Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don’t Neglect Your (Media) Partner

In the context of an event marketing campaign, one of the most underutilized channels available to Event Marketing leaders is the media partnership. I’ve heard a slew of reasons for this – bandwidth being key - but none of them override the value that a properly researched and negotiated partnership can deliver.

One thing to recognize is that … right under our noses … the nature of the effective media partnership has changed. Data privacy rules and spam concerns have taken the traditional “name for name exchange” (and logo swap) off the table in many instances.

The end results, however, remains the same: to develop reach into an audience that you don’t typically have access to (a prospect/client/subscription base). To that end, today’s task is how you and Partner X can work together to leverage the benefits you can work together to bring to each other (vs. the traditional ‘what can you give us/what can we give you’ mindset). A few thoughts on how to achieve this:

  • Get to know your partner: I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but these individuals and organizations are business partners who, in doing your research into appropriate partnerships, you have identified as potentially delivering value to your marketing efforts. So get to know them – talk to them, keep in regular contact. Learn their pain points and challenges; think of solutions that – through the partnership agreement – you can offer them. It’s a two-way street – use your side of the road to the best of your advantage.
  • Think outside the box: You should of course be keeping up on the latest trends and technologies to round out your campaigns. But what and how can you and a partner leverage together? Back before it became commonplace, one of the best partnerships I had developed involved the partner producing Webinars using our internal resource as the speaker – with the understanding that they would sell sponsorship and keep the revenue. They assumed the cost (and profit), we generated hundreds of leads which consistently led to high conversion rates. Joint efforts on Twitter, microsites, Facebook and LinkedIn groups should all be part of today’s discussion.
  • Explore all options: In today’s challenged economy, think beyond traditional organizations as possible partners – there are plenty of groups, consultants, and organizations that would have reach, affinity and access to an audience you are targeting. Explore them as possible partners – what capabilities do they have, and what value can you offer them in exchange … and what value can you develop together? Can they deliver content to the event - and can that be part of the value built into the partnership?

This is, of course, a lot of work - and there is a lot of knowledge, negotiating skills, and tenacity involved in getting it right. But plan ahead (rather than do the legwork as a 2nd tier/last ditch effort) and set expectations for a long-term relationship and you will arrive at developing – and maintaining – mutually beneficial relationships.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More on Culture - Controlling your Reality

To continue last week’s thought on culture in an events marketing organization, I’d like to delve into the culture and dynamics – and how to control them – on a marketing manager’s level. Ironically enough, a couple of days ago there was a question I answered on LinkedIn that was a perfect lead-in: a person querying as to the level of autonomy a marketing manager typically gets to produce their own work. The scenario was a common one – multiple rounds of edits, perceived lack of support and micromanagement from upper management, and, overall … frustration.

Last week I discussed ways to address these results from a top-down approach – for those on the front lines I’d suggest a few key behaviors and strategies to create a positive environment:

Know your content: Typically the marketing manager is not providing content – there are either internal or external (or a combination thereof) individuals responsible for that. But if you are marketing it, learn it to the best of your ability. Come to meetings prepared to discuss themes, issues, speakers and sessions with knowledge. This will absolutely increase your value to the project in the eyes of others. I’m not suggesting becoming a content guru – but get your hands around it.

Develop a timeline: You know your optimal drop dates. You know how long it takes things to get done. Work backward and develop your timeline – including respectful and ample time for individuals to review and comment. In that vein, do take the bull by the horns …

…Manage your process: Tableset expectations. Let people know when they can expect to review, when you need it back, and that once back in hand, you will circulate FYI copy.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Frankly one of the key skills I’ve had to polish over the years, but one of the most important. Outwardly communicate pertinent information about the campaign, trending, production process, etc. to the team on a regular basis. Communicate issues and concerns to your supervisor – they are there and paid to tackle larger issues; let them do their job.

In a nutshell, in the fast, multi-task pace of events marketing, it is your responsibility to gain respect of the team, which will benefit you both short and long-term. Gain respect through showing interest and knowledge, demonstrating process and management skills in the context of the campaign, and communicating both cross-functionally and vertically.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Corporate Culture: What’s in the Petri Dish?

The culture at any Events group is a unique dynamic. It’s working in an environment that is fast-paced, multi-task oriented, and requires different functionality to manage multiple products which are in various points in their lifecycle. A lifecycle which is particularly short – I’ve been in environments where they have been from three to eight months from inception through completion.

Given such a pace, I have not seen a lot of opportunity for introspection on how culture – from a top-down level or on a peer level – can and does impact the marketing function on a structural level. To that end some thoughts on organizational structure for marketing executives on various levels of the org chart.

First, senior management absolutely needs to be a strong advocate for the marketing function for the Events group to thrive. An event has several voices contributing to its success – from logistics to content to sales to marketing; senior marketing management needs to ensure their team is perceived as an equal player, not an internal service provider. A few quick questions to ask yourself:

Is your team provided the proper voice at the inception of event? Your team not only should have metrics regarding the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, channels, etc. – they should have – and should be encouraged to undertake gathering – information on facets such as marketplace trending, and verbatim testimonials. Information which should roll up into the earliest strategic planning meetings. If your team is getting a hand-off on a campaign after dates, themes, and settings have been determined – which I have seen in multiple settings – the timing is too late; you need to ensure their strategic and tactical knowledge is influential throughout.

• Does your team influence decisions impacting all facets of the attendee experience? Marketing is assigned with driving revenue through attendance and sponsorship – too often, without influencing experiential facets of attendees and sponsors. Note I say influence – obviously other groups can – and should – have control over these elements. But your team members should revue and comment on these elements to ensure brand communication (and communications in general) are consistent.

• Is your team engaged with the on-site experience? If not, they should be. I have been in environments where this is both encouraged and an afterthought. And where it is encouraged the results are invaluable and speak for themselves. The on site experience: having your team members talk to attendees, gaining testimonials, attending sessions, interacting with sponsors first provides you knowledge which is otherwise not easily gleaned through other sources, and secondly develops and hones key skills of your team members – enabling them to further learn subject matter, and to better interact and communicate.

I’ll jump into ideas for marketing managers themselves next time (I’ve promised myself not to go too long on these!) But the central message for senior management is simple: Be an advocate for your team – continually monitor to ensure they are being properly utilized to best benefit the events group as a whole.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One Man's Junk is Another Man's Treasure

One third of this blog’s followers to date (OK, one of three followers … we’re just getting off the ground) commented on the DMA’s Web Page regarding pending state-by-state Do Not Mail legislation – including recently introduced legislation in Connecticut, New Jersey and California .

The DMA is obviously fighting such legislation. And I’d suggest proactively keeping abreast of the situation in particular states, although it does appear bills highlighted address consumer mail vs b2b. Stay tuned...

However – let’s make this a call to action to be proactive and continue to strive to ensure offline communications is targeted, specific and relevant. As is the case with effective email communications, for example, now would be the time to explore internal methodologies for developing and maintaining offline opt-in lists. "Spray and pray" (a phrase I detest) is behind us; as much as we can move towards delivering messaging which is germane to the recipient (i.e. include relevant content or drive-to-Web for relevant content in print communications), the less we will be faced with the “junk mail” label.