With Tradeshow season right around the corner, it is important now more than ever to make sure you have your strategies planned out for event marketing. For most marketers, event marketing consists of sponsoring tradeshows/conferences, as well as hosting and organizing their own events (user conferences, roadshows, happy hours, etc.) Most marketers report that event marketing results in acquiring a larger numbers of net-new leads and higher conversion rates of those leads, due to the critical in-person marketing tactics. Below are some basic concepts to plan for when you have events approaching.
One of the biggest challenges faced in making event marketing efforts successful is preparedness. As any seasoned marketer will tell you, you cannot be “overly prepared” for an event. You can almost guarantee the aspect which you don’t think about or pay much attention to will become an issue at the event. With any kind of event, you can almost guarantee that at least one thing will go awry, so it’s best to be prepared!
According to Eventbrite, the four main components of pre-event planning are: a pre-event landing page or micro-site, blog posts, a sound social media strategy, and partner outreach. The first three items on this list all go hand-in-hand. By developing a page first, you have a “home base” (of sorts) to drive traffic from pre-event email, social, and calling campaigns. Next, a blog allows you to get your mission statement across the pre-event targeted audience. Once your blog is complete, you can share it and general event announcements/posts across your social channels. The last and final step in pre-event marketing is partner outreach. Find out who is going, how they can spread awareness of your brand’s attendance, and see if they might want to co-market around the event, or even be involved as a sponsor.
Generally speaking, events are expensive. When planning your own event, the venue alone can set you back thousands, if not hundred of thousands. For sponsoring events, you are pretty much charged for everything from A/V equipment, booth graphics/setup, electric, internet, and even charged for a trash bin (yes, we have paid for a trash bin for our booth in the past). With just side items, you can end up spending anywhere from a couple thousand into the ten thousand range, and that is not including the sponsorship cost, which is also hefty. Taking those numbers into consideration and the number events most companies attend annually, you can really spend a good portion of your budget solely on events. So how do you successfully allocate your funds ahead of time?
In regards to budgeting, Marketo noted that in 2012, about 20.5% of a marketing department’s budget should be allocated towards event marketing. In the particular study, they reference other portions of the budget going to areas such as: digital marketing, traditional advertising, direct/email marketing, and public relations. Ultimately, I believe it becomes down to your type of business and how much return on investment you expect to see from events. For instance, a B2B company should allocate more towards events than a B2C simply because that is where they are more likely to see their audiences, whereas B2C marketers can find their audience almost anywhere. Be sure to consider the number of attendees at the event you are considering sponsoring as well as the caliber of those attendees. How many opportunities will you have at your disposal, and how likely are those opportunities to convert?
With so much technology at our fingertips, you cannot simply attend a tradeshow without promotion and receive optimal results. It is important to let your presence be known ahead of time, during, and after the event. A great way to achieve this is through optimizing social media channels, email marketing efforts, and even calling campaigns.
When you are preparing for a big event, where you will be surrounded by thousands of your peers, you must know who you should target, where to find them, and let them know you will be there. One of the best ways to identify who is going to a conference is to utilize the show’s hashtag. For instance, the B2B Marketing Exchange conference used #B2BMX in January to promote their show. Oftentimes, sponsors and attendees will use this hashtag to let their followers know that they are going to be an attendance. Furthermore, advertising on the keywords of the name of the conference can be a handy way to get your message in front of people searching for information about the event.
In addition to preparing for an event on strictly social channels, implementing email marketing and calling campaigns can help your efforts. For instance, sending a weekly or bi-weekly email in the month or so leading up to the event is a good way to find out how many prospects and customers will be attending the event. Plus, if you are hosting an off-site party during the event, email is a great way to invite people and keep it exclusive. By complementing your emails with a calling campaign, you are letting prospects and customers know that you are very interested in their attendance and seeing them there.
Oftentimes during a show, sponsors might be too busy networking with prospects that they don’t monitor the social channels. This is a huge mistake! Typically, attendees are on social channels (particularly Twitter) posting updates and statuses about the show. This is where the conference hashtag comes in handy again. By monitoring the hashtag and searching you can track conversation and engage with customers in real time. Hootsuite says that collaborating to stay engaged and responsive during live events is one of the best tactics you can execute during an event Also, by posting photos at the event to channels such as Twitter and Instagram, you can draw in booth traffic!
An oftentimes overlooked part of event marketing is social media interaction after the show. Once the event is done and you are back in the office, what do you do? Typically, people would call or send a follow-up email saying something along the lines of “Hi (prospect), I met you at the tradeshow last week…”. Sending follow-up emails and calls are not bad tactics at all! However, if you complement them with social efforts, you might see more ideal results. For instance, following people when they come to your booth then tweeting them something like “@prospect let’s have a chat soon” is a great way to prove that you want their business and are interested in creating a professional relationship.
Event marketing accounts for a good portion of revenue for many companies across the globe. You can never be too prepared for an event, so make sure you take into considerations all possible problems or endeavors you might face before, during, and after the event. By allocating your budget proportionately to the return on investment you expect to see, you can decide how much or how little should you put into your event efforts. Finally, in the age of social, managing a social strategy simultaneously throughout the entire course of an event can help increase engagement and likelihood of business with prospects and potential customers.