What’s best takes practice


Faye Black explores the fundamentals that make up marketing best-practice for events in the Middle East

Modern marketing is awash with information, tools and techniques aimed at getting us more ‘moments’ with our customers. But the demands of the contemporary events industry mean that marketers are at risk of being distracted by the overwhelming amount of tactics and technology available to them. As a result, sometimes, we forget the fundamentals.

First among these is simply understanding our customers. It’s for them that we strive to build value propositions that they will engage with. It’s to reach them we spend time carefully segmenting our data and put so much effort into analytics. But in going through these fundamental marketing steps we need to keep things simple. Too often we spread ourselves too thin trying to do everything, or deploying multiple marketing measures, when a core few might be more effective. Instead we should spend some time working through a thorough planning process, defining what will have most impact for us and then concentrate our finite resources on doing a great job with them.

This back to basics approach starts with team work. The first challenge here is making sure that sales and marketing are collaborating effectively and have defined a lead generation strategy that they both understand and believe in. Once these two parts of a business understand that they share the same goals and are all on the same team, there is a much greater chance of them achieving success. The benefits for the business obviously include an incremental increase in leads and the sales that will follow, but the improved effectiveness that results from constructive collaboration can also have a dramatic impact on costs, lowering marketing spend and making each dollar go that much further.

Your teams – or should we say team – needs to clearly define and agree the objectives of an event and its unique selling points. Doing so starts to answer questions about who the audience is, what will make them give you their time and who they would like to see and hear from while they are on site. Understanding who your attendees are, their profiles and their personas, is vital to getting this right. It takes commitment. We make heavy investments in time and effort to conduct regular focus groups that bring our visitors, exhibitors and industry supporters together. Our focus groups play a crucial role in keeping us aware of changing customer expectations, such as their desire for almost instant access to information, as well as a general decline in levels of brand loyalty. We seek to understand what their professional challenges are, the current state of their industry’s market and their forecasts for its future, whether quantitative (their research) or qualitative (their gossip).

Expert steering committees help our event directors and their marketing teams understand industry regulations and indeed the different regulators who affect their roles, and also how we can fine tune and adapt our shows to create more value and greater relevance. This is an ongoing organic process, it doesn’t start, stop or finish but is a process of continuous consultation that helps us know if we are heading down the right track and alerts us when we may be going astray. The personal connections this process generates keep our events front of mind, enhances their relevance and creates enjoyment, all factors that contribute to a lasting impression, that build loyalty, and keep people coming back.

Our sources combine to give us data to interpret and direct feedback to review. As we learn more about our customers we can decide how best to reach them – print, email, web or even in person – and what communications they will not just glance at, but actively engage with. Online analytics tools offer a valuable insight into the behaviour of some of our customers and let us judge what works best when it comes to reaching them.

But while as marketers we thrive on these details, we must also stay alert to macro influences that can quickly trickle down to affect the success of a single event. Shifts in the economy, new trends in society, or simply a change in the way people use technology, can all have an impact. Just how much was demonstrated in a recent research note from Google, New insights on how UAE & Saudi residents are using the internet. While it offered insight into the online habits of consumers perhaps what was most striking were the subtle differences in behaviour between two close neighbours. For instance, among the people who don’t own smartphones there are still a large number who prefer to complete tasks digitally: 33 per cent in the UAE but a much larger 55 per cent in Saudi. Examples like this remind us that one size does not fit all and that what works in Dubai might not be so effective in Riyadh. It is also a key reason our own events aren’t just cloned, but adapted, to suit the new regional markets where we have been launching our most successful brands.

Any campaign must take all of these many moving parts into account. Developing them properly requires the flexibility and agility to adapt to a customer’s changing needs. Getting the marketing mix right will not be easy, nor will it ever be right for long, but everything gets better with practice.

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