5 Strategic investments being made in B2B marketing in 2021

Team MPG has unique insight into how leadership teams are choosing to invest in marketing at any point in time.

Right now, we can see first-hand how the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed marketing to the forefront of the ‘bounce back’ strategies for B2B brands, and how transformation of marketing in organisations of all sizes has been accelerated.

This article covers 5 areas of marketing where we’re seeing the greatest focus and investment at this time.

 


The state of B2B marketing in May 2021

As parts of the world start emerging from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, senior executives  are seeing that making strategic investments in marketing now is essential – not only to recover lost revenues, but (more importantly), to take advantage of the new opportunities our ‘new world’ presents.

Organisations focused on serving and monetising professional communities have a particular set of opportunities to go after: building strong, engaged communities online and offline; growing high quality, engaged, paying subscriptions & memberships; and delivering a strong portfolio of events year round in digital, in-person and hybrid formats. Marketing budgets that were previously being locked down are now being released, but with this spend being focused in areas previously ignored or under-valued.

The work Team MPG does with a range of organisations globally (B2B media, B2B events & professional associations), and the ongoing conversations we have with the community, gives us a strong viewpoint on where B2B leaders are placing their marketing bets.

Here are five investment areas that have dominated these conversations:

Investment #1: Marketing strategy development

In the pre-pandemic times, many marketing functions mostly (or only) delivered tactical marketing. The job of marketing was to just ‘get campaigns out’ – at speed and scale.

But the events of the past 14 months have forced senior executives to carefully evaluate the role of marketing in their organisations. At the start of the pandemic, those who believed their marketing had mostly tactical value swiftly cut their marketing budgets when faced with a prolonged period of risk and uncertainty.

As the pandemic fog lifts, it seems there are two types of organisations that are emerging well:

  1. Those that put their marketing function at the heart of their pivot – leveraging the digital expertise marketers have to create and execute their strategies to survive & thrive. These organisations understood that marketing is all about putting the customers’ needs and pain points first, which has been a common trait for organisations coming out of the pandemic in good shape.
  2. Those that realised after a few months of trying to work out what to do next, that a strategic marketing approach is critical for future-proofing their organisations. These organisations have started the process of rebuilding their marketing functions in a deliberate, thoughtful and sustainable way.

I urge you to reflect on your own organisation. Are you one of the above types of organisations? Or do you still see marketing as a cost to be reduced, rather than an investment to be managed and optimised?

If you’re aiming to be more strategic in your marketing approach, here are a few points for you to ponder:

  • The bedrock of every successful marketing strategy is understanding the composition of your market, or your community. This all begins with a robust and up to date market map.
  • Community marketing is coming to the fore. It is important to understand what this means for your organisation. The recent MPG Insights blog on how B2B communities work and our webinar exploring community marketing strategies and MPG’s community marketing model have been some of our most read and watched to date.
  • Once the market or community you are serving has been properly analysed, you need to find a way to cut through the noise in a very competitive space to grab and keep attention (i.e. get good engagement!). This requires a strong messaging strategy.
  • Having the right combination of strong marketing skills in your team is essential. Marketing is complex and the skills you need are varied – from very analytical and technical, to those strong in creative and communications. These are very rarely found in one person. Here are a couple of relevant MPG Insights blog articles:

Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you develop a future-proof marketing strategy.

Investment #2: Marketing technology stack optimisation 

The reality is that many organisations have martech challenges – usually including one or more of the following: the wrong tech tools; martech not implemented well in terms of system set up or new process adoption, and now needing remedial action; missing or misfiring integrations and data flows; or key pieces of tech missing altogether. Any one of these issues will mean what should be automated is painfully and expensively manual and slow.

A key opportunity cost of not having a fit-for-purpose martech stack is a poor customer experience – which is something no organisation can afford in what is becoming a very competitive digital world with lower barriers to entry and fewer ways to differentiate.

So, smart business leaders have spent much of the lockdown getting their martech stack in order. Rather than slashing marketing spend altogether, they spotted a gap to make strategic, impactful investments in getting their martech stack working well to monetise and scale their audiences and offerings in a more digital world.

And they have also recognised this is not a ‘one off’ exercise. Martech stacks need ongoing maintenance and regular tweaks and upgrades as new tech emerges and their businesses grow.

Good things will come to those who have fully embraced martech and invested well, and continue to invest well, in this area. Well done if that’s you.

