Monday, December 28, 2009

Refocus on Decency for 2010

Update: January 25, 2010 - I do want to mention a brilliant article regarding this post which appeared in yesterday's New York Times giving a very succinct case-in-point. Thank you Neal Hirschfeld!

I don’t think I’m the only one who is very ready to say goodbye to 2009 and anticipate 2010. Not to say there have not been success and new initiatives this year – but it has been difficult for many, including the event industry and the event marketing profession.

Given the challenges of the past 12 months and its impact on our interactions, in the coming year there is one thing we should all incorporate – both professionally and personally: DECENCY.

Not to imply that the difficulties of the recession have turned us into indecent people. Far from that, I think the impact of the economy has grown our collective stress level and flipped the Self-Survival Switch on high, causing us to lose focus on the professional decency and connectivity which has served the event marketing community so well over time. And it’s time to get it back.


• Take the call/answer the message. Yes, there are deadlines, meetings and a “Things to Do” list a mile long. And no, you don’t want to work endless hours. But picking up the phone – even to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ - is the professional alternative to not taking a call, and more in the vein of how we should be conducting ourselves. Also, realize this: by not responding to a request for marketing partnership / barter, ignoring a call from a vendor or somebody in transition seeking your help in looking to network, you could well be incurring opportunity cost. Now is as good a time as any to be open to innovation, talk to new people, try a new initiative and break away from the “we don’t do that” mentality.
• Be respectful of others’ bandwidths – on the flipside of the above, be sensitive to others' constraints and schedules. While being as quirky as to adhere to Larry David and his Stop and Chat rules is not a necessity, but be cognizant of others’ time in the work environment. Anybody who knows me knows I have an open door policy: if they needed to bounce an idea off me, discuss an issue, etc; as I’m not the best at saying “come back later.” That's my issue. But making a mental note to ask “do you have a minute/five minutes” – and stick to it – when grabbing a colleague’s ear is the an invaluable tactic.
• Be cognizant of the impact of words and actions – and in turn, how they can impact us. The additional workload (or, ironically, the lack of work) can put anybody on edge. Take a deep breath and think before replying, hitting the ‘send’ or the ‘publish’ button. One bad moment can mar a professional reputation you’ve spent a lot of time and effort to establish!

Again, I get it: time is tight. It’s been a tough stretch (trust me I know!). But although it’s not something they cover in business school, I’m a big believer in karma, that making the investment of acting and treating people decently repays itself tenfold. And that we should, as event marketers, look to make the personal comment to professional decency in 2010. The ROI will be there.

A Happy, Safe and Successful 2010 to all!

Good luck!


Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the Season for Retention

The plethora of Top Ten Lists are out – either Trends for 2010 or Best/Worst Lists of 2009. As you’ve probably perused enough of these lists at this point, I’ll truncate and offer my list of One Priority that Event Marketers Need to Focus on in the Coming Year:

1. Retention

Given the year the economy – and in turn the events industry – has been through, it is time for Event Marketing leaders to strategize and make an investments in developing and implementing strong attendee retention strategies. In many cases, event marketing has been in “churn mode” for too long – continually putting time, effort and investment into attendee acquisition activities without a plan in place to manage attendees post-event. Part of this is understandable – managing the frequency and volume of events from a marketing perspective is a daunting proposition. However, now is the time to develop, execute and – most importantly – stick with – a retention strategy to ensure long-term survival.

Why now? A couple of reasons:

1. Cost – although there is not a set metric in place, it is more expensive to acquire a prospect than it is to retain them – in other words, bringing a cold prospect through the entire AIDA cycle costs more than a person who is already beyond, at least, the Attention/Interest phases. (Tracking and testing the cost per attendee without any retention initiatives in place vs. how the initiatives impact the cost is also important – if nothing else, as an internal benchmark.)

2. Reputation – A retention program in place will re-focus your communication channels so that they map to the various audience segments you define. As you learn more about your attendees – their functionality, buying patterns, needs, etc. – and develop actions around this knowledge, it will lead to their receiving and (hopefully) registering for future events via the channel and timing they prefer – and will decrease push communications and, by extension, challenges around today's SPAM prevalent environment. Having a program in place will also, almost by definition, ensure a new focus placed on the customer/attendee - pre-event, onsite, and post event, cross-functionally various stakeholders should be working to ensure there is a renewed urgency on customer satisfaction (especially if the emphasis on Retention is coming driven top-down!) if the strategy is to encourage them to come back next year/for another event.

3. Most importantly, The Tools are There: Database modeling services have been with us for a while; however, over the past year Social Media had developed into something that can provide Event Marketers with a number of tools to effectively incorporate into a retention strategy. Facebook fan pages and groups, LinkedIn groups, Webinars, communities built with Ning, YouTube, Twitter, Slideshare, etc. are some of the portals that can be utilized to share information and knowledge and keep your contacts abreast of your content and activities. (Of course, traditional offline and email channels are part of the mix as well.)

How you do it is up to you – but the timing is right for you to plan and execute on this. And do plan for the long-term – results, by definition, will not be immediate, but will be worthwhile.

Good luck!

And all the best for a Happy Holiday and a terrific 2010!!!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Marketing Tip: Word-of-Mouth for Speaker Engagement

One of the challenging strategies Event Marketers are faced with is speaker engagement – or effectively answering the age-old question “how do I get my speakers to reach out to their clients and prospects?” I’ve seen numerous tactics employed – from arranging discounts to developing a tailored package/communication to website buttons and banners for speakers to utilize. And these efforts are, more often than not, not fruitful.

