The Complete Guide to Event Marketing
This guide will tell you what matters now and what will matter going forward in event marketing. We feel it is useful to let you know about the big shifts happening online and offline, so you can market your corporate events, brand activations, client conventions, trade shows, and team-building activities better and more efficiently.
We are all familiar with the adoption rates of social networks and online communities. When a tool becomes popular, it profoundly affects the way we will consume experiences and products. There is no time to think about whether our audience will care. Social networks will adjust to include the hype; it will become part of the way we do business from now on.
How does that affect corporate and business-oriented environments? We may be tempted to think that this does not apply to our reality. Open rates, click-through rates, and direct conversions are going down. To succeed, the event marketer of the future needs to stay on top of the event marketing game.
Before you get dazzled by the latest shiny lights, you should build out your event marketing plan. Having a clearly defined event marketing strategy is crucial and you should never start without it.
What is Event Marketing?
Event marketing is a promotional strategy that involves face-to-face contact between brands and their customers at events like conferences, trade shows, and seminars. Each event is different, it has different audiences, different content, and different culture. Therefore, it deserves to be marketed in its own unique way. To succeed, the event marketer of the future needs to stay on top of the event marketing game.
Why is Event Marketing Important?
According to this report, 95% of marketers agree that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.
Additional statistics from the report include:
- Most marketers (31%) believe that event marketing is the single most effective marketing channel.
- An overwhelming majority of C-Suite executives (87%) believe in the power of live events and plan on investing in them more in the future.
- 84% of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product, or service being promoted after the event.
What makes the difference between a good and a great experience is your knowledge of what is happening now. This guide discusses the big shifts happening online and offline, which corporate event professionals need to be aware of, to market their events more efficiently.
How to Win at Event Marketing
The starting point for any event (or organization, or project) should always be WHY?
Why is this event important?
The answer to this question outlines the key objective that will determine the success, or otherwise, of the event. This is the criteria against which the event will be measured back to. This is the defining factor that will help communicate and determine the marketing strategy.
The exact question to ask is:
Why should people attend your event?
It isn’t about you. It is about the value to the participant and other stakeholders. What is in it for THEM? How does your event meet their needs? What are their pain points? How can your event solve a problem or offer a solution to them?
The Attendee Perspective
Listen closely and think carefully about the benefits of attending your event from the attendee's perspective. How will it bring value to the customer? Simply listing speaker names and features for your event (100 exhibitors, 20 keynote speakers....) is not effectively communicating a reason to attend.
Often there are complex motivations for attending an event. Some of the reasons people will be happy to admit (‘I need to learn a skill’) and other reasons people prefer to keep to themselves and will not share (‘it sounds like a nice jolly’). Both public and private reasons are valid. Consider how to appeal to different overt and covert motivations people have for attending an event.
Make the benefits clear and simple. If potential attendees don’t understand the offering they will switch off. They will not spend time looking for a reason to attend an event if the advantages are not clear. On the other hand, if you can capture their attention by giving a possible solution to their troubles they are more likely to sit up and listen.
The Event Elevator Pitch
An event elevator pitch is a succinct summary to explain your event to someone without any previous knowledge of it. It is an opportunity to capture someone's interest and understanding. Think about the best way to communicate the vision and benefits of your event in a couple of sentences, or in 60 seconds.
Social media offers a fantastic opportunity to test and measure the success of your message to see what resonates the best. By using this growth hacking approach on your social media channels, you have a low-cost opportunity for experimenting and nothing to lose.
Refining your event elevator pitch is an essential and worthwhile exercise. Once defined it should be communicated to all your major stakeholders to ensure everyone is sending out a coherent message. Any opportunity to succinctly share details of the event and act as an ambassador should never be missed.
- "Last chance to book."
- "Early bird rates extended."
- "Unmissable sponsorship opportunity."
- "Only five exhibitor spaces remaining."
- "The event highlight of the year is here."
In the event industry, we are guilty of using the same messages and call to action over and over again. We zone out after hearing the same thing time and time again, so banish these outdated messages and try to slice through the noise and clutter. There is no excuse to not change now. As we suggested, the future is now. You can make a strong impact now.
Keep messaging clear and simple and always focused on your value proposition. Don’t use jargon. Speak the language of your attendees and stakeholders.
Understand Your Stakeholders
The better you understand your audience and investors the better your events will be and the easier it becomes to tailor your message accordingly. One way to improve your communications is for your organization to develop five personas, which represent your core attendees and stakeholders.
Personas are fictional characters depicting your key and most typical customers and partners. By creating each persona, you bring to life their personal details, background, and struggles, helping to picture whom you are talking to and refine messaging. Personas can help you to select the most relevant trends and tools to be implemented. For example, you may develop personas for:
- Someone starting out in the industry in their first entry-level job and trying to decide whether it would be worthwhile registering for the event
- The Marketing Manager of an organization considering exhibiting at the event for the first time
- The Founder of a fast-growing start-up deciding whether to attend the event
- The aging CEO of a company potentially looking to sponsor the event
- An influencer interested in coming along to the event for the third year in a row
For each character, you should think about their motivations in terms of attending the event, their fears, goals, and pain points, and what your event can give that will offer them true value.
Example questions to answer for your persona profiles:
- How do they consume content?
- What technology and social media do they use?
- How much time and disposable income do they have?
- When are they most likely to interact and how?
- Who are their key influencers?
The characters should be created from a combination of educated guesses and data. As you gather more data the personas can develop and become more factual using offline analytics such as beacons, NFC, survey data, Google Analytics, mobile apps, live response data, and other tools.