Get in touch to find out how MPG can help you get, and keep, your martech stack in good order

 

Investment #3: Stronger marketing databases

Marketing databases are often neglected for three reasons:

  1. They’re not well understood
  2. They’re hard to manage well
  3. They’re not as exciting and visible as the creative parts of marketing

But, having a strong marketing database that is always growing, and is well maintained, is essential to B2B marketing success. The best creative comms in the world won’t work if you’re not getting them in front of the right people – and this is where your database comes in.

We’ve seen a definite trend in senior leaders suddenly paying attention to their marketing databases. They have recognised that being more digital requires good database management. 

Marketing automation, which is critical for effective monetisation and scale, just isn’t possible if your marketing database is not well set up and well managed on an ongoing basis. This was particularly important for virtual and hybrid events, where a much larger pool of potential customers and marketing automation is needed to achieve good attendance rates.

It is therefore no surprise that many of my recent conversations with CEOs have been about how best to invest in their databases, and MPG’s database and marketing automation experts have been in high demand.

What is also clear is that organisations of all sizes have similar needs and require a similar approach when it comes to setting up, growing and maintaining their databases. Over the past 12 months, MPG has worked with very large and very small organisations (and all sizes in-between) to successfully implement the tried & tested database development methodology we’ve used since we launched MPG in 2014. Even back then it was GDPR-proof!

We’re hoping to release an ‘explainer video’ soon about MPG’s database development methodology. So, make sure you subscribe for MPG Insights emails to be notified when this resource is available!

Get in touch if you’d like to have a chat with MPG about your database.  We love all things data!!

 

Investment #4: High performance websites optimised for search engines and conversions

Large parts of our lives have been lived online over the past 14 months. And a legacy of the pandemic is that most of us are likely to stay more ‘digitised’ in behaviours and preferences.

Having a marketing website that is substandard in any way is therefore no longer an option. Your customers will judge you on how your marketing website looks and works – fact!

Your brand, messaging, content, lead generation mechanisms and, in many cases, sales – are now hosted mostly on your website. And all your other marketing channels drive traffic to your site. So, if your website is not optimised for search engines and conversions – on an ongoing basis – then you have a big problem.

What has been interesting about conversations I have had with CEOs about their websites in recent months, is that they now understand how important it is to plan, build and optimise a website with a strategic marketing mindset. Before the pandemic, websites were often largely left to the tech team, with tech people making key decisions about how a website should look and work.

Let’s hope the change to treating websites as the most important digital marketing channel is one that sticks!

MPG can help you optimise your existing website, or build a new one that works really well, to drive high performance marketing. Get in touch to find out how.

 

Investment #5: Pay-per-click (PPC) via Google and social channels

PPC is a category of marketing tactics where MPG has seen definite increased investment. To fund this investment increase, it seems marketing spend is shifting from direct mail, and in some cases ‘cold calling’ sales – to Google Ads and paid advertising on social media.

However, this seems to be poorly served by dedicated PPC agencies at present as marketers are switching regularly from one agency to another, and in many cases pulling PPC in-house.

I believe the reason PPC is not working as it should – even with more investment – is that too much attention and money is going into clicks spend, rather than strategy and planning.

Once again, as per Investment #1 in this newsletter, you need a strong marketing strategy to make your PPC work well. PPC needs to be well integrated with all other channels and it needs to be carefully measured, and performance analysed in the context of the full marketing mix. This is where most PPC agencies go wrong:  they just focus on tactics and clicks spend, rather than delivering PPC services that are an integrated part of a robust marketing strategy.

My advice: don’t spend a penny or a cent on clicks if you have not yet invested in an overall marketing strategy, followed by an aligned, robust PPC strategy. Otherwise you’re just making Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn even richer – without anything to show for it. Short term, this will be an irritating waste of money. Long term, this is a massive missed opportunity.

Don’t get fixated on ‘in-house versus agency’, and don’t get bamboozled by very slick PPC agency sales people. Focus on making sure your marketers:

  • Understand where PPC strategically fits in your marketing mix
  • Set clear PPC objectives
  • Have the tracking and analysis tools in place to measure PPC ROI

…and only then look for good digital marketers to set up and manage your campaigns – whether in-house or outsourced.

If your organisation runs virtual events, we recently published a step by step guide to PPC for B2B virtual events, so make sure to have a read of that!

