By Steve Lilly, Co-Founder & SVP Global Data Partnerships, Bombora
Pre-pandemic, the events business was booming for publishers, with some seeing double-digit growth in sponsorships and attendance in recent years. The biggest problem for some was an overcrowded calendar. Now, the events space is reeling.
We’ve seen outright cancellation of the entire event series with attendant personnel furloughs and layoffs. Those that have persisted and moved online struggle to secure ticket sales and sponsorships. With little clarity into what 2021 will look like, many publishers or events producers have been forced into survival mode.
It is all the more critical that publishers adopt a data-driven approach to improve promotion yield and deliver maximum value to both attendees and sponsors amid the upheaval of the standard events model. Marketers themselves have been leveraging data for performance, awareness, content, and lead generation for years. It’s time to apply the same discipline to events in the time of COVID. Here are five ways.
Selling (virtual) tickets
Job number one for event marketers is getting the right people to show up. Many publishers will tackle the low hanging fruit of running house ads on their properties and sending marketing messages to their email list. But because virtual events are often stripped of the networking component, there’s more of a challenge to stand out.
The other difficult task is differentiating an event’s value when many events (including vendor-produced events) have converted to unpaid virtual alternatives, providing access to the same content and speakers at no cost.
The solution is to expand and prioritize prospective attendees. For example, a healthcare technology conference may have a primary track in data management. The event prospects could be all healthcare technology companies and service providers. Publishers should narrow the prospect field by identifying those companies who are actively researching and consuming content around data management (or aligned to event programming coverage). These prospects can be identified from data across the publisher’s own platform, and with other data sources. As ever, publishers should use marketing messages in alignment with the topics that those readers are consuming.
Finding prospective sponsors
The parallel track to building an audience is finding sponsors. Fortunately, this takes the same approach as finding attendees but changes the parameters. Rather than finding companies who are in-market for the event content, look for companies that are trying to appeal to the attendees’ interests. Publishers may find that with larger sponsors dropping out, they can recruit smaller sponsors who are keen to take advantage of the situation.
Adding sponsor value
Once sponsors are booked, many events might be looking for ways to grow their sponsor packages. Publishers can add even more value to sponsorship packages by using intent data to provide insights on the actual attendees during the event itself. Most sponsorship packages include an attendee list – business events can go one step further by using intent data to score those lists (with purchase intent intensity) for their sponsors, in essence handing them a list that shows each individual sponsor who their best prospects are before and after a virtual conference.
This can also be used to sell additional opportunities. For example, an event can deliver a scored list and offer to put together an invite-only dinner for a dozen of these prospects, at an additional cost. It adds value to sponsors and increased opportunities for additional revenue, with minimal cost to the event organizers themselves.
Potential sponsors are even more likely to spend if they know that many of the attendees are actively in-market, and if the event can facilitate a way to help those sponsors identify and meet with these actively in-market candidates.
Another way to add value is to include a targeted media package as part of a sponsorship. Events can utilize intent data to build custom media activations tied to the event, giving their sponsors data-driven integrations, extended reach, and amplification as part of their sponsorship. This has the added advantage of tapping into a non-event budget source: media.
In practice, this might look like a sponsor providing the event sales team with a list of key themes they want to message around. The event team can then identify which key themes will resonate most with the target event attendees by reviewing content consumption and intent data. The publisher can provide the sponsor with data-driven recommendations, and pitch targeted media around those themes and prospective companies. The additional longtail media gives the sponsor even more value and likely leads to more revenue for the publisher producing the event.
The dual benefit is that the sponsor can double down on its investment and ensure it’s hitting as many prospects as possible. The sponsor and publisher will create content around the data-driven theme, promote it to the event attendees, and amplify the message digitally.
Future programming and editorial planning
Publishers leveraging intent data can go beyond marketing and sales activities and use the same insights to help plan their future endeavors. Use intent data to query virtual attendees and market leaders to find the subjects that are important to them. Then, use those insights to inform future event programming and ongoing editorial content, attracting more readers to the site and growing the pool of potential attendees for the next event.
No matter the topic of the event, intent data can be a valuable tool for expanding the awareness of events while also helping a sales team increase the value of the packages they sell to sponsors, especially in these uncertain times. By adopting a data-driven strategy with intent data at the center, event planners can not only survive this tough moment but apply these same practices to future in-person events, gaining an upper hand when things return to normal. If they ever do.