Part of the challenge is bandwidth – a speaker, typically a consultant and/or plenary thought-leader is, to turn a phrase, just not into to your event – they’re into to their content. Looking at the scenario through their eyes, as good as your event is, to a speaker it is a block of time in their calendar, a commitment to contribute content, their presence to a target audience and, with any luck, a decent honorarium. They are typically not equipped or aligned to help promote your event to their contacts – as beneficial as it may be to them.

Andy Sernovitz, in his Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That blog, recently detailed a great promotion he used to promote Gaspedal’s upcoming Word of Mouth Supergenius! conference (being held next week in Chicago.) Using Word of Mouth Marketing (Gaspedal’s forte), the campaign cut through clutter and engaged speakers to blog about the initiative. And the event. AND actively promoted a personal Speaker discount, to boot.



Check out Andy’s blog post and video to learn about the promotion, but in a nutshell, for the promotion, personalized T-shirts were sent to each of the 30 speakers, each with a speaker-specific discount code, with a note attached asking the speaker to a) photograph themselves with the T-shirt and b) blog about what a fun, great promotion it was and, of course, tie it into the upcoming event.

The subliminal supergenius around this effort is that, despite what Andy says about it not being about speakers blogging about their participation (having them write, as he says, “Yes I’m speaking about a conference, please go,” which he notes is not interesting), in the end it really is doing just that. It’s speakers writing about a fun Word of Mouth effort for … well … a Word of Mouth event.

And while I think this is a great idea and do want to pass it on, I am not suggesting everybody reading this Google “personalized T-shirts” as the lesson learned; for example I’m guessing this type of promotion would not be as germane for the Society of Neuroscience’s annual event. This was an example of event marketing recognizing it’s audience and it’s speakers and thinking through and executing a promotion which would engage both. So, as Event Marketers, the take-away is for you to think through and strategize how to engage your speakers for your event; how to get them to start an interesting conversation and get people talking and thinking about your event.

And please do feel free to share any success stories you may have!

Good luck!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Event Marketing Shouldn’t Overlook Onsite Surveys

I’ve been involved with some onsite event evaluations of late. It’s absolutely not the most exciting or engaging topic but one worth revisiting, as I’d suggest it’s an avenue too often overlooked in gathering marketing intelligence.

As I think about it, I do not recall seeing an organization which engaged the Marketing Department in developing these surveys – they are seen much more something to be handled by event producers focused on content and operations teams’ looking for feedback on the physical attributes itself. Which is fair enough, there is an inarguable need for these as feedback channels. However, marketing needs to be proactively involved in the formulation of the survey as well.

For example (and not to be critical of it), the survey I refer to above was multiple pages. The attendee was only required to answer one or two questions on many of the pages, the fact is that as an attendee, I would have been daunted by the size of it. And many people who responded were – reviewing these particular surveys, few were complete. In addition, within the context of the questions – which drilled down on food, venue, whether attendees preferred standing microphone, roving microphone, written question, etc. for Q&A did not ask the simple question: “What was the most valuable aspect of this event for you?” Again, this is not to be critical of this particular survey, I’ve seen many which have, in not having marketing input, have missed out on a chance to gain key insight.

And as Marketing Departments get more involved in the onsite survey development, a few thoughts to leverage their effectiveness: 
  • Vet the survey prior to printing: Onsite surveys are, by definition, an inward-looking document, and it is too easy to get involved in internal thought/process in formulating questions. Give the survey to an outsider – spouse, friend, etc. – and ask “does this make sense to you?” The input from an outsider can be eye-opening.
  • Ask actionable questions: drill-down questions are fine, but ask and include questions you can influence or provides insight to help you deliver a better product. In some form (graded scale, Yes/No, etc.) questions like “what is the value add?,” “why did you attend?,” “how did you first hear about this event?” (Even more important as the influence of social media grows) are invaluable.
  • Think through formatting: This can be tricky, but make sure responses to questions all receive equal treatment in layout. I recently saw a survey with a fairly benign question with response heavily weighted towards one answer – and I could not help think it was because the response was positioned at the end of the question, with the remaining dropping down to the next line.
  • Think green!: There are a multitude of online survey tools available; if you have not already considered it, think about using these as opposed to paper surveys. Outside of saving forests, this presents quicker response time, better ability to analyze responses, etc. I was at an event where a colleague with a hand-held got his Survey during the event’s evening reception. Certainly made the survey front-of-mind for him!
So again, as 2009 winds down and 2010 ramps up, one small “to do” for event marketing leaders to add to their list of New Year’s Resolutions is go get pro-actively involved in the onsite survey development and dissemination processes.

Good luck! And Happy Thanksgiving to those stateside!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

I recently had the opportunity to observe the development and execution of a successful event (yes, there are still successful events to be held!), Econsultancy's Peer Summit. Held in New York City on October 8, the event was invitation only, and ended up first selling out attendance prior to the event, and secondly seeing very little attrition on-site (quite a coup, given the event was complimentary).

Some background: the Peer Summit was the introduction/launch event for Econsultancy in the U.S.; Econsultancy, headquartered in the UK, is a community-based publisher, focused on best practice digital marketing and ecommerce. With an office in the U.S. opening earlier this year, the event was a vehicle to deliver its value proposition through the event's content a roundtable-discussion based format.

