B2B Event Marketing Guide – It’s the data, stupid

One of the million dollar questions in event marketing is “how do you attract attendees”. To try and answer it, we’ve created The B2B Event Marketing Guide, a 15 chapters report on the full marketing strategy and planning process that goes behind a business event.

The article below is an excerpt from the guide. Find the other chapters here.

In this section: Setting the stage in data by performing a data audit on the internal database. Developing marketing personas to understand your segments, working with data research companies to gain GDPR/Privacy compliant databases and putting together your VIP strategy

As you start marketing an event, your producer manager (the person in charge of the agenda), your marketing director or your manager will provide you with an event brief, where you are presented with the reason you are running the event, the target audience, the main topics & target speakers (if there is a conference added to it), competitor events and any valuable insight they have come across in their research phase. In the case where the event is put together on an ad hoc basis, without prior research, you will have to start with understanding the topic, your competition and the market context.

After you’ve received the event brief or done your research, it’s time to start digging everywhere you can – internal database, lists of previous attendees, post event surveys, producer notes, web research and LinkedIn insights for data. Your aim is to properly understand who your target audience is, what is the total universe, what are your internal resources and what gaps you need to cover.

Building marketing personas

If you’re running a repeat event, the list of previous attendees will be a tremendous help in understanding the attendee profile and start putting together your audience personas. These will be representations of your desired segments and can include information such as interests, location, age or in the case of B2B events: job title, industry, function, company size and others. Here’s an article from Hubspot on creating marketing personas.

You should aim to have 2-3 main personas, which will represent the biggest chunk of attendees and an extra 2-3 secondary ones – so no more than 6 personas in total.

Too many or too few personas will make it hard to segment your database properly. Once you know who your target audience is, it’s time to do an analysis of the total universe and internal resources. By total universe, we mean the total possible number of people that match your audience personas. If you’re running an event aimed at sales representatives in all industries from Minnesota, the total universe will be everyone working in sales in the state of Minnesota.

Understanding your total universe

For total universe, both web research and LinkedIn can help in showing how many contacts would fit your desired profile for event attendees.

This is useful in setting the target for the events. For example, if you’re targeting heads of social media in Coventry and LinkedIn tells you there are a total of 1,200 people with this profile, it might be unrealistic to aim for 1,000 of them to attend your event. Once the analysis of the total universe is done and the marketing team considers the total event attendees targets to be realistic, it’s time to look at your internal resources.

If you have a database of contacts, search how many contacts you have in each of your desired personas. Your internal resources will also show you how much external outreach you need to factor in, either through data research or through working with existing communities on LinkedIn, Meetup, etc. If you’re using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you will need to ensure that all your data is added to the CRM and that you continue doing this throughout the campaign (new leads, event registrations, etc), so you can quickly review results.

On paid events, our experience shows us that the average conversion rates on email marketing tend to be 2-3%, whilst reports like the ones done by Remarkety* quote it at an even lower, 1%.

* Source

Strategies for growing your database

If your internal database is 1,000 contacts and you want to bring 100 people to your event, you can factor in around 20-30 to book a place for your event from email marketing (we’ve found this true for both free and paid events). This means you have a gap of around 70-80 registrations which need to be covered through:

Data research, which will increase your internal database through adding leads received from a company specialised in delivering profiles that are relevant for your event
Lead generation campaigns, which will increase your internal database through content marketing, social media campaigns, ad campaigns and other.

Regardless of the size of your database, you should not base all your efforts into email marketing, but consider other channels as well, such as social media marketing, content marketing, digital ads, etc. The exact marketing mix will be defined based on your resources (human, time and money), but should always incorporate multiple touch points with your audience.

Word of advice: buying databases is not doing data research. Never, ever, ever do that. Spam rules are becoming increasingly rough, the EU has GDPR compliance with fines of up to €20 million or 4 per cent of turnover (whichever is greater), Canada has the CASL anti-spam law (and there are other country based spam laws) and no one likes spam anyway. Your brand will most likely suffer from this and it will have the opposite effect to getting those extra event attendees you were looking for.

Read more on GPDR compliance here and have a look through this GDPR compliance checklist. Plus, make sure you and your team are aware of the data security measures you need to take.

When commissioning a data research agency, make sure you understand how they comply with anti-spam laws, the process they follow when researching leads, how they get their approvals to be added to your database, how they protect the data against cyber attacks and if they ever re-use it for other companies.

Lead generation campaigns are an entire chapter, which we are covering separately. For now, here are some strategies to grow your database in a data compliant way:

1. Produce whitepapers, ebooks or guides, which can be accessed via a download form. Generate interest by using a landing page that shares insight from the guide you’ve created and explain what people will get out of it. You can either produce this especially for your event or share a material produced by one of your speakers.

2. Create valuable content for your target industry. This shouldn’t be sales-y, but aimed to inspire or share knowledge on the areas you are established in. For example, if you’re running a B2B travel event, you could be creating content about how the impact of security on travel agents. Then, you can invite people to register to your newsletter to receive more news/blog posts and event information.

3. Host a webinar or a podcast. As above, the topics should be general to your industry or target markets, trying to help them address pain points, such as how to choose the right cloud provider or how to increase revenue from social media ads. You can ask one (or several) of your speakers to host the webinar. When you register leads for the webinar, add an option for them to subscribe to other updates from your company.

4. Run social media lead gen ads. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can run lead ads, where you collect information in exchange for something of value – a special offer or a piece of content. This will only target your desired profiles in terms of job titles and industries, so make sure these are accurate for you.

5. Networking. Join other industry events to meet your target audience and understand the main topics they are interested in. Add the people you meet on LinkedIn and invite them to like your page, follow your updates and subscribe to your newsletter.

Developing a VIP strategy

Something you need to consider now is the VIP strategy. Based on your event’s objectives and the personas you’ve previously identified, you will find that some targets will increase the success of your events by attending.

For business events, these are usually senior-level executives from big brands who will determine other executives to attend to meet them. For example, logistics conferences would probably want to meet companies such as UPS or FedEx.

Since they have a lot of know-how and great contacts, some of these targets will be asked to speak at events, so talk to your producer to understand if they are already being invited from their side. Your producer can help you understand who these VIPs are and taking a decision now on your VIP strategy will also be relevant in how you segment your data and what additional research you need to do.

Not all events will invite VIPs to attend for free, but if you plan on doing this, make sure they are marketed to differently. It creates a bad brand image to initially message them to book their tickets, then offer them the opportunity to attend for free, so make sure you keep consistency from start to finish by creating a separate registration path and campaign for them.

Key takeaways: understand who your target audience is and what is the final size of the universe. Do an internal audit of data and then devise strategies to increase your reach.

What would you say are your main activities when doing data analysis and research before an event? Let us know in the comment section!

If you’re interested in The B2B Event Marketing Guide, fill in the form below to download it:

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