Think about a specific elevator pitch that will appeal directly to each persona you have developed. Set a consistent message on how to sell your event to this specific stakeholder and start to segment your audience accordingly to enable you to increasingly personalize your communications.
Look critically at every social media post, piece of content, or email you plan to send from the point of view of the recipient. Consider what outcome you want to achieve and think about why the recipient should even care and what reaction or action you can realistically expect. If it has a weak message it is unlikely to break through the noise and clutter to resonate with them.
The Attendee Journey
Throughout your attendee journey, you have numerous touchpoints with your participants and stakeholders before, during, or after the event. By understanding these touchpoints within the event life cycle, you can gain a better understanding of marketing opportunities, as well as the opportunity to increase satisfaction along the way.
Think about all the ways a stakeholder may come in contact with your brand. To help formulate this better think about different scenarios and the steps they take. Where does the journey start and what are the paths of entry? Record online and offline steps from the marketing and preregistration stage, right through to the post-event survey and follow-ups.
You should record both major and minor touchpoints. Every step and decision may have an influence on the attendee or event partner. Using post-it notes is a good way to map it out and refine the journey initially.
- Interactions via social media
- Response time to a question sent via email
- Learning that a competitor is exhibiting at the event
- Event signage
- Greeting on arrival at the event
- How comfy the chairs are
- How quickly the follow up is after the event
- Event website
- Direct invitation
- Exhibitor brochure
- Sponsorship pitch
- Registration process
- Recommendation from an influencer
- Event program and content
- Discovering that smart badges will be used at the event
- The event experience
- Personalized metrics specifically for how an attendee was engaged
Exploring and better understanding your stakeholders is a valuable exercise always. The journey can be complex but even if it is only done on a simple level initially it can still be very revealing. You can then develop and build up from the basics.
It isn’t just the direct interactions with your company that have an influence either. Other indirect factors may funnel the attendee on the path towards your event, such as searching for management training and finding your event fits their criteria, noticing that contact is exhibiting at your event, checking out the what's on guide for a local venue or realizing that an influencer they want to hear is talking at your conference.
The Tipping Point
Think about how people decide whether or not to attend your event and try to understand their behavior and process. What are the determining factors? These are just some elements that may play a part:
- Web search
- Researching alternative options
- Comparing against other events
- Earning a certificate or professional accreditation
It could be several factors combined that tip the balance over to the decision to attend but understanding these triggers helps to perfect your marketing strategy.
Even if you are planning an event with expected or guaranteed attendance, such as an internal team-building retreat, a CPD (Continued Professional Development) training course, or a company annual meeting, you still want to reach a tipping point for buy-in from your attendees. Although guests in these instances do not have to be persuaded to buy a ticket, if you can achieve some anticipation and engagement prior to the experience they are likely to get more from it and the dropout rate will be lower.
Considering every touchpoint along the journey will help to identify gaps, strengths, and weaknesses to enable improvements to be made to your marketing offering and communication strategy. It may enable you to streamline and speed up the process to make it simpler for the attendee and quicker to reach the tipping point to convert the potential attendee into a confirmed participant, or to encourage them to engage more closely with the experience to follow.
Once you have mapped out the attendee or stakeholder journey you can identify key elements and crossroads in the process. Process mapping will help crystallize how to influence specific outcomes and start to develop the strategy behind what you want to achieve.
This exercise will also identify where potential tools can be used and their primary purpose. You want different channels to be used effectively and in different ways, rather than broadcasting the same message with a broad-brush approach across all platforms. Each channel's identity and purpose can then be refined.
It is unlikely that someone will take action the first time they hear about your event. Effective frequency is the number of times a message needs to be heard before someone takes action. This could be buying a ticket or enquiring about the possibility of exhibiting at the event. There are lots of studies about what this magic number is and many marketers swear by the rule of 7. However, for the entertainment industry, the average touchpoints needed is actually 9.5 and for not for profits this rises to an average of 16.3.
If you can determine and plan numerous touchpoints for stakeholders to encounter your event marketing you vastly increase your chance of a successful sale or engagement. Of course, the result is not guaranteed but it is always wise to plan to surpass the minimum number of touchpoints required to trigger action on behalf of the stakeholder.
By conveying a strong message, you can build trust and familiarity with the potential participant, sponsor, or exhibitor. Ensure that potential attendees and partners can find you and that you can give reminders to those that have the event on their radar but haven’t yet taken action and booked their place to attend or exhibit.
If it is a paying event you need to give enough reasons for people to find a way to register. If someone is unsure you haven’t yet proved to them the value of attending and you need to work harder to convince and reassure them.
If planning an event with expected or guaranteed attendance you may have to work even harder to be heard in advance as your guests could view it as a low priority and something to be shelved and not thought about until the day. In terms of your event, you will need to consider how you can inspire attention or provoke thoughts or action ahead of the actual event.
For both of these circumstances, being on-trend and using new tools can be an effective way to stand out and get noticed. By earning respect as an innovator, leading the way, and doing things differently, you can inspire those involved in your events and hook them. Make a strong stance that this is not a repeat of previous events and demand full attention for the journey ahead.
Putting it All Together
The stakeholder journey should look at the flow and experience of the attendee and other partners before, during, and after the event. It is a complex route map and it isn’t just about when a participant buys a ticket or commits to attend the event. There are lots of influencing factors that impact the whole experience. Although for event planners the primary marketing goal is often persuading someone to register the touchpoints throughout the event process can strengthen synergy, engagement, excitement, and loyalty to your brand.
