B2B Community Marketing:
MPG’s Strategic Approach

Strategy-led organisations will usually have a chosen set of models or frameworks to guide their thinking and execution. For those of us focused on marketing strategy, MPG has created some straightforward frameworks to contextualise the marketing that goes in to engaging, monetising and scaling B2B communities – specifically for B2B media brands and event organisers.

And here they are!

 

MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale Model

Engage is the first and most important step. This is where marketing works its magic by identifying, attracting and keeping the attention of the most relevant people to your community. There are many channels and techniques for achieving this, but the end goal is always to grow your engaged community, as well as the level of that engagement.

Monetisation relies on engagement to be effective – or even possible at all. You cannot progress to this stage until you have a sufficiently good quality, engaged audience.

The engage phase is essential for identifying what your community members most value and are therefore willing to pay for. Knowing what your audience finds most valuable creates opportunities to monetise existing and future content, events, research and other solutions you deliver for your community – via payments by the readers/audience/participants.

Another key way to monetise your community could be via sponsorship – depending on your business strategy and model. This relies on having an engaged community of the right size and profile so that your sponsors can hit their mark when paying to advertise via your channels.

Scale is the final stage of the model. As with monetisation, the preceding phases are important to consider first. You only want to scale an audience you’re confident you understand and can engage with, and you want to be scaling a monetisation model that you believe has sustainable, long-term potential.

Once you have these in place, you can begin investing in the processes, automations and resources that will increase your profit margin.

Hyperscale is an extension of scale and occurs when your scaling efforts reach a point of exponential growth. At this point, your community model becomes effectively self-sustaining in its growth. The more effectively the prior three steps are implemented, the more likely it is that ‘hyperscale’ will kick in.

 

MPG’s Community Development Model

This model provides a simple method of categorising your community members by both their level of engagement, and their monetary value to you and your sponsors. You can use it to understand how your community is spread across these levels, with your objective being to move as many people as far up the levels as possible.

To make full use of this framework, overlay other segmentation such as company type, job function and seniority – to get a full picture of your community.

Level 1 – Lurkers: consumers of free content (blogs, social media) via website and social channels. At this stage, you do not have the user’s data.

Level 2 – Contacts: known contacts in your database. This allows you to track engagement more accurately and also target with email and other direct marketing comms to increase engagement.

Level 3 – Freemium: committed contacts in a free capacity – e.g. signing up to a free newsletter or attending a webinar. Again, your goal here is to increase levels of engagement. And here you want to start paying close attention to what they are consuming, and value the most, in the free content you are pushing out. 

Level 4 – Transactionals: paying customers who have made one-off, relatively low value purchases e.g. a training course or a report. You really want to pay close attention now to what content people are willing to pay for – and how much. 

Level 5 – Loyalists: paying customers who make larger purchases of renewing products. This is the group you want to focus on growing fastest, retaining and upselling. This relies on marketing and sales automation and integration. 

Level 6 – Leaders: enterprise-level customers who make purchases for whole teams/departments/businesses to access renewing products. The nirvana of B2B media! If you’ve cracked this level, you’re well in to scale, with hyperscale on the horizon…

 

Where Does Sponsorship Fit In?

This model demonstrates a simple concept: sponsors are likely to be willing to pay more to reach your more engaged community members (assuming they are of the right profile).

Viewing sponsorship opportunities via this model will also allow you to consider the different companies that will likely be interested in each audience. A SaaS tool provider may be more interested in reaching a high volume of your community to generate awareness and leads – so levels 3, 4 and 5 in your community (e.g via newsletters adverts or sponsored webinars or reports) may be their best ‘hunting grounds’. An advisory firm on the other hand may value more the intimate conversations in smaller groups with level 6 Leaders – where round-table-style events (online or offline) seem to have an evergreen attraction. 

You ideally want to grow every level to ensure a healthy, growing community and sustain a steady and growing volume of relevant audience members. This is the best way to guarantee strong YOY growth of sponsorship revenue.

Patience and Time

The great Leo Tolstoy famously wrote “Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience. The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

2021 – or certainly the first part of the year – will most certainly require an awful lot of patience from companies and individuals as we wait for the pandemic to ease off (which we are confident it will!). And this may take longer than we hope or expect. But now is not the time to lose hope or sit back and wait. Now is the time to get stuck into your community marketing strategy. Don’t wait any longer – but also be patient. Play the long game. Focus on community quality and engagement first and foremost – even if it means you lose money in the short term. Try out different monetisation models and work out what your community is willing to pay for and what you can profitably deliver. When summer eventually arrives (literally or figuratively!), if you’ve done a good job of engaging your community at a time when they probably need you most – you will be in a great place to benefit from more profitable monetisation, with scale just around the corner!

 


Get trained on community marketing strategies and tactics

As part of the MPG Academy Masterclass programmes, we run a dedicated B2B Community Marketing Masterclass. This course covers everything from what a community is, how to apply strategic frameworks to your marketing, as well as the tactical channel-specific approaches you should take.

