The essential, strategic marketing approach to growing your B2B Events

As B2B leaders look to plug the revenue holes created during the global pandemic, growing a flagship event or brand is likely to be top of the list. The most forward- thinking B2B leaders have realised that growing their events is also strategically important when it comes to driving high-value memberships and monetising communities.

All too often when trying to grow a flagship event or brand, the temptation is to dive straight into the tactics. But as Sun Tzu, possibly one of the world’s greatest strategists, said “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

A well constructed strategy to grow your event requires an investment of focus, attention, time (and potentially money – if you’re bringing in outside help). However, spending a few weeks working with all the key stakeholders will be time well spent!

MPG has been delivering strong events revenue growth for our B2B events clients since 2014. During this time, Team MPG has fine-tuned the methodology for creating event marketing strategies that consistently deliver year-on-year revenue growth. Here we share with you the 7 steps Team MPG takes when creating a robust strategy to drive event revenue growth, and consistently deliver a strong marketing ROI.

7 steps to building a robust event growth marketing strategy

#1 Situational analysis

Conducting a situational analysis is an important first step in any strategy development. It will provide you with an overview of the ‘starting point’ for your brand and product, the capabilities that your organisation and team have which can impact growth potential, and the risks and opportunities faced. Having a strong understanding of these elements is essential in determining your future event growth strategy.

Key components to include in your situational analysis are:

  • Customer analysis: who your customers are (demographics, behaviours etc), and what their pain points, challenges and opportunities are. What tasks can they get done, or done better, by investing time, attention and/or money in your brand or product? You need a very strong understanding of your customers’ needs in order to create, deliver, and effectively communicate a value proposition that meets these needs.
  • Value proposition analysis: an evaluation of your product, or set of products & services within a brand, and the value it delivers to your customers, as well as how these meet your customers’ needs. Think ‘product-market fit’.
  • Competitor analysis: who they are and what competitive advantage do they have over you, or vice versa – Price? Value? Ease of use? Reputation? Share of market? Remember that events don’t just compete with other events – they also compete with any other offering that meets the same customer needs.
  • Environment analysis: look at external factors such as political, economic or technology trends and the impact they have on your business.
  • SWOT analysis: taking your environmental and competitor analysis into consideration, document the strengths and weaknesses within your team that will impact your success , as well as opportunities and threats that may affect your brand or product’s performance – in the short, medium, and long term.

 

#2 Commercial targets & pricing

  • Commercial targets: based on the year-on-year growth you are aiming for, and factoring in historical attendee numbers and revenues, fix your commercial targets for the next 3 years.
  • Pricing: product pricing will be influenced by a number of variables including the format(s) the event will be delivered in – virtual, hybrid, or in-person. Pricing will need to be modelled to ensure that your commercial targets can be met  – you’ll also  have to compare them to other competitive offerings to understand where you’re pitching based on alternatives.

 

#3 Value proposition and positioning

Events are now competing more than ever with alternative, online, free (or cheap) content and networking opportunities, so a clear USP (unique selling point) and a compelling set of benefits is essential for success.

With your competition in mind, you need to clearly articulate why your audience should be choosing your event over any alternative solutions. It’s also important to consider your own internal products that might be competing for the attention and/or spend from the same target audience.

 

#4 Target audience database

An essential aspect of growing your event will be to understand which market segments to focus on to deliver the desired growth. The best way to understand the composition of your end-user market is to create a market map and conduct a robust market sizing exercise.

Sizing your market and analysing this against your existing database will help you identify where your key gaps are when aiming to reach your target audience directly. You may need to budget for and prioritise a data acquisition project, focusing on top priority contacts that will deliver the fastest return on your investment. You also need to consider how inbound marketing activity will help you attract customers from key audience segments where you don’t currently have strong database coverage.

 

#5 Messaging & segmentation strategy

Using your key market segments defined in step 4, develop a messaging strategy for each of those segments. Key considerations for the messaging include:
Refining the USP, and making it clear in the high-level messaging.
Creating strong, benefit-led messages to clearly communicate the value someone will get if they choose to attend your event
Making benefits of attending specifically relevant to each audience segment

It’s important to ensure that the messaging is fully aligned across all channels throughout the marketing campaign.