Get in touch to find out how MPG’s digital marketers can give your PPC a boost!


And that’s a wrap – five important areas for investment that just 14 months ago were not getting anywhere near enough attention from most B2B organisations.

And as a final note: thank you so much for being part of MPG’s community!

If you would like to be even more involved by speaking at our webinars or being a guest blogger, we’d love to hear from you on info@mpg.biz

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Engaging, monetising and scaling B2B communities: how the experts do it

Author: Helen Coetzee – 29/10/2020

‘B2B communities’ is a topic that has gained serious momentum over the past few months. As uncertainty remains over the continued impact of Covid, businesses are looking to pivot to a business model that will deliver security and growth in the short and long term.

This mirrors the sentiment the very communities these businesses seek to engage and build. Tremendous change is happening in all industries, and the sharing of information and connections within ‘business ecosystems’ is now more vital than ever.

In a recent webinar, we invited three B2B community builders to discuss how they have built and engaged their communities over the past 6 months, and how they plan to proceed in this vein.

Discussion ranged from the characteristics and ideal size and structure of a meaningful B2B community, to practical methods of monetising a community.

You can access all the webinar insights, including the video replay, as well as attendee poll results and Q&A, produced by MPG and the panel.

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Our panel had some firm views on what a community is, what a community isn’t and how to approach building meaningful communities going forward. Here we’ve pulled out 12 of the most interesting quotes from the session:

“Controversially, I would say that an event isn’t a community. Or at least it isn’t ‘community’. It’s just one expression of the community. In the same way, if you have a local village community, the village fete isn’t the community – it’s just one manifestation of it.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Communities tend to have quite a clear sense of self, a bit like a strong brand or a strong culture which are quite hard to define or pin down. But you feel it.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Waiting for an (in person) event to happen wouldn’t be a great idea right now because our industry is moving so fast. We’re serving our community at the moment by streamlining the process of sharing information and reducing the barriers to communication”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“If you haven’t been engaging with your community in this (in-person events) ‘downtime’, you’re going to struggle longer term because you need to remain relevant. You need to remain something that your customers want to go to, regardless of whether physical events are happening or not.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“At the start, we spent a lot of time just listening and talking to the strongest advocates within the industry itself that had already acknowledged themselves as community leaders. We went through all of the data and all of the knowledge that we could gain about that community to figure out our role within it and the new products and other things we could do to bring the community together.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“Professor Robin Dunbar, who’s on our advisory board, is famous for the Dunbar number – which is one hundred and fifty. This is basically the maximum number of people we can really know. When we’re in some communities of many hundreds or thousands, the reality is we don’t really know them. It’s just beyond our brains as humans.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“Events businesses are really great at that amazing physical in-person experience, but now they’ve had to very quickly get used to digital delivery and all the new skills involved.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“At the heart of community is conversations and relationships, not content. Sometimes businesses think they can just set up a community, produce loads of content and pump it at people to succeed. But then it’s just a barrage of content that most of us don’t really need.”

Ashley Friedlein – CEO & Founder, Guild

 

“A lot of people rightly think ‘how do we make sure we still keep the core principles of our business?’
Don’t lose sight of that, because that’s what keeps the lights on while you’re exploring new ways of structuring your business model around communities. You could also risk losing the trust of that community if you do it wrong or maybe even try to monetise too quickly or in the wrong way.”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“In the next six months we’ll focus on engaging with our community to understand what content they want to see more of, what pain points and challenges they face and what they can do to support them.”

Adam Parry – Founder & Director, Event Tech Live & Editor, Event Industry News

 

“My plan is to think about what the next three years might look like. My strategy is to assume that live events don’t come back. Of course they will, but it’s useful to think about what we’d do without live events. How would I serve this community? What would I do differently? How would I bring them together 365? What do I need to put in place in order to make that happen?”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

“We did something that was really appreciated; we were the first movers to actually get something out and bring them together. But we also really understood how they wanted to be brought together.”

Anna Knight – VP Licensing, Informa Markets

 

HEAR WHAT ELSE WAS SHARED


Thank you to everyone that joined us live for this session. We have plenty more webinars and written resources in the pipeline, so make sure you’re subscribed to MPG Insights so you don’t miss out.

Want to learn more about building a B2B community?

