IBM recently published the results of face to face interviews with over 1,734 CMO’s across 64 countries and 19 various industries. The results reflect the turbulent economic times we face but also give a great insight into the dramatic (and exciting) changes in marketing today. Its well worth a read and you can download the summary here.
The summary outlines five major ‘game changers’ and here’s my take on how they relate to conference and events business:
1) The data explosion – We get data and measurement from so many different sources, web analytics, email providers, multiple free and paid social media platforms, PPC numbers from multiple sources, and our own CRM systems tracking any myriad of numbers. All of this without even looking at your actual event evaluations.
2) Social Media – Social media may not be a magic bullet to drive your event attendance, but it could be a silver bullet that kills it. Most event marketers live with very short lead times and as a result focus on short term response rates, but social media is a longer term game and a lack of patience can do more harm than good. There are so many challenges to finding and engaging users in a long term conversation that adds value that you could write a book about it, many people have!
3) Proliferation of channels and devices – I don’t think most event marketers have even come to terms with email being read on hand held devices, let alone leveraging some of the new devices/channels now available to them. Very few events even have mobile friendly websites, whilst that may currently be only a small percentage of our overall traffic it is certainly set to change. Some of the potential of these devices may ultimately end up enhancing the customer experience on site, which is most definitely marketing, but in most conference companies this sits in another department creating further difficulties.
4) Shifting consumer demographics – What is the impact of the Arab spring or occupy wall street on your event messaging? The pace of social change means we have to be able to adapt our messaging and targeting in far more sophisticated ways. In the B2B event space I would also add changing and more complex purchasing decisions into the mix.
5) Providing the numbers to illustrate the ROI for marketing – Your event team may be excited to have 1000 followers on twitter and a linked in group of over 5000 people, but can you demonstrate the value in these activities and their ability to grow the bottom line. I think this is the biggest challenge of all, we may not instinctively that our activities are building value, but you must be able to demonstrate the impact.
I would also add another challenge for the events industry and that’s finding the right organizational structure to tackle many of these issues. Drucker once said “Strategy dictates structure”, and I think whilst marketers have been quick to adopt new marketing strategies we have been slow to tackle the structural changes that are required.
The size of these 5 challenges is easy to under estimate, try mapping out the potential breaking points in your campaign tracking just for fun, but the general consensus from the report is that the majority of CMO’s believed in 3 key areas of improvement:
1) Understand and deliver value to empowered customers
2) Create lasting relationships with those customers
3) Measure Marketing contribution to the business in relevant, quantifiable terms.
Really this leads to a deeper understanding of the 1 to 1 relationships with customers which must now be had, and despite the difficulties in measuring the results, we have little choice but to adapt. The report does a much better job of crystalizing some these challenges and its well worth the read.