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Driving Digital First

Posted 31st Jan, 2019

Charlie McCloskey

Charlie McCloskey Head of Digital

Now nine months into a revised, digital-first marketing approach, Charlie McCloskey, Head of Digital ICC Belfast | Waterfront Hall | Ulster Hall reports on significant achievements that have been made possible by changing tact.

Placing digital at the forefront of everything we do allows us to be targeted, measured, efficient and responsive.

The markets we operate in are becoming increasingly competitive and in order to drive the ambitions of our team on a global stage, we need to continually find ways to differentiate our offering. Above everything else, we want to support the needs of our clients – anytime, anywhere. In doing this, we can fulfil our value proposition of delivering for Belfast and Northern Ireland socially, culturally and economically by showcasing the city and beyond as a unique, vibrant and flourishing business tourism destination. Given that Belfast is still considered by some to be a hidden gem, educating professional conference organisers and event professionals about the ambition, optimism and energy of a city that is well-equipped to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of what’s out there is critical.

Responding to customer needs

How customers interact with us is continually changing, it’s therefore imperative that we adapt to our customers’ needs.  At the minute, focusing on digital is crucial to addressing those needs. This digital-approach isn’t just applicable to our conferencing brand, our live entertainment sister brands; Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall are also benefiting from the shift in marketing focus.

Earlier this year we upgraded our ‘What’s on’ brochure, Front Row, to a weekly e-zine that is supplemented by a condensed flyer that lists a smaller number of upcoming events in both venues over the next eight to ten weeks. Updating Front Row’s design and distribution channels from the former methods was not a spur of the moment decision, it was a measured response to market demand and trends.  So far this has been working incredibly well with revenue from ticket sales ahead on budget and exceeding last year’s figures.

There was a certain preconception that a shift to digital would ostracise the older demographic who are typically perceived as being less tech-savvy. It was an area we have monitored closely as the campaign has progressed to ensure this wasn’t the case. The results have shown that the percentage of website visits coming from the 55 – 64 year old demographic has increased by almost 20% and the users that are visiting the site are making purchases as conversion rates are also up.

Continuous improvement

Many learnings taken from our live entertainment offering have been used to influence the conferencing road map. Of course, a local consumer who wants to purchase two tickets to a show or gig has a different agenda to an international conference organiser that’s scouting out a location for a multi-day medical conference. However, there is undeniable crossover between the audiences that we leverage as often as possible to improve the entire offering.

Through the successful implementation of new digital innovations, we can communicate the correct content to the correct audience, through the most appropriate channels.

Our new dedicated conferencing website and more targeted conference marketing strategy is just the start of the digital transformation in conferencing for ICC Belfast. Through the successful implementation of new digital innovations, we can communicate the correct content to the correct audience, through the most appropriate channels. This should result in more event organisers not only shortlisting the city but actually booking and hosting in our venue. We have the potential to become one of the UK and Ireland’s best performing International Convention Centres. ICC Belfast’s facilities are world-class, the brand stands up against the best in the industry and our digital-first approach will absolutely support and further what we already have to help the business deliver commercially.

Digital Masterclass

Charlie will be delivering a Digital Masterclass alongside Digital Executive, Stephanie Geddis, on Monday February 25 in ICC Belfast. The event has been specifically designed to offer practical steps on how to improve digital marketing for internal and external events. Place are limited, so register now to secure your place at the Digital Masterclass. 


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