Improving the overall experience and interaction makes it more likely for participants, exhibitors or sponsors to recommend and repeat attend your event, helping to build a customer for life.
Understand Your Event Stakeholders' ROI
Event planners and marketers have never been in a stronger position to attract and keep event attendees and partners hooked and coming back time and time again. By using an integrated dashboard and tools such as beacons we can access joined-up data and link it to a wider picture to illustrate the attendee journey. We can identify the possible touchpoints and opportunities to reach them and other stakeholders across multiple channels. By defining realistic personas, we can develop and refine our messaging, which can then be tested intelligently through growth hacking techniques.
It is easier and more cost-effective to encourage someone to return to your event, rather than finding and recruiting a new attendee or headline sponsor each time. Keeping the conversations going all year round and building a sense of community around the shared interests and vision of your attendees is a wise strategy.
Listening to and observing your attendees and event partners can enable you to react to and pre-empt issues, as well as provide insights and learning for how to improve future events. Never before have we had such an opportunity to listen to our stakeholders, understand them, and take action based on actual evidence. Event planners have the opportunity to involve themselves more fully in the whole event experience, for instance by co-creating the conference program, voting on the event destination, and getting honest input into some of the event decisions. Likewise, if a sponsor and exhibitor can see the valuable relationships and communication around the event it will be easier to get them to sign on the dotted line. This level of engagement and buy-in is what will truly define the success of your event from the perspective of all stakeholders.
If you are reading this guide you care about your events, about everyone that has invested time and money into the event, and you want to do things better. The trends, tools, and tactics within this guide reveal some of the immediate opportunities to empower event planners to unearth and cultivate loyal attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors.
Marketing Trends You Cannot Ignore
What may often be a buzzword for those operating in digital marketing is becoming synonymous with a scientific approach to how to do online marketing. Marketing events is no different. Savvy event marketers take offline and online marketing with an analytical approach. Gone are the days when awareness was the only proposition sold by media and advertising outlets.
Growth hacking refers to an analytical approach that favors small-scale, less expensive experiments to prove a (marketing) point that can be later expanded into a full marketing program. As budgets globally shrink, event marketers, focus on those offline and online tools that deliver value, they test different alternatives and roll out small-scale campaigns to gain immediate feedback from customers.
Growth hacking is a philosophy that relies on a specific set of tools, therefore it will be crucial to refer to the Tools and Tactics section for some of the most reliable tactics to implement in your event marketing strategy.
The biggest secret of the event industry nobody talks about. After conducting research with 1,600 event professionals and having looked at most of the literature on the subject of engagement at events, we can confidently say that co-creation will be the most surprising trend to watch in the next 12 months.
Co-creation bridges the gap between marketing and engagement at events. It is the number one driver of satisfaction, and it is also the number one motivator to get attendees to create content at events.
Particularly in corporate environments we often complain that attendees are bored, they sit down unimpressed over 3/4 of the event, checking their email. The answer to raising the level of engagement of these stakeholders is to get them involved in the event well before the event starts.
Meaningful networking and matchmaking are the tools that will secure effective marketing and incredibly high satisfaction rates.
We can see the reaction of half of you reading this. You are thinking, I can't do this in a corporate environment. The same pretty much happened in 2008 when social media came along. Corporate events are now successfully using social networks to engage attendees and market to them.
Social media is turning into live and video. The way you use it with your performers and stakeholders is essential to market your event properly. The aforementioned is an invaluable marketing trend but also a powerful engagement one. Attendees are increasingly reaching out for their phones and they don't take pictures anymore, they hit the 'live' button on platforms such as Facebook Live or Periscope and start streaming.
They do it to connect their network and audience to the event. This can be a valid option even when an event has sensible content or is not open to the public. Many, many tools offer private live streaming channels to involve remote attendees in a secure way.
If you work with email marketing, you know it. Sending an email rarely converts into direct action. Many report the average customer journey before a decision is made is between 9 and 16 interactions with a brand on different channels. That means that before an attendee makes the decision to register, they may interact at least 9 times with your brand in different ways and means.
That translates into being ready in every channel relevant to your audience. Whether it is Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Email, Website, or Phone (or Fax), you need to be there offering the same experience, branding, and voice.
The Rise of Integration
The event industry has talked about strategic meetings management (SMM) for a while. This has been one of the most effective approaches to making sense of meetings and events in large corporations. Even more so if you are an event marketer.
Times are now mature to use tools that offer a state of the art suite of tools, covering in a dynamic and user-friendly experience all aspects of event planning, tying all data together for stronger decisions. If such solutions don't offer e.g. engagement or venue searching options, they need to integrate with tools that do. SMM will probably never be mentioned again, but it is happening in practice.
Smart event marketing professionals select tools that talk to each other and make sense of the incredible amount of data coming from each dashboard.
There is no excuse not to have offline data about how attendees engage with your event and your sponsors. Selling and marketing events mean keeping all parties happy. For too long we have not used offline data strategically to generate more sponsors and more attendees for the next year.
Using tools such as NFC, mobile apps, and live response tools we can rely on a complete suite of tools to analyze the impact of our marketing and sponsorship activities.
Analyzing and digesting this data will define our marketing and sponsor engagement strategy for the future. The future of event marketing is not about reporting to your boss or stakeholders that everybody enjoyed the event.
Event professionals, especially in corporate environments, are becoming curators of communities. They are the catalysts of the conversations, content, and connections happening in a group of people.
Their job is to understand these dynamics, collect them, analyze them and then expose them in the marketing of the event. Discovering the new influencers in an event and giving them exposure is just an example of being a community curator. It may well be likely that one of the roles of the future will involve a Crowd-coordinator, someone that takes care of content from the crowd and makes sense of it for the business.
