Will technology fuel a trend for ‘unplugged’ events?

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unplugged:  ʌnˈplʌɡd/  adjective

1.trademark (of pop or rock music) performed or recorded with acoustic rather than electrically amplified instruments.

2. (of an electrical device) disconnected.

recent study by the research group Flurry found that people with smartphones now spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes each day on mobile devices, some of that potentially fuelled by the multitude of messages, emails, tweets and other content event organisers are pushing out to them on a minute by minute basis.

We don’t leave them alone while they are at the event either.  If it isn’t asking them to contribute to a live Twitter feed we’ll be sending them reminders and directionals to ensure they know about every little aspect of the event whatever they are doing at the time.

A recent study by a U.K. psychologist, Sandi Mann, shows that all of this technological intrusion could in fact be reducing the benefits we spend so long creating for the audience, not least because we are preventing them from absorbing and thinking laterally about what’s on offer.  In her study, Mann asked subjects to do something really boring and then try a creative task.  What she discovered was that the more boring a task, the more creative their ideas were. Only by allowing our minds to wander, daydream and start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, is our ability to do autobiographical planning, or goal setting, working at its optimum level.

So should we be looking to ‘unplug’ our audiences from their devices once we have got them through the door?

The continuing popularity of consumer events like Eroica Britannia, Taste of London and a plethora of music festivals in all parts of the UK shows that those which thrive are those which give their audiences a real participatory experience.  The challenge for B2B events is much harder.  Having got into the rut of believing the only way to get people to the event is to justify their time out of the office with more and more content, and that you have to remind them of what’s on offer every single minute of the show’s opening hours, it’s going to be a hard habit to break.

But if we want our audiences to fully engage with speakers, exhibitors and other delegates, and develop great ideas while they are our guests then perhaps we need to stop our constant, and frankly rather needy, electronic chatter.

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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.

Event ticketing

downloadToday, in the UK, the House of Commons debated whether or not legislation should be passed with regard to secondary ticketing agencies.

The proposed amendments would require secondary market re-sellers and touts selling their tickets through major internet platforms like Seatwave and Viagogo to display openly key facts to potential customers, including:

  • Their identity, particularly where they are selling tickets as a business;
  • The original face value of the tickets being sold;
  • The individual characteristics of the tickets being sold, such as the seat number or the booking reference, and;
  • Whether the terms and conditions on the ticket mean that it can be cancelled if the organisers find out it has been resold.

As someone who deals mainly with B2B events that are either free to attend or require significant marketing input I had not really given much thought to how tickets for major/popular events could sell out quite so quickly.  Reading a recent report from the BBC led me to think about the scale of the operation, and to ask whether this is a case of market abuse or commercial opportunism, and also to consider how event organisers manage their own ticket pricing policy and the potential for negative media when genuine fans are unable to get hold of tickets at face value, even when they are logging onto the relevant website the moment the tickets are released.

Ticket harvesting with sophisticated software and high-speed connections with multiple identities enables third party resellers to buy tickets quicker than an individual manually entering their details.  Genuine fans are consequently left with little choice to buy the flipped tickets at vastly inflated prices.  The difficulty for event organisers is that the speed at which this happens means that many potential ticket purchasers are unable to differentiate between the genuine organiser and the third party, consequently blaming the inflated prices on greedy promoters and performers.

The amendment was defeated in today’s debate, with the government arguing for self-regulation rather legislation.  The question remains as to the time scale and scope of this self-regulation, and consequently whether consumers will get a better deal or event promoters escape the accusation of vastly inflated ticket prices.

For more information and news on ticketing, check out The Ticketing Institute
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How to select the best ticketing tool for conferences or exhibitions

Today we feature a guest post from Michael Heipel.  Michael is an event and marketing consultant based in Germany and these are his thoughts.

In recent years, more and more systems for delegate management, registration, ticketing and payment have entered the market. With new developments in the mobile sphere and solutions like Apple Pay coming up, the advancements will continue. Time to take a closer look at what the various systems on the market have to offer, whichfeatures are available and what are the different pricing models and ranges.

Many event planners still use home-made solutions, but they realize that with the advanced requirements from the market side, these systems are causing more problems than solutions.

At the end of the day, collecting income from delegate or visitor entrance tickets is the core process for any successful event!

