“Marketing and sales leaders should be keeping the customer at the heart of every decision they make, while making data-driven decisions instead of ones based on how they think people behave,” shares Isobel Peck, Chief Marketing Officer at Informa Connect while talking about a few changes in today’s marketing and B2B events marketplace.
Welcome to this martech chat Isobel, tell us more about Informa Connect, its journey and evolution through the years and during the ongoing pandemic!
Informa Connect is traditionally an events media business, operating predominantly in the physical events space with about 400 B2B events a year. We specialise in the areas of finance and life sciences, but we also have products on everything from human resources and marketing through to energy, tax and accounting – the whole gamut of business topics, effectively. We also have media properties that account for about 20% of our business and have some trade shows and exhibitions targeted at consumers. For instance, we own the series of FanExpo events and other shows promoting art, artisan products and interior design.
Obviously, COVID-19 has hit us really hard. If you’re a physical events business and hold events all over the world, as we do, suddenly everything imploded and we couldn’t run them in the way that we did previously. I helped manage the transition, as we pivoted from a physical business to a digital business throughout 2020, exploring lots of different platforms for event delivery. As a team, we piloted five or six different platforms. Meanwhile I was talking to Chris and Alex who are behind the hybrid events platform, Totem. When they showcased the product, we felt that it offered more opportunities than the other platforms out there. So, we collaborated with them to launch our own ConnectMe virtual and hybrid events platform.
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How are you seeing the face of traditional events (even online events) change in today’s marketing, sales and business environment?
I don’t think physical events are going away. I think there is an innate need within people to meet and share ideas, as well as socialise and learn from others. I don’t think COVID is about the death of the physical event. However, I do think it has acted as a catalyst for business to look at different ways in which we can deliver content and networking, while allowing us to reach more audiences than we could previously.
We can now extend our offering to a wider group of people by providing a digital event, or offering it as an extra alongside our physical events. I think the future is hybrid, and there are different ways we could define a hybrid event. Obviously, you’ve got that concurrent option where you may be live streaming something that’s happening in a physical space, while having a digital and physical audience interact with each other. We can also extend an event to have more of a sequential offering, combining physical and digital pieces. Maybe there’s a really key speaker that can’t actually make our dates in person. We could stream that person into a physical event mirroring a cinematic style, then do a live Q+A with them. Hybrid means that more opportunities are presented, rather than the death of live events.
In what ways do you feel digital events (even in-person events) will further evolve to meet newer and changing customer and business needs?
There’s a very big difference between being present at a physical event where you’re moving around within a defined space for over a period of days, and trying to engage in front of a screen for eight hours a day. The latter doesn’t have the same kind of serendipity that you might have in terms of meeting people in a corridor that might help to break things up. With this in mind, we’ll probably explore more bite-sized digestible content in future. As I described it to my boss the other day, shorter ‘snackable’ content that still feels like it’s delivering the same kind of value, but may be stretched out over a longer period of time.
We’d love to hear more about the ConnectMe platform and how it’s set to change the face of events for participants?
I think that the reason that we like ConnectMe is because it feels like it has been built by people who understand events and the behaviours and needs of participants at events. Totem get what people want to do at an event, what kind of content they want to consume and how they want to engage with people. They pulled those learnings into the platform and created something which is relevant for our products and services. It can do everything from a one-on-one conversation through to a round table event with twenty people, all the way to a big cinematic experience with a industry leader addressing 10,000 people, for instance.
It’s been built for the customer. For instance, what do I want to do in a conference room? I want to see who else is in the room. So, we use the in-built Room Radar for this. I don’t want to have to click on a million different buttons to move around the event. So, we built in functionality to easily take people where they need to go next. We appreciate its low-friction, seamless and low-complexity way of experiencing content.
What are some of the core marketing technologies that you feel marketing teams should not be doing without, at least in the B2B and tech marketplace?
I don’t think technology is the solution to the problem. I think technology can be an enabler. You can have the best technology, but if your marketing team doesn’t understand their audience or their value proposition, it won’t make a difference. I think we need more expert marketers than more marketing technology although the advances in that have certainly increased the sophistication with which we can target and message our customer groups.
As well as people, data is also important, since we need to gain insights into how customers behave. We need to be able to respond to that and gain new insights, so that we can develop new products to stay ahead of the game. Insight into customer behavior combined with excellent marketing teams can help you maximize the technology out there.
A few predictions for the future of martech?
There’s going to be more and more dependency on customer data platforms. Personalization and recommendation will be important, as will making sure we’re offering customers the right combination of products, information, networking opportunities and connections to make their lives easier.
Customer data platforms are super important for that, allowing us to gain deeper insight into customer behavior, to share content that’s relevant, rather than bombarding and alienating them with stuff they don’t care about.
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