Conference marketing: brand, community, data, technology and skills

The pandemic rages on, but we keep moving forward. Since the start of last year, conference organisers have been severely challenged and many have risen to this challenge with great courage and aplomb. 

Some conference-focused businesses are now even more profitable, and certainly stronger and more sustainable, than before Covid-19 entered our world. 

Team MPG has been looking hard at what has differentiated the pandemic ‘winners’ from the ‘losers’ in the conference world, especially when it comes to the marketing to attract an engaged, high-quality audience, and the right kinds of sponsors. 

We have found the following five key success factors:

#1: Brand

From the day the pandemic struck, there was a flight to safety. Conferences with well known, well-positioned brands, and a strong reputation for delivering something uniquely valuable and important, found their audiences following them online as they pivoted to virtual. 

These well-branded and smartly positioned conferences also found that:

  • They attracted a vast number of new customers who were delighted to be able to access content and networking opportunities that were previously inaccessible to them.
  • A brand-new group of sponsors cropped up who were very keen to invest in new, digital offerings.
  • New products spun out in the digital space gained good traction quite fast.

#2: Community

The ‘family and friends’ of valuable conferences recognised very quickly that what was going to be offered online by the brands that had relied on and trusted to that point, was going to be incredibly important as they navigated the stormy seas of Covid-19.

Conference organisers that had already invested in their brands, and building meaningful relationships with their communities, had the upper hand when moving online. However, there was one caveat – what they delivered online had to be tailored to the needs of their audience, and not to the needs of their sponsors.

The Zoom calls, webinars and conferences that went online became an important place for humans in lockdown to find solace, friendship, safety, and a way forward – as part of a community that became even stronger with online interaction at a time when in-person meetings were just not possible.

#3: Data

Data is a vast and daunting topic, but the most successful conference organisers always utilise it fully.

Those who had strong marketing databases that are well-structured and surrounded with good processes, have generally found their transformation to becoming more digitally-led businesses much easier and more rewarding than those running their email campaigns out of spreadsheets…

And, conference organisers who know how to use analytics to track audience engagement and user behaviour were in a great place to test and learn, fast. They have been able to observe, in real time, how and where their audiences are engaging, and act fast to make the most of the best opportunities to scale their digital offerings.

The conference organisers that continue to invest in their database and analytics going forward will be the definite winners in the race ahead.

#4: Technology

It seems almost unnecessary to mention technology as an important success factor in the response to Covid. Of course, tech has played a huge and central role.

What we have observed is that the companies that have been smart at investing in implementing and optimising the right marketing tech, integrated with their virtual event platforms, have a distinct advantage. We expect they will reap the rewards from these smart tech manoeuvres for years to come.

#5: Skills

All the above relies on the right marketing skills applied to your brand, community, data, and technology. What has the pandemic meant for conference marketing people and skills?

Marketers are now being tasked with marketing a whole array of products and delivering much larger, engaged audiences. To do this, they must ensure that: 

  • The value and user-friendliness of their digital and in-person offerings are well communicated with compelling, relevant messages delivered via multiple digital channels, many of which needed to be automated (more on that later in this blog).
  • They have well-structured and large enough database of relevant contacts for impactful email marketing.
  • They are using inbound tactics and channels effectively to reach out to much larger audiences, extending well beyond the relevant people on their database. Content marketing, social media, PPC, advocacy marketing, conversion rate optimisation, and SEO have all become incredibly important.
  • They are automating a large part of their marketing, especially for digital events where audiences need highly responsive, highly personalised messages landing in their inboxes at exactly the right time.

A large volume of data-led, digitally enabled, compelling and engaging marketing of new products has had to be delivered in a very short space of time.

At the same time, marketers have also been given many ‘product’ and ‘logistics’ areas to look after. Being the most digitally savvy function in a conference business meant that conference marketers have been put under tremendous pressure, while also being given the opportunity to make a huge difference to ‘surviving and thriving’ in response to Covid. 

It’s a shame that so many conference organisers saw marketing as the place to cut costs as the pandemic took hold. 

It appears that the conference organisers that decided to increase their marketing investment instead, and deploy their marketing assets in the right way, not only did better in their pivots, but are now also in a stronger position to bounce back faster as live events return and the world economy starts recovering.

