One of the benefits of Blue Ninja Consulting being registered in the UK means that we can apply for awards in the UK as well as The Netherlands. We’re getting some experience in this space after we’ve been nominated for the NBCC (Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce) Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2020 and in 2021 we were shortlisted for the SME award.

Our third award nomination

This nomination process for the UK Business Awards started in March 2021 and as we are a micro business our entry was free. We had download documents to help us complete our submission along with attending webinars run by companies that can be engaged to support us with our submission as it is a very rigorous process with each section being scored. We submitted our nomination at the end of May.  Here are the details we submitted for the category of ‘Best Online Business’ – ‘From e-commerce to affiliate marketing – if your business is online and making an impact, we want to hear about it. Outline your digital enterprise and tell our judges about your successful business journey.’

Summary and Business Strategy

Blue Ninja Consulting provides bespoke services that help businesses reach their growth and profit potential. The values of adaptability, diligence, proactiveness and objectivity underline the principles of running Blue Ninja and are at the heart of how we support others.

We have worked with a client since 2018 who is a leading performer in Behavioural, Mental and Emotional Health. They deliver key events around the world in Addiction and Mental Health. Our brief when we first started with them was to provide a data and system review, capturing the information flow of all their events, and provide recommendations and develop an action plan to improve their data management.

Apart from mapping out the various systems, processes and information flow, we’ve utilised our many years of knowledge and expertise in both corporate and non-governmental organisations to provide best practice solutions that have included project management, process improvement, software evaluation, data controls, etc. to provide a fit for purpose solution for our client.

The team had data in a number of different sources and systems, which contained variations of data and contact information. Our goal was to align these different sources into one main system and moving forward collect and improve how information was used, making sure we were complying with international data rules.

Our brief expanded as the team got to know us, and although we were initially providing online support, we were approached to extend our support to the event management aspect of the business. For their 3-day conference in London in 2019, we provided registration support, including attending the conference and running registration on-site with the team. This flagship annual event included 25 speakers from all over the world and was attended by over 1,300 attendees.

In 2020, the London conference was initially moved to a later date while the business assessed the impact of running a physical event due to the escalating pandemic. Their event was set to take place in the first half of the year, and there was much uncertainty as the British Government navigated what and how to implement restrictions. Based on Government advice, it was decided within a very short time frame to move to a virtual event. The whole team had to very quickly pivot and change how we worked within a short time scale to make the event still viable.

It was a lot of work to get all the systems we were asked to build and develop put in place to work together seamlessly to make the virtual event happen. The event itself was an intense couple of days but successful for the client as they had over 40 speakers and 2,400 attendees.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of the client is to be the market leader of running events and providing resources of the experts in their field, to build their brand as being the world leading addiction events platform. It was also important for exhibitors and sponsors to get value from these events and the client made revenue from these events.

For the team, the systems used by the company were a very important part of the process and data flow mapping, cost management, and user experience which they were very reliant on us to develop and manage.

Our support from the initial data flow mapping included managing customer data from their existing databases, cleansing and improving it to provide a clearer view of their target audience. We used and managed marketing tools to engage this audience alongside a marketing agency.

We also evaluated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, as well as developing and executing a project plan to move over to an improved CRM platform, bringing all the data together whilst supporting the setup of the online virtual event structures. We had started developing this process before the online event was declared. We built and developed a new CRM at the same time as implementing the online event for the client. The change in the plan moved up the timeline for the CRM delivery quite significantly, which also meant all the data was available quickly for marketing and promotion of the online event.

Implementation and Stakeholder Engagement

For each event held by the client, a standard process was developed and implemented in partnership with the client including management of the quality of data as well as introducing minimum standards such as a unique identifier (email address) and addressing GDPR compliance requirements.

For their annual flagship event in London, we worked closely with their operations manager to develop a project plan and strategy. This was reported on in weekly calls with the company directors and any issues or concerns flagged early so they could be managed appropriately.

Throughout our time with the client we’ve taken initiative, flagged issues and provided solutions all with their strategic goal in mind. Their success was our success so we were very mindful of making smart and rational decisions to keep the planning on track and their events as successful as it could be.

As part of the planning of the 2 day online event, further assessment was taken by us of the user journey and the flow of information to stakeholders. As the timeframe was very short to move from an in person to online event, we were developing the online platforms and systems almost at the same time as launching them, so it was important to be aware of what was in the public domain throughout the process, and also when new elements were to be released.

The team worked in parallel with speakers and exhibitors, providing them with guidance and information on how to present and exhibit via the online portal. We spent time making sure training was conducted and people were confident about how to showcase themselves as part of the process.

