Promoting your conference: the importance of integrated outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is a key area for an event marketing strategy – driving key messages directly to potential delegates to get important, time sensitive messages in front of the right people at the right time.

The most important direct marketing channel for promoting events is still email marketing, as this channel needs to be used all the way down the marketing funnel. Another important direct marketing channel is delegate sales, which needs to be fully synced with email campaigns.

Here is a ‘how-to guide’ to get the best results:

#1 Create an email plan, and sync telesales with this plan

It is essential to have a clear plan around outcomes you are looking for, and what is needed to achieve these outcomes.

Email is an essential channel for creating event awareness and driving event registrations, so an important first step when promoting any event is to map out well-timed email activity in the weeks leading up to an event, considering event programme development milestones (e.g. speaker announcements and agenda releases) and other significant dates (e.g. public holidays etc).

All stakeholders in your events team should have full visibility of this schedule of planned emails and the key messaging planned for each email, as this schedule should set the pace for programme development and all integrated marketing activity.

It is particularly important to sync your delegate sales with your email campaign schedule, as sales people should be reinforcing the most current marketing messages going out via email.

For best results, it is important to concentrate on delegate sales efforts, to ramp up just after an email has gone out, and in the week or two leading up to an ‘earlybird’.

#2 Driving online registrations, generating and converting leads

Email marketing should both directly drive online registrations and generate leads that can then be converted to registrations via further lead nurturing emails, and also by delegate sales.

Your delegate team should only be contacting past delegates, as well as the people who have become qualified leads via marketing, e.g. have downloaded an event brochure or registered their interest in attending an event. Calling ‘cold’ people who have shown no interest or have only clicked on one email won’t get a very strong ROI on delegate sales (an expensive channel!).

#3 Use delegate sales in the right way for the best ROI

Here are some tips on how get best results from delegate sales:

  • Timing and approach: align delegate sales efforts with important milestones (programme announcement, pricing deadlines, 3 weeks before the event starts) within the marketing channel plan to achieve the best engagement and messaging in calls.
  • Create clear telesales briefs: this document should include key event information from event dates, venue, prominent speakers, audience profile, sales targets, how a sale is attributed, and reporting processes.
  • Sales collateral:
  • Scripts: provide short scripts for delegate sales to reference when talking to a prospect. This script should be updated as messaging develops and changes throughout the campaign, and should also be based on the profile of the prospect they’re speaking to. Additional consideration should be given to their level of engagement and stage in the buying process.
  • Email templates: marketers should provide salespeople with email templates containing the most relevant messages. This will ensure messaging consistency and enable salespeople to be more efficient.
  • Feedback: it is very important for delegate sales to give marketers and other event team members, particularly conference producers, regular feedback on what they’re hearing directly from customers about what they find valuable (and not valuable) about the event, how it is relevant (and not relevant) to them, and what will make them book – or why they don’t want to register or buy a ticket. This important customer insight should be fed into the product development process so that the producer can continue developing the programme to be as valuable as possible, and so that marketers can ensure the messaging they’re using in all channels is relevant and resonates well.
  • KPIs: as delegate sales is the most expensive marketing (highest cost per person contacted), and because it can be an incredibly effective driver of delegate revenue and growth, it is very important for the salespeople to have clear KPIs to work towards and be measured on. KPI reporting to evaluate delegate sales productivity and ROI should focus on two areas:
  1. Outcomes – including number of sales made, conversion rate, and average order value.
  2. Activity – including number of effective calls per day, and average call length.

Within the next few weeks we will be sharing more guidance on how to use email marketing in the best way as a marketing channel for conferences, and also the role that advocacy is now playing as a highly efficient channel – especially when using automation tools.

So please subscribe to MPG Insights if you have not done so already. Subscribers are notified as soon as a new article or resource is published.


Do you need help developing a conference marketing strategy to grow your flagship event?

Team MPG has a wealth of experience in developing marketing strategies for B2B conferences. Our deep analysis and rigorous approach gives business leaders peace of mind when making strategic investments in their marketing.

Please get in touch with Team MPG to see how we could help you.

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Marketing lead time: a key success factor for every conference

A basic principle of marketing is getting the right message to the person at the right time. This is especially important when the product you’re promoting is an event, as events are so time-sensitive. They have a fixed timeline and ‘sell-by date’. If you don’t get enough marketing out early enough, you’ll miss your chance to capture the audience you’re aiming to attract to the event.

