Peddling myths to harry the innocent

Like wasps to a pot of jam, the buzz of experts rushing onto the GDPR bandwagon is incessant. Leading cyber security entrepreneur Jane Frankland posted just two days ago ‘Can we really trust GDPR Products, Services and “Experts”?‘ and I found myself agreeing with much of what she said.

Given that a good deal of my time at the moment is spent trying to understand the GDPR and how it applies to clients mainly in the B2B events and publishing industries, I have trawled my way through lots of different articles from “experts”. My current role involves a constant picking apart of the legislation to understand how it applies to the nuances of individual organisations and their business operations. There is lots of great advice from the ICO and the DMA but the scope of what these bodies are covering is vast and much of it is generic so it is important to supplement their information with more specific details from elsewhere.

This research process does occasionally throw some complete curve balls, and today served up an absolute belter. While looking for insight into double opt in I came across the following comment in a blog by a Marketing Automation company:


Take a really good look at the last sentence in the first paragraph… Yes – you are reading it correctly – apparently people who attend B2B exhibitions are so naive that when they give a business card to a company on a stand they don’t think this is for marketing (i.e. contact about products and services) purposes and it’s the last thing they want. Really?! If you are having a chat with a sales rep at the bar and you give them your business card, are you just expecting them to add you to their Christmas card list or would you be more than a little surprised if they called you up to ask you if it’s OK to email you about the product you were discussing with one another? Surely personally handing over a business card is the most unambiguous form of consent there can possibly be…

I’m not entirely sure where the writer of this article has been hiding, but patently they have zero understanding of the way networking happens and business relationships are built. If you aren’t interested in a product, or you don’t want to be contacted by someone, you don’t give them your business card in the first place. They also haven’t grasped that in many instances business cards aren’t exchanged at B2B exhibitions; there’s this really cutting edge technology called a scanner where visitors voluntarily allow their personal data to be collected by the company whose stand they are on with a data protection notice already printed on the badge telling them not to do it if they don’t want to. Nor, I suspect, do any of the authors of the GDPR legislation intend it to hamstring business interaction in such a draconian way.

Double opt-in or confirmed opt-in is another favourite of this same marketing automation ‘expert’:


Now, there is some merit in a double opt-in process, as described by Mailchimp:


The above describes clearly how double opt-in is a mechanism for keeping your data clean and relevant, saving you time and money. As opposed to the previous one which is peddling it as a legal necessity. Think about this – some commentators say you need double opt-in because someone might be signing you up for multiple porn sites as an act of revenge – but chances are that if they are vindictive that person also knows how to access your email account or the stream of ‘please confirm your subscription to …’ emails will cause more than enough distress. In the B2B context, is this likely?

If you are following the pathway to GDPR compliance, you should have a very clear ‘opt in’ statement on your data collection forms at the point at which the data is collected as specified in Article 7 of the Regulation. In my humble opinion this is sufficient proof that someone actually intended to sign up for an event/requested to receive a newsletter/asked to download a piece of content. Given that at every contact point from there on in, the recipient is able to opt out again, suggesting that double opt-in is mandatory is a mendacious attempt to extract fees for unnecessary services from credulous companies who have not had the time to study the legislation in detail.

GDPR will affect your organisation in one way or another, and undoubtedly you will need help along the way. But please, let common sense prevail, and make sure that you filter the advice you are being given according to the agenda of the person giving it.

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Cutting through the cacophony of GDPR

Childrens party2So you just received yet another email from someone telling you ‘everything you need to know about the effects of GDPR’. You click on it, hoping that this time it will actually give you some guidance about what you can and should be doing. But oh no – it’s yet another person/company who has done a cut and paste job and that hard to decipher legalese is all still there on every single one of the 30 pages or more.

Sigh…

Having spent considerable amounts of time recently working through the 99 articles and 173 Recitals that make up the Letter of the Law, I can tell you it is a tricky old bit of legislation to get your head around. But it isn’t impossible.

Firstly, if this is the first you have heard of the GDPR then you are a little slow on the uptake. We’ve known it has been coming since 25th January 2012, with formal adoption starting early last year – so we’ve had a year of the two year transition period already. You’ll hear some people say that full details around the legislation are not clear – but that’s not true. The majority of it is set and it is just the greyer areas where more guidance is required that are being ironed out. So you can’t really use that as an excuse not to get a grip on it now either.

So what do you need to do? Don’t panic. Event companies are unlikely to hold Sensitive Data as defined in the Regulation. Nor are you likely to have lots of Data Subjects wanting to utilise the Data Portability option, or Subject Access Requests for that matter.

My suggestion for your first step towards GDPR compliance is to appoint someone to take ownership of the task. They are going to have to take a few things out of that notorious Too Hard box, so they need to be someone who is dogged in the face of obstruction and obfuscation. They need to have the ear and support of a member of the senior management team. And they need the discovery skills of Sherlock Holmes.