MPG predicted this would be the case at the start of the pandemic. We warned businesses not to let their marketers go, to double down on their marketing investment and take their branding, communities, messaging, data, and tech very seriously. This is of course not surprising we are, after all, a team of devoted and zealous career marketers! 

But, I think we’re right. 

We will watch with great interest and excitement as live events start to return, and the reborn and brand-new conference businesses emerge from their ‘Covid-era states’. 

We firmly believe the winners will be those who have made strong and smart marketing investments to deal with the challenges and grab the opportunities presented by Covid and will continue to do so.

 

“I cannot recommend MPG highly enough. Their commitment and unique expertise in data-driven, digital, and integrated marketing has been very valuable to Social Media Week. They’ve been instrumental in helping us build our brand and community online and offline, and their product marketing performance has also been very strong. We’re delighted MPG has been on our team!”

Toby Daniels, Founder, Social Media Week (Acquired by Adweek)

 


Do you need some marketing muscle to grow your conferences?

MPG has a team of experienced and highly skilled conference marketers who can give your events a boost. Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you get ahead.

Find out more

Topics:

What’s HOT right now and is likely to get even hotter before the end of 2021?

As you lead your business and your marketing function into a post-pandemic world, it will be more important than ever to make smart investments, and ensure they pay off.

High performance marketing will need to play a key role as companies aim for a return to strong and sustainable growth. Marketing strategies and marketing ROI will come under the spotlight in a big way.

In the coming months you will need to make some important decisions – with lasting impact – about your marketing investments. Based on MPG’s perspective across a range of organisations, we have highlighted in this newsletter the areas we recommend you pay particular attention to as you move your organisation forward.

What’s HOT right now and is likely to get even hotter before the end of 2021?

#1: Messaging strategy development

With increased competition in an already crowded digital space, a top priority for marketers should be developing messaging strategies based on a deep understanding of your customers’ pain points and motivations.

Effectively communicating your products’ unique value is essential – but not always easy. MPG’s guide on how to create high impact messaging starts with mapping your market and identifying key market segments to focus on before articulating USPs (unique selling points) and benefits that are highly relevant and compelling for your most important customers.

Here are all 5 steps MPG recommends you take to build an impactful messaging strategy:

Step 1: Map your market and identify key market segments

Step 2: Identify and articulate key ‘needs to be met’ and ‘jobs to be done’

Step 3: Define USPs and benefits for key market segments

Step 4: Write your core copy

Step 5: Execute – down the whole funnel

Well planned and executed marketing messaging is not optional – it’s critical for success.

Do you need better messaging to unlock revenue growth in your business? Get in touch with MPG to discuss how best to approach this.


#2: Well implemented and well-integrated marketing technology

With marketing impact coming under scrutiny, and with a high standard of digital marketing essential in every organisation, a well optimised marketing technology stack is essential to create a good customer journey and to reduce time consuming (and wasteful) manual marketing processes.

And your marketing function will not be the only area of your business that benefits from a well implemented martech stack. Your sales function will benefit greatly from robust and well-integrated marketing systems. Automated lead nurturing and lead scoring could be game-changing for the performance of your sales team. A strategic investment in making your martech work harder for you will be essential to scale more profitably.

Do you have the martech in place, but it’s just not working for you? Or do you need new tech and don’t know what to buy? Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you get, and keep, your martech stack in good order.


#3: Optimised websites backed up by deep analytics

“Your website is – by far – your most important marketing channel.” This is an MPG mantra.  All too often we see marketers being distracted by other channels and investing in marketing tactics, but ignoring the optimisation of their websites. This could be a fatal error.

The first step in getting your website working hard enough for you is ensuring it is well optimised for search engines. If your potential customers can’t find your website easily, how will they buy from you?

However, good SEO is only half of the battle. Once a potential customer has landed on your site, you need to keep them there, engage them and convert them to a lead or online sale.

To ensure you have a website that performs well for search engines and conversions, MPG recommends the following:

  1. Don’t make your web users think too hard. Make it really easy to find what they’re looking for and take action on your site.
  2. Don’t try to make everything stand out – or nothing will!
  3. Build in lead generation intelligently
  4. Make sure your website is search engine optimised

MPG’s full article on this subject can be found here.