People are busy – especially the professionals and senior executives who typically form the audience for most conferences. Their diaries fill up very fast, and far in advance. So, you need to get early awareness, engagement and interest from your target delegates – otherwise you’ll miss your window of opportunity to get your event into their diaries as a firm commitment.

Ideally you want your targeted delegates to register early, i.e. weeks, if not months ahead of your event. Not only does this make it easier to plan your event in terms of logistics – it also significantly reduces your financial risk.

Another upside of bringing in bookings early is your ability to leverage early registrations to sell even more delegate places (using FOMO), and being able to leverage a strong delegate list to sell more sponsorship and exhibition spaces ahead of the event – assuming this is an important revenue stream for your business.

To commit early to your event, at the very least your target audience should know when and where your conference will take place. Early on, they should also understand why attending the event would be a valuable enough experience or a good enough use of their time, compared to other ways they could be spending their time. If it is worthy of commitment, they will diarise your event dates early on – as well as required travel time to and from the event if it’s far from where they live.

Potential delegates may also need to pitch for some budget to cover the cost, but from MPG’s experience – cost is very seldom a barrier if an event is worth attending. For senior executives in particular, their reputation, profile, network and time are the most precious currencies.

Any money a senior executive has to spend on attending an event – even if several thousand £/$/Euro – is generally a much less important consideration than the time it will take and what it will do for their reputation, profile or network. When evaluating whether or not it’s worth attending your conference, they will look for value-for-time before they look for value-for-money. And generally speaking, a senior executive will have enough room in their budget for the events worth attending.

Having said that, all of MPG’s experience tells us that everyone loves a bargain! So, even where you’re marketing to the most senior executives, early-bird discounts are a good way of getting early bookings – as long as the early-bird deadlines are well timed, the discounts are big enough, and the marketing campaigns are organised in the right way to make the most of this pricing tactic.

Coming back to the concept of ‘lead time’, all of our experience also tells us that if your conference marketing campaigns don’t reach the right people early enough, with the right messages based on where you are in the event production cycle, your attendee numbers will suffer.

Here is a simple how to guide on all things ‘lead time’ – the term we use in conference marketing to refer to one of the most important elements of timing of marketing campaigns:

#1 What is lead time?

Lead time refers to the number of weeks between the launch of the full marketing campaign, and the date of the event. By ‘launch of full marketing campaign’ we mean releasing the following information:

  1. Dates and venue of the event
  2. Event theme, key speakers and overall ‘shape’ and format of content programme
  3. Who else is likely to be attending
  4. The benefits of attending, arising from all of the above
  5. How to register to attend an event, sometimes requiring a purchase of a delegate ticket (typically this would be a self-serve online process, and/or via a sales person).

#2 What should your lead time be?

When determining the best lead time for your event, it is important to ask these questions:

  • Is your event an in-person, hybrid, or virtual event?
  • How senior is your target audience?
  • Do a large number of your delegates need to travel far to attend the event?
  • Is your event a small, quite frequent event, or does it only take place once a year, or every two years?

Generally speaking:

  • When you’re asking delegates to pay to attend events, a longer lead time is needed than when promoting free to attend events.
  • If your event is fully in-person or hybrid with an important in-person element, you will need a longer lead time than when promoting a virtual event, especially if delegates need to travel a significant distance to attend your event.
  • The more senior your audience, the longer the lead time you will need.

Here are some guidelines based on event type:

  • In-person/hybrid conference where the majority of your delegates are paying to attend – approx. 35 to 28 weeks lead time.
  • In-person/hybrid events where the majority of attendees are free (exhibitions) – approx. 20 to 16 weeks lead time.
  • Virtual event (paid delegate tickets) – approx. 28 to 20 weeks lead time.
  • Virtual event (free to attend) – approx. 12 to 8 weeks lead time.

It is important to bear in mind that it is essential to keep promoting the event with regular communications via multiple channels in the weeks between launch and the event taking place, with marketing activity needing to ramp up in the last few weeks before the event takes place to maximise attendance.

#3 What are the other milestones within a timeline that a B2B event marketer should be mindful of?

