We know what events are. We know what marketing is. But when these two words come together, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Event marketing is a versatile and impactful marketing channel that is increasingly becoming more critical across various industries.
According to Forrester Research, events make up 24% of the average CMO’s B2B marketing budget. This trend seems to be growing, with projections showing that 3.2 million global professional events will be taking place annually by 2020.
Statistics like these should come as no surprise. In a digital age where consumers are inundated with multiple forms of digital messaging, live events have the power to cut through the noise.
Event marketing is one of the most direct and personable ways to connect with a target audience. However, executing on an event marketing campaign is never a simple task and requires having control over multiple moving parts. To ensure a successful campaign, here are 15 steps that will help keep your campaign on track while maximizing results.
1. Establish SMART Event Goals
Don’t worry, we already know how smart you are. SMART is just an easy-to-remember acronym to ensure proper goal setting. As with all marketing campaigns, the first few steps are always the most important. By concretely establishing the goals of the event campaign, you’ll be able to better manage and communicate to team members and have them understand why this campaign is so important.
Having specific goals will make it easier for all team members to be on the same page and better understand what is required to achieve the goal. Make sure the goals are measurable in order to properly assess the performance of the campaign. Keeping goals achievable is also necessary for a sustained feeling of accomplishment throughout the planning process. Being results-oriented with the goals allows you to focus on how each objective will affect the outcome. And, finally, being timely with the goals and setting hard deadlines will ensure that tasks are met and that all is progressing at the right pace.
2. Select Appropriate ROI Metrics
Once the goals are established and agreed upon among the team members, decide the metrics with which each goal will be measured. Remember that goals can be measured differently, and it is imperative to select the appropriate metric in order to accurately analyze the return on your event marketing investment. Also, keep in mind that one goal can be measured in multiple ways, as shown in the chart below:
3. Select an Event Attribution Model
When more deals begin to close after the event marketing campaign, how much credit should be attributed to the event? Was the event the first time these customers interacted with the brand? Questions like these are why attribution models are important for better understanding event impact.
First, you must analyze all the other marketing campaigns that are running concurrently with your event campaign and then decide which attribution would make the most sense. One example of an attribution model would be the W-shaped model:
This model is usually the most accurate representation of event ROI but also the most difficult to implement. It considers all the different touchpoints and marketing initiatives that caused a customer to finally close. For example, let’s say a prospect visited the company blog, converted on an ebook, attended a webinar, attended the event, and then finally became a customer. The W-model would keep track of all these touchpoints and attribute the credit accordingly. In this case, you may attribute 30% to the blog, 20% to the ebook, 20% to the webinar, and 30% to the event.
4. Create a Detailed Event Planning Timeline
Now that event goals and metrics are all set, it’s time to draw up the plan of attack. When outlining the event planning process, the focus should be on setting deadlines as opposed to a list of tasks. By viewing the process as a timeline instead of a to-do list, it will be easier to prioritize tasks and make adjustments as the campaign moves forward. A great way to organize your event planning timeline is by making a Gantt chart:
Gantt charts are organized with specific projects in the left-hand column and a timeline along the top row. This is one way to get a comprehensive view of your event marketing campaign.
5. Book the Ideal Venue
Securing a venue is one of the first tasks that should be taken care of since large venues often must be booked months or sometimes even years in advance. But before you book the first available space, make sure to have a clear vision of how the event should unfold. Review your list of event goals.
Is one of the goals to facilitate networking among attendees? Then it’s important to secure a venue with a large open space for mingling or even small meeting rooms for more organized networking sessions. Other points to consider are lighting, staging/presentation areas, and accessibility. Make sure to have a specific list of needs before hunting for the right venue.
6. Secure Sponsorships
Securing sponsorships is always one of the most difficult tasks for event organizers but a crucial one if the objective is to produce a large scale event. In addition to reaching out to potential sponsors as early as possible, you’ll want to prepare an attractive sponsorship package that will be hard to say no to.
At the end of the day, sponsors want as much ROI on the event as you do. These returns can come in the form of sales leads, social media impressions, or website visits. Key in on specific metrics that your target sponsors would be most interested in and include those pieces as part of the sponsorship package.
7. Choose the Right Event Management Software
Once the main pieces are set, make sure to spend enough time on finding the right event management software. The best platforms are ones that can reliably collect valuable event data and provide rich insights from that data. As you’re shopping around for different software, some questions you should ask are:
- Can I monitor event registration performance in real-time?
- Does your platform offer a website editor? If so, to what extent is the website customizable?
- Does the platform provide an event networking app as well?
Questions like these will help you better understand how the software in question aligns with your own event goals and the direct impact that the software will have on your overarching objectives.
8. Set Up Software Integrations for Your Event Data
There is a good chance you will be using more than one type of software to manage your event marketing campaign. Whether that be a marketing automation platform or a customer relationship management system (CRM), you’ll need multiple tools in your arsenal to handle all the valuable data that will result from the campaign.
The key to harnessing all these tools is to integrate across platforms in order to provide a robust, high-level overview of the event data. Integrations significantly reduce inefficiencies, increase productivity, and provide insights that would be hard to see otherwise.
