The State of B2B Event Marketing

11 01 2012

I believe it’s a great time to be in marketing and in events. Social media, social networking and the internet in general are driving sweeping changes.

So with this in mind I recently watched a webinar on the State of B2B Event Marketing put together by B2B magazine featuring John DiStefano, Research Director at B2B, and Maria Pergolino, Senior Director of Marketing for Marketo. Unfortunately it was more directed at the potential impact of marketing automation rather than the actual state of B2B events, it would have also been nice to get a few big event sponsors on the panel, but it did raise some good points based on some very good scientific research.

According to the research B2B companies invest in 26 events a year, 14 of their own company led events and 12 third-party events, representing 20% of their marketing budget. Interesting this is versus 5% on social media! Even more interesting in terms of driving results, third-party events delivered 61% of all the revenue from events.

Not surprisingly, the three top goals for B2B companies with their events is lead generation, customer engagement and branding. As a result of the focus on lead generation, the measurement of those leads through the corporate sales funnels is becoming even more important. This is where more marketing automation can kick in.

But more importantly for professional B2B event organizes, we must ensure we are delivering the right level of leads and are driving customer engagement for sponsors through our events. Even more importantly, we need to recognize this new focus on measurement and help our sponsors (or partners) gain more intelligence through the process. As sponsorship revenues become more and more important to third-party event organizers so to does ensuring we exceed their expectations.

I think this means third-party organizers also need to consider more changes:

Creating products that may be designed for sponsors customers at various levels of the sales funnel. Segmenting or streaming events to allow customers at different stages of the buying cycle to have different information and different interactions with sponsors. Creating mini events for existing customers vs new leads. Crafting the content to help drive new engagements or up/cross sell existing customers into deeper engagements. Also providing pre and post event opportunities for enhanced networking both online and off.

From a marketing point of view it may also mean crafting different messages or content marketing to the various stages of the vendors buying cycle. And as always tailoring those messages to different channels.

It also means (capturing and) providing more data to our sponsors, pre and post event. More information on who is attending, why, what they hope to get out of the event, what their budgets are etc. and then helping sponsors with the measurement and tracking of these leads post event. Providing the data and utilizing our social networks to make sure we continue the engagement for sponsors post event will mean more return sponsors.


Review: CEO Keynote Panel @ the Conference for Conference Professionals

18 04 2011

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the Conference for Conference Professionals, but I did finally get around to watching the free web broadcast of the CEO panel. The panel included; Greg Hitchen from Terrapinn, Laurence Julliard from Alcatel-Lucent (courageously representing the sponsor side of the equation), Tim Weller from Incisive Media, Uday Singh form Osney Media, Neil Stewart from Neil Stewart Associates, Kim Myhre from George P Johnson and Peter Rigby from Informa via a brief video. After a slow start, a rough audience survey and then intros the panel eventually featured some great insights.

You can watch the whole thing here (I recommend skipping the first 10 minutes and the last 10):

As Drucker once said, “Managers may believe that industry structures are ordained by the good Lord, but they can – and often do change over night”, and this industry is changing rapidly. Fuelled by social media, smart phones and empowered consumers the events business is under going significant transformation. The increasingly low barriers to entry also mean a flood of new entrants, outliers, whom without the burden of standard industry processes will rapidly improve our core product and meet customers needs better than traditional B2B conference providers. Unless we adapt…

Some of the panel highlights for me included:

