Event marketing is planning, organizing, and executing an event for the purpose of promoting a brand, product, or service. Events can take place in-person or online, and companies can either host an event, attend as an exhibitor, or participate as a sponsor. In 2019, businesses will utilize event strategies more than ever before as human experiences will be how companies choose to differentiate themselves, especially those that can’t do so through technologies. The key to any great event strategy is very simple — identify the memory you want attendees to walk away with and work backward."
Common Types of Event Marketing
Conferences are large events typically organized and hosted by one major company and sponsored by a long list of smaller brands and businesses. Conferences are valuable for both B2B and B2C brands. These events typically offer the most dynamic agendas, filled with speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities.
Trade shows or expositions (expos) are large events organized around a specific industry or type of product, such as sales technology or medical devices. Trade shows give companies a chance to show off their products and services and typically bring in the highest number of qualified leads. Whereas conferences are open to the public, trade show attendees are typically pre-qualified buyers, company representatives, and salespeople.
Seminars are valuable, education-centric events attended by a small number of people. They involve discussions, lectures, and intimate networking opportunities. Roundtables are similar to seminars, but usually have even fewer attendees of comparable “levels”, such as CEOs, surgeons, or teachers. Both events typically last no more than one day.
Pop-up shops are temporary retail spaces that give companies the opportunity to sell their products in a controlled environment. They’re typically organized by e-commerce brands that don’t have a full-time brick-and-mortar storefront. Pop-up shops also allow otherwise digital brands to bring their brand to life through a physical, immersive setting for their customers.
Launch parties or celebrations are small, personal events held at the launch of a new business, upon a big announcement, or to simply celebrate a success or milestone. Some companies put on a yearly party to host and entertain customers or clients. While these types of events shouldn’t be centered on a product or brand, a simple speech or presentation can help align the event with a company and remind attendees why they’re there.
Workshops are similar to seminars and roundtables in that they’re focused on sharing knowledge and educating attendees. But unlike seminars and roundtables, they’re typically open to the public. Workshops can be offered both virtually and in-person, and while they aren’t traditionally promotional, they’re usually centered around a topic relevant to the business … which makes a company seem more credible in their field.
Other types of event marketing include job fairs, customer-only conferences, networking sessions, VIP experiences, sponsorships, awards events, and competitions (like 5Ks or golf outings). There are so many possible ways to market your business and products through events because events work.
All kinds of marketers and business owners agree:
- 80% of marketers contribute their company’s success to events
- Nearly 90% of C-Suite executives believe in the power of events and plan to contribute more to event budgets next year
- 30% of marketers believe that events are the single most effective marketing channel — more so than digital, email, and content marketing
In our recent article on ultimate marketing advice, multiple experts mentioned that events were the best way to connect with your audience and grow your brand. Here’s a direct quote from Kenny Nguyen of ThreeSixtyEight (who spoke at INBOUND18): Events work because they’re different than every other type of marketing. They’re immersive, entertaining, and memorable. They’re also useful for businesses in any industry
Benefits of Event Marketing
Event marketing helps companies be successful — we’ve proven this above.
But how do they do that specifically? Why should you invest in this strategy for your business? Here are some distinct benefits of event marketing.
Events Marketing Generates Leads and Sales
Companies choose to invest in event marketing because events inherently generate leads — 50% of marketers say their #1 reason for investing in events is for lead generation and sales.
As an event host, the registration process alone generates a list of people who are already interested in your product, industry, or at least fall in your target demographic. If you’re participating in or sponsoring an event, you can collect leads through an email list, demo offering, or by running a competition.
Don’t forget — plenty of event attendees convert while at an event. In fact, 79% of US marketers use event marketing to generate sales.
Event Marketing Provides One-on-One Customer Engagement
Lots of today’s software and e-commerce businesses never get to meet their customers or clients in person. That’s where event marketing is beneficial.
Almost 50% of marketers believe events are efficient and effective when reaching and engaging with customers and prospects.
Engaging customers and potential customers at events initiates personal interactions. These personal, one-on-one interactions build brand loyalty and help customers humanize your brand. Events also provide a reprieve from the distractions of daily work — meaning you can capture a client’s attention better than over a phone call or in-office pitch. With that attention, you have a chance to sell — or upsell — your products and services.
Event Marketing Builds Brand Awareness
Hosting or participating in events is a key way for companies to establish and grow their brand. A 2015 study found that 81% of companies listed their top event marketing goal as “to increase or create brand awareness.”
Event marketing allows you to associate a physical identity and aesthetic with an otherwise digital brand. Like with pop-up shops, events provide a truly immersive experience at which consumers and customers can get a real feel for your brand and what it looks like in person.
The best part about using events to build brand awareness? People talk about events. Consumers, customers, media, bystanders, and influencers talk about events in person, on social media, in the press … you name it, making events a fantastic way to educate and alert people of your brand and products.
Event Marketing Encourages Product and Industry Education
Regardless of what type of event your company hosts or participates in, there’s most likely an education component. That’s what makes event marketing so successful — they don’t focus solely on a brand or product.