To get the best results from an event marketing campaign, especially for a paid-for conference style event, here is what we recommend (having seen a lot of evidence over the years that this is what works best – across events in all industries, globally):

  • Bookings should open and ‘save the date’ email campaigns should start at least 6 months before the event.
  • A draft agenda including at least 50% of the speakers and content should be published on the event website no later than 16 weeks leading up to the event.
  • A final agenda containing at least 90% of speakers and content should be published on the event website no later than 12 weeks before the event.
  • If you plan to use early-bird pricing for your event – which we always recommend for paid-for events to create a sense of urgency and bring revenue in early, here is what we recommend (dependent on number of early-birds planned):
  • For 3 early-bird price breaks, it is best for them to fall within the following intervals before the event:
  • 8 to 10 weeks
  • 4 to 6 weeks
  • 2 to 3 weeks
  • For 2 early-bird price breaks, it is best for them to fall within the following intervals before the event:
  • 4 to 6 weeks
  • 2 to 3 weeks

#4 What are the additional benefits of a good lead time and well structured timeline?

Having sufficient lead time for an event allows you to invest in key strategic priorities and channels at the beginning of the campaign e.g. conducting more research into media partners, and inviting them on early, or time to improve the user experience for your website.

Not having enough time to plan ahead and optimise your all your channels throughout the campaign will mean you’re missing out on delegates you could have attracted to your event.

Furthermore, a ‘good’ lead time allows you to develop your database: by drawing people to your event website over a longer time period across multiple channels, especially inbound channels, you can convert more to known prospects and leads as they enter your database via form completions on your website.

In a post-COVID world, amidst an uneasy economic climate, MPG has found that most successful events are those that lead their market. You cannot be a market leader if you take your event to market later than you should. .

So make sure you get your lead time right if you want to win the events race ahead!


Do you have the required experienced and skilled marketing resources to give you a good lead time on your events?

Team MPG can provide the resources and know-how you need to be a market leader. To turbo-boost event growth, our clients outsource event marketing to us – often for their highest growth, flagship events.

Get in touch today to find out how Team MPG can help you.

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Top 5 marketing investments for sustainable growth

The world has changed so much in the past 8 years, and so has B2B marketing! Since MPG was launched in early 2014, we’ve had a privileged ‘insiders view’ of the marketing approach of a large number – and great variety – of organisations.

It has been fascinating to witness the continued evolution of B2B publishers – where the most successful organisations have developed ‘brand platforms’, serving up intelligence and connections to their ever more niche audiences.

A customer-first approach has meant the leading organisations – large and small – are ruthlessly focused on delivering what their customers need, how they need it, and when they need it. They know that to engage, monetise and scale, they need the right blend of digital and in-person experiences, with a strong brand at the centre of everything.

In this article we explore the six areas that need ongoing marketing investment – especially at times of uncertainty (including economic downturns).

#1 Brand trust

Building a strong, trusted brand should always be the top priority for every marketer. This requires a strategic investment in developing clear brand positioning and strong brand identity, and then ensuring that every place where a customer engages with your brand has a particular ‘look and feel’ that is recognisable, unique and reassuring.

The cost of engaging a top creative agency can be prohibitive, especially for a niche B2B brand. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to undergo a costly and time consuming ‘rebranding’ exercise to achieve brand trust.

The very nature of ‘trust’ is that it is based on something genuine. It’s about ‘substance’ more than ‘style’.

If you know what really matters to your customers, and what they genuinely value about what you deliver for them, make sure this is:

  1. Evident in your messaging across all your marketing channels
  2. Well understood by every member of your team, and embedded in mindsets and behaviours

Being a steadfast presence for your customers, and coming across as genuine and reliable at all times, will win you a great deal of brand trust.

It is also very important to ensure your brand design is of a good standard, and that your visual branding is consistent everywhere, including fonts, colours and design devices. A good graphic designer should be able to make this all work well for you.

And if you can afford to bring on board a good agency to help you develop stronger branding than you have now, then do it! It will be worth the investment.

#2 Martech

Martech is no longer an optional investment, and it isn’t an area where you can afford to buy the cheapest solution. The technical debt you will incur by trying to cut corners in how you approach your martech stack is almost guaranteed to hold your business back.

You simply cannot grow your customer base or your revenue above a certain level without good martech tools in place, well integrated for data flows, and with the right processes in place to ensure they do what they’re meant to do. You cannot scale without good tech.

Don’t ignore this area of your marketing because you don’t know how to invest well in it. You may not be able to expertly analyse or optimise your tech stack yourself, but you’ll have a good sense of what is and is not working, and where the biggest issues are that are holding you back from growth.

