My new Vendor Selection Matrixtm research, this time on Marketing Event Management, has just been published by my business partner Research In Action. We had surveyed 1500 business decision-makers around the world on their preferences, challenges plus their opinions and ratings for the MEM vendors they know. Marketing Event Management (MEM) refers to a wide range of processes involved in the management of all customer events such as lead generation events, trade shows and conferences.
Traditionally a more tactical decision made by the event department, or corporate marketing, selecting a suitable MEM vendor will turn into one of the more strategic decisions for CMOs over the next year or so. During the COVID-19 crisis, the immediate goal was to cover an already-planned live event with an online alternative as a work-around and many executives made short-term decisions about the platform — optimization wasn’t yet part of their strategy, just getting it done. And event participants, and speakers, were so-easily pleased to be able to log in to any platform and be able to discuss business topics again.
Whether organizing an event or presenting at one, my personal experience during that time was that most of event platforms deployed were not purpose-built for virtual events; they were originally designed to provide other services—such as webinars, e-learning course management, or just event registration. In the last years, many MEM platform providers released new, dedicated software, to better support virtual events of all sizes; fueled, of course, by massive injections of venture capital into several of these vendors. However, not all vendors have noticed that the buying center has changed dramatically; from a project-oriented event manager to a team of much more strategic marketing executives.
The last years of business crisis increased the demand for digital tools and services for virtual customer meetings of all types: one-on-ones, team meetings, sales meetings, as well as larger marketing events. Virtual events replaced presence-based business conferences and trade shows, and customer meetings were facilitated on digital meeting platforms. With business travel now opened again, virtual is still a factor as other reasons such as cost control and sustainability considerations influence event-attendance decisions.
Here are the highlights of the survey……
- MEM is now more about Marketing than Events. When we asked about the top two priority investments in MEM, the buyers wanted more cost-efficient events first and foremost. However, after that comes scalability for large virtual events, video streaming capabilities and content experience as the next priorities. The latter two investment priorities reflect a significant change in the buying center for MEM software as it moves from being a project spend item to a more strategic investment. Event managers care about the event while marketers want to curate and offer their event content on an ongoing basis.
- Even after COVID, virtual is now standard in the new marketing event paradigm. Yes, in-person events are back, but they need to be more impactful and measurable than before. Digital marketers have now embedded the events calendar into their customer engagement programs; collecting market and customer insights at scale; maintaining a buyer/customer relationship over a longer period than just a buying cycle. But a hybrid event strategy will prevail, as buyers continue to be reluctant to travel, for reasons other than COVID (sustainability, cost, time). So, MEM must be a mix of on-site plus virtual attendance, but with attendees treated equally, with an event calendar of on-site and virtual events coordinated in a hub/spoke engagement strategy.
- The MEM market is under consolidation pressure. The global market for MEM software has moved from its previous boom economy, with businesses buying multiple MEM platforms to experiment with; to a consolidation state as companies now reduce their inventory of MEM vendor licenses to just a few strategic suppliers. Over half of the companies surveyed this year have more than 6 vendors they work with, counting all tools supporting virtual meetings, video conferencing, conferences and events, and trade shows. There has already been a significant consolidation of vendors in the past two years, with the proportion of firms with over 10 vendors reduced by two-thirds and the cohort with 6-10 vendors down 40%.
- Savvy marketers see Events as a feeder for a long-term on-demand video library. Realizing the long-term opportunity of the multitude of event recordings they are collecting, many marketing organizations want to create a branded content hub or corporate streaming platform. The recordings can then be leveraged into new campaigns or even just be discovered by web visitors– something like the Netflix or BBC iPlayer metaphor for their own content. Some are recruiting content producers with studio experience to be able to atomize many of the longer videos, ensuring consistency and relevance in marketing campaigns.
- The MEM vendor landscape bewilders, vendors must tell better stories. The over-100 MEM vendors have a variety of roots. Some have just repackaged traditional offerings through new product positioning. Others are meeting platforms that are good for that but not necessarily larger events, or vice-versa. Most are challenged, however, to communicate the benefits of their technologies to business-oriented marketers. MEM vendors are used to selling to event/project managers, or within IT/Telco departments, and many struggle to present their solutions to CMOs and their management team in marketing language and values.
The report provides a useful guide to important marketing event management market trends and names the Top Vendors as viewed by the market in 2023 (already a quite different landscape from 2021, as vendors drop out, confuse their branding, and/or consolidation takes its toll). As the report name suggests, these details will help buying teams make an informed decision regarding which vendors could best fit their requirements. I hope you enjoy reading it and reach out if you have questions. I did several in-depth interviews in addition to the survey research, so I know more than I wrote here.
I was particularly impressed with vendors BIZZABO, KALTURA, ON24, 6CONNEX, RAINFOCUS and SPOTME, all in the Market Leaders quadrant. These really understand the new needs of marketing executives around MEM and are providing solutions for those buyers.
Always keeping you informed! Peter