The ultimate event marketing guide, including event marketing strategy, types of events, promotional tactics, and KPIs to measure success.
What is event marketing
Event marketing is a broad concept, taking different meanings according to the context. As a general definition, event marketing is the use of experiences and events as a marketing channel to promote a brand, service, or product.
Events can be virtual, in-person, or hybrid, each having a distinct set of characteristics, pros, and cons. Organizations and individuals take part in event marketing in a variety of forms. While the most prominent event marketing example is hosting an event, it can also be sponsoring, exhibiting, speaking, or attending events.
Contrasting with other marketing channels, event marketing is unique because it connects audiences and organizations personally. In the often saturated and cluttered marketing space, events can forge deep and long-lasting relationships.
Event marketing benefits
Event marketing has a range of unmissable benefits that make it stand out as an effective tactic helping businesses and non-profit organizations. Subsequently, we outline some of the most prominent advantages of event marketing.
Building brand awareness
Participating in events is an effective way for organizations to build up brand awareness or to reinforce their position if a brand is already established in its market. Indeed, event attendees remember the event organizer’s brand and spread the word within their network via social media, press, or one-to-one interactions.
For emerging organizations, event marketing is an impactful strategy to communicate its identity, vision, and unique selling proposition in front of an engaged audience.
For more established brands, event marketing is helpful to stay top-of-mind with a customer base and strengthen brand loyalty.
Hosting, sponsoring, or exhibiting at events are some of the best ways to generate high-quality leads. If promoted in the right channels, events are likely to attract new prospects interested in a company’s offering. Alongside that, events represent great opportunities for business development teams to invite existing prospects and keep them engaged in the sales cycle.
In brief, leveraging all-in-one event platforms with solutions for registration, live engagement and networking, and post-event reporting and analytics, organizations can attract, nurture, and convert prospects into long-lasting customers.
Engaging an audience
Compared to other marketing tactics, events are unmatched when it comes to engagement. Instead of being micro-interactions that are quickly forgotten, the best events immerse attendees in an experience that they will remember for a long time and that they will rave about with others.
As events often involve personal connections, they humanize brands and facilitate genuine bonds with audience members. Events appeal to the senses and emotions, making attendees feel part of a valuable relationship and not a purely transactional exchange.
In a similar line, events can be highly interactive, converting attendees into co-creators and not simply receptors of brand messaging. Using specialized event platforms, organizers can involve attendees by offering Q&As, live polling, and dynamic content feeds.
Educating the audience
Events serve educational purposes frequently, as organizers aim to educate their customer base about their product and discuss industry hot topics and best practices.
For instance, a company in the SaaS space can run events to educate their customers or prospects about getting the best value out of their product or showcase case studies of how organizations have used their product to achieve business goals.
Similarly, organizations can host events to keep their audience updated on the latest product releases or social initiatives they have undertaken.
Event marketing strategy
Outlining an event mission
The cornerstone of a successful, well-attended, and profitable event is a solid strategy. Without a defined plan, events can become directionless, making event organizing teams frustrated and attendees unsure what the point is in attending them.
At the outset of an event marketing strategy, there should be a “why”: an overarching mission and vision behind the event. Before going to the “how” and “what,” event organizers should articulate a narrative underlying the event.
So, event profs should ask themselves: Why are we doing this event? What are the missions we need to accomplish? What is the highest and best vision for the event? Why should people attend?
Based on this, event planners can go into more event details, such as the event type, name, visual identity, theme, and branding.
Defining the audience
Furthermore, an effective event marketing strategy requires a good understanding of the audience that the event aims to reach.
An excellent method to delineate an audience is developing personas representing your target attendees based on research and previous event attendees.
For each persona, event organizers should include demographics, psychographics, motivations, media behavior patterns, etc. And, they should outline each persona’s wants, needs, objectives, fears, and frustrations.
For instance, those target attendees can be students in their 20s wanting to learn more about a topic, marketing managers aiming to find new partnerships and valuable tips, or CEOs looking to network with senior-level professionals.
Importantly, event organizers should communicate about personas not only internally but also externally. Indeed, they need to clarify who the event is hosted for and the value of attending for the audience.
What’s in it for them? What are the benefits of attending the event?
Setting measurable goals
Alongside defining a target audience and mission, an event marketing strategy should also include measurable goals that organizers will use to assess the event’s success.
Therefore, event organizers should consider using the SMART framework to set Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related. These objectives give event teams a sense of direction and serve as a basis for post-event reporting.
Types of events
Conferences are among the most popular events for both organizers and attendees. They are omnipresent across industries and countries and are valuable for businesses of all sizes, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions alike.
