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!