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Five engagement lessons from Mobile World Congress
10 March 2014
Were you expecting a potential customer to walk by your stand at MWC and sign an order? Think again, writes Richard Fogg. You won’t find operators on the show floor. You need to rethink your strategy
Mobile World Congress
Richard Fogg: If you’re blowing 40% of your
on an event, you need a return: influencer relationships,
leads and customer sales
Further reading from GTB:
Disappointed with MWC coverage? Timing is
everything in getting interest from press
This was my tenth Mobile World Congress — I got a few
off for good behaviour. It attracted some 85,000 people, 3,800
media and analysts and 1,800 exhibitors. And it’s
been estimated — normally using a beer mat and a free
pen early in the morning — that business-to-business
mobile vendors splash out between 40% and 60% of their annual
marketing budget on the event.
So when it comes to engagement, expectations are very, very
high. And you’d expect, given the stakes, that the
mobile industry would have MWC nailed as a military marketing
operation. Sadly, that’s the exception rather than
the rule — as evidenced by us receiving a call from a
major brand two weeks before the show because its CEO wanted to
launch a new product.
Because if there’s one thing that we need to get
out up front when engaging at MWC, it’s this:
firmly set and manage expectations and make sure everyone
understands what success looks like.
Hint: it is not, and should never be, filling the diary of the
CEO with media and analyst meetings. If you’re
blowing even 40% of your marketing budget on an event, you need
a return — influencer relationships, prospect leads
and customer sales.
You’re not Samsung or Facebook: do not compete
The chaps over at Lissted kindly made the above word cloud to
demonstrate the noise vendors have to compete with.
It’s the aggregated contents of the Twitter
activity from MWC. Eventifier counted nearly 350,000 tweets
— so more like 500,000 — during the event.
There were 1,800 exhibitors — and hundreds "in
attendance" — and yet only 15 brands are visible to
the naked eye on the word cloud. Only two of them are not
device or social media companies.
The point? You can’t get in the ring with these
big brands once the show has started. If you want to influence
B2B customers, prospects, buyers for the show you need to go
early. Very early. Most vendors take out sizeable sales teams
who book sales meetings six weeks or so in advance —
these guys need air support. One of the most successful MWC PR
campaigns we’ve ever run — in terms of
engagement — was for Tellabs a few years ago. We went
live three weeks out from MWC and the company had major
prospects calling them for meetings.
But, whatever you do, don’t be yourself
Sorry, but if you’ve ignored all reasonable advice
and opted to launch something at MWC, you can’t
talk about what it is you actually do — unless
you’re really cool, like Blackphone this year. You
have to dress it up a little. You have to be on trend and
tracking key themes.
This year it was issues such as smart cities, wearables,
privacy and regulation that kept the major opinion formers up
at night. It wasn’t the latest technical standard
or network innovation. For example, keying into the smart
cities theme elevated a client that was going to launch a new
network product from obscurity to a speaker slot on the
conference stage, as well as the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, the
MWC Show Daily and the MWC TV channel.
Get out more
If your target buying audience is the operator community, there
is one place you will not find them: the show floor. Gone are
the days when a plucky tech vendor could land major deals as a
result of a serendipitous booth visit. These individuals
— and their cheque books — are either in
meetings, conference sessions or one of the invite-only fringe
events such as Hot Topics.
We know — based on our own primary research —
that operators are most influenced to select vendors because of
previously-held or peer relationships. If a vendor
doesn’t have the partners or the access, a clever
way of getting on operators’ radar is a handful of
senior execs working a small number of select events during the
The CEO has insisted you make a big splash at MWC, you are
stubbornly insisting on being the leading provider of widgets
no one cares about and you can’t get yourselves on
the invite lists that matter. It’s either time to
put your hand in your pocket and invest in research, or turn
your account management team upside down and shake them for
There are two workable platforms for engagement at major
conferences: insight and access. Insight — via
research or data analysis — to tell your audience
something they don’t know can help chisel out
calendar time. Access — basically access to an
attractive customer, such as an operator C-level executive
— can convince influencers to find the time to see you
— and are very attractive when trying to secure
conference podium slots.
Earn some, own some, buy some
Some of the more archaic publishers view PR pros as little more
than vampires, feasting on their advertising revenues. But many
are more savvy and have designed an array of sponsored products
that deliver real value.
The point is, you cannot rely on solely earned media to make
huge conferences a success. Owned media plays a very important
role and provides much-needed curation capabilities for those
with specific interests. But it’s paid media
— with its own distribution — and
sponsorships that can really make the difference at a show like
MWC. Any engagement strategy must factor in all three.
MWC is one of the most challenging engagement environments in
technology PR. But it is just a more extreme version of a
thousand other trade shows. It’s about the setting
the right expectations early, developing the right strategy,
executing flawlessly and reporting convincingly.
MWC is an event in February that is bested between September
and January. And with the call for speakers going live in June,
it’s not long before the rollercoaster starts all
Richard Fogg is managing director of London-based tech PR agency CCgroup. He can be found on
Twitter @TelcoGeek . This article first appeared on
In2 Holmes Report: http://in2.holmesreport.com/