Make Registration Personal

Posted October 15th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

The moment that somebody registers online or calls into a toll-free number, you can start to deliver a customer-centric experience. By making the registration process highly personal, prospects are far more likely to attend and convert into a customer.

When a prospect crosses over your registration barriers and expresses a real interest in your event they have essentially pre-qualified themselves. Your objective is to lock in a personal connection by not relying on “faceless” confirmations and reminders.

This is where you must really pay attention to the details.

For example, you should never sign confirmation emails or auto-responders from “The Event Team.” Always let the prospect know exactly who is running the event and delivering the content. Make it standard practice to give prospects the ability to respond to live email addresses or call and speak with your event lead directly.

The language used in any confirmation must always be warm and gracious and set a personal expectation of meeting the prospect on event day. If you want to go the extra distance, send each registrant a relevant piece of preparation material in a personal email that asks about any particular topics the prospect would like to cover at the event.

These seemingly small details help you better align the event with your audience’s needs.

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How to Make Attendees Feel Important

Posted October 8th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

In a recent columnHarvey Mackay cites a Carnegie Foundation study that once found only 15% of a businessperson’s success could be attributed to job knowledge and technical skills. Of course, that 15% is a necessary foundation but the notable part is that it will only get you so far. That means success depends on the remaining 85%.

The remaining and dominant indicator of success was noted as one’s “attitude” and “ability to deal with people.”

Good customer service is sometimes hard to come by. But anyone with an ounce of success running events must have decent people skills. You simply couldn’t survive in this business without common courtesy and respectable tact with the public. So if most event marketers are pretty good in social environments, how do you stand out? If decent interpersonal skills bring you success in the average business space, how much more skill do you need to out-shine in a people-person business?

You need to be extraordinary.

One good best practice can be summed up like this: Make every attendee feel important.

One way to do this is to tend to fine personal details like attendee dietary needs. Instead of sounding like a nag in your reminder calls before the event, (”just wanted to make sure you’re coming – you’re coming right??”) tell the attendee that you’re calling to see if they have a food allergy.  If you have a prospect that’s allergic to peanuts, they’ll be hugely appreciative of your foresight.  And if they’re not, they’ll appreciate your thoroughness.

Making attendees feel important will give you a better chance at prospect-to-lead conversion. A number of other elements can affect this conversion rate such as quality presenter, focused content, qualified attendees, etc. However, if these pieces are in place and you successfully focus on each attendee, you are on your way to sales events that really sell.

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Economic Slumps Create Opportunities

Posted October 5th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

It’s tough being in middle management when economic pressure squeezes your budget, increases team layoffs, and threatens your job security.

In fact, according to a recent article from BNET,Econ Crisis Making Middle Managers Miserable, statistics validate the general dissatisfaction middle managers face today.

  • 27% of middle managers say they find their current roles less meaningful and exciting than before the economic crisis (McKinsley poll)
  • C-level management is happier with only 18% reporting similar dissatisfaction
  • 36% of middle managers (compared to 52% of all execs) report they will be with their current employer in two years (Harvard Business Publishing’s Daily Stat)

Seeing this as an opportunity may take a stretch of your imagination but it is NOT a stretch from reality.

Doing more with less may perhaps be the ultimate purpose of the IT world. When economies thrive, middle managers concentrate on ongoing business and are less likely to look for efficient alternatives to processes that are already performing successfully. But as middle managers struggle to prove why they are an asset, discovering ways to cut costs and pull more revenue from existing income will get any middle manager recognition.

That means, the IT industry is better positioned to sell solutions today than it is in a thriving economy. Use events, speaking engagements, and informative collateral to communicate your cost effective message to your audience. The fact is, middle managers may have reached a new level of desperation in the search for ways to prove themselves worth their pay cheques.