So why did the event succeed? It was essentially a lesson in back-to-basics – the ground-floor underpinnings that have traditionally driven event marketing success. But it's a lesson worth reviewing as the events calendar wraps up the 2009 season and moves into 2010:

1. Keeping goals and objectives reasonable: One of Econsultancy’s challenges at the outset was that it was a launch event. To that end, they set reasonable expectations and goals regarding attendance. Econsultancy has run several Peer Summit-type events in Europe; rather than assuming they could replicate their success in the US immediately, Econsultancy planned and budgeted a more reasonable attendee number. As importantly, this audience quantity (and quality) was communicated to event sponsors, so expectations were aligned across the board.
2. Defining the product (event): The Peer Summit was not meant to be – nor communicated as – an “all things to all people” endeavor. It had a defined target audience and communication plan geared to attracting client-side digital marketing executives. Being a one-day event in New York City, marketing was targeted to local executives. There were no delusions that individuals would flock from across the US to attend. And as an invitation-only event, the audience was specific. This admittedly can’t be as controlled at a paid event – but it does speak to ensuring that in whichever event scenario is being planned that key audiences and correlating outreach is identified.
3. Having a contingency plan in place: The event did not necessitate a last-minute scramble for delegates, as there were specific tactics in place and executed upon to drive and retain attendees. Secondary plans were also in place – so if there was a need for ancillary activity, these were defined.

While this is an over-simplification of what produces a successful event, it is certainly the components at the core. If any of these elements are missing in the strategic marketing and execution of an event, said event is certainly inviting itself to challenges … ones that can make the difference between struggles and … success!

Good luck!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Social Media in Event Marketing – A Lesson Learned

I came across a bit of a flare-up around the upcoming ad:tech New York, one that resulted in Mike Flynn, the Event Director for ad:tech North America, issuing an apology on the company’s blog.

The blog was a mea culpa for an email sent out essentially incentivizing past attendees to post tweets, blog posts, and/or info on Facebook in exchange for a discount to attend the show. The email made its way to (at least) a couple of bloggers, hence the appearance of a “pay for play,” scenario ultimately leading to the apology.

I can imagine the storm that brewed, leading to this post. At the same time, I’ll go out on a ledge and ask: was an apology really necessary? My take:

  • The ‘offer’ itself was an offer for a discount to attend or a free exhibit hall pass (ostensibly a $35 value). In other words, this incentive, conceptually is the same as the legacy “register four attendees and a fifth attends for free” or “bring a colleague for ½ price” offer. It wasn’t offering to pay cash for an endorsement.
  • Anybody responding to the incentive had interest/intention of attending prior to this email. This communication was ostensibly sent to ‘hot‘ leads (past attendees). To that end, the person receiving this email and accepting its terms would not be fabricating by tweeting/posting; if they were to take action to gain a discount to attend the event, they must have gotten value from their prior attendance … why else re-register?
  • I’d take a guess that the strategy behind this was as much to re-engage past attendees to attend as it was to build buzz around the event.
  • Unless I’m missing something, typically qualified press & bloggers are be able to attain some sort of press access – again raising the question of whether this was a barter for editorial coverage.
If this effort was an incentive to have past attendees use Social Media to engage followers, friends, etc. about their past experience at the ad:tech show, this was nothing more than ad:tech using the medium for traditional tactics, adopting them to Social Media. [Note: The one aspect I would call into question is that the incentive/email was a strict in the requirements that a person posted “no less than three times;” this is old-school thinking that should have been avoided.] It seems (given bloggers and writers got a copy of the email) there may have been imperfections concerning the data; conceptually this incentive should have only gone to paid attendees. And if the data was an issue, its underpinnings of the issue are in an all together different vein.

If, on the other hand, this email did go out to bloggers and writers specifically to gain coverage – well, as a journalism major – I certainly do see where the issue lies; in that case the apology is certainly warranted.

But again this does not seem to be the case. The underlying issue seems to be the use of Social Media – that there is still sensitivity regarding the channel. So the real lesson is an old one: in new uses of Social Media, event marketing professionals need to take the time to ensure they think through strategies and tactics – especially from an external perspective – given the concerns concerning its use.

And whatever the scenario, I’d also like to offer kudos to ad:tech for quickly and decisively reacting to the situation as they saw fit.

Good luck!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's the (Price) Point?

I don’t usually ask questions that I don’t know the answer to but in this I case will. Because, frankly, I would argue that the events industry as a whole does not have a firm sense of what the optimal price to attend an event is. As discussed in the last post, part of this is the variety of events in the mix. But not defining (or understanding) what price would maximize an event’s profit margin (as a function of price and attendee volume) is leaving money on the table.

Historically, a point at which a typical event price emerged. For a two-to-three day event organizations charged approximately $1,195 to attend a 2.5 event in 1995. I don’t have any visibility as to how this came about, and can’t comment on it. The issue, and the point of this post, is that from that point, there has not been a slew analysis placed on pricing strategy across the industry. I’ve seen and heard of many organizations, in the course of planning events, base pricing on:
  • A need to deliver margin (“We need to generate $XYZ more revenue – let’s increase prices $100!”).
  • Comparative/competitive landscape (“ABC Conferences upped prices – so let’s do the same”).
  • Just because-ism (“We didn’t increase prices last year – let’s increase them this year”).
None of which comes anywhere close to promising that you are maximizing the profit margin attainable.

