It’s a big question and if you find yourself in league with many marketers, one that is important to understand. A recent study conducted by Bizzabo found that 80% of c-suite executives believe that live events are crucial to their organization’s success. In this blog post we’ll walk you the various stages of event marketing and what it means for your brand.
What is Event Marketing?
Event marketing goes by many different names, including field marketing, experiential marketing, in-person marketing, and live event marketing. Whether it’s a thousand-person customer conference, an intimate VIP dinner for prospects, a street-side donut booth your brand sponsors, an internal company event to rally your team, or a roundtable discussion of an industry–event marketing is harnessing the power of person-to-person experiences to create unforgettable moments that drive business goals.
It’s also just so happens to be one of the most effective channels for achieving business goals.
Note: While event marketing can be associated with exhibiting or sponsoring an event in addition to hosting your own, we will focus on what it takes to create your own event during this piece. (Still, that’s not to say that many of the same takeaways don’t apply. They definitely do.)
How to Craft an Event Marketing Plan
While there is no single best approach for crafting an event marketing plan, there are some general best practices that cut across event type and industry. In order to more closely examine these questions, we will look at them in three categories: Before the Event, During the Event, and After the Event.
Crafting Your Plan: Before the Event
Before the event is when the bulk of your planning will take place. Here you will build the foundation for the rest of the event. Below are several key factors to consider when putting together your event marketing plan.
Your goals are the single-most part of your entire event marketing strategy, for they will have far-reaching consequences. Ultimately, your goals will determine the type of event ROI you plan to expect, and how you report on event success.
Types of event goals include, but are not limited to:
- Engaging employees
- Retaining customers
- Accelerating sales
- Driving awareness
- Recruiting top talent
Only after you’ve determined the main goal of your event marketing campaign can you begin to move onto other aspects of the process.
Your event venue is your event’s home. It’s here that your brand can create an unforgettable interaction with an attendee. There are several things to keep in mind while selecting an event venue:
- Negotiate. You can save a lot of your budget upfront by taking the time to negotiate for a sweet deal from your venue management company.
- Double-check to make sure a venue is universally accessible. You just might end up with a brand (if not a legal) nightmare if it’s not.
- Consider using tools like Splacer, EventUP or HeadBox to help you find the right event venue for your needs.
Partners and Sponsors
Especially if you are just launching your event marketing strategy, partners and sponsors are crucial to event success. Just like with venues, it’s crucial to negotiate favorable terms at the outset.
Sponsors and partners may be able to provide goods, services, or funding for your event, but they’re going to expect to see ROI in return. When pitching these stakeholders, outline how your event will be valuable to them.
Modern day marketing is hard to imagine without marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, and MailChimp. Similarly, modern-day event marketing is hard to imagine without event management software.
The type of event management software that’s right for you will be contingent on several factors, including your budget and the size of your team. While there is no one right event software for everyone, there are certain features to look out for. When choosing a software, consider the following questions:
- How easy to use is this platform? Is it something that you and your team can use on your own or will it require in-depth technical knowledge?
- Will this platform come with a dedicated customer success team that will not only help you with problems but also help you get the most out of your event marketing technology?
- Are you able to run a free trial of the event software in question? Similarly, are you able to speak to previous customers?
- Does it cover all of your must-haves, or will you need to supplement with other apps/tools? Will you be able to utilize all of the features provided to get the maximum value out of the software?
In evaluating your event technology needs, you may find it helpful to take an event technology assessment.
Your event brand is the heart of your event. In crafting your event, you will need to come up with atmosphere, activities, and sessions that make it worthwhile for an attendee to say, “Wow, I need to go to this event.” (Particularly if you want them to buy tickets or travel to your event.)
This includes everything from the colors and themes associated with the brand (e.g. bright and beachy vs. blue and business-focused) to the venue (a convention center vs. a whole city) to the speakers (third-party experts vs. experts from your company vs. customers) to the various activities like networking opportunities, meals, drinks and everything in-between.
This collection of factors is what will ultimately create your event brand.
Event Registration and Promotion
Once you have a grasp of your event goals, where your event is going to take place, and the event management technology that will be used to run it, then you can really start to double-down on event registration and promotion.
In devising your event registration process, consider different types of ticket offerings that you can provide attendees. For instance, you might consider an early-bird special, an all-access pass, a limited pass, and a VIP pass. Each ticket type can come with different pricing and perks tailored to the different types of attendees that you are hoping to target.
Then, depending on your goals, there are several channels to consider leveraging:
- Organic Search – An SEO friendly website with dedicated coverage of event details will help people easily learn about your event.
- Organic Social Media – Whether you are launching a B2B or B2C event, organic social can prove a viable way of spreading the word.
- Paid Social Media – Here you can leverage more specific targeting to drive conversions.
- Press Releases – What’s unique about your event? Who is speaking at your event? They can serve as great talking points for the press.