  • Good insights on the threat and potential of technology from Peter Rigby (via a pre-recorded video) got it right when he said technology is a boost not a threat. In my opinion the key is how, where and when you implement it. Apart from the many marketing advantages – technology should be leveraged to add to the experience at the event and potentially improve pre and post event sharing, learning and networking! He also high lighted how the days of sending 50,000 brochures and getting 400 people in a room to sit through 8 presentations are long gone!
  • Here’s Peter’s top 3 pieces of advice for any event business:  1) Be innovative and entrepreneurial 2) Create market leading events (and ring fence them) which incorporate multiple media formats and 3) Listen to the customer and adjust the programme and format to meet those needs.
  • Greg Hitchen from Terrapinn raised TED multiple times as example of the power of conferences to engage people. He also highlighted his belief that conferences have come of age and that TED is a sign post for the future. He also mentioned how some TED speakers spend 6 months preparing for their session, which is a lot different to some of the prep for a typical B2B event. Greg also shared an interesting concept on the pre and post Laidlaw Paradigm. We have to change the way we think about conferences, what they are, how they are produced and how they are marketed
  • A heated debate over sponsored speaking positions polarized some of the panel and didn’t resolve itself, but most agreed sponsors are a key part of our business and their involvement in the agenda needs scrutiny. Interestingly the session ended with a presentation from a sponsor!
  • There was a lot of discussion about technology and the need for investment, but eventually there was agreement that technology is a means to an end, it has to enhance the product or experience. Ultimately the events business needs to tap the most powerful element of the medium, the physical exchange of ideas, and technology can help. 
  • There seemed to be general agreement that virtual events still need some work. The current format and clunky interface doesn’t enhance the event experience.
  • Interesting debate on how live streamlining has the potential to cannibalize traditional incomes. But it lacked any real insight into how this ultimately opens your event to significantly broader audience who may not be able to attend that year, but could become advocates moving forward. Neil Stewart shared some insight on how women executives with family commitments may be unable to travel, or just time constraints in general can limit your audience and broadcasting your event can over come these issues, but there was no real debate on the complicated issue of pricing.
  • There was general agreement that blended learning can be very powerful, all shared various concepts but the idea of pre-event, live and post event interaction is definitely resonating.
  • Kim Myhre shared a great analogy during the discussion about whether face to face events are dying, on the how people thought TV wouldn’t work and its impact on radio. Of course live events will always have a role, if they add value, and we take advantage of the technology to enhance the experience. I think Tim Weller added another interesting analogy that you can’t mate through, eventually you need to meet.
  • Neil Stewart had a great quote, “Play with Free you play with Fire…”, he was talking more about broadcasting events but I think it’s relevant to more than just technology, post recession the whole industry is struggling with guesting strategies and trying to recover delegate revenue. If you come for free one year, its very hard to turn around pay the next.
  • Some question on ROI and Margins, Greg Hitchen said it best when he said, high margins will continue for those who deliver quality. Quality being defined as quality content, quality speakers and quality audience, with a great brand that perpetuates.
  • Someone in the panel summed up the change in our industry simply as, at the start of the modern conference you now say “Please turn your phone on”…

Good panel session, with about as much insight as you can expect from CEO’s whose organizations compete at many levels, there seemed to be some twitter action that it was a little boring but I enjoyed the panel from the comfort of my desk as I cleared my emails from my last trip! That says it all, maybe. A great question from the audience at the end also put the panel in perspective! She pointed out how she (and a colleague) had been unable to download the event app, and didn’t have a smart phone, and how as a result of the chairperson mainly taking questions electronically they had been frustratingly left out of the conversation despite having paid to attend!

What does all this mean for us conference marketers… well it repeats some of the things I bang on and on about on this blog including:

  1. Times are changing…
  2. We must adapt our product or outliers will eat our lunch
  3. We must utilize technology to enhance our market reach and enhance (not detract) from the conference experience

Thanks to all the panelists and the organizers for the free broadcast!

The future of conferences

10 11 2010

A while back I blogged about the effectiveness of B2B conferences as a marketing channel  and I recently came across a study from the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University called, “The Future of Meetings: The case for Face-to-Face”. The report was written by Christine Duffy and Mary Beth McEuen from The Maritz Institute and it looked at the impact of technology on conferences. You can download it here.

Like Christine and Mary Beth, I obviously have a vested interest in face to face meetings (probably more than them!). Through the experience of launching our IQPC online communities (, and others) and delivering our face-to-face events I have come to believe combining technology and face-to-face meetings can provide the ultimate blended learning opportunity. The fusion of the two ensure the community get the most out of the experience and the sponsors’ message reaches the most people.

The report does a great job pointing out that face-to-face meetings are the most effective at achieving these three objectives:

  1. Capture attention for change
  2. Inspire a positive emotional response
  3. Build human networks and relationships

It’s a great report, worth the read, they also make the point that a combination of technology and events can be very effective but I think the report stops short of the real issue.  This is in my opinion, that the real future of the meetings industry (and I include trade shows, exhibitions and conferences in that) relies on the effective integration of technology to provide the ultimate customer experience.

In my mind, technology includes webinars, virtual conferences, virtual trade shows, social networking, and even A/V on site. That said, incorporating online or virtual elements to your conference or tradeshow are critical to the success of your event and meeting the objectives of all stakeholders. 

