In many sectors – particularly those where products are contract-based – marketing strategies require a significant element of personal interaction. This can be difficult to achieve through many online and offline methods (although they remain part of the marketing mix), and so another effective approach is often utilised: event marketing.
How does this experiential process work, though? And given the resources and level of organisation required to participate, how effective is it? To help answer these questions, and identify how small businesses can benefit from this approach, we have compiled an in-depth guide on what event marketing entails, how it manifests, and – most importantly – if it can help drive sales conversions for your business.
This is what you need to know.
What Is Event Marketing?
Referring to a promotional strategy commonly used by organisations to facilitate relationship building between brands and consumers, event marketing is particularly beneficial in the B2B sector. It generally consists of hosting an event to build a stronger relationship with your target clients on a personal level.
However, event marketing could also refer to attending an event as an exhibitor, hosting a seminar, party, or even a digital event. At its very core, it is about taking the opportunity to clearly convey your brand's message to an interested and well-educated audience that, by definition of their attendance, are already confirmed leads.
As mentioned, it is particularly effective for B2B vendors, although it is also commonplace in B2C sectors, too. Regardless of who you are targeting, it is the perfect opportunity not just to engage with those present, but to make shockwaves across your entire industry, whether through an innovative new product or a particularly exciting pitch.
Types of Event Marketing
There are several ways that your company can adopt event marketing, often under different guises. Here are some of the most popular:
Conferences are perhaps the most popular type of events, and they vary in both scale and purpose. They are an ideal place for networking, and tend to attract industry leaders, professionals, academics, and journalists. Usually, a conference schedule will be filled with workshops, seminars, speeches from keynote speakers, and targeted networking sessions. They will typically last for a few days, depending on their size and audience.
A great example of a popular annual conference is Microsoft Ignite. Hosted by the IT giant, it is a chance for industry professionals and developers to engage in presentations, brainstorming sessions, and workshops. However, not only is it an opportunity to network; it is also a chance for Microsoft to showcase its new products and build strong brand loyalty.
Expositions and Trade Shows
Expositions (or expos, for short) and trade shows are an opportunity for brands to showcase their products as professionally and creatively as they deem fit. In the past, they were often perceived negatively, but have today become a staple promotional element in the calendars of most industries. Hosts and exhibitors will invest significant funds to ensure their events are valuable and memorable, while, for high-profile industry trade shows, the price of a booth can be excruciatingly high.
As an example, architecture and interior design expos are known for their exceptional delivery and significant size, with Salone del Mobile in Milan and Maison et Objet in Paris the most prominent events. Designers, architects, furniture suppliers and buyers will travel across the globe each year to either showcase their new products or to view them, with exhibitors working vigorously to decorate their booths and awe the show's visitors.
Seminars and Workshops
Seminars are much more intimate, personal, and focused on education, as well as self-development. However, they are also a great opportunity for marketers, as they can discuss in-depth the problem that their product solves. Often seminars will be hosted by an organisation for industry professionals specifically, or by brands for consumers.
Cosmetics companies, such as MAC, for example, often host educational seminars for make-up artists and make-up enthusiasts to learn more about their products. They will often receive plenty of products as gifts and indirectly become brand ambassadors.
Seminars can also be presented as webinars, giving event marketing a digital component. Indeed, as numerous events around the globe are forced to cancel or postpone in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, webinars are proving a reliable alternative for event marketers.
Ceremonies, Galas and VIP events
Formal events may serve a variety of purposes, but their central goal is to celebrate the brand(s) or trade(s) that represent them, while award ceremonies have become an increasingly popular way to gather industry crowds within branded events.
Usually, product launches are a good reason to host a gala or VIP event, even if you are a small business. It is a great way to introduce high-end influencers to your brand and position your new products on the market, and besides: who doesn't love a party?
As touched upon, virtual events are growing immensely following the COVID pandemic. Already in 2020, several significant events have cut their losses and turned to digital hosting, with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – one of the largest tradeshows in the US – planning to go fully virtual in January 2021.
The COVID pandemic may have forced many organisations' hands in this regard, but the move to digital-only (or digitally-supplemented) events has long been discussed across sectors, with the environmental impact of corporate travel coming under the spotlight.
How to Host a Marketing Event
If you rely heavily on building relationships to secure conversions, then event marketing is likely to be a crucial strategy for your organisation. But how do you go about putting on a successful event?
Here are some essential points to consider:
Make sure you clearly define the purpose, niche, and motive behind your event. It is crucial to be specific, so ask yourself why people should attend your event. What is in it for them?
Ultimately, you need to put yourself in your potential attendees' position. Will they be able to attend valuable seminars or workshops that offer genuinely unique insight? Will they able to network with other like-minded people in the industry and expand their professional circle? Will they be introduced to new products and services that will better their business offerings (B2B), or their lives (B2C)?
Have an Identity
Make sure to incorporate a strong and memorable theme, too. Just as Coca-Cola cannot exist without its iconic visual identity, your event must exude its own cohesive 'look'. Incorporating various promotional elements, such as branded gift bags, can help complete a seamless and memorable event.
The same logic applies if you are attending an event, or exhibiting at one. Ensure that you are geared up with business cards and branded point-of-sales goodies.
For an event of any scale to be successful, it must stand out. After all, there are thousands of tradeshows, conferences, workshops and exhibitions taking place across the world, but there is a reason why people will pay over $1,500 per person to attend Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
Whatever your industry, you need to offer something that other conferences and trade shows don't, whether it's related to brand exclusivity, the strength of your keynote speakers, or the buzz around a particular product that is going to be launched.
Have Attainable Goals
There is a fine line between being ambitious and being unrealistic; therefore, it is important to set achievable goals for your event, at least to a certain level. It's great to dream big, of course, but as a relatively small organisation, you don't want to be overshooting your budget or crossing your fingers that Tim Cook responds positively to your invite.
Again, the same concept applies if you are attending events. While all business owners want to gain new customers and connections from the events they attend, it's wise to keep your expectations reachable, especially if you are an unknown quantity.
Utilise Social Media
Social media is amongst the most powerful modern marketing tools available, and enables you to reach your target audience effortlessly.
Indeed, social media is a core element of event marketing as it allows you to generate buzz and release information, with Facebook particularly useful in this regard. While the platform is visual, it also contains valuable tools to help clients find your events, confirm their attendance, and even receive reminders of them.
Event marketing requires a lot of planning, regardless of if you are a host or an attendee. Going blind into an event will almost always result in financial loss and disappointment, so it is vital that you have goals in place, and a defined strategy through which to meet them.
The opportunity to network, market your products, and generate interest in such close capacity to your target leads is unparalleled, however, which is why event marketing has remained such a popular approach for so long. After all, you can conduct as many Google Search campaigns as you want, or print as many adverts, but there is no other form of marketing that allows you to stand directly in front of your next big client, and sweep them off their feet. Therefore, you should use it wisely.
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