The pre-pandemic events marketing playbook is no longer fit for purpose. It is in dire need of a rewrite for the new world of events. Fortunately, that’s exactly why we’re here.
The following guide is broken up into “The What”, “The Why” and “The How” of events marketing. It lays out everything an events marketer needs to capitalise on the new tools, technology and techniques that can create unforgettable events tailored to bespoke marketing goals.
Starting with the basics before examining advanced techniques, our Ultimate Event Marketing Guide 2022 covers B2B and B2C events of all shapes, sizes, and formats. Readers will learn how to make the most of the unprecedented range of event marketing tools to turn their in-person, virtual or hybrid events into resounding successes.
A short overview of the basics, the history and the current state of event marketing.
What is Event Marketing?
Event marketing is more than just another marketing channel.
The largest events have tens of thousands of attendees whereas the smallest have just a handful of guests sat around a roundtable. Event marketing covers corporate events, product launches, start-up and charity fundraisers, conventions, trade shows, conferences, seminars, workshops, webinars, and even the humble pop-up shop.
Whatever the topic of the event, its planning, organisation, and execution falls under the umbrella of event marketing if the event has the express intention of promoting a product, brand, and/or service. It is experiential marketing interwoven through the facilitation of a memorable occasion.
With a scope that broad, it’s unsurprising that event marketing not only intersects with other channels such as social media, influencer, and content marketing, but includes them as subchannels within it.
The Heart of Event Marketing
There are countless industries and sectors that deploy event marketing to great success, from charities and non-profits to governments and corporate giants.
Each of the event types mentioned above align with different event marketing objectives. Some event types are best deployed to build brand awareness and recognition while enhancing SEO. Others work best for building brand authority by establishing CxOs as industry thought leaders and go-to specialists. Others are best deployed where the prioritised goals are gaining leads, making sales, and expanding business networks.
Each of those objectives could be achieved through other marketing channels that are less resource intensive than event marketing. Begging the questions: What’s the point of event marketing? What common purpose unites all of those disparate objectives and event types?
The answer? Entertaining and engaging attendees while enriching their lives through added value. A well-run and well-marketed event has the power to intrigue, inspire, educate, and energise. Events have the power to unite people and bring together separate parts of an industry for mutual learning and fascinating new collaborations. It does this in a way other marketing channels simply cannot.
And in 2022 and 2023, unity is more important than ever.
For more on the benefits and importance of event marketing, read The Magic of Event Marketing and 10 Benefits of Event Marketing, below.
The Evolution of Event Marketing
Until recently, event marketing was demanding yet relatively simple. Events were designed to promote awareness. And the event marketer’s role was to ensure that promotion was effective, positive, and wide-reaching. Success, then, was a vague and unmeasurable concept.
The dawn of data-driven event marketing software allowed event marketers to work towards more specific goals. Though it was only really until the pandemic, wherein the uptake of event marketing software was catapulted forward by the proliferation of digital events, that the event marketing proposition was radically altered.
No longer is data kept in silos. Modern event technology has allowed for a comprehensive analytic approach that reunifies previously fragmented pictures of success.
The consequences of this evolution are wide-reaching; reshaping not only event marketing strategy, execution, and measurement, but also the very purposes of event marketing and the ways that its success is defined.
The State of Event Marketing in 2022
Events are thriving. They are a central component of marketing strategies in 2022. According to one of the year’s most in-depth industry surveys, our very own 2022 State of Event Management Report, 37.5% of marketing budgets this year are going to the events department. Granted, as any event organiser knows, events are expensive. But that figure also speaks to marketers’ confidence in events – choosing, even with a mass of options vying for their attention, to dedicate over a third of their budgets to one channel.
The impact of traditional marketing channels, such as pay per click (PPC) and social media marketing (SMM), is stagnating or diminishing. Revealed in other channels’ fall is the secret to event marketing’s rise. People are tired of being “sold” products, of being treated like walking wallets inundated by non-stop ads. Events take a different approach. They cut through the incessant onslaught of ads by treating people like people and offering them the added value that they seek.
In spite of their popularity, it would be a grave error to return to pre-pandemic marketing strategies. The industry has fundamentally changed, and event marketers must re-strategize to meet those changes.
