Autumn is here. For many companies, this means planning is in high season. We’re all working diligently on trying to figure out the right number, frequency, type and cadence of events to include in our portfolio to drive relationships, sales and ROI. This is no easy task. There are several factors that can influence the mix. Some of these include: industry, types of suspects and prospects pursued, audience behaviors, company products and solutions offered, state of current pipeline, the economy, budget, etc. What’s even more challenging is these factors are in a constant state of flux and are changing all the time. We are trying to hit a moving target and our plans must be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the environment we work in.
Here are 10 thoughts on how you can create an effective and efficient event portfolio plan.
1. Collaborate: Ensure you have all the right people involved in the process: brands and business units; corporate headquarters and countries or regional offices; event marketers, advertisers, direct marketers, digital teams, PR and sales; agencies; business partners, etc. Having the right people involved at the right level from the beginning of the process with help you build an integrated plan that has a much higher probability of success. This will also facilitate buy-in and help things work much more smoothly as the year goes on.
2. Build Value: Relationships are predicated upon a mutual exchange of value. Remember this when working with your internal and external teams during the planning process. Understanding the inputs, outputs and roles of each and every team member will help make the process run effectively and efficiently. Respect for individual roles and establishing an environment of trust are critical. Success of the plan, and ultimately the company trumps individual needs.
3. Think of the Audience First: People do not live their lives via a media plan or event schedule. Most will only attend a few events per year. Who are your target audiences and what events are they most likely to attend? Event marketing portfolios should be built from an audience perspective first.
4. Give Every Event A Job: Some events and tactics are good for generating awareness and thought leadership. Others are better for lead generation. Still others have strengths in nurturing and closing the deal. Don’t forget about loyalty events. While its true that few events have a singular purpose, consider the promary objective of each event in your portfolio, and ensure you have the right tactics in place at every stage in the sales cycle. Remember that large third-party events are best for the early stages of the cycle (awareness, lead generation) and smaller, proprietary engagements are most appropriate toward the end (nurturing, conversion, loyalty).
5. Act Globally And Locally: There are some industry events which have the power to attract audiences from near and far – destination events. Start with these. Otherwise, audiences tend to operate within a certain market. Execute proprietary activities regionally to nurture, convert or drive retention and expansion of your audiences. Its often a lot easier for someone to attend a local breakfast seminar than book a flight to Las Vegas.
6. Select Events Carefully: Create and adhere to a robust decision-making process. Use the right criteria. Are your target customers at the event? Can you drive the audeince? Does the event audience meet your target demographic? Is it a key industry event? Is there an opportunity to tell your story?
7. Use Data-Based Business Rationale: “We’ve always attended.”, “Our competition will be there.”, “What will the industry / our customers think if we don’t go?” Are not sound business strategies or reasons for exhibiting. Do the math. If the event has the ability to meet your marketing and business objectives, then go. Otherwise, leave it on the table.
8. Decide Which Activities To Add, Change Or Remove: Understand that some events are underperformers because they fail to deliver the right audience. Others deliver the audience, but the way in which you participated may need to be adjusted to take better advantage of the opportunity. There are also always new opportunities available to reach your audiences. These opportunities may be created by third-party producers, or you can create them yourself. Explore all options before arriving at a final plan.
9. Save by Zero: If you have an event portfolio that is filled with legacy activities and potentially frought with waste. Start from scratch. Build your plan from the ground up. Make no assumptions. Treat every event with the same scrutiny when evaluating it for inclusion in you plan.
10. Keep The Plan Alive: Remember, no plan is ever final. Event portfolio planning is a continuous process that must be monitored throughout the year and adjusted regularly based on performance, learning, the environment and your own pipeline.
Portfolio planning can be a complex and sometimes politically-charged process. The right alignment to marketing and business objectives, strong team integration and disciplined process, will help increase your chances at delivering a flexible plan built for success. If you have any additional ideas or challenges you’ve faced in creating your plan, please share!