If this is a weak spot in your marketing, get it seen to as soon as you possibly can. Investing well in the right tech stack for your marketing will make a world of difference in how you can serve your customers – and build your brand.

 

As partners to HubSpot, Marketo, Ingo, Guild and Saltbox, and having set up, optimised and worked in many other platforms such as Mailchimp, Adestra, Sailthru, Zapier, Salesforce and MS Dynamics 365 over the past 8+ years, Team MPG has a strong track record in enabling B2B marketers with the right tools. Get in touch to find out more.

#3 Website

For every B2B brand, your website is by far your most important marketing channel. The perception your customers will have of your brand will first and foremost be based on your website, and nothing will damage brand trust more than a poor website user journey.

Therefore, as with martech, choosing the cheapest solution for a website will almost always cost you dearly in the long run – both in terms of real spend (having to redo your website), and opportunity cost.

Engage a good agency with a strong reputation (make sure you get at least two references), and make sure they follow the step-by-step process laid out in this MPG Insights resource.

When considering the development framework, for smaller companies with relatively simple sites, a good option for a purpose-built site is usually WordPress. For larger projects, we recommend Headless CMS, alongside Laravel to build the backend, and Vue JS to build the frontend (mainly for good loading speed). This combo is more expensive and takes longer to build, but is much more robust and secure.

#4 Analytics

Without analytics set up well across all your marketing channels, starting with your website, you won’t have the intelligence you need to really understand what your customers care about, and to make good marketing decisions.

As business leaders start becoming more focused on marketing ROI, Team MPG is seeing a surge in demand by B2B brands for real-time dashboards and reports that give their marketers and senior executives strong visibility of important marketing metrics.

There is also a stronger appetite for measurement against ‘joined up’ marketing and sales KPIs. This MPG Insights article shares a useful guide on how to achieve strong sales and marketing integration – which is more important than ever.

We’re also seeing B2B brand leaders asking for customer insight reports to deliver intelligence into their content/editorial teams, showing levels of engagement with certain content themes, and often specific pieces of content.

MPG’s experience in building and deploying these kinds of reports are highly valuable for a content-led B2B brand, as long as they are:

  1. Kept relatively simple
  2. Focused on key data points presented with good data visualisation techniques
  3. Easily accessible
  4. Updated in real time

 

Team MPG can help you make better business and marketing decisions by setting up your website and marketing analytics tools in the right way, and building custom dashboards to deliver valuable intelligence to your team. Get in touch to find out more.

#5 Database

Every week we have at least one conversation with a business leader who is immensely frustrated with the state of their customer and/or prospect database!

This foundational part of your 1st party data simply cannot be ignored as you cannot effectively or efficiently communicate with all your existing customers, or find new customers, if your database is not well organised, up to date, and populated with the right data.

This is an essential area for ongoing investment, with the following two key areas needing particular attention if you want to grow your business:

  1. Targeted research to constantly clean, append and grow your target audience data sets – so your marketing can reach all members of decision-making units, not only the main buyer.
  2. Tracking of engagement, at contact level, with your marketing and sales efforts.

Without these two essential pieces in place, your database isn’t the kind of asset you need for business success.

Your database is an asset that needs ongoing investment, delivering a direct, strong and measurable return.

 

Team MPG can help you get your current database into good shape, and we can help you continually grow your data sets to become valuable business assets that consistently deliver a strong return. Get in touch to find out more.

The world and marketing may be changing constantly. But don’t let constant change derail your long term, strategic focus.

By investing in the five areas explored above, you cannot go wrong – as long as you do so in a measured, focused and deliberate manner.

Knee-jerk reactions, looking for the cheapest marketing solutions, focusing too much on ‘quick wins’, and insisting on unreasonably high returns in the short term will set you back.

Play the long game, as the world’s most successful and valuable B2B brands always do.

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MPG Newsletter | Autumn 2022

Newsletter • Autumn 2022

 

Investing well in marketing leads to business success and growth

Marketing has never been more important in B2B. Now is the time to ruthlessly focus on ensuring your marketing budget is being spent on the right things.

“Companies that have bounced back most strongly from previous recessions usually did not cut their marketing spend, and in many cases actually increased it. But they did change what they were spending their marketing budget on, and when, to reflect the new context in which they operated.”
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

Investing well in marketing will be essential to surviving and thriving in the coming months – and years. This means you need to:

✔️ Add as much science as you possibly can to your marketing.