Instead, they focus on educating and entertaining a demographic or industry … and promote products and services on the side. (In fact, this makes for great marketing across the board.)
How to Build an Event Marketing Plan
Now, let’s talk about how you can implement your next event. Your events should have a marketing plan separate from other efforts you do for your business.
You can cross-promote (i.e. share event information on company social media and vice versa), but it’s wise to detail your event marketing as a standalone campaign strategy.
Here are some questions to help you build your next event marketing plan.
What are your SMART goals? What’s your budget?
SMART goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Keeping your goals SMART helps you avoid running with vague goals like “bring in leads.”
SMART goals have a dual purpose: to give you direction when planning and implementing your event and to help you decide whether or not your event was a success (and if it wasn’t, to know how to improve).
An example of a SMART event marketing goal would be to “grow our prospective leads list for our new product by 100 names by the end of the event.”
This goal is specific (prospective leads for only the new product), measurable (100 names), attainable and relevant (assuming the event is relevant and there are more than enough attendees to get 100 names), and timely (by the end of the event).
Note: Don’t limit your event to one single goal. You should also set intangible goals like “strengthen relationships” and “engage prospective customers,” but in terms of creative and fiscal decisions, use your SMART goals to guide you — and to measure on the backend.
Lastly, take some time to define your event marketing budget. This is crucial as it’ll likely be the deciding factor on everything from the venue to the entertainment to the website.
What’s your event’s theme, brand, and schedule?
To market your event, you must know what information and content to market. Before moving further, establish your event’s name, theme, brand, and purpose. Why should people attend? What will they gain? Is your event an offshoot of your company, or is it a standalone brand?
Next, figure out where and when your event will take place. These will likely be the most-asked questions by attendees.
Then, research and outline your event’s schedule, such as keynote speakers, workshop sessions, entertainment portions, and times to gather and network.
You don’t have to secure all of these before you start promoting your event, but you should at least have an idea of who will be there and what you’ll offer for attendees.
Who are you marketing to? How will you reach them?
Define your target audience. Who would benefit most from attending your event? What kinds of people would enjoy your workshops, learn from your speakers, and engage your sponsors?
Establishing your audience will help you target and invest in the proper marketing channels. Email, social media, and your event website are given channels in today’s digitally-saturated market. If your event is local, consider print advertisements. Consider adding your event to an event listing website like Eventful, Hey Event, and 10times to reach more people.
What’s your content creation and management plan?
Promoting your event involves a lot of information — what, when, where, why, who, and how, for starters. To properly manage all this information, you must establish a viable plan to create and control it.
Because your event details likely won’t be ready all at once, you’ll be tasked with releasing, updating, and changing information for months leading up to the event. Will you do this via newsletter? Who will be in charge of making sure the website is up-to-date? Will you invest in an event app so attendees have this information in their pocket at all times?
What’s your promotion timeline?
To engage your audience, it’s best to promote your event throughout the weeks and months leading up to it. It helps to outline a promotion timeline so you know when and what to release. A timeline like this also helps pique your attendees' curiosity as you release new names or information at different times.
It’s also wise to organize a multi-touch promotion. Include a variety (i.e. email, social media, direct mail, phone calls, print ads, and paid ads) to reach the maximum amount of people.
One 2014 study found that 30% of people would’ve attended an event if they were aware it was happening in their area. Simply getting the word out there could make a massive difference in your registrations.
How will you promote and market during the event?
Marketing your event shouldn’t stop when your event begins. Dedicate some resources to promoting your event as it’s happening. Attendees may learn something new about what’s offered, and those who didn’t register will be curious about what they’re missing.
Most companies use social media to engage people while their event is happening. 73% of businesses use social media to promote specific events and features during the event, 55% use it to post photos, and 35% use it to amplify product announcements. Consider taking Facebook or Instagram Live Video or Live Tweeting during your event.
In the midst of a bustling event, it’s easy to take a look around and feel good about your attendance and engagement. But is that the best way to evaluate whether your event was a success? Probably not.
Like every other marketing investment, it’s wise to set some key performance indicators (KPIs) against which to measure your event and evaluate its performance. Here are a few common KPIs for event marketing.
Registrations and check-ins
Not everyone who registers for your event will attend. Compare your registrations to your actual attendance and consider reaching out to a few who registered but didn’t check-in. Take a look at your registration data to see when the most and fewest tickets were purchased and what kinds of tickets were purchased, if you offered a variety of ticket packages or options.
Revenue and cost-to-revenue ratio
How much money did your event bring in? If your event required a paid ticket, gross revenue is an important measure of success. How does that amount compare to what you spent on the event? This comparison will help you better understand the value of your event and the resources offered. Events are expensive, but they’re not worth going in debt for.
Did your attendees enjoy your event? What did they participate in and enjoy the most? “Satisfaction” may seem like an obscure metric, but understanding the opinions and perspective of your event attendees can help you better understand where your event was a success … and where you could improve. Consider building a survey to ask your attendees about their experience, takeaways, and to calculate a Net Promoter Score (NPS) for your event.