It is also essential to make sure you have set up your web analytics in a way that provides insight on your customer behaviour on your website, and on how they got to your site in the first place. In this MPG Insights article you can find a list of the 15 metrics that really matter in digital marketing for B2B.

Can your potential customers easily find your site? And when they get there – are you successfully converting them to leads and sales? Have you set up your web analytics to monitor customer behaviour and do you use data to drive decision-making in your business? MPG’s website and analytics experts can help you optimise your website and other channels for best performance. Find out more.


#4: A well maintained, and growing, marketing database

Databases may be a bit less exciting than marketing technology and automation, but this ‘unsexy’ part of marketing could be your key to growth and riches…

Not having enough data, or too much of the wrong data, can be detrimental to success. You could have the most creative communications with the strongest messaging in the world, but if you aren’t getting it in front of the right people, you won’t achieve anything. In this article, MPG’s data experts cover more on this, plus other common mistakes we see when it comes to databases.

Smart business and marketing leaders know that ongoing growth and maintenance of your database is essential to ensure your marketing drives good reach, engagement and conversions from your target audience. They also understand that investing in martech and automation without investing in a strong database is pointless.

If you’re ready to invest in cleaning up, expanding and structuring your database to deliver a strong ROI, get in touch with MPG today.


#5: Biddable media – taking your inbound marketing to the next level

Sometimes called digital advertising or PPC (pay-per-click), biddable media, when well planned and managed, should deliver a strong marketing ROI.

Biddable media is constantly evolving with new trends frequently emerging. But, marketers can easily get distracted by ‘the new and shiny’. Based on MPG’s extensive work in biddable media, we see the following types working best for B2B media/events (broadly speaking): Google paid search and display, LinkedIn sponsored posts and Facebook sponsored posts.

But, it is important to be mindful that investing in this area comes with a big ‘beware’ sign! When executed poorly, biddable media can be very expensive, with no demonstrable return on your investment. Whether your biddable media is being managed in-house, or by an agency, the very first thing you should do is ensure you have a well-constructed biddable media strategy that dovetails with your overall marketing strategy.

And before you spend any of your biddable media marketing budget, you also need to ensure that you have all the necessary tracking and performance measurement in place to track your ROI.

If biddable media is an integral part of your marketing mix, but you don’t have the resources to create a robust strategy and execute it well, MPG can help – get in touch today.

Topics:

The ‘always-on’ future of events: what this means for event marketing…

In December 2020, to less fanfare than one would expect, a ‘must read’ book for events professionals was published – particularly those working in senior roles within commercial events businesses.

Reinventing Live: The Always-on Future of Events, co-authored by Denzil Rankine and Marco Giberti, takes a look at the ever evolving role of events in facilitating business, connections and advocacy – and how the ‘Covid accelerator’ effect has come into play.

 

The event organizer should no longer be an event organizer, they should be the community catalyst.

Denzil Rankine, founder and executive chairman of AMR International, co-author of Reinventing Live: The Always-on Future of Events

 

In this excellent article by Michelle Russell, editor in chief of the PCMA’s Convene, she shares her interview with Denzil Rankine where key themes from the book are dissected. The overarching sentiment of the article is something that is very much aligned with MPG’s ethos – that building digital-first, community-led, hybrid brands is the way forward!

“Hybrid” is the big word of the moment and in a number of years, it will disappear. It will just be completely normal for a conference to have a digital journey beforehand, to have an in-person experience, and connection supported by more digital tools with remote attendance, and then more follow-up. That’s just going to be a “conference” and no one’s going to call it a “hybrid conference.” It’s like, you don’t go into someone’s house now and say, “Whoa, you’ve got electricity.” It’s just there. So we will get to that point — the sooner the better.”

Michelle’s article got me thinking: what does this mean for event marketing leaders and other senior leaders  focused on marketing strategies for B2B conference businesses? How is this rapid evolution of events already  impacting the event marketing approach? How will this continue to change as we move forward and hopefully start accelerating away from the pandemic soon? 

