Planning your own Conference, Trade Show, Road Show, or Special Event?
Event Marketing is key to driving attendance.
The purpose of this article is provide insight into how to drive attendance to your events.
And we not only include tips for marketing your own branded/hosted events but other companies’ branded events that you might attend as an exhibitor hoping to drive attendance to your booth or after-hours party.
There will never be a higher intent from any prospect, customer and partner than by attending your event.
They are ready to listen and learn about industry trends, product updates, competitive analysis, and most importantly, your company.
While there should be an obvious focus on how to convert prospects, customers and partners through effective event strategy and execution, getting people to your event is equally as important.
After all, if no one shows up, who is your event even for?
What is Event Marketing?
Simply put, event marketing is the strategy and execution of getting people to your event!
For externally facing events, this is obviously important because you can’t make prospects, customers or partners attend your event.
There are 2 simple pillars with externally facing events:
1) Getting people to your great event
2) Delivering the right content, interaction, and influence among your attendees to convert them to buyers
Event Marketing is focused on the first pillar.
Event Marketing can be your best lead generator this year
Chances are you are an Event Manager that rolls up through the Marketing Department.
Did you know that most marketers (31%) believe that event marketing is the single-most effective marketing channel?
Your job is extremely important.
We know there are many buckets that leads can be pulled from and most tend to require personalized automation and attention to develop them down the funnel so they can eventually be handed off to Sales.
But the difference in the quality of leads you get from an MQL that downloaded a PDF from your site (low intent) to a prospect that attends your Conference (or Trade Show, or whatever) can be exponentially higher.
Events are the only 3D form of Marketing that your company will likely have this year.
And 84% of event attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about your company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event.
This should tell you that your corporate events are on the right path.
But despite these important statistics, we continually run into companies that don’t have a formalized plan for how they will get people to attend their event.
Listen, it doesn’t matter whether you are planning an informal get together after a Trade Show in a side room or suite at a hotel, or if you are putting on your own conference…
Event Marketing is how you convert strangers into piping hot leads.
This is why Event Marketing for your next corporate event could not be more important.
Use Event Marketing to drive attendance
Does your company put 90% of its resources into the event itself, and not actually driving attendance?
Find yourself reaching out to the sales staff last minute to send invites to their prospects and customers?
I bet that event showed really well…to the 4 people that showed up!
Let’s talk about how to use event marketing for 2 different scenarios, both involving corporate events.
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Event Marketing for Events You are Attending
Of course, marketing your presence at someone else’s corporate event is the most common scenario.
It’s cost-effective and a much lower risk since attendees will be showing up whether they know your company or not.
It’s also the most difficult to directly influence since you do not have control over where your attendees go, or who they are listening to.
In fact, your competition is probably sitting in a booth close by.
So how do you use event marketing to drive attendance to you?
1) Make your presence known early
Depending on the size of your conference, you should begin seeking RSVPs 30-90 days out.
Big events like RSA in the Cyber Security world bring in 45,000 attendees every year and are extremely competitive.
If you are trying to meet your top prospects and customers, you had better bet that every other vendor is trying to do the same.
Trying to get an RSVP farther than 90 days out is not something a Decision Maker cares about. Chances are they’ll see you as pushy and it will negatively affect any current or future opportunities your business has with them.
Try these simple tactics to get the word out early:
- Sales guys put something small in their signature that highlights an after-hours event, a special demo, or 1 on 1 meeting with an executive at your company. And provide a link to RSVP.
- Light touches on social media also highlight anything special or unique that your company is offering for the event. Build the tempo of event marketing the closer you get.
- With 30 days remaining, you should engage your sales team with a direct message they can use that doesn’t involve thinking. I.e. A 1-2 sentence spiel they can say at the end of a call, or can use in an email to a prospect or customer. Make it easy for them.
2) Have Appeal
For medium to large-sized conferences or trade shows, many vendors will be offering something to drive attendance.
- 1 on 1 meeting with your company executives
- Private lunch or dinner
- Social Happy Hours
- Large parties (with popular bands)
- Great Trade Show giveaways
The list can go on.
If you simply ask someone to go to your booth, that’s something, but it shows very low intent from the buyer.
You are the person they’ll go out for coffee with but are secretly going out on a dinner/movie date with someone else that same night.
Don’t be the coffee date.
Point is: offer something unique to lock them in.
3) Use Social Media, Hashtags, and Video
If this is a large corporate event that lasts multiple days you should be leveraging video posts that highlight the value people are getting out of your booth.
Share content that shows people learning/demo’ing at your booth, receiving a prize, or people just laughing and having fun.
Combine this content with hashtags and social media (targeted towards the event) to stay relevant throughout the multi-day event.
