An Accelerated Path Toward Event Marketing Services (EMS)

While it is essential to understand the various forces driving this shift, it’s also critical to understand the work needed by event organizers to leverage this opportunity, so let’s look at how we’ve arrived at this point. For clarity purposes, let’s also define EMS as “sponsored digital programs in and around events.”

Progressive marketers within the event ecosystem began to drive this trend. Those folks looked past boundaries—real and imaginary— and thought, “how can I leverage ‘digital’ to enhance my event presence?” and vice versa, “how can I amplify my event investment beyond the actual event itself?” The leveraging of video at the show to capture content (demo, executive presentations, etc.) and then cascading it out digitally to a broader audience during or after the event or following targeted attendees around the web with ads are just two examples. Exhibitors building a landing page to highlight their show activities and then driving prospective attendees to that page ahead of the event is another. There has been a slow but steady rise in this type of activity through the years, but it hasn’t been widespread, nor has it been industrialized by the organizers.

Then came a global pandemic. Business-as-usual came to a screeching halt and forced an overnight migration from physical events to digital events and forced those within the event ecosystem (the organizers and the sponsors/exhibitors) to dive far deeper into the digital world than they have previously been comfortable with. Within about 16 months, we witnessed an entire industry receive a crash course in “digital.” It has been inspiring, and it has been painful. But in the end, it has raised digital IQs and digital confidence tenfold.

Newly learned behaviors, coupled with a forever changed viewpoint around the interrelationship between events and digital, will be the byproduct that sparks the accelerated rise of event marketing services moving forward. Event sponsors have now learned alternative ways to reach their desired audiences. They have tasted digital metrics and a more direct ROI measurement. Having seen this play out before, we can safely conclude their digital activities will not suddenly snap back to nil when live events come back in force. They are in digital motion.

Likewise, event organizers have realized the monetization opportunities that digital can bring to their businesses—via standalone virtual events, hybrid models, or digital activities in/around physical events. Together these variables will change the conversation between event sellers and event buyers. The discussion will go well beyond the event itself and include digital marketing activities surrounding the event.

Lastly, the platforms that have historically focused on webinars, virtual trade shows, or event registration have been racing to develop their capabilities to meet the new rising need to connect audiences in various formats with rich functionality and a mix of live and on-demand capabilities. Add in a host of new entrants, along with a pile of investment dollars, and we’re on the cusp of the next generation of event tech platforms.

Combining the forces above with the reality that it will likely be several years before physical events return to pre-pandemic levels, it is clear that “digital” will now play a significant growth role for event organizers.
So, what are the variables at play that need to be properly managed by organizers?

There are several:

  • Productization and Packaging. The ability to craft smart digital products and packages that provide value for event customers, worthwhile profitability for the organizer, and logical connective tissue to the event itself.
  • Sales Management. Sales teams need training and motivation to incorporate digital selling into their daily approach. A few offerings that are compelling, easy to articulate, and easy to understand would be the logical kick-off point.
  • Execution Ability. Ensuring that the execution capability and a delivery process exists within a clearly defined execution team is critical to avoid downstream post-sale challenges.
  • Data Access and Governance. Determining how best to leverage an event brand’s database to promote the event itself to attendees and leverage the same database to drive sponsored digital event marketing services programs. Striking the right balance to ensure these efforts aren’t in conflict is critical, as is assuring that the teams involved, if separate, create a good working rhythm together.
  • Platforms. Choosing optimal platform/s for the specific use-case coupled with having the proper skillsets to manage will be imperative to tie it all together.

The EMS opportunity is significant. The shift is in motion, and stakeholders are starting to organize around it. We saw an event pure-play acquire a marketing services company. We’re seeing the biggest players in the event ecosystem weaving “digital” into their positioning. It’s no longer a matter of “if” but “how fast” event marketing services grows. There will be an advantage to those who see it with clear eyes and begin managing to it. The question now is who will be out front as a leader versus who will lag behind and get pulled along by their competition and customers.

