I recently received this great image from Hugh MacLeod:
Hugh blogs at www.gapingvoid.com and has written multiple books (I recommend subscribing to the blog and reading the books). This one image struck a chord, which Hugh tends to do. I think like all marketers chasing the next big social media trend, we are guilty of sometimes forgetting the basics. So here’s my take on the basic 4P’s of marketing applied to B2B Conference Marketing:
Product – So many different factors combine to make up our product, speakers, topics, venue, location, lighting, staging, food the audience itself and the list could go on and on. Yet never before has the product been under so much pressure to change or adapt. The internet has changed the way we develop and deliver conferences, it has also dramatically changed one of the most basic benefits of a conference (but not often discussed), networking. The days of 16 speakers over 2 days committing murder by power point in a dark hotel banquet room are numbered… how will your product adapt? Beyond the basic product characteristics I think many organizations in the B2B conference game struggle to actually define the product (or is it a service?). All that said…. Great product solves 99% of all your marketing issues.
Price – The forgotten P, often set in advance without consideration for the competition, alternate sources of your information, alternate sources of networking, costs of attending (beyond registration) and sometimes, basic considerations for the cost of delivery. Also worth considering your pricing strategy in context of your product life cycle. Developing a good pricing model that delivers the right number of delegates is also more than just setting discounts. How did you come up with your price?
Place – or the venue, is an essential part of the product in most events, it’s where the product comes alive. Selecting a location convenient for the audience, or the most effective for information exchange, or reflective of the brand, or for networking can all have a massive impact on the event.
Promotion – I think I have written enough about this one in the past.
I also think B2B conference marketing is more service marketing than product marketing so I would add the P’s of service marketing:
People – People typically define the service, but for B2B conferences people can sometimes define the product. This is not as simple as a good registration process, excellent customer service or just delivering on the day, all of which are hard enough on their own. Making sure our speakers are fully prepared and trained to lead an interactive and informative session is often overlooked. Being an expert on a given topic doesn’t always make for a great presenter, so we need to work harder with speakers, delegates and sponsors to make the event as effective as possible. For some very effective events a single person can literally be the event!
Process – The service process is how we help the delegates (& sponsors) meet their goals. How we deliver the customer experience is what will ultimately define the brand.
Physical Evidence – It would be easy to limit this to the physical venue for an event, but I think B2B conferences need to go beyond this to build stories of improvement that can provide physical evidence of how their event created changed or helped a sponsor meet their target. These are not simple testimonials, they must go beyond the quotation marks.
This is only a quick (light-hearted) review from my opinion, I think if you can use these as the foundations of your strategy or marketing mix you will be well on your way to success. Want a deeper refresher on the principles of marketing read this.