Conference Board of Canada delivering high-caliber thought leadership for Chief Marketing Executives
The Conference Board of Canada is the foremost independent, not-for-profit applied research organization in Canada. It conducts, publishes and disseminates research; helps business managers network and enhance their leadership skills; and assists organizations in improving their performance. Areas of expertise include economic trends and forecasting, organizational excellence and public policy issues. The Conference Board of Canada has 200 full-time employees and a network of over 100 associates and contractors.
The Conference Board generates a large portion of its revenue from paid memberships to its line of about 50 networks for senior leaders in Canadian organizations. These days, it’s a big challenge to keep these networks growing and thriving as turnover in the C-suite accelerates. The key to sustaining growth is being able to identify and connect with key prospects across the country.
Maintaining an up-to-date contact database is not always an easy task, says Perry Eisenschmid, VP Marketing, Sales and IT for the Conference Board of Canada. “Customer contacts constantly change. Even if they stay with the same company, they can change floors, buildings or functional roles, each of which can lead to disconnection points with our prime prospects and customers.”
Two years ago, the recession put a lot of pressure on its membership for its line of 50 executive networks, as organizations cut travel and training budgets to reduce expenses. The network for chief marketing executives, in particular, was at risk of shutting down as the number of active members reached a critically low level. “Our focus was to rebuild a thriving, growing network of high-caliber marketing talent,” says Eisenschmid. “That’s when I realized the power of LinkedIn.”
Eisenschmid was one of the earliest adopters of LinkedIn at the Conference Board of Canada. His first step was creating the “Centre for Chief Marketing Executives (CCME)” LinkedIn Group to support senior marketing executives from a variety of industry sectors across the country.
“The more I get to work with LinkedIn, the more I realize how powerful a tool it is for keeping track of changes in corporate Canada.”
~ Perry Eisenschmid, VP Marketing, Sales and IT for the Conference Board of Canada
With LinkedIn Groups, Eisenschmid was able to create a “virtual” community of chief marketing officers. Despite the fact that this is a tiny market segment in Canada and an exclusive, closed group (i.e., by invitation only), membership has already grown to more than 750. This is significantly more than the 16 that had committed to pay to participate in the ‘live’ group before the LinkedIn option was available. But now that there are hundreds of senior marketing executives participating in an ongoing, virtual forum, the number of people who are willing to pay to attend the bi-annual live meetings is already up 30% and the last meeting in October surpassed previous attendance records for this group.
“A LinkedIn Group is a great prospecting tool because it allows me to build awareness and reach people. Identified contacts are invited to join the community where we regularly share content with senior marketing professionals.”
Another benefit is that unlike traditional, proprietary websites, LinkedIn is part of many people’s daily routines. “Most will check in weekly or daily. If someone posts new content or asks for support, everyone in the group gets notified. There’s no need for promotion. It just happens organically.”
Eisenschmid spends half an hour each day revitalizing and growing his network, identifying prospects and supporting contact sharing.
He especially values the fact that LinkedIn Groups provide an incredible forum for sharing ideas. “It’s a place to share best practices and discuss challenges. Our primary role at The Conference Board is to provide Canadian leaders with access to other top-notch thought leaders and best practice organizations. And, because we are a not-for-profit organization, size is not as much a factor as exclusivity. LinkedIn Groups allow us to do that by ensuring that only other senior marketing leaders get to participate – thus generating a strong caliber of discussion.”
Eisenschmid’s success has captured the attention of the Conference Board of Canada’s Board of Directors, who had been asking the Executive Team to explore new networking business models. And the leaders of many of the other executive networks are now following suit with their own LinkedIn Groups.
“The more I get to work with LinkedIn, the more I realize how powerful a tool it is for keeping track of changes in corporate Canada. Without the power of LinkedIn we might have had to shut the network of Canadian marketing executives down.”