The same applies to connecting attendees before the event happens so that they can start enjoying the benefits of serendipitous networking, while actively supporting the event. This outcome has often been defined as evangelism, the event marketer is the enabler of such a process.
Referral on Steroids
There are a new set of tools that elevate the power of referrals in events. Offering links to share an event on social media is not enough. How can we leverage the network of our attendees to stimulate participation?
This is one of those atavic questions that impact corporate event marketing and that we need to embrace fully. Being community curators and enablers means taking full advantage of the tools that allow a ripple effect within online communities.
Social networks are mature enough to integrate with a multitude of tools that will give you unprecedented intelligence to create more opportunities for smarter referrals. This is the case with internal referral programs that benefit from the significant adoption of social networks. As we are increasingly more used to spreading the word on social networks, we may well do the same within our company. This concept is especially valuable if you work in large organizations or with volunteers.
In-depth Content Marketing
We've all witnessed the power of content to support marketing activities. Content marketing has its loyal legion of adepts. We all love it, we all do it. But is it enough?
In a sea of incredibly shallow and superficial brand content masked as 'valuable insights, we really need to step up the game of our content offering. If you work with corporate audiences and the C-level suite, you will know what we are talking about.
The right mix of engaging, valuable, and trustworthy, content is always welcome. But does not suffice. Multiple signs are saying that well-researched, data-driven, in-depth, analytical, long-form content is winning the online game. Dressing up 10-slides as a report does not work. You may capture leads once, but it is unlikely that you will have any positive results going forward.
Marketing teams should be formed by individuals that know the verticals they are working in and can offer powerful content to the audience of the event. Whatever its form, video, text, or images, delivering superficiality will not make an impact.
Strategies That Will Drive Demand to Your Events
In the fickle low attention span world of the Internet, remarketing offers event marketers the opportunity to reconnect and stay on top of clients or attendees’ minds. The principles of remarketing are pretty simple. A marketer engages an online ad agency (or directly through Google) and puts a specific tag on their website. Those who view that page will find a targeted piece of advertising seemingly following them across other websites.
With remarketing, the major step of visiting your website can turn into a series of touchpoints on engaging platforms like Google, YouTube, and Facebook and lead to a conversion. As we’ve discussed how journeys are becoming longer before action, remarketing is your strongest ally to deliver a consistent and persistent message across the web.
Remarketing can be incredibly efficient for event marketing, but it can also be highly intrusive. We are now used to being “chased around the internet” by flight offers based on our search terms, but we are not as comfortable with an early bird offer for a scientific congress chasing us in the same way.
There is no question that remarketing is incredibly powerful, but with the data privacy concerns raised by recent scandals, it’s more important than ever to use these tools wisely and most of all tactfully. After all, we have nothing to win by eroding our event’s brand equity.
How to Win at Remarketing
- Create an ad for those who visited a specific speaker's bio page with their topic in the title.
- Make a remarketing ad for each trade show exhibitor or sponsor by giving them their own pages on your site. Include that in your package offerings.
- Create a countdown to early bird registration deadlines in your copy to make for a stronger call to action.
Pop-ins and Exit Intent
The battle for our attention online rages on. The battlefield is filled with shiny colors, moving images, and large buttons, as well as popups, pop-ins, and others. Some are very efficient; others are overkill and will annoy even the most patient surfer.
Unlike the distasteful pop-ups of a decade past, modern lightbox-style pop-ins won’t be blocked by blockers and won’t significantly impact bounce rate. Website visitors are trained to know that simply clicking the X in the box will allow them to go back to your site. Pop-ins are most commonly used to drive visitors to sign up for your email list but can be used for any desired additional actions such as app downloads, coupon downloads, and social media following.
First and foremost, the focus should be on creating a well-designed website or registration page. This is ideally an introduction to the event that uses concise copy that resonates with the target audience supported by images that clearly illustrate the event. In combination, this should leave no doubt in the consumer’s mind if this is the right event for them. Only once this is achieved can a carefully placed pop-in be a valuable way to highlight a call-to-action. Never before.
One of the core principles of growth hacking is making every attempt to use the most amount of inexpensive touchpoints to drive towards a conversion. Pop-ins are just the right level of behavior that doesn’t cross the line of being seen as aggressive but gets the job done.
Fine Tune Your Pop-in Strategy
- Make sure your call to action button is a different color than your background, is centered, and is clearly stated.
- Make a trade. If you want something special from your visitors that requires a pop-in, give them something special in return.
- Be as concise as possible. A visitor should be able to read the entire pop-in in 5 seconds or less.
- Be on-brand by utilizing your site’s colors and still feeling like you are part of the same page
- Offer customer support on pages with lots of copy after they spend more time than the average time someone spends on any given page (based on your analytics).
- Sell your keynote speaker’s book to all those who register and offer a bonus ebook or companion update.
- Ask why they would consider attending your event with three options leading them to three different pages made up for their very specific needs.
This style of pop-in is an even more sophisticated variation of call-to-action visitor interruption. They are triggered by a visitor’s behavior, often as a last-ditch effort to convert before they leave a page or your website.
Effective Triggers for Exit Intent Pop-ins
- Time-based - These drop-in after a certain amount of time is spent on a page. How much time someone spends on any given page is a telling way to determine how interested they may be in what you have to say.
- First-time visitors - Your first impression is often the most crucial. Deal with common misconceptions or quickly endear yourself to these visitors with the best you have to offer.
