Thursday, October 24, 2013

Registration Now Open: a study in WGAS

I just got an email proclaiming “Registration Now Open for XYZSuperMarketingSummit 2014!” One of many that hit my inbox on any given day.

Stepping back, my first thought was: WGAS?

I have never attended XYZSuperMarketingSummit before, although I’m in their target audience. So an email touting that I’m now able to register for the upcoming event – without a hint as to why it might be in my best interest to do so – is at best a dubious tactic. And as was a recipient, I have to assume this went to "everybody in the database (hopefully opt-ins!)" or at least a much wider group of people than it should have.

What this really speaks to is a lack of thought behind segmentation strategy in event marketing. As seasoned event marketers know (and basic marketing ABCs dictate), past attendees are an event's core audience. If an event has traditionally produced good content and networking – core reasons people attend events – they will return, if not with every iteration of the show, at last with every other. To that end, informing this core of people know reg is open (and of course offering up an incentive as a way of showing appreciation for past participation) is a good, acceptable tactic.

Getting segmentation right has always been key to event marketing – and today, as technologies and audiences have advanced and matured it right is even more of an imperative. There is, of course,  no one answer to how to segment – your database is structured differently from anybody else’s. However, some of the key segments you need to be thinking about deriving specific messages to include:
  • Past attendees: again, the easy segment. If you’ve delivered good product in the past, and done your legwork on maintaining engagement between events, getting these customers to re-purchase (both early and in large numbers) should be a key driver to continued success. If possible, consider sub-segmenting this out by individuals who completed event surveys (especially those who gave the event glowing reviews!)
  • Cancels and no-shows: first, ensure these are filtered out of the above group (sending a “attend again this year!” to somebody who cancelled last year makes you look a bit silly). And you may want to split this between cancels and no-shows depending on the type of show and how granular you’d want to get. But a "sorry you missed last year, don't miss it again" message is worth exploring.
  • Event-specific prospects: if you’ve delivered content around past events and captured leads, a strong subset of prospects – maybe not effective with a “registration is open!” email, but people who have expressed interested in content around the event should be high on your segmentation strategy, even if you didn’t convert them after they attended a webinar you did for last year’s event.
  • Demographics: this depends on the type of event – if it has tracks or sessions that speak to a certain vertical, job roll or level, plan on segmenting and communicating to these individuals about how the event fills their specific needs. Think through this before implementing – it needs to come across as natural and intuitive to the recipient (don’t segment out widget manufacturers and talk to them if your event has one 50 minute session on widget manufacturing over the course of two days)
These are just a few general segments you should be including –thinking through what data you have on your overall database and how to segment them is an early stage part of developing your marketing strategy; getting it right is key to a great marketing campaign.

Good luck!

PS Please do share any general segments you feel have been helpful - always great to hear back!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Contingency Planning and Event Marketing - a prime example

It’s been close to a year since Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast US and wreaked devastation on thousands of people, families and businesses. I was close enough to have friends and family impacted by it, yet fortunately far enough away to have avoided personal catastrophe (aside from losing cable for 24 hours…), so I count my blessings.

So I do not mean to negate the tremendous impact it had on the lives of many, but wanted to point the storm as an example of why it’s imperative to have contingency planning built into your events.

A year ago, I was putting the finishing touches on marketing JUMP, a launch event organized by Econsultancy, scheduled in New York on November 1, 2012. Plans were going smoothly, attendance was beginning the final, nerve-wrecking uptick of last-minute registrations. For me, it was nose to the grindstone time, and I was not particularly paying attention to the weather forecast. It was not until the weekend prior, with word coming in that we were all bracing for a 'storm of a magnitude unseen before' that it started getting on our collective radar.

The reality is we were, organizationally, reluctant to impact the revenue and forego the sunk costs which would have been the result of a postponement. So in the face of a ton of attendee and sponsor inquiries, we sent out an email on Monday (the day of the storm, prior to its impact) stating that yes, JUMP was still going to happen. The (very optimistic in hindsight) thinking was there were still two days to clean up and move on. In fairness, there was also no real way to conceptualize how devastating the storm would be.

Fast forward 24 hours and the decision was obviously reversed for us: the Metropolitan Pavilion, like much of New York City, was dark and partially underwater, transportation was out of the question, lives were turned upside down.

