Scaling Up Your Conference Content Marketing Machine

content marketing

The practice of content marketing has made a resurgence in the past decade, but studies have shown few companies know how to make it work.

By Harby Tran, Director of Marketing

Conferences and trade shows are major hubs for learning, networking and peer-to-peer collaboration.

But once the live event ends, the excitement over new discoveries starts to subside and those big ideas at the conference tend to get put on the back burner, as other priorities demand attention.

If only there was a way to keep that energy and enthusiasm going strong, long after the live event ends.

There is … it’s called content marketing.

Content Marketing: What Is It? How Does It Enhance Audience Engagement

“Content marketing,” as described by the Content Marketing Institute, “is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

It’s less about pitching products and services and more about helping your customers and prospects get smarter about the problems they’re tackling. It’s built on the idea that the more you do this consistently, the more customers will reward you with their business.

While content marketing is getting more attention these days, it’s hardly a new concept. It’s been around for decades, but in light of digital publishing and social media amplification, content marketing has enjoyed a resurgence. According to the B2B Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report, while 88 percent of respondents said they use content marketing, only 44 percent had a clear vision of what a successful program should look like.

Less than a decade ago, organizations that invested in content marketing programs reaped big rewards, as they were ahead of the curve. Then, the followers joined in and the content pools grew noisy and crowded. Soon, people found themselves flooded with content—much of it questionable from a quality standpoint—so they tuned it out or clicked “unsubscribe.”

Today, the ante for earning customer attention via content marketing is much higher. Frequency (how often you publish) still matters, but quality matters even more.

Repurposing the Wealth of Content Generated at Conferences

Study after study shows that one of the biggest challenges for marketers today is generating high-quality content that customers appreciate; content that helps them improve. We agree, and while we’ve created content that’s shared in blog posts, newsletters, guides, social media channels, etc., we wanted to step up our own content marketing strategy.

Think about the conferences and trade shows you manage. If attendance is strong and on a steady growth curve, that’s proof positive that there’s a wealth of excellent content being delivered that could easily be repurposed and shared after your event.

Recently, Maritz Global Events hosted its annual e4 conference in Las Vegas. Recognizing the content feast that was about to occur, we decided to double down on content curation at e4 and I’m glad we did. While this endeavor is still unfolding, I’d like to share a few content curation methods we engaged, plus a few lessons we learned along the way.

content marketing

Client Stories

Gallery Talks were introduced this year at e4 and this peer-to-peer learning format earned rave reviews. With clients sharing their own success stories in 30-minute sessions, there were many actionable ideas that participants could apply to enhance their own events. That one e4 element will fuel dozens of future posts, articles, etc.

Lessons learned: While we managed to capture quite a bit of content, with only three of us onsite, we couldn’t attend as many sessions as we would have liked. Next time, we’ll join content planning calls in advance to capture highlights before the event begins. We’ll also recruit staff journalists who can report back on the gems they heard.

Client Video Interviews

While we had “brave souls” stepping up to deliver Gallery Talks, we knew there were so many more event organizers with valuable insights to share, so we scheduled appointments to capture their stories on video. Again, we were graced with amazing stories about how these executives are transforming their events. People are less apt to watch longer videos, so we’re now editing these down into a series of two-to-three-minute “greatest hits” excerpts. Content that’s delivered in bite-sized pieces tends to get viewed and shared more. Many thanks to our clients who graciously agreed to be interviewed. Thanks also to Production Resources Group for their support. Our videographer, Armando, was brilliant and extremely patient, as we navigated through various locations.

Lessons learned: While most were comfortable with being recorded, once they saw the bright lights, it was a bit overwhelming for a few. Next time, we’ll provide the option to be interviewed on or off camera. Also, for the first couple of days, we filmed these interviews in a room nearby. On the last day, we moved into the Galleries and this not only accelerated content capture, these conversations became another fascinating element in an already vibrant space.

General Session Pinnacle Momentscontent marketing

General sessions tend to be the experiences that are remembered most. At e4, this was definitely the case and the Brave Souls theme was evident throughout each of these presentations. On day one, the audience was riveted as John O’Leary shared his remarkable life journey. From his keynote, we were able to draw inspiration and apply the life-altering lessons O’Leary learned to our own lives, both personally and professionally.

Lessons learned: While it can be challenging to schedule time with professional speakers before the conference, next time we’ll prepare a short list of questions to ask these speakers in advance. This will help us develop more pre-event posts to grow anticipation for e4.

Impromptu Chats: “Gal on the Street”

We were locked and loaded for the first two methods, but as time permitted, we had Pattee Brown mingle and chat with participants, with the videographer following her. Granted, some people see a camera approaching and scatter, but most people we encountered were happy to indulge us in a question or two. Some of our best soundbites came through this more impromptu capture method.

Lessons learned: Admittedly, in this first go around, this was done to fill gaps in our schedule. Next time, we’ll be more purposeful in scheduling these roving “Gal/Guy on the Street” exchanges, especially before, during and after pinnacle e4 moments.

Research Sets the Stage for Richer Conversations

This project came together about 30 days before the start of e4. We scanned the registration list and sorted clients by industry segment. Then we reached out to our account teams to learn more and visited event websites to prepare our questions. Generic questions (“Tell us more about your event”) tend to get broad and sweeping answers. But when we used their language (event title, specific activities or features at their event), clients opened up more. They also appreciated that we did our homework.

Lessons learned: While we’re pleased with the results on this first attempt, next time we’ll start our research sooner (at least 90 days out). There’s no doubt that pre-interview research sets the stage for richer and more rewarding conversations.

Are you capturing and repurposing conference content to enhance your own content marketing programs? If so, what capture methods are working best for you?

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