subscriptions model, having successfully engaged their audiences in a digital world via virtual events. Some are even planning for a ‘full return’ to in-person in late 2021.

Take caution in this product-centric approach. We’ve become so enamoured by the exciting challenges and new technologies that have arisen over the past 6 months – as well as for many a deep-rooted desire to return to our familiar old formats – that we risk losing track of what really matters…our communities!


Taking a step back

Any marketer worth their salt will understand the crucial importance of putting your audience first. It’s foundational to marketing itself.

Right now we need to be taking a step back and considering what our communities really need from us. How can we help them solve their most pressing problems and take advantage of their greatest opportunities?

We discover and understand this by really listening to them.

Hybrid communities

Your community is everyone that your brand aims to serve. From the ‘buy-side’ – those that come together to share best practice, discuss common problems and make connections – to the ‘sell-side’ – the businesses that want to reach the buy side with their products and services. There is a great deal of value for all parties by bringing this community together – as long as it is done in the right way.

And looking at just ‘buy-side’ vs ‘sell-side’ is quite a simplistic definition. In reality, the lines between the two parties are much more blurred. Most communities act more like ecosystems – a collection of people who rely on one another to do their jobs and grow their brands. It’s not just products and services that are exchanged – but also vital information, unique and timely insight and valuable human connections. The most successful community hosts are those that recognise this transcendence from a series of business transactions to a complex ecosystem.

This is not the only way your communities are hybrid. Over the past 20 years – and accelerating rapidly in 2020 – the way that communities interact is increasingly fragmented. In-person events, digital events, content, social media, email, calls, messaging – there are so many different ways that professionals can connect, share information and do business.

As the community host, it’s your job to figure out how best to serve your community so that members are connected with the right people, at the right time and in the right format.

Serving hybrid communities

The best way to serve your hybrid community will depend on your unique ecosystem.

To better understand yours, ask yourself:

  1. Who is in our community and how do the key relationships within them work?
  2. Who needs who – how, when and why?
  3. What are the range of problems we need to help different groups in our community solve?

When asking these questions, take a platform-agnostic approach. Avoid framing these questions as ‘how much more will sponsors pay to sponsor hybrid events compared to fully virtual events?’ or ‘how much more can I start charging for subscriptions now that my events revenue has dropped?’.

Your role is to bring your community together 365 days a year in the ways that suit them, not figure out how to sell an event or subscriptions product to them.

Once you have figured out the composition and needs of your community, then start considering which products and services will aid them best.

For some communities (or some parts of a community), large annual events are essential, serving as the best way to interact with peers and suppliers, learn about important industry trends and make valuable connections in a condensed and focused time period. People in these communities, or sub-communities, will clear their diaries for your event and attend year after year.

For others, constant access to searchable digitally delivered content and shorter, highly focused virtual events are all they need, with events simply serving as a chance to catch up with peers and stay abreast of potential industry changes. For this group, having constant access to essential information is their priority.

Most communities are hybrid, demanding opportunities to interact in-person (when possible again!) while also seeking ways to gain valuable content and connections year-round. Hybrid communities are ‘always on’ in a virtual space – 365 days of the year. And they usually also love to get together in the real world and develop genuine, rewarding business relationships with their fellow community members.

Engage. Monetise. Scale.

Once your hybrid community and their hybrid needs are understood, and once the right products have been created to serve these communities – we move in the very exciting and rewarding phase of engaging, monetising and scaling these communities. A smart investment in the right kind of marketing and sales is essential to enable this.

Take a look at MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale’ framework where we share our strategic approach to community marketing.

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10 tips for growing revenue from sponsors and clients

Digitised events are here to stay. For all the challenges this year has brought event organisers, virtual events do provide some unique opportunities in terms of sponsorship revenue generation in the coming months. Sponsorships that are overall lower in cost for sponsors, coupled with global audiences, have expanded many events’ potential sponsor pools significantly. The challenge now is working out how best to capitalise on this opportunity to achieve strong event sponsorship revenues going forward.

In our recent webinar, Marketing to Grow Revenue from Sponsors and Clients: MPG’s Top 10 Tips, I outlined the 10 simple marketing moves event organisers should make to maximise the generation, nurturing and conversion of sponsorship leads.

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Here is a summary of the top 10 tips shared, to hear and read more – including attendee poll responses and our Q&A answers – access the full content package.

Tip 1 – Know your market of potential sponsors

Analyse your target market of potential sponsors. As we enter a season of digital events, re-consider who that market is. The potential pool of sponsors may now be more global and may contain a larger pool of smaller companies.

Tip 2 – Set KPIs for lead generation, conversion rate and value of conversions

You need to know what you’re aiming to achieve. Create specific and measurable indicators of success, such as a number of sponsor leads generated or the average yield from converted leads.

Tip 3 – Measure and analyse results regularly to improve

Put in place a marketi