As soon as possible they need to make a list. And if your event company is anything like some of the ones I have worked with over the years, it is likely to become a very long one. Because this list is going to have to cover Every. Single. Database. Yes, every spreadsheet, .csv file, filemaker, Salesforce file on every laptop, computer and server that contains personally identifiable data. They need to know:

  • Where it is stored
  • What data it contains (i.e. fields)
  • How many records
  • When it was created
  • When it was last used
  • What is it used for

It’s not a pretty job. But this is your starting point. Until you know how much data you have, who has access to it, where it is kept and how much use it is, you will have absolutely no idea what solution you need and how much time it is going to take to become GDPR compliant.

So, don’t worry about the details of the legislation right now. That isn’t going to change any time soon. Just start with this one task and it will create your roadmap to compliance.
Hellen @missioncontrol

The importance of data

470049-listslistvoterphotosxc-1353643038-653-640x480Despite the fact that a significant proportion of event marketing is now conducted via social media and other channels, the majority of the response generally comes from audiences that are already known to us.

Visitors and pre-registered non-attendees are the two most important sectors for any B2B conference, exhibition or meeting. From the moment they registered they were showing a firm commitment to attend, regardless or not of whether they actually made it to the venue.

How these individuals are managed post event can have a crucial effect on the success of a follow-up marketing campaign, whether this is for the next year’s event, a new launch project, an electronic newsletter or any other point of contact.

Here are five steps that every event marketing team should take to ensure that its most important data stays fit for purpose:

  1. Clean the data post event: check that capitalisation is correct, addresses are correctly formatted and in the right fields and that any missing information is researched and added.
  2. Make sure that you have just one version of a company name rather than lots of different abbreviations: this will enable you to create peer-to-peer marketing campaigns, or even spot an opportunity to host a lot of delegates from a single organisation.
  3. Ensure that the data has been deduped: it may look as if someone did not attend after registering, but it might just be that they forgot and did it again onsite.
  4. Make sure your data has been properly coded: if your next marketing campaign is to be personalised, it is imperative that you know what kind of visitor everyone is. Have a hierarchy so that you don’t refer to someone who has given up their time to be one of your speakers as a visitor.
  5. Don’t just leave your data as a dusty spreadsheet, waiting to come out again in a year’s time: every time a customer comes into contact with your organisation you should be building a picture of their activity.

There has been much talk about Big Data and how this can revolutionise customer contact but sophisticated marketing pathways can only be created if the originating data is looked after in the first place.

Differentiating your clients from your customers

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Over the Christmas break I downloaded a great little app from the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing‘s advent calendar.  Originally launched at the Digital Marketing Show in November 2014 the app is a short, interactive marketing course introducing the fundamental principles of direct and digital marketing.

Despite my status as a Fellow of the IDM, I thought I would give it a go, not least because I wanted to see how learning via an app could work, but also because you are never too long in the tooth to learn something new.  While much of the content was not new, one particular strand really stood out for me.

The segment in question dealt with the difference between customers and clients, a distinction which is sometimes missed when we are creating marketing campaigns.  It doesn’t matter if you are an event company selling to potential exhibitors and sponsors or an event supplier selling to an event company it is crucial that these two relationships are identified.  The way in which you market to them should be very different.  Critical to any event sales campaign is being able to fulfil 80% of the revenue/attendance expectations with 20% of the effort, and this in its turn is reliant on being able to maximise the return from clients  in addition to converting customers into clients.

Capture5So what exactly is the difference?  As the diagram to the right (from the IDM Course) shows, a client is someone who has bought from you before.  These are the companies or individuals who you should be reaching out to with special/enhanced offers to make them feel real connection with your brand/property.  Since (hopefully) they have already had a good experience of working with you/the event that you have delivered, they should be in an excellent frame of mind to continue to collaborate with you and the better the offer you give them, the easier it is to shut out your competitors.

customer by contrast is someone who has attended your event/bought your services for the first time.  While not as valuable as a client you are in a key position to turn them into one.  Like your approach to your clients, it is imperative that you speak to these individuals as if you really know and value them.  Try to avoid including them in your generic marketing campaigns and really do think of things you can give them that first-time buyers can’t get.

In some markets, particularly one-off events like weddings, it isn’t really possible to turn your customers into clients.  However you do want to push them even further up the relationship royalty ladder by getting them to be advocates for your services.  This means that once the event is over you have some mechanism for keeping in touch over a long period of time so that when someone asks your client ‘do you know someone that could…’ you are front of mind.

Much of what we do as marketers is really aimed at the bottom end of the process, i.e. the suspects and prospects. The efforts required in identifying the masses of people who might become customers is often so overwhelming that we forget to differentiate our efforts to our most loyal and profitable clients.  If you haven’t done so already, it is time to ensure that you are maintaining a high quality, differentiated database which will ensure you can create individualised marketing campaigns that really deliver for your events and your business.

