Ex-Euromoney MD Luke Gibson lifts the lid on inbound marketing for traditional events businesses and explains why they're so glacially slow at adopting the new inbound marketing methods. Luke talks tough at times and certainly doesn't sugar coat his messages to marketing directors and others seeking investment in inbound marketing for their events.
Catch a few highlights below or watch the full interview here:
If you don't have time to listen to Luke's interview in full, here are a few key takeaways and soundbites on inbound marketing for traditional events businesses for you to think about:
1. Legacy people, behaviours and systems are holding traditional events businesses back from embracing inbound
Luke says, "When you think about inbound it makes sense. It's how you like to engage with companies." But with events you have small audiences, so to get the data you have to commit to a change for a while to prove whether it works or not. That and you can't always tell what impact the inbound stuff has directly, which makes it look like a more expensive way of achieving the same thing you've always achieved.
"We still keep pulling the same old levers to get the bookings, phone, emails..." Because email and phone are cheap, they work and you can prove that. "You've got the old heroin you're hooked on, that's bashing people over the head and getting them to buy...it's difficult to come off the old stuff because you can prove it works." We financially reward the sales person who closed the deal, not the people who spent the last 364 days communicating with that person, getting them ready to buy.
It's not just old school people, processes and mentalities, the technology presents a barrier. Legacy systems make it hard to see an individual's journey and relationship with your brand which makes it hard to justify inbound spend. "Your heart says it's the right thing to do, but the empirical evidence just isn't there." Instead we hold up the database "like it's a holy grail, when in fact in most companies it's more like a swamp."
2. Attribution can be tough to get right for inbound, so pick your battles and know your numbers
Legacy systems notwithstanding, attribution for inbound is a challenge. At a recent conference Luke was moderating a panel of advocates of an integrated, inbound approach to event marketing, but when asked for their strongest channel, they all still said phone. Probably by virtue of the short shelf life of the product we are all focused on the closing stages of the sales process, seeking immediate impact and rejecting the idea of investing in anything that's not getting bookings throuhg the door next week.
Luke is very clear that inbound has to be able to demonstrate that it can pay its way if it is to earn investment from traditional event business leaders. He advises marketing directors "Keep the message simple and show MDs the numbers." Make sure they know what timeframe they are looking at for traditional channels to become unprofitable and for the new stuff to start working. Make sure you have small wins you can point to that indicate the worth of wider investment.
Luke advises picking a particular niche or product and doing a pilot product in an area that's already showing growth, where resistance to extra investment and trying new things should be less. He says you need to ring fence the new stuff to give it the best chance of success, use free or inexpensive tools outside your existing systems, demonstrate the worth of the new approach and then you have the case for rolling it out to the wider business, spending on the latest tools etc.
3. Change is possible in a traditional business and there's no doubt that it's essential if they are to survive
People are getting ever savvier about their online behaviours. Luke says "My kids have two email addresses, one for normal stuff and one they use to buy things, because they know they'll get spammed and this means they filter all that out. They've got it all figured out." And the kids of today are the delegates of tomorrow, so this doesn't bode well for the B2B marketer's go-to channel.
He stresses that even if you're not immediately starting content marketing and inbound marketing, traditional events businesses still need to improve the basics like targeting. "If you have 50 products that are relevant to one customer, you probably don't know them very well."
Asked about who's doing a great job already, he points to younger companies, owner operated, not the big PLCs. "They have the freshest approach." And if he was to start over himself he says he'd have been in the industry the event was for before starting the conference, "you need more skin in the game on the content side", "like a consultant" and not "Hi, I'm thinking of putting together a conference on..." He thinks it's essential for the events company of tomorrow to "show you're in the thick of that community through content." He'd also build his datebase differently, using organic, inbound techniques from the outset.
We hope you enjoyed that brief snapshot of the interview, there were loads more great things said, so don't forget, you can watch the full interview here:
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