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It is important to remember that event marketing technology comes in many forms, with core functionality usually comprising of:
- audience data management
- campaign segmentation
- email marketing
- response handling
This can broadly be thought of as “marketing automation” although the precise platforms chosen can be considerably wider than just those solutions sold under this banner.
A CRM system in conjunction with a good email marketing platform and a capable website will cover a lot of bases while remaining manageable and affordable. Undoubtedly, other key elements of “eventech” include: registration, apps, venue sourcing and more, though these move beyond a strict definition of marketing technology.
Whether facing a greenfield scenario in the absence of any existing systems or more likely building on an existing “stack” to enhance existing capabilities, choosing the right solution is challenging.
‘Eventech’: consider carefully and choose wisely
Whenever discussing the selection of appropriate marketing technology, it’s important to remember that not all platforms are created alike.
Realistically, any substantial events marketing team is likely to rely on a marketing automation platform, with Oracle Eloqua generally considered the enterprise solution closely followed by Marketo (soon to be acquired by Adobe). HubSpot is another leading solution particularly where content marketing or a one-stop solution are important.
Less complex environments may also find Pardot a suitable option.
Marketers who don’t need the full functionality of marketing automation should look at email marketing systems such as Email Studio (also from Salesforce.com and a descendent of its ExactTarget acquisition), Oracle Responsys or Dotmailer. All of these are capable solutions but the devil is in the detail in terms of functionality, integration and usability.
In particular, don’t be fooled into thinking that two solutions from the same vendor will necessarily play nicely together!
The extent and diversity of solutions available means there’s no excuse for failing to undertake a thorough evaluation of requirements and determine how different solutions measure up.
When it comes to selecting event marketing technology though, are there any specific considerations? Here are six key areas I think you should consider:
1. Good data load functionality
The importance of audience acquisition to a successful events marketing campaign, usually under tight timescales, means that efficiently handling data from external sources is vital. Research undertaken by Ascend2 found that 35% of marketers stated standardising data upload processes as the tactic requiring the most effort and 34% cited it as the most effective tactic to improve data quality.
Similarly, in a Communigator and SmartInsights study, integrating data from different systems was a major challenge for 56% of respondents.
Since data load is a key risk point for the introduction of data quality issues, these two factors together point to the importance of solid data load functionality.
Central to achieving good data load functionality is your database platform and what works alongside it. For example, Ringlead have quite a wide ranging solution that also includes support for Marketo, and Salesforce users can choose between AppExchange options such as Cloudingo or Experian. Openprise offer a comprehensive data orchestration platform combining standardisation tools with links to external data sources for enhancement, and which also integrates with Salesforce.
Ideally, your audience collection and maintenance activities should be carried out directly within your database or CRM system, but otherwise batch data loading will be necessary. Good matching and de-duplication capabilities become a must-have, enabling the importing of large quantities of audience data with minimal manual intervention. Capabilities should extend beyond simple email matching, making use of multiple attributes and preferably “fuzzy logic” to identify the same record within incoming and existing data.
Takeaway: Ensure your database or CRM system has good, built-in data load capabilities or the availability of suitable plug-ins/extensions to handle this task with sufficient sophistication.
2. Flexible selection and segmentation capabilities
Analysis of email send volumes undertaken by Marketing Automation vendor Marketo has clearly shown that response is much better when data is properly segmented.
Readily building these targeted segments, along with the flexibility to adapt to changes mid-campaign, is crucial to efficient campaign execution. Anything that slows this process down or involves lots of manual workarounds is a considerable impediment to getting the job done. It also creates a real grind for those involved, which doesn’t contribute to job satisfaction or staff retention.
A good segmentation tool should make it easy to set-up and make changes to audience selections, preferably visually rather than with lines of query parameters. Look out in particular as to whether it’s possible to easily create discrete, mutually exclusive sub-segments without having to use lots of “exclude” steps.
