Marketing Your Event: How to Tell a Better Story

Marketing events demands great storytelling. But too often story takes a back seat. Key ideas get sidetracked and important details omitted. Bob & David James can help guarantee you get the right story out there. You can count on us to recommend and execute the strategies and tactics that will assure your attendance goals are met:

- We have the know-how you need. We have more than 100 years’ collective experience promoting B2B events: conferences, conventions, trade shows, user meetings, sales events and more.

- We’re multichannel marketers. We have no hidden agenda, like some other agencies, and will not “push” tactics that won’t pay off. In fact, we’re “channel agnostics:” we don’t push particular channels for the reason that they happen to be profitable to us. We only recommend tactics that are proven to generate attendance—and only ones we believe, to the very best of our knowledge, will work for you.

- We’re hands on. You will work with our firm’s principals—directly—throughout the campaign. We won’t waste your valuable time (or money) assigning you some novice AE who doesn’t know how B2B events—much less multichannel direct-response marketing—work.

- We’re affordable and full service. Every tactic we recommend we deliver ourselves, at a price that’s competitive. We can stay competitive because we’re not about building a nationwide empire, paying off investors, or incurring overhead for glitzy local offices and ad campaigns. We’re pleased to be of service to a few deserving clients who value our expertise, creativity, and love of candor.

Sales: Time to Rethink Your Email Strategy

Once upon a time, sales reps could send a pithy email to an executive and actually get an appointment.  But sales reps overdid a good thing. The number of unsolicited emails sent to executives exploded.

Executives are as likely to respond to one of them today as pigs are to fly. Less likely, in fact.

So how can sales reps use email to their advantage?

By making it personal. An introductory email should open with something personally relevant and specific in the very first line.

Look up the prospect up on LinkedIn and research her organization before you write a word. Use what you learn to create a unique, perhaps insightful, introduction to your email:

- Provide a piece of content you think the executive will value based on her recent social media posts.

- Share a story about one of your customers that directly bears on the prospect's situation.

- Offer a tactical suggestion based on your observation of how the prospect's organization does business (its blog can be a good source of insights).

Lastly, whatever you do, avoid standard tactics. Personalization doesn't mean simply dropping someone’s name in the first sentence. And it doesn't mean mentions of shared hobbies or favorite vacation spots. It means offering value in the form of insight. Avoid openings that are generic, "cute," and hackneyed. Be original and specific and to-the-point. It will show the prospect you respect her.

Millennials and Email

Email marketers had better adapt now to Millennials' attitudes and behavior, as they represent the "new normal," says the Direct Marketing Association.

DMA surveyed over 1,200 consumers and found:

 - Millennials prefer pictures in emails and are correspondingly less enthusiastic about text.

 - Millennials, nevertheless, are twice as likely as older consumers to read long emails.

 - Millennials are better disposed to personalization than older consumers.

 - Millennials are more likely to be tolerant of senders they don’t recognize than older consumers.

 - Millennials are less likely to unsubscribe from marketing emails than older consumers.

 - Millennials are more likely than older consumers to have two email addresses, and are more likely to have a dormant or "ghost" account.

Improving Your Event Marketing Emails

Registration provider Eventbrite last year surveyed 340 event organizers about their email marketing practices.

The organizers participating in the survey were responsible for all kinds of events, including concerts, festivals, sports events, workshops, and professional conferences.

The survey found that professional conferences have the lowest email open rate among event organizers.

That doesn't surprise us. Marketing a conference is hard, hard, hard.

To improve open rates, Eventbrite suggested organizers should:
    Use a recognized Sender name. Stay out of trash cans by using an easily recognized and trusted source. Test use of your organization's name, your event's name and the names of executives to see the effect on open rates. Don't vary the sender name, after the test.
      Use short Subject lines. The best subject lines are no more than 50 characters long.
        Use specific Subject lines.  Let the recipient know what to expect when she clicks.
          Leverage urgency. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency ("Heads up: seats almost sold out") boost open rates by 22%.

          Personalize. Personalizing a Subject line with the recipient’s name can increase open rates by 20%.

          Test, then be consistent. Find out through A/B tests which copy resonates with your audience (i.e., prompts the most opens and clicks), then use what you've learned in future emails.

          It's Later than You Think

          apparently most Boards and CEO’s thought that somehow all this innovation would magically appear without a strategy and the res

          Retail guru Steve Dennis

          For many retailers it’s later than they think

          There is a lot we know about what innovative companies do–and way too much to go into here. But it’s readily apparent that most traditional retailers have ignored a great deal of it and are paying the price right now.

