Face-to-face events are designed to bring buyers and sellers together in a live setting. This dynamic has an obvious application in B2B media, but for consumer brands, which tend to focus on experiential events that have a high entertainment factor, the lead-gen and nurturing process between attendees and sponsors is not as evident.
Bonnier has been working to tighten that connection through an audience acceleration program created by its Custom Insights Group.
The program is set up to identify and qualify event attendees by their propensity to buy a product. Ideally, that gives sponsors of events, such as the Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour, a direct line to ROI.
“We feel like a competency we have is to not just identify audience,” says Matt Hickman, vice president of brand strategies at Bonnier. “We’re also uniquely positioned to connect multiple customer groups—our audience to our clients, and build a relationship between the two.”
The questions about an individual’s purchase intent or brand affinity are about the same at an event as they are online, for example. And the answers to those questions have an impact of the kind of conversation a sponsor will want to have with a particular attendee.
“You’re going to have a much different conversation as a boat salesman, for example, with someone who’s in the market to buy, or who’s in market but just has a brand affinity, or someone else who has no brand affinity,” says Hickman.
But the Custom Insights Group was aiming higher. Not only did it want to measure an attendee’s brand knowledge and buying phase, it wanted to guarantee a predetermined number of qualified prospects at each event.
At a minimum, with the types of events that Bonnier produces, attendees are committed to their passions—whether it’s wakeboarding, scuba diving or boating, for example.
“People are loading up the SUV with the kids and driving an hour [to the event]. You’re not participating on the fringe, you’re way into it. We look at event audiences at the same level or higher value than print, but knowing how to activate them on the site and cherry picking the highest value audience out of all the noise is challenging,” adds Hickman.
Hickman’s group turned to the same data collection and digital marketing tactics they use for the rest of the brand platforms to prequalify event attendance, basing decisions on each person’s level of brand affinity and product purchase history. From there, attendees are qualified one more time on-site to help customize the experience they have at the event.
The Custom Insights group partners with the sales and content teams to design surveys ahead of the event to paint a better picture of the attendee base. The surveys help both Bonnier and its sponsors, but Hickman notes that they speak directly to the customer passion around the activity and don’t come off as a heavy-handed sales tool.
As an example, a survey can tease out a serious wakeboarder who’s also looking for new products to test and buy. At that point, Hickman knows he’s got a VIP-level attendee, whose event experience would include scheduled product demos, clinics and access to pros.
“They answer a few questions to see if they qualify, and if they do, we schedule their clinic time before the event starts,” says Hickman. “Their perception has already started to change in terms of brand affinity.”