Messaging & Communication Strategies
Today we talk with Brendan Dell, Founder and President of B2H, on his best practices around messaging and communication.
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Cvent CONNECT is going virtual
We know recovery is inevitable and live events will eventually resume and there are a lot of questions. Will you be able to build the same kind of relationship in the virtual environment? How can planners maximize attendance and engagement on the rebound? How social distancing will impact events? How should planners build value to justify the cost once we go back to live events? and so on. We all have questions.
In this episode Brendan Dell, Founder and President of B2H, shares his thoughts with Brooke and Cody on different business marketing strategies & best practices around messaging and communication that can help you succeed in the new world!
- Brendan Dell, Founder and President, B2H
- Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
- Cody Liskh, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent
- The podcast is going live! Register for a spot to hear Brooke and Cody interview our guests on the future of events.
All right, Brendan, thank you so much for joining. Can we start just by getting some background on how you started B2H?
Yeah, so B2H. It stands for business to humans. We're a B2B marketing agency.
And the whole thing started because so right now we're seeing the largest proliferation of new technology in the history of the world. And all of those are huge volume of those companies are all going to market. In the same way, which is content and what you're starting to see is diminishing returns on those investments, because people are sort of treating the market like the stock photo version of people rather than real people.
So, we started B2H to bring the human back into business marketing and create audience centric campaigns.
Love that as a fellow marketer and having the opportunity. I've worked with you a few times, Brendan, I think this is just so important and we know recovery is inevitable live events are going to eventually resume. But everyone's a little bit gun-shy about diving right back in. So, from a content standpoint, how would you recommend our listeners putting together a communication strategy for when that rebound happens or where should they even start.
So, I think course of any communications plan is going to be some kind of a hook right. What's the one thing you want your market to remember There's just, there's too many events. There's too much noise in general. Right. And people don't have time to investigate thing as deeply. You can even think about this like in politics, whatever your opinion of Trump, but like make America great again. Right. People don't know a lot about him, but they'll remember That phrase.
So, when you're thinking about how to start going back to Market and putting a communications plan together. I would anchor it in some kind of promise, right, what's the extreme value is a term we've been talking about a lot lately that you're going to provide right that from people coming to this. What's the one thing that they need to know about the event And then pay it off with a few specifics, right, like your three sort of pillars around which you're going to help them achieve that goal that you promise in your hook. Right, right.
So, I think about extreme email like one. How am I going to dramatically change the condition for people, right, especially in the wake of all this, you're going to have to offer people some kind of really Meaningful value. If you're going to get them to start thinking about coming somewhere, right, and then how is the world change that makes learning about or experiencing what you're going to give them an imperative now.
Yeah, I really like what you say about extreme value. I mean, you only have one shot really to get your point across in a small succinct way so positioning. That is, it's probably going to be super key.
How would you recommend the other listeners maximize attendance and engagement on the rebound?
I think, first of all, you have to think about this in terms of your now not just selling the value of your event right
But you have to sell, sell the value of coming to the event right virtual versus in person. And then you have to sell the value of the event itself. So, I think you need to come back to this when you're thinking about most butts in seats, it's coming back to this extreme value. Right. How do you make something that's normally great and then how you make an imperative for now?
And when you're talking about the comp plan, you need to get specific like a mistake I see companies make when their merchandising advances every email will basically share the same list of features benefits right like they'll share the speakers and the number of attendees from last year and things like that.
But what the most effective common strategy is going to do is start at the big promises and layer down one by one, your comms, talking about the individual specific points of the event and how they're going to be valuable To people
Yeah, I think that's so interesting. You do you see the same sort of emails over and over and over again, the same marketing strategy for these events esteem communications and so I think it's really valuable what you're saying here, but I just want to ask you, I mean, like, real talk here.
For a second, because we're in this like virtual world right now everything is virtual. Do you think it's actually possible to build the same kind of relationship with your attendees and a virtual environment?
I don't think it's possible to build the same kind, but I think you can still think about how to facilitate more intimate kinds of conversations. I'm sure you guys are seeing a lot of interesting things on your side. But I think so I guess there's like the event planner side and this and then there's the marketer kind of side of this, but if you're thinking about how to build and facilitate relationships between people Which we know is one of the primary reasons people come to events.
