What is Event Marketing?
Event marketing describes the process of developing a themed exhibit, display, or presentation to promote a product, service, cause, or organization leveraging in-person engagement. Events can occur online or offline, and can be participated in, hosted, or sponsored. The promotion of these activities can occur through various inbound and outbound marketing techniques.
Why Is Event Marketing Important?
In today’s buyer-empowered world, marketers need to seize every opportunity to build relationships, generate goodwill, and earn the trust of prospective buyers and customers. The modern consumer wants more than a pitch when evaluating solutions or making purchasing decisions. Events offer a unique opportunity for them to interact with brands to get a firsthand sense of a company’s focus, perspective, and personality. Event marketing needs to be an integral part of the demand generation mix, and a strategic combination of offline and online events are essential to any company’s bottom line.
“The business school environment is highly competitive. Marketo offers the tools we need to create a seamless, engaging and interactive experience for potential students. With a single view of all of our activities, we can now identify which campaigns and channels generate the most applications and enrollments. With Marketo, we are set up for success.”
- Patsy Torres, Senior Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions, George Washington University [Source]
The Impact of Event Marketing
Events must be memorable to make an impact. Of course the desired impact depends on your goals, but most companies want events to be more than just a staged advertisement for their brand. When done well, events have the power to create a lasting and powerful impression of all that your company can deliver. By allowing people to experience and interact with your company, product or service while participating in an event, you are connecting with potential buyers.
“Not all events are created equal. Companies must consider live events an extension of their brand and content marketing and build events that really engage. For me that means thinking about the customer experience you REALLY want to portray. A 6x6 static stand is unlikely to meet that need!”
“Marketo had a grasp on exactly what we were trying to accomplish, from lead generation to marketing automation to streamlining our event process.”
- Andrew Devlin, Communications Specialist, Brinker Capital
According to the 2012 IDC Tech Marketing Benchmarks Study, on average event marketing constitutes 1/5 of the marketing budget, which is a pretty sizeable percentage.
Four Reasons to Use Event Marketing
Companies choose to participate in an event for various reasons. A small company may want the exposure that a live webinar can provide, while a large company may need the face-to-face interaction that a tradeshow affords. Take a look at a chart from BtoB Magazine’s State of Event marketing, to see the top goals for attending events.
1. Branding and Awareness
A key reason for a business to participate in an event is to establish and build its brand. Event marketing allows your company to cultivate and express its identity firsthand. Through events, you gain the perfect venue to share your ideas, thoughts, and name in the exact manner you want to present them.
“Don't forget that members of the media usually attend industry events. The event organizer can often give you a list of journalists and editors who will be at the event. Reach out to them in advance and schedule a meeting […] which often can result in a feature article that highlights your company and gets the sales reps' phones ringing.”
2. Lead Generation
Another important reason businesses choose to participate in an event is to generate leads. And what better way to do so than to be part of an event where your target demographic is present? The right event allows your company to interact with a group of prospects that already have an interest in who you are and what you do.
“In these days of social media, face-to-face content can really enhance your online connection with your potential customers. Make sure you are using the Twitter hashtags regularly and watch the social media marketing that happens for the event on Facebook so you can comment on the posts and gain visibility with other attendees before the event.”
3. Customer Engagement and Upsell
Events offer an unparalleled level of customer engagement, with an opportunity for positive personal interaction that builds loyalty. Plus, every marketer knows that companies can realize the biggest ROI on their marketing dollars by retaining and growing existing customers. The challenge is to gain the attention of your customers amid the distractions of daily work. At events, you enjoy the chance to upsell customers by introducing them to products and services that they may not know about—or may not realize could address their needs.
“It's easy to fall back on the same type of event over and over again. Stepping out of your box will help you inspire and connect with your existing audience in a new and refreshing way. It will likely also increase the chance of attracting new attendees, participants and evangelists.”
Most people attend events to network and be educated. Both are powerful draws in their own ways. No matter what type of event you are at, it is critical to impart knowledge that the audience will value—and that sets your company apart.
Common Types of Event Marketing
Events come in a large variety of flavors, and can be held in countless venues, whether online or off. Below are some common types of events you can expect to participate in.
Online events connect presenters and participants through a web-based interface. Common types of online events include webinars, virtual events, and live streaming events. Online events are often less costly than in-person events and can enable you to easily reach geographically dispersed audience.
Webinars revolve around presentations, discussions, or workshops that are delivered via the web. They can happen in real-time or on-demand, and typically last from 30-60 minutes. Real-time webinars enable interaction among participants, provide the opportunity to receive and discuss information on a topic that is presented through web-based conferencing tools. Real-time webinars can be interactive on many levels, and typically allow attendees to ask questions directly to presenters.
Virtual events enable individuals in different locations to participate in a virtual environment that has the look and feel of an offline event, by combining education, networking, and interactive features. Participants visit a virtual booth where they can collect materials, meet the staff, ask questions, and even pick up some virtual swag. These programs tend to happen in real-time for all participants.