In our recent MPG article, ‘Build a winning messaging strategy: a step-by-step guide’ we outlined the 5 steps you need to take to build well planned and executed marketing messaging.

 

#6 Marketing campaign planning & execution

Only at step 6 should you focus on the specific channels and tactics for delegate acquisition and conversion. The biggest mistake most event organisers make is making this their starting point, rather than first doing the essential groundwork in steps 1 – 5.

MPG’s methodology and best practice for attracting audiences to events is to optimise every stage of the ‘marketing funnel’:

  • Awareness: at the top of the funnel, focus on building brand awareness and interest via social media, PPC, content marketing and advocacy marketing – with the ultimate goal of driving relevant traffic to the website.
  • Engagement: the primary focus at the middle of the funnel is to use multi-channel marketing that turns aware/interested prospects into engaged leads.
  • Conversion: direct marketing channels come into play at the bottom of the funnel where you focus on converting leads and other engaged prospects into committed delegates, whether they pay to attend or not.

 

#7 Measurement & reporting

To be effective, marketing performance measurement and analysis must be a continuous process. This reporting not only provides stakeholders with vital ongoing visibility of marketing activity, performance and ROI, it also enables the marketing team to make responsive, agile, and data-led decisions.

In addition to tracking leads, revenue, bookings and audience breakdown, you’ll want to measure and analyse the performance of your digital marketing. If you don’t know where to begin, we published an article outlining the 15 metrics that really matter in digital marketing for B2B, which provide you with a strong base to work from.

MPG advises that for any of the metrics you measure, you use internal benchmarks based on relevant, historic performance, and where possible, additional relevant external benchmarks.

 


Do you need better marketing to unlock revenue growth in your business?

Team MPG works with a select group of companies as a key part of their marketing function, providing ongoing strategic insight and direction, as well as consistently strong execution.

If you would like to find out more about working with MPG, please get in touch.

Get in touch


I cannot recommend MPG highly enough. Their commitment and unique expertise in data-driven, digital and integrated marketing has been very valuable to Social Media Week. They’ve been instrumental in helping us build our brand and community online and offline, and their product marketing performance has also been very strong. We’re delighted MPG has been on our team!

Toby Daniels, Co-founder & CEO, Crowdcentric Media

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5 things your marketers must do now to prepare for your next in-person event

It appears in-person events are set to return to the UK this summer, with some other countries around the world already running live events again and others likely to start again before the end of 2021. For event marketers, the reopening presents quite a unique challenge. Pivoting to virtual felt like a roller-coaster ride, and there is no slowing down or getting off the ride as we pivot back to in-person events in a more digital world

Here are a five things event marketers should start working on now to ensure a successful in-person event marketing campaign and strong attendee list. These are vital for a physical event, but they also apply to hybrid and virtual events.


5 things your marketers must do to be ready for the return of in-person events

  1. Prepare your marketing database

    A successful event marketing campaign hinges on having a healthy, well-organised database. Take the time to map your market to understand your coverage and plug the gaps via content marketing, leveraging advocate networks and data research.

    Make sure forms on your website are optimised. Feed leads directly into your marketing automation tool and CRM to save time and reduce errors. Push website visitors to your forms via compelling calls-to-action and encouraging benefit-led copy.

    Database optimisation is not a quick process, so you will want to make this your first priority.

  2. Build a strong messaging strategy

    The first step in building a strong B2B event messaging strategy is understanding what need(s) you are addressing and problems you are solving for your audience. This should differ by audience segment, and generally you will get better results the more personalised your messaging is.

    Once you understand your USPs, you want to communicate them via simple but compelling benefit-led copy. Map this out – by audience segment – in a dedicated messaging strategy. Decide exactly how you want to describe your brand and event benefits, and use this document as a bible once you start actively creating campaign content like emails and website copy.