Why event marketers should adopt ZBB

DSC04318-BThe latest technique on the marketing process block is ZBB or zero based budgeting.

While for many organisations the process of going back to the beginning of plotting any marketing spend represents an enormous challenge, the cyclical nature of the conference, exhibition and festivals sector create the perfect environment in which to reassess how much is being spent and where.

Rather than simply adding an incremental increase onto the total budget, hoping that this will mop up any similar leaps in rate-card, implementing a ZBB methodology offers the chance to really assess how you should be distributing your precious marketing pounds. So this year, instead of just rolling out a campaign, how about you follow these simple steps to create a different, hopefully more effective, marketing plan.

  1. Take time to make a thorough assessment of your marketing campaign for the previous event. Drill down into the detail not only of what did and didn’t work, but how much the implementation of each element cost. Were there areas where multiple different elements worked together to amplify the overall effect?
  2. Look carefully at all the marketing channels you used. What is the longevity of some of the more recent social media trends and how relevant is this to your marketplace? Would revisiting some old favourites like direct mail boost attendance in some sectors of your audience.
  3. What devices are your audience using to engage with you and at what time of the day? Do you need to invest in a technical solution to optimise your messaging to match these behaviours?
  4. What was your data turnover? Did your marketing efforts turn off more people than you gained through other channels? Was there one thing you did that had a greater negative effect or was it a steady rate of attrition as your marketing campaign progressed.
  5. Where were the spikes in your event bookings? Can you identify the activity that caused this and is it replicable?
  6. How is your target market likely to change in the next 12 months and how are you going to change your marketing efforts to capitalise on this volatility? Maybe now is the time to invest in some research.

Too often the biggest change we make as event marketers every year is to the creative look and feel of our campaigns, while just arguing for an extra slice of the overall event budget. How often are we surprised by the new launch that seems to come from nowhere to great success. Perhaps that is because they have started from ZBB and consequently looked much closer at their target audience, its behaviours and requirements rather than just repeating the same old formula.

Using social media to market events

Once upon a time it was all so simple…

Providing you owned, could access or buy, good data and had the budget to hit your target universe five times on average with your message you could more or less guarantee an audience for your event.  For exhibition marketers, preregistration was a very clear indicator of footfall on the day, with conversion rates of between 60 and 75 per cent.  In the conference market a twelve week cycle of marketing would, possibly with the input of some telemarketing, produce enough registrations to cover costs and deliver that all important margin.

And then life got a whole lot more complicated…

The advent of online and email marketing brought with it a more instantateous way to talk to audiences. Unfortunately though, like a child gorging on the pick-and-mix, many marketers have abused the latter, flooding their database’s inboxes with messages on a far too regular basis. Others have treated their web presence as an online brochure, asking visitors to sign up for updates and news when in reality there would be none because noone factored in the time or resource for either the marketing or the main event team to curate such things.

Into this already crowded, and rowdy, room marches social media…

It’s like a toddlers tea-party.  You want to make yourself heard above the cacophony: so you shout louder; you run hither and thither until it seems you are everywhere at once; you wear the gaudiest outfit because you think it will make you stand out; and you try everything, briefly. But when you leave you are hoarse, tired and, if the truth be told, you didn’t actually get very much done or make much of an impression because you were just one of a group of over-excited, slightly out of control children in inappropriate clothing.

For event marketers, the biggest problem is that the promotional cycle for an exhibition, conference, awards etc. is actually very short; very rarely does the campaign last for more than four months. This really doesn’t lend itself very well to social media because relationships in places such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and long lists of followers in Twitter aren’t built overnight, and if you want to establish a well-read blog then there is no point starting it ten weeks out from your show. And if you stop talking to your audience, they lose interest and go somewhere else.

Let’s look at two examples, both expos with conferences and seminar programmes attached and a technology bias, though not IT events as such, and with similar attendance figures at their live days:

Our first event takes place annually in February.  They have a LinkedIn group which was established in January 2008 – a month before that year’s event.  It’s growth profile looks like this:

While the group shows a steady growth in membership over the last four years, it is interesting to note that there are identifiable spikes in the number of new memberships in February of each year., i.e. when the event happens.  Just three weeks later both increase in membership and activity, as shown in the chart below have fallen dramatically.