Send your team to our Engage. Monetise. Scale. Masterclass – an MPG Academy Masterclass designed to help you define your community and build a strategy for continued engagement and monetisation.

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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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10 tips for growing revenue from sponsors and clients

Digitised events are here to stay. For all the challenges this year has brought event organisers, virtual events do provide some unique opportunities in terms of sponsorship revenue generation in the coming months. Sponsorships that are overall lower in cost for sponsors, coupled with global audiences, have expanded many events’ potential sponsor pools significantly. The challenge now is working out how best to capitalise on this opportunity to achieve strong event sponsorship revenues going forward.

In our recent webinar, Marketing to Grow Revenue from Sponsors and Clients: MPG’s Top 10 Tips, I outlined the 10 simple marketing moves event organisers should make to maximise the generation, nurturing and conversion of sponsorship leads.

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Here is a summary of the top 10 tips shared, to hear and read more – including attendee poll responses and our Q&A answers – access the full content package.

Tip 1 – Know your market of potential sponsors

Analyse your target market of potential sponsors. As we enter a season of digital events, re-consider who that market is. The potential pool of sponsors may now be more global and may contain a larger pool of smaller companies.

Tip 2 – Set KPIs for lead generation, conversion rate and value of conversions

You need to know what you’re aiming to achieve. Create specific and measurable indicators of success, such as a number of sponsor leads generated or the average yield from converted leads.

Tip 3 – Measure and analyse results regularly to improve

Put in place a marketing measurement dashboard before any activity starts – to measure the performance of different marketing channels and tactics used. Review the full dashboard on a weekly basis to understand where improvements can be made.

Tip 4 – Grow your database so you can reach more potential sponsors

If you want to reach more potential sponsors, you need more potential sponsors in your database. Conduct data research either in-house or via a 3rd party to grow your database quickly in a short space of time (ensuring you comply with data protection and direct marketing regulations, depending on country). You can also grow your database daily and compliantly by having lead generation forms on your website and doing inbound marketing to push potential sponsors to these forms.

Tip 5 – Manage and nurture leads well to achieve a strong conversion rate

Your job doesn’t end when someone fills in a form on your website to become a lead. Properly managing your leads means continuing to engage with them and move them down the funnel, warming them up via targeting comms and making sure they don’t get forgotten!

Tip 6 – Define the USP & benefits of your sponsorship value proposition

Articulate your event’s unique selling point and key benefits for potential sponsors. Why should a company choose to sponsor your event rather than a competitor’s event, or choose a different channel for investing their marketing budget? What justifies the investment they will make?

Tip 7 – Make sure you have a ‘become a sponsor’ page on your event website

Your website is your most important marketing channel – both to attract your core audience and potential sponsors. You need a ‘become a sponsor’ page on your website and dedicated ‘enquire about sponsorship’ lead generation forms, plus ideally also a downloadable piece of collateral like a sponsorship brochure (behind a lead generation form).

Tip 8 – Run dedicated email campaigns to attract new sponsors

Still the champion of outbound B2B; email can be used in several ways to effectively engage, nurture and convert potential sponsors. Create autoresponders that are triggered by web form completions to provide an instant opportunity for interested potential sponsors to further engage.

Schedule in dedicated sponsorship campaigns that outline your USP and key benefits for sponsors and encourage them to visit your website complete forms.

You can also feed in sponsorship messaging to your delegate emails – perhaps by including a dedicated sponsorship banner ad. Many B2B communities have a degree of cross-over between the buy and sell side, so there’s no harm in pitching your sponsorship opportunities to your potential delegates.

Tip 9 – Use social media to attract sponsors

As with your website, weaving in sponsorship messaging to your social media will provide extra opportunities to reach interested parties. These posts should be focused on pushing potential sponsors to relevant information on the website (ideally on a dedicated ‘become a sponsor’ page).

Your salespeople should also be constantly connecting with potential sponsors on LinkedIn, so make sure they share the relevant, sponsorship specific posts with their network.

Tip 10 – Make interested potential sponsors get in touch to find out more

While marketing can play an influential role in generating more sponsorship interest (leads) – as well as keeping them ‘warm’ (nurtured) – it’s your sales teams who are ultimately responsible for selling the opportunity and closing the deal. Marketing must not steal sales’ thunder by giving too much away, or having potential sponsors make up their mind before a salesperson has even had a chance to speak to them.

