I share, therefore I am

9 10 2013

This is the strangest and one of the most interesting videos I’ve seen in a long time. Conceptually I think it has implications for the events business, good and bad. It’s not new that social media is revolutionizing many aspects of marketing and some of the social aspects of life, I’ve blogged about it a few times and a Google search will flood you with information. But this video does a great job of capturing some of the more unique customer level issues.

For the B2B conference marketer:

  • Interactivity at events is more important than ever, but it’s also probably going to become harder to get people to interact.  We must move beyond speed dating into formats that can create in-depth conversations and potential connections between buyers and sellers.
  • The ideal number of people in a break out session may be changing?
  • If you are using social media to promote your event, driving engagement may be linked to the your ability to provide social recognition amongst peers and a deeper role in facilitating peer to peer interaction.
  • B2B online communities around events must drive real long term value and interaction beyond the events. They also need to make sure they provide ways for people to validate their skills in the community.
  • Similarly for events, endorsements and accreditation will become key. Exhibitions should also gamify the experience!

Food for thought – Anyone feeling lonely?

The Future of Conference Video …Prepare for a Video Sprint!

15 10 2012

I’ve written about the emerging part I think video has to play in the future of B2B events many times (Here, here, and here amongst a few…).  



I believe it can help promote events, enhance the on-site experience, and extend learning beyond the conference room or exhibition hall into the wider community, all of which helps promote your event.

Through an excellent guest post on the excellent site Conference basics (and @gchicco) by Gabriel Shalom, founder of the KS12 Creative Studio I just had an insight into what that future might look like. You can read all about here: http://www.videosprint.net/  (including some great examples) or better still visit this post on Conference Basics and here Gabriel tell you about his business model.

The most interesting aspects of Gabriels model is the image above (I also liked how there wasn’t any shots of a speaker podium or power points, or people entering and leaving the conference hall but I digress). Gabriel outlines how video can help extend the conversation, the sharing, the learning and the networking both at the event, into the hallways, the online back channels, and after the event into the wider business community by leveraging social media. The future of conference marketing involves video, but like all tools, it will be how you wield it that will make the difference.

Boring Boring Boring…

11 10 2012

That’s the knock on most business to business conferences… and certainly the main theme in this great piece “The Posh, Predictible World of Business Conferences” by Eric Garland (Thanks @whoisdarwin for sharing). Eric makes some fantastic points, and they are all true.

The challenge is for event organizers to break the “2 speaker/coffee/2 speaker/lunch/2 speaker/coffee/2 speaker /cocktail” mold, and never has the need to do so been so high. If we want our events to resonate with our audience and cut through all the noise, we have to deliver a different experience. Likely it will involve more work not less, including more speakers (talking less), professional moderators, more flexibile agendas, more interaction, less power point, and more immersive experiences that will require different venues and more site tours. 

With this in mind it was also refreshing to see this great concept from our very own IQPC team at Defence IQ: Live vehicle testing at The Internation Armored Vehicles Show. Anything that promises an experience that includes “sinusoidal waves” and “rough goings” is guaranteed to break the mold, you can’t exactly test drive an armored vehicle online.

I also love this: http://www.pecha-kucha.org/ 20 slides, 20 seconds each. Then the PPT gets turned off!

I also think the unconference format holds great potential.

Giving delegates these type of immersive experiences is the future of B2B events!

The 4 P’s of B2B Conference Marketing

13 05 2012

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.

10 Years at IQPC

5 04 2012

This week marks a bit of a personal land mark, 10 years with IQPC. 

That’s a long time to spend with one group and the longest stint of my career, but it’s also not a co-incidence. I’d be lying if I told you 10 years at IQPC was all roses, so why stay for 10 years?

It’s pretty simple, the people.

I have worked with some of the best managers in the business, and I have learnt something from all of them. I have many people to thank for opportunities in the past and I currently work with a great management team, who continue to inspire me and share their insight, there is no greater teacher than experience.

The people I work with directly are also some of the best marketing managers in the business. Together they bring a unique set of skills that in itself motivates me and their teams. We have some truly talented people, some of which we have taken the time to develop internally, which is even more rewarding, but some who have also been attracted to the fast paced marketing of B2B events and the entrepreneurial or innovative culture at IQPC.

I believe the culture at IQPC encourages team effort and innovative thinking. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a team start with nothing and build a successful event that meets our commercial targets and makes sponsors, delegates and partners happy. Similarly, in the past few years seeing our online communities grow beyond our expectations has been very rewarding.  