Customer insight, 1st party data, tech, analytics, and data-led strategy must now be built into every marketing function – no matter how large or small your organisation.

Sufficiently relevant, personalised and impactful marketing campaigns can only be possible if you have a strategic, analytical approach, and the right level of investment in your martech and data infrastructure.

✔️ Reduce your data and martech debt – now.

Before it’s too late, put in place:

  1. A well structured database – with good coverage of your target market
  2. Smart marketing automation tools – much more accessible now than a few years ago in terms of cost and user-friendliness
  3. A well-integrated tech stack – with well set up data flows

The longer you carry a legacy of low investment in these essential areas, the more it will cost you to ensure your marketing is effective in the future, especially if you want to grow your business.

By paying attention to the critically important above-mentioned areas, you can get exactly the right messages to exactly the right people, at exactly the right time.

The quality of the content and creative elements you add to your marketing campaigns will certainly also make a big difference. But you need the scientific elements in place first to make sure these campaigns hit their mark.

In this issue of the MPG Insights quarterly newsletter, we focus on how a scientific approach to marketing can make a difference to every business. We highlight the things that senior executives and heads of marketing should be paying close attention to right now when it comes to future marketing investments:

#1 When was your marketing last audited? Do you know where your gaps are?

Your business will suffer if you spend blindly on your marketing. You need to understand which elements of your marketing are performing well, which areas are performing poorly, and where your biggest and most important gaps are.

To ensure a strong ROI, and to future-proof your marketing, you need to know how different types of channels and tactics you have used have worked so far. You also need to know whether the systems, processes and people you need for success are in place.

The MPG Insights team have written a ‘how to’ guide to help you invest in a good marketing audit – so that the money you spend on marketing in 2023 and beyond will deliver a strong return. Questions answered in this resource:

  1. Why should I do a marketing audit?
  2. How should I approach a marketing audit?
  3. What should I include in a marketing audit?
  4. Who should conduct my marketing audit?
  5. What should I expect the output to be from a well-run marketing audit?

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

#2 Do you have the marketing skills you need in your business? How will you get the missing skill sets plugged in where you need them?

Your marketing audit will probably tell you there are skill gaps in your team. Some will be critical.

Team MPG have created many resources for leaders considering how best to go about getting all the marketing skills they need in their marketing team. Here are our top 3 most relevant pieces for leaders right now:

  1. Creating a robust, sustainable marketing function: a strategic, hybrid approach
  2. Copywriting: how every B2B marketer can improve this skill set
  3. Don’t take marketing skills for granted: they’re precious and need investment

Enquire about MPG’s Academy for essential marketing skills development

#3 Have you activated advocacy as a powerful marketing tool?

Activating and leveraging advocacy is an important way to get your message out to more of the right people. You can gain almost instant credibility, as well as the trust of a potential customer, based on a recommendation or endorsement from someone they already trust. That ‘someone’ is your advocate – and could be an employee, supplier or customer.

To help MPG’s community get to grips with advocacy marketing, and to understand how to use it to grow rapidly and profitably, we’ve created a number of relevant resources. The top 3 are:

  1. A guide to advocacy and referral marketing
  2. Leveraging the power of advocacy to make your business more resilient
  3. Employee advocacy: unlock this powerful marketing channel

Find out more about how MPG approaches Advocacy Marketing

#4 How well integrated are your marketing and sales processes and KPIs?

Your business will never reach its full potential if your marketing and sales are not well integrated. And marketing and sales integration needs to be approached strategically and holistically – with your customers, and their experiences in dealing with your business, at the very centre of every process.

Take a close look at your marketing and sales funnel. Is it joined up? Are your marketers playing the part they need to at every stage of the funnel? Are they focused on generating, nurturing and qualifying leads? And are your sales people focused on the bottom of the funnel, where they can work their best magic in selling to people who are ready to buy?

Do you have integrated marketing and sales metrics and KPIs – where your marketers and salespeople are all working towards the same end goal, and are rewarded for achieving success together?

These are the KPIs your marketers and salespeople should be focused on (together):

  1. Number of leads
  2. Conversion rates
  3. Number of sales
  4. Average order value
  5. Length of sales cycle
  6. Total revenue

 

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
PETER DRUCKER

Download MPG’s guide to sales and marketing integration

#5 Are your website analytics tools delivering the value you need? And is your Google Analytics update to GA4 – so you don’t lose data?

Not having the most basic website analytics tools in place means you really are flying blind.