Here are the 4 things that Team MPG believes you should have ‘front of mind’ right now:

 

#1 Marketing strategy

A key point of discussion in both the book and the article is the general lack of an event strategy in some organisations and how detrimental this is to the health of a particular event and the viability of the events business as whole. 

Having a robust event marketing strategy is a part of this. When we ran our event marketing strategy webinar back in March, only 65% of the attendees said they had a strong marketing strategy in place. This is worrying for the future of events! B2B event organisers should habitually invest in developing marketing strategies for their events. This is a key investment area to support sustainable event growth.

 

#2 Marketing data

Data is an integral cog in any well-oiled marketing machine. This is the case now more than ever, as we move to a hybrid –  or as described in the article, the ‘online, offline, online’ approach to events. 

When we talk about data for your event marketing, there are 3 distinct data variants you should be looking at: 

  • Your event/community database – online events and communities need a much larger, global database to achieve the audience volume and online engagement your brands need to thrive
  • Customer data – a deep understanding of your audiences behaviour and engagement will help you to continue to offer best in class products that meet, and exceed, your customers needs
  • Performance data –  measuring the impact of all your marketing across all channels, in a granular way, will provide you with relevant insights to inform your marketing going forward

 

#3 Marketing tech

Tech has been a cornerstone in the ‘pivot to digital’ that just about every events organiser in the world had to do – on a hairpin.

But it’s not just the ‘new’ virtual event platforms that has enabled the move to online. The event organisers that most successfully navigated the pivot to digital had their marketing tech well integrated with their event tech. 

A well set up ‘product + marketing’ tech stack is essential as we move forward into our ‘new normal’ for events. Data needs to flow well between systems – with most, if not all, data flows automated. 

For event organisers to emerge well from the pandemic, it is likely they will need to spend more time and money on martech than they would have done without the ‘Covid accelerator’ in play… 

Strategic and impactful investments in martech and data mean that marketing processes can be automated, enabling deeper engagement with more customers, resulting in more opportunities for monetisation and scalable events.

 

#4 Marketing skills

It would be a tragic misjudgement – with quite severe consequences – to undervalue marketing skills as we emerge from the pandemic. Your event marketing function needs to include strong strategic thinkers and excellent doers – across all areas of creative, copy, data, martech, analytics and campaign management. 

Building a sustainable marketing function with the right mind-set and skills is critical. But as with most valuable things, require a strategic approach and investment. When considering how you build the necessary capabilities in your marketing department , a strategic, hybrid approach should be considered as a cost-effective way and impactful approach. The right hybrid approach will build agility, flexibility and strong skill sets into your marketing team and should be considered for the short, medium and long term. 

Marketing strategy, marketing data, marketing tech and marketing skills. Take a good hard look at these if you want to ensure your re-invented events thrive and grow in the new world. 

MPG has supported the growth of B2B conferences and exhibitions across a wide range of sectors and regions of the world.  We can help you successfully develop and execute your event marketing strategies, build and optimise your database and martech stacks, and future proof your marketing function by helping you upskill your team.. Get in touch today to see how we can help your marketing achieve a stronger ROI as the ‘future of events’ becomes a reality.

 


“I was very impressed with the marketing strategy MPG developed for Environment Analyst. The level of thinking that went into this strategy and how it was delivered has created great value for our business. My marketing manager and I now look forward to working with MPG to execute great marketing together.”

Julian Rose, Director & Co-Founder, Environment Analyst

Topics:

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

Topics:

The Marketing Mix | September Newsletter

Newsletter • September 2020

Database top tips • Next MPG webinar • Most read MPG insights

The experts warned that coming out of lockdown would take much longer than going in. Anyone with a logical mindset could understand more or less what was meant by this.

But I don’t think anyone was prepared for the ‘intensity of uncertainty’ we’re all living with right now. Trying to make good decisions and create solid business plans with so many unknowns pressing down on us is incredibly difficult.

So, this month’s newsletter is focused on the ‘knowns’, most notably:

  • The importance of having a strong marketing database
  • How to proactively grow revenue from sponsors and clients – with marketing lead generation programmes producing visible and strong returns

Let’s get going!

SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER


VOICES

“We’ve worked with MPG since early 2019 and I cannot recommend them highly enough. The MPG team’s commitment and unique expertise in data-driven, digital and integrated marketing has been a key success factor for our business – across various products and facing a range of challenges and opportunities. We’re delighted to have MPG as part of the SMW team”

Toby Daniels, Co-founder & CEO, Crowdcentric Media, Founder & Executive Director, Social Media Week

Toby Daniels


INSIGHTS

What has been keeping your peers awake at night?

At times like this, we’d all love to have a strongly retained, high value subscriber base. This is a worthy end-goal to strive for and one that every brand should be taking very seriously.

But, there is still a great need and important place for events – whether digital, hybrid or in-person. Most organisations that have traditionally had events as a strong and growing revenue stream continue to invest in their events through these tricky times.

So, it is not surprising that MPG’s second most popular insights article this year is all about how to make sure registrants tune in to your digital event. This was published in early May and, as we head into a very busy and crowded events calendar in September, it is more relevant than ever.

Interestingly, MPG’s #1 most read insights article in 2020 was published in April and is focused on our advice and predictions for overcoming the crisis and winning in the new world. The guidance we gave five months ago still stands, with the following 6 points being critically important to any B2B community-focused organisation:

  1. Make understanding the shape, size and needs of your community your #1 priority.
  2. Don’t think about your events just as events. ‘Events’ are just a format. Think about what goes into your events and what makes them valuable.
  3. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep your valuable content and networking opportunities you can facilitate, in-person or online, front and centre.
  4. Only choose your tech once you’ve worked out what your new value proposition needs to be, based on what your community needs.
  5. Double-down on marketing. Invest in the skills you need to make content marketing, marketing data and marketing technology work in the way you need it to.
  6. Help your clients – sponsors and exhibitors – understand and realise the value of digital event formats.
  7. See the full article here.

READ MORE MPG INSIGHTS


WEBINAR

Marketing to Grow Revenue from Sponsors and Clients – MPG’s Top 10 Tips

Marketing to Grow Revenue from Sponsors and Clients – MPG’s Top 10 Tips


MPG Founder and CEO Helen Coetzee shared how marketing can (and should!) support revenue growth by:

  • Identifying and reaching out to potential new sponsors and clients who will gain value from sponsoring your events and/or content packages
  • Effectively communicating the value and ROI you can deliver for them
  • Persuade prospective sponsors and clients to qualify themselves as leads for your sales team
  • Increase the volume and quality of these leads over time to feed a strong sales pipeline
  • Efficiently nurture and manage leads so that marketing and sales are ‘joined up’ in driving revenue growth

SUBSCRIBE FOR WEBINAR FINDINGS

 


SPOTLIGHT

Virtual events: common mistakes to avoid when preparing your database

Virtual events: common mistakes to avoid when preparing your database

It’s easy to focus on ‘shiny new things’ when planning for your virtual events: the clever tech platforms, exciting new formats for delivering content, unique networking opportunities – to name a few.

Some of the underlying fundamentals, however, can be pretty mundane – in the same way they always have been. The most important of these less-exciting areas is your database: the structured data you hold on existing and prospective delegates and sponsors that enables you to select the right audience to reach out to – and then reach out to them, usually with an email address.

We’re seeing many virtual events falling short due to mistakes being made in this most fundamental of things. Your database is the life blood of your marketing – especially for virtual events. Here are the mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: You’re not reaching enough relevant people in your target audience

Typically, in-person events that charge an attendance fee would see an 85%+ conversion rate from registrants to attendees, with free-to-attend events achieving anything between 40% and 70%.

For virtual events, this conversion rate is a LOT lower. With some exceptions, stats we’re seeing tell us that you can expect 30% – 50% of payers to show up and 20% – 30% of non-payers to tune in when virtual events run.

And on top of this, virtual event organisers are typically promising sponsors a much higher registrant and attendance rate than their in-person events achieved.

What is this telling us? It’s simple maths. You need MANY MORE relevant contacts in your database to make this work. By our calculations, your database needs to be at least 4 times bigger for a virtual event.

If your database is not big enough, your virtual event will struggle to hit its numbers. The only antidote here is a huge effort and investment going into inbound marketing, including a combination of content marketing, leveraging advocates, pay-per-click advertising and social media.