I think there's a lot of ways that you can get creative on trying to facilitate those kinds of relationships. I heard about someone, you know, you think about your typical like Sort of like account based right like Executive dinners and they were to facilitate those in a virtual setting. They were sending bottles of wine to individual executives and then having them and sending them catered meals to home.
And then having them sit on a virtual executive roundtable with a speaker and then facilitating communication that way. So, they're still getting the food. They're still getting the wine.
They're creating an experience. And then they were able to facilitate connections that way. So I think people can get creative to think about how can they blend these experiences to try to create more engaging kinds of Events for people while we're working on how to go back to a new normal.
I agree, Cody and I so in real life for like best friends. And we have this whole group of friends and the way that we sit down and communicate, like let's say we're on a patio at a bar is we all talk over each other like all the time, right. But now we're in this virtual environment.
And we all get on a zoom to like to play a bingo game or something and you can't do that anymore. And so, I think that that's kind of what you're saying to right like what is the goal. What is the like.
The best kind of experience that you want to give it fits the dinner that you're trying to replicate or a happy hour or maybe a large, you know, General session and really like figuring out with technology, how you can recreate that
Yeah, I think, and I think thinking about that engagement part of this.
And the personalization, part of this is going to be really important for people because I think part of the event is the experience, right, it's, it's the being there. It's the being around people, it's the whole experience of the event.
And so, I think A mistake We're seeing happen right now. Right. And something that people are going to have to solve for going forward is how do I not just have a virtual webinar with 15,000 people right like that's not going to be an effective strategy. So how do you create an experience for people That does facilitate those same kinds of connections, the same kinds of learnings, or at least tries to bring some of those elements in and it brings the connection part back to it, that's a big part of events right is the connection.
I was in a webinar panel yesterday and you know a lot of people are kind of talking about that. There are way too many virtual events, you know, there's kind of this fatigue happening.
And I have to imagine, especially when it comes to the marketing piece of this that there are people doing it really well. And then there's others that are kind of like sticking to the script sort of everybody's has the same message. Have you seen anybody out there that's doing it really well?
Yeah, I think that this not to be a broken record, but I do think it comes back to this extreme value in terms of I really think you have to think about your hook with this stuff right that is everybody's going to have a lot of choices about how they spend their time, attention and dollars.
And so, when you love so we know like professional learning right it's professional learning and networking is the two main reasons that people are going to come to events so When you level as backup. What is the theme of the event? And what is the thing that people are going to come to learn about that is going to help them self-actualize right that is going to create some sort of change for them right and creating a theme.
That is going to be really precious and valuable right now so that when people are looking out across The ecosystem of how they might spend their time they go you know what this is, this content is going to really dramatically help me do my job better right perform better, those kinds of things In a way that I have to be there for this.
And I think the people who spend the time to get that right, and who really get close to their customers and figured out where it is they're struggling and how they can be valuable and those Versus just sort of like do it with their own self-interest in mind are going to be the ones that come out the back end of this And their events are going to be the new cornerstone. I mean, I think from an event standpoint, in general, right.
I think HubSpot Virtual hand in person is someone who does this really well because you can look at what they promise they built this community around inbound right And they make this promise of learning how to do that job better if you're a marketer. You want to know, and you and you buy into HubSpot methodology, you want to know how to do inbound now. Right.
And so all of us can think about What's our angle. What's the game we own, right, like what's the, what's the promise for learning that we're making. And then how do we make sure that that's an imperative for now and build a ton of value around that education in that experience.
And I've been talking a lot to my team about. It's not just about the event, but it's about the content that leads into the event and Kind of creating even that pre event experience there. I mean, do you have any suggestions or like new innovative ways, like for example, even the podcast, like is there a place for sort of these new mediums to help create that drive for attendance.
Yeah, I, I really believe so from a higher-level strategic standpoint, I believe that one of the things that companies can do right now. And that is one of the most effective things that they can do.
Is so use this term new game right and all define it, but it is to own a new game and that I'll use drift, which is a for those who don't know, it's a marketing technology that's a chat tool.
