©2016 Michael Piddock
Okay, okay… so that’s a pretty incendiary headline; deliberately so to encourage you to click J – but please hear me out…
Here’s my logic:
Events – and by that I include ‘meetings, incentives, conferences and events’ – the full ‘MICE’ suite, represent (on average) the largest item of expenditure in business-to-business marketing budgets. The data backing this up is here, and my own experience of running B2B marketing teams concurs.
Why’s that? Because face-to-face meetings simply work, particularly in B2B, where Company A might be selling to Company B, but really it’s a human-being in Company A selling to another human being (or beings) in Company B.
Relationships matter, and relationships are formed, nourished and cemented face-to-face. Direct meetings help, but events of all types remain a great way to get a lot of key people in one place at one time and get the deals done.
Event budget cuts – what happens next?
So businesses spend a lot running their own events or attending industry conferences, and supporting this with dinners, hospitality, sponsorship, etc. and the costs rack up, and they’re correctly attributed to the ‘events’ line in the marketing budget.
So what happens if (or when) we hit a recession, slowdown, or ‘bump in the road’ caused by something like a Brexit, Trump becoming US president or simply another banking downturn? If history is anything to go by, our finance directors and procurement teams will start looking at marketing budgets. Where will they look first? Probably at the top of the list – the big expenditure items – like the 25% of the budget spent on events.
And as I said – this is what happened in the last downturn. Marketing budgets were slashed more or less across the board, but events took the lion’s share of the cuts in the B2B space, and were slower to recover when the economy got going again.
But one area of the marketing budget seemed to escape the FD’s wrath – and it’s no surprise that it was that spent on digital marketing.
How did digital marketing escape?
While it’s fair to say that digital marketing has grown astronomically since 2008, I think it’s also fair to say that back then most of the people making the budget cuts didn’t really get that. What they did see, however, is that every pound, dollar or euro spent on digital marketing could be measured and its effectiveness tracked. Adwords led to website visits, which led to conversions which led to clients.
When it came to fighting for budget, our friends in digital marketing had a war-chest of useful data that could be used to prove that what they were doing worked, and cutting back was a false economy.
Meanwhile, in the events space, ROI wasn’t so clear cut. Back then, the data wasn’t great, and it wasn’t easy to quantify the success of X Conference versus Y Seminar. The measure of the success of particular events might have come from the more influential salespeople, and with the axe swinging their primary focus would have been saving their heads, rather than sticking up for an expensive line item in the marketing budget.
And so meetings, incentives, conferences and events budgets got cut, and unfortunately, many excellent and hard-working events planners got cut with them.
Event technology means the world has changed
Fortunately, now things are VERY different…
This time round, event planners have access to data. They have efficient marketing, ticketing and registration platforms to acquire attendees and ‘digitise’ them easily. They have social media networks and related tools to build valuable communities on and offline so that events are a key element of a broader marketing strategy, rather than just isolated activities. And event planners have access to a huge amount of technology to engage audiences at events, understand their needs, measure their interests and preferences, and convert them into loyal customers.
Event technology – including event apps, interactive presentation software, audience response systems and feedback tools – is capturing data. This is the data that, used well, will give event planners the arsenal of information they need when the accountants start running the rule over the marketing budget.
We’re seeing loads of event planners really starting to understand this and realising just how powerful technology can be – not just to engage audiences with participation or interactive Q&A – but also to simply gather data. Yet there are so many events still being run without a reliable means of measuring their success or impact.
So back to that headline…
Event technology might not save you your job. Your events might be smashing it and your job might not be at risk at all. However, event technology does provide you with a great way of really proving the value of what you do. Fight fire with fire – or rather, fight finance people with the sort of data they understand and can’t argue with…
So… if you’re not already, futureproof your budget by using event tech and data capture....
Mike Piddock is the founder and CEO of Glisser - an interactive presentation software solution that live-shares slides to audience devices, and integrates audience Q&A and polling to gather data at live events, big and small. Previously Mike ran marketing and events teams for global corporations and fast-growth companies, across the telecoms, IT and financial services industries.