Further below, you’ll find an overview of what systems are on the market. But before we come to that, let’s take a look at what are the 10 most important decision criteriawhen selecting a vendor.

10 most important selection criteria for ticketing solutions

  1. What is the business model of the solution? The most important question is of course the pricing model of the software. Many vendors charge for a setup fee in combination with a percentage per ticket sale of the turnover, plus fees for the payment processing. While that may be easy to calculate for few events, it can become quite costly when you run many events per year and the setup costs or base fees are calculated per event. Also, be aware that there may be hidden costs like training or webinars.
  2. What are the costs for your hardware and connectivity on site? Even if the ticketing software is located in the cloud and the purchase and payment processes happen entirely online, you will need devices to register and check the tickets on site. The expenses for these devices can become significant when you are tied to one particular system. Also bear in mind the cost for connectivity unless you can run the on site process entirely on local servers.
  3. How easy is it to set up registration for an event? Every vendor will tell you that this is a piece of cake, but be aware that there are quite some differences in how easy the setup for registration pages really is, especially when you have complex events with numerous options for the delegate to choose from.  This will determine if you need to install 1-2 experts on your team or if more people will be able to set up new event registration pages.
  4. How is the usability from a participants point of view? People that have started a registration process are customers that are willing to buy. That step needs to be hassle-free , and that applies to all communications (email, text messages etc.) that come along with that process. Usability aspects also apply to the check-in process on site, which needs to be quick and easy, regardless of how the participant will identify themselves.
  5. Can you link the registration system to your existing CRM system? Whatever database you use for your customer relation management (Salesforce, SAP, MS CRM, Oracle-based systems etc.), it is important that your registration tool and the information that you gather there is mirrored in your CRM system. That is not always smooth sailing…
  6. Do you need just a ticketing solution or a full event website? In the first case, the solution will be embedded on your site. Some systems, however, can be expanded to offer a full event website with additional features. That can be quite interesting if you only organize few events per year.
  7. Does the system allow for badge scanning and lead capture? Particularly at trade shows, lead generation is the key performance indicator for exhibitors’ success. Systems that offer the option to scan badges without having to rent special equipment are clearly an asset (e.g. 2D barcodes, QR codes with participants contact information).
  8. Is the system mobile-ready? In the USA, mobile devices account already for more internet traffic than desktop computers, and other parts of the world will definitely follow that trend. There are two aspects to that: Will the participant be able to get a mobile ticket on their device (e.g. iOS Passbook integration, link in a text message)? Secondly, will the registration page be responsive to any sort of device that the potential customer is using?
  9. Does the system allow for social login? People have become used to being able to login online via their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or XING profiles, so that they don’t have to repeat basic information every time or upload pictures. While that may not be a deal breaker in case all other criteria are met for you, it is an add-on that may become more and more relevant.
  10. What kind of promotion options does the system offer? Promotion codes, loyalty programs, special offers and different pricings based on e.g. membership status are important tools to maximize the marketing impact for your event. Some systems offer viral ticketing and even affiliate programs where you can grant commissions for sales partners or other websites.

Overview of vendors on the market

Now this is a tricky one, because there are so many solutions out there…! Capterra lists 173 solutions! However, this is an attempt to give an overview of those that I find particularly relevant for conference and exhibition organizers.

Please feel free to add those that specialize on conferences and exhibitions in the comments section, I’ll be happy to include them in the list.

Listed in alphabetic order.

Bookitbee

Very easy to set up and providing a responsive registration page, Bookitbee is an interesting option for organizers that stage only few events and don’t want to go through the hassle of a complicated setup process.

bookitbee-example-event

Pricing: 0,75 EUR/ticket plus 2% service fee plus 3,4% credit card processing.

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Brown Paper tickets

With this solution, there is no additional charge for credit card processing. So the cost is quite low overall. Also, it features a lot of customization, promotion and mobile options. Free iPhone and Android barcode scanning apps are provided for scanning at the doors.

BPT_services_web_graphic

Pricing: 0,89 EUR per ticket plus 3,5% of ticket sales price

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eReg / eTouches

The registration software eReg is part of a bigger software package. The options are quad, pro and plus+. The basic package quad also includes a tool to create an event microsite, a tool for email marketing and a survey tool.