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Toby DanielsI 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, Co-founder & CEO, Crowdcentric Media (Social Media Week, acquired by Adweek)

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10 tips for growing revenue from sponsors and clients

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

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

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

Tip 1 – Know your market of potential sponsors

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

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

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

Tip 3 – Measure and analyse results regularly to improve

Put in place a 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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How to find new sponsors & exhibitors with smart marketing

How to get new sponsors & exhibitors to invest in your event

Sponsors and exhibitors are essential to the profitability of an event, but too often sales teams rely on the same few clients that return year-after-year, neglecting the opportunities available in ‘new business’.

Why acquiring new sponsors and exhibitors really matters

Events need a variety of partners to work. Attendees expect to see new companies each time they return. Part of the value proposition of a successful event is that the event presents new and innovative suppliers and vendors in the sector. Mixing up old and new faces also protects your event long term; even the most reliable clients can change their marketing objectives and end their commercial relationship with your event, putting a key source of revenue in jeopardy.

Why sales teams neglect new business

Sales teams’ natural process doesn’t usually focus on sourcing and nurturing new business – especially for an established event. Most go first to their tried and trusted contacts to renew their contracts and secure quick wins. It’s often only when the event looks like it might miss its targets, that the urgency arises to reach out to new prospects. But by then it can be too late to source, nurture and convert clients before the event happens. This can be compounded by sales teams lacking an established process to generate new sponsorship leads.

How a sales lead generation process can deliver a 500%+ ROI

What is the solution to the ‘new business’ challenge and this often missed opportunity? You need to invest in good ground-work and forward planning in sponsor and exhibitor lead generation. This can often generate faster growth than pushing harder on your delegate marketing. Specific marketing programmes focused on generating new leads for sponsorship and exhibition sales could deliver as much as 5x on your marketing investment, based on the KPIs we have been tracking on events MPG has supported over the past year or so.

Here are the steps we recommend you take:

1. Define the sponsor value proposition

Be clear about the USP and benefits of your event from a sponsor or exhibitor’s perspective, especially the key gains for them if they commit at an early stage many months before the event.

2. Define your target market and decision making unit

The decision to sponsor or exhibit at an event is usually made by a group of people. CMOs or CEO’s may be the final decision-makers, but senior sales people and marketing managers are also key influencers. You will need to reach and convince them all that their presence at your event is worth investing in.

3. Build your marketing database & inbound channels for lead generation

Map the market, deciding the ideal size of business, geographical location, sector and job titles. Then research your database, ensuring you include all the decision-makers within one organisation. Consider how you can quickly build your database to reach out to them, using data research for rapid growth and by also feeding engaging and relevant content in to your inbound channels and optimising your website for maximum ‘enquiry form’ completions.

4. Set up your marketing funnel

For outbound marketing, plan your email campaigns, with tailored messages for different audience segments. Get your inbound marketing working well by pushing compelling messaging and content via the obvious inbound channels – PPC and social media. Optimise your sponsorship landing page (with enquiry form) on your event website and also offer carefully crafted sponsorship options and event attendee profile PDF’s behind forms for lead capture. Optimise the rest of the website to direct sponsors who land anywhere else on the site to your sponsorship page.

5. Leverage your delegate marketing

Add sponsorship and exhibition lead generation elements to your delegate marketing by including in delegate emails and on delegate focused web pages some calls-to-action pushing people to the sponsorship opportunities page. Also consider adding to all lead generation forms on the website – including those focused on delegate marketing – the option for people to tick what they are most interested in (e.g. attending, speaking, sponsoring or exhibiting) before submitting the form. Those who choose sponsorship and exhibition options are clearly very good people for your sales team to call straight way.

6. Nurture your leads

Use marketing automation to track incoming sponsor leads and set up a nurturing programme. This is an easy win as you are earning more revenue from the investment you have already made in your marketing automation systems for your delegate marketing.

7. Incentivise sales teams

Monitor how quickly sales teams follow up on marketing generated new business leads. Offer enhanced commission rates for acquiring brand new clients to reward the extra effort, or nominate one person in the sales team as the new business specialist.

8. Learn and fine-tune

In the first year, measure everything and find out which types of leads convert fastest and for the highest average order value. Consider how profile (e.g. company type, country etc) and engagement behaviour (e.g. what they downloaded or clicked on) when ‘scoring’ leads. Even if you can’t convert a new business lead for the event it was generated for, you still have a good chance to convert it for the following year’s event.

It is important to consider that generating leads for your sponsorship and exhibition sales team requires a different approach and skill set than what is required for delegate marketing. You might need to set up a specialist marketing team to generate sponsorship and exhibitor leads, or consider engaging an agency to initially run a pilot programme for you to assess how to proceed longer term for further investment in lead generation for your sponsorship and exhibition sales teams. A steady stream of new business leads is bound to make any sales person happy!

About the author

Helen has over 2 decades’ experience in the B2B events space. She is now the proud CEO and Founder of two high-performance marketing agencies – MPG – designed to address the most pressing exhibition and conference marketing challenges facing organisations today.

Kirsty is MPG’s Marketing Director for events globally, and a seasoned event marketing campaign manager, strategic expert and marketing function leader. Her team of conference and exhibition marketing pros deliver outstanding, high performance full-service campaigns for some of the world’s most prestigious events and brands.

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