Relying on anecdotal evidence from your marketers or sales people is going to hold you back from growing your business. Not having the metrics to tell you how your customers are engaging with your website could be fatal – especially in the current business environment.

If you use Google Analytics, GA4 is the new version you need to put in place very soon. As a team of digital-first, analytical and data-led marketers, Team MPG have been through extensive GA4 training, and ensured GA4 is well implemented for websites we work on, to deliver essential customer insight. Have you done the same with your marketing function?

This MPG Insights article explains how, quite soon, you won’t be able to collect any more tracking data via your Google Analytics account, unless you have implemented GA4.

It is also important to note that there are a number of significant differences between Google’s current Universal Analytics (UA) and GA4, such as not being able to track through the use of 3rd party cookies. This means you won’t be able to easily deploy GA4 without training – even if you’re an expert in UA.

We strongly recommend – as an urgent priority – that you ensure you have strong analytics expertise plugged into your business. This may require training of current internal staff members, or you may want to hire in an analytics specialist (if your business is sizeable). The other option you have is finding an external partner to implement GA4 well for you. The same partner should then be able to help you pull valuable data from GA4 into your business, as ongoing intelligence, to enable de-risked, data-led, decision-making.

Read MPG’s guide on GA4


Get in touch with Team MPG to find out how you can add more science to your marketing – so your campaigns always hit their mark!

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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.

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. 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.

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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.

Topics:

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 marketing measurement dashboard before any activity starts – to measure the performance of different marketing channels and tactics used. Review the full dashboard on a weekly basis to understand where improvements can be made.

Tip 4 – Grow your database so you can reach more potential sponsors

If you want to reach more potential sponsors, you need more potential sponsors in your database. Conduct data research either in-house or via a 3rd party to grow your database quickly in a short space of time (ensuring you comply with data protection and direct marketing regulations, depending on country). You can also grow your database daily and compliantly by having lead generation forms on your website and doing inbound marketing to push potential sponsors to these forms.

Tip 5 – Manage and nurture leads well to achieve a strong conversion rate

Your job doesn’t end when someone fills in a form on your website to become a lead. Properly managing your leads means continuing to engage with them and move them down the funnel, warming them up via targeting comms and making sure they don’t get forgotten!

Tip 6 – Define the USP & benefits of your sponsorship value proposition

Articulate your event’s unique selling point and key benefits for potential sponsors. Why should a company choose to sponsor your event rather than a competitor’s event, or choose a different channel for investing their marketing budget? What justifies the investment they will make?

Tip 7 – Make sure you have a ‘become a sponsor’ page on your event website

Your website is your most important marketing channel – both to attract your core audience and potential sponsors. You need a ‘become a sponsor’ page on your website and dedicated ‘enquire about sponsorship’ lead generation forms, plus ideally also a downloadable piece of collateral like a sponsorship brochure (behind a lead generation form).

Tip 8 – Run dedicated email campaigns to attract new sponsors

Still the champion of outbound B2B; email can be used in several ways to effectively engage, nurture and convert potential sponsors. Create autoresponders that are triggered by web form completions to provide an instant opportunity for interested potential sponsors to further engage.

Schedule in dedicated sponsorship campaigns that outline your USP and key benefits for sponsors and encourage them to visit your website complete forms.

You can also feed in sponsorship messaging to your delegate emails – perhaps by including a dedicated sponsorship banner ad. Many B2B communities have a degree of cross-over between the buy and sell side, so there’s no harm in pitching your sponsorship opportunities to your potential delegates.

Tip 9 – Use social media to attract sponsors

As with your website, weaving in sponsorship messaging to your social media will provide extra opportunities to reach interested parties. These posts should be focused on pushing potential sponsors to relevant information on the website (ideally on a dedicated ‘become a sponsor’ page).

Your salespeople should also be constantly connecting with potential sponsors on LinkedIn, so make sure they share the relevant, sponsorship specific posts with their network.

Tip 10 – Make interested potential sponsors get in touch to find out more

While marketing can play an influential role in generating more sponsorship interest (leads) – as well as keeping them ‘warm’ (nurtured) – it’s your sales teams who are ultimately responsible for selling the opportunity and closing the deal. Marketing must not steal sales’ thunder by giving too much away, or having potential sponsors make up their mind before a salesperson has even had a chance to speak to them.

Key examples of this are package pricing details. A ‘value based’ sales process, rather than price-based, should result in higher average order values.