I’ve also been lucky enough to work around the world in this business, including long stints in Chile, New York, Sydney and Dubai. I have also worked closely with teams in Argentina, India, Singapore, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Canada, Brazil and the UK. No two offices or events have been the same, it makes going to work fun!

It’s been a rewarding career, and made me think, so what I have learnt in 10 years with IQPC:

Great product solves 80% of all your problems.

Continually learn – most importantly, every event is different, learn from each experience and read (a lot). 

Learn to listen more than you talk. People who do this are always more successful in this business. Also be great at the art of questioning.

Answers to problems can come from anyone on the team. A great event or marketing plan takes team work.

Trust your gut.

Get the basics right, tackle the 4 p’s, use industry or economic models to explain the dynamics of your product.

Research, research, research. Speak to your target audience and partners, gain a first hand understanding of their challenges, and build a product and story that resonates. And challenge all assumptions.

Plan, Execute, Monitor and encourage innovation, testing or experimentation at every corner.

Find an anchor or driver for your event that evokes passion in your audience. Use this to drive all communication.

Great systems and processes help you sleep at night! But people make it happen.

The conference industry in general can be challenging at the best of times, constant time and budget constraints combined with the need to innovate every marketing plan will keep you on your toes. It’s never boring…even after 10 years.

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.

Interpreting Some Fascinating Event Marketing Stats

11 09 2011

Constant Contact and Hub Spot recently published an ebook on “Fascinating Event Marketing Stats”. I haven’t seen the actual results of the survey but their presentation made some interesting reading.

Here’s my interpretation of some of their key findings:

68% of B2B companies rate events as important. Clearly still a valued marketing channel for a lot of companies. Top 2 reasons for running events, in order, are education and lead generation. Showing again how important it is to deliver a quality audience to sponsors and a strong educational opportunity for delegates.

Educational events included classes, workshops, training, seminars, and conferences. Some what conspicuously missing in my opinion are webinars or online/distant learning, this is an ever growing option for many B2B companies trying to reach time (and cost) sensitive executives.

Non-Profits host more conferences than B2B and B2C companies combined. Combined with the fact (also in the report) that most companies don’t charge for events (59% of B2B’s never charge), it highlights the need for paid events to deliver a superior networking and educational experience.

The top five promotional channels are not surprising: Email, own website, word of mouth, mail and phone calls. The phone came in only 5% more than social media, yet almost 60% said they rely on social media, showing the growing importance of being part of the conversation and integrating social media into your communication mix. The top five also show how important a solid database remains to event marketers, but interesting that database didn’t rate a mention in the report.

47% still use direct mail – Which is very surprising given the news USPS looks to be in financial trouble and the falling response rates of direct mail. Either, a lot of event marketers are sticking with this tried and tested channel or they fear replacing it with newer online channels or those online channels still aren’t delivering a strong enough response.

Only 11% use blogging? This is staggering… but probably highlights a broader content or thought leadership challenge faced by most event marketers.

Perhaps most interestingly (but not surprisingly and somewhat repetitive) the top 5 challenges for event marketers:
1.    Getting people to respond to invites
2.    Getting people to pay attention to invites
3.    Minimizing no-shows
4.    Getting people to the event
5.    Confirming who’s attending

So the challenge for all event marketers is the same, getting qualified executives to attend your event. Making it happen is part art, part science and all marketing! A quality product, with great messaging delivered via a multi-channel marketing plan.

Case Study: Email Marketing for Web 2.0

19 07 2011

A while back I received this great email for the web2.0 conference. It struck me as a great email case study to highlight for conference marketers, it’s an excellent email and a remarkable piece of content tied together into an amazing piece of conference marketing.

The email has a lot of valuable points, but for me the highlights are:

  • The from address is two of the most influential people in the space – You open it ASAP.
  • In case you forgot there’s a photo of them talking to one of the most powerful men in the world in the header.
  • There is a clear call to action – Register Now & Save, repeated 4 times – twice as a button, twice as a link (not too much but just enough).
  • It links to an amazing interactive piece of content, a blog post explaining it and to the conference page. More value and engagement with the audience, past and present.
  • It has the main social media sharing tools and ways to stay engaged (if you want).
  • A strong tie into last year including – A highlight that this amazing piece of content has been updated, and made more interactive, video, slides and photos from last year in case you forgot what an amazing event you attended. And how they are planning to delve deeper this year.
  • Still highlights speakers (with photos – they are real people!) and you can check out how they crowd sourced the event with the advisory board.

