Founder at Word of MICE & Past-President at MPI Belgium
Mariska Kesteloo is an expert in B2B influencer marketing. Her goal is to use social media as a way of adding increased value to events, mostly through micro influencers. In this interview, she tells us the ins and outs of her job.
Exploit the power of social media, create valuable networks and contact the right people to increase visibility of events. Today we talk with Mariska Kesteloo, founder at Word of MICE and B2B influencer marketing expert. She offers us a detailed look at the meetings and events industry from her perspective: marketing and social media. In a frank interview, Mariska shares the lessons she’s learned on her professional journey and this new paradigm of events communications.
Tell us about your career and what drives you in your day to day work.
Ideas are born from frustration, that’s the reason why I started my company. Working as a freelance event professional for years, I visited many tradeshows and exhibitions where I talked with different hotels, venue’s and DMC’s. When I raised the question ‘Why should I organize an event in your hotel, venue or destination?’,often I received an answer like: we have 500 rooms, 10.000 square meters meeting room and we are a four-star property. These are facts and figures I can find online. Isn’t our industry all about creating amazing experiences and connecting the right people? Tell me the story of your hotel, why should I organize my upcoming event in it, and not at the neighbor’s? What is your unique selling point, how do you differentiate yourself from the others, and more importantly, what is your target audience? One size doesn’t fit all! You can’t be an expert in all fields, right? How is it possible that in the Twenty First century we still use the same methods that we’ve been using for the last thirty years, if not more? It’s time for a change!
How did you start working in B2B influencer marketing?
I had been working in the travel industry for more than ten years, with so many active bloggers and vloggers. This made me think: how about we use this medium in our B2B industry? We could use the power of experts, people with a professional experience in our sector, and let them tell their stories in a creative, fun or unique way. It’s always better to be recommended than having to promote yourself. Peer to peer recommendation is extremely powerful. It’s still word of mouth, only that we’re using the online tools called social media.
Testing the idea at IBTM in 2016, I discovered it had potential and, in 2017, I started working full-time. It’s been a huge challenge since then. One little mouse can create a huge impact in your life, so can one micro-influencer, so what if the word was spread by more mice or micro-influencers? That’s when Word of MICE was born!
It’s always better to be recommended than having to promote yourself. Peer to peer recommendation is extremely powerful. It’s word of mouth, only here we’re using the online tools called social media.
What do you find most exciting about being a leader in the meetings and events industry? What are the main challenges you face?
First, I don’t see myself as a leader to be honest. My goal is to inspire others with my knowledge and experiences, to convince them of the added value of influencer marketing, and to use it to its full potential. Our industry is not really ‘early-adaptor minded’ if I was to describe it in marketing terms.
To convince potential clients to invest in influencer marketing is like selling a different mindset. Why? Because the budget that suppliers are spending on exhibitions, folders, flyers, and other activities and events, you want them to invest it in influencer marketing. We are used to doing our sales and promotions in a certain way and I must convince the CFO/CEO to change. That’s a major shift and challenge! It’s a completely different mindset that requires time and lots of patience.
In that sense, I see myself as a disruptor, a change-maker. My drive is to make suppliers more visible in the market by telling their stories through experts and to get in touch with the right target audience.
What would be the best way to dismantle these challenges?
In Dutch we love expressions and the best one to describe it is: If one sheep leaps over the ditch, the rest will follow. The only thing they need is time. As we work on new cases we have more results and it’s easier to convince them from several proven track records. Influencer marketing is not yet common in the B2B market, but it will come, that’s for sure.
Besides, I need to keep my focus, be patient and keep on working hard to continue my mission together with my team. I like challenges, and this is a major one.
Influencer marketing is not yet common in the B2B market, but it will come, that’s for sure.
When measuring the success of an event, which are the most important KPIs to consider?
First, it depends on the strategy of the client. Influencer marketing is a part of the marketing strategy. Do you want to attract a new audience? Do you have a new service or product to sell, or are you opening a new hotel? Do you suffer from a ‘misperception’?
We start from there and investigate the client’s profile, we see what their target audience is. We start with our research, as you can read below in the overview. We set the goals and we follow-up, adjust them and modify them when needed during the campaign. At the end, we collect all the data in a report and we present the full overview.
Tell us 5 tips to pick the perfect influencer for a campaign/supplier.
- Don’t focus on the number of followers but on the quality of their network and your strategy. Therefore, every client has different needs, is looking for a different market, etc. It’s a thorough process to find and to match the right influencer with the client.
- Influencer marketing has endless options, you can measure the impact and adjust it any time you need to.
- Influencers are not those who call your hotel for a free stay and dinner! That’s typical for the B2C market, not in the B2B market.
- The MICE industry is a very particular niche industry and you must be an insider to be, or to become, an influencer. In other words, work only with experts!
- Influencer marketing is a collaboration between the influencer, the client and, in some cases, the agency. Only in this way will the campaign be a success.
Our influencers are not selected based on the size of their communities, but on the quality of their network and published content. Besides, we consider their knowledge, their background, their relationships and their contacts in the industry. It’s an intense process to find and connect with the right person, someone who can create and spread the story of a product or service in an authentic way, and I always tell this to potential clients. We prefer to avoid the word ‘influencer’, as it only creates confusion about their job -it really is! – and their credibility.
So, how does it work?
- Identify needs: we analyze the target audience, preferred channel, timeframe and desired outcomes,
- Scouting & selection: we cast a wide net and we search for beloved personalities and thought leaders in today’s social media platforms from in our database, based on the client’s requirements.
- Briefing: WOM sits down with both customer and influencer(s) to align and coordinate the creative content and brand communication.
- Planning: WOM proposes a communication plan with influencers and a strategy.
- Marketing: the influencer broadcasts branded communication through their channel while WOM follows up closely. During the entire process, we keep our client up to date, delivering insights into the influencer’s performance during each phase.
- Final report: after the influencer’s branded communication comes to an end, we share a final assessment with all available figures.
Which social network do you consider the greatest asset to help spread the word and broadcast an event? What other communications channels do you consider essential?
The world of social media is changing rapidly, and a lot of people get confused when selecting which channel they should use. First, you need to know what social network your current or potential audience is using. Starting from there, you don’t need to maintain all channels. Focus on one or two channels and maintain them, be consistent and professional. That’s already a lot of work.
What advice would you give someone taking their first steps in the meetings and events sector?
Networking is key, this is, getting involved in an association. For me, this has given me the opportunity to get in touch with many people in the international sector. Plus, in the mean time you have access to education. You should also get a mentor. It’s always great to have the knowledge of a senior professional, who can support you in every step of your career. Important: questions which may seem more personal, don’t be afraid to ask them!
Looking towards 2020, where would you like to see innovation within the sector?
If I look towards my business, it would be great if suppliers used the power of social media influencers to share their stories, be visible and be online.
Next, I’m fan of sustainability and diversity in the broad sense of the word. We need to care about our planet, we only have one! I hope we can move towards a more sustainable industry, and innovation plays a huge role here. Also, although many women are working in our industry, the CEOs and GMs are usual men. We need to change that, bring more equality into the entire industry. Working with people with different backgrounds, cultures and experiences is very enriching. Only in this way will we be able to move forward in our industry.