By Joe Pulizzi published May 12, 2014 Est Read Time: 7 min

How to Evaluate and Purchase an Event to Fuel Your Content Marketing

man drawing images It’s time to get serious about the opportunities that abound in content marketing. Yes, of course you are hard at work developing your content marketing plan, creating content for your blog, your eNewsletters, your social media channels… you almost look like a publisher. But now it’s time for you to start acting like a media company.

In our latest content marketing research for enterprises, the most used content distribution tactic was (you guessed it) events. Nine out of 10 enterprises organize and produce their own events.

But there is a bigger (much bigger) opportunity here. 

No matter what niche you work in, I guarantee there are bloggers, influencers, associations, and even media companies that are launching or hosting ongoing events to serve your audience’s informational needs. You may even be sponsoring or exhibiting at many of these events. While this is absolutely fine for you to do, you need to stop thinking like an advertiser and start thinking like a media mogul.

Rather than just being a participant, some of these events could be strategic content marketing assets that you can purchase and own. The publishers among us understand how to evaluate an outside event for purchase; however, most marketers do not have this kind of experience and could use some guidance for capitalizing on these opportunities.

Step 1: Determine your goal

Like you would for any good business decision, start by determining the reasons why it might possibly make sense to purchase an existing industry event. If you are like Oracle, Salesforce.com, or other large enterprises, you may already have one or two flagship events. Your business objectives for these events might include:

  • To cover a geographic area that your business is currently absent from with an in-person component. The ultimate goal would be to reach more customers for cross-selling, up-selling and decreasing your customer turnover rate in that region.
  • To insert your brand into the conversation around a topic you are not well known for. Let’s say you manufacture a certain type of steel and you’ve identified some use in the Oil and Gas industry. It may then make sense to look at smaller Oil and Gas events and immediately become a credible part of the industry lexicon.
  • To accomplish lead generation objectives. In addition, the event may come with built-in assets, like a marketing and subscriber list, which can be extremely valuable.
  • BONUS: Like content groups from Red Bull and Kraft Foods, we are seeing more evidence of marketing departments becoming a profit center. I believe this will be a growing trend, with more and more brands directly profiting from their audiences through sponsorships, subscriptions, etc., as well as through selling more products and services directly to the event attendees.

Step 2: Clearly identify your audience

Most enterprises have dozens of buyer personas that they target. So Step 2 in the evaluation process is to be sure you know who your specific audience will be for this event. For example, we target senior-level marketers who work at larger organizations for our magazine, Chief Content Officer; yet, we target marketing, PR, social media, and SEO managers and directors (the “doers”) at mid-market and larger enterprises for Content Marketing World (our event).

Step 3: Make your short list of events 

Now that you have identified your objective and your audience, start making your list of relevant events that would help you meet your goals. The key is to avoid setting any limitations at this point. If the physical event targets your audience in the general geographic area you are looking at, write it down.

When you are making the list, it’s handy to put it all into a spreadsheet containing the following categories and information:

  • Number of attendees (past two years) with % growth (or loss)
  • Number of exhibitors (past two years) with % growth (or loss)
  • Number of media partners (past two years)
  • General regional location
  • Registration cost (rate card)
  • Marquee value (this is a subjective rate determining the cache for the event — a five-point scale should work just fine.
  • Possibility for setting up a media platform around the event (again, something on a five-point scale is sufficient). The idea here is that there may be potential to build the event into a fully-functional media platform with online content, web events, and more.

Step 4: Approach the best opportunity

There are two approaches I’d recommend, as I’ve seen both of them work. You can just reach out to your top pick and see where the conversation goes. The issue here is that you are putting all your eggs in one basket. A better option may be to approach your top three picks all at once and convey your intentions (i.e., that you are interested in purchasing their event).

You’ll likely be amazed at the reactions you receive. Some of the operators will never have imagined that they’d be approached on a purchase. Others (probably those with a media background) will already have an exact idea of their exit strategy and what they are looking for.

The key at this point is to get discussions started so you can gauge where potential interest may lie. Worst-case scenario when approaching an event that isn’t interested in selling is that you now have the potential to grow a relationship with them from this first contact. Simply put, you never know when intentions might change, and now you have an inside track if they do.

Step 5: Determine the purchase value

There is a standard measure to value events (we will get to that in a second), but this first part is critical: Figure out what the owner wants. Just like you do with your buyer personas, it’s your job to find out what the event owner’s goals and aspirations are. Maybe it’s just monetary (though this is unlikely). Perhaps they are looking for a new opportunity, or they desperately want out of the business (many event owners never imagine that their event might grow larger than what they can manage, or in a different direction than what they intended).

As I said, there is a proper valuation process for smaller conferences and events. To do this, you’ll both need to sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for protection — on both sides. Then you will want to request their profit and loss statement for the previous two years, at least. You may also need to see documentation on current exhibitor agreements and other contracts they hold to confirm that their P&L statement can be verified. (Important Note: Legal specifics can vary widely, so please consult your legal representation before you approach any opportunity.)

If you are looking at anything with less than 50 exhibitors, you are valuing a conference, which generally has a value of five times net profit.

Let’s look at an example:

  • Attendees: 250
  • Exhibitors: 20
  • Revenue: $340,000
  • Expenses: $270,000
  • Net Profit: $70,000

General value of the business: $70,000 x 5 = $350,000

There is a bit more that goes into it, but the estimated general value of this event would be around $350,000.

Step 6: Make your offer

Before you make a formal offer, you’ll want to make sure your price is in the right ball park and that the event owner agrees to the basics of your terms. If so, then you’ll need the event owner to sign a formal Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI basically means that both sides agree to continue the conversation and take the relationship to the next level of the process; it’s the business acquisition equivalent of getting engaged — while it’s not a meaningful or legally binding act in and of itself, it serves as an official statement of your intentions.

Step 7: Final negotiations

Over the following 30 to 60 days you would be working on a formal asset purchase agreement and reviewing all the documentation to make sure all facts, figures, and discussions are accurate and verifiable. From there, contracts would be signed, followed by corks being popped on your celebratory bottles of champagne (optional, but a nice touch).

Additional thoughts

Many of you are reading this and may not even think an acquisition would make sense for business — or that, as a content marketer, you would have a role in such decisions. But that’s where you could be wrong.

Content marketers need to start acting like media companies. While events are a good place to start, we’ll be seeing more of these types of transactions take place (a topic I’ve been talking about for a while). The brands that are prepared to start looking at their content marketing in an asset-driven way (such as the above) will have a huge advantage over their competition. Start taking the leap.

For more great ideas, insights, and inspiration for advancing your content marketing, read Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi.

Cover image via Bigstock 

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Amazon bestselling author of Corona Marketing, Killing Marketing, Content Inc. and Epic Content Marketing, which was named a “Must-Read Business Book” by Fortune Magazine.His latest book is The Will to Die, his debut novel. He has founded three companies, including the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and has launched dozens of events, including Content Marketing World. In 2014, he received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Content Council. His podcast series, This Old Marketing with CMI's Robert Rose, has generated millions of downloads from over 150 countries. He is also the author of The Random Newsletter, delivered to thousands every two weeks. His Foundation, The Orange Effect, delivers speech therapy and technology services to children in over 30 states. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi

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