Pricing: Upon request

Website

Twitter

eve.CheckIn

Primarily used by corporates like SAP, Vodafone, Hagebau, Volkswagen or Sony, eve is a delegate management software suite that also covers ticketing. The supplier is a subsidiary of Deutsche Messe AG called event it. Due to the structure of their clients, the software is highly customizable and can be adjusted to all kinds of requirements.

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Pricing: Upon request

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Eventbrite

One of the biggest suppliers, Eventbrite is pretty strong in mobile apps for event registration and management. Having processed already more than 160 Mn event tickets worldwide, you can be pretty sure that there are experienced people at work! Check-in can be done via a mobile solution for the iPad.

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Pricing (EURO-zone): 2,5% service fee plus 0,75 EUR/ticket plus 3,5% in case Eventbrite is used for payments, too.

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Fairmate by dimedis

This solution is tailored to the demands of trade show organizers, therefore you’ll find Reed Exhibitions, Messe Düsseldorf, Koelnmesse, Stockholmsmässan or Westfalenhallen Dortmund on their customer list. The registration part covers social login, online shop, mobile shop, voucher processing and of course a comprehensive on site check-in system.

Pricing: Upon request

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GrouponLIVE

Up to now, Groupon has been used primarily for concerts or sports events tickets – last minute sales. However, since October 2014, the daily deal platform has expanded it’s activities in the events business in Germany. They are of course not a ticketing software as such, but I know that the German association DLG have sold many tickets for their large exhibitions like Agritechnica via Groupon. It is an interesting option for conferences and trade shows, even though you need to give a significant discount on the official ticket price plus a commission for Groupon. The platform has also been used to offerVIP tickets to the New York Wine and Food Festival.

dealbuilder

Pricing: Upon request

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Livebuzz

This company provides event registration software, event websites, development consultancy and staffing services. They handle more than 1 Mn registrations per year. Special features are SocialBuzz (integrated social media marketing tools) and secure storage on Symantec servers. Livebuzz was used at EIBTM 2014 in Barcelona.

EIBTM 2014

Pricing: Upon request

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Twitter

Ticketscript

The key feature of Ticketscript is an on-the-door sales app called ticketscript box office. See more in the video below. Apart from that, it offers e- and mobile tickets, promo codes, and a fully customizable responsive online ticket shop.

Pricing: 1,50 EUR/ticket plus 3,5% to cover service and all payment methods

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TicketSource

A long list of features, ticking boxes like Passbook integration, text ticket to mobile phone, print-at-home, unique 2D barcodes and much more. There is even a telephone box office service provided upon request.

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Pricing: 3,85% – 9,09% depending on the ticket price

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Ticket Tailor

A completely different pricing model is offered by this company: They charge a flat fee per month, depending on how many events you have on sale in parallel. Prices range from 18 EUR per month up to 115 EUR per month when you have up to 50 events on sale in parallel.ticket tailorPricing: see above

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WEEMSS

A special feature of this solution is that it offers the registration process in 40 languages and accepts more than 160 currencies with exchange rates updated hourly. The system also offers interesting features for event promotion, like conversion triggers (special short marketing messages displayed on the registration page).

Advanced_marketing_tools_3Pricing: 2,5% per ticket. Currently no payment processing, funds go directly to the organizer.

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XING Events

Also known as Amiando (before it was purchased by the social network XING), XING Events is  highly integrated in the Germany-based social channel, the number 1 business network for the German speaking markets. That makes it pretty interesting when you are active in those markets only. It allows set up of ticket shops both on XING and on Facebook. The function people2meet suggests interesting contacts, giving a delegate sustained benefit from an event participation.

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Pricing: 0,99 EUR/ticket plus 2,95% service fee plus 2,95% for payment processing

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Yapsody

An interesting solution for concerts and any kind of reserved seating events, Yapsody comes with mobile apps, an integration in MailChimp and social media channels, e-ticketing and a lot more. The option to give donations via the online store makes it interesting for non-profits, too.

Pricing: 0,75 EUR/ticket plus 2,5% service fee

Website

Twitter

To contact Michael, email Michael@CoCoSocial.de or follow him on Twitter @michaelheipel

 

Listen to the people who are talking sense

If you haven’t come across Michael Heipel yet, please let me introduce you…

Michael tweets, blogs and posts about all sorts of stuff, including marketing, events, social media and technology and I like what he has to say. (Sometimes he even likes what I have to say which is great!)

