IBM Drives B-to-B Strategy with Global Event Council
The Ex judges gasped when IBM’s massive global event program was entered into this category, but after a closer review of the submission … it made sense. Why? Because Big Blue doesn’t think of its string of global events as separate projects—it considers them all part of one event campaign used to build both the brand and the business.
IBM’s event machine churned out half as many events in 2002 as it did in 2000 … and ROI has never been higher. “We’ve weeded out the losers and reinvested in the winners,” says Jeffrey Rutchik, senior vp/general manager on the account at Auburn Hills, MI-based The George P. Johnson Co. “We’re going to fewer events but with a broader voice.”
All thanks to a new way of doing things: Together with GPJ, IBM developed a plan that combined a global event marketing strategy, design, management, delivery and technology capabilities. Trade shows are still a piece of the pie, but are now joined in full force by proprietary events, marketing events and user groups. “A good guess that this is the right thing to do doesn’t work,” says Steve Waugh, IBM’s worldwide manager of event marketing. “We’re matching event type against event type and balancing spend against audience type.”
The new program allows events to be tailored to the geographic region and the attributes of the customer, partner and prospect. “Many events do nothing more than generate good will,” says Waugh. “There’s absolutely no return there.”
Driving the system is a new Global Event Council, overseeing the event marketing medium within the corporation worldwide. The Council—comprised of 15 leaders representing the event channels, business units and three geographic operating territories—mandates policy, operations and logistics, staffing, execution and measurement.
After an initial deployment in North America, the new event program has gone global, with Big Blue reaping the rewards of a standardized, consistent, continuous event marketing continuum. From general sessions to solution centers, breakout seminars to vendor management, IBM’s events are integrated and seamless. Take the IBM Forum held in Asia last April, which generated $52 million in business from 4,200 attendees (initial target was 2,600 people). Or the 2002 PartnerWorld, which attracted the single-largest gathering of IBM partners ever.
Events like those prove the system is working, and portfolios like IBM’s prove event marketing isn’t a trend—it’s a strategy that ain’t going anywhere.