    Remember to include USP and benefit points around what makes your in-person event valuable and a ‘must attend’ – showcasing what they can get from being physically present at your event that they won’t get by consuming online content. Mostly, these benefits will focus on networking. You need to be very deliberate and explicit about these USPs and benefits in your marketing copy.

  3. Strengthen your visual branding

    Strong visual branding provides a boost to all your marketing efforts and provides a more consistent and engaging experience for your customers. If you don’t already have a ‘brand book’, now is the time to put one together. You should also prepare all the visual assets that you can ahead of time – social media image templates, stock image banks, graphics and visualisations etc.

    Preparing these assets before the event campaign starts will save you time and probably also money, and ensure you’re being consistent in your brand delivery.

  4. Review, streamline and optimise your marketing and sales processes

    Event campaigns are fast-paced and deadline-driven. Enable maximum efficiency from your marketing and sales teams by defining a lead generation, nurture and allocation process. Determine which leads will be prioritised for contact by sales (e.g. users who request event updates should be a higher priority than brochure downloads) and how leads will be nurtured by marketing activity.

    Consider implementing a project management tool – such as Clickup – to streamline the process of assigning tasks and managing team workload. These tools can be a gamechanger for team efficiency and accuracy in a hectic event marketing campaign.

  5. Plan performance measurement

    To know how effective your marketing efforts are, you need to be measuring and analysing the results. Digital marketing channels provide a plethora of data, so filter out the noise and find the metrics that matter most to your objectives. Click-through-rate, conversion rate and return on investment are three common metrics that apply across channels.

    Here are the 15 metrics that really matter in your digital marketing efforts.

    Use a tool like Google Data Studio to collate and visualise your performance data into an easy-to-understand and automatically updated report. These reports are not quick to set up, so starting early will ensure everything’s in place before the first campaign email is sent.


Need an extra pair of hands on your 2021 event marketing strategy?

At the forefront of delivering best practice B2B event marketing, MPG has unlocked the formula to effective event marketing – proven from years of marketing events of all shapes and sizes.

Get in touch today to see how we can help you achieve strong event revenue growth


Upskill your marketing team with MPG Academy

Offering training on marketing for events and communities – MPG Academy will help you improve the performance of your marketing function. Delivered by our expert practitioners, we provide digitally delivered, interactive masterclasses:

Want something bespoke? We can create a training programme for your team that is specific to your needs – in a format that suits you best.
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Working closely with our internal team, MPG developed a strong marketing strategy focused on achieving revenue growth for a key product in our portfolio – including recommendations for a virtual offering. We were impressed by the science and rigour they put into the process. I would recommend MPG as a good strategic marketing partner for a B2B brand.

Anna Knight, VP Licensing, INFORMA MARKETS

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MPG’s advice and predictions: 2021 – the year of Hybrid Communities

We’re starting to get a better view of what 2021 will look like for the world of B2B media, events and professional associations.

Many organisations drafting their plans for next year are considering whether to run hybrid events – essentially virtual events with a limited in-person element, as a further bridge back to the physical events. Others are considering launching a paid-for subscriptions model, having successfully engaged their audiences in a digital world via virtual events. Some are even planning for a ‘full return’ to in-person in late 2021.

Take caution in this product-centric approach. We’ve become so enamoured by the exciting challenges and new technologies that have arisen over the past 6 months – as well as for many a deep-rooted desire to return to our familiar old formats – that we risk losing track of what really matters…our communities!


Taking a step back

Any marketer worth their salt will understand the crucial importance of putting your audience first. It’s foundational to marketing itself.

Right now we need to be taking a step back and considering what our communities really need from us. How can we help them solve their most pressing problems and take advantage of their greatest opportunities?

We discover and understand this by really listening to them.

Hybrid communities

Your community is everyone that your brand aims to serve. From the ‘buy-side’ – those that come together to share best practice, discuss common problems and make connections – to the ‘sell-side’ – the businesses that want to reach the buy side with their products and services. There is a great deal of value for all parties by bringing this community together – as long as it is done in the right way.