Apart from the directors and the project team we also worked closely with suppliers, guiding them on the requirements of our client to work quickly and accurately to reach the challenging deadlines.

Innovation and Creativity

This was the first time our client had run online events, and they had to make decisions quickly on how and what they wanted to do, so we had to get creative in how we were to manage the online event. The system used for the conference was an immersive conference system, and we knew it would generate a lot of interest and also required careful analysis on how the event would be experienced.

It was the first international addiction conference held in this way, and many were sceptical of the ability for the online elements to deliver in the same way as the London event had done the year before. We were using APIs to link systems together, which was new to the company leadership, so with some explanation and clarity they could see added benefits of using technology to streamline the user journey and make it efficient. Previously spreadsheets had been a big part of managing data so we were very aware that our larger suggestions may meet some resistance in the beginning, but we knew they would be much more efficient in the delivery of an online event by making these changes.

The success of the online conference was in part because the team trusted us to help with decisions that were well outside their own understanding. We had a very curious audience who wanted to see how this event could be managed, and we were also able to make large scale changes to how the team handled data and information, more so than ever before because they had to change their thinking around what could be achieved online.

Impact and Benefits

Post the 2019 physical event in London, we took the initiative of submitting a post-event implementation report, detailing our findings of outcomes against deliverables, observations & recommendations on all aspects including communication, team management, process improvement, including lessons learned.

Here are some key points that we flagged:

  • Communication within the team: create a WhatsApp group and a one pager with key information and contact numbers of all the team for clear communication and timely reactions to requests
  • Delegate list data capture – one master list, and a structured process for capturing and updating central systems (registration, Continuing Professional Development, email marketing, contact repository)
  • Badges – preparing and testing in advance with coloured indicators according to the type of attendee and what days the delegates were attending.

For the 2020 virtual event there was a lot of moving parts to co-ordinate including; working with new teams across various time zones, building and customising the online platform (with a very short timeframe), linking a new virtual environment to other systems, upskilling the team as well as dealing with external suppliers, pulling together all the elements for speakers, academics, exhibitors, sponsors and the attendees. This event was to be live streamed and also recorded. We also had to develop, populate and automate a new CRM Customer Relationship Management system and link it to the ticketing system and website for a seamless customer experience.

There was little time to develop a proof of concept for an event like this, as commitments had already been made to deliver an event in 2020, so by moving online successfully it showed the wider community that large online events were possible it the industry, the client was capable at running these events, and we could handle delivery within a very short timeframe. Given so many events have had to move online, this was a way of generating confidence that other companies could also develop online, large scale conferences successfully.

The threat of sponsors withdrawing their support was very real, so we as a team had to get this right. The financial implications were very great and there was a lot of pressure on the leadership to deliver what they had promised. There are also international commitments that could be impacted by not providing the event (major book launches, interviews) so we were able to meet the goals and objectives put in place not only by our client but also those that were relying on the event to deliver their own objectives.

The client now has much more aligned processes with their business objectives, a cleansed and compliant data system with a professional CRM in place to leverage quality contact interactions to bring in new business in the future. They also now have a full proof of concept that running an international event in the mental health space is achievable.

Our role in this process was essential, not only because of our skills and knowledge but also our commitment to making this a success for our client. There was no way to plan for a global shift like we’ve had since the pandemic. It changed the strategy of a company like our client who had to shift and adapt very quickly to a very different objective, but with the trust that it could be done and now has been successfully achieved.

Testimonial

Nomination info submitted

We were contacted by the judging panel to ask if we’d submitted the nomination ourselves or we’d employed a company to help us, despite that being a question as part of the submission! We confirmed that we had drafted the application ourselves.

Then on the 7th June we received the exciting news:

‘Hope you had a lovely weekend, especially following the announcement of Finalists for the UK Business Awards 2021!’   Huge congratulations on this achievement!

We were advised that we would be notified who the winner would be at The Awards Ceremony on 8th of July, so we bought our tickets and donated to their charity raffle in aid of Barnardo’s  

UK Business Awards Ceremony – 8th July 2021

The virtual event was very well organised, included two networking opportunities and had a very inspiring keynote speaker Sam Moinet from Student Breakthrough and was attended by more than 200 attendees.  We were one of the final five finalists in our category, but unfortunately, we didn’t win this time, here are the winners.    

So that’s our third nomination in three years. We’ve hit our target for 2021 for awards we want to participate in, but we will see if there’s any other awards that would be interesting to apply for.

All Finalists will be receiving a Benchmark Report on all of their entries in the following weeks, which will include qualitative scores per criteria section, as well as judges’ comments, so that will be interesting to see the feedback.

It’s still exhilarating being involved and getting this far in the process, a great achievement that we’re very proud of.

 

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