          While no one has the gift of prophecy–and most would likely agree that few could have imagined the degree and speed of disruption we are experiencing–there are plenty of things that should have been obvious years ago to anyone paying attention. Here are just a few that were being actively discussed at the retailers I worked with at least five year ago and, in some cases, over a decade ago:

          • Physical retail space was being overbuilt and a consolidation needed to occur

          • Customers who shopped in multiple channels were far more valuable than single channel shoppers

          • Emphasizing the growth of e-commerce without tight integration with the overall brand experience would have unintended negative consequences

          • Shopping influence of digital channels was critical to physical store success, and vice versa

          • Data, organization and process silos needed to be busted to provide an integrated (I like to call it “harmonized”) experience

          • High rates of returns and high customer acquisition costs would make most pure-play brands profit proof and unsustainable

          • You can’t out-Amazon, Amazon and the middle is collapsing. The focus needs to be on remarkable, scalable, “ownable” experiences, not engaging in a race to the bottom

          • More innovation and experimentation is essential to stay ahead of the curve and best manage risk

          • A premium needed to be placed on deeper customer insight and on translating that insight into more personalized offerings and experiences.

          I have no idea what percentage of retailers were aware and accepted these emerging truths. I do know that very few acted on them. I do know that very few retail brands have anything that looks like a robust innovation process. I do know that the notion of an R&D budget and having a senior executive responsible for driving innovation is absent at the vast majority of top retailers.

          If I told you I was going to successfully run a marathon next year without doing any training you would tell me that I was crazy and wouldn’t be surprised in the least if I failed miserably. Yet apparently most Boards and CEO’s thought that somehow all this innovation would magically appear without a strategy and the resources to make it happen. Hope is not a strategy and counting on a time machine to go back and fix things doesn’t seem all that workable either. It’s easy to blame Amazon for the problems of most retailers, but that would be wrong. Most of the wounds are self-inflicted.

          For quite a few retailers the bullet has already been fired, it’s just that the full impact has not been realized yet. Unfortunately they are in a dive from which they will never recover. Dead brand walking.

          Others stand at the precipice, where their fate is not yet sealed, but the pressures to radically transform grow stronger by the day. The answer will not be to try to out-Amazon Amazon, to finish second in a race to the bottom. The answer lies in striving to be more intensely relevant and remarkable, to get out of the stands and into the arena, to understand that it is far more risky to hold on to the status quo than to embrace radical experimentation and transformation.

          As the Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”


          How to Counteract Irrelevance

          B2B marketers' emails receive roughly half the clicks B2C marketers' emails do, according to the Direct Marketing Association, which sampled over 37 billion emails sent by 12 different ESPs to reach that conclusion. And mail click-through rates are dropping.

          One reason B2B marketers' emails receive fewer clicks: many are simply informational, requesting no action from the recipient. But what about the rest of those emails? Why are click-through rates on the decline?

          In a word: irrelevance.

          So how do you make your B2B emails more relevant to more recipients?

          • Trim your subject lines. Many B2B decision-makers read email on their phones, which show only about five words (40 characters). Write short subject lines to improve click-through.

          • Make your subject lines motivating. Subject lines are a call to action: you want recipients to read (and click through) your email.

          • Be concise. Recipients prefer consumable bits of information and won't likely stick with long, windy writing, much less scroll through it to get to the point. Write tight copy and use images sparingly.

          • Personalize. Personalization boosts response. Simply including the recipient's name can only help. And targeting a recipient based on her job role can help measurably.

          • Fine tune frequency. Choose a consistent frequency, then study your email transmission reports for signs it's a smart choice. The ideal frequency differs for different lists and organizations, so there is no hard-and-fast best practice. The reports will tell you if you’re in sync with recipients (strong opens and clicks), missing the boat (weak opens and clicks), or getting on their nerves (opt-outs).

          Event Marketer: Don’t be Desperate

          Old-line retailers—desperate for sales—were criticized last month for deluging holiday shoppers with irrelevant emails.

          Are you guilty of acting desperately, too?

          Many event marketers are swamping attendees' in-boxes with vague offers of "must-attend" trade shows and conferences.

          Attendees are growing angrier and more resistant by the day.

          How can you tell you’re sending too much email?

          Your opt-out rate.

          If you see it start to climb abnormally, you can bet you’re sending subscribers too many emails.

          One easy way to prevent opt-outs is personalization.

          Personalization counteracts the impression you’re “spamming” subscribers.

          Personalization also boosts response. Simply including the reader's name in the Subject line boosts open rates over 25%.

          Crisis Management: Learn from Others’ Failures

          Edward Segal, CAE, contributed today’s post. He helps publishers and associations generate publicity about their events and activities.

          If you’re like most people, you’d rather learn from the failures of others than have people learn from your mistakes.  That’s especially true when it comes to crisis management.

          There are plenty of examples of how organizations have stumbled or simply fell flat on their face when they found themselves in the public spotlight for all the wrong reasons.  But there are some good examples to emulate, too.

          Here’s a look at both the good and bad examples, along with my observations about the lessons to be learned from how these organizations reacted to and handled a crisis.