9. Design a User-Friendly Event Website
Stepping back from event data for a second, let’s discuss some best practices for creating a stellar event website. The goal should be to properly showcase the event brand while incorporating an intuitive user experience. Keep everything as simple as possible while still conveying the core message of the event, which should tie into why website visitors should attend the event. Below you’ll see a great example of a simple, eye-catching, and convincing event website that provides a memorable user experience:
Also, make sure the website is able to provide an easy and seamless registration flow for attendees. You’ll want your website to be able to process all ticket sales and registrations to ensure the smoothest possible user experience for attendees.
10. Define the Social Media Strategy
When creating a spectacular event marketing campaign, why wouldn’t you want to share it with the world? Just make sure to have a detailed plan as to how you’ll execute on social media strategy. A few things to keep in mind are:
- Use event hashtags. Keep them short, simple, and catchy. And include them on as many web pages / marketing collateral as possible (without seeming too “spammy”).
- Turn attendees into promoters. The people attending your event are the ones who will be most excited about it. Capitalize on that passion by having social media competitions, giving prizes to those who receive the most likes, shares, retweets, etc.
- Create online communities before the event. Make sure social media platforms are being utilized well before the start of the event in order to create buzz around the event. This will give attendees a way to interact with one another, building up anticipation for when they finally meet in person.
11. Create a Dedicated Email Campaign
One of the main forms of communication between you and your attendees will be through email. Make sure to set up an automated campaign that will automatically send out emails as the event draws nearer. Also, keep in mind that you will most likely have at least three separate email workflows. These workflows will be for attendees, speakers, and sponsors. (You can even get more specific with your segmentation.) The more contextually relevant each email campaign is for the designated recipient, the more likely you will receive a higher engagement rate.
Some basic email marketing best practices to keep in mind are similar to the ones discussed for web design. Keep things simple, both in terms of content and design. Don’t overwhelm recipients with cluttered aesthetics or irrelevant information. Also, make sure to have a clear and visible call-to-action button that will lead them to more relevant information, whether that be the event website or a separate landing page.
12. Maximize Onsite Experience
After plenty of meticulous planning, organizing, and strategizing, your event day has finally come. Though there are always a million and one things to take care of on event day, remembering these key components will help to ensure a smooth onsite experience for attendees.
- Onsite registration: The most important first impression to make is at registration. As attendees come in, make sure the registration process is streamlined as much as possible. If necessary, use an event software that offers onsite registration technologies such as self check-ins, scanning capabilities, and name-badge printing. Tools like these will make for a much more efficient onsite registration experience.
- Event app adoption: A great way to maximize engagement of attendees is through the event app. A quality event app will include a multitude of capabilities such as networking, real-time polling, and session registration. All of these features are ways for attendees to stay engaged with the event content. Thus, think of different ways for participants to download the event app as well as to utilize it to its full potential.
- Consistent team communication: Beyond anything else, the backbone of a successful conference will always be a strong onsite events team. Clear and consistent communication coupled with a “can-do” attitude are essential for a team to take on the obstacles of event day. Make sure to create a team with these key attributes in order to ensure a memorable onsite experience for attendees.
13. Use the Event as a Source of Content
No event is an island. In addition to the live experience, events are a source of original content that can be used for future marketing campaigns. Be creative in the ways you can squeeze out content before, during, and after the event. Perhaps you can create a Facebook Live series leading up to the event, capturing the intense moments of event organizing.
During the event, host a live stream Q&A for people to participate virtually. Once the event is over, create blog posts that describe the highlights of the event and what to look forward to for next year’s conference. There are countless ways to churn out content from the event marketing process so be sure to capitalize on every opportunity.
14. Capture Attendee Input Through Surveys
Though surveys are usually associated with post-event analysis, make sure you are utilizing surveys all throughout the planning process. Well before the event, send out surveys to attendees to gauge what type of content, workshops, and speakers they’re hoping to see. During the event, use the event app to send out real-time surveys that ask how they feel a certain workshop went or what they think of the event in general up to that point.
And, of course, after the event, make sure to send out post-event surveys to receive feedback from all participants, including sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers. Here, net promoter score (NPS) surveys are crucial. Getting a big picture view of how all attendees felt about the event will be crucial data for next year’s conference. Here is an example of a NPS survey:
15. Measure Against Initial Event Metrics
Once the event officially comes to a close, set aside ample time with your team to thoroughly go through the event data and measure against the initial event goals and metrics. Look at key statistics such as gross revenue, total registrations, and total check-ins.
If you have a more advanced event management software, take advantage of the features by breaking down each metric more granularly to better understand the full scope of the event. Having a good understanding of how well the event campaign performed in relation to the initial goals will be crucial in future event marketing strategies as well as accurately measuring event impact.
Though it may seem like a daunting task at first, event marketing becomes much more of a manageable endeavor once the right systems are in place. These 15 steps will help you organize the scope of the campaign while putting in place the processes to ensure event success. No list is ever exhaustive so combine these steps with other best practices as well as any tips you come across from your own experience. Growing your event marketing knowledge will prove to be invaluable as live events continue to grow as a go-to solution for marketing professionals across various industries.
Stephen Kim is a Content Marketing Strategist at Bizzabo. Launched in July 2012, Bizzabo is the world’s first event success software. It helps organizers create successful events by empowering them to build amazing websites, manage event registration, grow communities, go mobile, and maximize event experiences – using a beautiful, user-friendly platform.