The definition of “proactive” is “controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.”
Are you truly proactive when it comes to managing the profitability of your events?
Do you have events in your line-up that used to be successful and now have resulted in steadily declining profit margins every year? Should you shut down the event altogether or re-invent the whole thing from the ground up?
We consulted Shane Greer, co-owner of Campaigns and Elections to comment on ways to manage event growth, decline and profitability.
What is the biggest mistake you see niche event organizers make? Can you share some real-world examples of media companies are doing it right?
Shane: “The biggest mistake of them all is failing to innovate. All too often you see event organizers running exactly the same conference year after year, with the same format, same topics. That’s not to say you should change everything, every year. It’s just that you should take account of how the market you serve is evolving and adapt to the needs and interests of your audience. Mix it up. Keep it interesting.
I’m a big fan of Carl and Niche Media. Niche understands its audience really well and are phenomenal at injecting fun and personality into their marketing. When I get a Niche email or mailer, I read it. I can’t say that for most.
I’m also a fan of Potomac Tech Wire in the DC market. We partner with them for two events, and what stands out is how thoughtful they are about content, really taking the time to think about the market being served.
When an event is pulling in less revenue each year, what are some good guidelines on what publishers should do next? Is shutting down the event the only option?
Shane: “You should start with conversations. Ask past sponsors and attendees why they haven’t been coming back. Take the time to understand why your market is reacting the way it is. The problem could be as simple as the content being focused in the wrong area; the market evolved but your event didn’t. Great news! Use the feedback to overhaul the event’s content and provide your market what it wants. That’s obviously the ideal ‘problem’.
Of course, there could be a deeper problem; and that may mean shutting the whole thing down. For example, what if the market your event serves is collapsing? Then it’s time to ask what’s displacing your existing market and look for ways to expand into that market. One final thing to consider in niche event organizing, something I’m totally stealing from Carl, is there a way to niche your niche? Maybe your existing event is in decline, but there’s a part of that event that be developed into a super niche event in its own right. Just because something is going back doesn’t mean everything in it is bad. “
What’s on the horizon in successful legacy event models?
Shane: “Constant innovation. For example, we’re pushing heavily into video. At our annual awards event this year, which includes a day-long conference, we’ll be using Facebook Live a lot. During the day-long conference we’ll be interviewing speakers throughout the day. Similarly, at the awards dinner we’ll conduct interviews with award winners throughout the evening. In both cases we have an interview sponsor who’ll be referenced at the top of each interview. We’ve found that video provides a great new sponsor opportunity while also providing a us with a powerful content marketing tool to drive the event brand within our community.
We’ll also be experimenting with 360 video at the awards event this year. It’s not something we’re offering as sponsor opportunity yet as we want to get a handle on the tech before we start offering it to paying clients. But we’re excited to provide our community an immersive experience even if they aren’t able to make it to the event.”
Editor’s note: Shane will be leading the session, Burn the Lifeboats: Transforming (or Ditching) Legacy Events at Super Niche, March 27-29 in Charlotte. Join us!
More about Shane: Shane is a media entrepreneur and investor. He is the co-owner of Campaigns & Elections, a B2B publishing and events business that serves the political campaign industry. He is the author of two books and a recovering British political pundit. Past Life: Shane co-founded Total Politics magazine in the UK in 2008 and built the title into a broader media group through organic growth and the acquisition of other publications and events.
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