Everyone is mobile and they’ll be checking their social media feeds to see who is doing what at this event.
Request your sales staff manning the booth to take their own pictures and submit them to you or your social media colleague.
Event Marketing for Your Own Corporate Event
Wooo…The big enchilada.
The pressure is on with this type of corporate event. High risk, high reward.
First, imagine this scenario: Your company spends A LOT of Marketing dollars on the venue, talent, food, decor, etc., and quite a bit of time planning and executing this new big conference aimed at customers, prospects and partners.
A lot of work is involved and the actual content, presence, and influence are on point.
But no one did much event marketing, and now its time for the big event.
You quickly realize there are more of your own employees present than customers, prospects or partners.
Your bosses are calling all of your employees to start filling some seats.
It’s very cringy.
I’ve seen it live, and it sucks.
And chances are there is now a negative sentiment around your company, brand, product or service then there was before you spent way too much money on this big event.
On the other hand, hosting your own event has the opportunity to do the exact opposite…As long as you have the attendance.
Here are THE KEY event marketing tips to bolster attendance, creating flaming hot leads, and drive revenue for your next corporate event.
1) Get the word out early – VERY EARLY
Yes, much earlier than you would if you were just sponsoring or attending another event.
We had a client admit that prior to using J.Shay Event Solutions, they tried sending invites out to their new annual conference only 4 months prior. Now if this is an internal conference, it’s not that big of a deal because you don’t have to worry about attendance.
With external events, GET IN FRONT OF YOUR AUDIENCE EARLY.
“This was a rather last-minute thing” and had a few negative impacts, to say the least:
- Most customers/prospects were already booked for another event
- No leverage in negotiating the venue
- Not enough time to coordinate speakers, or create compelling content
It was a disaster and a pricey one.
2) Have an appealing venue…In an appealing City
We can debate the importance of this for internal events, I get both sides.
But for external events where you are trying to lure in potential buyers? No brainer.
Give them a reason to put off their work, get on a flight and spend a couple of days (or more) listening to your Company talk.
Choose a City that has amenities that you can incorporate into your after-hours activities – Somewhere fun.
And equally as important as the City is the venue. Don’t be frugal. Location and amenities are important.
Then, advertise through effective and consistent Event Marketing.
3) Put yourself in the attendee’s shoes, and emanate value
Why would someone spend a few days with us? This should be the question you continually ask yourself at every stage of planning the event.
What value are you providing to them that they can’t obtain from their desk, or with another company?
Consider these tips:
- Great Keynote speakers
- Industry content and knowledge delivered from one of your technical folks, not a salesperson
- Highlight these speakers, topics, etc. as a way to capture RSVPs. Ex. “Learn the latest and hottest trends in our industry from these experts…” is much better than “Come listen to our latest product updates and why you should buy them…”
If your event marketing is focused on the benefit to the prospect, customer or partner, you will see far greater success.
4) Use Multiple Forms of Media
If blasting an email list is your go-to plan for inviting people to your corporate event, you need to revisit your plan now.
In addition to your sales staff targeting their current customers and prospects, and sending an email campaign out to cold leads (MQLs).
Create a strategy that involves all forms of social media, beginning 6 months out that become more targeted and more persistent as you approach the date.
Additionally, you should consider PPC advertising or even Radio advertisements depending on your type of event, and how confident you are in being able to target and remarket to your specific audience.
With PPC and really advertisements there is always an opportunity you could be throwing money down the drain if not set up properly.
5) Create an Event Registration Website
On the surface, here’s what you can achieve with a prominent and well-designed event website:
- Single source of information
- Speaker information and biographies
- Session information
- Location/venue information
- Registration capabilities
- Payment processing
- Reporting and analysis
- Automate communications/email marketing
Additionally, it gives your event style points and acts as a landing page for all of your outside advertising via social media, PPC, etc.
Based on the type of event, the number of attendees, budget, and your goal, J.Shay Event Solutions will recommend a software vendor and can then build and manage the Event Management Software for you providing monthly reporting, answering attendee questions, and managing the email communications.
Event Marketing for corporate events is usually an afterthought for most companies.
Event managers may not be as well versed or experienced in how to bring people into their event as much as they are in how to create an engaging and influential event.
But as you now know, having an effective corporate event for an external audience like customers, prospects or partners boils down to 2 equally important pillars.
Getting people to your event, or event marketing, and then putting on a great event that converts strangers to revenue, or event management.
So before you start planning your event strategy and logistics, consider event marketing as a vital discussion topic.
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Jeremy Sweat is the Sales and Marketing Director at J.Shay Event Solutions. When he’s not working, he enjoys traveling with his wife, scuba diving, and triathlon training.