And looking at just ‘buy-side’ vs ‘sell-side’ is quite a simplistic definition. In reality, the lines between the two parties are much more blurred. Most communities act more like ecosystems – a collection of people who rely on one another to do their jobs and grow their brands. It’s not just products and services that are exchanged – but also vital information, unique and timely insight and valuable human connections. The most successful community hosts are those that recognise this transcendence from a series of business transactions to a complex ecosystem.

This is not the only way your communities are hybrid. Over the past 20 years – and accelerating rapidly in 2020 – the way that communities interact is increasingly fragmented. In-person events, digital events, content, social media, email, calls, messaging – there are so many different ways that professionals can connect, share information and do business.

As the community host, it’s your job to figure out how best to serve your community so that members are connected with the right people, at the right time and in the right format.

Serving hybrid communities

The best way to serve your hybrid community will depend on your unique ecosystem.

To better understand yours, ask yourself:

  1. Who is in our community and how do the key relationships within them work?
  2. Who needs who – how, when and why?
  3. What are the range of problems we need to help different groups in our community solve?

When asking these questions, take a platform-agnostic approach. Avoid framing these questions as ‘how much more will sponsors pay to sponsor hybrid events compared to fully virtual events?’ or ‘how much more can I start charging for subscriptions now that my events revenue has dropped?’.

Your role is to bring your community together 365 days a year in the ways that suit them, not figure out how to sell an event or subscriptions product to them.

Once you have figured out the composition and needs of your community, then start considering which products and services will aid them best.

For some communities (or some parts of a community), large annual events are essential, serving as the best way to interact with peers and suppliers, learn about important industry trends and make valuable connections in a condensed and focused time period. People in these communities, or sub-communities, will clear their diaries for your event and attend year after year.

For others, constant access to searchable digitally delivered content and shorter, highly focused virtual events are all they need, with events simply serving as a chance to catch up with peers and stay abreast of potential industry changes. For this group, having constant access to essential information is their priority.

Most communities are hybrid, demanding opportunities to interact in-person (when possible again!) while also seeking ways to gain valuable content and connections year-round. Hybrid communities are ‘always on’ in a virtual space – 365 days of the year. And they usually also love to get together in the real world and develop genuine, rewarding business relationships with their fellow community members.

Engage. Monetise. Scale.

Once your hybrid community and their hybrid needs are understood, and once the right products have been created to serve these communities – we move in the very exciting and rewarding phase of engaging, monetising and scaling these communities. A smart investment in the right kind of marketing and sales is essential to enable this.

Take a look at MPG’s Engage, Monetise, Scale’ framework where we share our strategic approach to community marketing.

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The Marketing Mix | Summer Newsletter

Newsletter • Summer 2020

Virtual Event Marketing • Website Optimisation Guide • Marketing Training

The pace is intense.

In our last newsletter we shared the story of MPG’s work with Social Media Week – a remarkable eight week pivot to create and successfully deliver #SMWONE. The pioneering spirit and ability to think fast, act fast and deliver a great, innovative virtual event experience inspired many. We thank Toby Daniels and Brian Leddy for their vision and leadership in a very challenging time.

Since #SMWONE’s successful delivery, the MPG team of marketing strategists, martech specialists, data specialists and digital marketers have been working with Toby and Brian on the launch of their new SMW+ live and on-demand streaming service. This rapid product and marketing strategy development to deliver a digital subscriptions service for SMW’s community has once again been an exciting and inspiring journey. And the important work of strong execution and ongoing improvements to the approach for ongoing improvements to outcomes is only just beginning!

More MPG clients and community members have been moving rapidly through ‘test and learn’ cycles. The analytics and data collected over the past months on how professionals are engaging with digital offerings – and the marketing of these – has surfaced some interesting benchmarks. We shared some of our key learnings in our latest webinar.