This, of course, left me, as the marketing lead, with the responsibility of fulfilling due diligence in communicating to 750+ attendees, sponsors, and speakers. Fortunately, I was able to:
  • Place an automated telephone call to everybody informing them of the postponement (I had this cued up and ready to go the end of the prior week). This was done via ListeNation, a service on the west coast not impacted by the storm.
  • Coordinate with our headquarters (London) to email all individuals regarding the postponement. (Note: this was a step I was going to take until I was relegated to my cell phone for communication when I lost cable around noon on Tuesday 10/30.)

Of course, attendees had to have known that there was not going to be an event on November 1 at the Metropolitan Pavilion – but we needed to take the step of letting everybody know. It was an important step and the right thing to do.

The lesson again is contingency planning – as an event marketer, thinking through (and continually evaluating) all the “What Ifs” that can happen in the course of an event campaign. A one-in-a-century storm is one thing (although I have been involved in two events postponed due to weather over the past 8 years), but thinking through all the aspects of an event you either directly impact or influence, and what to do if things deviate from plan, will go towards making you, as an individual, that much more appreciated and needed in an organization and will reflect positively on your organization overall.

Good luck!


PS Next I'll detail lessons learned post-storm - stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Say NO to BOGO!

It happened again.

I got another email for an event with a last-minute BOGO offer – buy one registration, get the 2nd for free. And I cringed.

There are a couple of reasons that, no matter the immense pressure for bodies (especially at an event in which attendee numbers are behind the curve), you should resist the temptation to raise your hand in a meeting and utter the word “BOGO.”


  • It cheapens the brand. When you are marketing an event, you are responsible for marketing a product:  a vehicle for delivering content, networking, bringing people together in a form unavailable anywhere else. And when you incorporate a ‘buy-one get-one’ tactic, it cries of desperation and raises a red flag in the savvy consumer’s eye on the type of event they are being asked to commit to.
  • You’ll train your audience to anticipate … and wait … for discounting: As if registration curves are not short enough to drive the event team insane, last-minute discounting over a period of events will set the expectation that if somebody holds out long enough the BOGO offer is forthcoming. People do remember – I’ve come into organizations and have gotten communications from past attendees along the lines of “last year I attended for free/cheap – how can I do that again?” People do remember these things.
  • The reality is it’s a square peg in a round hole: BOGO is a tactic used by retailers for shoes, coffee, underwear, etc. [and select retailers, at that. Notice how you never see BOGO offers at Tiffany’s, do you?] Using it as an event marketing tactic is bringing it to a B2B business purchasing environment.  And, of course, it’s silly-sounding to boot.
My writing ‘don’t do this’ doesn’t of course, alleviate the pressure you feel and receive to drive the biggest audience and most revenue to your event. To that point I have a couple of thoughts. First, if you initially budget, plan, and execute a pricing structure that encourages discounts for early registration  to encourage revenue early in the campaign cycle that is not an issue, although as noted previously, the effectiveness of these are questionable.

Secondly if, for some reason, even after you’ve done your due diligence in planning and executing your marketing plans (and contingency plans) the event is lagging in registration revenue and or attendance, it may be other factors that need to be explored – all elements of the event: content, venue, speakers should be looked at as not having the “Wow” factor that drives commitment to ticket purchase. This is a different subject all together (and worth a post unto itself) – the point here being if an event reaches a stage that considering BOGO is an option, there are other variables in the overall event that should be taken into consideration.

So certainly plan for early discounts, plan for contingency tactics … just resist the temptation to BOGO. You’re doing more harm to the brand than good to the event otherwise.

Good luck!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Randi Rosenberg

It was a week ago today that I heard the indescribably sad news that Randi Rosenberg had passed away, entirely too young, after an extended battle with breast cancer. I’ve read the many online tributes people who she touched had posted in her memory, and have come to appreciate what a terrific person she was, and how dearly she will be missed.

I worked professionally with Randi in 2007, when she was recommended as somebody who could provide marketing expertiese on event I was working on. And even in that limited capacity, in that limited time frame, she was certainly – as she has been described – a force of nature. A wonderful personality, strong, supportive and tenacious in her efforts, caring. And this was only in this one project; I cannot begin to imagine the joy she brought to her family and lifelong friends and associates, although I did come to appreciate she was a person who touched everybody she met.

We kept in touch after the project was over, checking in with a “how are things” phone call or email. When I was separated from Gartner last year, she was one of the first people I called, and she was one of the people who, unsurprisingly, was a terrific help in suggestions and promising to keep her eyes open for me. She never mentioned her health challenges, never complained, which I’m sure is just the person she was.