Live Streaming Events
These are live events that you can stream to your viewers. You can conduct these with a simple webcam or employ a full production crew for higher quality broadcasting. Applications such as Livestream and Ustream, as well as new options like Google+ Hangouts, offer a live service that allows you to fully stream, record, and engage your audience with chat and social media functionality.
Offline events require physical attendance and interactions take place in person. While they often require more investment than virtual events, offline events allow face-to-face relationship building. Don’t underestimate the impact a handshake or a personal meeting can make on a prospect or customer.
A tradeshow is a physical gathering of individuals in a particular industry or profession in a forum that typically features numerous companies in a specific market. A business may sponsor or participate in a tradeshow to show off a product or simply to network and strengthen its presence in a market.
Conferences are often company-specific marketing events that gather attendees for the purpose of delivering information such as a user summit. These events tend to be on the larger side, and are held by companies for training or educational purposes.
The term seminar is usually used to describe smaller meetings, roadshows, or field events. Some seminars are set up similar to a classroom lecture, where an expert shares information with the audience in a traditional more formal style. Others are styled as roadshows, where marketers take their company’s message out to the public or to employees or partners.
Breakfasts, Lunches, and Dinners
These are typically smaller, more targeted events. They can be both customer and prospect focused. These events are usually very intimate with 8-10 people, or can be larger with 50 or more attendees. For the smaller functions, these tend to be high level and provide executives a private setting for networking. On a larger scale, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners can include thought leadership presentations as part of the event.
7 Secrets to Events That Outperform Expectations
Since events are such a large part of your marketing mix, you want to make sure that you are thinking about all the details. Here are 7 secrets to make sure that your events are consistently outperforming expectations.
1. Set realistic and targeted goals up front.
ROI is not just something you consider after the event, you must plan for ROI from the outset and continue measuring ROI after the event. Your goals should not be limited to only registration and attendance models. The best goals will get into pipeline and revenue impact.
Build a model up-front to understand the sensitivities of your event ROI based on various metrics. For instance, if you hold an event that is well-attended by the wrong people, you will increase your costs without impacting revenue. Your model may show that the percentage of qualified attendees tends to be a high indicator of success (this sensitivity may only be relevant for physical events, as virtual events are less costly).
You also want to use the model to understand potential scenarios, ie., best case, worst case, and risk. By preparing for all of these, you can proactively identify and manage risks up front. The best event programs incorporate intentional measurement strategies in advance, that means you should define what, when, and how you will measure during your initial planning phase so you have a benchmark to work with.
2. Incorporate a strong theme and be creative.
Whether you are partaking in a virtual or physical event, delivering a cohesive look and feel helps create a seamless brand experience. Even with a virtual event you will have to think about how your booth looks, how you present your collateral, and what sort of contests you might want to incorporate. Hold a brainstorming session with your team to come up with viable ideas. And remember to think about all of the potential elements such as booth staffing uniforms, promotional materials, swag, and other collateral.
It’s not enough to just have a presence at an event. In a sea of vendors, how do you make your booth a smashing success? You want to create a presence that compels someone to stop, not just walk by. Consider using games or interactive tools as a way to pique the interest of attendees. Cool swag giveaways are also a great way to entice someone to enter.
3. Include multiple touches in your promotion.
When putting so much time and energy into planning your event, you want to make sure that you do the promotion right. To generate the highest amount of registrants, you need a mix of email, social, public relations, and other types of paid promotions to get the biggest bang for your buck. By communicating with your audience early and often leading up to the event, you will have a better turnout as your event will be top of mind for your attendees.
Finding the right number of times for email promotions for an event has a great deal to do with the type of event you are promoting. For a larger tradeshow you should send a series of promotional emails starting roughly a month before the event, and spaced a week or so apart from one another to allow people to plan accordingly. Take a look at a sample event multi-touch promotional schedule:
4. Segment your promotions to reach the right audience
No matter what sort of promotion you are using, segmentation is vital to getting the right attendees registered for your event. Make sure you spend time on data quality to ensure that the lists can be reused in the future. For segmentation you want to focus on demographics like:
- Job title
“The most overlooked strategy when segmenting promotions is the testing of marketing messages. Test a variety of different messages before pushing out your entire campaign. Will your audience respond better to messages about giveaways, educational clinics or product testing? You don't know until you test.”
5. Include Social Media in Your Event Plans
Being active on social networks before, during, and after your event is crucial for success. Since events are in real-time, attendees often use social networks to engage with other participants in a live environment. Here are a few channels you should think about engaging attendees through:
- Twitter: Twitter is a powerful tool for not only marketing and promoting your events, but also engaging and connecting with the attendees in real-time. You will want to set up a hashtag, schedule a series of tweets, build twitter lists, and remember to live tweet.
- Facebook: Because Facebook is so visual, it is a great place to promote your events using eye-catching graphics. Begin posting 2-3 weeks before events and use a mix of custom graphics, memes, and images taken at the event to encourage attendees to register.
