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 has 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 an 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 partnerships 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.
And so step 7 – Analysis / Improvement / Reactive Marketing – Monitor everything and repeat what’s working, cut what’s not working.
Analysis, as with any marketing, is central to the cause. It’s key in the short time frames we typically have to market a conference that we monitor performance of everything. During the planning and strategy stage you should have set all your key targets, and you should be measuring performance against these targets, making allowances for past performance. Some of the analysis you should look at includes, but is not limited to:
- Web traffic – Not just traffic and source, but what have people been clicking on, what has been resonating? Use social media tracking tools (like www.socialmention.com or even just Google alerts ) to see if the conversations have changed, and if they are taking place in new areas where you are not active. Go into the active groups on linked in and other networks, search Twitter, seek out and get involved in the conversations.
- Channel and Campaign Performance – Review all your drops, review the channels and see what trends you can spot? How do they compare to past events or other experiences?
- Booking Patterns / Timing – How were you doing at this stage last year or in your experience where should you be now? What was the mystical double point?
- Budget (spend to date) – Any review is not complete without your spend to date. How much is left, do you need to spend it, do you need to spend more, where should you spend it…
- Audience review / feedback – Don’t be afraid to go to the source, make a couple of calls to past customers if they aren’t engaging with your message.
- Review your content marketing statistics – What has been the most popular content? Why? Can we get more?
- Review your media partners – Was performance what you expected, better, worse, indifferent? Speak to them are they experiencing similar trends?
- Speak to the sales people and customer service – What are they hearing?
- Monitor the industry press – What is happening in your target industries and job functions?
And after all that, use your experience, go with your gut and make some decisions to chase the winners. This leads us to perhaps the most important and least understood parts of event marketing.
Reactive Marketing – It’s pretty simple, do more of what is working and cut what isn’t. Move money to what is working, as much as you can, don’t hesitate to cut what is not working, it will not make you feel any better, and the speed at which you react will decide the measure of your success. If need be go to your boss and ask for more money, but show them the potential impact on the bottom line.
It’s very rare to build an event marketing plan and execute every part to a T without having to adapt. Conference marketing may not be rocket science, but it can be complicated, and some of that complication is not of our own doing (some of it is… but that’s for another day). External factors can, and should play a huge part in your event marketing plan. You should be on the look out for changes you could leverage, or changes you just need to react to. It could be industry news (good or bad), a new speaker, a sponsors announcement, a change in government policy, new technology, a new group on LinkedIn, anything… but by keeping your ear close to the ground and reacting you could find that one little piece of information that could be the tipping point for your event.
Your ability to be reactive and think on your feet is a key part of marketing a successful B2B conference. As Billy Connolly once said, “Stay Awake, because it’s all going to change tomorrow”.