In this age of modern technology and millions of brands fighting for their ad space at any given moment, it can be challenging to distinguish your brand. Social media marketing, branded content marketing, as well as other forms of digital marketing – not to mention traditional marketing – are slowly becoming background noise – you really can’t call them “social” anymore. Research suggests that an average consumer is flooded with upwards of five thousand ads every single day. It’s no wonder then that most ads and promotional social media posts get scrolled past at the speed of light. Who has the time or focus to pay attention to every single ad they see?
With such discouraging data, it’s natural to despair when it comes to developing a marketing strategy for your business. What should you invest in? Online marketing? Influencer marketing? It depends on what your product or service is. SEO? SEM? You may be asking, what are those?
An important piece of advice would be to not neglect the impact an in-person marketing campaign could have on your business. According to recent statistics, two types of marketing are at the front lines when it comes to successfully engaging consumers and converting them to paying customers – event and experiential marketing.
If you wish to have a clear voice in today’s marketing landscape and want your brand to leave a lasting impression on consumers, you should invest in an event or an experience that your customers won’t forget any time soon.
What is event marketing, and how does it work?
As its very name suggests, event marketing involves organizing an event to promote a brand, product, or service. These can be in-person or online events, and they come in many different forms:
- Pop-up shops
- Sampling campaigns
- Product launch celebrations
- Conferences and seminars
- Galas and parties
- Virtual events, and others
The event can be dedicated solely to your business, but you can also participate in events organized by other brands or institutions as a sponsor or exhibitor. It isn’t uncommon for several brands to unite under a common goal to spread awareness about a specific cause and their own products.
Is event marketing effective? What are its benefits?
Event marketing is crucial for the marketing success of your brand. 85% of consumers are more inclined to purchase a product after attending a marketing event, and a whopping 91% of them say that they leave a brand event with more positive feelings about that brand.
The reason event marketing is so impactful is that it keeps your target audience engaged. The event attendees aren’t scrolling through their phones on their lunch break or while watching tv. They aren’t merely glancing at that billboard on their way home from work or clicking “Skip Ad” the moment it comes up on YouTube. These are examples of pop-up ads, you know, the ones you “SKIP” every day. Events and experiences take the consumer out of their daily routine and plant them in an environment where your brand surrounds them. And, the consumer opts into your event versus popping up, like a digital ad you didn’t ask for.
This immersiveness is one of the key reasons why event marketing is so effective. It is entertaining, inspiring, educating, and ultimately memorable, which is why consumers will think of your brand with fondness later on. Events cause connections and connections lead to relationships between a brand and a customer.
One of the best examples of event marketing is Adidas’ pop-up event in 2019 that celebrated the launch of their new Ultraboost 19 series. At this event, consumers could try on the latest Ultraboost sneaker and complete a set of live challenges that tested the sneaker’s flexibility, comfort, and of course, Adidas’ proprietary Boost technology. It included a giant see-saw, a ball pit, and a fun jumping game designed to test the impact absorption of the new sneakers, among other types of entertainment. What an exciting and unforgettable brand experience!
Some of the main benefits of event marketing are:
- Increased brand awareness
- In-person customer engagement
- Building emotional relationships with consumers
- Personalized consumer experience
- Increased social media engagement
- Lead generation and sales
With such compelling advantages, it’s clear that any business can benefit from creating its own event marketing strategy.
How To Build Your Event Marketing Plan
Developing an event for your business and coming up with a solid market plan is not an easy feat. Event planning and execution can be divided into three phases: pre-event, during the event, and post-event. All three phases are essential for your event’s success.
Here, we will outline the complete guide to event marketing and provide you with the foundation you need to create effective event marketing strategies in the future. Let’s start with the first step:
1. Understand your target audience and stakeholders
For a successful event, you need to satisfy the event attendees with a meaningful and memorable brand experience. Your target audiences should be your primary focus. Before you start thinking of different types of events, take some time to examine the consumers. You’re looking for their needs and desires – for what interests them and draws their attention. Your main goal should be meeting these consumer needs. If you can provide for them what your competitors can’t (or didn’t think of sooner), you will automatically have the advantage.
Additionally, if you are not the only participant in the event, you should consider the needs of your stakeholders. What are the goals of the sponsors, exhibitors, and keynote speakers? Why did they decide to participate? How can you meet their needs as well? Make sure to discuss all of this in your face-to-face stakeholder meetings.
2. Determine your goals
Your event goals should be as specific as possible. Think of the acronym SMART. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely – SMART goals are handy for three reasons. First, they provide you with direction during the planning process; second, they make it clear whether your event was successful or not; and third, they help you avoid vague goals.
Vague goals don’t do you any favors. With a goal such as “build brand awareness,” you have no means of measuring whether or not you achieved it or if it was useful for your business.
Instead, transform this goal into a SMART goal. For example: “By the end of the event, I want to have 5,000 positive mentions of the event on social media.” This goal relates to building brand awareness, but it is a specific, measurable, attainable goal that you can easily monitor to see if you’ve reached it.
Don’t limit yourself to only one goal. Set as many as you’d like, always keeping in mind that the goals should be attainable in the timeframe of the event (or perhaps even in the time after the event).
3. Develop your budget
Once you set your goals and have a general idea of your event, it’s time to develop your marketing budget. Marketing budgets will determine the venue of the event, as well as what entertainment you will hire, whether there will be refreshments, catering, and many other little details.
When you’re making budget plans, don’t forget to set aside a portion of it for the event’s promotion. You will need an event website and maybe even event management software or an event app. (Event technology, such as mobile event apps and management and marketing software, is becoming an increasingly valuable marketing tool that can make the whole organizing process a lot easier for you.) Consider whether hiring professionals for these options is at all viable for you.