- Abandoned carts - With e-commerce products such as ticket sales, there’s nothing more frustrating than an abandoned shopping cart. Remarket those who left before completing the sale with an ad that offers a percentage off within a short window.
- Add-ons - If you have a registration page, pop-ins for additional complimentary items are a way to turn a smaller sale into a larger one.
Content is a crucial lifeline of event marketing. Event marketers have a responsibility to develop and use good content in their event marketing. Long-form content such as content videos or blogposts may take more resources to develop, but in most cases, it is well worth it. Poor content, in any format, quickly loses viewers or readers. There is no excuse not to create professional content that is relevant to your event’s target market.
Call it an article, white paper, report, blog post, or even a guide, in the age of 140-character tweets, what place is there for long-form content in your marketing? The answer lies in knowing your audience. The more niche you can get and the more value you can provide that niche, the higher likelihood of success with longer-form content. Your brand’s social media content is the appetizer, but your long-form content can be the meal they are looking for. You have to focus on writing something no one else could, to groups, no one else is writing to.
Consumers are wise to clickbait and weak manipulative content. Remember this:
Content marketing is not a way to get people TO your products, it IS one of your products.
Long-form content allows for deep analysis of one topic or a wide comparison between key topics. It also allows for all types of repurposing, which is particularly useful for social media. As more long-form content is developed, the opportunities multiply as this gives you the ability to cross-reference and combine content into further content. Long-form content is alive and well, and event marketers are more creative than ever at using and reusing it.
How to Leverage Long-form Content
- Map out various topics of interest to your community that is linked to your event. It’s worth considering your event site’s SEO when planning content development.
- Research each topic in detail. Consider collaborating with speakers, authors, or influencers to add more depth.
- Create the content to the best of your ability and include links to any relevant good quality content, particularly relevant links to other pieces of your long-form content.
- Adapt your long-form content to other formats. After all, you want to give your audience as many opportunities as you can to consume your content. For example, a blog post can also become a spoken word video and a podcast.
- Share widely, using your own email and social media channels as well as any other relevant channels, including Facebook and LinkedIn groups where permitted. Repurpose the content into concise social media posts, such as image quotes, video highlight clips, and poll questions for Facebook or Twitter.
- Update your content periodically and share it again.
Growth Hacking for Events
The lines between what is currently considered marketing best practice and growth hacking get blurred every few months. Usually, growth hacking marketing is defined as a form that emphasizes more experimental campaigns focused on fast results, especially in the areas of growing audiences. Growth hackers A&B test and pivot quickly in order to show momentum-building results. The reason growth hacking is featured in our trends is because the marketing landscape is moving so quickly that only through result-driven trials can you determine the right formula for success.
Many clever event marketers use automation and machine learning to grow communities, gain followers on social media and fill up events. The tools available are constantly improving and techniques are never far behind. Growth hacking involves constant experimentation and testing with plenty of risks along the way.
Growth hacking will undoubtedly continue to grow, but as consumers become more concerned about their data privacy, questions about the marketing techniques used will continue to be raised. Event marketers that rely too heavily on the wrong type of growth hacking risk alienating the community around their event. The smart event marketer will use wholesome tools and techniques that offer clear value to the event participants.
Social Media Follower Growth Hacking
Rapid unsustainable practices are the product of poor growth hacking techniques. Buying followers in order to trick people into thinking you are credible, and most forms of content automation will hurt rather than help any strategies that are based on long-term success.
Web-based applications such as Tweepi allow you to target the followers of competitors or influencers in order to rapidly build your audience. Targeted automation of post liking on platforms like Twitter and Instagram also often results in fast follower gains without being seen as a spamming technique (as with post commenting automation).
Tease to Convert
If your main goal is website conversion, social media posts geared at reeling people in for the full story on their site are key. Steer clear of clickbait schemes by focusing on value in your post with additional value on your site. Enticing graphics will help convert clicks and variations of images with different takes on the calls to action will also stretch out a campaign. For example, if you are sending them to a list, give them one of the items in your post and have the rest located on your site.
Social media tactics are the best forms of growth hacking because you have the opportunity for impressions you don’t pay for through social sharing. Social media posts designed to entice followers to share them take precision. Self-promotion and ads are rarely shared or retweeted unless you have something that is ending very soon and exclusive. Timely posts that leverage moments everyone's talking about are overwhelmingly the most shared content with instructional content being second. Direct your tweets at influencers with unique messages to them (but please space out requests so they feel special and not blasted at). Don’t forget the easiest way to get a share or retweet – ask for one!
How to Utilize the Power of Video to Market Your Event
Did you know we consume more videos today than ever? In fact, 66% of event planners and marketers are already using video as part of their marketing strategy. As our devices and internet speeds improve, so does our consumption of videos. It is also easier than ever to create videos with any budget since most smartphones can create high-quality videos.
Event Sizzle Reels and Promotional Videos
- Invest in high-quality video, spectacular (and legal) drone shots edited to trendy music.
- Make it obvious what the event is about in the first few seconds.
- Show event features and transmit the event’s culture or the feeling of being at the event.
- Don’t squeeze in every feature, this video is about impressing rather than providing detailed information.
- The videos can be used across all channels at almost any time in event marketing.
- If possible, create different versions focusing on the latest updates as you get closer to the event.
- Make sure to get permission to record speakers, panelists, and everyone involved in the session.
- Session recordings offer a great long-tail search-based discovery mechanism, so make sure you include a full session and event description on YouTube.
- This type of content is of great value to the community and there is a clear sales message inherent in the content.
- Add accurate captions to your videos for maximum impact.
