Three of the EN 30underThirty class – Laura Jensen, Caylee Donaldson and Melina Viking – share their insights on current trends and pain points in exhibition marketing.
Jensen, who is IBTM events content and community executive, says her team are currently focusing on building its video strategy: “Obviously, during the pandemic, we couldn’t meet in person so we did a lot with video and really upped our video strategy with interviews, little snippets of content from our previous sessions and things like that. We’re hoping to expand on that this year because that seems to be what people are enjoying on our channels at the moment.”
Sweden-based Viking, who is event director at Diversified Communications, says: “One of the things that we noticed worked well during the pandemic was webinars. We will be continuing our strategy, but also focusing less on postage and more on digital.”
Donaldson, head of marketing at GovNet, says she has noticed that automation and personalisation techniques are being used more in the exhibition industry: “When speaking with peers across the sector both automation and personalisation seem to be topics of conversion. I think the key to effective personalisation is to look beyond ‘first name’, ‘last name’, ‘job title’, ‘organisation’, and rather how we can use customer data and data collection to better understand our customers and to provide a better service.
“For me, it is about ensuring that I have an in-depth understand who ‘my’ customers are i.e. what are their personal and career motivations, their challenges, interests and goals? How to they like to absorb information and there do they go to source it? Once you have this image of your customers you can tailor your communications accordingly, and use automation to ensure that you deliver the right message, to the right person, and the right time.”
Jensen says although building data and creating new leads is crucial, it is just as valuable to reach out to a show’s existing audience: “One of the things that we’re looking at this year, and that we’ve seen working across other shows at RX global is loyalty – really making sure that our customers know that they feel valued by us making sure that they feel aware how much we appreciate them coming to our events, not just what we do for them.”
Viking adds: “We’ve seen a trend with potential buyers having personal interest in the products that we sell. We’ve tried to appeal to them through personal social media accounts instead, which has been a quite interesting channel to go through.”
Donaldson says a challenge for her is the need to grow and optimise channels with limited resource and budget: “Something that I find challenging is how to do more with less, especially coming out of the pandemic where sadly we had to let go of a huge amount of talent due to redundancies. Thankfully, event marketing professionals are incredible multitaskers and agile to new ways of working. We will adapt and grow stronger because of the challenge.”
Jensen agrees with Donaldson that it is better to grow data themselves rather than purchasing it from data brokers: “We want to be growing organically and finding people who are interested in us and engaging with us. But our buyer programme has had quite a lot of reduction in terms of people who are no longer in the roles they were in or are no longer in the industry. It’s been interesting to see how we can adjust that.”
Donaldson adds: “Another key challenge is generating new data to target for your upcoming events. Growing data organically requires a huge amount of time and resource into inbound marketing techniques including content marketing, editorial etc.
“Realistically, many organisations are going to have to rely on purchasing list from data brokers until they can create enough ‘pull content’ to attract the right type of visitors at the desired quantity. I still find purchasing data challenging, for example, if you purchase data you can be sure that your competitors and other organisations have purchased the same data – the question is really how productive and fruitful will this be?”
The next step
While marketers were keen to push the ‘let’s get back to face-to-face’ messaging during the pandemic, Jensen suggests customers are now keen to move on from this theme. So, what is the next step?
“I think it’s the value of people,” says Jensen. “I think it’s not necessarily that we’re getting back to events, it’s the events give you more than online can.
“This year, we’re hoping to bring back some of our networking events that we couldn’t do. We’re hoping to bring back some more community-based initiatives, which is something that we weren’t able to do last year. I think it’s that people factor, not necessarily the events themselves, but providing an opportunity to connect with people.”
Finally, the three event professionals share their top tips for those starting out in marketing in the events industry.
“Know your industry first,” says Jensen. “If you can, really try to understand who your community is before you start writing or creating anything for them.”
Viking says, “I would say don’t be afraid to challenge the way things are already done in the company. I see quite a lot of times where people come into a new role and just go along with the way things are but I think it’s important to come into a new role and challenge some of the things that are done within a company to actually get that progression going.”
Donaldson echoes the advice of knowing your customers and taking influence of best practice from other sectors. She adds that utilising customer and behavioural data is important if we want to continue to grow and improve the customer service and experience.
“Understanding how customers engage your business is critical if we are to continue to grow and offer excellent experiences. The goal is to build an accurate picture of how your customers are engaging with your business at all stages of the customer journey, to identify points of friction and moments of truth, and implement improvements.
“Here are some questions I ask myself: How are people getting to the website? What people are searching for online to find our website? How are they using it? What are best performing pages and messages? What are the worst performing pages? What channels are most successful at first and last attribution? What type of customers are engaging with specific messages…. the list goes on.”