Content Marketing: Using It Effectively During and After Marketing EventsJanuary 1, 2014

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January 1, 2014

Content Marketing: Using It Effectively During and After Marketing Events

Jones,Chuck-Omnience-147x147Chuck Jones is the Chief Marketing Officer for Omnience, an Atlanta, GA-based company specializing in technology for maximizing the ROI of marketing events. www.omnienceevents.com

Content marketing is garnering a growing share of the marketing budget — and can make or break another big line item on the budget: a company’s marketing events.

Content marketing is the practice of getting appropriate types and amounts of information to prospective buyers at appropriate times in their decision cycles. The right content gives buyers insights relevant to their business problems and potential solutions. The goal for sellers, of course, is to drive leads, and ultimately sales.

Content marketing should play a pivotal role in maximizing the effectiveness of a company’s marketing events, the most powerful form of, and channel for, content marketing.

“Use the content-rich event as a huge opportunity to nurture your prospect.”

For events, I believe most marketers use content marketing too narrowly. They see an agenda with strong presenters as the promotional tactic used to draw attendees to an event. That’s true — however, when you think of marketing events as the ultimate content channel, the value of content marketing multiplies. It is a powerful tool before, during and after the event.

Pre-Event Content

There are numerous sources you can draw upon to hone your pre-event marketing tactics. I would simply advise marketers to see how every pre-event communication stacks up to these attributes of good content:

  • It’s relevant. It deals with the buyer’s world, not yours.
  • It’s truly valuable. It doesn’t dwell on what they already know.

Value comes in three ways:

  1. New information the recipient didn’t know before.
  2. Analytical insights that help buyers make sense of information from divergent sources and think of actions they can take.
  3. Advice on how to take advantage of an opportunity, avoid pitfalls, mitigate risks or survive a tough market.

LinkedIn VP Jonathan Lister summed it up neatly in his keynote address at Content Marketing World 2013: “Your audience doesn’t need to be sold to — they need information. …Think about changing the mantra from always be closing, to always be helping.”

Content During the Event

OK, let’s say your pre-event promotions have delivered what you believe is the right audience to your event. Here’s where you need to watch out for a major pitfall: Shifting into sales mode too abruptly. And all too often, that’s exactly what happens!

The seller assumes, “Aha! You came to my event; therefore, you must like my company and our products. Let me tell you all about them.” That’s too big of a leap, and much too soon! Remember the content that enticed attendees to the event. The content served to them at the event should be more of the same, with greater depth.

Use the content-rich event as a huge opportunity to nurture your prospect at this relatively early stage in the buying journey. Successful nurturing of mid- and long-term opportunities means helping prospects clarify the causes of their business challenges and understand ways to solve them.

Throughout the buying cycle, you want to engage prospects with a mix of tactics to maintain positive awareness of your offering until they are ready to buy. Always respect where they are and cultivate your position as a trusted advisor. That single strategy will differentiate your company significantly from marketers that instinctively go into heavy-selling mode during and after their events.

At the event, remember that communication is a two-way street. You want to seize opportunities to listen to your audience. Survey them using smartphone apps, publicize and monitor your event’s Twitter hashtag, and use any available means to gather feedback such as sponsor panels, roundtable discussions and plenty of opportunities for peer interaction. Interview existing customers and gather information for case histories.

Post-Event Content

As every event sponsor knows, a meeting’s effectiveness depends largely on how well the meeting’s sponsor follows up with attendees.

Too many of us fall into the trap of giving short shrift to post-event strategies to improve the event’s ROI. That’s like spending thousands of dollars on landscaping, and then neglecting to water the grounds.

Mitchell Beer of Smarter Shift, featured in an article at PlanYourMeetings.com, proposes an event communications model where conversations keep amplifying, and ideas and relationships continue to grow. He graphically depicts his model of event communications as three circles — small, medium and large — indicating how the event conversation grows, starting before the meeting, and continuing to amplify during and after the meeting.

Change the Equation.

Think of your attendees as producers of content, not just consumers of content. If you can encourage — and capture — their thoughts, ideas and opinions, you gain a powerful, dynamic new source of content. In doing so, you dramatically change attendees’ perception of your followup activities. Instead of selling, you’re listening and facilitating dialogue. At the same time, you’re also strengthening your relationships with prospects, which will ultimately accelerate the conversion of leads into revenue.

Try This Approach.

During or after an event, identify a group of the top prospects and invite them to something more elite and special. While it could be a webinar, a conference call or a Twitter chat, the ultimate would be to get the smaller group back together in a face-to-face meeting for an agenda that’s clearly beneficial to them. In return, you cultivate more content. The content your special group generates lives on until the next big event — and can even be used in promoting that next event. More important, you magnify the engagement of those who agree to participate in the subsequent event or events.

Your company’s role in the group should be first and foremost as a participant, not a seller. When it’s time for selling, you’ll know. It will probably happen offline in conversations initiated by your prospect.

Bottom line: You’ve parlayed a point-in-time event into an ongoing discussion group. Then, you turned the discussion group into a highly engaged interest group that sees your firm as a partner, not a vendor.

I have personally seen this approach used successfully. The host of a national invitation-only CMO conference invited about 20 attendees to get together for more intimate, focused discussions in a much smaller, less structured event. Most of us jumped at the opportunity. The sponsor has since solidified its position (in our minds) as a thought leader and a consultative facilitator, while avoiding the temptation to indulge in over-selling us on its services.

That may raise a question: When is a good time to shift into selling mode? For complex sales, I submit that the best time is only when you receive “go” signals from the prospect. Make any selling an organic byproduct of a relationship that develops by exploring the prospect’s issues, problems and search for solutions.

Keep the Conversation Flowing!

When melding content marketing with marketing events, consider discarding the old model:

  • Compelling content entices people to attend your marketing event.
  • The event generates leads.
  • Sales follows up on leads, presenting sales material and attempting to convert leads to sales.
  • Instead, think of the new model as an event that never ends:
  • Compelling content entices people to attend your marketing event.
  • The event leads to continuing discussions centered on the prospect’s interests.
  • An ongoing “interest group” builds relationships that eventually convert the prospect/interest group member into a customer. C&IT
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