We recommend growing your database as fast as you can via a combination of inbound marketing and data acquisition – always making sure your targeting is very strong to reach only relevant contacts.

Mistake #2: You’re not taking full advantage of your global audience

The need to expand your database can seem daunting at first, until you realise there is now a literal world of potential contacts waiting for you. Going virtual opens your event up to an international audience in a way your in-person event did not. Targeted data build and PPC are just two ways you can capitalise on this to quickly increase the size of your database on a global scale.

Mistake #3: You’re too focused on outbound marketing (mainly email)

Outbound is generally more effective and efficient in generating high volumes of registrants fast, but outbound activity only reaches contacts you already have on your database. Incorporating inbound marketing techniques, such as content marketing, social, PPC and advocacy, will enable you to reach new, relevant contacts and convert interested leads through the marketing and sales funnel.

Mistake #4: You’re not introducing newly acquired contacts to your event in the right way

If using research agencies or bulk data purchases to increase the size of your database, you’ll be contacting people for the first time who may have never heard about your brand or event. Slotting them into the existing email schedule will leave them confused, frustrated and looking for the unsubscribe button. It’s also illegal in most countries to do this.

Make sure you have an email campaign built specifically for new contacts, ideally incorporated into a wider automation campaign, introducing them to your brand and your event, explaining why it’s relevant to them and what they need to do to get involved. Make sure you also invite them to unsubscribe at any time.

Also, make sure you don’t add people to your database who are based in countries where data protection and direct marketing rules do not permit this. Here are two useful references for country-specific rules: one which neatly splits by B2B and B2C, and another which covers more countries.


Managing and growing your database in the right way, day in and day out, may not be as exciting as some of the other aspects of digital events, but it is essential. If you don’t invest enough attention, time and money into your database then your virtual event won’t achieve its potential and may even be at risk of failing. So don’t let the shiny new things distract you too much. Ignore your database at your peril!

MPG’s team of data specialists have carefully crafted a host of data management and development strategies for some of the largest B2B media and events businesses globally. To find out how we can help perfect your database so it’s ‘virtual event’ ready, get in touch.


MPG Services

GENERATE A STRONGER ROI FROM MARKETING

No matter your marketing needs, MPG can support you in improving marketing performance. Whether you require a revenue-driving marketing strategy, full-service campaign delivery, marketing operations optimisation or skills training; our team of seasoned B2B marketers are at your disposal. Get in touch to discuss how we can support you.

GET IN TOUCH


MPG Academy

UPSKILL YOUR MARKETING TEAM

MPG Academy offers B2B community-focused organisations the opportunity to invest smartly in their marketing function, upskilling marketers who are taking on new challenges in a new world.
Through skills training and team development, we can help you build a stronger marketing function that consistently delivers high performance marketing.

FIND OUT MORE


Times are tough for many. Now, more than ever, we need to keep moving forward positively and with purpose.

In October we will publish MPG’s ‘secrets of success’ in project management – that all-important but often overlooked element in delivering successful marketing programmes.

As always, please get in touch via helen@mpg.biz if you think we can help you move forward in the right way.

Topics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our top 7 takeaways:

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


6. Test and learn is the name of the game

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


7. Have a back-up plan

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


Part 1: Strategy – Replay

Part 2: Marketing – Replay

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

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

MPG contact us

Topics:

MPG’s advice and predictions: overcoming the crisis and winning in the new world

The last two weeks have been very busy for my team. Not because we’ve been swamped with new business enquiries, unfortunately. I hope these will come in in a few weeks once the world has worked out that nobody can ever cost cut their way out of a crisis in customer confidence. Especially if most of those cuts are in marketing investment!

So, what have we been so busy with? The phone has not stopped ringing. Clients and others in our network have been calling us to ask the following three questions:

  1. What is everyone else doing with their live events for the rest of 2020? Are they still running them or cancelling them? Or making them virtual or hybrid?
  2. Do you think we should be planning for virtual or hybrid events?
  3. What tech should we buy to ‘digitize’ our events?