And conversational marketing HubSpot with inbound is another example of this. Right. But what they did is define A new world, right, a change let’s use draft a change happened in the world right people know want no longer to want to fill out marketing forms.
What they want to do is have a conversation. If you're going to succeed. Now, right, if you're going to grow. You're going to learn how to do conversational marketing. So, if you're a marketer, it's now an imperative that you understand how to succeed in this new world.
Most companies are experiencing some kind of similar change with their end users, right. So how do you define an own a new game from a strategic standpoint and then how do you build media.
Whether it's podcast or however you choose to do it to educate people around how to succeed in this new world and own that position and making it imperative that they you know, learn how to do things and succeed in this new world. It’s “drift” is now billion dollar company on the back of building, you know, their event is called hyper growth, but it's all about how to succeed and do marketing now. And I think this is an opportunity for all companies.
Well, Brendan, I wanted to kind of go back to something you said earlier.
About kind of the relationship between event producers event organizers and their attendees and you said it was not going to be the same. It's got to be a different kind of modified relationship and I totally agree with you on that.
One of the things that I see, that's going to be modified as well as the experience in person at events. And I just keep thinking about social distancing I see it all the time and I go to the store and I don't think that's going anywhere.
I think that when we have events up and running, that's still going to be a part that factors into them. So how would you say that things like social distancing and you know precautions like that. How would those impact events and what can our listeners do to include this in their communication strategy?
I think health and safety is going to have to be a part of your external materials. Right.
Like presented very clearly when we do start to go back to, to live events. Right. It's going to have to be a tab on your website. It's going to have to be part of your communications packets to those people who are coming
I think it's something you're going to have to address up front. And it's something that Just showing that you're aware of and that you're taking the relevant precautions and being super, you know, and showing making the event, a big part of this the first time around is going to be once people's experience there.
Right, so I'll use an example from hospitality since I Do a lot of work in the space. I believe it's Marriott who's taking all their rooms. Right. And they put a seal across the door.
When you go in right, so you physically break the seal of a clean room when you go in and you feel right like that room is clean and has been sterilized. You've got to create an experience that I feel comfortable with.
And then I can tell people like you know what they did a really good job on comfortable staying in area right because this seal was there. So, the same will happen for events, right. Like, how can you create an experience that feels clean feels hygienic and then show people those precautions and I think it will go a long way to placating concerns.
I mean we're even seeing things like branded face masks right now and things to like it could even be a direct mail face mask before you show up or something like that. I mean, I think that there's going to be so many different ways. We're going to see people communicating this to their, their audiences.
Yeah, I love that idea. Yeah. I think, I think, What if you can try to make it fun, you know, and yeah, and just, I do think just communicating it right that the precautions have been made and Yeah. And so much of it will come back to How does it feel that first time?
because it's going to be the first, you know, you're one will be something, but it's going to be your two, three and four right is Can we do people make the transition back to these in person events and it's going to be a big imperative at the beginning here that people leave The early events feeling like you know it. That was handled well. It was worth the time and I didn't feel at risk in, you know, I'm going to go back. Yeah.
Absolutely. It's, it's going to be really interesting to see how this all happens now. One of the things that that I've been hearing a lot of people talk about is charging for events. It's kind of like the elephant in the room because a lot of these events. There was a fee to go to the event we did this with Cvent connect right when we were in Las Vegas. It was a production.
Now it's Cvent connect is virtual and there's no fee. It's free. You see that a lot. But there's going to come a time where we're all going to come back to maybe even this hybrid or in person, where we are going to start charging again. And it's going to be about, you know, showing that value.
So, the money is worth the experience so from a communication standpoint or content. I mean, how do you think that it is going to be best to have those conversations
So, I think there's three things I would think about. The first is, again, coming back to that extreme value piece of it, right, like how What's the experience that you're going to facilitate in person, that can't be done virtually right and how are you going to really work hard on creating an engagement strategy.
And when I say engagement. I mean, how are you going to make experiences there where people are going to get to be around the kind of people they want to be around right like create those networking create those serendipitous opportunities to meet new people and do that in a way that you can't do it virtually right start to carve that stuff out of the virtual strategy and bring it sort of in person. Right.
