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How Events Fuel the Content Marketing Fire

December 14, 2015

how events fuel the content marketing fire

Quick, guess what B2B content marketers named as the most effective content marketing tactic?

OK, the headline probably gave it away, but a whopping seventy-five percent of B2B content marketers rated in-person events as most effective, over white papers, newsletters and blogs.

That’s according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research report, “B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America.”

2015-14-October-Shaio-Image1

From: B2B Content Marketing – 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America slideshare

After in-person events, the marketers named webinars (66 percent) and case studies (65 percent) as most effective.

Why are events so effective for content marketing? Because they’re structured as a time-bound, content-producing machine: keynotes, panel discussions, training sessions and presentations. All involving people with a shared purpose and shared interests. How could you NOT create interesting content from events?

According to Monina Wagner (@MoninaW), community manager at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “The key to leveraging in-person events for content marketing is knowing where to unearth ideas.”

Let’s consider five ways you can leverage events to unearth content ideas.

1. Event as a Listening Device

As content marketers, our existence is tied to our target audience. Picking the right events means finding those where we’re surrounded by that audience.

You can learn about your audience via Google Analytics, keyword research and social media listening, but there’s nothing quite like looking them in the eye and speaking to them. You’ll gain an appreciation for their perspectives and challenges in a way that metrics like bounce rate and time on page can’t deliver.

According to CMI’s Wagner, “Events provide an opportunity for an organization to see in real-time what topics resonate with its target audience.”

I want to adjust my own mindset to place a higher importance on listening at events. If I don’t produce a single piece of content from an event, but spent hours talking to my target audience, then I’ll have gained valuable insights.

“Live events give you an opportunity to really hear from your audience. Listening to their questions and challenges and then asking some good follow-up questions will often expose areas where you can fill an important content gap,” said Scott Ingram (@ScottIngram), strategic account executive at Certain.

2. Inspiration for Writing

I love to write. Give me a topic and I’ll dive right in. My challenge is finding things to write about. I prefer to cover a unique topic or delve into a distinct angle. That limits my choices. Sometimes, a comment that I hear at an event will inspire an entire post or article.

My prior CMSWire piece on infographics was inspired by a fellow content marketer. She made a comment about infographics at a Silicon Valley Content Marketing Meetup. On another occasion, I attended a meeting of customer experience professionals. A comment made during a panel discussion inspired me to write about spending more time with customers.

3. Write About the Event Itself

Your target audience is at the event. Others couldn’t make it. If you produce content about the event, both sets of people will be interested.

Last year, I attended Marketo’s annual customer Summit. Because my target audience attends that event, I published a blog post about it, which included six takeaways. Note: Hillary Clinton spoke at the event. One of my takeaways was that she’d run in 2016 (I was right).

For people who could not attend in person, sourcing footage from the event can be an attention grabber. According to Ingram, “Your people are there. What a great time and place to grab some great audio and video content that can be repurposed across multiple channels.”

4. Inform Future Content with Audience Questions

Good content marketing serves to answer questions faced by your target audience. Events are a great place to hear those questions get asked: during technical sessions, breakout sessions, presentations, panel discussions and more.

Write down all of the questions you hear. Next, jot down the answers to the questions. When you return to the office, catalog the questions into topic categories. Determine whether your in-house experts can provide answers that go above and beyond those provided at the event. If they can, you have a nice set of topics for blog posts, webinars, videos, e-books and more.

5. Report on Expert Insights

This is where content marketing meets influencer marketing. All events bring together subject matter experts who are influential in their industry. Put on your reporter hat to write articles about what the experts spoke about.

Recently, I attended a Social Media Club event. An expert panel spoke about social media marketing. The panel shared a number of interesting examples and case studies. The next day, I published a blog post with my takeaways from the panel.

Some of the panel participants saw my post and shared it to their social networks. When you write about someone’s presentation or talk, they’re inclined to share. So reporting on expert insights kills two birds with one stone: you develop content for your target audience, while having the experts share the content on your behalf.

Time to fill up my calendar with meetups, events and conferences. Not only will I hear interesting presentations and meet interesting people, but I’ll have a fresh set of ideas and topics. Given that 75 percent of B2B content marketers find this tactic effective, I’ll see you there. Can we do a short video together?

Notes About this Post

Image adapted from CommScope’s photo on flickr.

This post was originally published at CMSWire.

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5 Hybrid Event Tips for Trade Associations (via @EastVirtual)

February 23, 2012

Learn more about hybrid events (for trade associations) at the EastVirtual Event Workshop, March 21, 2012 at the ASAE Conference Center in Washington D.C.