Key examples of this are package pricing details. A ‘value based’ sales process, rather than price-based, should result in higher average order values.


Want to know more?

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Send your team to a masterclass in commercial acquisition, nurturing and conversion, delivered by MPG’s team of expert marketing practitioners. In this interactive session you will learn how to:

    • Analyse your commercial opportunity
    • Create a commercial marketing strategy
    • Execute impactful commercial marketing communications
    • Measure ROI & improve your lead generation performance – to drive a stronger sales performance and grow revenue

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Get a team of B2B commercial marketing experts on your side

From comprehensive marketing strategies to campaign management and delivery, MPG is a full-service consultancy and agency with a strong track record in helping B2B organisations grow their commercial revenue.

To find out more about our work and how we can support you, get in touch:

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Topics:

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

As companies finalise their 2020 H2 digital event schedules and begin planning for 2021 – a year which will undoubtedly also feature a significant digital element – the question of how best to generate sponsorship revenue via this new format now takes centre stage.

Within this issue lies several challenges. First, existing sponsors will generally be reluctant to pay the same to sponsor a virtual event as an in-person one, and secondly, some will simply not want to sponsor a digital event at all.

Event organisers now face a pressing challenge to find a large number of new sponsors for their virtual and hybrid events – in a narrow space of time.

Fortunately, the online nature of digital events has inherent benefits. The lack of physical venue means a potentially global market of sponsors, and the reduced cost of sponsoring such an event (no physical collateral, travel, accommodation or out of office expenses) opens the floor to many smaller companies.

The desire is there too. Potential sponsors have also been affected by Covid and must generate sufficient leads via their own marketing to ensure their business can survive in these challenged times. They’re on the lookout for promising new opportunities; digital events’ focused content, engaged audiences and relatively low cost for good reach and a large number of relevant leads may just be the answer.

This short-term revenue challenge for events relying on sponsorship therefore doubles as an opportunity to invest in long-term event and brand growth. Event organisers can grasp the chance to expand globally, diversify their sponsorship base and put their event firmly on the path to growth.

So, what is the best approach to attracting companies from this now larger market? And how can it be done quickly?


Generate marketing qualified leads to help your salespeople acquire new sponsors

Sponsorship sales teams have traditionally focused on – and are generally most skilled at – the retention and upsell of existing clients. They will recognise the significant opportunity to find new sponsors in a larger potential client pool, but they will need help in efficiently and rapidly surfacing this new revenue.

This is where smart and effective marketing becomes the key to unlocking the potential of digital event sponsorship. Your marketing function should not only be focused on attracting event attendees, they should also be reaching out to, engaging and converting potential clients into relevant and qualified leads via targeted, personalised and data-driven marketing campaigns.

Here’s a tried and tested process for your marketers to follow to generate great sponsorship sales leads and bring in new revenue:

Step 1: Define your target market of potential sponsoring companies and key decision-makers within these companies

Use demographic profiling, considering company type, size, sector and location, as well as the job function and seniority of the individuals within these companies responsible for marketing budgets. Consider how the reduced price point may make sponsoring your event feasible for smaller companies and how a more global audience may attract sponsors from a more global market. Create a map of this new market to understand its size and composition.

Step 2: Create routes to market

Once you know who you’re targeting, you need to reach them with relevant marketing messages. First, analyse your existing database to understand how many contacts you can already reach within your target market. Identify key gaps and fill these with targeted database research, then get started on your outbound and inbound marketing activity to attract the right people to your event website.

Make sure the benefits of sponsoring are well presented on your website, alongside (ideally multiple) lead generation forms, such as sales brochure downloads, enquiry submissions and ‘send me event updates’ requests. This is an essential first step, as your website is the end destination where most prospects will convert to a lead.

Create integrated, multi-channel marketing campaigns, incorporating email, PPC and social media, to reach out and push relevant people to your site. Make sure your messaging is informed by persona analysis and includes at least one clear USP with some compelling benefits.

Also, consider using account-based marketing if you are confident on who the ‘top 20’ (or more) companies are that should be sponsoring your event. Feed them personalised comms specific to their organisations, and where possible reach out to decision makers on a 1-to-1 basis with highly relevant and compelling messaging to elicit a response. Once key contacts are engaged via this kind of marketing it will be easier for salespeople to approach and convert them.