Speaker or Thought Leader Interview
- Capture these at a video booth at your event or in advance remotely.
- Priorities clear audio over the perfect image.
- Make sure there is a strong link to the event and industry but make the content timeless. This will allow you to edit the footage later in any way you see fit.
- Use a professional host to conduct the interviews, if possible, and make sure all topics are thoroughly researched beforehand.
- Add captions to your video so that it can be consumed without sound, this gives viewers everything they need to watch the video regardless of their surroundings or devices.
- Create a competition around a key event topic that only accepts offers by videos on social media using a unique hashtag.
- Offer complimentary registrations as other event-related prizes.
- The content may be outside your control but in exchange, you get content focused on your event.
- If appropriate, you can compile the videos into a best-of video post on social media or use them on-site to show your appreciation.
- A few days or even hours before an event, a behind-the-scenes preview video works well on social media.
- It doesn’t have to be professionally produced, keep it short and personal.
- Tease the audience and offer them an unusual look at the event.
Which Video Social Platform is Right for my Event?
It seems like every social media platform has been building towards video as the content category of choice. This is the result of more sophisticated technologies to support streaming video as well as users’ fatigue towards being communicated through words. With every major social media channel investing in video, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each platform to determine where it fits into your strategy. Remember that the key to all video content, no matter the platform, is that it needs to be visually appealing and should be kept short.
- Video uploaded directly to Facebook seems to have a positive effect on its feed ranking based on the Facebook algorithm.
- Other positive metrics for Facebook videos include an increased volume of engagement over photos (with the additional metric of views being counted) and longer sustained engagement.
- Tell your story with and without sound in order to capture the attention of those at work or listening to music.
- The first 10 seconds are the most important. Make sure to hook people with a unique angle they can’t help but continue with in order to see the resolution.
- Use video insights in order to determine the ideal video length for your audience.
- Snapchat’s preferential front-facing camera is due to its users’ interest in intimate experiences in real-time.
- You can afford to be as real as possible on Snapchat videos. Behind the scenes resonates better than perfectly composed depictions of reality.
- Make it fun. This is the social media of goofy facial filters and animal stickers. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- YouTube is as much a video hosting platform as it is a search engine and social media site. The rules of all three should be taken into consideration.
- Make sure to use the keywords that attract the right searches to your videos as you would when you write SEO copy for your website.
- Production matters more here. While raw and uncut looks are appealing to some platforms (especially live streaming), these videos will have a longer shelf life and should be more composed.
- Make sure you have a compelling call to action with more content similar to what the person just watched in order to convert to your website.
- Keep videos short, between 1 and 2 minutes long.
- Consult your business analytics to tell you when you should be posting on any given day.
- Use third-party utilities to add captions to your videos for those who scroll quickly through their feed and have sound turned off as their preference.
- Your feed videos should be less raw than Snapchat but don't need to be as composed as YouTube.
- Use Instagram stories too for less than perfect and the moment videos that won’t benefit from being discovered after their 24-hour shelf life.
Live Streaming Video
Any technology that concerns itself with “live” makes it immediately relevant for the event industry to understand. With each update, these streaming platforms become more and more identical except in one way they never will –user bases. Determining which technology to focus on should start with figuring out which social ecosystem is more beneficial for you to take advantage of.
How to Expand Your Reach with Live Streaming
- Videos on YouTube have a greater likelihood of being discovered over time.
- Live stream viewers react to sincerity over polished performances. Focus on personality over scripts.
- Build anticipation through FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). While often part of a campaign, each major live stream should have its own micro-campaign. In an age of on-demand content, the promotion of live stream content needs to emphasize engagement only available at the time given.
- This isn’t broadcast TV; this is social media. Streaming viewers react strongly to having their names called out and answered in real-time. Make sure that your viewers are acknowledged.
- If possible, include subtitles or work-safe captions on videos for those who would watch but can’t benefit from audio.
- For event live streaming, both Periscope and Facebook Live have stated that a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 90 minutes are ideal. Remember, viewers will drop partway through, and others will come in midstream, so reiterate the context of what they are seeing.
- Think about the production value. It’s OK to go low budget, but if you have a huge stage production and capture a low-quality live stream of it on a handheld smartphone, it won’t send the best message to your audience.
- Consider your platforms carefully. It may be best to live stream to your most popular social media channel. You can even stream to all at the same time.
- Decide if you want to reuse the content and keep this in mind while you are live streaming, as it may affect your production.
- Tell your followers in advance or they may not join you. Don’t rely on push notifications that your followers may or may not receive.
The origins and initial adoption characteristics of users for Snapchat did not hint much at its potential for use during corporate live events but this social media is evolving in that direction. While other social media platforms have all found their place as tactics for specific event marketing or engagement strategies, Snapchat is just now emerging as a contender.
Here’s why you can’t overlook Snapchat’s potential impact on your event:
- Passionate user base who spends more time on Snapchat than any other social media.
- Like events, Snapchat stories are temporary, and its fan’s engagement is fueled by FOMO.
- Robust and fun one-to-one communication is ideal for attendees to ask questions about a brand during a live event.
- On-Demand Geofilters offer an event a branding opportunity more contextual than a hashtag.
Is there an upcoming event where the audience would be very receptive to your event as well? Set up an on-demand geofilter available at that specific location during the hours of their event. Read the rules carefully. You cannot use calls to action, hashtags, or usernames and there are a lot of design rules you will need to follow. An example of guerilla marketing would be a trade show exhibitor buying a geofilter for the whole exhibition space listing their booth number. These filters offer unofficial marketing opportunities far cheaper than event sponsorship.