So the news, of course, came as a shock; I had been thinking of her lately as I hadn’t heard from her, but could not (or did not) imagine the circumstances surrounding it.

One of the things I learned about Randi was that she was one of the founders and past presidents of Young Survival Coalition; the coalition is accepting contributions in her memory either online or via check made payable to:

Young Survival Coalition Inc.
61 Broadway
New York, NY 10016-2263

Randi will be missed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Exhibitor & Sponsor Marketing Engagement: Why not go social?

It (almost) goes without saying that the investment Exhibitors and Sponsors make in an event does not end once ink is dry on the contract. Exhibitors’ marketing budgets – in both pre- and on-site promotions – are substantial. According to a survey published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, respondents spent, on average, $32,000 - and up to $50,000 - on these activities per event. Add to this costs in human capital and the challenges measuring ROI and it becomes clear why the events budgets are prime for cutbacks when corporate marketing budgets are put under the magnifying glass.

It also begs the question: Why the lack of social networks as an inexpensive, effective marketing channel for attendee promotion?

According to the CEIR survey, Effective Methods for Visitor Promotion Part II: Exhibitors, less than half of the 218 responders reported using personal social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook) for visitor promotion (and this was the highest use of SM tools reported.) If, as I noted last week, the name of the game is engagement, Exhibitor Event Marketing leaders need to grow the use of Social Media tools as effective and cost-effective means to driving booth traffic.

Ironically, a key benefit cited in the survey, access to an attendee list (84% of the respondents said they wanted a list of pre-registered attendees from the event organizer), is one which Event Marketers can develop using these very tools. Social media tools provide the ability to develop these communities and networks as a way to not only drive booth traffic but to engage attendees, potential attendees, and your booth visitors on a year-round basis.

Using social media and networking tools strategically also provides you a voice before the event – and alleviates your not just being another face at a booth an attendee stops by on site. Ask yourself: as an attendee, would you rather visit a booth where you’ve connected with a representative of the company, or visit a booth cold? Getting a handle on and using social media goes a long way in humanizing what can be the large, industrial feel of many a show floor.

This can – and, I suggest – should be handled collaboratively between Exhibitors and Event Organizer marketing teams. First, Exhibitors should ensure that they, as sponsors, have access to and with attendees via a community or network managed by the organizer pre and post-event. [In this engagement, exhibitors of course should be sensitive avoid using such network or community to “push” booth traffic. Instead, use it to engage in conversations, answer questions, and listen.]

Secondly – and to step out of the event arena for a moment – exhibitors need to ensure they are utilizing the social media assets your corporate organization may already have in place. Use this as a way to not only reach out to event attendees, but to raise awareness around the event and your organization’s participation in the event. Your company’s blogs, gated communities, and networks are prime areas to include your presence at events as part of your overall corporate communication and branding initiatives.

Possibly the most telling item on the survey: While one of the lesser tools utilized by exhibitors, Social Networking was cited as the 3rd most effective exhibit promotional tool (behind Hospitality Suites and Guerilla Marketing) … and more effective than traditional avenues such as handouts, email, print, and premiums. Again pointing to social media that, as Event Marketers, we need add to our arsenals.

Good luck!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Social Media & Event Marketing in 2010: Engagement!

Social Media continues to grow as a channel in the integrated Event Marketing mix. Any of a myriad of surveys and polls validates this trend, including one conducted by eMarketer, which notes 60% of the respondents planning to increase spend in Social Media in 2010. The confluence of the platforms and technologies available and the recession has, in short, driven Event Marketers to look at Social Media as an avenue to cost-effectively generate interest and demand for event portfolios.

There are a slew of Social Media options available, and new ones appear almost daily. But  Event Marketing strategies, tactics and campaigns don’t have the luxury of waiting for the next big platform: once an event – either live or virtual - is set, marketing commences with the tools in hand. Which begs the question: in which basket should Event Marketing leaders place today's eggs?

The over-arching answer, of course, is to explore and test a variety of social media platforms to determine what works. My take is that social media in the communications space: blogs and micro-blogs (i.e. Twitter), professional and social networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook), and content-sharing platforms (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.) are the keys for Event Marketing. Between them, an Event Marketing campaign team should develop a strong social media mix to support an event or event portfolio.