Step 3: Use marketing to nurture leads – to ‘warm them up’ (or keep them warm!) for the sales team

Don’t focus only on acquisition of leads. A key part of winning new sponsors is nurturing these leads and effectively growing engagement so they become even hotter leads, eager to start a conversation with one of your salespeople. To do this, build in automations such as triggered emails when forms are completed on the website (e.g. a sales brochure download) directing them to more relevant content. Your sales team won’t be able to reach every lead quickly, so automated emails can be used to keep them ‘warm’. Remarketing via Google and social channels can also be used to share relevant content and product messaging with individuals who are already engaged. Don’t let them go cold!

Step 4: Measure, measure, measure

Every campaign is a learning opportunity, but only if you measure the impact. Make sure you understand who is completing the lead generation forms and what type of lead is most likely to convert to a sale. Also, measure and analyse the average order value and length of sales cycle achieved via various lead types – sales KPIs can be improved with intelligence-led marketing.

Some marketing channels and activity types will work better than others. Make sure you focus on what works best for your audience and event.

Consider how much visibility you have of the marketing and sales funnel. Do you know how leads are coming in at the top (where they first engage)? How are they engaging near the middle? How many are dropping off when hitting the sales team at the bottom of the funnel? What does the conversion look like for each stage? Understanding these points will help you plug any gaps and improve overall performance of both marketing and sales functions.

It’s important to note that not all of the leads you generate will convert within the first few months, but there is a long ‘sell-by-date’ on sponsorship leads and you may be able to convert them for a future event (with all the hard work of identifying them and collecting their data already done!). Keep their info safe and retain them in your communications, it will pay dividends in the longer term.


Wrapping up

Employing these steps effectively will not only secure the revenue for your next digital event, but also provide you with a solid foundation for growth in years to come. Your audience will have expanded geographically, your event will be attracting new and exciting sponsors and – most importantly – you’ll have battle-ready marketing and sales teams with the know-how on generating new sponsorship revenue; whether that’s for digital or in-person events.

As we’ve mentioned frequently over the past 4-5 months; we believe the companies that invest proactively in marketing now will be the winners in 2021 and beyond. There are many opportunities in digital events, you just need a good strategy to grab hold of them.

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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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Why data makes the difference in B2B events success

Why data makes the difference

A good database is the foundation of successful B2B events and subscriptions marketing. Simply put, 20% better data will mean 20% more delegates. As long as it’s the right data!

With email and telemarketing still the core of most event marketing campaigns, being able to reach your target audience by email – the main channel relying on of a strong database – is crucial to success.

A prime example of this comes from a publisher we have been working with over the past three years on eight of their events in Europe, the US and Asia. We have added 70,000 records to their database – focused on their target audience. This resulted in an additional £1m+ delegate revenue and an ROI of over 500%. Many event organisers don’t invest enough in the development and management of their database. Here are the most common mistakes we see in events businesses, and how you can avoid them!

1. Not enough data or the wrong data

As a benchmark, for every attendee you want to attract to an free to attend event, you need you need to reach 50 of the right people. For paid for events, it’s 100 for every one delegate. So, for an event targeting 100 paying delegates, you need to reach 10,000 of the right people – repeatedly. The best way to ensure you achieve this reach, is to have these people on your database!

The composition of the database also needs to match your preferred target audience – if you want 20% CFOs in the room, then 20% of your database need to be CFOs – in the right type of organisation and the right geography.

Check how closely your database matches your target audience and then be prepared to fill in the gaps (see below for how).

2. Data not in one place

All your data must be in one system. This doesn’t have to be an expensive system like Salesforce. If you do not do direct mail or telesales this could be an email system like Mailchimp, or if you do a multichannel campaign it could be something like the free CRM from Hubspot. Any CRM that you use should be integrated with your marketing automation/email marketing system to ensure your communications are all joined up across all your channels. It’s no good having data in various excel sheets or disconnected systems. If this is the case, you can’t develop a strong database, track permissions (for compliance) or run targeted marketing campaigns.

3. Neglecting organic data build

Those who engage with content on your website are likely to be the most engaged prospects. But many organisers don’t build the required elements in to their event websites to capture the details of these. It is important to have a well optimised event website with plenty of interesting content, all year round. This website should include a number of forms for potential customers to enquire about the event, register their interest or download a PDF of relevant information. The data captured from these form completions should feed in to your database in real time.
A year-round programme to optimise your website for form completions should generate organic data adding 5-10% of your total database , with these contacts being the most responsive and likely to convert to delegates.