As event marketers we’ve seen the audiences at our IT events thirstily soaking up the facts and figures that demonstrate how inefficient systems eat up what should be company profits. Many IT prospects will walk into an event without the intention of buying anything. Really, they’re looking for answers that alleviate the pressures under which they have to operate daily. But, if you can demonstrate the true value of your IT solution to an audience that’s struggling for a real improvement in revenue, suddenly, you’re the wind beneath middle management’s wings.

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How To Measure Your Event

Posted October 1st, 2009 by admin with No Comments

Planning and running events comes with its surprises. You may not always achieve the outcome you set out to secure. But with effective measurement tools you are at least in a position to improve.

To understand why some events fail and some succeed you need reporting tools that accurately assess event results. As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” The odd thing is that this is the piece most people miss.

Countless sales events happen annually. And it’s impossible to accurately measure the return on invesment (ROI) for many of these because analytics is usually an afterthought.

Perhaps renovating a home is an easy example to relate to business. You have a purchase price and you invest more in the home over the years via maintenance and renovations. Your ROI cannot be determined if you don’t track every single expense you accrue over the years due to investments in your property. It’s nice and easy to see your original purchase price. Your sales price might even be contingent on what you’ve invested. But poor tracking means losing the ability to have real visibility into the numbers. If you flip houses for a living and you estimate losing $50,000 on your most recent sale, you need to at least learn from the experience.

Event marketing is similar. You will fall short of your targets sometimes, no matter how much of an expert you may be. This can happen because of unforeseen variables. (Variables can include anything from a high cost of food to a keynote speaker dropping out at last minute.) So, often the real measure of ROI is whether you apply the knowledge gained through solid event analytics into improvements and action. After every sales event, you must make it your best practice to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your planning and execution processes.

Measuring data enables you to uncover practical and actionable information. With this information you can run better events and ultimately achieve an accurate and impressive ROI.

To give you an idea of what to measure here is a list of some of the reports Starshot produces for its clients:

  • Current Event Registrations: A report showing current prospects registered for the event along with a chart that dynamically indicates “time of” registrations so that you can see if your event is building momentum or losing momentum.
  • Pre-Event Scouting: Listing of event registrations including information such as size of company, interest, product knowledge, comments, and special requests.
  • Post-Event Summary: In a one-page report, summarize all of the important logistical information, campaign statistics, actual attendance, lead rankings, and revenue estimates. This can also be accompanied by a larger registration summary that filters in the important customer data that has been gathered.
  • Evaluation Summary: This is a ranking with summary data on the CUSAT results along with other information from the evaluation forms. This report can be distributed to the sales team prior to any follow-up program.
  • Attendee Rate: This is a simple chart displaying registrations versus actual attendance. Useful for spotting seasonal trends and red flagging any events with weaker attendee rates.
  • CUSAT by Speaker/Topic: If you are running events on multiple topics, it is useful to understand which speakers and topics receive the highest ratings and customer interest over time.
  • Lead Pipeline Chart: This is a running total of leads generated at events displayed over time. It takes a bit more work but will display the frequency of your event marketing activities and how your sales pipeline performs throughout the calendar year.
  • Projected Revenue vs. Marketing Expense: Plot an event-by-event summary of the total revenue potential against recorded expenses. You will use this to build your return on investment numbers for each event. These can also be plotted over time to show strengths and weaknesses.

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The Process Hurdle

Posted September 29th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

Streamlined procedures is one of those trendy business phrases a lot of people throw around the office. Especially if you work in IT or Operations, this phrase starts to lose meaning from overuse.

This phrase is intended to fight complexity – a reality so unattractive, in fact, that opponents to Obama’s healthcare plan drew the flow chart you see here in an attempt to discredit his procedures. Making things look worse than they are can be as easy as drawing out every single element, step, and party involved in any process. Simply, complexity tells people to keep their distance.

At Starshot, one of the big reasons we’re consistently productive is because we embody the phrasestreamlined procedures. In my estimation, it means finding the repetitive elements in a process and simplifying them for easy application.