HOWEVER, I also think these all are only pieces of the ultimate goal: engagement. Continued, ongoing engagement. Social media has quickly brought many changes to Event Marketing, including the altering traditional communication strategies for both attendees and prospects. Event Marketing communication should no longer be on an “as needed” basis, tactically starting at X weeks out with a Save the Date email and ending with a post-event Thank You email, then re-ramping when the next promotional cycle ensues. Instead, B2B audiences will increasingly come to anticipate and expect social media-driven communities, networks and forums in which interaction – and engagement – is ongoing. Event marketing leaders who invest their increased Social Media spend in this arena will, in short, have the most to gain.

At a minimum, utilizing LinkedIn and Facebook both for their Event listing capability and Group feature (and, with Facebook, for its Fan Page) should be a starting point. Ning is another platform which, while mirroring LinkedIn, is set up for individual networks and communities. (If you are not familiar with Ning, do check out, a site is built in Ning.) And of course, there are software options available as well. Pathable is one example of such software, this one happens to be event-specific and acts as an aggregator of various SM platforms. (I am not affailiated with or endorsing any of the above, but noting them as the types of options available. Please use due diligence if you explore them.)

Planning and executing Event Marketing using Social Media is a topic and discussion for another post: the take-away here is, if you have not already, begin to take a serious look at how you can start building continued, vital communities as a continued engagement strategy surrounding your events.

Good luck!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Waning Marketing Funnel

Event Marketing – and marketing strategy in general – has traditionally started at the top of the marketing funnel. Demand generation starts at evaluating and defining the universe of prospects for a marketing campaign or initiative, and building out marcom strategies from there. With the advent of Social Media there are, of course, new models being built around inverted funnels – a ‘one-to-many’ approach – that may disrupt the method, but currently the funnel – with some revisions – is still in place.

The issue is that the traditional troughs feeding names to the funnel are evaporating. According to statistics published by, magazine titles closing outpaced new launches by over 55% in 2009. While this is another obvious testament to the economy and the changing face of communications, it also presents a challenge to the Event Marketing industry – a shrinking of available subscriber names from which to source your target audience.

[I can hear the calls from the Inbound Marketing pulpit that the focus should not be on outbound marketing and list acquisition but instead on inbound channels. The argument here is that the effort should be an integrated campaign – not an either/or proposition. I’ll detail further in a future post.]

In short, the notion of “available audience” has taken a beating over the past 18 months. Specifically, with unemployment numbers rising and, in the interest of budgetary prudence, investment in internal data cleaning being a bare minimum, ask yourself: what % of your database is still current? Add to that the universe of external lists contracting and event marketers seeking new, qualified sources of names are faced with a burden.

“The key is to think outside the box,” says industry veteran Bob Portner, Account Director for Specialists Marketing Services. “You need to look at other avenues … other ways … to target the people you want.”

Portner (in an admitted fit of self-interest) suggests hooking up with a list management and brokerage firm – one, he emphasizes, is “attuned to looking at other ways to target your audience for you.” Some suggestions he has offered his clients include:
  • Compiled Lists: while considered less than optimal as opposed to controlled circulation or buyers’ lists, these can be beneficial as they typically have a greater range of demographics to select from, enabling a very targeted audience to be produced.
  • Online Lists: with the advent of online registration forms, there are lists available of individuals (with opt-in permission, of course); an added benefit are that these names contain, by nature, individuals who have utilized the Internet to at least register/purchase products or services.
  • “Other” sources: Portner cited a list of subscribers for a title which has long since ceased publication. The subscribers are a finite demographic, however, and the publisher “keeps the file current as best they can,” and had gotten continued positive feedback regarding response.
To clarify, this post is not a clarion call to switch to a campaign of external lists sources – instead, it’s recognizing that events marketers have sourced these lists historically, that there are challenges in attaining these lists today, and thoughts on how to address. My overall suggestion has always been to use these names to augment your internal database and your online and demand generation activities.

And, of course, to test and measure results on an ongoing basis. The benefits of internal databases vs. external lists vs. social media, etc. in developing event marketing strategies is an argument for another day; in reality results vary from industry to industry and organization to organization. But supplementing your outreach efforts by strategically adding external names to the mix is certainly a tactic worth considering or revisiting as 2010 unfolds. And thinking through the most effective way to source these names in a declining market is key.

And please do share thoughts, success/horror stories – would be great to hear them!

Good luck!


P.S. I'm also pleased to let everybody know I am very excited to be presenting at the VirtualEdge 2010 Summit next month - check out the details here!