MPG’s Summer newsletter focuses on four important areas that present great opportunity for every organisation focused on growing, engaging and monetizing their communities:

  1. Attracting new sponsors for digital content packages, including virtual events
  2. Attracting a great, engaged audience to your virtual events
  3. Ensuring you have the best combination of ‘must have’ marketing knowledge and skills to successfully take to market your digital events, subscriptions and memberships
  4. Optimising your website to do a great job at engaging and serving your community, while also delivering conversions to customers and revenue

So, take a break from your desk, step out into the August sunshine – and have a good read!

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INSIGHTS

Helen Coetzee | 16/07/2020

How to use marketing to get new sponsors for your digital events

Growing digital revenue by sourcing new sponsors is a great opportunity for many organisations. Marketing has a key role to play here in generating marketing qualified leads for your sponsorship team. Our recent blog gives you a step-by-step approach to acquiring new sponsors via marketing. Read more here >

Helen Coetzee | 19/06/2020

Creating a robust, sustainable marketing function: a strategic, hybrid approach

In these financially stressed times, the question should not be ‘should we use internal or outsourced marketing’, but rather ‘what does the most effective and cost-efficient marketing function look like for us?’. Read more here >

READ MORE INSIGHTS


VIRTUAL B2B EVENTS WEBINAR

Marketing Virtual B2B Events: 9 Key Success Factors

Marketing Virtual B2B Events: 9 Key Success Factors

In our latest webinar, which took place on Thursday 6th August, MPG’s Founder & CEO, Helen Coetzee, uncovered the ‘secrets of success’ in developing the right marketing approach to attract the audience of the size and profile you need to your virtual B2B events.

You can now download the comprehensive content package including:

  • Presentation slides – including additional detail on 9 success factors
  • Full webinar video replay
  • All Q&A responses
  • All poll results

ACCESS CONTENT PACKAGE

 


SPOTLIGHT

How to optimise your website

How to optimise your website

Your website has always been your most important marketing channel. As the end destination that all other marketing activity pushes to, the hub for your content and the place where your target audience converts to leads or registrants; getting your website right can mean the difference between success and failure.

But how can you improve your website, generate more traffic and, most importantly, get more leads and revenue?

  1. Know your user: As with all marketing, the key to success is understanding your audience. Put yourself in the shoes of a new visitor to your website. Does the site load quickly and look professional at first impression? Is it immediately clear who you are and what you do? Are there obvious and compelling CTAs that will pull them further into the site? A user will be considering all these points within seconds of landing, and if they encounter any friction with their journey they may leave, so first impressions really matter.
  2. Create great website content: Once you’ve hooked them, it’s time for your website content to do the heavy lifting. Write copy that communicates the value of your product, focusing on benefit-led copy. How does your offering address a particular challenge your target audience faces? Avoid focusing too much on the ‘what’ and instead focus on the ‘why’.
  3. Understand the rules of design: Design is crucial, and not just because it makes your website look attractive; it’s fundamental to the quality of the user experience. Avoid overly-cluttered pages. Use size, position and colours to emphasise important elements and create a structure. Visitors won’t read line-by-line, they’ll skim read to the parts they’re interested in. Keep it simple!
  4. Create a seamless journey: Effective navigation is what ties it all together. You are taking your visitors on a journey, so make sure you never leave them at a dead end. Link content together naturally, provide CTAs to related pages and push them to a lead gen form or booking page when you think they may convert. Users visit your website to achieve a goal, whether that’s to find out more information, submit an enquiry or make a purchase – make it easy for them to move through your content and present them with things they can’t help but click. The smoother the experience, the more conversions you’ll get.

These are just some of the points you should have in mind when upgrading an existing website or creating a new one.

The MPG team has been designing and building high impact websites for 6+ years. To find out how we can build a great website for you, get in touch.

MPG Newsletter Summer 2020
MPG Newsletter Summer 2020


VOICES

“MPG delivered a great series of tailored marketing workshops for the team at China-Britain Business Council. This training helped us formulate our membership growth strategy and gave us some very useful, practical guidance on improving our digital marketing and sales tactics.”

Claire Urry, Executive Director, China-Britain Business Council

CBBC


The world is presenting every organisation with significant challenges and great opportunities in our quest to innovate and transform to become more resilient and sustainable. The global economy is relying on each of us playing our part. As dramatic as that may sound – it’s true!