I know hurdles and complications will come up. No matter how perfect your processes may be, every campaign, client, and season is different and imperfections will arise. I’m not suggesting that you boil all your marketing tactics down to three simple steps and churn services out ad nauseum. I am suggesting that you identify the elements that are always the same and strip out the excess.

Whether you draw this into a pretty flow chart, jot down a few steps, or sketch it out on a napkin, keep it simple and handy for reference.

As you add new staff keeping things simple is what will get individuals up and operational quickly. When you’re trying to communicate a workflow to your clients, complexity will only make them cringe.

In most cases you’re paid to turn elaborate problems into simple solutions. Some offices are full of people making a lot of noise and nervously running back and forth, all in a race to nowhere. A lot of sound and fury just looks unprofessional.

The reason Starshot is a leader in event marketing is because we make executing complex events look easy (event though it’s not). A professional using truly streamlined processes leaves you wondering how and when s/he managed to iron out all the details when you never noticed him/her break a sweat.


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Event Time Management

Posted September 28th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

One clincher for a flawless event is an effective timeline. At Starshot one of our most effective planning tools is a Workback Schedule.

The Workback Schedule begins with an event date and execution steps germinate from there. Approximate lead time from planning to event day is eight weeks for the average event. The trick is to avoid having a long list of To-Do’s and a final event date. Each step must have a due date and each task must reach completion with enough time left for consecutive steps to fit in the timeline.

For example, you cannot invite attendees to your event before choosing your venue. You cannot choose your venue before determining your budget.

Every piece in your event plan must have a priority and deadline. This makes it possible for the next step to unfold on time, and so on throughout each stage of the schedule. In other words, workback is the operative word in the Workback Schedule.

Once you iron out all the kinks and draft a clean workback timeline, you can then translate that task list into a work flow where responsibility is assigned to appropriate individuals.

None of this can be accomplished if you don’t back-track over each step in the planning process and see if it all fits.


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Posted September 24th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

The non-word googletestad consistently ranks in the list of top web searches according to Wordtracker and Overture. It performs consistently alongside real search terms such as “craigslist”, “myspace”, and “Jon and Kate divorce”. The phenomenon has received such traction that a dedicated landing page comes up in searches and focuses on what googletestad might mean.

Theories abound. Some say it’s a SEO program though nothing can be found online to confirm this. Others suggest it’s an executable file for download (containing who knows what). Finally, extensive research has led some SEO experts to believe there is a relationship between googletestad and the search term “Google monitor query.” All of this seems to me like a wild search chase.

Millions type “googletestad” into their favourite engines in an effort to find an answer. Of course, an answer does not exist but these searches further fuel the popularity of a term that means nothing at all.

The lesson? Popularity breeds popularity.

It’s no surprise that buzz is a valuable marketing tool. Every marketer knows that, right? As event marketers, building hype is an extremely valuable tool, especially for public-facing events such as the recent Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The buzz around TIFF was so powerful that countless people flocked to Toronto with a purpose that was far removed from the movies – the hope of seeing a celebrity in the flesh, the desire to be part of a movement, the thrill of an experience. Not one club was holding a star gazing party; instead, they advertised TIFF celebrations (i.e. thinly disguised star gazing events). And suddenly a spin-off event becomes an event of its own.

In marketing, the definition of an event is fluid and ever-changing. Your event can be anything you want it to be. It can be a search term that leads nowhere. It can be tabloid-inspired when it’s intended to be a cultural experience.

Googletestad is a true marvel not because its mystery is hidden in the cryptic SEO world, but because it makes something of nothing. Isn’t this what marketers do every day? We turn objects into lifestyle statements. We convince people they cannot live without certain products. Accepting this reality means stepping outside any and all limitations.

Your event can be anything you want it to be. It can be PodCamp MontrealDinner in the SkyCorporate Castaway, or a Global Scavenger Hunt. Make your own googletestad – something out of nothing.


