For a client, I am currently looking at how process and technology is being used to drive efficiency and effectiveness within the management of events.
My travels today took me to see Brendan Barns, who runs London Business Forum, to understand how they do it.
We have all, I am sure, sat through those interminable industry and business conferences. Falling asleep, catching up on email etc. Indeed anything except listen to what is going on.
So had Brendan, and decided he could do better.
Brendan focuses on being best at one thing – his product.
His conferences must connect with the audience on three levels:
- Information – The information that is right for the audience, not for some sponsor or other organisation.
- Inspiration – People want to believe that what they are doing is making a difference. He targets putting the spring back in the audience member’s step.
- Fun – Too often forgotten but key. People want to be entertained.
How many conferences deliver on these effectively? Brendan does. Serially.
And he doesn’t rest on his laurels.
Brendan lives by the acronym CAN I – Constantly And Never-ending Innovation. Focus groups and market research are not the tools to drive this. Innovation comes from his gut and head. Risky but that is what innovation is about. And he uses every tool to drive that innovation – his first event was held in a disused railway arch, with attendees dodging the cesspool to get in!
LBF is a Purple Cow if ever I saw one.
He knows that great product sells itself.
LBF’s marketing is by his own admission simple and low key. As he says, you don’t need glossy exhibition banners and stands. How many people comment on great content and how many on great banners?
This is not to say that he eschews design. All LBF comms and materials are presented in a way that oozes style and modernity. But he gets the balance right – focus on event quality, inform your audience and stand back.
If you haven’t been to one of their events, treat yourself. Go along to his annual conference with Tom Peters and Richard Scase in March. Or see Peter Fisk, ex Chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing in February. I’ll see you there.
What did I learn from Brendan?
- In case I forget, it’s the product stupid. Without it, you are nothing.
- Use all the tools available to make your customer experience inspiring and fun – this needs thought more than budget.
- With great product, marketing suddenly becomes easier. So where should you invest next years marketing budget?
- Process and technology may well save money and speed time to market. But a cheaper, quicker crap product is still just that – a crap product.
PS. I am in the process of dreaming up an article on competitive advantage. This will tackle some thoughts I have on the scope of innovation more thoroughly.