9 Tips for Extending Your Print Brand With Events
For many magazine publishers, it is tempting to dive right in to the event business as a natural extension of your company’s print brand. However, it is important to plan this area of your business as carefully as your ventures in print, says Donna Sanford, group publisher of Expo magazine, an Ascend Media LLC publication in Overland Park, Kan. The 18-year-old magazine has a circulation of 7,500, is published 10 times per year and is read by association planners, for-profit producers and corporate planners. Expo offers its readers strategies and solutions for trade show, convention and corporate event management.
Sanford spoke with Publishing Executive Inbox and offered the following nine tips for executives looking to expand their brand to the trade show, expo and convention arena.
1) Find the need.
Is there a need for the event? It’s no different than launching a new publication. There has to be an unfulfilled need in the industry—some niche that’s not being served (or not being served well) by other events. Do your research, and match potential attendees to potential exhibitors or sponsors. Do these two groups already meet at a conference or trade show? If so, what makes you think they need to meet again at your event? If not, why not? What makes you think they need to meet—and how will you convince them of that need? Publishers need to remember that launching a conference or trade show isn’t about their need for an expanded portfolio. It’s about the need of their audience for face-to-face [F2F] time.
2) Defining your audience and their location.
You need to be able to precisely define who you’re trying to attract and what, in fact, attracts them. Is it price—meaning a second-tier city? Is it easy access—meaning an airport location? Or do they want the spa treatment—meaning a resort destination? You also need to know where the majority of your attendees live. If everyone’s in California, don’t book a Florida meeting. Again, do your research.
3) Take advantage of the trends.
The hottest trade show trends right now are probably social networking—building communities online—and personalized attendee marketing and matchmaking. Both of these areas are where publishers, because of their relationships with their readers and advertisers, can outperform their independent trade show counterparts. But publishers competing for F2F events with industry associations may find themselves at a disadvantage here because associations often have an even deeper level of relationship with the same people.
4) Take advantage of personalized attendee marketing and matchmaking.
Personalized attendee marketing and matchmaking are advanced data mining technologies that find relevant people, products, sessions and events for attendees and exhibitors weeks before an event—or even year-round. Much like Amazon.com’s personalized recommendations, these systems suggest matches based on a participant’s profile and search history, as well as the history of others who have searched for similar items and share like preferences. The systems will suggest what booths to see, set appointments with exhibitors, e-mail other attendees about getting together and recommend conference programs not to miss. And all of this can be done before attendees have even registered, as a way to prove the value of your event to them—and their bosses, if necessary.
5) Don’t have a separate URL that is solely dedicated to your event.
What publishers want to offer their customers is an integrated package—print, online and F2F. Having a separate URL for your event separates it from the publication. People need to know they can count on you for information—through whatever form they choose to get it. Your brand should be built on all three, all the time—and my advice is that you lead with your strength. There’s a little-known association with a powerhouse trade show that recently changed its association name to the show’s name. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant strategy. Everyone knew the show, but no one knew who sponsored it. Now, the show and association are one and the same. If print is your strength, how are you making your event ‘one’ with your publication?
6) Define your VIP buyers.
First, define what a VIP buyer is and make sure your definition and that of your exhibitors’ match. You might consider the president of a company the VIP buyer, but your exhibitors might know the director of operations is really the decision-maker.
7) Make your content relevant to the buyers.
Make sure your conference content is relevant to VIP buyers. You won’t attract c-level attendees without strategic-level topics. Consider a private, invitation-only conference track with high-level meetings on topics that shape your industry.
8) Make the VIPs feel like VIPs.
A VIP buyer is going to expect peer-to-peer contact on site. The president of a company doesn’t want to stand around in a crowded booth and talk to a salesperson. At the very least, look into VIP floor hours or scheduled appointments so that VIP-level buyers are meeting with VIP-level sellers. Many organizers are also launching completely new events for their high-level buyers. For example, private events at resort locations where the number of suppliers is limited, and the meetings take place in a board room instead of the traditional exhibit hall.
9) Get value for your dollar.
Finally, if you’re serious about attracting VIP buyers, pay their way—hotel, registration and airfare. But you need to have a plan in place to make sure you’re getting value for your dollar. For instance, set a pre-planned agenda with dinners and meetings with your top 10 exhibitors.