The MPG team is grateful to be working with the fantastic people that make up our community. We sincerely hope to help you find the best way to push forward – with strength and confidence!

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Standing out from the virtual conference crowd: MPG’s top 10 tips

In every industry, the second half of 2020 is going to be packed with virtual conferences. With all the postponed events from H1 now crammed into H2, along with most of the events that usually happen in H2 still planning to go ahead, we’re entering a unique six months of an over-abundance of virtual events – at a time when the world is coming out of lockdown and people won’t be spending as much time staring at screens as they have been over the past few months.

So, how will you ensure your conference stands out from the crowd of digital events and keeps your audience glued to their screens? The most engaging events will be those with the most relevance – in content, speakers and attendees. Having decent tech that works should be a given. Tech is not your point of differentiation.

The winning virtual events will be those with:

  1. The most relevant product
  2. The most relevant marketing

Product and marketing usually go hand in hand, and as we enter the virtual events world, the two will become more blended. Where virtual events are free (or very cheap) to attend, your digital event is essentially a substantial content marketing initiative. As has always been the case with content marketing, attention and engagement relies on relevance. The more relevant your content and marketing is to your target attendees, the more likely you are to get, and keep, their attention. And if you have the audience’s attention, you have the sponsorship dollars (and hopefully also some delegate revenue!).

To stand out from the crowd, here is what you need to do:

#1 Know what is keeping your audience awake at night right now

Put together event sessions and marketing messaging that specifically address the issues that are most important and relevant to your audience at the moment. Not only will your registrants turn up to your digital event if it’s highly relevant, they’ll also share your content and marketing with their colleagues and network.


#2 Get a speaker line-up your audience really wants to hear from at this moment in time

The people who have the most relevant and important things to say about the current situation faced by your audience will be your ‘must-have’ speakers. Pay them if you have to – at least you won’t need to also cover flights & hotel costs! For virtual events, having fewer, highly relevant speakers is better than having lots of mediocre speakers. In fact, don’t have any mediocre speakers – only invite the very best and most relevant onto your digital stage.


#3 Create a good customer journey

Your customers need to move seamlessly from landing on your event website, registering for the event, receiving registration confirmation, being updated/reminded of the event, attending the event and then receiving the post-event comms. So, once you have chosen your event product tech, make sure it integrates well with your marketing tech. At every touchpoint, make sure your brand identity is strong, consistent and feels relevant to your audience.


#4 Invest in developing a robust, content-led marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is not only about how many emails you send out or whether or not you use PPC. It’s about so much more than that. It should focus first and foremost on the following two things:

  1. A detailed market map and market segmentation plan: ensure you reach the most relevant audience in large enough numbers, with the most relevant messages
  2. Strong messaging strategy: focused on relevant USPs and benefits addressing your target persona’s needs and motivations at this time

It is essential to nail down these two strategic priorities to make your marketing relevant.


#5 Deploy an integrated, multichannel campaign – focusing on the most relevant channels

A businessperson – regardless of industry – probably spends most of their time hanging out in three places: their email inbox, on LinkedIn and on websites (found via Google). So, when you’re trying to get the attention and build ongoing engagement with your audience, focus on these relevant channels – ensuring all the words & images you put out there (your marcomms) are relevant, consistent and reinforce one another.


#6 Have a great project manager on your event team to make sure things get done

When running a virtual event, you will have many plates spinning and a very long list of tasks that need to be completed in a highly co-ordinated way – at speed. It’s great if your team is using good project management software, but it is even more important to have a person responsible for ensuring the right things get done at the right time. The most relevant content and marketing will fall flat if your execution is not synced. Project management software is not accountable to anyone. Put an actual person in place who is.


#7 Measure all your marketing and make data-led decisions

As you move through your event cycle, measure the impact of all your marketing across all channels. Do this in a granular way and make sure you pull out the most important, relevant insights on at least a weekly basis to inform your marketing going forward. The beauty of digital is all the wonderful data it gives us on audience behaviour and engagement. If you’re ignoring this data, you’re ignoring your customers.


