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How do you find out what your audience is thinking?

Start by thinking like a scientist.

Our recent post on the ongoing tension between global brands and local audiences prompted some requests for advice on finding and developing local insights – the sort of deep audience understanding that lets you tune a global strategy for more effective local activation.

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focus group

Focus groups: everyone acting like clowns and delivering completely random returns.

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At Ogilvy, we’ve developed a simple approach for ‘bootstrapping’ your way to local insights, one that doesn’t require the time and money of traditional audience research methods, such as the dreaded focus group. This approach was developed specifically for some of the global brands we work with here at Ogilvy, but can be easily adapted to most brands and situations.

customer insights

We call it The Relevance Engine, but that’s just a nifty title for a serve of common sense, spiced with a dash of curiosity and simmered over a little bit of actual work. Like most things in this business, it’s not rocket surgery.

The starting point is the audience – you really have to be able to at least name them before you start. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown persona (although that wouldn’t hurt), but at least some sort of pen-portrait of the audience your brand has, or the one it would like to have, in a particular market.

You can’t just shake an audience and expect an insight to fall into your lap. This is where I believe a lot of marketing-focussed ‘big data’ investments are going to go absolutely nowhere – massive systems will be constructed to collect terabytes of data without ever being asked a single pointed question.

The Relevance Engine asks you think like a scientist and requires you to be a little disciplined: you need to start with a hypothesis.

This hypothesis should relate to your audience and maybe even your brand (or at least your category) and be something that you think might be true. The hypothesis might be something likeEntrepreneurs in our market expect some form of government assistance” or “Parents in our market are very competitive about their children’s progress, but realise it is now socially unacceptable to display it.”

Once you have your hypothesis (you can call it a hunch, or an assumption, or an idea, if you like), you then use The Relevance Engine to test it, to prove it to be either true or false.

In the version we use, we place the hypothesis in the middle of a circle and then, around the edge of the circle, we have eight different categories of data that we could potentially test the hypothesis against:

1. Global Brand Guidance

This sounds contradictory, but you really should see if there’s anything in the existing or supplied materials that answers your question first. Your local market may not be as different as you first thought. The global guidance also might contain something relevant, hidden away in a support point, or an explanatory section or an appendix. First rule of research is make sure the research hasn’t already been done.

2. In-house research

This one is not always so easy to tap into, but the company behind the brand has almost certainly conducted some research around their product and the intended audience: a feasibility study, a competitive analysis, product history, category survey etc etc. If you have it, go back to it. If you don’t, ask the marketing department to share it. If they don’t have it, ask them to ask the sales people, or the product people, research people, lab, finance or whomever. A lot of global brands have dedicated research departments or teams. Find them, use them. Nothing is more compelling to a client than findings based on their own research.

3. Publishers

Do you remember back when magazines where printed on paper and when you read them, little subscription and survey cards would fall out? Publishers have always spent an enormous amount of time maintaining an intimate understanding of their readers. Digital publishers are getting even more intimate. Find a publication (print or online) that targets the same audience your brand does and then ask them about your hypothesis. If your brand has a marketing budget, I’ll bet the publication will tell you the answer over a nice lunch, which is what this industry needs more of. Seriously.

4. Channels & re-sellers

If your brand allows it’s products to be sold via other means (retail stores, affiliates, representatives, agents, re-sellers and so on), go and test your hypothesis with them. Drop in to their outlet, call them up, buy them a coffee or a beer or a steak sandwich or a bowl of noodles and have a chat. They’ll know a lot about your audience, because your audience are their customers.

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insights, science

Disclaimer: The Relevance Engine won’t turn you into an *actual* scientist (like this guy).

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5. Salespeople

Every global brand has a sales department or team or function. Whether these people sell directly to end customers (in the case of big b2b and technology brands) or to a distribution network (financial products, retail, travel, entertainment etc), they’ll also know a lot about your audience, because your audience are their commission and, therefore, the car they drive, their kid’s education, family holiday destination (you get the picture).

In many large organisations, the disfunction between sales and marketing can actually work to your advantage here: coming in as a neutral 3rd party (agency or consultant) often allows sales people to share more than they would inside the company structure. At the very least, they are usually surprised and pleased that someone is asking their opinion about a topic in which they regard themselves an expert.