Using Market Research to Fuel Your Content Marketing Assets

As B2B marketers become increasingly savvy with the use of content marketing, it becomes even more important to create content assets that stand out from a very crowded landscape. Using primary research to develop proprietary, original data to fuel your content pieces is an excellent way to do just that.  A single survey can fuel a variety of content marketing assets, whether the goal is thought leadership/brand building, lead generation, or both.

Top-5 Research-Based Content Assets:

  1. White Papers: Survey results provide an excellent foundation for whitepaper content, providing key talking points for the analyst to build upon in creating a particularly compelling report. Add qualitative interviews to provide additional context and flavor. Surrounded by a robust marketing plan, this valuable proprietary information can be gated for lead generation.
  1. Webinars: Repurpose survey results and elevate your position as an industry expert through thought leadership. Leverage your content further in a webinar lead touch program, providing an opportunity to engage the webinar registrants and continue the conversation. Breathe new life into the webinar content by creating an engaging, interactive experience with webinar key takeaways, highlighting main themes from the event.
  1. FastChats: Increase thought leadership by discussing the results of your research in an online interview. Drive additional traffic to the interview by adding an in-article video snippet to run alongside brand editorial.
  1. Infographics: Visualize key data from your research program and promote across a variety of channels to build your brand: partner websites, owned media, direct mail, social media, etc.

  2. Explainer Videos: Craft a unique video breaking down your research into digestible content. Increase awareness by adding a 30-second in-article video across the brand site to increase exposure and/or leverage video at your industry events.

We also know that third-party involvement increases the credibility of your content assets.  Informa Engage can help create a robust marketing plan that integrates the elements above to give your clients the awareness and/or sales leads they’re looking for.

The Value of Upper Funnel Lead Marketing

Tech marketers have an exacting remit to deliver high-quality, deep-pocketed marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) into their sales pipelines. The constant pressure to deliver is tied to immediate ROI expectation that equates marketing spend directly to the number of leads brought in and then calculates the monetary value of that lead based on presumed lifetime sales into that company.

This is a valid approach that is not likely to change. However, it should not deny the brand awareness needed to prepare high-quality prospects to be receptive to lead gen marketing and nurture campaigns.

The level of effort needed just to turn the head of a high-quality prospect is boosted by brand marketing to a broad group of potential customers.

Benefits of top-of-funnel brand marketing promotions:

  • Messaging to upper-funnel contacts builds brand and product awareness. It lays the groundwork for lead gen engagement when that person/company is ready to make a purchase decision.
  • Proper brand-focused messaging creates recognition and builds a positive reputation.
  • Companies can try out messaging tactics before committing to lengthy content messaging.
  • Content engagement shows pre-purchase interest or research activity of a company well before they raise their hand with a form submission.
  • A team will likely weigh in on a purchase decision, so content and messaging that influences the broader team can positively influence those who will never become an explicit lead but will impact the company’s decision.
  • Executive-level decision makers rarely download whitepapers or sit through webinars, but they are certainly part of a company’s buying decision. You can continue to reinforce brand identity and reputation up and down your prospect’s buying team through top-of-funnel promotions reaching company contacts that are not in your sales pipelines.

Top-of-funnel does mean scattershot.  Brand messaging still benefits from targeting the right prospective customer base – just as broadly as possible.  Top-of-funnel tactics include web advertising on content sites relevant to your prospect pool.

Audience extension can be used to replay advertising promotions to targeted segments across various news and interest sites across the web. And as any freshman marketing major can tell you – repetition is key!

Account-based marketing (ABM) tactics can be employed to speak to that broader buying team from companies already in your sales pipeline.  When one or two key contacts are being nurtured down the sales and marketing funnel, targeted ABM top-of-funnel marketing bolsters brand identity and reputation to that broader, influencer group within your target company.

Keep in mind that the persons within an organization making the brand or top-of-funnel promotional plan may not be the same persons driving leads into the sales CRM.  You need to determine this and coordinate your sales messaging and comms accordingly.

Tech marketers support their lead gen and lead nurture campaigns through a strong foundation of brand and product awareness among prospective contacts.  Top-of-funnel promotions drive that awareness. They can also deliver access to kay contacts across a prospect company while nurturing efforts driving few key prospects toward a sale.