In the first of a new series in which senior marketers talk about different aspects of the marketing mix, Richard Crook looks at how to exploit major industry events.
If you type into Google “What is the definition of marketing?”, you will find hundreds of pages of different definitions, most of which will involve something about the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.
Sounds pretty straight-forward right? But marketing is evolving, that management process now includes identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements, and in a profitable way.
Marketing in the more progressive firms now sits at board level, and an integrated marketing strategy will involve market research and thought leadership, brand management, marketing communications including digital and social, direct marketing, advertising and PR. Good marketing directors now need to be a psychologist, sociologist and anthropologist! They also need to be good networkers and, thankfully, the property industry still sees the importance of some old-fashioned flesh-pressing with a series of industry networking events every year.
The popularity and panache of these events present an exciting challenge: how do you be seen amidst this massive branding and client war?
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. With any event, early planning is essential. I’ll use MIPIM as an example but much of this also applies to events such as ExpoReal, Completely Retail Marketplace and the British Council for Offices conferences. Being one of the many mainstream commercial property advisers all jockeying for visibility, Colliers International had to distinguish itself from the pack with innovative ideas as to how to promote our brand and messaging. We devised a multi-tier strategy around the goals of strengthening our client relationships, providing insightful thought leadership to the press and our clients, whilst showcasing our expertise.
Beyond the 3Bs
Marketing strategies in many real estate businesses have tended to focus on the ‘3B’ strategy for big property events: Balloons, Brochures and Brand. However, just focusing on the 3Bs can have pitfalls.
Balloons: seeing MIPIM as just an events function with client dinners, yachts and parties, while leaving out other key areas of the marketing mix including lead generation, client engagement, advertising, social, digital and CRM.
Brochures: bringing tons and tons of beautifully-printed marketing material has been the default position of far too many business teams and needs to be consistently challenged with the digital world we live in. Let’s also not forget most clients travel with hand luggage.
The importance of some old-fashioned flesh-pressing
Brand: or should I say brand overkill. We all know brand consistency and brand recognition are important but we need to keep in mind that all exhibitors will be branding their exhibition spaces like it’s the latest Louis Vuitton handbag. There is no need to spend all your event budget on branding and advertising.
3Bs + 3Cs = differentiation
While the 3Bs are the pillars of a successful trade event, they are hardly distinguishing you from your competitor. So we have added 3Cs to the mix and find that they make a difference.
Clients: They are the life blood of any professional services organisation. They are at the heart of everything we do in Colliers. Location is a key factor when considering your position at MIPIM. Playing into the glamour of the week, Colliers opts for a branded luxury yacht positioned dockside, outside the back of the exhibit hall. The investment in the yacht has been fruitful. There is a certain je ne sais quoi that goes along with an invite to a yacht on the Côte D’Azur bathed in sunshine, versus one to a café along the strip. However, a shiny boat is not enough: additional client engagement activities and lead collection are key.
Compelling story: Whilst MIPIM is a highly-social event, knowledge sharing is a key component. Information has to be unique and relevant to attract media. This year Colliers issued a 24-page comprehensive forecast report entitled A View from the Top. It was launched on the first day of the conference in conjunction with a press briefing on the yacht with our in-house economists and international investment heads that attracted 25 press delegates. We also launched a thought-provoking Brexit paper titled Brexit – Logic prevails. The results were outstanding: we received excellent pick-up from more than 100 press comments in the week across 20 different titles, including three articles in the Financial Times during the week, plus Estates Gazette, Property Week, PropertyEU, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.
Communication: especially owning the digital space. Besides high attendance rates at our events, we had strong outcomes from our digital effort, specifically our client communications and social media strategies which alone increased our total twitter followers by 5%. Our success rate was largely due to early planning. To ensure optimal pick-up, we prescheduled tweets of our research to post at specific times, identified a team of onsite tweeters, and communicated our desired hashtags and mentions to all delegates. We put a strong emphasis on content, creating both knowledge-based and fun infographic segments to launch at the event.
To the uninitiated, industry events may seem like one more round of champagne and canapés, but the truth is that, if approached and managed well, they can be effective platforms for you to make your mark.