6. Digital newsfeeds

Ok, so Google reader is dead. And missed. But there are alternatives, and some of them are very, very good. (Flipboard, we’re looking at you, you saucy little neo-digital-magazine-minx you) Regardless of what you use, the basic premise here is simple: ask your computer to test your hypothesis for you. Using an RSS reader of some sort, tune your digital/mobile/computing apparatus to your desired audience and hypothesis (use a few logical keywords and phrases) and have the magic of the internet stream a constant feed of articles, opinions, stories, alerts and trends past your eyeballs as you go about your daily life. Before long, something utterly relevant to your experiment is going to show up – clip it, file it. Done. Great job, internet!

7. Social Media

An increasingly increasing portion of the web is now composed entirely of people opinionating. If you can’t find your audience (and, by extension, what they’re thinking about) on social media, it is quite possible ur doin’ it wrong. Go find the prominent voices and influencers for your audience on social networks, find the groups and chatrooms and discussions, find the blog posts and tweetchats and hangouts and slideshares, and LinkedIn groups, and pinterest boards and tumblrs and webinars and oh god, I’m getting fatigued just trying to keep up with all the fabulous new ways we’ve invented for people to bloviate online. My recommendation? Quora. Go post your hypothesis there, as a question, and see what happens. Failing that, try Reddit. Feeling brave? Ask 4chan.

8. Live events

We’ve written at length about how to make live events work for brands in the digital arena but what about flipping the equation for a second: how can you use an event to listen to an audience, rather than just talk at them? You could try just going to one and listening, for a start: Walk the floors, eavesdrop. If it’s an event you have presence or permission at, try interviewing people, running a survey or getting a presenter to ask the question and get a show of hands. I’ve seen video confession booths, incentivised surveys – all sorts of stuff. One thing that’s true of all events, everyone wants to offer an opinion. Use that opportunity.

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insights, customer

Leave no stone unturned in your search for insights.
Or, you could do it the easy way.

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Tired now

That seems like a metric shit-tonne of work, right? And it would be, if you were crazy enough to interrogate all 8 data sets listed here. (There are plenty of others available, but these are the most accessible).

No need. The Relevance Engine may require a bit of discipline, but it doesn’t demand complete masochism. Just pick 3. You can even pick the 3 easiest ones if you like – although we’ve designed the whole thing to be relatively easy to complete from your desk with just a couple of afternoon’s worth of work (even less if you delegate).

The results are in

What does a successful ‘scientific result’ look like? I’d say 2 confirmations from 3 different sources is a positive: take a few choice quotes & a handful of stats, put them into a nicely-laid-out ‘research deck’ and hey presto: local insights, backed by science. Any global team worth it’s salt will allow a local team to pursue a genuine insight if they’ve done their homework.

Now take your local insight, turn it into a value proposition (if you need help doing this part, you can get it here), put it in a brief and off you go: you’re got most of everything you need to create locally relevant work for your globally-powerful brand.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Make it easy for speakers to keep sharing the content and feedback from their sessions

The speakers you have chosen to present at your event were probably selected for several reasons: expertise, experience, presence and their ability to draw a crowd. That last factor is probably also true in the digital space, perhaps even more so than in the real world. Many speakers work very diligently at growing the quantity and cultivating the quality of their online following.

This can be used to your advantage even after an event has passed, as speakers will generally be on the lookout for new content, in interesting formats, that they can share first with their followers.

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b2b, speakers, digital, event

Your speakers want to stay connected with their audience. Give them a hand.

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So think about how you can help these speakers reach their goals first. Pay it forward and the benefits will automatically begin to flow back to you and your event. Ensure they have priority access to the content from the event – particularly the content they may have created or participated in. Capture their reactions to or commentary on the event as a whole. This gives a whole new texture to their presence and will extract more value from their appearance.

There can also be a cumulative effect to be gained from encouraging speakers to interact with each other online, particularly if they have audiences that don’t necessarily overlap, either in terms of topic specialty, geography, preferred social platform or some other characteristic.

