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May 15, 2007

EVENT PORTFOLIOS: Giving your live marketing real bite

To communicate effectively with your market and keep up with your competitors in an increasingly competitive global economy, you have to use all the tools at your disposal. Total media saturation for consumers means the traditional forms of advertising – TV, radio, magazine, newspapers, posters – simply aren’t as effective as they once were. Consumers are demanding the heightened engagement and interactivity that online and live marketing provide.

But it’s not enough to simply add events to your marketing arsenal. Many companies are realising the value of this, but those that stay ahead of the game will develop a thoroughly researched, deliberately selected schedule of event activities that is designed to best achieve their most important business objectives. In short, a live marketing portfolio.

Too scattergun
“Many businesses spend up to half their marketing budgets on events – but rarely do these businesses actually know if they are doing the right events, the right types of events, the right mix, too many or too few events to achieve their business objectives,” says Kim Myhre, vice president/general manager EMEA at experience marketing company George P Johnson, and a leading expert on event portfolio development.

“In fact,” Myhre continues, “many businesses cannot even give you a list of the events that they plan to do.”

Event investment decisions are often made on the fly, and all over a company.  Some event decisions are made by corporate management, some centrally by corporate marketing, some decentrally by in-country management and sometimes event choices are made by sales and marketing people in the field.  One thing – in fact maybe the only thing – that all of these event decisions have in common is that they are rarely ever made with an overall integrated event plan designed to optimise and measure the effectiveness of these event investments in mind. And that means many businesses are usually doing events they may not need to do, not doing events they maybe should, probably doing too many of one kind of event and not enough of another, most likely not measuring event effectiveness in a standardised and thus comparable way and generally wasting a lot of time and money on their event activities.

“Event decisions are notorious for being made on hunch and habit,” says Myhre. “A company executive decides that he needs a C-level event in a warm location with a golf course, but is not clear on what the content will be or what needs to be achieved – ‘It just feels like good idea’ – or a sales person commits his company to a local trade show because he heard that his competitor was going to be there – or an ineffective event activity continues year after year because ‘we’ve always done it’ or ‘we’ll lose face if we don’t show up’.”

Time for alignment
Making event investments without clearly aligning these decisions to a company’s business or marketing plan contributes to the popular misconception that events are not serious marketing. Advertising is carefully planned based on target profiles and demographics – ad placement is researched and often in the control of media planners who are experts at putting together the right mix of placement and timing. Direct marketing gains credibility with its response rates and conversion metrics. Events have historically been selected based on personal opinion and not upon fact in terms of attracting the right audience and generating the right results. This is because there is rarely an appropriate or standardised measurement of an event’s effectiveness – success or failure is then left to individual interpretation.

“Some event managers internally ‘sell’ an event’s success in spite of whether the event actually achieved its real business or marketing objectives – as an ‘unsuccessful’ event can lead to questions and possibly career challenges,” says Myhre. “It is this lack of marketing discipline that has relegated events to the back bench of the marketing world – too many event managers equating success with doing lots of events rather than doing just the ‘right’ events required to achieve their business’s marketing goals.”

However, he’s keen to stress that by first clearly identifying business objectives, defining marketing priorities before creating an experience marketing strategy – based on a portfolio of event activities deliberately selected to achieve these objectives, along with appropriate measurement and metrics in place to assess performance – event professionals not only gain a seat at the table with other marketing disciplines, but are also able to show the real – namely measurable – results they bring to the business. After all achieving business results is why businesses undertake events in the first place.

Look out for
EVENT PORTFOLIOS 2: Delivering results, justifying spend coming soon on EVENTS:review

Kim Myhre will be speaking at the Exhibiting Show at Earl's Court 2 on 26-27 June 2007.

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