Read the full post: http://www.eastvirtual.com/5-things-trade-associations-should-know-about-launching-a-hybrid-event/

Introduction

I wrote a guest post for EastVirtual, providing trade associations with five tips on launching a hybrid event. A number of trade associations have led the way with hybrid events (e.g. NAB, ADA, AIA) – if you’re a trade association, you should consider adding a digital extension to your physical event (creating a hybrid event).

The 5 Tips

My 5 tips are:

  1. Extend your reach.
  2. Drive attendance to your face-to-face event.
  3. Start small, then adapt.
  4. Create value for your sponsors.
  5. Put technology to good use.

To read the full post, visit the EastVirtual Event Workshop site:

http://www.eastvirtual.com/5-things-trade-associations-should-know-about-launching-a-hybrid-event/


Case Study: Trade Show Lead Generation with American Express OPEN

April 26, 2011

Introduction

At NAB Show 2011 in Las Vegas, American Express OPEN (@OPENForum) created a game-based attraction in a lobby area that generated nearly a thousand (my estimate) sales leads.  Attendees were invited to play a Memory Match game, with an iPad 2 awarded to each day’s top performer. Read further for my thoughts on what made their approach so effective.

How They Attracted a Crowd

At any trade show, whether it’s physical or virtual, you want to attract a crowd to your space (or booth). To attract interest, location sure helps. The OPEN attraction was located in the lobby, right beyond the entrance and adjacent to the Information Desk.  Location goes only so far, however – you need to give attendees a reason to walk over to see what’s going on. OPEN achieved this with a prominent physical structure, along with an engaging host.

The host engaged simultaneously with the player and the audience, rooting the player along, while playing things up to the crowd, to generate excitement. Since the host spoke into a microphone, he garnered the attention of attendees who were walking by.

How They Tapped Into Attendees’ Competitive Juices

The brilliance of OPEN’s Memory Match game was the “score” (the time it took you to complete all matches – the lower the time, the better) and the leaderboard.  If the top score was “35 seconds,” then each contestant knew that they had to beat 35 seconds in order to win the iPad 2 (or, at least to attain the top spot on the leaderboard).

With a typical booth giveaway, you drop your business card in a fishbowl and hope that your name gets picked. The OPEN giveaway was different, because it tapped into the competitive spirit in all of us.  Contestants feel like they can control their destiny, unlike the random pick out of a bowl.  And, they’re presented with a clear goal in mind.

The game dynamic created a byproduct: an intense amount of excitement each time someone set the new “record”.  A woman who obtained the top time of the day jumped and screamed her way off the platform, as the crowd roared. It was like Tiger Woods sinking a birdie putt at The Majors – and, it drew further interest from passersby.

How They Captured Leads

Before beginning the Memory Match game, contestants needed to enter their information on the game console – the process was quite similar to filling out a registration page.  While leads from viewers (in the “audience”) were presumably not captured, all attendees who played the Memory Match left their name and contact information.  By providing a fun experience to visitors, OPEN can expect a stronger response from sales prospects compared to a more conventional show presence (i.e. without the game).

How They Provided Instant Gratification

Only a single visitor would win the iPad 2 each day, which means that 99% of visitors would go home empty handed. Not so with OPEN: they occasionally handed out $10 Starbucks cards to those contestants who showed their AmEx card. A great way to send visitors away happy, and to reinforce the notion that “membership has its privileges.”

Conclusion: Apply This to Your Virtual or Physical Trade Show Booth

Things to consider for your next trade show, whether it’s virtual or physical:

  1. Figure out how to attract attention.
  2. Tap into the competitive spirit of your visitors.
  3. Make sure your visitors have fun.
  4. Make sure a portion of your visitors leave happy.
  5. Optimize your lead gathering process.

2011 Predictions For Virtual Events

October 30, 2010

As we head into the final 2 months of 2010, it’s time for another round of predictions.  First, let’s review my 2010 predictions:

  1. The 2010 Predictions for Virtual Events
  2. The Mid-Year Report Card on the 2010 predictions
  3. A posting on the Future of Virtual Events

I assigned myself a mid-year grade of B.  And now, I’m designating a final grade of B-.  I hope to improve in this year’s predictions.  To assist with my predictions, I invited a few experts from the community to chime in, so I’ll be including their predictions with my own.

Market Expansion

To date, “market expansion” has meant a growing number of “pure play” virtual event platform providers.  In the US, we started with a handful of major vendors and we’ve seen new entrants into the market in 2009 and 2010.  We also saw the emergence of platforms outside the US, notably in Europe – and in 2009, in Asia Pacific as well.

For a large Requests For Proposal (RFP) in 2009 and 2010, the virtual event platforms knew whom they were competing against (each other).  Starting in 2011, it gets cloudier (pun intended), as the blending of virtual, social and Enterprise 2.0 means that a wider set of vendors are vying for the same business that virtual platforms got in 2010.

