Live events can provide marketers with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world. Some 61% of marketers believe that in-person events are a critical marketing channel – and most organizations spend more than 25% of their marketing budgets on events. B2B marketers agree that live events generate top leads but while there are a ton of stats highlighting the importance of event marketing, there’s not much to be found on whether the time and money invested pays itself back.
At the end of the day, everybody loves an event. People don’t need much persuading to excuse themselves away from the normal office environment, expand their network over drinks and learn new skills or insights. But attendees need a bit of convincing before they take the desired action that motivated you to take the stage. Your event strategy will have to outline how you exactly intend to maximize your ROI.
This strategy can take various forms from presentations, videos and webinars, to whitepapers, social media posts, email communications and more. The goal is to build anticipation, provide attendees with valuable information, facilitate engagement during the session, and create follow-up opportunities for engagement and action after the event. Think along the lines of industry trends, best practices, or case studies. This content should excite and extend your initial impression as a trusted thought leader and be carefully executed to align with the audience’s interests and needs.
Example of this can include:
- Email marketing: Announcements, updates and reminders leading up to the event and follow-up with attendees after the event – if you capture their details, you can encourage them to move down the sales funnel with some lead nurturing. Remember, most people are inundated with emails so consider visuals, whether it’s a graphic with details of the session or a video teaser from the upcoming speaker.
- Paid advertising: Utilize platforms such as Google Ads or consider launching a paid ads campaign across social media platforms to make sure your promotional invite lands on the screens of your ideal audience members.
There are several important factors when it comes to setting your mindset for events, and the sooner you begin this process, the sharper your strategy can be. It’s never too early to be thinking about your end goals, the impact you want to make, and the outcomes you desire (or need) from the activation. These things should be set first so that it can guide content ideation and development, rather than the other way around.
Key elements of a strong event strategy include:
Stop throwing darts in the dark. Do you want to increase attendance, drive buzz around an upcoming product launch, target prospective clients or employees? Nail that to the wall first before you do anything else. Next, identify the demographics, interests, and pain points of your target audience through data-supported insights to curate content campaigns that actually make sense and draw the right emotions. If you decide on a social media campaign, make sure research determines which platforms your audience are most present, i.e., they may not be on TikTok or engulfed in the latest trends, and that’s okay.
Pull it together. Create a calendar and campaign brief to stay organized and have a single source of truth for all departments involved. Workback schedules are also your friend – ensure all teams supporting the event are rallied around the same pre-event deadlines so everything stays on track and everything you want to execute is completed in time.
Extend your reach. Partner with influencers or creators who are relevant to your target audience to create content that promotes your event and expands your reach. You can be the most recognized brand or figure in the world but if people don’t have a reason to relate to or care about what you have say, they just won’t. However, the opinion of someone they trust (albeit trust acquired from para-social relationships based in social media) can bridge that gap.
Utilizing user-generated content. Getting attendees to create user-generated content (UGC) at events is a great way to engage with your audience and generate buzz around your event. Prior to and during the event, you can provide incentives such as discounts or run contests that encourage attendees to take photos or videos at the event and share them via social media using a specific hashtag. Not everyone is inclined to be an active attendee, but by providing them with clear instructions and guidelines – such as creating a list of suggested topics or questions that they can use as a starting point for creating content – many will be happy to participate. You can showcase the UGC that attendees create by displaying it on screens at the event or reposting it on social media.
Measure, measure, measure. In-person events are naturally more difficult to track and measure – but attendees will usually ‘go digital’ afterwards, giving you the opportunity to gauge the success of your strategy, identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
Again, your gut-feeling analysis or applause level from digital and in-person audiences does not compare to rock hard data. You must track and measure your results. Use tracking short links and QR Codes so you can measure engagement specifically from the event and tools like Google Analytics to track visitors, session times (how long they spend on your site) and which pages are generating the most engagement. Metrics from social media campaigns should disclose how your content is actually performing. Post-event, try to gather as much feedback from attendees as you can. This is where lead nuturing continues with attendee contact info collected leading up to the event. Ask them about their experience at the event and what they thought of the content.
The future of event marketing
The digital transformation of event marketing prompted by the pandemic has enabled marketers to better engage with attendees and measure the direct impact of events. However, with attendees given the option of in-person and digital attendance (in the case of hybrid events), brands must be careful to be sure they are gaining tangible value from the experience.
Don’t get discouraged by the frequent changes and the “unknown” – you have the ability to plan for and adjust ROI of event marketing. Like many other parts of the marketing cycle, remember that a solid strategy continues after your event is completed to ensure continuous engagement throughout the buyer journey and a loyal return for your next offering. To generate revenue moving forward, marketing teams must prioritize building stronger engagement throughout the buyer journey and as it continues to evolve.