4. Organize the event details
In this step, it’s time to set up the event itself. Pick out a suitable venue and a time for your event. Plan out its schedule. If the event has keynote speakers, workshops, entertainment, or any other element that is an event within an event, you need to give all of them ample time to play out.
Think about who will staff the event. Will you need servers, bartenders, and brand ambassadors? You will also need time to hire additional people for the event and perhaps even train them before the event starts.
Lastly, think about the journey an average attendee will take through your event. While you can always let people enter and roam about as they please, it is better to have a sort of attendee flow prepared in advance. An example of this would be: an attendee comes in, they grab a drink, mingle with others, this presentation is about to start, a short break time after the presentation, then it is dinner time or the band takes the stage, etc. Perhaps not everyone will participate in every segment of the event, but this event engagement plan will help you create an exciting experience for your guests.
5. Promote your event
You can start promoting your event even before you finish fleshing out its details. The ideal time to start the promotions is from a couple of months to a few weeks before the event begins. Your primary tool for event promotion is marketing on social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the three most popular networks you should focus on.
Event marketing on social media takes a bit of planning. Develop a content release strategy, meaning what social media posts will go up at which times. Use relevant hashtags, as well as a unique hashtag for the event itself to track whether people are talking about it. (This event hashtag will be particularly useful when gauging social media engagement during and after the event.)
Other than social networking, you can also include local marketing if your event is local. Consider print advertising, such as pamphlets and posters (maybe even billboards), and radio commercials. Maximize the chance of people learning of an upcoming event that may be of interest to them.
6. Activate the event
Hopefully, by the time the event starts, you have a contingency plan for the main things that could go wrong. The best tactic would be to brainstorm possible flaws in the marketing strategy and the event organization to prevent them from affecting attendee satisfaction. You can’t predict every single mishap, but you can be prepared in case anything significant threatens to ruin the event.
You also need to collect event data throughout the event. Evaluate attendee engagement and satisfaction, their progress through the event segments, and how they respond to different parts you planned. Are they happy? Excited? Bored? What catches their attention the most? Are they mingling? Are they signing up for your product or service?
Keep an eye on your social media response and whether or not the live streaming is going according to plan if you’ve chosen to live stream the event. Above all else, make sure that your attendees are having a good time, even if this means a slight change in the event schedule.
7. Measure the event ROI
After the conclusion of the in-person event, you need to evaluate your overall marketing strategy effectiveness. Look at your goals and whether or not you achieved them. Take into account one or several KPIs that will determine the event’s success.
These KPIs can be the level of social media engagement, the number of people who registered for the event vs. the number of those who actually attended it, revenue generation or the total cost of the event compared to its gross revenue, and how satisfied the attendees were. Take the list of qualified leads you hopefully generated and track these to see how many become your brand’s customers. The event ROI calculated based on these KPIs will help you know if it’s worth investing in future events.
How to choose the best event marketing agency?
If you don’t have a strong background in event marketing, even with a guide like this, it may seem like a better idea to hire a marketing agency to take the reins. We don’t blame you – on top of doing your own work, planning for a marketing event can be stressful.
However, even when choosing the right event marketing agency, you need to do a bit of research. Not every agency is the same, and not all of them will be suitable for you. To help you find the right fit for your business, here are the most important features you should pay attention to in a marketing agency:
Not every agency is timely and professional. If your first interaction with the agency’s representatives is uncomfortable or if you feel like they don’t understand your needs, you shouldn’t work with them. Check whether you have outlined everything to the best of your ability, and if you still feel like the fault is on their side, you should start looking for a different agency. Alignment in core values is key in any professional relationship so make sure are aligned with any event agency you choose.
Planning protocol and workflow
Is the agency clear on what they need from you? What is their planning process like? Before you sign a contract with them, take a moment to understand their workflow. How do they approach logistics? Do they cover everything you need for a successful event? These questions will help you form a better understanding of the agency’s process and if it works for you or not.
If a particular strategy is costly and is the best possible option for your business, then the investment might be worth it. However, it doesn’t hurt to check out the competition. If you can get the same deal – or perhaps an even better one – somewhere else, maybe the agency you’re negotiating with has disproportionately high prices. While we wouldn’t recommend the lowest price, look for a relationship with the most value.
Responding to your needs
Event planning often requires speedy reactions and replies, especially close to the event launch. If your event agency is neglecting your emails for days at a time, this is a sign that they are either overwhelmed by work or not that attentive to their client’s needs. Choose an agency that is prompt in their replies and that adjusts its strategy according to your wishes (if it is sensible for the project, of course).
Take a look at the agency’s website and social media profiles. Are they creating engaging content? Do they have an online presence? If you’re counting on an event marketing agency to produce content for your event, you should check what their content marketing strategy is for their own business. Are they writing informative blog posts and offering anything of value to the public? Do they seem creative and original or kind of stale and repetitive? All of this can add or subtract from your final decision about them.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning a consumer event or a corporate event or a virtual event; the benefits of this branch of marketing are undeniable, no matter how you look at them. Building brand awareness and strengthening your relationship with your consumers are the top reasons why 60% of marketers believe that events are critical for meeting business objectives.
Event management is not to be taken lightly. Every step, from brainstorming event marketing ideas, overseeing ticket sales, and event registration to venue sourcing, building promotion strategies, and seeing it all through to the final analysis, takes a lot of time and effort. Hiring a marketing agency to do the job for you would be a smart move if you choose the right agency.
If you could use some help in your event planning, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are an accomplished experiential marketing agency with 25 years of experience. Pro Motion is an industry leader in creating engaging, unique experiences, and effective marketing campaigns. Give us a call at 636.577.8507.
Learn More About Experiential Marketing from PMI President Steve Randazzo in his book Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters.