How to target the conference event buyer using digital marketing.
If you're a venue targeting the corporate events market, you're probably wanting to be in control of your own destiny (inbound sales) by doing your own digital marketing rather than relying on all the 'free' sites out there that are hoovering up your traffic. You may already be doing digital marketing in some shape or form and are familiar with all the cogs and wheels that are needed for the perfect digital marketing campaign 'engine' to fully function. For those of you new to this discipline, it's all about the data and you need various sets of data to enable you to be effective.
Like all types of marketing - you need a plan.
Londonlaunch is primarily a digital marketing company so we spend a lot of time analysing data. Being one of the industry's primary resources for inspiring event ideas and helping those searching for corporate event venues in London, we need to know our market from both the buyer AND the seller's perspective. We have lots of venues using Londonlaunch to target this buyer market and we have lots of corporate event buyers using Londonlaunch as their go-to tool for finding that ideal venue and also the inspiration for their next event. We need to know what they're thinking, doing and responding to. Personas - we need to know their personas. When we know their personas and then analyse the data we can then get a clear idea of their intent, which will help us determine our strategy for targeting and then engaging with them.
This blog is all about helping venues decide which audience to target and how to go about targeting them. Londonlaunch is in a very unique position when it comes to data because we have all the key sets that are needed to make these decisions:
- Google search traffic (you have that also),
- Our own web site traffic (unique to us) and trends
- Venues' data via our Venue Performance Report (also unique to us).
We use these 3 sets of data to help our clients put together a plan to more effectively target their audience.
Who are you targeting and for what type of event?
First of all, the main question your business needs to ask itself is, "who is our target audience and what type of event are we trying to attract to our venue?"
Our data from our latest venue benchmarking report tells us that Conferences hoovered up 44% of the total event budgets in 2018. The next highest spend was Parties but wait, when you consider that most of that revenue was in December (Christmas Parties) it's no shock to understand why venues want to target these two lucrative markets. Conferences are steady all year round, whilst Christmas is just one big bun fight.
Not everyone is the same.
Too many venues simply attempt to appeal to everyone.....all the time...... for every type of event. In the world of digital marketing, and playing by Google's rules, that isn't going to cut it. Or at least, that approach won't be AS successful as a more targeted approach. The user (and therefore Google) wants the search results to be very specific and answer direct and specific needs and more so these days....questions. With search becoming more sophisticated, the search engines' algorithms are watching the user behaviour/experience (UX) like a hawk to see if they like what they click. If they click on your site/page and then bounce straight off then that's not good - that sends a signal to Google that the user doesn't really like that page. If your bounce rate is high and more specifically, if your dwell times are low (and your bounce rate high) then that's a double (negative) whammy.
You need to design your pages, your products and services and your content such as marketing blogs, for specific types of audiences. You can also pull in your social media marketer to promote your event space (using the right platform for the right message) as well as the obvious email marketing, which is still the most powerful form of direct marketing. That means different personas, different keywords, different times and different channels. And that's before we've embarked on the conundrum of that famous quote "the unknown unknowns". Quite simply, when all is said and done and you have the perfect plan and strategy, there are still a LOT of people out there who are just looking for ideas. They don't know what they don't know. One of our most popular conference blogs is driven by the search term 'conference ideas'. There's no intent there other than window shopping. So when you throw those sort of curve balls into your data set, it really can get very confusing.
But that's not a reason not to have a plan - we all know plans change. And as Mike Tyson famously said, "everyone has a plan, 'till they get punched in the face"
So, we now know that we need to think about our target audience: who they are, what they search for and when. You would also benefit from looking outside your own data sets and looking at industry data with which you can compare.
A look at Londonlaunch's benchmarking data from the last quarter of 2018 provides some fascinating insight.
For the purpose of this blog, I've just examined the conference and meetings data. We also track Awards, Parties, Receptions and Dinners/Banqueting but for the purpose of this analysis, we have just used the meetings and conferencing data to see how it compares.
Key Findings 1:
Of the total number of combined conferences and meetings events:
- 62% were meetings
- 38% were conferences
"OK, so the volume is in meetings, let's go after those".
Key Findings 2:
Of the total number of combined delegates:
- 15% were meetings
- 85% were conferences
"Oh, now that changes things a bit. So, conferences had fewer events but more delegates. OK, that makes sense. Fewer conferences but more delegates (bigger 'events'), I get it".
Key Findings 3:
Revenue split of combined conferences and meetings:
- 10% came from meetings
- 90% came from conferences
"Crikey, that's it right there! The majority of the revenue is in conferences."
Conferences are fewer in number but have more delegates (by a mile) and more revenue.
Looking at the numbers more holistically, I've attached the results from our benchmarking report for 2018, which amongst other KPIs, measure revenues for conferences. You can clearly see that conferences command a large percentage of the event budget for the year.
No wonder everyone wants to target the conference market.
But on closer analysis (and many discussions I've had over the years), many venues don't have a very targeted (digital marketing) approach to gaining a larger slice of the conference pie. They still seem to be taking a generic/one size fits all marketing strategy, which the data would point to as being a bit of an odd approach considering how much money/opportunity is at stake.
Your buyers are becoming more digitally savvy.
We all know the volume of events is in meetings and we also know the bookings of these (smaller meetings) is moving online. A quick search online for "online meetings booking" will see a whole range of articles, resources and tools that will clearly indicate that small meetings are moving online. And with AirBnB moving into this space, it doesn't take a genius to work out that if you're not already thinking about online booking then maybe you need to put that on the agenda for the next meeting pronto? You need a plan and a digital marketing strategy that covers all bases.
You will also see from a basic trends search query that meetings have more volume than conferences.
No shock there but it's all data that enables for more informed thinking rather than doing what you've always done. Do you go for volume and automation or the bigger, more revenue-generating conferences...or both?
So you now have some decisions to make if you want to target those two different types of audiences because the following things will have a very significant impact on your choice of focus, spend, attention and success.
Both meetings and conferences are (often but not always) booked by different people.
That means the persona of your target audience is very different, and if you treat them both the same then you will be applying a vanilla approach to your digital marketing and that's not going to get you to where you want to be.
If you are a London conference venue then you would benefit from targeting that audience/buyer/persona specifically. All of your digital marketing trends will provide the evidence to help you build a specific, targeted and measurable digital marketing plan. SEO strategy, marketing blogs, keywords, digital campaigns and an overall marketing strategy will help you target this buyer specifically. The same can be said for meetings events (venues).
Smart insights from your internal data sets, market benchmarking data such as the London Venue Performance Report, search engine analysis and of course, your competitors will all provide data that will help you be more targeted, measurable and ultimately more in control of your own destiny.
Here is a copy of a mindmap we recently used for a client, to help them determine exactly who their target audience is. It also provides an idea of the processes of what happens first and next.
The benefits of digital marketing are clear and it's a numbers game, and numbers (if inputted accurately) don't lie. So if you're looking to target an event type, scale your business, your team and your revenue streams, having a coherent and well thought through digital marketing plan is a sensible place to start.
Data - it always has a better idea.
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