Today I found his blog post about social media and events.  It’s a topic very close to me since I spend most of my time trying to pursuade clients to focus in on their content and then work out what media they are going to use to tell their audience about it, rather than creating a social media presence and working out what they are going to put on it.

I would reproduce what Michael has said here, but I think you should go and read it for yourself.  It makes a lot of sense.

hellen @missioncontrol

Social media doesn’t work for your event? Here’s 5 reasons to think twice…

While at the big industry events like EIBTM or IMEX, social networks and the impact they have on event marketing are widely discussed, I sense that a lot of event organizers and associations are still not sure about how to deal with the topic or how much resources to invest.

Don’t be so afraid to embrace cannibalism…

Here’s a scenario for you to consider:

Your organisation runs an annual conference and exhibition.  The attendance figures are steady and you are attracting on average between five and ten per cent of your calculated total universe.  Exhibitor and sponsor numbers are holding up and revenue is on target.

So far so good

Two years ago you introduced a specialist pavilion for one of the sectors of the industry you serve.  It’s been a huge success and now attracts 15% of your total audience and generates 20% of your sales.  But there is a problem.  The companies and visitors involved want their own event.  They want to be the focus rather than a sideshow and they are getting very vocal about it.

What are you going to do?

  1. Stick to your guns, but pacify them by giving them a bit more space and a couple more sessions in the conference programme.
  2. Create a ‘mini’ co-located event.
  3. Grasp the opportunity and develop a second event.
  4. Nothing.  Very happy with the status quo thank you very much.

Why would anyone answer yes to the last question?

One simple reason – they can’t get past the cannibalisation problem.

It seems like forever that this thorny old issue has been hanging around, with the publishing and events industries particularly sensitive.  From whether a successful supplement should become a publication in its own right; to investment in websites and social media that would take readers away from the printed page; and currently whether or not a virtual conference or meeting space will reduce footfall at a live exhibition.

The main argument against developing a pluralist strategy is that it causes a reduction in revenue or perceived market share.  But the truth is that when carefully planned and executed such a strategy can result in a larger share of an increased total market.  Examples within the retail industry abound: when Coca Cola introduced Diet Coke, sales of Coke fell, but ultimately led to an expanded market for diet soft drinks.  Forward thinking and successful FMCG companies positively embrace the idea as Apple CEO Tim Cook explains:

“iPad has cannibalised some Mac sales. The way that we view cannibalisation is that we prefer to do it to ourselves than let someone else do it. We don’t want to hold back one of our teams from doing the greatest thing, even if it takes some sales from another product area. Our high-order bid is, ‘We want to please customers and we want them buying Apple stuff.'”

Why then are B2B publishers and events organisers still struggling with the idea of creating virtual experiences in addition to their current physical and online activity?

Hybrid and standalone virtual conferences, training and meeting sessions may affect audiences but the truth is that they are likely to deliver more visitors, both from a wider geographic area and from a demographic that would normally be too time-poor to engage in a live event.  Detractors suggest that viewers online are not as engaged; but neither is every visitor at a conference (particularly at 2pm).

The bigger question is not how many visitors or delegates you are going to lose from your live event, but how many people from your total market universe are you failing to connect with?  Anecdotally we know that membership organisations attract on average 5% of their total membership to live events.  In commercial event organisations, marketers need to hit a target universe seven or eight times in order to pursuade between five and 10 per cent of them to attend.  Plus, if you only engage with this audience once a year you are putting up constant barriers to retaining and growing the audience and its levels of interaction, which in turn diminishes your opportunities to drive and grow your revenues and profit.

Tony Rossell from Marketing General, Inc. has done some excellent research on this subject in the context of Association Membership: his work shows that Associations which create multiple opportunities for engagement with their members, whether via annual meetings, professional development, webinars, social networking etc. are more likely to show increases in overall membership in both the long and the short term as well as an increase in new members and renewal rates.

It stands to reason that the more you engage with your audience, both exisiting and potential, then the more likely they are to engage with you.  Hybrid events don’t have to reproduce your live event verbatim and virtual events don’t have to be restricted to specific times and dates dictated by venue contraints.

Where virtual events are concerned, it’s time to put the issue of audience cannibalisation to bed once and for all and embrace the concept of market colonisation instead.

Hellen @missioncontrol