Monday, 2 August 2010

Flagship Programs: Creating Better Outcomes from Your Big-Ticket Events

The world is more exciting again. After brutal cutbacks, most organisations are back to kinder economic climes, and are doing more investing. Good news for marketing folks, who have been biding their time the past 24 months...

But the world is also a different place today. Yes the recession is over, but it doesn’t seem like it. The relentless quest for ROI and value only got more demanding. Yes there is money, but the need to justify spending doing the same old things is getting to be difficult.

The question you as the b2b marketer face is- Do you want to do things differently, acknowledging the new reality we are in, or do you want to go back to the way things were in 2006-2007, knowing perhaps that it will not be the best thing for your company, and knowing that the next recession will again mean that events will be the first to go from the budget?

Going back to the way things were in 2006-07 is not really a possibility, is it? Unless you are able to present a different strategy that meets more stringent ROI criteria, you are likely to be forced into an event execution mode, and lose that opportunity to create something new, something that will ensure that events will create significantly more leverage for your p&l.

But the question is, what is that “new” that can be done? Is it in the choice of event properties? After all, there are rather limited options of where the right target audiences gather – and you can only choose from so many choices. In the tech world, how many choices do you have beyond the Gartner spectrum, the Oracle Open Worlds and Sapphires, all of which are pricey, to say the least. This doesn’t seem to be the next big thing that will rock the boat, and turn you into a rockstar....

What about the way you run events today, In particular, the big ticket events, the ones with price tags of >$100 K? Is there something that can be done there? Let’s explore...

In my observation, the following are true about how big-ticket events are run:

  • 1. Most of these events are executed in an event logistics focus mode, with all the energy and focus going into the building the best stalls, designing the best gimmicks to get leads etc- but perhaps more important, a rather limited focus on business outcomes
  • 2. These big ticket events are “owned” typically by one single p&l which might perhaps only be a small part of the company revenues. Other parts of the business find it difficult to engage in the event and hence the entire company perhaps does not directly benefit.
  • 3. The so called “leads” are, in 80% of the cases, a lost opportunity. When conversations get passed onto sales who typically have a quarterly focus and a niche focus, only those conversations that tick both the boxes get followed through, and the ones that do not fall by the wayside- how many CIOs did your organisation meet in these events that you never bothered to stay in touch with?

Is there a way to solve for these issues and get better outcomes for the company as a whole without spending more money?

I believe there is. I call it the The Flagship Programs View:

I advocate that all large events of strategic significance, which typically account for about 70% of the event budgets, which i categorise as Flagship events, should be managed very differently from the way they are managed now, and the way other smaller events will continue to be managed.

Flagship events are fairly unique as the channel that offers direct access to people that will buy from us at scale, and also offer enormous opportunities to integrate all the other good work that marketing and the rest of the organisation is doing-ensuring message consistency, getting the best references into play through case studies, leveraging other good work such as AR and PR etc.

Think about it this way- a typical tech company could, in a year, “touch” more than 30,000 prospects through the various Flagship events- between the WEF, the world’s CEO forum which introduces you to 5000 folks, SAP’s Sapphires which exposes you to 12000, Oracle Open-world about 10000, Gartner events gets ~5000. One more thing - there is a significant overlap between the folks that go to these events. Consider this- folks with big budgets are rather small in number. They are looking at us in different events, and may be at different stages with reference to their predisposition to engage with us, and, if we are able to identify them and manage their interaction with us across these big ticket events, they will convert faster, and we will be more efficient in our event resource utilisation (money, people and leads).

Flagship events should be managed in a way that maximises benefits to the entire company, and with an emphasis on consistency, at a platform and a message level. The key outcome we are striving to maximise is - we accelerate our prospects’ journey from “who are you” to “i have this thing i am looking for help on” through our multiple direct touch-points these events offer to engage with them.

Is it different? It is. Let’s try and clarify what this view is about and, more important, what it is not.

It is not about trying to do new events - Immediate approach has to be about collecting the low hanging fruit , By fixing the inefficiencies in the way we approach flagship events because of lack of integration

It is Not to execute these events better, but to maximize the value to us- so very important that we do not look at it as Event +

This is not about making a 12 month program out of each flagship event- but about utilizing the mega events and the core smaller events, to tie together an awareness perception reach objective with our propect audience

It is about defining a larger purpose in the execution of these events and the way we thread them together, and what we do with them

However, the raison-d-etre for this program is our participation in these events - the way business works, they need the instant gratification events provide, and hence organisations will invariably have events and an event budget. The idea is, as you build up your portfolio of big spend events, you integrate them into the flagship program structure and governance.

In the next few posts, let us explore how to go about selecting these events, what to do differently in them, and how to create a program view, spread over a year/18 months, around these activities.

1 comment:

Zen said...

Hi Rajeev,
An interesting post. Would have even better if you could have given an example of how this worked in some firm, but I guess that info is confidential.
Regards,
Zen