The Marketer’s Guide to Events: How, Why, Best Practices

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Event marketing at its best helps foster better customer relationships and brand loyalty. Having a fun, personal, memorable experience compels people to share with others as well. Events can give customers and prospects a chance to see your company as a group of real people and meet others that they have common ground with.

You may have heard of some of the very innovative examples of event marketing in recent years. In the B2C arena, IKEA offered a one night sleepover at its Sydney store on Airbnb.  There were food, toys, comfortable beds and even an orchestra.

In the B2B space, Wistia had a livestream of “Ask Me Anything” with Rand Fishkin of Moz that got a lot of participation and generated web traffic and signups.

Both of these events were very memorable experiences that lived on beyond the event itself. The IKEA example was costly, but you don’t need to break the bank to have events be part of your marketing efforts. There are a number of cost-effective events that can be successful too.

Types of Events

There are numerous types of events, both in person and online, to choose from. Events can be planned or an impromptu surprise to your audience. They can be events that you host, events that you participate in as a sponsor or speaker, or events at which you promote your brand or product as a vendor.

In Person Event Marketing Opportunities

Events where attendance is in person come in a lot of different flavors. You’ll plan your activities a bit differently when you are in control of an event as opposed to those where you are attending. Following are some event marketing opportunities for you to consider.

games and contestsHost a competition or contest

Everyone loves a game, and the opportunity for prizes is often shared with others. Both B2C and B2B companies can use the competitions and contests effectively. Product naming contests, hacker contests for software companies, and user case contests can be scheduled around an event.

Sponsor or participate in meetup groups, offer your location for meetups

Most local meetups or user groups can be found on Meetup, LinkedIn and Facebook. Sponsoring or providing the venue can be very cost effective, and you’ll have access to an interested group of potential customers as well as those that influence the buying process.

Host an unaffiliated pre-party or after party at an industry event

Having an unaffiliated party might be much more affordable that sponsoring or exhibiting at a major event. As long as you are not directly competing with an event on the sanctioned schedule or promoting rival products, it likely won’t cause an issue with event organizers.

Arrange meetups with customers when one of your team is traveling

Ask employees who are traveling if they’re willing to extend their visit to meet with a group of customers. Search your customer list and send out invites for dinner or tapas. The meetup builds your relationships and lets them meet others they have something in common with.

Consider teaming up with another business for a joint event

Pick someone with a business related to yours (but not a direct competitor). This can be done locally offline through a special event, or online with a webinar or promotional giveaway.

Offer to have one of the executive team speak at an event

Speakers are always needed at events, but these opportunities are usually reserved for thought leaders or experienced entrepreneurs. If you can land a speaking engagement, educate event attendees about your organization’s story and lessons learned; you can establish it as one to watch.Event speaker

Training events

These can provide a great opportunity to engage with customers who use your product. Members of your team will be face to face with customers while they are actually using the products.

Experiential Marketing Events

The focus here is on letting people feel, touch, taste, and smell the product face to face, experiencing the benefits first-hand. It could be as simple as a wine tasting at a local shop or it could be an invitation-only private training conference for a select group of customers.

Experiential events can communicate on a more personal level and create more emotional engagement with a brand or product. Another benefit is the market research opportunity to see how customers interact with the product and to gather feedback in the moment.

There are other in person event opportunities as well. As long as you’re considering your target audience you’ll be able to plan or attend events that will give both you and your customers a chance to interact in person and share a memorable experience.

Online Event Marketing Opportunities

Online events can provide similar opportunities to engage a target audience. Webinars, for example, have long been used to draw in interested audiences. You might consider allowing the audience to ask questions throughout the event rather than just at the end to keep them engaged.

Live stream events with ad-hoc discussions or moderated panels can also keep audiences engaged and make for a more lively experience than just reading from a set of slides.

Combining the best of online and in person events, virtual booths are available now at some events. People can visit a virtual booth to talk with your representatives and pick up content. Perhaps you can even offer some virtual swag.

Online games and contests are always fun. You may have recently had some fun when Google changed Google Maps pages so that people could play Pac-man. Consider ways to gamify your website or product and create a lasting impression with customers.

Sponsor a treasure hunt locally where clues are given on your web site. This will bring people to your site repeatedly looking for those clues and will likely be shared on social media.

Product naming contests, hacker contests for software companies, and user case contests can all be conducted online separately as well as being used in conjunction with an in-person event.

Trainings, seminars, workshops can all be done online as well as in person. Consider including games or contents during longer trainings.

No matter the types of events you choose to include in your calendar, use best practices to make it a success.

Event Marketing Best Practices

Planning

  • Each event is a new opportunity; make the experience fun and memorable
  • Keep your target audience and the personality of the brand and the event in mind
  • Define the purpose and goals of the event so that you can track success
  • If you are running the event, consider non-traditional venues
  • Plan event content for pre-event, during event and post-event
  • Plan social media use at the event
  • Plan for roadblocks; be prepared with some backup plans
  • Create a dedicated web page for the event; include all of the information needed for someone to make the choice to be there as well as a button to sign up for email

Promotion and Registration

  • Promote the event using social media to build excitement
  • Send a save the date email if the event is at a very busy time of year
  • Send invitations through email, social media and/or make personal invitations
  • Include event information in your regular newsletters
  • Survey attendees ahead of time to see what their event objectives are
  • Keep the event web page updated with the most current information

At the Event

  • Make sure you have the right staff and enough of them
  • Use an activity wall to show Twitter tweets and Instagram photos
  • Use back up plans quickly if you run into a roadblock
  • Make the experience so fun that attendees will want to share it with friends

After the Event

  • Quickly follow up with attendees and those who did not attend. Send them your thanks and links to slides, pictures or other content as well as a survey for feedback.
  • Keep your event web page live for a few weeks after the event and update it with information about the event.
  • Communicate any special offers to attendees via email or on the event web page

Event Marketing In the Mix

Events should definitely be included in your marketing mix. Ones that are run well fun experiences made to appeal to your target audience (and integrated with other campaigns) will work to create brand advocates or customer evangelists, and encourage customer loyalty.

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Lisa Cook
About the Author:

Lisa Cook

Lisa is often called a jack of all trades and learning something new is the hallmark of a good day for her. Having worked in database marketing, email marketing, sales and account management, she loves a well-crafted SQL query, a long conversation with a customer and a great email subject line. When not focused on customer experience, data or emails, Lisa loves a good book, traveling and trying to keep up with her kids and her grandson. Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.




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