4. Buying data in bulk

‘Buying lists’ from list brokers the old fashioned way is a definite no-no these days! This data is likely to perform very poorly as it is over-sold and over-used by a large number of buyers. Data may not be clean or up to date, the permissions may be patchy (if at all considered), and you will not get the response rates you want. If you need a large amount of data in a hurry, it’s better to purchase a subscription to a modern database or lead generation provider like Cognism. But always do targeted research for your core, most important target audience.

5. Not researching data properly

If you have gaps in segments of your data, you may need to use third parties to research this for you. This can be highly productive, but it is essential to brief the agency thoroughly, ask for a data sample, and then monitor the research process extremely closely. Take a long-term view – you can often get your data investment back in the first year, but the real value is in the second and third year, when you should get up to 400% ROI.

6. Lack of categorisation

If your database is not properly aligned with your audience segmentation, then you will have to send out messaging that may not be very relevant to a large number of people – resulting in a high number of unsubscribes. On your CRM, you will need to be able to tag records to align with different segments. This will allow you to send more targeted and relevant campaigns.

7. Not planning data in advance

Data can’t be a last-minute fix. It can take months to identify gaps in data and then research to fill in the gaps, clean data and plan your campaign. If you plan to use media partnerships to reach specific sectors, these are likely to also take months to set up.

8. Lack of skilled people

Managing data is a skilled discipline – it requires experience in managing data research firms, working with database providers and knowing how the data needs to be structured in within your marketing tech stack. Plus you need very strong attention to detail. Good data marketers can think strategically and are highly analytical. Many marketing teams lack these skills.

9. Not tracking engagement

Watch your email analytics to check the quality of the data you have. You should have over 97% deliverability. Open rates should be 15%+, click through rates should be 1.5%+ and click to open rates should be 8%+. If they are lower the data might be poor quality.

Limit emails to any individual to no more than twice a week, even if for different events. If you run multiple events, you need to have a single database and co-ordinate activity across campaigns.

10. Misdirected compliance efforts

Many publishers focused their GDPR efforts on the datasets they are using for email marketing, in particular attempting to collect consent from all of the people they wanted to email. The reality is that GDPR itself did not change the rules about who can be emailed with or without opt-in (there are separate pieces of regulation in each EU member state that define that). In B2B markets, depending on the country, prior opt-in is not always required for email, so attempting to collect it for all contacts before contacting them is likely to be overly cautious and is likely to kill your marketing effectiveness, especially for events that require large datasets in niche markets.

But do keep an eye on current regulations and any possible future changes to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law for countries where consent or opt-in is required and where it is required, do ensure that you are collecting and recording it in the correct way. These considerations should be built in to how your database is configured and managed, and a specialist with the required compliance knowledge is essential in getting this set up correctly.

If you are an events business leader, these are the questions you should be asking your head of marketing:

  • How many relevant records do we have on our database for marketing our event(s)? Do we have enough based on our event targets?
  • How clean and up to date are our database records, especially those most important to us? Can we do targeted messaging based on how the data can be segmented in our database? What segments can we identify?
  • Is our website set up to capture good new names to add to the database, with the right permissions?
  • Do we use a research firm to collect data in most important audience groups?
  • Do we have access to a database provider to find large volumes of data fast?
  • Do we have the required skills and resources in-house to manage our database well?
  • What is our plan to invest in improving our database?

Data quality is far more important than choice of CRM. You can use a basic, free CRM and still get good results if you have a large enough, clean, well segmented database.

We have worked with many event organisers on their marketing databases – and have always found that time invested on cleaning up, expanding and structuring the database well has always delivered a strong ROI!

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‘Data Strategy’ is the New Oil

So, the world did not end on 25th May and we had a sunny bank holiday weekend to celebrate!

Although a tremendous opportunity for sound businesses, those who won’t admit they got a few more grey hairs and suffered a few sleepless nights from Friday’s GDPR deadline are either overconfident or pretending..

In the B2B events world, we wait in keen anticipation to see what our significantly smaller databases will deliver for us in the coming days. I have great hope – validated by a BBC interview on the weekend where an email marketing expert claimed GDPR will result in email open rates more than doubling from an average of below 20% to around 40%.

(more…)

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