For London's venues and event suppliers, 2019 seems to be the year when digital sales and marketing will overtake most other forms of marketing. Maybe this is the year for venues to embrace digital marketing?
It's been a long time coming and for someone who has been banging the digital drum for over 10 years, it's interesting to see the mass adoption of this channel. Whilst this shift is generally welcomed, it does come with words of caution. When embarking on the world of digital, you're entering into the lion's den and if you're not careful your time, your efforts, your budgets AND your patience are all going to be severely tested. You need to have your (digital) game head on.
There is a movement happening at the moment called Digital Transformation. It formed the basis of a presentation I recently gave to some of London's finest and progressive venues. And one of my regular digital marketing reads, Econsultancy has a whole section dedicated to digital transformation and is a regular (daily) email I get that I really value. Definitely worth subscribing to if you're on a digital marketing mission.
As we now know from the lovely folk at Facebook and other social media channels, it's all about the data and in the world of digital, data ALWAYS has a better idea. As portrayed in the Channel 4’s docudrama on the Brexit vote: BREXIT, The Uncivil War where Benedict Cumberbatch played Dominic Cummings, the man who masterminded the Vote Leave campaign? At one point he told a bunch of crusty old politicians who thought they knew better, that he was going to spend nearly 50% of his campaign budget (about £3.5mil) on some data geeks who would tell him the answers and more importantly, how then to manipulate the audience. Cambridge Analytica and Trump right there, in our very own back-yard. And we all know how all that has turned out?!
So, we all now know that data has the answers. the next question is, who can you trust to understand those numbers and then act accordingly.
If you don't have accurate, trustworthy data then you're going to be making decisions, spending time, effort and money on building your house of straw and you'll probably end up wishing you hadn't ever started.
You might be lucky and never have a gust of wind to blow against your new house (made of straw) but the more likelihood is that you will be hit with something that you had no idea was coming and then.......oops.
The only trouble is....there's no going back and you're just going to have to find yourself a new agency or trusted team to help you achieve your lofty (digital) ambitions.
On the flip side, if you don't put your (data) house in order then you will be at the mercy of the outside world and external agencies being in charge. No-one minds paying the 10% commission, right up until that deal flow (channel) is turned off because your competitors have offered the agents a special deal that month/quarter/year. All of a sudden, those channels can dry up and you find yourself NOT controlling your own destiny. That is not a nice place to be and it's probably not a sensible one either
Let's put all this into context.
A few months ago we ran an event with a company called NFS Technology who arguably, have one of the richest and oldest sets of data in the venues market. The data that their systems have access to is of course just data and it's not attributed to any single venue or client. It's just trends. It's also anonymous of course, not least because technically it's not their data and also GDPR has (quite rightly) meant that unless they had permission, they couldn't use that data. But they're clever people over at NFS and whilst they haven't (and never will) look at individual company data, they can nevertheless spot the trends across the board. So we decided to couple up and embark on some research to find out how venues are using data to make better decisions and build that digital strategy. If you'd like to see the results, please let me know and I'll happily send you a copy of the eBook.
The results of a full survey, which Londonlaunch carried out on our database and contacts were alarming and I have to admit, caught me a little off guard. 50% of respondents (venues) said they were unhappy with their reporting.
That's HALF of the market who said that the data and reports they were using for their business were not good enough. Remember that house of straw we mentioned earlier?? If your data sets aren't solid then good luck with building the extension, which let's face it you're going to end up doing. Only this week have I added/integrated 2 new apps to help me understand my data better.
Let's think about the options/systems/apps you will probably need:
- Venue Management Software (inventory etc)CRM software (sales and marketing)
- Accounting software (for the bosses) - probably already in place
- Email marketing (I like these folks) - they have a secret and I’ll tell you about it if you DM me
- Marketing appsWeb analytics
- Project management
- Social Media Management
And these are only the basic ones. Don't get me started on specialist apps that might be relevant to your business, venue, team and projects.
So, where do you start with your new plan of digital world domination in 2019?