 
And in response to these 3 questions, I have said three things:

  1. There is very little, if any, precedent here. So, whatever advice we give you will be based on our best judgement and what we think is logical and sensible. Anyone who claims to have the absolute answers right now is probably someone writing a blog to flog a virtual event platform (I almost got taken in by one of these very well-disguised pieces just this morning…it was the ‘request a demo’ at the end that gave it away…)
     
    AND…
  2. You may be asking the wrong people, and…
  3. You are most certainly asking the wrong questions!

But before we proceed any further: it’s important we’re clear about our very strong views on the future of events. Events will HAVE to either be fully virtual or hybrid in 2020. And from 2021 onwards, anyone who wants to continue running their events in the same way they did before Covid-19 is being at best unambitious and at worst oblivious to how much our world has already changed.

If you’re planning to run live events in late 2020 or early 2021, your PLAN A should be to run these as hybrid events. So, keep your in-person offering on the table and build livestreaming (for content-led events) and digital directories (for tradeshows) into the fabric of your event, making it clear to all stakeholders that all content, showcasing of products and many of networking opportunities will still be available digitally alongside the in-person experience. And also make it clear you have a strong PLAN B to just run with the digital event, should it suddenly become impossible to host large gatherings, or gatherings of any size due to a further ‘waves’ of the virus making more lockdowns necessary.

But to get back to the issue of ‘are you asking the right people the right questions?’…

The conversations I’ve had over the past few days have gone something like this in terms of my response:

“Before you called us, how many of your customers did you call?

Of these customers, how many were in your ‘end-user audience’ i.e. the ‘core’ of your community as attendees, visitors, delegates to your events – the people you attract to your events to buy from your sponsors and exhibitors?

And for those end-user conversations you did have, did you ask them the following questions?

  1. What do you think you’ll need in the coming months in terms of learning, knowledge sharing and networking?
  2. How can we help you get what you need here?
  3. If we were to run all or part of our events in digital format, possibly alongside some in-person events – how do you see yourself participating and benefiting?”

My team and I will always encourage you to ask the above three questions of your community before doing anything else.

And then we will offer you the following six pieces of advice that we think could help you not only save your events and your business, but more importantly, help you take advantage of the immense opportunities facing B2B media and events businesses in becoming ‘community first’ brands:

  1. Make understanding the shape, size and needs of your community your #1 priority.
     
    By this, we mean ‘end-users’ – that valuable audience that you sell on to sponsors, exhibitors and advertisers. Because we tend to ‘follow the money’ and most of this tends to come from vendors selling to our audience, we’re putting the cart before the horse by starting with tactical responses to their needs.

    This can degrade our content and the value we’re creating for the valuable members of communities who make up our audience. Audiences WILL disengage and they will disappear. And then what do you have to offer your clients?

  2. Don’t think about your events just as events. ‘Events’ are just a format. Think about what goes into your events and what makes them valuable.
     
    Ask your core community members what they value most and work out how to serve this up digitally – to replace in-person experiences in the short term and be the ‘core’ of the events product in the long term, with in-person experiences then added on (not the other way around!).

    We’re working on some strategic projects where clients have seen great opportunity in either rolling digital event content into their subscriptions product to create a more community-focused membership offering, or launching a membership with digital event content they’ll be creating (and in some cases have already started delivering).

    The thing to do here and now is to ‘think different’. Essential innovation happens by turning your current formats inside out and upside down and shaking them about to see how you can get the most valuable stuff out and serve it up in a way that gives your community what they need – digital for now, then digital-first with face-to-face added on in the longer term.

  3. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep your valuable content and networking opportunities you can facilitate, in-person or online, front and center.
     
    What is hugely valuable right now and potentially unique, is the relationships you have with the ‘biggest names’ and senior decision-makers in the community you serve, along with their confidence in your content and ability to help their businesses move forward.

    Continue to invest in these relationships. They are the key to collecting valuable knowledge from these ‘top minds’ and then curating and packaging up this up for your community – along with facilitating important connections and discussions between people who really need to talk to one another right now.

    You hold a privileged position and have an important role to play in helping your community face their current challenges and identify potential opportunities that may present themselves in the coming months.

  4. Only choose your tech once you’ve worked out what your new value proposition needs to be, based on what your community needs.
     
