One of the biggest challenges for the B2B marketer who wants to add events into their marketing mix is time management. Events work at a totally different pace from your average B2B sales cycle and can be a huge drain on your time if not managed correctly. To save you from these pitfalls and stop your candlelight vigils, we've created a guide to B2B marketing time management when running events...
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to manage your day job and an event together it's worth looking at why the challenge exists in the first place...
Why are events such a time suck?
Events are a totally different animal from your average B2B marketing campaign and this results in the potential for much time used and often wasted. Here's why:
- Increased urgency: Events have a fixed end point by which you, the marketer, have to deliver a prospect packed audience and an amazing on site experience. This "hard stop" creates understandable anxiety in a community where a sale can take months or even years to come to fruition. And anxiety leads to rushing, mistakes and prioritising the event over all else leading to gaps in the regular marketing programme.
- A different proposition: The proposition and messaging around an event is radically different from the one you typically use for the rest of your brand, products or services. The marketing plan is different too. So all the stuff you'd normally reference, lean on and repurpose is now essentially useless and you have to create and learn a while new way of working. Which can take a huge amount of time.
So, what to do? The first is to understand that an event is basically a bottomless pit into which you can throw endless amounts of effort for diminishing returns. As long as you have the basics covered, you should be able to run a successful B2B event. Here are the essentials...
- Web page: Your event needs a digital destination. People need to know when and where it is, how to get involved and why. This also gives you somewhere to hist your content and lead generation mechanism.
- Core messaging: This is the why bit of the previous point. What's in it for me, the attendee? This doesn't need to take days or be "War and Peace". We're looking for a couple of USPs and some strong, tangible benefits of attending. If you can't hook someone's interest in a couple of lines, you aren't going to do it in more than that.
- Inbound marketing: Create a killer bit of content on the event topic, repurpose the hell out of it and then promote it using all your inbound marketing know how to drive traffic to your event web page capture leads and then further engage them with an automated workflow of not more than 6 emails. Here are some highlights from #INBOUND16 to inspire you.
Time management 101
We're big fans of Stephen Covey's 7 habits at BrightBull and this book influences our core time management principles:
- Be proactive: Events can get away from you very quickly, regardless of the net hours you're logging against them. So you need to be proactive in responding to potential problems or gaps as soon as they appear, rather than putting off the confrontation of the issue until it's grown so big as to be un-manageable or take over your whole day.
- Be purposeful: Having clear goals, not just for your event but for every associated activity stops you spending time on the stuff that doesn't matter. If something has no commercially relevant purpose then it's not a good use of your time.
- Prioritise: Above we outlined the non negotiables. After that, everything is nice to have and will require you to ruthlessly prioritise what's most likely to make your organisation more profitable and successful.
- Be people oriented: This means listening more than you speak, actively collaborating, being empathetic, seeking win-win situations. Basically bringing together all your people skills to smooth the path of your work, making you more productive because everyone is on your side and pushing for your goals rather than being ambivalent or working against you.
More hints and tips
- Repurpose like your life depended on it: Don't reinvent the wheel for every communication, lean on your core messaging. And rather than trying to create 6 different pieces of content for your six event emails or social posts, focus your time on creating one great one, for example a killer video and then spinning the rest of your content off of that. We've got a free e-book that guides you through how to do this at the end of the post. Also, you can check out these free content creation tools for time poor marketers.
- Automate everything you can: You'd be amazed how many B2B marketers have a great campaign management tool like Hubspot and then end up running their event from spreadsheets and documents. Your event should lean on your existing inbound marketing methods and infrastructure, using automation as much as possible behind the scenes so you can put your manual hours where it shows e.g. social media conversations. Want to see how you compare with others? Check out how much time your peers spend on social media.
- Get ruthless about meetings: We all have too many meetings and taking the pruning sheers to your calendar and eliminating "nice to have" or informational gatherings will give you the time you need to run your event. To help even more, we have selected 5 of the best meeting scheduling tools to make the most of your busy day.
- Get a self-starting agency: Hiring an agency to do your event may seem like a smart move but if you choose the wrong one it can end up taking just as much time as if you did it yourself. You need to choose a specialist firm, not your usual ad agency, one filled with seasoned event professionals and who'll take the event and run with it rather than being on the phone every 2 minutes for reassurance.
Now you have the basic tool kit you'll need to run great B2B events without them taking over your life and leaving you no time for your day job. Get more tips with our time management tips for event planners.