Before you get carried away, make sure you have permission to amplify your speaker’s work. Be totally transparent about what you plan to do with their content and make sure your agreement with them agreement covers it.

This is the tenth and final installment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

If you’ve discovered a new way to boost your B2B event with digital, share it with @barrieseppings 

< Previously in this series: #9 Ongoing digital communities

 

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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After the party, move the conversation online for social lead mining opportunities

The digital world is full of simulations, some useful, others not so much. Live events themselves are meant to simulate communities, which becomes meta when you consider that digital events are a simulation of a real-world, meat-space, here-and-now gathering of people. Online communities, in turn,  are simulations of the loose collections and connections we cultivate everyday.

You might even combine your post-event content strategy with your post-event community strategy so that the place where you house your content automatically becomes the place where you cultivate these discussions and connections.

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b2b events connections communities

If they’re making connections on the floor, make a space where they can continue.

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Providing a well-designed space where attendees can keep on attending (even though the event may officially be over) can yield lead identification, segmentation and even sales opportunities. A word of advice: don’t build these platforms from scratch – leverage existing community-building platforms that are relevant to your audience: LinkedIn groups and Google+ circles are obvious examples. A more sophisticated approach is to develop a dedicated Social Lead Mining strategy, where you actively listen for discussions and, in particular, requests for assistance that relate to the solutions you are trying to promote.

A note of caution: dropping in, unannounced, on conversations amongst attendees and launching into a sales pitch will be as well received as an insurance salesman trying to sign new policyholders at a family BBQ. Think ahead to prepare the resources and social presence you will need to look for lead opportunities in a ‘digital social’ setting – this may include social training, creating specific nurture assets, developing a segmentation strategy and an execution plan. If you pursued any attendee profiling and segmenting strategies before the event, dust them off and aim them at your most socially-active attendees. If you are lucky enough to have your audience drawn from the local area, consider arranging a casual, real-world meet up for attendees who have remained in contact after the event.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you are 110% correct. However, you have to ask yourself: who is a better prospect than someone who can’t say goodbye to the content and connections they encountered at your event?

This is the ninth instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #8 Reaching out to no-shows  

> Up next: #10 Keep the speakers on

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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They said they would come, but they didn’t. Now is not the time to let them slip away.

Personal information is a valuable currency in the digital world, and it is the lifeblood of Demand Generation. Perhaps even more valuable, however, are time and attention. In fact, some observers have coined The Attention Economy as a phrase to describe the trade between brands (who offer value, information and utility) and their audiences (who pay with their time, focus and feedback). As a theory, it has its critics but it useful to help understand the scarcity of your audience’s attention.

Keep this in mind when dealing with the inevitable ‘fall off ’ between registrants and actual attendees. These people  had some intention of turning up or tuning in – they made a small initial investment of time and attention to register or indicate their interest in some way. Ultimately, they weren’t able (or decided not) to be there. Either way, they didn’t continue investing. The question is: how do we react now?

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b2b events digital

Maybe they got a better offer? Don’t punish your no-shows, there may be value in them yet.

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It’s useful at this point to revisit your objectives, (what did you want your prospects to do as a result of coming to your event?) and skip straight to that for non-attendees.  What can you offer a no-show to bring them back into the fold and get them to continue the relationship or respond in the way you were trying to generate with the event itself? If you were trying to match prospects with your own internal experts at the event, for example, now is the time to reach out and offer to do that, virtually, for your no-shows.

It’s really important not to relegate or punish them for not showing up – sympathise with their plight and offer them a fast-track or make-good offer. Consider a summary stream of content that makes them feel like they have broadly ‘caught up’ with what happened at the event, but with very clearly marked paths to pursue more connection or utility. You might want to consider a way that also showcases other attendees – their contributions and reactions. This re-enforces the perception that the event was well attended, not just in terms of quantity but also quality. Give the non-attendees a sense of the community that was formed at the event and an opportunity to connect and still become part of it, perhaps as part of an ongoing digital community.

Finally, work out a plan B and offer it to your non-attendees: can you direct them to a similar or related event in the near future? Offer to pre-register them and send reminders to ensure they can attend your next event.