Takeaway: Carefully review the segmentation capabilities of the tool you are considering and whether it will allow you to flexibly and intuitively create the audience breakdowns you need for your campaigns.
3. Integrated data management and campaign execution
The pace and complexity of typical event marketing campaigns means that anything with the potential to slow the process down is to be avoided. A study undertaken by email marketing solution provider Adestra revealed that 43% of marketers questioned asserted that optimising productivity is their most important objective for marketing automation.
This is particularly applicable to managing audience data and campaign execution in the same platform, so that it isn’t necessary to manually amend the database with updates, outcomes and crucially opt-outs. This can dramatically impede follow-up and add a significant overhead to database maintenance that contributes nothing to campaign effectiveness.
Failure to process unsubscribes and inadvertently continuing marketing to opted-out individuals also represents a significant compliancy risk. Choose a platform that combines these activities or ensure the systems you select integrate closely together to do so.
Takeaway: Look for email marketing platforms that integrate with your existing database or CRM system, or implement a marketing automation solution that combines data management and execution.
4. Effective multiple campaign and product handling
Conference businesses tend to be characterised by the number of events they run every year, which can easily stretch from dozens into the hundreds. Thinking of and treating each of these as an individual product quickly stretches the capabilities of many marketing technologies.
Make sure the platforms you choose can accommodate a large number of campaigns over time and look at how response-capture, lead scoring and reporting will work in this environment. With research showing that 48% of leading companies use lead scoring in comparison with 37% of mainstream firms, it’s clear how important this approach is.
While it may not be practical, for instance, to have a lead scoring model for every conference, consider the feasibility of a generic base-model that can be re-used in conjunction with other selection criteria.
Takeaway: Consider how the technology you are selecting can handle large numbers of discrete campaigns and what the implications are for managing set- up, leads and reporting.
5. Efficient telesales management
Should your delegate sales efforts involve significant outbound telephone activity, you will need a robust method for prospect selection and pipeline management. Many CRM systems are orientated towards inbound lead management and pay less attention to the complexities of handling high volume outbound phone based selling.
With a slick solution sadly lacking, careful thought needs to be given to how this will be set up and the necessary workflow put into place.
So, when selecting technology platforms, thought needs to be given to how prospects are filtered in the database, presented to sales reps and tracked once calling is underway. Consider especially how this will work where a CRM system is being used in conjunction with a marketing automation platform – in which system will selections take place and how will applicable data flow between the two?
The importance of technology in this respect is well recognised with research from The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) and InsideSales consistently placing “Tools & Technologies” in fourth place among Sales leaders’ challenges in every year of their survey between 2014 and 2017.
Takeaway: Make sure your CRM and marketing automation systems can handle outbound as well as inbound telesales and plan out how this activity will be handled across the platforms you intend to use.
6. Expertise and training
Another recurring theme of mine when it comes to deploying marketing technology is to ensure the necessary expertise to exploit it is in place as soon as possible. Despite what the solution providers would like us to believe, these platforms tend to be complex and require commitment to get the most from them.
Studies into marketing technology adoption frequently find that lack of skills and technical proficiency are a key impediment. According to research by Liana Technologies, 40.3% of respondents cited “Lack of expertise / know-how” as one of the main challenges to marketing automation.
Ideally, this means bringing dedicated staff on-board, or otherwise outsourcing to a suitable agency or consultant. When choosing the system you need, look around at whether there is an existing “ecosystem” of talent or suppliers with applicable expertise and whether there are good training and development options to help you ultimately build your own competencies.
Takeaway: Plan to build your own deep competencies in the solution you choose and look for the availability of existing expertise and the means to develop it over time through training and support.
Make your ‘eventech’ a success
Event marketing is a distinct branch of the discipline that requires specific capabilities, approaches and mind-sets to successfully deliver audiences and ultimately results. Take the time to consider your requirements, how they differ from “text book” expectations and what you will need to do to make them work for your business.
Wishing you plenty of repeat success!
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