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Bridging the sales and marketing divide

by Emily Wallin

The clash between sales and marketing is a perennial problem, but as more organisers recognise the importance of successfully promoting their events, marketing has become the driving force for exhibition organising. Jo Tyler, chief marketing officer at Raccoon Events, tells EN how important it is to build marketing into the heart of a show from the very start.

Most of the people who are running events don’t actually understand marketing,” says Raccoon chief marketing officer Jo Tyler. “Even if they do, it’s probably an outdated view of it, because it’s changed so much. That’s why it’s quite tricky.” 

Tyler is determined to grow her team by recruiting bright graduates and training them in the raft of skills they need. But she points to experienced marketers seen as an annex to sales teams as the root of the divide. 

“We’ve just employed someone from an event marketing background . They’re brilliant, but was pretty much the only marketing person. I’ve seen it a lot, where marketing has been seen as a kind of sales support role.

“Sales are praised and rewarded, financially incentivised to focus on that sale, which is totally correct. But then sometimes, what happens after that sale is almost lost. It’s handed over to ops and marketing to fulfil all the promises. So, you can see why there becomes this kind of hierarchy, sometimes in organisations especially if the person leading the organisation is from a commercial background.” 

Tyler says the issue is often magnified in smaller companies – but says they are fortunate that Raccoon Events founder Mike Seaman ranks both skills equally. 

“We’re lucky here,” she says. “We have a marketing team, we have a sales team. And there are nine on the marketing team so it’s pretty much equal. Because the marketing team report to me and not the event director, there’s a really good balance, and we work really well as a team. But that’s often not the case, unfortunately. If you don’t have somebody championing the marketing efforts and the strategy in the budget, it can often become neglected. 

“You might have marketers for each specific show or product or whatever. You need the overview and not having marketing people sitting in silos. 

“Marketing [teams] are too often reporting to the event directors  – and he or she’s more worried about the commercials and doesn’t necessarily see the value. I’ve seen it a number of times where because the sales team hasn’t met their target, the marketing budget is slashed. 

Incredulous at the flawed logic Tyler says; “Do you want less visitors because you haven’t sold enough stands? You’re still telling your exhibitors that you’re going to achieve the 20,000 visitors that you’ve promised them.” 

Planning a show 

Explaining the process for marketing Raccoon’s events, Tyler explains; “Mike[Seaman, Raccoon CEO and founder], myself, the event director and Matt Lambert our ops director will sit down and once we’ve agreed that the event is a viable proposition, we’ll map out a budget. So at that point, the marketing budget is set and it can’t be changed. I can ask for more money, we obviously will save money. But from that point, we all get the team working to create the brand, the website, all of those bits, but marketing, and sales work together to put together the assets for sales pitches, the marketing team go off and create the website and the materials that we need for a social media presence. So you avoid that kind of hierarchy.

“Each department knows what they’re doing. I think that’s really important. Getting the budget right, to start with. 

“For us, with consumer events, it’s not rocket science. It’s about volume. You want the right people in the room and you want to create a community, you can’t turn around and say, ‘We didn’t have many visitors. But the quality was great.” 

Growing the community 

“As a marketing team, we talk a lot with the exhibitors. We build partnerships with associations, charities, publications, etc. We hunt for ambassadors and make sure that the ambassadors reflect the community we want to inspire. We make sure we have diversity on all levels, from ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, disabilities. It’s not about how many social media followers we have, it’s more about when somebody comes to our website and they see somebody that they can associate themselves with. 

Tyler adds that the features and speaker content at their shows has to be relevant to all their visitors – from elite athletes, to first-time couch to 5k-ers. 

“We talk a lot about putting yourselves in the shoes of our audience. So if you’re are a proclaimed non-runner, you hate running, you’re overweight, you’re trying couch to 5k, who would you want to see speak? Who is there that would inspire you? What articles or what social posts would you engage with?” 

Tyler says their ambassadors are made to feel special. 

“We offer them free tickets for themselves, their friends, their community, their clubs. We give them merchandise to wear and encourage them to post. When they come along to the show we have a ribbon cutting at the front which we get all the ambassadors to be a part of, and then they help out with kind of the nice tasks that they show. Sometimes they’ll help with the speakers or the meet and greet, which means they’ll spend an hour with Mo Farah.

“A consumer show is supposed to be fun, isn’t it? So the more things that make it an enjoyable experience all help.”

Socials

When it comes to social media, Tyler believes it’s important to do things well and see a return on investment, not just jump straight in. 

“We have a rule here that we’re not going to venture into something unless we can do it well and we’re going to see return on investment,” says Tyler. 

“We’ve been looking at TikTok for a while now and are starting to use it on one of our events as a trial. But I’m very nervous about investing. I think that’s a challenge because people don’t always realise it, you know, if you’re not in the marketing team, and just say, ‘Oh, I think we should have a TikTok account for this activity. 

“The amount of effort that goes into social media now, we’ve got 21 different accounts, it’s a full time job keeping on top of all of that.  It’s not just full time, it’s 24/7. Because our audience doesn’t care if they’ve got a question on Christmas Day. 

“I think one of the challenges is the marketing team are expected to be editors, publishers, all of these things. And yet, the YouTube channel or podcast series is very different to posting on social media.”

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