What makes or breaks a marketing event project? Experienced events managers will tell you it’s all about alignment. There are a lot of ducks to get in a row for getting the logistics right, but the hardest part is stakeholder management: getting everyone aligned and working as a team.
A good event project has everyone “leaning in” and collaborating positively on a shared plan and compelling commercial message to bring to the exhibition floor and to their 1-1 networking conversations. Painful projects are usually that way because of communication disconnects, people not helping each other out, and last-minute scrambles because of things not being planned or done on time.
As William Nash from the Zero-in Conference put it in our recent interview about their new event about personalization and fintech: “Sometimes you get companies that are magnificent in their approach to marketing, while others have a haphazard approach but a really strong product that compensates in the short term.” Ideally we’d say: why not both!
As we discussed in our previous event marketing advice on the EPA blog, a modern events manager has to think like a full-spectrum marketer, incorporating business development, sales support, and lead tracking as well as the more conventional marketing scope of brand awareness, marketing content, and general event logistics. What this means is that there a LOT of people you need as your allies to get all these moving parts working together.
Here’s Adastra’s guide to the people an events manager or marketing manager needs to bring on board and keep on side to make your event rock!
Quick Summary: Stakeholders for Event Managers to Align:
- Marketing teamDon’t let events become a silo within marketing. Content marketing, digital, and PR need to be heavily involved throughout.
- ManagementBe sure to get leadership and finance behind your events, so they are seen for all the benefits, not just as a cost!
- SalesMake events a true collaboration by consulting sales colleagues on how to design the overall campaign messaging and the specifics of collateral like brochures and slideshows.
- Account managersDon’t get so obsessed with “top of the funnel” new business that you neglect the power of communications to existing customers.
- Product managersProactive internal networking will help guard the busy event manager balance requirements from product groups for representation and lead generation in your events.
- PREnsure you exploit events for appointment setting with journalists and analysts. If you have something innovative to show off, talking to them is just as important as exhibiting directly to prospects.
- PartnersNo business is an island unto itself: look for your industry allies. Each event you exhibit at can offer multiple opportunities for win-win marketing partnerships.
- AgenciesIf you work with external marketing specialists, even if they aren’t assigned to work with on events, don’t miss the opportunity to get their help on content production and messaging, and make other marketing campaigns more joined up with your event project.
1 – The Marketing TeamRead on for more advice on our top 8 stakeholders for marketing events:
Let’s get this one ticked off: a marketing event is a marketing campaign and is going to involve all skills of your core team at some point. Copywriters, designers, social media and digital specialists, email managers, and web designers all to contribute their time and creativity.
Aside from the significant work of getting everyone in the right place at the right time, with a well-designed stand and collateral, your event involves a lot of other marketing content production: website, social media, email, invitations, screens, press, and even conference speeches. The earlier you build this into the plan, the happier the team will be to contribute their ideas and collaborate well. Read more about content marketing for events at Adastra’s blog here.
One more point about internal alignment for marketing is that if you have a global brand manager, or parent brand that you need to keep happy, your divisional / regional / subsidiary events are highly visible and potentially viewed negatively as things that need to be “brand policed”. Make sure you work actively with these brand owners so that they are not only confident that you are “brand compliant”, but listening to their objectives and showing how well you can be “on message”!
2 – Management
Here’s another one we have to tick off as early as possible: make sure you have the support and awareness of all the right lines of management. Starting at the top, you need to ensure the business leadership are on board, as they may want to participate in the event, or you may need them to give speeches and meet and greet on the ground. Even if they are not personally involved, it’s important to make sure management support the goals behind an event so they see it as more than just an expensive branding session.
Since an event project needs relevant sales and product folk to sit down and work closely with marketing, get commitments from the right heads of departments to support the event and participate in all your project meetings and comms. Don’t leave it to the last minute to loop in these stakeholders.
Don’t forget this stakeholder category should also include financial management. Events are expensive and involve a lot of budgeting, bookkeeping, and payments: proactively approach finance to find out what they need from you and see how you can make their life easier by adhering to their processes. The same comments apply for working proactively with your admin team if they are responsible for travel bookings.