          In the aftermath of news reports that Apple had intentionally slowed some older iPhones down in order to save battery life, the company admitted that it had done just that, but said it had taken those steps out of concern for its customers. After lawsuits were filed against the company, Apple apologized and offered discounted replacement batteries for those who have certain older iPhones.

          Lesson: Don’t hide bad news. Be transparent.

          CBS and NBC

          After confirming allegations of sexual abuse against Charlie Rose at CBS and Matt Lauder at NBC, the two networks moved quickly to end their relationships with both men.

          Lesson: Move quickly. After you verify the facts, move as fast as you can to deal with the problem.

          United Airlines

          A video went viral that showed a passenger on a United Airlines flight being taken from his seat and dragged bleeding down the aisle. The airline initially made flimsy excuses for what happened. They eventually apologized for the incident.

          Lesson: A picture is worth a thousands words. We live in a world where anyone with a cell phone camera can be reporter with their own international TV network. When a crisis hits the fan, you cannot take your time to respond to the obvious, or apologize for your role in the crisis. 


          Mark Zuckerberg claimed that there was no way that Facebook could have been used to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. He later backtracked and said Facebook had identified thousands of ads and postings that were designed to sway the election. He has now said that his mission for 2018 is to fix the wide range of issues facing the company, including foreign interference on the social media platform. 

          Lesson: Look before you leap. It’s dangerous to speak up without first thoroughly investigating the situation. 


          In the aftermath of a series of food safety-related problems at its restaurants,, Chipotle announced it would temporarily close all of its 2,000 restaurants and retrain its staff.

          Lesson: Show and tell. Demonstrate to the world what you are doing to make things right. 


          Pepsi produced a television ad that made light of the Black Lives Matter movement and other protests. The ad was roundly criticized and immediately taken off the air. 

          Lesson: It’s never a laughing matter. Don’t trivialize or make fun of issues that are important to people.

          By keeping these crisis management lessons in mind, you can help ensure that there will be no reason for others to learn from your mistakes. 

          Edward Segal is a crisis management and communications expert, PR consultant, spokesperson, trainer and former CEO of two trade associations. Edward offers one-day crisis management workshops he can bring to your organization. Reach him through his website at

          Your Best Membership Promotion? Your Magazine!

          As every B2B publisher knows, your print magazine is your brand.

          As Nancy O’Brien recently wrote in Niched Out, print magazines “come to life in the hands of our readers, pages turning, articles read, ads seen. They end up on desks, in lobbies and on coffee tables for all eyes to see. Our print publications were our first relationship with our audience and what developed their loyalty with our brand.”

          The same can be said of many an association magazine: it’s the bedrock of your relationship with members—and your very best member-recruitment tool.

          In fact, your magazine could be the key to your association’s future growth.

          In his new book Killing Marketing, Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, calls the organization’s magazine “critical to CMI’s overall strategy.”

          Without it, Pulizzi’s audience might not see content marketing worth their time—or buy anything from CMI.

          “According to Content Marketing Institute internal company data,” Pulizzi writes, “our magic number of subscriptions is three. That means our most profitable customers, the ones that buy the most directly from us, are generally subscribed to at least three CMI programs.

          “Readers might subscribe first to our email newsletter after reading our blog content. Then, they might sign up for one of our webinar series. Then, they may subscribe to our magazine, Chief Content Officer, and then, possibly, our This Old Marketing podcast.”

          How are your leveraging your magazine?

          If you'd like to kick around a few new ideas, please give us a call.

          Bob & David James Picked to Promote Sustainability Conference

          Fort Collins, Colorado-based Business Sector Media has chosen Bethesda, Maryland-based agency Bob & David James to promote its Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference (ELEMCON), to take place May 15-17, 2018, at the Marriott Denver Tech Center.

          Unique in its field, the conference features case studies that help attendees come to grips with the ever-increasing interaction among energy, sustainability, and environmental professionals.

          The majority of attendees comprise energy and sustainability executives from Fortune 500 companies, universities, and government agencies.

          “We’re honored to serve as agency of record for the event,” says Bob James, president & chief storyteller, Bob & David James. “We can’t conceive of a more exciting and rewarding movement to champion. Customers and Wall Street look favorably on environmentally responsible companies—and so, I think, does Mother Nature.”

          The 2018 edition of the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference will be the event’s third.

          Bob & David James will conduct a multi-channel marketing campaign designed to persuade alumni and prospects in the field to choose the conference over any other face-to-face event they might consider.

          More information about the event is available at

          About Business Sector Media

          Fort Collins, Colorado-based Business Sector Media delivers industry-specific, business-to business news, research, insights, and information to decision-makers around the world. More information is available at

          About Bob & David James

          Bethesda, Maryland-based Bob & David James helps associations and publishers generate revenue. More information is available at