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How to use marketing to get new sponsors for your digital events

As companies finalise their 2020 H2 digital event schedules and begin planning for 2021 – a year which will undoubtedly also feature a significant digital element – the question of how best to generate sponsorship revenue via this new format now takes centre stage.

Within this issue lies several challenges. First, existing sponsors will generally be reluctant to pay the same to sponsor a virtual event as an in-person one, and secondly, some will simply not want to sponsor a digital event at all.

Event organisers now face a pressing challenge to find a large number of new sponsors for their virtual and hybrid events – in a narrow space of time.

Fortunately, the online nature of digital events has inherent benefits. The lack of physical venue means a potentially global market of sponsors, and the reduced cost of sponsoring such an event (no physical collateral, travel, accommodation or out of office expenses) opens the floor to many smaller companies.

The desire is there too. Potential sponsors have also been affected by Covid and must generate sufficient leads via their own marketing to ensure their business can survive in these challenged times. They’re on the lookout for promising new opportunities; digital events’ focused content, engaged audiences and relatively low cost for good reach and a large number of relevant leads may just be the answer.

This short-term revenue challenge for events relying on sponsorship therefore doubles as an opportunity to invest in long-term event and brand growth. Event organisers can grasp the chance to expand globally, diversify their sponsorship base and put their event firmly on the path to growth.

So, what is the best approach to attracting companies from this now larger market? And how can it be done quickly?


Generate marketing qualified leads to help your salespeople acquire new sponsors

Sponsorship sales teams have traditionally focused on – and are generally most skilled at – the retention and upsell of existing clients. They will recognise the significant opportunity to find new sponsors in a larger potential client pool, but they will need help in efficiently and rapidly surfacing this new revenue.

This is where smart and effective marketing becomes the key to unlocking the potential of digital event sponsorship. Your marketing function should not only be focused on attracting event attendees, they should also be reaching out to, engaging and converting potential clients into relevant and qualified leads via targeted, personalised and data-driven marketing campaigns.

Here’s a tried and tested process for your marketers to follow to generate great sponsorship sales leads and bring in new revenue:

Step 1: Define your target market of potential sponsoring companies and key decision-makers within these companies

Use demographic profiling, considering company type, size, sector and location, as well as the job function and seniority of the individuals within these companies responsible for marketing budgets. Consider how the reduced price point may make sponsoring your event feasible for smaller companies and how a more global audience may attract sponsors from a more global market. Create a map of this new market to understand its size and composition.

Step 2: Create routes to market

Once you know who you’re targeting, you need to reach them with relevant marketing messages. First, analyse your existing database to understand how many contacts you can already reach within your target market. Identify key gaps and fill these with targeted database research, then get started on your outbound and inbound marketing activity to attract the right people to your event website.

Make sure the benefits of sponsoring are well presented on your website, alongside (ideally multiple) lead generation forms, such as sales brochure downloads, enquiry submissions and ‘send me event updates’ requests. This is an essential first step, as your website is the end destination where most prospects will convert to a lead.

Create integrated, multi-channel marketing campaigns, incorporating email, PPC and social media, to reach out and push relevant people to your site. Make sure your messaging is informed by persona analysis and includes at least one clear USP with some compelling benefits.

Also, consider using account-based marketing if you are confident on who the ‘top 20’ (or more) companies are that should be sponsoring your event. Feed them personalised comms specific to their organisations, and where possible reach out to decision makers on a 1-to-1 basis with highly relevant and compelling messaging to elicit a response. Once key contacts are engaged via this kind of marketing it will be easier for salespeople to approach and convert them.

Step 3: Use marketing to nurture leads – to ‘warm them up’ (or keep them warm!) for the sales team

Don’t focus only on acquisition of leads. A key part of winning new sponsors is nurturing these leads and effectively growing engagement so they become even hotter leads, eager to start a conversation with one of your salespeople. To do this, build in automations such as triggered emails when forms are completed on the website (e.g. a sales brochure download) directing them to more relevant content. Your sales team won’t be able to reach every lead quickly, so automated emails can be used to keep them ‘warm’. Remarketing via Google and social channels can also be used to share relevant content and product messaging with individuals who are already engaged. Don’t let them go cold!

Step 4: Measure, measure, measure

Every campaign is a learning opportunity, but only if you measure the impact. Make sure you understand who is completing the lead generation forms and what type of lead is most likely to convert to a sale. Also, measure and analyse the average order value and length of sales cycle achieved via various lead types – sales KPIs can be improved with intelligence-led marketing.