3 – Sales colleagues on the stand
Try to book as early as possible which salespeople are going to be on your exhibition stand. Once you know who is going to be there, you can involve them in advance planning, including eliciting their ideas about the overall campaign message and what collateral is needed.
It’s surprising how common it is for sales people at an event to have negative things to say about their company’s brochures and slideshows, yet still have the same gripes at the next exhibition. This is evidence of too much of a silo between sales and marketing.
Sales people who are involved in marketing event planning will have more opportunities to influence the creation of better quality collateral, and it’s the event manager who has the opportunity to facilitate collaboration here.
In return for helping sales colleagues with better collateral, an events manager needs to get their ‘qui pro quo’ in the form of ensuring that sales follow an active and consistent approach to capturing contact details and conversation notes centrally (i.e. a CRM or intermediate lead record) so that key metrics can be reported accurately.
4 – Account Managers
While it’s essential to involve salespeople who will be “on the stand representing” at an exhibition, don’t overlook the value you can get from – and give to – the rest of the sales team. Account managers can use events as conversation starters and try to invite existing customers and their colleagues to attend.
Talking to existing customers about marketing events may seem irrelevant to teams which are wholly focused on “top of the funnel” new business development. However, if you think about it, your customers have an inordinate influence on your sales: not just in crucial loyalty and developing existing revenues, but in referrals and expansion of influence within the organization. When it comes to B2B sales and larger customer organizations you will invariably find that there are other departments or regions within a business who could be your customers, and events can be the perfect way in via personal connections and face to face meetings.
5 – Product managers
In many companies, the event budget and planning are owned centrally, and owners of particular products (or product lines), or even sub-startups within the business, may find themselves competing to be featured in the programme and get leads out of it. For the events manager in marketing, this can become a headache if a number of different people with their own agendas around attendees and collateral emerge with their requests at the last minute.
The right approach is to keep all the different product managers and owners, and their designated sales colleagues, up to date with your event planning, so that you can establish which ones their products are (or aren’t) going to be featured in. For a niche product of the business it’s better to be featured strongly in one or two events, with plenty of time to create collateral and a coordinated sales message, than to be an afterthought at the last minute in many.
6 – PR manager
If your organization has a PR strategy, make sure you work with the person responsible for it when creating your annual events plan, and on each individual event project. PR people are all about contacts and connections, so it would make sense – resources permitting – for this person to attend as many of the events as possible.
Most exhibitions and conferences publish a list of attending journalists and analysts for sponsors, so appointment setting can be a powerful pre-event project component if you have something newsworthy for the market that these contacts can come and talk to you about during the event.
7 – Ecosystem partners
Events and marketing in general naturally focus on talking about your own brand and products. But don’t ignore the potential of alliances in your ecosystem. Your potential customers at an event are looking at the whole field of competing and complementary solutions, and want people who can guide them through the overwhelming range of information and strategic choices. If you can position your team as well integrated in the market, this makes for a stronger initial sales conversation.
The chances are your business has a number of non-competing partners or potential partners in your industry, who may be exhibiting at the same events as you. Events are a great opportunity for marketing teams to establish low-key partnerships, cross-promoting each other’s collateral or even running a shared promotion where attendees need to visit several related stands to enter a prize draw or collect free swag. As with our other advice, the key is advance planning and proactive outreach to potential collaborators.
Successful informal alliances in events can lead to formal partnerships on events: co-exhibiting at trade fairs, and splitting costs, could leverage your events budget and get you a lot more exposure.
8 – Agency partners
Do you work with outside marketing support for your content, PR, advertising, or website? Even if they’re not in your office and won’t be attending your events, don’t overlook the chance to get good ideas and support for your event project from the people you already work with and who are already familiar with your brand.
The chances are, these specialists can help you get the large amount of work in an event under control, if you ask for help and delegate tasks for your team to collaborate. Another plus is that agency specialists can give you a fresh pair of eyes on designs, messaging, and collateral: this might help you judge how to improve your impact in the eyes of real customers at an event.
Free resources for event marketing
Adastra has published further planning resources for marketing teams managing events, as well as a special offer on banner design and printing exclusively for EPA members: read more at https://adastra-marketing.com/marketing-support-services-for-fintech-events/