Despite the huge explosion in online marketing spend and the proliferation of investment from big brands into social media and other online assets, investment in event marketing continues to rise. Much of this comes down to the simple fact that events remain one of the most influential drivers of lead generation and brand awareness.
In this guide I want to look at event marketing and the many considerations and factors to bear in mind when planning your next event. We’ll begin though by looking at just why event marketing matters so much to brands.
Why Event Marketing Matters
Events give companies the opportunity to create a buzz across online and offline channels by giving potential customers and clients genuine experiences and interactions with the company and its products. Despite the more significant investment involved, the potential for real life events to leave a lasting impression of the company in the mind of customers puts other forms of marketing in the shade.
Whether those experiences are fun, educational or thought provoking, they are immediately more memorable than other forms of marketing because you have a captive audience, often for hours on end. In contrast, although potential reach is significantly larger, other marketing methods and advertising methods attracts significantly less attention and engagement.
Using an event as a marketing tool involves identifying who your most valuable customers are, getting them through the door and creating individual impressions that last. Whilst this entails a significantly higher investment per head creating these kinds of connections with key customers can deliver huge ROI in terms of lead generation and brand building.
The Four Goals of Event Marketing
Events can achieve a number of marketing and wider business strategic goals and objectives. In general, these can be grouped into four areas which I’ve summarised below.
Putting on an event is the perfect opportunity to showcase your brand in the real world to real people. Because events engage all your attendee’s senses by their nature, you are able to craft a very indelible and relatable brand experience that will stick in people’s minds for months, if not years to come.
An event gives you the platform to let your imagination run wild and create experiences and interactions that embody your brand image and personality. By leveraging online channels you also have the opportunity to amplify this brand message to a much wider audience. In this sense, as a source of future online content and marketing materials, events are a goldmine for months to come.
A more tangible and ultimately trackable benefit of event marketing is in generating leads. This is reliant on recognising your key demographics and getting them through the door. Get this right though and you have the opportunity to engage with your potential customers directly, answering their questions, allaying any concerns they might have and generally showing off your products. Inviting existing customers, clients, resellers and partners also means your potential customers can access independent testimonials, knowledge and experience from people outside of your company.
Data is key to lead generation. By monitoring how potential customers interact with the various booths and vendors at your event, you can build a powerful database of leads to target with specific marketing materials after the event. Lead generation can also be bolstered by pre and in-event campaigns. One such tactic is to invite VIPs at your event to a private roundtable meal or meeting.
Engagement is what makes event marketing stand out from other marketing methods. The ability for attendees to interact with your products, see them in action and talk directly to your company about them puts events in a unique position when it comes to driving sales and building your brand. Individuals who attend your event are already engaged with your business so the likelihood of them talking up your products to others and becoming brand advocates is high.
There are different levels of engagement of course. An audience of 250 people during a keynote speech may well be engaged but to really maximise the potential of your event you need to engage with your most promising prospects on a one to one basis. This means knowing who your VIPs are from the outset.
Thought leadership is a powerful force when it comes to building a trustworthy and reliable brand. Education is therefore a huge draw when it comes to events and, along with the chance to network, is one of the main draws for people attending events. It’s crucial therefore not to miss the opportunity to take advantage of this and use your event as a vehicle for discussion, debate and education.
It could be tempting to focus solely on educating attendees about your products but go to far down this route and you’ll end up alienating your audience. As a brand building exercise, it can really help to strengthen your appeal by getting in speakers from outside of your company to talk about some of the wider issues in your industry. Your attendees are likely to remain far more engaged after the event if they think they have learnt something of value at your event.
It’s worth mentioning that there are event related goals that aren’t listed here, as they don’t readily apply to marketing focused events. These include networking and training (the latter being different from education in that it is usually internal and not focused on the end customer).
Event Planning Considerations
Event marketing requires thorough planning and this starts with defining your specific goals and objectives, which in turn will be influenced by a number of considerations.
Who is hosting the event
The amount of control you have over event planning is primarily influenced by whether you are hosting the event or not. Whilst you have far less control over events hosted by a third party, your budget is likely to be considerably smaller and there is the potential to reach a far bigger audience.
Type of event
The type of event is also a huge influence on your marketing strategy. There are a number of events that present marketing opportunities, from large trade shows and channel events, conferences, seminars or workshops right down to roundtable events and CXO meetings with no more than 10-15 attendees.
Size of event
The size of the event is related to the type but it’s important to plan your event marketing strategy around the number of attendees. The more people at the event the easier it is to lose those VIPs in the crowd, so to speak. Make sure you know whose attending and plan your pre and post event PR and lead generation tactics accordingly.