Humanizing Your Event
Especially with Snapchat’s core demographic, a brand’s ability to be real, transparent, and talk directly to them is vital for conversion. For many who put on corporate events, this type of connection is difficult. Showing behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on your event is an excellent way to build anticipation. With “Snapchat Takeovers” other contributors to the event can become the temporary voice for the brand and give your audience new perspectives. Your account can be taken over by a presenter, contributing vendor, or even a different member of your planning team.
The Evolution of Technology in Event Marketing
With the incredible growth in the event marketing industry, it’s no surprise that event marketers are constantly looking for ways to improve their events. One of the best ways to do that is to embrace new technology. Beacons and digital badges continue to be the darlings of event technologists. Their potential is undeniable. The rich datasets that can be compiled and analyzed in real-time are impressive.
Beacons and digital badges have become better integrated and event marketers have started to take full advantage of them to enhance the onsite experience. In turn, event participants will be comfortable enough to rely on these systems. This is when the vision of the event technologists will be fulfilled; a vision of participants focusing on face-to-face interactions while being passively aided by technology.
Make Digital Badges Work for You
- Comply with GDPR and obtain permission to use digital badges data.
- Tell event participants what to expect. For example, if they are using a passive tool that will provide them with a report post-event, knowing this in advance will affect their behavior on site.
- If you want to use beacons and digital badges to make real-time changes on-site, make sure you have the human and IT resources to be able to do so.
Beacons are strategically placed pieces of hardware that relay messages via Bluetooth to connected devices. When integrated with a conference app, messages can be pushed to attendees based on their proximity to specific beacons. There are endless possibilities when you can automate communication-based on location context.
Trade Show Booth Placement
Using show traffic pattern data, you can make adjustments mid-show (if possible) to divert traffic but more often, it’s an incredible tool for sales towards your next event. As long as you are using the same footprint, a show producer can sell exhibitors a tiered rate of exhibition placement based on real data. An additional upsell (or value-add, depending on your packages) could be the results of data analysis of attendees’ interactions with their booth in order to help them with their conversion strategy and booth design.
Hot or Not?
If your meeting or event features elements that guests can walk towards and then walk away from, that’s important data when planning future events. Let in-kind sponsors know how many attendees and the demographic makeup of who saw their contributions in action. If you have a variety of entertainment acts occurring simultaneously, you can determine which was the most engaging to this audience.
Digital badges are lightweight devices, often attached to lanyards, that allow attendees to passively exchange information with beacons during an event. They are particularly helpful at large-scale multi-room conferences and especially at trade shows.
They are superior to even bluetooth enabled apps because they do not eat up your attendee’s data plans and phone power. digital badges relay information between beacons collecting and sharing data to assist with wayfinding, recording interactions with vendors, and even networking matchmaking. digital badges are the most powerful tool of offline data analytics available for events right now because they passively collect hundreds of interactions that can make the difference between successful ROI for a sponsor, exhibitor, or an attendee. They also deliver the horizontal interaction need weave to co-create experiences, one of the strongest trends for the coming year.
Sponsor Package Upgrade
Offering a tier of your sponsorship or trade show exhibiting packages that allow the sponsor to push notifications to attendees as well as data collected and analyzed about how their booth was interacted with is a very lucrative value add. This is an especially good technique for in-kind sponsors who don’t have a sales presence at an event.
Personalize Through Personas
The personalization strategies discussed earlier are fueled by data through digital badges. Different personas can receive unique push notifications, information exchanged to and from trade show exhibitors as well as more customized communications from sponsors. Make sure your sponsors and/or exhibitors are aware in advance so they can create more unique targeted messaging for specific segments. These personas have amazing potential for speed networking sessions as well.
The Future of Event Marketing
Human-to-human community management is nothing new, in fact, it is probably the oldest technique of event marketing. Event marketers must take the time to engage with the communities that their events serve. With the bright lights of mass online marketing, we often forget how important it is.
In an overwhelming world filled with events of variable quality, event marketers who focus on the specific community they are serving will come out on top. While using machine learning and growth hacking has its place, events are all about people making real connections with people.
The same applies to event marketing. We must make our core community feel connected well before they come to the event, they should get the same feeling as we communicate with them and market the event.
Help Communities Connect
- Join and contribute generously to relevant Linkedin and Facebook groups. When you find an opportunity to mention your event, do so tactfully and follow the group’s rules. It can be a great way to generate interest.
- Consider creating your own Linkedin or Facebook group for event participants. Nurture the group and make sure the participants benefit from being a part of it. Don’t sell to the people in this group; use it as an advisory board or a sounding board made up of industry peers. If the group members feel taken care of they may just become the best advocates for your event.
- Invest in your social media followers all year round by regularly, daily if possible, replying or commenting on their posts. Create a private list on Twitter to help you keep track of only your most engaged followers.
- Share good (relevant) quality content, from any source, and add a comment about why you like it. The community will appreciate the content and you get extra credit for being the one sharing it.
Design the User Journey
User experience design is a crucial component of good web and app design. It’s all about making the user’s journey as smooth and frictionless as possible. The same applies to just about every touchpoint for event marketers. From podcasts to tweets, every piece of the event marketing puzzle must be carefully designed to deliver value to the consumer. Every online action must be optimized to provide a smooth experience for our target audience.
Consumers no longer accept a website that is not responsive or a social media post that links to a generic homepage. When we make their lives easier, we win.
The same thing applies on-site and even after the event. How we receive participants on-site, how we deliver content, and how we get them to interact are all part of the same UX. Our community not only deserves but expects that every touchpoint is intentionally designed.