Conferences often have an agenda spread across an entire day or several days and typically feature keynote speakers, workshops, entertainment sessions, and networking opportunities. Additionally, industry conferences can attract a range of sponsors, partners, and exhibitors that complement the core topic and bring value to attendees.
Trade shows are events where businesses in a specific industry showcase their product and services to attendees. So, the focus tends to be more on the exhibitors and sponsors present at the event than on the company organizing the trade show.
Distinctively, trade show attendees are often highly qualified leads as they actively seek new products or services to buy in the market. Nonetheless, trade show exhibitors need to find ways to stand out and catch the eye of attendees, given the intense competition.
Some of the best trade shows include the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where the mobile communications industry and the consumer electronics industry gather each year to discover groundbreaking innovations.
Seminars are smaller events, educating attendees about a topic, discussing ideas, trends, or best practices. Usually, seminars are much shorter than conferences (a matter of hours instead of days) and involve experts presenting their ideas about a topic.
Webinars – a term often (wrongly) used as a shortcut for any virtual event – are essentially seminars conducted virtually. Similarly, webinars are relatively short in time and are broadcasted through web-conferencing or streaming platforms. Therefore, they are easy to access, explaining their exponential growth in the last years.
Internal company meetings are events reserved for a company’s staff. These events can range from formal business quarterly updates to more entertainment-driven occasions featuring games and activities to strengthen bonds between staff members.
As their name suggests, networking events focus on creating connections between professional peers working in the same industry or interested in the same topic.
Typically, these events are small in size, as an intimate setting drives networking more effectively. Networking events can include matchmaking by interests, breakout rooms with different activities, and speakers or moderators that moderators incite participation and introduce themes for discussion.
Award ceremonies are events celebrating the best work across a specific industry or discipline. The awards scope can vary greatly, from the broad categories to more niche and specialized ones.
For instance, the Cannes Lions Awards hold a festival each year to recognize excellence in creativity.
Product releases or launches are events put together by businesses to show prospective and existing customers their latest innovations and product features.
For instance, one of the most anticipated and successful product release events is Apple’s WWDC, where the company announces software and technology updates each year.
Roundtable events are gatherings of a small group of people, where each of the attendees can contribute to the discussion.
Some popular types of roundtables are CEO or CMO roundtables, where senior-level executives gather to discuss business practices and network with like-minded peers.
Career fairs are events in which employers and recruiters meet with job seekers.
Usually, education institutions hold career fairs, aiming to connect their graduates with businesses and non-profit organizations operating in their field of study. Therefore, these events are less focused on a specific topic of discussion or sessions and more on the various booths put together by employers.
Nonetheless, businesses can also host recruiting events to promote their various vacancies and meet job seekers en-masse.
Event marketing: how to promote an event
Event organizers shouldn’t take for granted that people will naturally come across their event and sign up for it. On the contrary, organizers should invest considerable time and effort into promoting the event, leveraging different strategies, tactics, and channels at their disposal.
Next, we outline some of the more effective ways to promote an event. Yet, event organizers should always draft a promotional timeline, starting from at least 30 days before the event day and defining the promotional activities (e.g., setting up a website, sending an email invite, posting on social media, etc.) to be completed.
Undoubtedly, the event website is at the heart of any event marketing plan. Other marketing tactics that we mention subsequently largely depend on the quality of the event website. Indeed, if the event website puts off prospective attendees, any emails, ads, or social media posts leading to it will be useless.
So, marketers should invest in building an event website that is well-designed, aligned with the event brand identity, user-friendly and captivating for attendees.
An event website should be impactful at first sight, with all the essential event information being visible within a few seconds. As a general rule, an event website should contain:
- Benefits of Attending
- Date, Time, and Location
- Agenda of Sessions
- List of Event Speakers
- A clear and compelling call-to-action (CTA)
- Social media sharing buttons
- Ticketing Information (if necessary)
- Sponsorship Information (if necessary)
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to attract event attendees. Event organizers should leverage their existing contacts database with people interested in the company, newsletter subscribers, or previous event attendees.
Event email invites can ramp up anticipation and excitement for the event and remind those already registered when the event day approaches.
Nonetheless, event marketers need to achieve a good segmentation of contacts and draft their emails carefully. Otherwise, they risk being considered spam by the recipients.
And, to make registration enticing, promotional emails should have an eye-catching design, essential event information, and a clear CTA.
Social media marketing
Social media is another great asset in the event marketer’s toolbox. Starting from weeks before the event day, organizers should post regularly about the main speakers, sessions, and benefits of attending. That way, the event stays present in follower’s feeds throughout the event promotion timeline.
In that regard, creating and using an event hashtag can prove valuable, as it reinforces the event brand, promotes organic conversation around the event, and allows organizers to track mentions easily.
