Companies that have created portfolios often realize there are a good deal of unnecessary events on their yearly budget. According to Fehrnstrom, when Cisco initially created its portfolio, it made significant changes. “Interop was an example where we came in [and looked at] who's there from an audience perspective. We ... realized our booth space was around 10 times the size of our nearest competitor,” she said. “We started to take the size of the show floor down, and invested in the IP program and engaging with our customers—driving activities with the people who were going to be there.”
“We're getting more creative with how we spend our money at the shows. ... It's making such a difference for the sales team and the PR team,” Fehrnstrom added.
The key, said ProActive's Lorenz, is to “assess and recalibrate the event marketing spend for events that are known to deliver strong [results].”
What that means, according to marketers that have been successful in managing their portfolios, is to look at each event individually and ask, “Why are we going?” Often, events simply don't make the cut.
Fehnrstom credits partner IBM with giving her the idea to better manage Cisco's event portfolio. “We hold a user conference called Networkers every year. It was for technical decision-makers. We kept asking IBM why they weren't investing in Networkers. They said, "Because our focus is on business decision-makers.' “ Fehrnstrom said this was a breakthrough moment for her team. “The same things apply for Cisco. It gave us confidence. [IBM] decided where they wanted to be and where they wanted to spend their money, and they were sticking to it.”
Not only that, she said, as a result of Cisco's better managed portfolio, “We're not afraid to "deinvest' in trade shows—taking a smaller booth or doing things off the show floor.”
Without question, consolidating a marketing team, creating a portfolio and cutting unnecessary events is no easy task. However, marketers that have been successful at it said that down the line, success will be much more difficult for those companies that don't do it.
“They're going to find themselves behind the eight ball competitively,” Rich said. “They're going to be wasting money while their competitors are achieving results and getting better market share.”
According to Fehrnstrom, creating a portfolio can have some unexpected results inside a company. “When I volunteered for this, I never thought I was signing up for change management,” Fehrnstrom said. “What's important is that this process follows the perfect change management curve. It is a journey. You can't go in and expect people to turn on a dime. It's taken a couple of years, but the groundswell movement has been tremendous.”
Ultimately, companies that have been successful at getting through the growing pains said they are more than satisfied with the results. Having a plan that takes into account all aspects of a company's brand and marketing strategy, marketers said, will serve not only to make a company stronger but will strengthen the events industry.
“There was some concern when we started. A lot of event producers asked [if we were] out to destroy their industry,” Rich said. “But we are all on the same mission. We're all in the same business of trying to get everybody together to make the right decision. The only thing that's going to change is the definition of the tactics.” M