How Behr's Parlayed Its Topic and Audience Knowledge Into Event Success

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I might not think that a behind-the-scenes look at the food inspection services at Frankfurt Airport is all that exciting, but for heads of quality management and food safety in Germany, it is. The area is normally restricted to visitors, and the criteria used to check the incoming food and what leads to rejection of the products can be telling in the field.

So the inclusion by Behr's Akademie of that inside "look" in their new two-day conference last November became a big selling point. Giving special access to something of value is just one lesson from the success of that event—titled QM! What Is Important in Practice 2017?

With marketing that included a video of the conference moderator addressing the customers and expert articles in their social media groups, Behr's enticed 50 people to pay close to $2,000 to attend. This new effort won Behr's and its CEO, Arno Langbehn, the 2017 3rd Place SIPAward for Best New Success Story.

Here are 8 more reasons for this first-year event success:

1. Provide time for networking. "Due to the complexity of QM-tasks, [the quality manager] is open to external networking for further exchanges," Behr's wrote in their entry. Networking highlights included a get-together the night before the event started and a "business speed dating" session where "participants received answers both from other participants and the speakers to their current questions."

2. Build your community. The conference came out of the natural progression of a niche they had worked hard to develop. "For years we have been offering a product family informing our customers regularly about the latest topics on food hygiene and food safety." That included monthly reports, a quarterly newsletter called Food & Hygiene Practice, news flashes and a magazine titled QM.

3. Know your target audience. In this case that, they were heads of quality management and food safety. "In this conference our participants got the solutions how to deal with complaints from the authorities, how to control critical hygiene parameters, and how to build a safe allergen management system and protect themselves against food fraud. And the most important point: how to avoid being taken into personal liability in the case of damage." That liability issue was huge for these people, and Behr's addressed it.

4. Get the word out in many ways. Behr's used mail, email, personalized emails, telemarketing to former participants of previous seminars and original articles on social media. (A quick asidea survey released last week said that B2C comapnies are more likely to post original content to social media than B2B companies. Given, as the survey showed, there is a growing preference to make purchasing decisions based on social media activity, B2B needs to improve here.)

5. Use video. It's getting repetitive but it's still effective. "We made a video where the moderator of the conference addressed the customers directly and emphasized the benefits of this conference. This video was placed in an email, in social media groups, on our homepage and on YouTube."

6. Raise the profile of your audience. Behr's showed great respect for this niche segment—calling them "entrepreneurs for food safety"—with knowledge built up from years of time and effort in that topic. They knew the pain points to target, used acronyms that audience would only understand, and tailored the sessions to show their familiarity.

7. Provide something special. From an email: "...exclusively for you on the spot: The food control at Frankfurt Airport! Employees will give you insight into the control procedures and their operations." Inside access can be a beautiful thing.

8. Price high enough to be profitable. Behr's made the assessment that what they were offering was worth a lot. They did well to limit their costs so they were able to take in a 57% profit margin. That included 5 exhibitors in addition to the 50 attendees.

Langbehn gave credit to all the speakers and also to Christina Mesch, Caroline Kaul, Rebecca Lipokatic, Markus Wenzel, Michael Berg and Thomas Kohlhage from Behr's Publishing House "for their ideas and their commitment to this project. We would not have achieved this extraordinary success without them," he wrote.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…