Invest in Better UX
- Test and retest your event website on every device and browser before you go live.
- Use deep links to specific pages in your social media posts. For example, link a post about a keynote speaker directly to the speaker page.
- When posting images on social media create different sized images for each social media channel to be sure they will look great on any device.
- Create custom graphics with event information that can be quickly understood and post them on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn without any links. Consumers will appreciate not having to navigate away from their favorite social media channel.
- Use LinkedIn or Facebook pre-filled lead generation ads to collect data that only require the consumer to confirm contact details rather than fill them out manually. This saves everyone time, prevents errors from manual data entry, and makes you look professional.
- Use only one event app at the event, if you need additional functionality integrate it as seamlessly as possible into the main event app.
Influencer marketing should not be news to any event marketer. But who are the influencers in your specific market? How should you work with them? The answers to these questions are different for every event and change over time.
While some of us market events that attract celebrities with mass appeal, most event marketers focus on niches where influencers are not so obvious. The good news is that everybody can be an influencer, or at least have some form of influence on their peers. While strategic influencer marketing can work for any market, all event marketers can start by focusing on peer-to-peer recommendations.
When we tell one or more of our peers that we have registered for an event, this has a significant impact. Whether this leads them to register as well will depend on many factors, but the knowledge that a respected peer is investing in an event is undeniably a valuable “stamp of approval”.
So, what makes someone tell others about an event? This, above all, is the key question.
A good place to start is for that person to be passionate about the event itself. This is much more likely if they are involved in the creation or delivery of the event in some way or when such an event supports a cause or mission that resonates with that person. As event marketers, we should make this process as simple and effective as possible. We can even go further, and possibly viral, by providing a financial incentive in the form of retrospective registration fee discounts or other incentives to the influencers.
How to Leverage Influencers
- Invest in social registration for your event or influencer marketing tools that can make sharing event participation easy and exciting for all event participants.
- Research your community for those who are most active and have a large following on social media. Focus on those who are most engaging and be on the lookout for bloggers or anyone creating their own content regularly.
- Open channels of communication and try to understand their particular interests. A non-financial offer of special access to a speaker, priority seating, or similar can go a long way.
- Having an influencer take over one of your event’s social media channels is a great way to connect both audiences. This type of influencer marketing will almost certainly involve a fee so keep in mind that any sort of financial exchange must be publicly divulged.
- You may want to consider using an agency or service dedicated to influencer marketing depending on your industry and the nature of your event.
While email newsletters continue to be one of the most effective event marketing tools, most event marketing campaign open rates and click-through rates make for dismal reading.
Facebook Messenger offers an alternative way of delivering marketing messages. There are technical differences and it’s not simply a case of copying the same content from email newsletters, but a similar type of communication can be delivered. The best part is that open rates are reported to be 80% (source); this is not surprising as most users of these apps keep push notifications turned on.
The stakes are high. Opting out is instant and any sort of abuse report can lead to a business being shut out of the platforms altogether, a huge risk for any organization. There is also an expectation of instant messaging directly with the consumer, so these channels must be managed around the clock. There is also a case to be made for consumer saturation being just around the corner, so just like with any new marketing channel they should be approached carefully.
How to Do Chatbots with a Soul
- Give the potential consumer a good reason to opt-in, such as access to unique content, and make sure you can regularly offer them value.
- Split your communication into small text-message-like sections, this will feel more natural to the platform.
- Take full advantage of the platform by using videos or Facebook Messenger functionality, this will really impress your audience.
- Ask for permission regularly so that your audience feels like they are willfully interacting.
- Never pretend that there is a live human interacting, the audience should understand that these are automated messages.
2018 brought us various data privacy scandals as well as GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act. Concerns over data privacy are not going away and we are likely to see more scandals and perhaps the first fines relating to new legislation. This presents a bit of a paradox to all marketers. While we love using tools that give us extra information about our target market, we are also consumers who know a lot more about data privacy than most and we hate having to give up our personal information online.
The knowledge we have and the work we do means we have a moral and legal obligation to market our events in the way that we want to be marketed to consumers. While it may be tempting to take shortcuts and use tools that blur the lines, deep down we all know good event marketing when we see it, and it doesn’t need to challenge data privacy to succeed. We must work towards our own high watermark of event marketing and then go beyond.
A User-Centric Marketing Approach Helps Communities Connect
- Read up on all privacy laws, even if you think they don’t apply to you. If at all in doubt, seek legal advice.
- Clearly notify users of the website of your data policy and include any cookies or pixels that you use.
- Make sure you know the source of all your email lists. If you are unsure about the source, it’s best to ask for permission to use them for marketing purposes.
- Be extra careful about how data is collected and displayed at and around events. Events are data-rich and therefore an obvious target for data piracy.
- Look into any marketing tools you use and make your own judgment about their legality and morality.
Your plan of action is all laid out.
We have given you the trends that are shaping event marketingand have suggested how to rethink your strategy and discussed the most modern tools you can use to revamp your offline and online marketing.
The challenge is how can you use event marketing to communicate a transformative experience to your attendees. Modern event marketing delivers novelty, speed, and dynamism to your event, it gets attendees excited to be part of an experience that will change them.
Great event marketing cannot do anything to help poorly planned events or resuscitate bad concepts, but it is a strong driver to change them. Embracing change in event marketing will change the industry for the better.
We are marketing our events with unprecedented access to tools, technology, and reach. Let’s make it count by surprising our attendees and providing the most exciting event experience.
That is why your role as an event marketer has more importance today than it ever had.
Keep driving the change, the future of event marketing is very bright!