Zen and the art of Conference Marketing

26 01 2010

Following from a recent post “social media and event marketing” I though I would spend a bit more time outlining the basic steps to successful conference marketing (as I see them). At IQPC we have a very detailed process outlining how we market conferences, here I am only trying to outline the basics.  I am also going to assume you have a great product, solid lead time and all the basic events management principles tucked away…

The basic conference marketing steps:

1)      The story – Why this event? what’s the message? what’s the value proposition? what makes your brand stand out?

2)      Audience – Clearly define your audience and the larger community. Find out where they hang out online, what magazines they read, what associations they are part of, what other events they attend, what they need to hear about etc.

3)      Packaging and messaging – Match the story and the audience with the parts of the event that will resonate the most.

4)      Analysis / research – Investigate what’s worked in the past, what new channels may be available, what you have already, what you need to get and sanity check your audience profiles.

5)      Planning and strategy – Build a integrated multi-channel marketing strategy that ties all the above together with an effective timeline & budget. Including an online strategy and social media optimization plan.

6)      Execute – Start building your parterships and execute all the campaigns in a timely manner.  As Bossidy and Charan said in their book, “Execution is “the missing link between aspirations and results,”  the biggest obstacle to the success of any conference is the absence of execution.

7)      Analysis / Improvement / Reactive Marketing – Monitor everything and repeat what’s working, cut what’s not working.

The devil is in the detail and you need a CRM system (or something) to keep it all together (we use a customized Seibel system that is amazing!) and and and and…the list goes. As Click Z,  the digital marketing news site once wrote:

“Launching a conference is the most daunting and underrated challenge in B2B marketing. As part of this rapid fire 6 month process, you will need to create an instant brand that stands out from all the other competitive events…and because of the high price, the brand has to immediately communicate a high perceived value to justify the hefty registration fees, travel costs and time out of the office.”

Sounds like a challenge! I am going to spend the next series of posts expanding on each of these steps in more detail.  But feel free to add to them if you would like or let me know if I left any key steps out.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Conference Marketing Managers

17 01 2010
IQPC Marketing managersIn my role at IQPC I’m often asked what are the most important characteristics of a good marketing manager, which is difficult to answer. But I‘m a huge fan of Covey’s work, so in this post I want to use his framework to illustrate what habits I think are illustrated by highly effective marketing managers.

So….7 habits of highly effective conference marketers:

1) Goal Orientated – Or as Covey would say, Start with the end in mind. A good conference marketer can envision the room on the day of the event, they can see all the people in the room during the opening remarks, what they are wearing, the average age, their experience, the industry breakdowns……all the demographics.

2) Focus on impact – They understand what they can and can’t control and they ritually focus in on that impact zone. They constantly refine tasks down to the areas where they can have the biggest impact, and focus in on closing any gaps. They are working on tight deadlines with limited budget, this focus allows them to be efficient and effective. Knowing what they can impact and change, also helps provide a greater level of job satisfaction. They are doers…

3) Time sensitive – They are aware of timelines and constantly remind themselves to they can stay ahead of the curve. All good conference managers make time management a daily part of their routine.  

4) Interpretation into action – Yep they are analytical, they look at response rates and other key performance measure but they translate that information into actionable steps that help close gaps in performance or make improvements.

5) Learning – They are interested in broad learning, they read blogs, books, magazines and anything on marketing. They are interested in learning more about their customers and have a thirst for information. They stay up to date with marketing and business trends. Good conference marketing managers learn something new from each and every campaign, they are constantly building knowledge and have built learning into their routines.

6) Communication – They are focused on win –win partnerships and relationship built on excellent communication, both internally and externally, they make a habit of over communicating. They can work with any type of personality and any multitude of groups. They are the person everyone wants on their team, not because of popularity, but because they have built professional credibility, establish excellent lines of communication and have developed a reputation as a team play that delivers.

7) Ownership – They embrace the grey areas. Good conference marketing managers always go above and beyond their job descriptions when it’s required.

If I could add an eight habit, I would say they are always entrepreneurial. Good conference marketing managers are very good commercial thinkers, they are innovative and have a good understanding of business. Did I also mention they are hard working? Not afraid of a challege?

These are just my idea based on the excellent conference marketing managers I have worked with at IQPC over the past 10 years.

Any more ideas or habits to add?

Why I work at IQPC

7 01 2010

I often get asked when interviewing people for marketing roles why I like working for IQPC, so I thought I should share some more insight.