Some marketing channels and activity types will work better than others. Make sure you focus on what works best for your audience and event.

Consider how much visibility you have of the marketing and sales funnel. Do you know how leads are coming in at the top (where they first engage)? How are they engaging near the middle? How many are dropping off when hitting the sales team at the bottom of the funnel? What does the conversion look like for each stage? Understanding these points will help you plug any gaps and improve overall performance of both marketing and sales functions.

It’s important to note that not all of the leads you generate will convert within the first few months, but there is a long ‘sell-by-date’ on sponsorship leads and you may be able to convert them for a future event (with all the hard work of identifying them and collecting their data already done!). Keep their info safe and retain them in your communications, it will pay dividends in the longer term.


Wrapping up

Employing these steps effectively will not only secure the revenue for your next digital event, but also provide you with a solid foundation for growth in years to come. Your audience will have expanded geographically, your event will be attracting new and exciting sponsors and – most importantly – you’ll have battle-ready marketing and sales teams with the know-how on generating new sponsorship revenue; whether that’s for digital or in-person events.

As we’ve mentioned frequently over the past 4-5 months; we believe the companies that invest proactively in marketing now will be the winners in 2021 and beyond. There are many opportunities in digital events, you just need a good strategy to grab hold of them.

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Growing revenue by acquiring new subscribers: here’s how the experts do it

The world has seen a significant increase in demand for valuable business information and intelligence in all sectors as senior executives face new challenges and opportunities arising from Covid-19’s impact.

In our recent webinar, Expert Panel Discussion: Marketing to Accelerate Acquisition of New Subscribers, Carolyn Morgan of Speciall Media chaired a discussion between Jonathan Perry, Global Marketing Director at PEI Media, Olivia Jones, Head of Membership Marketing at Procurement Leaders, and MPG’s own Helen Coetzee.

WATCH REPLAYGET WEBINAR INSIGHTS

Attendees gained practical advice on developing and growing a subscriptions service via PEI Media and Procurement Leaders’ real-world experience in developing high-performance subscriptions and membership products.

Here are 5 key learnings from the webinar:

1. Free trials can have a negative effect

Procurement Leaders’ experiment with free trials for their membership resulted in an increase in lost opportunities. The issue? The structure of PL’s service meant free access to the website alone did not showcase the full range of benefits the membership offers. Careful analysis of the marketing and sales data meant Procurement Leaders were able to rapidly move on to more effective promotional methods, where they discovered…


2. Events are excellent platforms for promoting subs products

Offering prospects free passes to their customer events proved successful for Procurement Leaders. Visitors were able to network with existing members, providing powerful and authentic word of mouth accounts on the benefits of the product.

Events can also act as a showcase for subscriptions and membership products, providing a sample of the valuable intelligence, data and connections the service provides year-round.


3. Automation is key

Both PEI Media and Procurement Leaders find value in marketing automation for their subscriptions and memberships. From automated lead-scoring (based on level of engagement) to enable highly-targeted and relevant comms, to a series of automations that convert leads from cold to hot, both companies understand the near limitless potential of marketing automation.


4. Lead nurturing is a calculated process

Procurement Leaders’ point-based lead scoring model enables real-time reporting and analysis and a deeper understanding of their audience. The two bases of scoring, demographic and behaviour, ensure only the most relevant and interested parties are targeted with comms. Mapping the score model against the sales funnel allows rapid identification of any dips or spikes. This process means leads are nurtured effectively and sales teams are fed the optimal number of hot leads.


5. Business growth requires marketing growth

PEI Media found their strategy of spreading marketers across their events, subs and other products was not feasible as their business grew. The specific requirements and complexities of each format meant specialised teams had to be formed.

Increased digitisation created further demand for specialist skills. A dedicated operations team was given responsibility for martech and automations, while a team of product marketers were tasked with handling brands, customers and lead and sales targets.

Procurement Leaders found giving the same marketers responsibility for both subscriber acquisition and retention led to better outcomes, as marketers were able to develop a deeper understanding of their customers.


WATCH REPLAYGET WEBINAR INSIGHTS

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our latest webinar, and those catching up on the valuable insights now.

If you need support in marketing your subscriptions or membership, make sure you contact MPG to hear how we help the world’s leading B2B community brands grow their subscribers, audiences, businesses and revenue.

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