- Email Marketing – Leverage an existing database or create a new one to start reaching out to potential attendees. Email segmentation will go a long way to driving conversions.
- Content Marketing – While content marketing can include email marketing, here we’re focusing on writing content for your company blog and for partners to drive traffic to your event website.
Note: Once you have an event marketing strategy in motion, there is no limit to how early you can start promoting an event and driving registrations. It’s commonplace for a large conference to start promoting next year’s conference while the current one is still running.
Crafting Your Plan: During the Event
While the majority of your event planning will affect what happens before the event day, there are a number of campaign elements that come into focus once the event approaches. Event staffing and event engagement are key.
Maybe it’s members of your full-time event marketing team. Perhaps it’s a squad of dedicated volunteers. Maybe you’ve turned to an event staffing agency. Regardless, your staff are the people who will help your event run smoothly once it’s going.
In preparing your event strategy, think about your staffing needs. Will you need staff to check-in attendees or will your check-in be automated? Is your event big enough that you will dedicate staff to helping people navigate it? Are you looking to spark unique conversations among attendees by having experts or executives circulate?
Your answers to the above will shape the way that you approach your event staffing needs.
The floodgates have broken. Your event is in motion, and you want attendees to focus and be in the moment. While it’s not impossible to take phones away from your attendees, barring a silent retreat, it’s pretty hard to do. Even then, attendees are likely to be on their laptops during sessions—either taking notes or answering emails. Fortunately, there’s a way to harness the power of technology for good with a mobile event app.
Modern event apps provide attendees with a breadth of tools that can enhance their experience. These features include:
- An event agenda for learning about speakers and sessions, and building out a personal event schedule.
- An event community for learning about other attendees, sending one-on-one messages and connecting on social media.
- Polls and surveys that can be accessed directly from the app.
- Pages where sponsors can get in front of attendees and present special offers.
- And comprehensive analytics on all of the above.
Event day is a great opportunity to continue to promote your event marketing campaign. If you have the bandwidth, it may be worthwhile to have a dedicated content team perusing the premises, interviewing attendees, and snapping photos for social. If not, you can encourage attendees to promote the event themselves with photobooths and Instagram-worthy decorations.
Finally, you may find it valuable to record sessions for future release or to borrow compelling soundbites for future event promotion.
Crafting Your Plan: After the Event
The event may be the culmination of your efforts, but there is still plenty of work to do afterward. In this section we’ll look at following up, gathering feedback, and leveraging event analytics to prove ROI.
Show your attendees and your sponsors you care by following up after an event. While a simple thank you goes a long way, you can also benefit from gathering pointed feedback.
You can consider approaching them with qualitative questions, like what they enjoyed most about the event and which day of the event they found most valuable (if it’s a multi-day event).
You can also get a little more concrete by leveraging a net promoter score (NPS) survey to collect quantitative feedback on your event.
It’s also useful to collect feedback from sponsors, partners, employees, and other event stakeholders. Simply asking for feedback can help cement the relationship you built at the event, and of course, you can use the feedback to improve future events. You may even be able to use positive feedback to market future events!
Event Analytics and ROI
Attendee and stakeholder feedback is one part of a much larger event ROI picture. There are several other areas you can look at to see if your event was a success:
- Event Revenue: If you’re running a paid event, ticket revenue will be crucial for justifying your event in future years. Did you set a revenue goal? If so, how did the final amount compare?
- Event Registrations: Whether you are running a paid event or a free one, registrations are huge. If not an outright guarantee that someone will attend your event, it’s an action that you can easily trace across your event marketing technology stack and—in turn—across the contact’s lifecycle.
- Event Check-ins: If there is a drop-off between your registration and check-in numbers then there may be room for improving the attendee experience after they registered. Was your event difficult to get to? Did the timing or location create conflicts? Ideally, your event should be convenient and compelling enough to be a priority, making the delta between registrations and check-ins very small.
- Press Mentions: If the main goal of your event is brand awareness, then press and social media mentions can be very helpful for determining your reach. How much brand coverage was generated by the event?
- Cross-event performance: How does this event compare to other events in your event marketing plan?
Your Event Marketing Plan
Ultimately, no other event marketing plan will be like yours. However, the hope is that each element of your plan—from before the event to after the event—will align for a winning combination. To make this happen, remember the basics:
- Define your goals. These will, in turn, affect everything in your event strategy, from the event software that you use to the venue you select to your promotional strategy and how you measure ROI.
- Focus on the attendee experience. By investing in event staff, event app, and unique experiences, you can create an event that your attendees want to share and return to.
- Follow-through. Once your event is done with, follow-up with key stakeholders and take the time to root through your event data. The results may very well help you justify your event strategy in the future.
Looked at this way it’s less about “how to craft an event marketing plan” and more about how to craft your event marketing plan.