#8 Make sure your marketing database is well structured and includes enough relevant contacts

You cannot reach out directly to the right people with your relevant content and messages if they’re not on your database. And you won’t be able to find them in your database or pull them into a targeted email list if they’re not correctly categorised. The competition you will face in the coming months from other virtual events will be very intense. Having a strong, well-structured database so that you can run effective, targeted email campaigns will give you the edge.


#9 Automate as much of your marketing as possible

Virtual event marketing campaigns work best with a shorter lead time than what we typically would plan for face-to-face events. This means you need to push out your marketing messages in a shorter space of time at a faster pace, and this needs to be highly responsive – so automation is essential. If your marketing is all manual, it will feel clunky and less relevant to your audience and will put a huge amount of strain on your team.


#10 Follow through with strong conversion-focused marketing

Don’t stop your marcomms to an individual once they have registered for your virtual event. Make sure that once they’ve registered they continue on an engagement journey with you – remind them regularly of the value and relevance of your event content and speakers, update them on any valuable new features, such as new networking opportunities, and encourage them to log on at the right moment to participate in your virtual sessions. It is in the last few days and hours before an event when automated marketing really comes into its own.


Nobody said creating a great virtual conference and marketing this effectively would be easy. If it was easy, you’d have started running virtual conferences years ago!

We know that conference organisers, sponsors and attendees are pining for ‘the good old days’ of simple, face-to-face events. But these are not coming back. For the rest of 2020, the world will have an abundance of virtual events to choose to attend and sponsor. Beyond 2020, the standard format will be hybrid events – taking ‘the best of virtual’ and combing this with the ‘best of face-to-face’ to create some very valuable experiences for our customers.

So, at this moment in time, you now have a choice: either embrace the challenge and aim to make your virtual event’s content, speakers and marketing more relevant and valuable than your competitors, or don’t – and get lost in all the noise – in 2020 and beyond.

For further insight on virtual events and advice on how to maneuver the ‘pivot’ from live to digital, read about our webinar case study looking at world-leading B2B events brand, #SMWONE.

Topics:

How do you get registrants to turn up to your virtual event?

For all the opportunities virtual events offer, one of the biggest challenges vs an in-person event is ensuring registrants follow through to becoming engaged attendees.

This is where conversion marketing, the practice of converting registered delegates (especially those who registered for free) into attendees via targeted comms, plays such an important role.

Achieving a strong conversion rate is essential. Just like in the real world, events live or die on their attendance rate. Too low and sponsors and exhibitors become frustrated at lack of lead opportunities; speakers will in future seek larger audiences elsewhere; and delegates will tune out as they’ll think their peers don’t value the event enough to attend, and will also recognize that without their peers, attending the event loses its value around opportunities for discussion/Q&A and networking.

An inherent benefit of in-person events is that their very nature encourages participation. Attendees often need to make prior travel and accommodation commitments that further tie them to attending, they clear their calendars and shift deadlines to commit to attendance and often also schedule face-to-face meetings with current and potential clients and partners.

The virtual world requires far less commitment. Attendees can be very focused on something else up to 5 minutes before the ‘doors’ open; with notifications, emails, to-do lists and their immediate surroundings fighting for their attention.

We’ve been working hard at MPG on our clients’ conversion campaigns – i.e. the very important marketing you need to do leading up to the event and during a multi-session event – to get attendees to turn up, get fully engaged and stay engaged. And we’re very pleased to be able to share some of these learnings with you now.


Six essential ingredients for a high performance conversion campaign

#1 Evaluate your audience’s needs and consider your event format

Every event and event audience is different.

If your event takes places over several days or even weeks, you will need to construct a plan that keeps delegates engaged throughout. Do not think that just because they attended the first few sessions that they will stick around.

If your audience demographic means they’re less keen on or comfortable with the digital event format, you will need to carefully construct comms that educate them on the benefits and process of attending to make them feel more confident they’ll have a good experience engaging with your virtual event.