Calculating the optimal price – and/or price increase – is inarguably challenging due to the variables in play. Specifically, the number of attendees you draw also impacts sponsor satisfaction. So if you do some serious number crunching and determine that increasing prices $300 increases your profit margins BUT decreases your attendance by 10% (the decrease in volume offset by the increase in revenue) is all well and good … but asking your sales manager to explain that to their exhibitors is a different story.

I’m not going to detail price point calculations here – Google lists many options for free calculators. A key element these calculators require, however, is the price elasticity of your event/product – or, knowing the answer to the question “if I raise my price by X it will impact attendance by Y.” There are free tools available to calculate this as a “what if” scenario as well, but to truly answer this question, pricing needs to be tested on a continued basis - even and especially within one event; variations in topic, audience, and calendar are all variables which would impact analyzing two different events at two different price points.

Overall, strategic pricing holds various functions in an events organization – different prices addresses different level audiences and communicates a level of value proposition. But in the context of the overall events environment, event marketing managers need to know and guarantee that the product they are marketing is being sold at the price which delivers the highest value to the organization. And this is based on understanding the impact of price changes to overall attendance. Learning and knowing this will go a long way towards increase profitability – and adding to your value in the organization.

Good luck!


PS - Do note a "Share" button has been added to the upper left - so please feel free to share this and future/past posts among colleagues!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting Existential: What is an Event?

As event leaders and marketers plan into 2010 (and beyond), and given the challenges the economy continues to place on the industry, it is valuable to re-visit what we are talking about when we discuss “an event.” It is certainly a question that can get lost in the day-to-day activity of planning, marketing and executing successful events. The challenges we’ve experienced over the past year, however, should be a stark reminder for Event Marketing professionals and leaders that we need to focus on ensuring that events being planned map to and integrate with the organization’s ultimate goals and strategies.

The issue is that there is not a one-size-fit all answer to the question; I’ve seen and experienced different organizations utilize events to different ends. However, some outcomes, given today’s business environment, are stronger ends than others. While the five categories below may not be comprehensive (and I of course welcome thoughts and comments), IMHO an Event can be:
  • A revenue stream. These are events and event organizations that exist fairly exclusively as stand-alone products, events that are held as one-off, targeted, topical events. These events are high-churn, with content focused on the hot topic du jour. The downside to events in this category is they are strategically short-sighted and pay little attention to the concept of Customer Lifetime Value. From a marketing perspective there is a constant need for new attendees/customers, and little to offer surrounding retention – thus ultimately incurring more cost in new customer acquisition.
  • A Lead Generation & Engagement Tool. Virtual events and traditional Webinars are the buzzwords in today’s Events. They are certainly a customer and prospect engagement tool. And from a marketing perspective, these events certainly add value in enabling the organizer to gain data on marketing touch points, information admittedly not as easy to glean in a live event environment. As noted previously, surveys continue to show preference to live engagement, but these events inarguably add value to an organization’s overall lead and demand generation initiatives.
  • A live, client/prospect facing experience. The traditional face-to-face event format, utilized by media companies, trade groups, vendor user groups, etc. continues to hold the most utility for the organization – it is a direct client-facing opportunity for sales teams, a content-delivery platform for the organization, and, of course, a networking experience for attendees. Companies (wisely) using the live event, however, need to realize and leverage each of these facets in the event delivery to maximize efficiency. And Event Marketing Teams need to message around said elements in their attendee acquisition efforts.
  • An experiential platform. These would include small, hands-on, senior/C-level boot camps – events which typically take place over the course of a few days (or up to a week), and are small, high-ticket items. These are high-touch, learning and/or network-based events, typically for organizations with a valued, high-level audience. Properly managed (and attended), these events can yield good margins, yet because attendance is small, these events are ultimately best as part of an overall portfolio as an incremental revenue stream. From a branding perspective, these events can also provide strong advocates for other products/services your organization has to offer.
  • Training. The mirror image of the high-ticket boot-camp, training events are more a wholesale product, replicated multiple times throughout the year with the same content. Educational credits can be affiliated with these types of events, and marketing these events, much like the events themselves, are done on a wholesale basis. The price point to attend these events are low, the name of the game is volume.
Given this mix of formats, again the question should be asked: is your organization utilizing the mix of events optimal for the company overall? Put another way, what, specifically, does the event hold for the organization? Is it a way to generate prospect demand and leads which are channeled to a sales organization? Is it part of a client/membership experience? Or is it the sole revenue stream of the organization? Are there strategic holes to be filled by adding - or eliminating – events in the portfolio?

In short, as plans for 2010 and beyond are finalized, event and event marketing leaders need to evaluate and ensure the event mix matches the ultimate corporate goals.

Good luck!


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Employment Picture for Direct & Event Marketers

Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC released results of a job search survey they conducted last week, focused on the direct marketing industry, with results which were very telling. I found the results insightful first of all because, of course, the Events Marketing community is a subset of this group. And secondly, because … well … participants in the survey were, like me, people in the Events Marketing industry looking for employment in a very challenging industry and economy. (I’m one of the 9.7% of the workforce in seeking employment.)