The content and the blog post also help drive the engagement:

  • The map (content piece) is interactive, it pulls you in, if you are into the topic.
  • The blog post is informative and also pulls you into the notion behind the event (with some very valuable insight and data).
  • Both are aligned to the topic area, viral, interactive and highly relevant to the topic.

I’m not saying every event needs interactive maps or infographics, but we should be working on remarkable content like this that drives engagement and think about how we communicate our event VP in different formats whilst still driving registrations. Of course, it’s not perfect, there are some improvements I (and no doubt you) would make, but….. compare this to the last email you sent for your event?

The CMO Exchange London

12 07 2011

Thanks to the team at IQPC Exchanges in London I was lucky enough to attend a couple of sessions at the CMO Exchange in London.

I was able to sit in on a session about Aligning Sales and Marketing by Nick Eades the CMO at Psion. Nick’s presentation was the most insightful content I have seen on sales and marketing alignment, since reading this landmark HBR article.

I can’t really do Nick’s session any justice, but he gave some remarkable insights. For me some of the highlights included:

  • Understanding the personalities involved is critical but understanding what motivates the sales team is even more important.
  • A great analogy to understand the “lethal personalities” at play – Think Captain Kirk as the leading sales guy and Dr Spock as you’re a typical CMO and you get a good picture!
  • It’s not that hard – Sales people want to hit their sales targets and marketing love their data (maybe too much).
  • Career marketers (vs accidental marketers) know how to keep it simple and not hide behind complexity. We need analytics but we must keep it simple!
  • The forgotten p – Price is one of the most effective tools we have (and likely least understood) to impact the bottom line and help drive sales.
  • Better lead generation and management is a bigger issue for most companies than they think, and can most likely solve a lot more problems.
  • Functional strength is an important aspect of marketing, you are only as strong as your weakest link!
  • Meaningful objectives – You must have goals that can be conveyed across channels, functions and the boardroom. That means having 100,000 followers needs a little more work.
  • Find simple ways to express simple strategy – Retain customers, grow prospects!
  • Take an account vs product approach to sales and marketing.
  • Profitable growth is the ultimate measure!

Nick’s insights may not be applicable to all businesses, they are certainly more B2B than B2C (for a change), but I think it was one of the best marketing presentations I have seen in quite some time. Congrats to the exchange team and the speakers for a truly outstanding marketing event.

A Conference Marketers Mindset

31 05 2011

A colleague recently forwarded me this great blog post from Future Buzz which happened to be commenting on another blog post at Six Pixels of Separation, both posts are on how the modern marketer needs to think like a publisher, essentially they need to have a Publishers mindset.

I agree, wholeheartedly, but I prefer “Movie Producer Mindset”, a movie producer is more aligned to event marketing than publishing. A movie, might have a sequel or it might not, like a conference. It should also have star power, like a conference. It should also have a strong story to share that’s relevant to a particular audience, like a conference. So you need the same mind set as Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino or Steven Spielberg! Lights, Cameras, Action!

The traditional mindset of an event marketer is to find the audience and push your message out, through efficient use of direct mail, email and other channels. But in order to be successful in cutting through the noise and the range of information and networking opportunities out there today, event marketers need to have a different mindset. I would characterize this mind set with these main qualities:

A block buster mentality – Why will this event be huge? what’s different? when did it become different? who’d driving the change? how do we best capture this change? what will capture peoples attention and how will we keep them engaged.

Agile Communicators – We need to communicate frequently, both internally and externally. We need to create remarkable content that will spread and also create immediacy.

We can think like the customer – We are constantly thinking about “ways in”, how are new and old customer going to find a way into this new event, what’s the best way to give them insight into the event without them being there.  What part of the event is most relevant to them.

A story teller’s mind set – There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end. Preferably there is also some twist, some notion of improvement post event.

Consistency – We must have consistency in our messaging across all of our channels. We also need to consistently produce quality events that resonate with the market. (All said whilst being guilty of not being the most consistent publisher with this blog….Irony will be left for another post).

Sharing – We act as aggregators of niche content from multiple sources, creating an opportunity for people who can and can’t attend the event to benefit. We also incorporate others in the messaging, finding the influencers.

I think we also like the project management aspect of the role, starting and finishing something quickly, learning from the results and doing it better next time, refining the craft and art of conference marketing as we go. We ship, but we learn as much from the failures as the success. Ultimately a conference marketers mindset is not about budget, it’s about passion, and adding more value than you can capture!