    Tech companies have fantastic salespeople who usually won’t ask you what you really need before they sell you their kit. So, it is up to you to first figure out what your value proposition should be, then what your requirements are, and only then evaluate what is out there in terms of tech solutions.

    And remember – it is the content you put in to the tech, how you manage the data and customer journeys around and in through the tech and how your people make the tech work for your communities and clients that matters most. No tech can make up for poor content or bad operational delivery.

  5. Double-down on marketing. Invest in the skills you need to make content marketing, marketing data and marketing technology work in the way you need it to.
     
    Of course, I do have a vested interest in recommending this. But the truth is that now is not the time to be cutting investment in the internal people and external partners who probably understand how to make digital events work better than anyone else in your business – the marketers!

    You need strong marketers now more than ever to make your 2020 events portfolio work. Digital and hybrid events need even smarter and a higher volume of digital marketing than traditional live events ever did. Getting your audience to notice, commit to and engage with your virtual and hybrid events will take strong marketing skills and lots of hard work. If you under-invest in marketing over the next few months, you’re making a fatal mistake. Your delegates and sponsors won’t want to invest in your events going forward unless they can see you’ve invested first. And what more obvious way to show them you’ve invested than with good marketing – which stakeholders will notice. And they will certainly notice absent or bad marketing even more.

    Looking ahead to 2021 events: it’s nearly May! If you want your large annual events in the first half of 2021 to succeed you have to start working on the marketing now. Start now in building the strategies, databases and pipelines of sponsor, exhibitor and delegates leads if you want to make 2021 events a success. If your events in 2021 fall flat after the pain you and your event stakeholders have experienced in 2020, you’ll most certainly enter the dreaded ‘event death spiral’ that is almost impossible to reverse.Not investing in planning and marketing your 2021 events – starting now – could cost you everything in the long term.

  6. Help your clients – sponsors and exhibitors – understand and realise the value of digital event formats.
     
    What they may lose in the ‘intimacy’ of in-person events they will almost certainly gain in scale. The digital reach of your events will be far greater than your live events could ever be (if you invest in marketing of course).

    Also consider how you can help sponsors develop and execute their strategies to qualify, nurture and convert leads generated by digital event formats. Instead of taking direct enquiries, orders or doing deals in the live event format, as they’re used to doing, sponsors and exhibitors will have to work out how to identify and engage with their most likely future customers in different ways. So, take the initiative! Set up a ‘sales and marketing taskforce’ to help your clients build and optimise their lead funnels so that they end up with a good and measurable ROI from your events.

We all know that most of the money in the world of B2B events comes from clients. It will take some time to shift our models towards the safer subscriptions-led, recurring revenues. You will notice in our list of top six areas to focus on – I have still put ‘clients’ last. Because that is how the value chain works. Whatever you do, don’t let short term tactical moves to ‘keep our clients happy now’ sabotage the strategic priority of putting your audience first and in so doing creating and looking after your community.

Play the long game. Focus on delivering community-first value and hold your nerve. Don’t let the bumps in the road and inevitable setbacks knock you out of the premier league of the smartest and most valuable B2B community organisations. Like top athletes, winning is about being determined, intelligent, psychologically resilient and laser focused on the end goal.

Topics:

Email Marketing Performance Benchmarks for B2B Events

We have a dizzying array of channels and tools available to today’s B2B community marketers, and the humble email is still one of the most effective. Deployed smartly, email marketing remains critically important when marketing events.

GDPR meansB2B community marketers are likely to be sending fewer emails to data subjects in the EU than they did previously, so it is even more important than ever that campaigns are designed for complete relevance, maximum impact and constantly measured against the industry benchmarks.

(more…)

Topics:

Why GDPR is the only acronym marketers need to be obsessed with in 2017

Changes to data protection laws will reshape how marketers can use and retain data, yet UK organisations are not ready and risk significant financial penalties as well as, missing potential business opportunities.

Marketers love a good acronym. SEO, CRM, PPC and ROI flow smoothly off our tongues several times a day. (more…)

Topics:
x

Receive MPG insights from MPG's team and community
STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX

Get email notifications from MPG about new blogs, webinars, training opportunities and other resources in B2B marketing focused on communities, memberships, subscriptions and events.