Another special guest post by Chris Gayner, Global Marketing Manager at the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON).
Some time ago, I wrote a post for Maloney on Marketing looking at the structure and initial development of a basic B2B Content Strategy.
The piece itself was rather drab and what I imagine must have been excruciating to read – similar to an annoying orange I imagine… never-the-less it was important to the broader picture.
(NOTE: I vow never to allow my writing to be that tedious, boring or a chore to read ever again)
I will however dip back into my first post and add some colour to my initial points through case studies and general learning’s of what I have found has worked first hand and what made me look like I had some of idea what I was doing (which is easily achieved with a winning smile, conviction in what you are doing and the ability point out where your competitors are doing a far worse job than you).
So to kick things off, let’s talk about objectives.
Review and align [to] your business objectives
The case in focus for my next few posts will be the company I am currently employed, International Quality & Productivity Center (IQPC).
Leverage a Content Hub for event growth
Since the 1970’s, IQPC has been a pure-play business-event organiser that produced hundreds of conferences, exchanges, forums and industry gatherings globally each year covering so many industries and topics that we probably had an event for Effective Management of ‘Casual Friday’.
A basic breakdown of how the average event was put together looks something like this:
a) Identify trending topics (through phone research and feedback forms from previous events – where applicable) across market – pick out trending topics and begin to put together basic event agenda.
b) Once event has entered production, work with marketing to test event against the market – continually gauge market feedback and adapt event agenda to match market feedback.
c) Once event has been refined to a point that is deemed acceptable from all stakeholders, apply heavy marketing and sales effort.
Marketing effort usually consisted off 80% Offline Marketing (direct mail of event brochure with as much information splashed throughout – who the speakers are, who the sponsors are, all the sessions, complete breakdown of when and where everything was happening etc), 15% Online Marketing (email marketing advertising the event and event website that looked like the brochure), 5% industry partnerships (usually barter agreements with media owners and industry bodies – these usually had minimal impact for either party involved due to the nature of the barter agreement).
The Sales effort had no integration with marketing in which saw both teams competing against one another for the same end goal.
d) Production, Marketing and Sales ‘work together’ (i.e. meet once a week to look at numbers and announce their own grand strategies for making this year’s event ‘the best event in the world’) until event runs.
e) Move onto new topic and repeat process from start.
In 2010, IQPC is still a pure-play business-event organiser that produces hundreds of conferences, exchanges, forums and industry gatherings globally each year… HOWEVER the introduction of content hubs [external publishing divisions such as the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON)] in 2008, saw the start of a paradigm shift in how the entire business operates.
The content hub brought together articles, webinars, whitepapers, podcasts, interviews, roundtables, Q&A, Blogs, from around the respective industry space.
Challenge and Case Study
Getting the content hub off the ground was no easy feat, as with all change there was scepticism (would the investment deliver a return [how long, what would it look like], who will manage the project, how many people will be required to run the whole thing, how much integration would be required and what is the cost of this etc).
The first content hub for IQPC was the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON). The decision to move forward with the SSON was due mainly to the fact that there was already a monthly publication in circulation – Shared Services News.
The launch team consisted of the Shared Services News magazine editor, the IQPC group CMO, the now Head of Global Strategy and myself. Several months post launch, we found that the biggest challenge was focus – where to start and how much attention to give each facet of the content hub.
After several more painstaking months we had finally developed some clearer objectives for the content hub as well as objectives that aligned with IQPC’s main objectives.
We then set about pulling in an additional online editor and created a new head of global events role – we now had a centralised team to deliver on the both sets of objectives.
From 2008 – 2010 many, many, MANY changes took place and a magnitude of ideas were discussed, tested and either kept or tossed into the bin depending on how well they fit in with the overarching objectives.
NOTE: Don’t be afraid that an idea might not work or get disheartened if an idea doesn’t work during the growth phase, write down what you did and what the results were, keep these results filed somewhere and come back to them later when you are better equipped to test again at a later stage (you might just be ahead your time).
With the content hub now bubbling away – new content being published weekly, stronger industry relationships being formed, higher recognition of the SSON brand name and closer integration with the event business – the impact has already begun to.
