“We know that people are interacting better with content”

We spoke to Ben Wood, Marketing Director at Incisive Media, about how new challenges are shaping the events industry, from technology to content marketing and social, and why event marketers need to get to grips with content, tech and social.


What are the biggest challenges for event marketers today?

I guess that’s a really interesting question. There are absolute stacks of challenges, which makes working in events marketing so much fun. I’m just going to focus on a couple of them, otherwise I’ll be here all day.

The first one for me is event technology. There is just so much out there. You could probably hire someone full-time to sift through the stuff that comes through the desks. And you would probably need to hire someone else full-time to do all the implementation.

I compare it a little bit to the Grand National, in that you have forty horses and you’re not really sure which ones to back. Even if you do back them you have a whole course of obstacles there. It might be going swimmingly at first, but then you hit a bump right at the end.

That’s a little bit flippant, but I think in terms of technology it’s about finding the right one that helps you communicate with the right audience through the right channel. Or it must be something that adds value to the delegates experience or gives the sponsors new opportunities. Last but not least it has to be something that the events team can work with in an easy manner.

And secondly, I would name data. Data always used to be our competitive advantage as it used to be extremely difficult to get hold of good data. However, with the rise of social everybody’s data is everywhere. So as an events company you have lost that advantage, because anybody can now launch anything anywhere.

So, from a marketer’s point of view it is now more important to segment that data and use it to engage our audience all year round. We know we get much better results the more segmented we go. I think the data side is critical and there is a huge amount of work to do on that.


How relevant is content marketing to the events industry?

The definition of content marketing for me is really to promote the brand and event, but doing it in a much more subtle manner. I come from a publishing background and for me it’s very similar to how we ran controlled circulation magazines. You had an editorial team that produced great content. We gave it away for free and then produced a whole series of events alongside of it. We also sold advertising, but the whole base of the model was around content. Times have changed now and channels are different, but the principles are exactly the same.

The two things that are of great interest to Incisive is firstly that we know that people are interacting with that content in a much better way than they do with the hard commercial sales message. There is so much competition out there and so many messages, so it’s important to offer something of value.

And secondly as a publishing house we have a strong editorial, which is clearly an advantage. However, we focus more on how the teams work together. Some brands are better at that than others. I think commercial events companies have a slightly different problem in finding someone to produce the content to the required standard and in the right tone.

Here at Incisive it has become a lot easier since we moved away from the Google “first click free” model, because now our editorial teams themselves have to do content marketing to ensure that their content gets in front of their audience. That helped us making a lot of more content available to the events teams as well. Of course this doesn’t help with the speaker interviews, which we are still doing separately, because we know they work. But in addition to that we see great engagement with the in-depth pieces from our editorial brand.


Are event marketers getting social right?

I think social is becoming more important and less of an afterthought. I think it really depends on the audience. Some audiences are more responsive than others. And some brands and marketers are better at it than others.

At Incisive we have had some very good results in paid distribution on LinkedIn and Twitter particularly. Will we ever use social to its full potential? Probably not, just because of its nature and how quickly it’s changing. Take Periscope for example. In terms of streaming live from events it’s absolutely fantastic, but then you realise you are facing a lot of issues, such as copyright and privacy. And you need to think about the implication for paying delegates when broadcasting free-to-air.

Our approach is to pick three events, test it and see what the results are. By the time we’ve done that it we are six to nine months down the line and there will probably be another ten new things that have come about in the social sphere. This means we will never be ahead of the game in social, but that’s exciting as it means we are always learning new things.


What about return on investment?

Social really all boils down to ROI. However, it’s really difficult to attribute social activities to actual results. I think the best marketers are those who get the balance right between spending their time on the areas that are producing core results and experimenting with new channels, of which social is now a key area.

One of the reasons I am really looking forward to going the Event Marketing Summit is meeting other marketers that are keen to learn and push the boundaries.

This interview was conducted on behalf of the Event Marketing Summit, which is sponsored by Kontenthaus