- Google+: The Google+ events feature allows users to send out customized invitations and syncs with Google calendar when a user confirms. You can also leverage Google Hangouts to get influencers, prospects, customers, and other attendees in the same place discussing event highlights.
- LinkedIn: Use LinkedIn to promote your registration page and use LinkedIn groups to get some additional traction.
- Foursquare: Leverage foursquare at en event to drive traffic to a physical location while using gamification to build buzz.
6. Be the first to follow-up with attendees and non-attendees alike.
Making sure of proper event follow-up will set you apart from the competition and keep you fresh in the minds of your prospects. Always plan your follow-up strategy before the event begins—email follow-ups should be written and designed, offers should be decided on, and any other call-downs should be planned.
Here are the steps you should consider when designing your follow-up campaigns:
- Lead List and Qualification: The lead list is a critical aspect of any event and lists should be created either directly after the show or every night after the exhibit hall closes.
- Email Follow-up: All email follow-ups should be written before the event takes place. Reading event synopsis, session descriptions, and blog posts will help you craft the email messaging.
- Lead Nurturing and Scoring: Lead nurturing and scoring are critical for a comprehensive event lead management strategy. Continue engaging event attendees through lead nurturing, and score new leads appropriately after events.
7. Base measurement around proving ROI.
When it comes to measuring ROI, every company is unique in their level of sophistication and what they want to track. But where do you start? Below are three different levels of measurements.
Good: Basic Progression Measurement
By measuring the progression statuses of your attendees, you can determine metrics such as invited, registered, attended, and no show. Make sure you are measuring these basic metrics, if nothing else.
Better: Leads by Category
In addition to your basic progression statuses, you should be measuring leads by where they are in your revenue cycle and lead category. In other words, how attractive are these attendees to you? In the chart below you can see that there were 1,433 attendees to one of Marketo’s recent Roadshow events. Of those, 669 were people we considered in-profile prospects worthy of pipeline development, 32 were current leads, 130 were current opportunities, and 408 were current customers. The ROI of the event will be different for each of these categories: pipeline creation, deal acceleration, and up-sell/retention.
Best: Pipeline Measurements
Of the people who attended your show, you ideally want to determine how many opportunities were created, how much pipeline, how many were closed/won and for how bookings, and cost per opportunity (CPO). The event should only get credit for pipeline if the opportunities were created after the event attendance dates. Bookings should only count if the deal was won after the attendance dates. And the ultimate event marketing success measurement is pipeline-to-spend—how much pipeline can be allocated to the event divided by what you invested in the event.
5 Event Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
You need to cover lots of details when it comes to events, and the best way to do that is to be over-prepared. That said, it is easy to make mistakes when planning or hosting an event. Here are some common ones to avoid and some ways that you can be as prepared as possible:
1. Going in Blind
Make sure you plan, plan, plan, and plan some more! Set proper expectations for the event, including training your staff, reviewing messaging, and doing your research on the exhibitors prior to arriving. Details matter. Events are a big investment, so make sure that everyone is on top of their game and you know all of the detail prior to the actual event.
“Have a plan and a backup plan and a crisis escalation plan. Decide who can make what kinds of decisions on the fly and make sure everyone knows the backup plan as well. And always have walkie-talkies in addition to cell phones - cell coverage can get rapidly overwhelmed at events and you have to have a back up.”
2. Not Knowing How Much Staff You Need
Ever attended a tradeshow where you feel like the staff outnumbers the attendees? Nothing looks worse than having booth staff standing around and doing nothing. Not only does it decrease your productivity, it also cuts down on the amount of real estate you have to hold a conversation with your prospects. And it just looks plain bad. On the other end of the spectrum, you want to make sure you have enough resources to effectively represent your company and engage with attendees.
3. Forgetting Relevant Conversations
This is a tough one, since there is so much going on at an event. How can you remember everything that was said if you had a good conversation with a very viable prospect? Make sure each and every staff member logs the key points of each conversation. You can do this on the back of a business card, a sheet of paper that you can staple to the business card, and many iPad scanners now have the ability to save conversations directly in the app. This will make it easy for you to insert notes into your CRM system for targeted follow-up based on your conversation.
4. Missing Deadlines
We all know that tradeshows are expensive. The cost of missing discount deadlines will come back to bite you in the place that hurts most—your wallet. Many events offer early bird specials for registration, shipping, hotels, A/V, etc. If you procrastinate you may end of paying double the price. So plan early, and make sure you stay on top of all deadlines.
5. Not Standing Out from the Crowd
It doesn’t matter if you have the best looking booth—if it doesn’t draw traffic you likely won’t be returning to the even next year. What have you done to promote your presence at the event? Think of ways to create buzz. This can be in the form of social media, swag, games or contests, etc. Remember, other exhibitors and sponsors at the event are trying to connect with the same audience. Make sure you give that audience a reason to seek you out.
“Plan for some engaging (and non-intimidating) ways to attract people to your both that go deeper than just collecting business cards. Try things like making cookies in a toaster oven. The smell alone will stop people. I've seen photobooths and other fun activities as ways to get people to stop and see what's going on.”