How Finding Your Addressable Audience is the Difference for Success and Failure in Events: An Interview with Marketing Guru Shauna Peters

Since my March interview with Shauna Peters, vice president and marketing strategist for mdg, a Freeman Company, I’ve heard a lot about the ‘addressable audience,’ which I believe is a key concept that every event marketer needs to embrace to maximize their event attendance. Since a lot of the ‘buzz’ on this topic is coming from mdg, I decided to invite her to expound on the idea. Here’s what she had to say:

Warwick Davies (WD): Shauna, I heard the term ‘addressable audience’ in one of Sam Lippman’s Attendee Acquisition Roundtable from someone at MDG. Then Vinnie Polito mentioned it in a forum at SISO in August. Could you define what it is?

Shauna Peters (SP): To get you an accurate definition, I consulted with our senior director, insights and data marketing strategy, Safa Khairy. She shared that addressable audience is usually referring to the target audience that can be reached either online or through third party acquisition. This means, the total potential attendee audience you want to target outside your existing in-house database. We have found that a significant portion of audience acquisition happens through paid media. These addressable audiences are the target audiences we know we can acquire through campaigns on online platforms (think search engine marketing, paid social, etc.) and through email list purchases.

WD: Sounds like a concept that every organizer should understand and do something about. How hard and expensive is it to do?

SP: We agree with you! Given the massive reshuffle of our audiences – from the great resignation to the great retirement – we know that house lists have been decimated. This means we need a better understanding of the total addressable audience and the appropriate channels to reach that audience. Understanding time and expense as factors to undertaking projects like this, we approach the work through a tiering system that ranges from fast turnaround/low cost, which is informative but provides a more surface-level view of the audience, to more extensive work that also requires a closer partnership and deeper investment with the client to develop complete segmentation. The approach we recommend comes down to objectives, timing and goals.

WD: Now that you know what (who) your addressable audience is, what do you do next?

SP: For us, understanding the audience informs our agile marketing strategy. This helps us recommend an appropriate channel mix and budget allocation that aligns with audience segmentation and content creation and distribution channels to reach those audiences. Ultimately the work informs us of the best way to reach and convert the target audiences.

WD: What results have you seen from organizers who have done this well?

SP: This has been really exciting for us. We have used the outcome of addressable market work to develop paid media campaigns that introduce new channels and created tailored messages – even where segmentation is limited – which has improved our return on paid media advertising spend and the performance of email campaigns using purchased lists. Ultimately, it has helped us deliver the right message to the right audience via the right channel, which in our experience has been directly correlated to increased registration conversions (ex. Critical buyer groups). And that is a real win for our client’s audience acquisition campaigns.

WD: Since recently the industry has been crowing ‘about quality over quantity’ (until the attendee numbers exceed the pre-2020 numbers), how can you ensure that you have the quality AND quantity while executing an ‘addressable audience’ strategy?

SP: That’s where the value of an addressable audience study comes in. We first identify the total prospect pool using both industry averages for conversion rates and any historical event conversion rates, then we project the prospect pool necessary to reach the 2020 target. Our process factors in audience segmentation and targeting, while taking the quality of the prospective attendee into account. This means that the study outcome provides organizers with not only total numbers to target but also a clear understanding of how to prioritize marketing budget based on the critical audiences they need to attend. Now you have clarity on the tools and process to rebuild your database with the right prospects, and thus increasing both the quality of attendance and the quantity.
Great stuff Shauna! Hopefully we’ll see more people doing this as events return to their previous heights. Thanks again for agreeing to share your thoughts!

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