From a delegate point of view, leveraging technology to provide a deeper, blended learning opportunity, creating more networking opportunities and allowing for more collaboration or sharing is becoming more and more essential. It also helps boost interactivity pre event, at the event and post event.

From an exhibitor point of view, leveraging technology to improve their reach or brand position and enhance their thought leadership status in the community are key. It’s essential to help sponsors go beyond just the people who attend the event.

The effective use of technology builds on customer experience and creates social objects that are key marketing tools for any sustainable event. The technology doesn’t compete with face-to-face meetings, it facilitates them and makes them more effective. The emergence of mobile ap’s, smart phones and tablet PC’s will only help make the product of face-to-face events stronger. The successful events will be the ones that leverage technology to provide a better customer experience.

Is Direct Mail Dead?

5 10 2009

I recently received an email (SPAM email to be specific) to attend a webinar direct mailfrom the US Postal Service about direct mail. Yep… A webinar about DM, what next a face book page for DM? As a marketer I found it a little ironical…but it made me think!

DM still plays an important, if somewhat shrinking role in the B2B marketing mix, but with the diminishing returns and the hype surrounding social media it’s easy to play down it’s importance and play up its death.

The B2B conference industry has been guilty of killing it’s fair share of trees. The argument often goes (sometimes supported by test data) that a customer associates a bigger, thicker DM marketing piece with a bigger better event, they are so overwhelmed with the quality of the piece that they book straight away or that the piece is so large it will be a “desk dominator” and interupt the recipient so they feel compelled to book lifting response rates.  The packaging also comes into question, plain envelopes, red ones, poly wrapped, window, non window… all tested and measured for the peak return. All of which won’t make a difference if the product is rubbish. But lets assume the product or service is worth cutting down the tree…

The keys to successful DM are more important than ever:

  • Personalised content – The piece is highly personalised, yes we get the name and salutation right, but also everything else. The content speaks to that person’s situation. Excellent copy that starts or continues the conversation, drawing the prospect in, highlighting the value proposition, telling a story that resonates with the audience.
  • Anticipated – They receive regular DM from us, and values the relationship or content.  Timing also comes into it.
  • Relevant – The content is not just highly relevant (& personalised), it also add’s value to the persons experience with the brand. Hopefully creating a more tactile and immersive association with the brand. A piece of content they we would want to pass to a colleague.
  • The database: Having good lists to mail is key, preferably with full permission, but at least with a relationship or nominated interest in the topic.

It should also form a part of your overall strategy and fit with the overall messaging or branding. Basic but worth remembering.

DM, like all channels, comes with it’s own challenges in the Middle East and other parts of the world, where delivery also comes into question. Ensuring the quality production of the materials from design to delivery can often be a significant challenge. A challenge that can also be expensive compared to the cost effectiveness of other channels.

But these simple keys to successful DM, look remarkably like the keys to any good marketing, online or off. It’s easy to get caught up in all the social media hype and forget the basic’s. DM is likely to play a role for a lot longer, but are it’s days numbered? When was the last time you wrote a friend a letter and posted it?

Hi Nomad Marketers…

28 09 2009

nomadI think the most important thing to do first is establish why I wanted to add another blog to this information rich world…Here’s a list of my motivations:

  • To help spark innovation amongst past, present and future conference marketing colleagues
  • Create an outlet for some of my ideas, experiments and insights into current marketing trends
  • I also like to write… mostly about marketing, but also about being son, husband and father,  who likes movies, reading, surfing and anything that grabs my attention.  

The next thing is why Nomad Marketer….All the other good names were taken. Actually I thought, As a B2B marketer who has travelled the world for the past 14 years marketing conferences, exhibitions, technology solutions, publications and online communities. During my nomadic journey I worked on projects in Asia (even PNG), Europe, The US, South America and most recently the Middle East.  During those 14 years I also managed to move from Australia, to Chile, back to Australia, then to New York, then to Dubai, then to London and then back to the Middle East, I got married, had two wonderful kids with an amazing wife, got my masters and helped a team of very skilled marketers with over 5000 events around the world!

One of my university lecturers once told me that she tries to learn something new every day! I hope this will help me achieve that goal and share what I learn.


Nomad Marketer (nomadmarketer @ gmail .com)