In contrast, the second team have created a LinkedIn group which began life based around their event (which takes place in March) but has been nurtured and developed to deliver to the expo’s existing and potential audience all year around.  The group was established in December 2007, four months before the event was scheduled and their growth and activity profiles look like this:

As with all statistics you can look at these two sets of information in a number of different ways, but at face value the contrast is clear.  One team started earlier and kept the momentum going whereas another only focusses their effort in the final push towards the event.  The groups have been around for approximately the same amount of time, yet one has nearly six times the number of members as the other and is showing a positive growth pattern.  One team is clearly putting the time and effort into creating a community that isn’t abandoned as soon as the last speaker has left the building…

Utilities like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. aren’t just another medium into which information can be lobbed out to the target audience in the same old way.  Think about it: you strive for coverage in relevant magazines and industry journals because you want your product to appear in an environment that has kudos and stature.  This is delivered by the editorial content created by the teams that manage those media.  If you want to do the same thing via LinkedIn etc. then you have to create an editorial and community environment that makes your potential audience want to interact with you.

To deliver real ROI and marketing with impact for your event you can’t just dip in and out of social media, ignoring your audience for 11 months of the year and then shouting at them for four weeks before you want them to attend.  You need to spend time getting to know them, finding out how to work with the community you have created via your exhibition, conference or roadshow.  Remember, they sought you out and it is up to you to make them stay.

missioncontrol @purerocketscience

p.s. If you want to find out more about creating social media strategies that work for events, our colleague Hellen Beveridge will be teaching a series of courses over the next few months.  Visit www.gallusevents.co.uk/our-events/ for more information.

Time to wake up and smell the coffee chaps…

While rummaging through my email inbox this morning I stopped and read the one from the professional institute of which I am a member.

It’s compelling, and beautifully written, as it ought to be and it was asking me very nicely to attend the annual conference.  And offering me a discount.  What’s not to like about that?

What caught my eye though was that the early booking discount was £200 + vat.  If that’s the discount I thought, how much is the conference?  A mighty £445 + vat no less.  Which means that if I don’t book before the early bird discount runs out I’ll have to fork at a eye-watering £645 + vat to attend a conference run by the association I pay to be a member of.  Wow.

Possibly not for the right reasons, the organisation now had my full attention.  Surely this must be a two day event I thought… but no, this was for a one day 09:00 to 17:30 affair (with an hour and forty minutes of break time; you’ll be relieved to hear that lunch was provided) where I could attend ten sessions (if I had the fortitude to get through it all) of which there were some of only marginal interest.

The marketing line what smaller companies can learn from the “big boys” illicited a wry chortle. Because at that price how many small businesses are actually likely to attend.  The HMRC definition of a small company is if your turnover is £5.6million or less or have fewer than 50 employees.  In reality many small, and very dynamic, businesses fall well below these thresholds.  In the Marketing Week/Ball & Hoolahan marketing salary survey for 2012 the salary for a marketing manager is somewhere in the region of £36,000.  If you extrapolate down from this you can work out that this conference organiser is potentially asking a company to pay a quarter of an employee’s monthly take home pay to attend a one day conference from which there is marginal company-wide return on investment.

You don’t need to absorb much media in the UK to work out that these are straitened economic times.  There is many a managing director trying to work out whether they should pay the wage bill or the suppliers, and telling their employees that “we’re very sorry but there will be no wage increases this year”.  Training budgets may survive, just, but spending on expensive conference days out (we haven’t factored in travel and accommodation/lost productivity costs in all of this have we?) isn’t a priority for many.  And what about those who have embraced redundancy and become freelance marketers… if you take the cost of the conference and the loss of a day’s earnings why on earth would you even consider booking a place.

And conference organisers wonder why their attendance rates are down… Discriminating against large sectors of the audience by virtue of price isn’t going to help much is it? And membership organisations are more at risk than ever because we’re not even sure we need you any more guys.

It is in times like these that great innovation often occurs. Exhibition and live event organisers have recognised for years the need to add more and more value to their offerings, creating environments where visitors can get information or experiences that they just can’t get elsewhere.  It’s time that conference organisers did the same. There is no point telling a potential attendee that they will learn new things and network with their peers, because they can do this via LinkedIn without spending a bean or having to get up at 6:15am to get to the venue, and a day full of plenary sessions with tiny comfort breaks (because the programme is crammed to make it look like it is value for money) doesn’t deliver for many people.

So dear conference organisers I challenge you to do three things differently this year:

  1. Start your pricing strategy from how much you think your conference is worth and how much your delegate is willing to pay rather than from how much money you need to cover your venue costs.  If the answer is £99+vat then find a solution that fits.
  2. Stop trying to cram too much into a programme to justify the huge sum of money you are asking for.  Remember how exhausting it was to sit in a lecture theatre for a couple of hours as a student and ask yourself why you think people can endure it for eight hours or more now that they are older.
  3. Embrace some new technology to deliver to your audiences and members in a different, more inclusive and accessible way.  Get out of that traditionalist box right now.

At present most conference organisers (associations included) attract on average less than 5% of their target audiences to their events.  Which means that for every delegate you get there could be another 19 waiting to engage with your organisation. Time to go get them.

hellen @missioncontrol