One of my projects within the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) is the responsibility to market the KVK Innovatie Top 100. A list of 100 small SMEs who are working on innovative products and/or services. Every year, KVK organizes a show in which the 100 winners are announced. I have been on this project since January 2019. and have been able to take care of the marketing for this program for two years now. A great opportunity to not only get to know the target group but also to make strategic choices.

When I started on this project

In January 2019, the program was just renamed from MKB Innovatie Top 100 to KVK Innovatie Top 100. The program has a quite long lead time, leading up to the end event with announcing the winners. It still is today. At that moment, the project was primarily an annual program, with some peak moments for the public. The target group: the innovative micro-entrepreneurs.

What I’ve been working on

Over the years, I’ve been working on a couple of aspects, such as:

  • Lead generation campaigns for SME’s
  • Address corporate identity
  • Strategy change
  • Podcasts
  • Branded articles
  • Offline & online events

Lead generation campaigns for SME’s

First of all, I was allowed to develop a lead generation campaign that states the cases can be submitted. I tackled this together with the advertising agency and media agency we work with. A paid campaign of 6 weeks on social media and via Google Search followed. Of course, we also use our own channels such as socials and email (newsletters). In addition, KVK has an incredibly good network because advisers answer an awful lot of telephone questions every year. They are in contact with the target group and can refer the innovative entrepreneurs among them to the program.

While having the lead generation campaign, the project team mainly works behind the scenes. I am involved in this as a marketer. For both events, I ensure we send invitations and other relevant information to the entrepreneurs who have submitted cases. In addition, I also look at whether the events fit with the corporate identity and the brand message.

In 2020, we’ve decided to broaden the target group for the events. This means we can ask more SME’s to see the event and learn from innovative entrepreneurs.

Address corporate identity

2020, a year that led to a lot of strategy changes for most entrepreneurs. This was no different for the KVK Innovatie Top 100. In the first quarter, (even before Corona caused the 1st lockdown) we had already addressed corporate identity with a major change. The corporate identity was recognizable, but it was easy to cause confusion for others.

For example, when we placed posts on socials, all posts related to the submitted cases received a label that stated this entrepreneur participated in the top 100. However, they had submitted a case only, this doesn’t mean they are one out of a hundred. The confusion with actually being in the top 100 is easily made. We, therefore, looked very carefully at when and how to use the corporate identity. We made sure it was clear for the public and made guidelines for the colleagues working with it.

Strategy change

2020, a special year for the KVK Innovatie Top 100 because the program will exist for 15 years. An anniversary to celebrate. But how do you throw a party during the corona pandemic? With small entrepreneurs as your target group, who have been hit hard by the pandemic. Their turnover has fallen, companies are at a standstill. That’s the challenge we had to face. In the first quarter of 2020, we had come up with a strategy to have a year program celebrating 15 years of innovation. Interesting for small entrepreneurs who are looking to get inspired to grow their business. By the time we wanted to start the lead generation campaign, all businesses were closed in the first lockdown.

Not the right time to go live with happy celebratory messages, while my colleagues (and I) are answering thousands of questions on the phone, social and chat. So the campaign postponed, the events were delayed, and we used the time to change the course of direction. Not only did we add a trophy for the most innovative entrepreneur which made an impact during corona (winner is Gripz), but we also decided to produce a series of podcasts and branded articles.

Podcasts

KVK has experimented with podcasts since 2019, not so long. Within the company, there were a couple of colleagues involved. Since I had no experience with producing podcasts, I went to ask their experiences and with which partners they were working together, so that I could get educated on podcasts. Soon, I figured out that within my marketing team, nobody really focused on podcasts, so I decided to take the lead (more in this article).

For the Innovatie Top 100, we decided we wanted a total of 8 podcasts with topics related to entrepreneurship questions which are very common for small innovative entrepreneurs. Soon we realized that the selected group of entrepreneurs more or less look the same as it comes to the pandemic. Some companies happen to be a huge success since their product becomes more wanted. Other companies are at standstill, but they take their time to optimize processes and to undertake new products. It’s a great source of inspiration for other micro-entrepreneurs. You can listen to the podcasts in Dutch here.

Branded articles

As part of the annual program, the Innovatie Top 100 receives a lot of press. Each year a lot of (news) media write about the winners. In big media, but also in local media. To enhance this press, we also work together with companies like TMG & DPG to set up branded articles. They write stories/interviews and produce podcasts with the nominated entrepreneurs. They also make sure that our brand message fits in the story. Of course, we work closely together with them so that both companies are benefiting from the results.

Offline events go online

In the summer, we will eventually start organizing two events. The announcement of the 100 finalists will be part of a larger online event; KVK Live Advies Dagen (live advice days). Quite a challenge for our team. At that time, the Innovation Top 100 still had its own corporate identity, matching that of KVK, but not exactly the same. In addition, the KVK Live Advies Dagen also have their own corporate identity and a much broader target group. How do you streamline a functioning event in another event with other colleagues involved? As a marketer, how do you deal with the target group differences and with the corporate identity? Some choices are made in the bigger team, but you have to include your team in the reasoning behind this, and it doesn’t always feel logical. Despite that, we manage to set up a fantastic program.

For the final event, we only have a few weeks to set up. There is an extra task for me this time:

  • We have a number of podcasts that we could use a little more reach;
  • We have a public awards campaign in the air;
  • And a lead generation campaign is in the air to get viewers for the closing event.

We need to be careful that the messages remain clear and that the posts paid posts do not compete with each other.

While my campaigns are running, I am also closely involved in organizing the event. I watch the video productions, read the scripts and take a critical look at the brand message and corporate identity. This requires a lot of flexibility and close cooperation. I, therefore, speak to my event colleagues several times a day.

Together we ensure a great event. There is an inspiring and educational program for both the winners and the other viewers. But after the event, there’s still a lot to do. Because this event takes place online, we could not visit the winner on the day of the event. So to bring the trophy, the project manager and I go along with a camera. I shoot some pictures and hand over the trophy. In the meantime, my team is already busy with the videos that we want to extract from the event material. We have various components that are extremely interesting for micro-entrepreneurs. We develop videos about the business model canvases that Patrick van der Pijl explains, including example cases. But also from the winner Elestor, who seems to understand the usefulness of marketing very well. He knows how to make the need for energy storage comprehensible to the target group, and with that, he won the public trophy.

What’s next?

At the moment we are looking into the processes that come with organizing the Innovatie Top 100. We will focus on optimizing a couple of elements such as the lead generation forms, organizing the events but also how to organize an annual program in an agile company. There are lots of opportunities ahead.

Photo by Maaike Hoekstra for KVK Innovatie Top 100

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