You can read the details of the survey results here – detailing length of time direct marketers are out of work, as well as details parsed by salary. Two points jump out at me:
  • Survey results showed direct markers duration of unemployment as longer – almost double – the national median as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison (survey responses to federal statistics), but certainly shows the tenure of unemployment for event marketing professionals is longer than the national average. And the national average is, of course, too long as a whole.
  • 50% of the responders have been looking for work for seven months are longer. This, obviously, is an alarmingly large percentage (the survey did not include national averages as a benchmark.) The only silver lining is that “only” 20% of the respondents had been looking for work between 1-3 months – which, to take a leap of faith, could imply a lower # of layoffs over the past three month period. (The report also notes that unemployment may be “bottoming out.”)
In short, the employment picture for direct marketing professionals is more challenged than in other professions. And, of course, it’s challenged all over. Which begs the question “what’s an Event Marketing professional to do?” Trust me, unemployment is no fun, and I also have empathy for people fortunate enough to be employed, as I’ve certainly heard stories of individuals doing multiple jobs to compensate for lack of staffing.

While I wish I had a magic wand (I would have selfishly pointed it to myself if I did!), lacking that, a few thoughts and suggestions to Event Marketers on both side of the employment fence – ones that have kept me sane at times throughout this process:
  • Positive attitude: I am a firm believer in the importance of this. Karma carries, both internally and externally. Go to a job interview resentful that you’ve been out of work for seven months, and it will show. Let the situation eat at you and it will negatively impact the effectiveness of your search. The same obviously goes for attitude at work. When you feel negative clouds building, take a break – go for a walk, a cup of coffee, clear your head and get back to being positive.
  • Keep yourself relevant: The landscape for event marketing is changing – if you’re unemployed, take the time to learn about new initiatives in Social Media and think about how you’d implement that into a multichannel strategy. If you’re employed, make the time to do the same. Learning something new is a “feel good” activity, and it adds value to you as a commodity. Hubspot, by way of example, offers Inbound Marketing University certification (which I completed in August), with a new round of testing taking place the end of October, and would suggest exploring.
  • Networking: I’ve found my last two jobs through networking, and suspect, the end of the day, I’ll land somewhere this time because of it as well. And – as I keep learning – keeping your network fresh while you’re employed is important. You don’t want to spend time dusting off old names if you ever need them in a hurry!
With regards to networking, I’ve had discussions questioning the value of this in these tough economic times. And if you’re employed, I’m guessing you’ve fielded a number of calls. But I’d heard (and unfortunately don’t have a source) that, on average, a large job board posting receives 800 applications. So quick math: even if the job is perfect for you, it’s probably perfect for 10% of the others. Putting you up against 80 people who are (hate to say it) on par with you, from which the employer will choose maybe 10 candidates to have an initial round of interviews with. If these assumptions seem reasonable, that leaves you a 1.25% chance of getting called in for a job board interview for a job you’re perfectly qualified for. Given those numbers, I again suggest the networking route.

I again do wish I had the magic wand to wave – but lacking that do hope the above provides some thoughts and encouragement. The landscape is not one we created … but need to be diligent in improving our situations.

Good luck!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DM Should Not = Desperation Marketing

I am floored. Flabbergasted. And, honestly, a bit saddened: saddened to see that, even today, some events organizations' direct marketing efforts are not only not getting it right, but are getting it very wrong.

The background: I recently registered on a (reputable) portal which, along with producing blogs, newsletters, etc., supports an online community, which struck me as a smart Social Media-based initiative. The company also organizes well-known industry events, including a fairly sizable event in a couple of weeks.

As part of their event marketing strategy – which may work perfectly well for this organization – the Early Bird deadline was set for two weeks prior to the event [this strikes me as a late Early Bird – more on that later]. Unfortunately, the deadline fell on September 4 – which, in the U.S., was the beginning of the Labor Day holiday.

Given that, I received an email on August 31st (last Monday) letting me know the Early Bird deadline was expiring on Friday. A perfectly reasonable communication to push the deadline and associated savings.

Then I also received another reminder on Tuesday.

And Thursday. And Friday. All with fairly similar messaging around the Early Bird Deadline discount which I Could Not Miss.

Of course, I missed it. So, on Monday (on Labor Day itself), I received an email that the deadline had been extended until Tuesday. And two emails on Tuesday letting me know The Deadline Was Near!

In short, in the course if six business days, I, Joe Prospect, received seven emails with fairly identical messaging that the Early Bird savings to this event was ending soon. Interspersed with a pair of emails (one last Wednesday – the one day I didn’t get an Early Bird email – and one today) letting me know I could get a free Exhibit Hall pass.

I forwarded one of these emails to a colleague, Roger Jarman, who very succinctly replied “They think that DM is short for Desperation Marketing.” I initially laughed … but then it bothered me. It’s these strategies and tactics which continue to present the Event Marketing in a negative light – historically, as perpetrators of “spray and pray” direct mail, and more recently as spammers. And of course, it does smack of desperation.

As Event Marketers, we need to move beyond such tactics. In this case, with proper planning, an alternate Early Bird deadline should have been utilized. (Also – see this previous posting regarding Early Bird strategies.) A longer lead time (more than two weeks) would have also allowed contingencies to be implemented if attendee numbers were below internal targets.

I certainly know and empathize that the industry continues to struggle both in generating attendees and sponsor revenue in our down economy. But in short, in the face of these challenges, resorting to a series of fairly identical daily emails is not the answer. Far from it, I would be surprised if this campaign doesn’t drive up opt-out rates and drive down open rates.