Consider the following vendors, each of whom has offerings that (in part) look, feel and smell like virtual events or virtual business communities:

Jive Software, Yammer, Pathable, Facebook Groups, Socialtext, SharePoint (Microsoft) and Lotus (IBM).

Virtual event platforms can expect to sell against some of these players in 2011 and some platforms may go the partnership route, to build a combined offering as a competitive advantage.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)

The virtual events industry is at a point in its growth where Service Level Agreements (SLA) make a lot of sense.  With a growing number of vendors, SLA’s help separate the contenders from the pretenders – if you’re offering money back (or a credit) if an event fails, then only the strong will survive.

I predict that one vendor will lead the way and proactively hit the market with an SLA – forcing others to follow suit later in 2011.  Expect SLA’s around availability and simultaneous users.

Later in 2011 (or perhaps in 2012), SLA’s will be defined around “quality”, such as response time.  This development helps the market – the assurance provided behind an event allows the market to expand, attracting new customer growth that exceeds 2010’s figures.

Market Upheaval

Market expansion and SLA’s mean the strong get stronger. But lesser platforms have a challenging year ahead. According to Cece Salomon-Lee, Principal at PR Meets Marketing, “some players will be bought by larger organizations, merging to bring together complimentary strengths or even some disappearing from the industry all together. No matter how, we will begin to see some consolidation within the industry.”

Meanwhile, Miguel Arias of IMASTE believes that US platforms will look abroad for acquisitions.  To “gain presence, customers and market knowledge” in Europe, Latin America and Asia, Arias believes US platforms will look to partner or acquire in-country platforms in those same regions.

In my mind, there is an enormous, (largely) untapped market within the US, which means that US-based platforms will continue to focus domestically in 2011.  Global expansion will occur in 2012 or beyond.  In addition, due to the “strong get stronger” phenomenon, I predict that one of the prominent US-based platforms will cease operations in 2011 – or, be sold at a below-market price.

Technology A La Carte


Today, virtual event platforms are “monolithic” – you enter an event and all of the functionality provided by the platform sits within that event.  You can’t experience the platform’s features outside of an “event”.  In my futures column, I predicted that virtual events “move closer to the end user”.

Driven by market demand, platforms will “break out” pieces of their technology platform in a la carte fashion. Customers who do not need a five course meal may opt just for an appetizer and coffee.  This may surface in a number of ways, including:

Thin desktop clients, mobile apps, browser toolbars, virtual booths embedded in banner ads, group chat embedded on a web page, etc.

Hybrid Innovation & The Year of the Hybrid

In 2009, some INXPO colleagues and I predicted that 2010 would be The Year of the Hybrid.  This was partially true – in fact, Cisco received the 2010 Grand Ex Award for their hybrid approach to Cisco Live and Networkers. However, the mass adoption of hybrid events (that we predicted) did not ring true.  But that’s OK, it’s always better to be a year early than a year late.

Event and experience marketing agencies have adopted virtual in varying degrees – 2011 is the year where they demonstrate the most aggressive push to date.  You’ll see strong adoption from the “big brands” in 2011 and it will come by way of these channel partners to the virtual event platforms.  2011 will set the foundation for growth – with “hockey stick growth” coming in 2012.

Another major adopter in 2011 will be associations. They’ve done a number of virtual events to date – in 2011, you’ll see 200%+ growth.  Local chapter meetings will continue to occur at physical locations, while the annual, national chapter meeting of the association will move to a hybrid event, with the virtual component serving those members who were not able to make it to the physical gathering.

More generally, 2011 will see innovative technologies that blend the virtual/online world with the real world.  And these same technologies will be integrated into hybrid event experiences, blurring the lines between physical and virtual.  I’m referring to location based services (LBS), mobile, augmented reality and QR codes.  Expect to see a lot of hybrid events innovation, which benefits everyone.

Miscellaneous Predictions

From Miguel Arias, “After some virtual events vendors, marketers and event organisers have shown in 2010 with successful case studies what are the benefits of virtual events we will see much more events and movements in Europe and South America specially.  I expect a 250-300% growth of the total market size in those regions.”

From Cece Salomon-Lee, “I believe the players that will remain on the landscape will begin building out an ecosystem of services to plug-and-play on the platforms.”

From Miguel on vendor specialization, “With more vendors in the space and more clients asking for more tailored solutions we will probably see a leader in the corporate events environment, a leader in the generic trade show market, other for hybrid events, for virtual career fairs, etc.”

Conclusion

I’ll sum up this piece by using a number of nouns to describe what I expect to see in 2011: innovation, shake-out, growth, change, adaptation, expansion, excitement.  Check back here in 6-8 months for my mid-year report card!


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