If you’re offering free tickets, your conversion campaign is even more vital. These delegates may think they will lose nothing by not attending, so you need to convince them the event will deliver value in return for time and attention.


#2 Start early

Your conversion efforts should start as soon as your first registration comes in. While it can be tempting to focus email, social and other comms on getting people to book, neglecting the people who have already registered will probably mean you lose them.

Consider also how you can leverage conversion marketing to generate additional registrations – encouraging registrants to share information about your event with their network not only increases your reach, but people are more likely to attend if they can see the event is being supported by someone in their peer network.


#3 Get to grips with and leverage the capabilities of your virtual event system (+ the rest of your tech stack)

Many virtual event platforms have features baked in that can support your conversion efforts.

For example, Bizzabo features both push notifications and session summary emails, which can be sent to registrants a set time before a session to remind them to attend.

When marketing teams are likely already strained with running an effective acquisition campaign, these automations can save precious resources. Often they come pre-set with useful integrations like ‘Add to calendar’ links too!

Other elements of your tech stack are also important. For example, email providers like Mailchimp offer easy segmentation of data and PPC platforms like Google Ads let you build intelligent multi-touch campaigns based on past behaviour.


#4 Build a dedicated conversion marketing communications plan

Once you understand your audience, the implications of your event format and the capabilities of your digital platforms, it’s time to formulate a detailed and robust plan to execute the required marketing.

Map out what your registered delegates will be receiving and when; including emails, targeted PPC campaigns and automated messages and notifications. Consider all touch points, e.g. do they need an automated message that reminds them to save sessions to their agenda? And what social media announcements are needed just before the event to create a sufficient buzz and fear of missing out?

Email is your most important channel here, mostly focused on targeted, automated campaigns. Social media is also important and can be used to create discussion between delegates about what they’re looking forward to. PPC also has a part to play in creating highly targeted ‘micro touchpoints’. Think about how you can use chat platforms (like Slack) to provide a space for delegates to interact both in group and private channels.


#5 Ensure you have the right skills and resources in place

A vital piece of the puzzle is ensuring you’ve got enough knowledgeable people to plan and execute your conversion comms well. Ensuring your plan is achievable from a workload perspective – when you also need to put a huge marketing effort into generating registrants in the first place – could mean the difference between success and failure. If the volume is not feasible:

  1. Identify what can be automated or pre-scheduled to avoid crunch periods.
  2. Remove less critical elements to lighten the load.
  3. Consider engaging additional support to add some much needed marketing muscle.

#6 Track results and adapt

Measuring ROI on conversion campaigns is a bit trickier than measuring the performance of acquiring registrants. While data on the channels that influenced a sale should be quite easy to access and analyse, understanding how effective your conversion marketing is in getting someone to sign in on the day is less straightforward.

Generally, there is a direct correlation between how a person engages with conversion marketing and how likely they are to turn up – so make sure you measure this and analyse after your virtual event what behaviors lead to the best outcomes, so that you can predict for future events what is most likely to be effective and what results are likely to come through in terms of event attendance.

Getting in people’s diaries/calendars is a simple and highly effective way of encouraging attendance. Not only will it prevent them making other commitments, but most calendar apps will do a lot of the work for you – providing automated reminders of the upcoming event.

The usual suspects of reporting (interaction rates, open rates) are still useful indicators of performance, and tracking clicks on important CTAs like ‘Add to Calendar’ can help you understand how effective your comms are in achieving your objectives.

When you know your most effective channels and techniques, focus your efforts (and money) on them. Don’t be afraid to cut a channel if its performance isn’t up to scratch.

The data you gather from your first conversion campaign will also contain vital lessons for your next one, so spend time examining the data to understand what was effective.


The key to success in conversion marketing is to apply the main principles of successful B2B community marketing in the current age:

  • Be community-focused and ensure your creative approaches to messaging and visual branding hit the mark.
  • Automate as much as you can to enhance the customer experience and achieve scale and essential efficiencies.
  • Measure all you do and makes sure your decisions are data-led.

Get converting!

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