We, as Event Marketers, need to ensure our efforts and campaigns are using industry Best Practices, that we continue to go to market strategically and innovatively, and that we really need to think before we hit the “transmit” button.

Good luck!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Live Events: "I'm Not Dead!"

Forbes Insights just published an Executive Report, “Business Meetings: The Case for Face to Face.” While the report, for the most part, is positive news for live events and events marketing professionals, there are also results which provide some food for thought.

The good news for live events is – to quote the peasant in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “I’m not dead.” That was proven very true in the survey – of the 750 business executives surveyed, 84% responded that they preferred “in person, face-to-face meetings” to “technology-driven meetings” and 87% said face-to-face meetings had "tangible benefits" over technology-driven meetings. So despite speculation and discourse around technology squeezing the live event business out of existence, there is a strong recognized, identifiable value to convening. In this light, the struggles the industry has recently seen can certainly be attributed more to the economic environment than technology replicating or replacing the value of the face-to-face.

There are valuable points for Event Marketing professionals to consider regarding the identified benefits of face-to-face events. In a nutshell (and to not reiterate what’s in the report), there is a strongly embedded value in networking, meeting people, reading people, and being able to take deeper, more strategic onsite dives into issues and challenges attendees face. To that end, a couple of questions/observations:
  • Is your marketing message leveraging networking/face-to-face interaction as a USP? While content delivered at an event is critical (if the event is not presenting anything germane, don’t expect huge turnout), in this day and age this information, overall, is not truely unique. The unique value is the interaction – and marketing messaging needs to drive that home throughout the course of the campaign.
  • Structurally, is the event geared towards leveraging on-site interaction? I’ve contributed to and seen some very innovative initiatives around small discussion roundtables, attendee networking badges/pins which indicated attendee verticals or expertise (to facilitate discussion) as well as traditional show floor interaction, sponsor receptions, etc. These all improve the on-sight experience - and score well on attendee satisfaction surveys - and provide a facet of the event to manage your marketing message around, as well.
  • To bring the social media aspect to the live event – do you have, or are you planning on building communities around attendees? Outside of traditional “Alumni discounts,” the SM technology available should be utilized to continue the interaction initiated onsite to build greater lifetime value for the attendee.
The lesson overall is to survive the storm – business executives still value the live event for a set of identifiable, unique reasons. However, event marketers do need to be diligent in communicating this value, and working to ensure the advantages inherent in the live setting are leveraged and delivered.

Good luck!


P.S. Remember - please do feel free to re-Tweet this with the icon on the lower left.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It’s Not (Only) What You Say, It’s How You Say It

I recently read an interesting post by Marc Munier of Pure360 on Econsultancy detailing social media tactics and incorporating them into marketing channels – mainly email (Pure360, FYI, is an email marketing service). A couple of specific nuggets he suggested:

Encourage response: Part of the allure of Blogging is its interactivity – the potential to engage, post comments and participate in discussions. Munier suggests including this invitation to respond in email communications –and not to expect flood of response, but because including this feature of two-way communication increases the value to the reader.
Unsubscribe comments positioning: Moving the unsubscribe to the top of the email, while this it would make some marketers nervous, would show you are a “legitimate Marketer, and that you don’t want to email people who don’t want to receive your emails,” Munier notes.

While I won’t reiterate the entire blog here, the post raises a good point: social media, aside from being a different platform/channel (which underlies part of the “buzz”), uses a different communication/tone (which is the unspoken part of said buzz). And it is time to take a look at the voice used in traditional channels.

For example, printed collateral (a.k.a. those direct mail pieces that are just not delivering ROI) has not changed its core components in ages: intro letter, session descriptions, sponsors, registration/hotel info. All of which speak to the recipient, not with the recipient. The same scenario frequently exists with Event-specific emails; although there have been advances in weaving more content into promotional marketing e-mail communications, the overall message remains ‘register for my Event!’

In the face of challenged clicks, opens, and ROI on traditional channels in an integrated Event Marketing campaign, we are not (yet) at the point of cutting these channels from a campaign. Event Marketing leaders are, however, certainly at the point of needing to think through (and test) incorporating key elements driving Social Media, specifically:

Making it a conversation: Include informational elements to brochures – for example, I’ve done brochure with one page (in a 12-page brochure) dedicated to results and discussion around a pre-event survey on topics, issues and solutions. This could be done in conjunction with a drive-to-Web link to a discussion board or further information on the site.
Pull, don’t push: intersperse content, insight from White papers, statistics, etc., from the organization that the prospect would find helpful.
Allow prospects to interact with the event: include speaker Twitter IDs and LinkedIn URLs (easier done in email unless customized); also, share your event Twitter ID, Facebook fan page, and/or LinkedIn Event page at every available opportunity. (Make it easy to communicate and be transparent in how they can find you!)
Share the organization’s expertise: if you have a free e-newsletter, whitepaper, podcasts, Webinars, etc. let it be known – make mention of it and provide links in your print and email.
Truncate it!: As Munier suggests, part of the success of Twitter is its brevity. The same can be applied to emails and print: put the 75-100 word session descriptions on the Web. Aside from being green, this will produce a more visually palatable piece.

In regards to print, incorporating the above will and should go hand-in-hand with thinking about covers – moving away from traditional Event/Location/Key Reason to Attend messaging to content points – drawing people to specific pages in the brochure.