Here are 5 ways that will help you improve. You may already have started and some of you will be already far down this road (kudos to you) but for those don't know where to start, here are a few pointers.
1. Gather the key internal stakeholders and start to change the culture.
This is a really excellent place to start and uses a whole bunch of 'soft' skills before you've even touched a computer. You'll already have a range of suppliers that you can call upon to help you get more out of the services you are already paying for so that's a good place to start. Call them up and ask for help, explaining what you want to achieve. CRM, email, venue management - all these suppliers will almost certainly have more to give if you give them some clear direction.
To make your mark, make a change and get the company moving in the same (digital) direction then guess what? You're going to need some help. You can't do it all alone and if you do, you'll soon wish that you had some allies or that you could spread the load. Heck, at the very least you'll need some colleagues who are actually involved to bounce ideas off.
So if you show some initiative, commitment and a desire to make things better then why not gather your team, put forward your plans and ideas and ask for help. You'll be surprised who will volunteer to help you in your digital quest - and they won't/don't have to come from the obvious places either. See that junior new starter sitting in the corner....? I bet they have something to say.
The only objective you need to have at this stage is the desire to improve. You're not sure what you can achieve and by how much but you do know you CAN improve and that's a great start and shows real initiative and leadership. Gather your team, change the culture and start making plans for how you're going to do this.
2. Get some specialist skills and help (maybe external?)
You're almost certainly going to need some help from outside your immediate organisation and that may have to be in the shape of an external agency. It may not cost you a lot, to begin with, but unless you have a digital ninja in the corner who's been hiding and keeping their skills a secret then the chances are you're going to need to get some outside help to get you started. This comes with a health warning. Picking the right external assistance is a bit like picking a flatmate. The good ones are great and the bad ones are horrid. The digital marketing world is littered with agencies who take your money and run. After all, it's not their business so what do they care? You win some you lose some is often their motto so be careful.
Needless to say that personal recommendations are probably the best place to start (rather than Google) and start small. If the external company/person doesn't like the size of your budget then that itself tells a story.
3. Are your existing systems all in order?
Remember the saying - "s**t in, s**t out"?
There's no point in having all these lofty ambitions if you haven't got all your data sets sorted.
Here are a few basic tools you will need to ensure you have your datasets up and running:
- Weekly/monthly sales reports to include enquiries, source and conversion.Google Analytics/Google Search ConsoleEmail marketing reports (email is still the most powerful marketing tool in terms of ROI)
This, in the very short term, should be enough. There are loads more tools that will help you as you progress but to begin with, if you have all these 3 nice and tight then that will be a good start.
I don't mean sales targets. I'm sure you are already on top of those (I hope), I mean the internal KPI's - what do you want to measure?
The agency/external consultant should be able to help you with these, especially defining what is reasonable, sensible and achievable but your existing data should be able to give you a steer.
Some KPI's you might want to consider are:
- Web site (landing pages, traffic sources (social, organic, direct (email)) etc
- Conversions (define your conversions: sales enquiry, form filled out, page viewed, brochure downloaded etc)
- Dwell times email (opens, click-throughs (CTR), click to open rates (CTO))
- Social Media - be careful here. Whilst SM is a great broadcasting tool, there are plenty of people who are struggling to justify the ROI. I'm not saying don't' do it, I'm saying apply some of your new found disciplines to it before heading off in a frenzy of tweets and posts.
5. Be realistic
......with your targets, goals and ambitions. In this crazy world of instant satisfaction, it's easy to get sucked into believing you can change the world overnight. You almost certainly can't. That's not to say that you won't have some pleasant surprises on your journey to digital nirvana but data will give you the ideas, inspiration and creativity to succeed. Data will have the answers. What's more, if you have good data sets then you can present those with confidence and a deep understanding. No more flying by the seat of your pants at the next sales/marketing meeting when the big bosses want answers. The answers are almost certainly in the data and as you will be the custodian and master of the data, YOU will have the answers.
So, there you have it. Get your (data) house in order, collect all your datasets and make sense of them. Then, gather your team and lead the charge to better data and better results.
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