This is the eighth instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #7 How to distribute your content      

> Up next in this series: #9 Ongoing digital communities

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Taking your live event beyond the four walls of the venue

Whether you are planning a physical or virtual event, digital holds the promise of increasing the reach of your event far beyond either the time or place you originally intended. Your core audience is still the most valuable, particularly if they have offered you accurate profiling information during the registration or attendance phase, but you can continue to grow your audience by planning for a wider distribution of content after the event.

Before you think about how you want to distribute your event content, make sure you are clear on the ‘what’.

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#b2b events w2fm

If your objective is a full house, don’t broadcast the whole show

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A word of warning: resist the temptation to video the entire event and make all of the content available online immediately afterwards. For those who attended, you are offering no new value. In fact, it becomes a disincentive to those who made the effort to register and attend at either a fixed place or time. This is particularly important if you run a regularly-scheduled series of recurring B2B events

Increasing the supply (of information) inevitably decreases the perceived value. this is very important if your brand runs an annual or recurring series of events:  if your audience comes to expect your entire event content on demand, they will see little point in committing themselves, physically, to your event schedule. You are basically training your attendees to stay home and log on instead.

So if full-blown telecasts are out, what’s in? Take a leaf out of the television industry’s book and get into the recap businessSummaries like these make better sense for people who weren’t in the room. Or commentary by experts. Or reactions from attendees. Or a discussion by a few speakers or panelists. Or a pitch from the trade show floor. As to formats, video is the obvious answer, but it can be expensive. An audio commentary over a slideshow (either a deck or a collection of images) can work just as well, particularly now that Slideshare is part of the LinkedIn empire and is starting to become integrated into that experience in more meaningful ways.

This is the seventh instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #6 How to encourage referrals          

> Up nextin this series: #8 Reaching non-attendees

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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Build assets that prompt registrants to refer their colleagues

If your objectives are quantity or quality of attendees, then referrals are a good way to achieve them. And the wonderful thing about digital in general, and social in particular, is that is very social. Even in a B2B setting.

Some creative thinking can generate some new offers and incentives to encourage registrants to bring their colleagues, partners and contacts along to your event. It can be as simple and materialistic as a cup of coffee or bottle of wine (rules and regulations and budgets permitting), or as sophisticated and product-focused as private, tailored demos, or an offer of consulting time.

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b2b, events, digital, referrals, social

Not everyone enters your story through the same door.

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For events that are promoting larger solutions that require multiple decision-makers, think about constructing your incentives so that a registrant is compelled to bring along the other members of the ‘buying cell’ in their company, including perhaps representatives from Finance, Operations and Talent, as well as Technology. It’s far easier to get the buy-in of a group when they are present as an actual group. 

A word of caution: You’ll need to ensure the actual content of your event is also tailored to these particular POVs and that you’ve got experts on hand who can engage these individuals on their own terms and in their area of focus. People often talk of multi-channel marketing as a way to surround a prospective audience, with the message tailored to each channel and context. A similar philosophy is at work with multi-character storytelling: the complete message is woven together by individual storylines that speak to different audiences.

Tech brands are used to telling tech stories to tech audiences, but tech audiences are no longer the single decision-maker. Don’t make the mistake of inviting other members of the C-suite and then continuing to talk only about the technology. If there are there cashflow benefits of your solution, a CFO may be interested. If there are productivity benefits, the Operations people will tune in. If there is a user-experience angle, tell that side of the story to the HR or talent representatives. Once you’ve got these ‘story threads‘ worked out, go back and offer them to your primary audience as lures to get them to bring these other decision-makers along, to hear the side of the story that answers “what’s in it for me?”, for them.

This is the sixth instalment of the series: 10 ways to leverage digital for better B2B eventsWe recently ran an audit of the various tactics, strategies and recommendations we’ve developed @ Ogilvy for using digital to improve the live event experience (for the audience) and performance (for the marketer) – this advice is a summary of what we found to be true and useful.

< Previously in this series: #5 How to profile & segment attendees    

> Up next in this series: #7 How to extend the reach of your event  

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

About the images: all photographs used with the permission of Martin Ollman Photography. Contact Martin directly for rights and commissions.

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