And again, these are suggestions and elements to test – I welcome comments from anybody with examples and results of any initiatives taken along these lines to date.

Good luck!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where's the Spend? Social Media Budgets for Event Marketing

As we melt through the dog days of August, Event Marketing eyeballs are beginning to focus on (if they have not already started) planning for 2010, and specifically budgeting. This is going to be a big challenge for a number of (in some cases obvious) reasons. Forecasting the economic environment as a baseline to develop budget revenues and attendee volumes will be challenging … and then there is the expense budgeting exercise.

With the advances we’ve seen in social media as a channel over the past year (even in the face of - or maybe because of - the economy) the question that needs to be answered is “What do we spend on this 'stuff' in 2010?” My concrete, set-in-stone answer is: it depends. Taking a look at a chart from a MarketingProfs/Forrester Research report, “B2B Marketing in 2009: Trends in Strategies and Spending,” certainly shows that across the board, drive-to-web marketing spend was up in 2009, traditional/branding channels were down. Do note: this chart isn't a guide: how “up” or “down” really varies and is a question to be answered strategically by each marketing group. In the realm of social media spend and the % of marketing budget to allocate, however, I’d suggest centering the answers around a few interrelated questions/points:

1. What are you looking to achieve? Are you looking to use social media as a way build year-round community around an event? Drive-to-web? Lead gen mechanism? “Revenue” is end game; and there are a slew of SM options available (and combinations thereof). But in short, do make sure you have a strategy in place first before starting to think through and detail social media tactics around this. The thought and discussions put into this will pay off in the long run.

2. What sort of infrastructure do you have in place? Social media is inexpensive in the context of marketing channels available – setting up a Facebook page, for example, is free (!) But I think, in the next 18 months, event marketers will be asked to produce more report on the ROI of social media initiatives. Not clicks, not hits, not bounce statistics – lead acquisition and conversion. And to do that you need to make sure your back-end infrastructure is defined and in place. And this may take additional investment – so make sure this maps to item #1.

3. Do you have people in place? Again, social media tactics are comparatively inexpensive. A hidden (or overlooked) expense is, as I’ve noted before, bandwidth. Are there people in place who will take ownership of producing content? Doing content right takes manhours – with today’s lean workforce you need to make sure this is taken into consideration – and ensure this area is properly staffed.

In the context of setting your marketing budget for 2010, this is the time to follow the trend of re-allocating marketing spend from direct mail (being more targeted and, of course, integrating into these other channels) into online marketing. One additional thought, pending your budget process: do establish this spend as an established budget line – avoid entering it in a soft, “testing” category. If the industry is soft and expenses need to be cut, this could be the first money to go – not a desirable result.

Good luck!


Monday, August 3, 2009

In Case You Missed It....

While The Event Marketing Insider has been posting for six months now, within the course of recent weeks, I’ve been practicing what I preach and doing more outreach via Social Media channels. As a result, there has been a larger volume of readers and followers with each post (and thanks to all!!!!).

To that end, I’d like to share the earlier posts, when three followers (myself included) was a good thing. While these columns are all in the archives, I do realize and appreciate (if I am a case study) there is not a ton of time and incentive to dig through these unless looking for a specific article. Here, then, are a list of old posts and brief descriptions for easy access.

And ... this brings us up-to-date! Please do continue read, tweet, and comment on these articles – any insight and feedback is great and appreciated! (P.S. A quick note/reminder: please re-tweet any post from the button in the lower left)

Good luck!


Monday, July 27, 2009

Social Media & Event Marketing Part IV: Video, Pictures, Presentations

There are a myriad of other Social Media platforms that can be used in the course of Event Marketing; previous posts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter were a look at the larger Social Media sites driven by community. There are also portals which provide plenty of opportunity to make your Event Marketing initiatives to viral – and which should be used to work hand-in-hand with the above sites – to build a well-rounded environment to attract and convert prospect and retain and engage attendees, enhancing your overall Event Marketing initiatives:

Blogging: There are a variety of options in this area, including WordPress and Blogger. There are enough articles debating the merit of using each one, but from what I have read & understand, WordPress is suggested for corporate blogs. (I originally signed onto the Blogger and have not had issue to switch.) There is, of course, also the option of a proprietary blog, pending your internal resources.

Presentation sharing: the SlideShare portal affords the opportunity to upload and share a variety of documents – PowerPoint, OpenOffice and Apple Keynote presentations, Microsoft Office Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, iWork pages and PDFs. While you of course do not want to give away an entire presentation's worth of content prior to an event, much like a pre-event Webinar (see below) this is an avenue by which to show off the great content you are providing attendees through summarized presentations. You can also set up SlideShare to share documents with a proprietary set of individuals, for example to be used for onsite or post-event sharing. This is also a great opportunity to share presentations for sponsorship marketing initiatives.

Photo and Videos: Flickr and YouTube have exploded in popularity for photo and video sharing (Flickr handles both). Onsite pictures and videos of networking, keynotes/presentations, etc. certainly fall into the “a picture is worth a thousand words” category in communicating the feel and value of an event. As video is dynamic, it can (and has) been used in a couple of ways – both as a produced video creating buzz about an event, as seen for in TED event clip, and providing content, as the Gartner video demonstrates. In either scenario, brevity is important, keeping the viewer engaged and showing the depth and breadth of the event with either tactic is the goal. And of course ... do wind up with a call to action!