I have worked for IQPC for the past 8 years in numerous marketing and production roles, I consider it a great company, dynamic and full of inspirational, hard working, highly motivated young people working on some great global event brands.  It’s never boring!

IQPC employs over 1000 very talented young executives and organizes over 1500 events a year from 8 different offices around the world. In my role I am lucky enough to work with many of these talented people, all from very different backgrounds, and all committed to delivering the best results for customers. The people are key.

Our business is not easy, trying to research, produce and market a conference with 16+ top level speakers, the best sponsors and a 12-20 week lead time is no easy task. We don’t always get it right, we try, but our intent is to always create an event that exceeds the expectations of delegates, sponsors and speakers and I like to think in most case we achieve this target. The tight timelines and any number of external challenges means it can be a pressure cooker environment and not for everyone. But the satisfaction of meeting happy customers and seeing a good event come together is worth it.

The business is also built on innovation. New ideas on format, topics, speakers, locations and many other areas drive the business. I find the constant innovation and entrepreneurial creative process to be very rewarding. I also like challenges!

We have also invested in an outstanding CRM system, solid training programs, and new emarketing initiatives. We have also recently launched a number of online community initiatives that have helped us add more value to our key industries than just our conferences. We believe these communities will help create a deeper advocacy ladder and help introduce more people to the power of the information they will obtain and connections they will make at our events. Our net promoter score continues to improve each quarter and our customer retention is one of the highest in the industry. It could always be better, so we continue to push for improvement.

In addition to the entrepreneurial environment, All IQPC positions/roles are performance based.  If you work hard, rewards will come in the form of monetary rewards or experience that can be leveraged at IQPC or elsewhere. Many former employees speak of the sound commercial skills they learnt at IQPC and have gone on to hold senior positions in larger companies and government organizations, we have an active IQPC Alumni that illustrates this profile. Others have put these experiences and rewards to work by developing long term careers at IQPC or within other companies in the events industry. 

IQPC has a strong culture of promotion from within.  Over 90% of senior staff at IQPC have been developed internally creating an energy that drives IQPC forward. It’s always rewarding to see a person move up within the organization.

There are career paths and training plans for all positions and many examples throughout the company of people who have moved through these career paths.  I personally have worked my from a conference producer to a marketing manager in New York, to Marketing Director in Dubai and then Global Head of Marketing.

We also encourage international transfers and many employees have taken advantage of these opportunities to fast track their careers. The IQPC Academy also regularly runs international courses for high performers across the group and we invest significantly in external trainers. While this has been cut back during the recession; our global training budget remains substantial and sets the benchmark in our industry.

Work life balance is difficult in the information age.  Our performance based culture definitely encourages people to work longer hours around deadlines but this is a choice that each individual employee makes.  I personally have two children, who I try to spend as much time with as possible, but being a dad, husband, friend and marketing manager is always a balancing act. But in my opinion IQPC does what it can to offer the flexibility needed to maintain that balance.

From a corporate social responsibility stand point we often work with non-profit industry associations helping them spread their message by working with us on special events or attending existing events. We are also committed to improving our environmental footprint by reducing paper waste at our events and offices.  We also run numerous internships that give students an insight into business and we also offer free delegate passes to post graduate students on numerous events. 

I encourage prospective employees to visit our careers site (http://careers.iqpc.com) and watch the videos from some of our employees. They also have some very interesting stories!

Personally, the combination of the product, the people, the innovation, the pace and the entrepreneurial nature of IQPC make it a very rewarding place to work. I’m not going to lie, some days are harder than others, that’s why they call it work, but it’s never boring, and I enjoy the challenges.

Do any other IQPC Marketing Managers care to add their thoughts?

Happy New Year

5 01 2010

Wishing everyone a succesful 2010!

I just got back from an amazing 3 week family vacation in exotic New Zealand. It’s been a long time between visits to NZ, but this trip was pretty amazing. We visited the East Cape (The first place in the world to receive light each day), Rotorua (Visited Hells Gate where you can swim in Mud that bubbles up from the ground),  Mount Maunganui (Climbed with my Son and Dad – A special generational moment), Waihi Gold Mine (NZ’s only active gold mine), and we drove through some of the most amazing country side you will ever see, we also went Kayaking in the Bay of Plenty, and mud buggying!

I was blown away by so many of the natural features of NZ, and the overall tourist experience, the thing was the experience lived up to the expectation. An important reminder for the times!

Some parts of the trip felt like we had gone back in time, but in a good way!

If you ever get the chance to go to NZ take it!