Otherwise, event professionals should make use of specific tools for events available on social media platforms. For instance, the LinkedIn Events feature allows event organizers to create specific pages for events and enables attendees to sign up without leaving the platform and to invite their connections.
If targeted accurately, advertising can be an effective tactic to expand an event’s attendance. We all know advertising can be a nuisance. However, if implemented correctly, it allows event organizers to meet attendees “where they’re at,” aligning with their interests or stage in the buying journey.
For instance, PPC ads can reach a target audience when searching keywords related to the event topics or according to their geographical location, demographics, and affinities.
Similarly, event professionals can set up ads on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, targeting people who work at specific companies and industries or according to their seniority.
Alternatively, remarketing ads allow event organizers to reconnect with people that interacted with an organization but didn’t sign up for the event. For instance, event organizers can set up LinkedIn ads for people who visited an event or company website, registration form, and LinkedIn company page.
Leveraging event partners and speakers
Alongside promoting the event on their organization’s marketing channels, event professionals should leverage the power of partners and speakers to attract attendees.
Whether it’s sponsors, exhibitors, or speakers, these stakeholders are interested in boosting event attendance and have a loyal audience. Therefore, event organizers should strive to make promotion easy for them, supplying copy for social media posts and visuals tailored to each event speaker or partner.
Turning event attendees into promoters
Differing from more common tactics, using the help of loyal attendees to promote events can be incredibly powerful. Indeed, attendee’s messaging is perceived as more credible, and professionals’ peers are more likely to trust their recommendations than a brand.
So, event profs should foster relationships with attendees continuously and convert them into advocates passionate about the event brand’s values and the topics discussed at events.
Creating and joining professional communities is an approach worth considering for event marketers. Whether it’s on Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack, or other platforms, engaged communities are more predisposed to come together at an event.
Yet, event professionals should use community building as a long-term strategy, not a short-term fix to drive attendance. Indeed, posting invites to events in dozens of online communities often results in being disregarded as spam. Therefore, event profs should not use communities exclusively for their promotional purposes but bring value to them by sharing interesting articles or giving tips to peers.
Event marketing: the KPIs to measure success
The number of registrations is the most popular metric to measure an event’s marketing success, as it unveils how many people the promotion efforts achieved to attract.
However, the number of event registrations should always be compared to the number of live attendees to assess whether people converted. This registration/attendance ratio is essential, as a low number can indicate that the event’s timing was off or that communications after event sign-up weren’t effective. In contrast, a high ratio can highlight successful pre-event communication and smooth check-in.
For organizers who want to host profit-making events, the monetary return on investment (ROI) is crucial for evaluating an event’s success.
[(Total Revenue from the Event – Total Cost of the Event) ÷ Total Cost of the Event ] X 100 = ROI
Nonetheless, organizers shouldn’t shot at total revenue and cost but dive into the elements that make up each of those numbers. For instance, event organizers can look at the percentage of income from each ticket category, from sponsorship, or from exhibitors.
Attendee Satisfaction & Engagement
Every event aspires to leave attendees satisfied. Indeed, according to an EventMB survey, 91 % of organizers measure the success of events on attendee satisfaction.
Satisfaction engenders positive brand perceptions, which in turn influences purchase intentions. But how do you measure something so subjective and personal as satisfaction?
A great way to assess satisfaction is through post-event surveys, gathering attendee feedback, and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). They allow organizers to get a better sense of attendee’s perceptions of specific sessions, networking experience, entertainment breaks, and the event as a whole.
Additionally, attendee engagement can be another gauge for their interest and appreciation of the event. Using robust data analytics tools, event organizers can measure interactions (comments, polls responses), engagement (average unique live views per session, viewing time per session), and networking (messages exchanged, web of connections).
Social Media Interactions
Furthermore, event organizers can consider the target audience’s engagement with the event on social media. For instance, they can track how many impressions, likes, and shares that event-driven posts get in each social channel and how many organic mentions the event brand gets from attendees.
In that regard, a social media sentiment analysis also proves valuable for organizers. This analysis goes beyond quantity and gives insights into the quality of social media interactions (positive, neutral, negative).
Lead Generation and Customer Conversion
As touched on previously, one of the main benefits of running events for businesses is generating leads and converting these into customers.
In that light, the number of sales-qualified leads generated by the event is an important KPI, bringing to light how effective the event promotion efforts were in attracting the target audience.
Event marketing technology
Finally, event organizers should consider software to make event marketing and event management as integrated and seamless as possible.
For that matter, the best event marketing technology is all-in-one platforms, encompassing the entire attendee journey and offering easy-to-use tools for organizers.
From event website templates and registration solutions to live engagement and networking features to post-event reporting and analytics, InEvent has all the tools you need to produce a memorable event.
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