It's all about that One thing you want people to remember right, like what's the one promise you're going to make and how do you communicate that value really clearly and create experiences in person that aren't going to happen Virtually.
the second part of this is, I would think really deeply about how to segment your communications. And I'll be thinking about how I can make all this outreach more personal. So, you can think about people who attended the virtual conference.
Or certain tracks are going to get one type of thing right partners will get one thing past attendees to you live event will get a certain kind of Invite right you should have a personalized common strategy for each of these segments so that you're creating as relevant a connection As you can. And how can you use your internal team to reach out directly to the customers who you are really high value for you or the segments that are really high value for you.
And the third part I think is sort of offers right it's not nothing anyone wants to discount. But you can think about. So recently, last year we did an audience acquisition campaign for a company and they were, they were like 12 weeks out from a big event that historically been free And they started charging for the first time they didn't put a communication strategy around this ahead of time.
And so we had to figure out a way to get 4000 people in a room in, you know, a couple months. And so, one of the big levers, you can always pull is price. And so, when it comes to events. We know that bringing back value to the company right bringing back your learnings is one of the key things that people want So thinking about either BOGO’s or positioning the value right is like, we're here to help in these, you know, difficult times, and we want to help you get more value and we're investing really deeply in this one thing that's going to provide radical transformation and value for you guys So we're going to give you a buy one get one right to bring people to the event.
I think all those kinds of things incentives is another lever you can pull to start to ease people back in and then as the years go on, you bring your prices backup, right, and perhaps phase out incentives as needed.
Probably I mean tell me if this is fair to say, but everything all those three really great points could be applied to a virtual event. If you chose to charge which I think some people are exploring That segmented personalized communication. I'm sure would go a long way to showing the value. If you wanted to charge a nominal fee forever.
I think there's no reason you can't charge for virtual event. And I think just the same way with marketing that you can create premium content that people are willing to pay for it. And then you also will give away content that people are willing to pay for It comes back to that extreme value. Right. Are you creating? First of all, have you built enough trust with your audience that they believe and this is like a long term play right but have you built enough trust with your audience that they believe you're going to provide something valuable for them, or is it just going to be a bunch of sales pitches from vendors, right, in which case obviously no one's going to pay, but they're not going to get paid twice. Certainly.
And then can you know How do you communicate that extreme value to people so they understand that this is worth the price of admission, because what they're going to get When you think about positioning as an ROI. It's worth every dollar because you're going to help them achieve this outcome that they need to achieve.
Yeah, that's really interesting. Brennan, I like that, you know, building trust and then communicating the extreme value. Those are super important factors.
And I also like what you said about having some additional maybe premium content that's a way really to kind of justify having a fee for a virtual event.
This has been such a cool conversation Brendan, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I do have to ask you my favorite question. If you had to leave our listeners with just one takeaway or piece of advice, what would that be
Yeah, what's the one thing you want your market to remember right and get really clear about that and make sure it's something that they really care about. And make sure you're communicating that from every possible place that you can so that when people have to make a decision about do A, B, or C they remember your first
Thank you. Brendan so much. I mean, we have a lot of marketers that listen to this podcast and I'm sure they're just waiting for more information. I'm sure we could talk to you all day, but I heard that you actually started your own podcast.
Yeah, I did. That's correct, yeah, my, my podcast. Surprisingly, based on this conversation is called “the hook’ and you can find it on my personal website which is WWW.Brendandell.com
That's amazing. Anything else you want to promote or share with our listeners while we have you
Yeah, for those who are looking of questions around comms how to do any of this. You can look at our agency at www.b2hagency.com and for those who want to learn how to do messaging for themselves. My book “The 12 immutable laws of high impact messaging” will give you a rubric to think about how to create a comms plan how to create messages that are going to move your market.
So, fantastic. I can personally vouch I worked with Brendan quite a few times. So I recommend checking out his book and podcasts and reaching out, if you have any needs and thank you again for being on this podcast and maybe we can be on your sometime.
Yeah, that sounds great, I love it, I love it. I love to have you guys on
Awesome. Thanks for having me, guys.