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The Value of Green Venues

Posted September 11th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

For the most part I think we’re past the notion that going green is a sacrifice. As environmentally friendly trends gain popularity, more and more green options are available. Since innovation is ideal in every business why not be environmentally friendly at the same time? Let’s consider two things in this blog post:

  1. How one green choice can impact your event.
  2. How this will affect your attendees’ experience.

If you’re thinking of going green on your next event, venue is a great place to start. Classifications such as Eco-Key and Green Key will help you identify venues that have made a constructive effort to improve their environmental impact. You can follow the links above to dive deeper into the meaning of each classifcation.

Basically, you’re looking for venues that are consciously trying to reduce their environmental impact using efficient heating and cooling systems, low wattage lighting and water conservation. Ways of identifying these venues may include looking for…

  • A venue which is LEED, Green Key, or ECO-KEY certified.
  • A venue that has low flow appliances, efficient heating and cooling systems, and low wattage lighting.
  • A venue where you can opt-in to use Green Powered energy sources.

Not only can you feel good about your decision to use a green venue, but you can convey the payoff to your attendees. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, for example, has found that it pays to offer environmentially conscious venues:

  • An energy audit and retrofit cost the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise $460,000. Projected savings were $461,000, but after five years, the hotel had saved over $616,000.
  • Typical hotels use 218 gallons of water per day per occupied room. Installation of water efficient guest room fixtures, like Fairmont’s fitting of tap aerators and low flow toilets, reduce water use by an average of 31%.
  • At the Chateau Laurier, 95% of all exit lighting has been retrofitted to low wattage (15 watt) energy efficient lighting, saving 306.6 KW of electricity per year.
  • The Chateau Laurier’s new automated shut-off programs for heating/ventilation/air conditioning are reducing energy consumption about 42,000 KW per year.

Being able to convey a measurable reduction in each attendee’s carbon footprint allows you to spread the good feelings around. Saving the planet doesn’t happen by accident. Your event organizers and attendees have chosen to actively participate in a green initiative. With a measurable impact to convey to your audience post-event, you’re able to share a gift of corporate social responsibility that instills in people a sense of pride.


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A Communications Audit for Your Event

Posted September 8th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

Have you run events in the past but were unable to close much business?

One of the biggest reasons for this disappointing outcome is a lackluster communications platform. If you’re regurgitating (and I choose that word purposefully) product features and benefits, if your website is simply a glorified pamphlet, if your invitations are generic rather than targetted and specific, if you’re not leveraging the viral effects of social networking, if your presentation’s value is buried in dense PowerPoint slides, if you have no way of measuring response rates,  your event will fail.

If you’re communications are based on outdated tactics, chances are your event material is only preaching more of the same tired content.

Take a look at your presentation deck or event invitation and ask yourself if it sounds like it could have come from any one of your competitors. Is it the same old content? How can you make it current and relevant? What will make it unique?

Run your event content through a communications audit before going to market – you might save yourself a lot of time and money.


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Event Give-Aways

Posted September 2nd, 2009 by admin with No Comments

Assume that you plan, market and host your event to perfection. Good for you. Job well done. Now what?

Event give-aways, collateral, or SWAG (stuff we all get) – call it what you will – give an event resilience. Especially for long-term opportunities, the ones that don’t close in the six months following the event, a valuable give-away may keep you on a prospect’s radar because they’re still using your note pad or pen or case study. Give-aways of lasting value are the best way to remind prospects you exist.

Many event attendees are seriously interested in the product or service you’re pitching but they simply might not yet be near decision time. Budget has already been allocated elsewhere or the prospect can limp along using old tools – whatever the reason, you still received three hours of attention at your event once upon a time and that must count for something. They’re interested enough to remember you when the time comes as long as you’re worth remembering.

