Some would think that event marketing is the exclusive territory of very large, well-known brands. Or that it is unaffordable with a poor ROI. NOT true! All brands should consider event marketing as part of their annual plan.
Why event marketing?
There are many benefits, provided your team sets a solid strategy and leverages the entire team to plan and execute your event. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that your event provides the opportunity to strengthen relationships with your customers in a setting where you can connect one-on-one. Further, events offer a more casual setting to inform and educate prospects. Events are also a perfect place to introduce (or sample) new products or services, to announce a new team member, or showcase a new alliance or acquisition. It is your stage, so toot your horn, take pride in your accomplishments, and even offer training sessions with your subject matter experts.
In our view, the number one value of event marketing is to build your brand. Yes, you may not have the ability to host more than several hundred clients, but you will be making a statement when you promote your event to all your customers (regardless of whether they attend or not).
How to make events successful
First, clearly define your objectives and goals across all stakeholders. Getting alignment here is vital and makes for a proper post-event assessment. If you want to generate leads, quantify those goals (how many new leads, how many prospects convert into clients, how much value per closed lead, etc.)? If the number one goal is upsell, what proportion of existing clients trade up and what is the sales value? If a key goal is to change the perception of your brand or company, prepare a survey to measure the differences among attendees. How about garnering client renewals (since keeping a current client loyal and satisfied has a stronger ROI than selling a new one)?
An ideal scenario is for you to have some proprietary research on industry issues or challenges that you are prepared to feature and announce at your event. This kind of shared interest and topical data often can lead you to establish a theme for the event. Such themes can be helpful in generating interest in attending and industry buzz.
Then, select your venue for the event. A lot of judgement comes into play here, as you want to do your best to align the venue with the preferences of your target audience. And costs vary dramatically depending on the location, the number of days, and if you want to “go big” and hire a well-known keynote speaker or an entertainer. Go into this step with a budget in mind and work out a number of options so that your leadership team can weigh in and commit to supporting the investment. How many attendees do you want to plan for, and how much do you want to spend on food and beverages? Obviously, a one day or evening event (say a concert or festival) is less expensive and might give you the opportunity to gain some event marketing experience and feedback, which will help you go forward. This is often a good approach for consumer-oriented events.
Next, have a detailed timeline established, as lead times are critical. The schedules of your clients are often jammed, so you will want to send invitations out well in advance to get the number of attendees you need to make your investment work. Be clear about who you want in attendance as you develop your invite list. “Hold the date” announcements can be helpful up to 9 – 12 months ahead of the event. Active invitation follow-ups and reminders for your list of invitees can take several weeks. Doing this advance work will allow you to tighten up your expected headcount so you have an accurate budget that supports the required amount of food and beverage, rooms, and event space.
Promote your event across all channels to maximize brand value. Announce it on your social media platforms and on your website. Have relationship managers call key customers personally to request their attendance. Talk about the event frequently as everything comes together. Use PR to get others talking about your event as well. Include visuals and bios of your top speakers or entertainment. If you have limited space available for attendees, consider producing a “breaking news” insider newsletter to deliver exclusive content and build anticipation leading up to the event.
The week before the event, do some dress rehearsals, especially if you have specially prepared AV or presentations planned. Confirm that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, particularly if you have relationship managers for your top clients or prospects. Your thorough, thoughtful preparation and planning will pay dividends on the day of your event!
After it is all over, send out thank you notes expressing your appreciation for attending, particularly for your speakers and guests. And capture any next steps for client follow up.
Lastly, do the results assessment to see how you did versus goals. Did you achieve all that you hoped for? How does your sales pipeline look compared with your previous estimates? What were the key lessons learned, and opportunities for improvement? Include feedback from all stakeholders to inform your next set of decisions regarding event marketing.
Want some help with those important decisions about event marketing strategies?
At Damen Jackson, we have been there and done that. We thrive on helping clients get the biggest bang for their buck while staying keenly focused on being smart and nimble. We are here to be your partner, your conscience, your devil’s advocate—an extension of your team. And we will always bring the conversation back to strategy. How do we maximize the market opportunity for your brand, your business?
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