The real key to success to all of this is planning and execution: integrating the above, plus the previously discussed channels, into an overall Event Marketing communications strategy and stream. Specifically, you need to ensure there are plans and people in place to link and integrate video, blogs and pictures from your event Facebook and LinkedIn pages, that team members are tweeting about these, and that these links are prominent on the Event Web site. As well, links and call-outs should be included in your traditional direct marketing channels when utilized (email and direct mail), encouraging prospects to engage and follow wherever possible. This also provides the benefit of these communications shifting form a straight push for event attendance to promoting the Social Media option as this becomes part of the marketing mix.

And as previously discussed, a secondary element will be leveraging the communities built post-event – scheduling and executing regular discussions, blogs, notes, etc. – to ensure the attendee (and prospects) are, in fact, part of an ongoing and thriving network, not individuals on a promotional cycle spoken to in the context of a campaign. In short, work to utilize Social Media as the unique tool set leverage your Event Marketing prowess.

Good luck!


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Social Media & Event Marketing Part III: Twitter

The latest craze in Social Media is, of course, Twitter. I’ve been asked (and have been known to offer unsolicited opinions...) on my take regarding Twitter for Events Marketing - in brief, it is that once the dust settles, Twitter will develop into an important medium for pre-event, on-site, and post-event marketing. The novelty of Twitter will wear off, people will cease Twittering about combing their hair, and businesses will utilize it as a key business marcom tool.

[Update] - Part 1 of the series (LinkedIn) can be found here. Part 2 of the series (Facebook) can be found here.

I envision using Twitter for Event Marketing in three phases: Pre-Event, Onsite, and Post-Event – each with a different strategy to support the event overall.

The first thing to be done (if you haven’t) is to set up a Twitter profile. The suggestion here is to make it event-specific (not an overall organizational Twitter identity): @JavaOneConf, @heath2con and @etech are a few examples worth checking out (and following). Make sure the profile is complete and descriptive, the URL to your site is included, and that event logo, graphics, etc.

Pre-Event - Set up and gain followers:

  • Establish a team of Tweeters (!) – Ensure there are individuals in your organization who have signed on and who agree to provide regular content-based tweets (this can include related articles, etc – not content specifically related to the organization. Twitter is, after all, about sharing good information.)
  • Establish a hash marks for your tweets and use them.
  • Using the search function for keywords of titles, content, etc. keyed to your event and see who is talking about them – and follow them.
  • Join … or form … a Twibe . A Twibe, simply, is a site of Twitter groups.
  • Ask attendees, during the registration process, for their Twitter IDs and encourage them to follow yours for updates, information, etc.
  • Include your Twitter identity in all communications – emails, the Web, collateral.
  • Most of all – Tweet. Putting out consistent, quality tweets will build up quality followers.
  • As you build followers, include event-specific information – both content and promotional – in the flow of Tweets. Twitter isn’t a promotional channel, but including a tweet about hotel blocks closing in the mix of a link to a podcast, keynote interview, etc. is certainly acceptable.
  • Ask questions – and solicit responses – from followers as a way to engage.
The overall aim is to build and maintain follower engagement and provide you with a voice to both demonstrate your value and communicate about the event as an integrated stream.

Onsite - It's a party and you're the host:
  • Make sure your “Follow us on Twitter” message is well publicized: signage, collateral, screens, agendas, and session slides.
  • Encourage attendees to Tweet their experience/thoughts in real time (and that they reference your @name!) This is a key way to gauge thoughts, address challenges, and proactively ensure the experience is top-notch. [There is software available that provides feeds of people Tweeting about your company, making the tracking of this easy – see note below]
  • Keep attendees informed by Tweeting information on sponsor receptions, keynotes, networking opportunities – in short, use to quickly communicate with, and add value to, every attendee in real time.
Onsite, the goal is the conversation – a real-time conversation between you, attendees, sponsors and speakers. I’ve heard (more than once) Twitter described as “a conversation at a party” – which I don’t particularly subscribe to; this is one arena, however, in which such a utilization would – and should – apply. Do keep in mind – you’re the host of the party, so use ultimately ensure Twitter is used to make sure the guests go home happy.

Post-Event - keep the engagement going.
  • In short, Twitter should be a continued communication tool – continue the pre-event content Tweets on a regular basis as a continued dialogue with your followers.
  • The event itself has provided you a ton of new content which can be packaged into video and audio clips, PowerPoint downloads, and white papers – which can be small content plays to Tweet.
  • And of course, as planning for the ensuing event commences, Tweet about it, solicit questions re: content, surveys - in short, use it to help build content and momentum from the outset of the event planning.
One thing to remember about Twitter is that is not something that can be up and running overnight…in other words, it is not a tool to incorporate four weeks prior to an event to combat lagging attendee numbers. You need a Twitter presence, and you need perseverance to gain good qualitative and quantitative followers.

The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article detailing key software that enables you to fully leverage Twitter through tracking links & Tweets, as well as scheduling posts and managing tweets. A good summary of what’s out there to augment your Twitter efforts.

Good luck!


P.S. And please do follow me on Twitter!

NEW INFO (6/19) - B2B Media Business just wrote an article on companies incorporating Social Media into Events - check it out here. Includes a quote from my friend and colleague Mark Fissell from Gartner.