The breakdown of how an average event is NOW put together looks more like this:
a) Identify trending topics – Online analytics (such as Google Analytics) are now been closely watched to identify most popular topics web browsers and customers are reading/viewing; Conversations and comments that are taking place on the Q&A board, blogs, forums, feedback forms are being mined and interpreted into insight.
b) The data from analytics is now being combined with the insight from real time conversations and comments – phone research acts to confirm insights and data. The producer can now begin to put together basic event agenda and work with marketing to test event against the market – continually gauge market feedback and adapt event agenda to match market feedback (testing cycle is greatly reduced as the market has already voiced their interest/need in the topic ensuring the event can go-to-market quicker)
c) Once event has been refined to a point that is deemed acceptable from all stakeholders, apply heavy marketing and sales effort – which have both been radically changed:
40% Offline Marketing – Direct mail still makes up the main portion of the offline effort with the event brochure putting much more emphasis on directing people to the website for more information plus promoting content from the event’s download centre which has been pulled from the main content hub),
50% Online Marketing – The email marketing campaigns now looks more like newsletters or industry updates than pure marketing blasts – full of content that the market has identified matches their interest with clear calls to action back to the event.
The event websites now look cleaner and more like a proper website with info about speakers, sponsors and the event split out through better navigation plus the inclusion of a big download centre where browsers can access all the latest content relevant to the event – again, taken from the main content hub (allowing browsers to be pulled towards the event site and not constantly pushed from marketing efforts).
The ability to leverage social media by sharing relevant content and starting grass-root conversations around a topic has added a whole new level of communication to the event comm’s mix while extending the reach and exposure of the event.
SEO has also benefited greatly as people are now linking back to the relevant content and requesting more link swaps. The event also gets exposure via the external content hub which draws a lot more traffic, inbound links and general brand awareness is higher – will talk about the content hub itself in coming posts).
10% industry partnerships – In addition to the traditional barter agreements with media owners and industry bodies, partnerships are now taking the form of link exchanges, content exchanges and affiliate programs all of which link back the event as the source – meaning that everyone involved in the partnership network benefits a lot more in being associated.
Sales and Marketing now work together to drive and convert leads developed through content interaction (downloads) and share insight into market movements and demands a lot more,
d) Production, Marketing and Sales ‘work together’ – all teams ensure new relevant content from the content hub is being added to the event often, talk about how the content could be used to drive interest in the event and discuss additional topics that the market is interested in but might not be in the program which means the topic generation cycle for next years event (or even a new event) is much shorter and the process does not have to start from scratch again
Overall between 2009 and 2010 is when the full impact of the content hub was realised for the event business. The 2010 European Shared Services & Outsourcing Week event set a new record (both for the events 10 year history and the European IQPC Office) in terms of overall event revenue and event growth Year on Year*
From a marketing perspective the benefits of the content hub on the event business:
Impact on SEO: Allowed events to drive search engine ‘juice’ through unique content and enabled increased opportunity for link exchanges with high ranking industry websites
Ability to engage and mine analytics for insight into the market: The added insight into browsers behaviour and conversations taking place online ensured clearer and more precise communications were being rolled out rather than general messages blasted to the entire market
Ability to cut through the clutter: The content enabled the marketing effort to stand out from the rest of the competition by adding value to the audience’s interests rather than constantly pushing marketing messages out – the added insight also developed a level of thought leadership in the space.
Ability to leverage social as a channel: Content is now being leveraged to initiate and engage in conversation with potential customers across relevant social networks plus add value to existing conversations.
Ability to drive more leads for the overall event: A large portion of the content is behind smart form barriers to ensure all new potential customer data is being captured and followed up with.
In the process of supporting and enabling record growth for the event division, the SSON portal developed an industry recognised brand identity (now one of the most recognised brands in this space), launched 6 new revenue generating products completely separate from the event business and set the benchmark for the roll out of 9 other content hubs for IQPC (around Six Sigma, Human Resources, Oil and Gas, Defence / Defence, Pharma, Customer Management, Alliance Contracting, Legal)
Stay tuned, the next post will look at developing the right content in your content hub for your target audience…
* The content hub was not solely responsible for the huge success of the event, however metrics such as leads and revenue generated through the content hub for the event, traffic driven to the event website and conversations with on-site attendees clearly proved that the content hub played a major role in the events success.
Contact Chris Gayner
Global Marketing Manager
Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON)
Work Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Personal Email: email@example.com
Connect with me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ssonetwork
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Chris_Gayner
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