Announcements and news
Do you have any big news or announcements to make? If so then an event can be one of the best places to do this. Make sure you spend the time properly planning this to ensure maximum attendee buzz and media attention during the event. It also makes sense to plan for the fact people may have questions about your news or announcement, by putting on a Q&A session. Make sure you are ready to disseminate the news across your online and offline marketing channels as the news goes out as well. You could even live stream the announcement online.
Successful event marketing means being PR savvy and understanding how to get media attention is important if you are to properly promote your event and ensure it will be seen as a success. Getting heard above the noise is a lot easier if you are hosting the event yourself but bigger events can attract far more media attention, which a well developed PR plan would take full advantage of.
Events within Events
Putting on a big tentpole event can throw up all sorts of other marketing and promotional opportunities. A big event will often afford you opportunities to create spin off events and experiential marketing that all plays into the objectives of your main event. These can be before, during or after the main event and can also be hosted online. Below are some ideas to get you thinking:
VIP Dinner / Lunch
What better way to show your star attendees and delegates how important they are than by putting on a private VIP dinner or lunch during the event. This not only reinforces their VIP status but it allows you to engage with them on a one to one basis.
Pre-event parties are a brilliant way to generate buzz before the doors to your event have even opened. Just make sure people don’t get too sozzled to make it to the main event.
Webinars can create big talking points and help you explore issues and topics before your event has taken place. As a marketing research tool they are invaluable as they are the perfect platform to conduct polls or host Q&A sessions. They are also a powerful marketing method in their own right however, allowing you to drum up buzz for your event online by getting event speakers and experts involved.
Live Streaming Events
Live streaming has been around for a long time, but apps like Periscope have really brought the idea of witnessing something ‘live’ to the forefront of marketers minds. Putting on a live event doesn’t have to mean shutting the door to those who could not attend. Live streaming allows you to use your event to create a real-time buzz both on the conference floor and across social media, encouraging tweets, live video and commentary. Just make sure to establish and promote your hashtags on social media beforehand.
Competitions and giveaways shouldn’t be the reason your attendees are showing up but they certainly make for a good marketing tool during the event. What’s more they can be the perfect opportunity to get people talking about your products.
Marketing events are the perfect opportunity to take advantage of mobile technology, social media platforms and apps to create interactive experiences that you can project beyond the event itself. I’ve already alluded to the importance of the hashtag and you can go one step further by displaying people’s tweets on a video wall in real time at the event itself. There are a host of other opportunities for interactivity at events, which I will cover in a future blog post.
Promoting your Event
It’s incredibly important to properly promote your event and attract the right kind of people, as well as the right numbers. Doing this justice requires a great deal of planning and preparation and involves taking advantage of all the marketing channels available to you.
I’ve spoken about marketing your event in a separate blog post so I’m only going to briefly cover the major strategies available to you.
Social media represents a huge opportunity for raising awareness of your event and driving ticket sales. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have various paid advertising packages available, but if you’ve already spent time building up your social media presence, then just reaching out to your existing followers can do wonders.
Email addresses are like gold dust to any marketing campaign and event promotion is no exception. Your existing contact base should be your first port of call, but also look at ways in which you can harvest email addresses for this purpose. Spend the time making sure your email pitch is well designed and include plenty of images and links to further info on your site.
A developed public relations strategy has the potential to generate real buzz around your event and position it in people’s minds as something that shouldn’t be missed. Having existing relationships with journalists in your industry sector will always help on this front but so too do well timed press releases and a dedicated event section on your website.
Speakers at events can be your secret weapon if you know how to deploy them in the right way. Many speakers will be thought leaders in their fields so try to think of ways you can leverage their influence by tapping into their social networks. Some strategies include making sure all your speakers are properly advertising their talk at your event, inviting speakers to participate in your webinars and getting them to guest blog on your website.
The old methods are often the best methods and good old fashioned networking is still a powerful promotional tool. Make sure you’re telling people about your event at other events you attend and encourage your managers and staff to do the same.
Event marketing is one of the most powerful weapons in the marketer’s arsenal and yet it is still widely underused as a means of building awareness around brands and their products and services. The power for real experiences and genuine human interaction to drive influence and convert prospective customers cannot be underestimated. Indeed, a well planned event can form the bedrock upon which so much online brand building can be established.
As we’ve seen though, event marketing doesn’t just refer to a single thing and can take the form of a number of different types of events from conferences and roadshows to roundtable meetings. Whilst each specific event will demand its own level of planning and preparation, time and investment are crucial if it is to be the marketing success you want it to be.
If you’d like to know how Outsourced Events can help you realise the potential of your event by tapping into our experience and expertise, then drop us an email or a call us today on +44 (0)20 8995 9495.