Here are some SWAG options to consider for your next event:

  • Case Studies / White Papers
  • Free trial software on CD
  • USB drive with resources and room for personal use
  • Industry-related products (e.g. a solar powered personal fan from a wind turbine manufacturer)

These are just some options of what you might like to consider. The point is to give away something that will remind prospects of you in the future. Don’t just give away a popular coffee shop gift certificate especially if there’s no way for you to brand the gift card. Prospects will throw away the note that came along with the gift and drink up all the coffee they can consume and then still be wondering who’s the perfect resource for their needs.

I personally like the idea of preparing and providing resources customized to your audience. The resource might be on a shelf for years but, if the content is good, one day the resource will be useful. And, suddenly your event reaches deep into the future and you close a deal you thought was long lost.


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Understanding Pain is Like Speaking a Foreign Dialect

Posted August 31st, 2009 by admin with No Comments

Last week’s Copyblogger post, Blogging is a Dialect by Josh Hanagarne, talks about Blogging as the art of minimizing the distance between a writer and his/her audience. Equating the art of successful blogging to a dialect makes sense. Those within a specific community will just understand each other better than outsiders ever could.

That’s why every good marketing company must have a Communications Specialist. The job title may vary from Copywriter to Wordsmith but the principle is the same. A Communications Specialist is to Marketing what Dialectology is to Linguistics. The job of a Communications Specialist is to slip an outsider’s message seamlessly and without detection into a conversation amongst insiders.

Imagine a Welsh guy who’s never been anywhere near the Caribbean trying to talk to a group of Jamaicans about the challenges of local business development in Kingston, Jamaica. Or, imagine an established and wealthy CEO talking to a group of twenty-something entrepreneurs with little (if any) start-up capital.

In business and marketing, a dialect is more than an accent. It’s a point of reference. And a sales person cannot sell without it.

Going back to Hanagarne’s point, blogging and I’d like to add marketing brings like-minded people together. This means, if you’re trying to sell a solution to a group of people whose problem you’ve never experienced, you will always be a business outsider. Your ads will never hit close to your prospects’ hearts. Your training won’t be of practical value. You will never understand the true pain – or business challenge – that might actually drive a prospect toward a closed sale.

A good marketer or Communications Specialist has the talent and skill to dig into the psyche of a target audience and speak that group’s language. If you’ve been in the marketing business long enough chances are you are capable of doing this. You just need to see your objective clearly every time.

You need to get into your prospect’s head. Identify what keeps your prospects up at night. Be a chameleon that can speak a variety of dialects. Because successfully selling products and services isn’t a game of manipulation, it’s a talent for those who can understand and capture in words the common denominator behind every sale – an unmet challenge or problem that needs a solution.

I’m a marketer. Our primary business at Starshot is strategic event marketing. We pride ourselves on the exceptional return on investment events achieve. But it is because we can measure our success more than most marketing firms can, we are also able to see the true value of various strategies. Speaking clearly and on-point to a particular industry and role-related challenge gives us better results every time. Our invitations receive more clicks. Our unsubscribe rate is low. Our lists are more targeted. Our registrations are at industry highs. And, our attendee drop-off rates are low.

Our experience has us convinced – speaking in your prospect’s dialect is the only way to prove you understand his/her pain.


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How To Match Content With Audience

Posted August 27th, 2009 by admin with No Comments

We’re constantly harping about how events must be content-focused to be successful.  But once you have content that’s informative and specific, how do you choose your audience?

One way to get into the mindset of your ideal prospect is to understand the bigger picture positioning of your event content.  In a traditional hierarchical business, capable individuals, middle management and executives all have their pecking order in the corporate pyramid.

To get an idea of who matches up with what content, consider the reverse pyramid.  Most senior executives will be concerned primarily with broad based strategies that affect the entire organization; middle management is concerned about departmental issues and products; while capable individuals look for tools specific to their jobs.

When planning an event, keep the reverse pyramid in mind so that you have an idea where in the corporate hierarchy your sales event will have the most appeal.


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