Events now have narrower objectives but broader business significance. In the new event marketing Klondike, it will be those that understand and most effectively adapt to these new challenges and opportunities who will strike gold.
Should an event marketing team capitalise on the latest trends and technologies, they will be fighting attendees away from their doors. Crucial to flourishing in this event marketing gold rush are data-driven event marketing strategies that are comprehensive, community oriented, and tied to measurable business goals.
For more on the event marketing trends of 2022 and predictions for 2023, read 10 Event Marketing Trends for 2022 and 2023, below.
The 10 Commandments
Before we get stuck too deep in “the What”, “the Why”, and “the How” of events marketing, here are 10 event marketing principles to keep in mind throughout the event marketing lifecycle:
Thou shalt know your target audience better than thine own spouse
Thou shalt value your audience as if they were sacred
Thou shalt walk in the shoes of the attendees to learn their perspective
Thou shalt study the stages of event marketing and vary one’s strategy accordingly
Thou shalt multi-channel effectively in one’s marketing efforts
Thou shalt add value at every opportunity
Thou shalt never underestimate the value of community
Thou shalt not forego the best tools and software
Thou shalt sippeth deep from the cup of data
Thou shalt make the unexpected, expected
The Many Forms of Events
Like snowflakes, fingerprints, and first dates, no two events are identical. Questions of location, duration, theme, and the like aside, each event has a different culture, a different audience, and a different feel. In spite of what some shorter guides might tell you, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, there’s nothing that even comes close.
The event marketer should work alongside event managers and organisers to determine the best type of event for their business objectives. And, moreover, the event marketer must understand the nuances of each of these event types and how to make the most of them from a marketing perspective.
Covering format, size, and audience, here is an overview of the available choices as well as their significance for the event marketer:
B2B vs B2C
While commonly referenced in events marketing, the B2B and B2C labels are rather clumsy descriptive categories for events. Many event marketers will not be working for “businesses” and many attendees will be neither “business” nor “consumer”.
Moreover, while historically disparate, the strategies for a “B2B event” and a “B2C event” are now more similar than ever before. Advice for one is now mostly applicable to the other. This is largely as a result of the aforementioned drive for businesses to stop treating people like cogs in a machine or, indeed, as “consumers”.
Of course, there should still be some differences in tone, entertainment, and approach.
Business to Business (B2B) Event Marketing
The majority of the advice in this event marketing guide is directed towards B2B events so we will not tarry here for long. While enjoyment and entertainment are still crucial, they should not be taking centre stage at a business focused event. And we don’t just mean that metaphorically.
Corporate event marketers should remember that unlike in B2C, it may not be the guests themselves who purchase the tickets or make the decision to attend. As such, marketing materials should be centred around the tangible business benefits of attendance.
Business to Consumer (B2C) Event Marketing
B2C event marketing, by contrast, should have a heightened focus on personal benefits, contribution, and enjoyment, as opposed to benefits for one’s employer.
Of course, B2C doesn’t just cover festivals and concerts, but also events like fundraisers, charity telethons, exhibitions, openings, and product launches. Where this will really have an impact for the event marketer, will be target audience research. More on that later.
Also featured later in this Ultimate Event Marketing Guide, we will dive deeper into today’s event format trends. Some of which are surprising to say the least. In the meantime, let’s explore the basics of live, virtual, and hybrid event formats.
In Person, Live Events
Personal interactions cannot be undervalued. They not only provide priceless benefits for our job satisfaction and mental health, but also catalyse deeply valuable business relationships. No matter the thrills of a collaborative digital whiteboard or a virtual reality keynote speech, there is nothing that can beat a face-to-face interaction.
As such, “in person” or “live” events are unrivalled in their ability to humanize your brand, reinforce customer retention, and grip would-be partners’ and customers’ attentions in order to stimulate sales, leads, or partnerships. Whereas other event formats require hard work to foster an atmosphere of networking and comradery, with live events it’s often a natural result of putting people with mutual interests in the same room.
While it might seem like a trifling point, live events, when handled well, are also the most enjoyable. And if you, as an event marketer, have attendees coming away feeling not only that they have gained value but enjoyed themselves, that will translate into gratitude and loyalty towards your brand.
If you opt for a live event, this may also affect the channels with which you market the event. If you are looking to attract a broad audience, you may, for example, benefit more from localised print advertisements or DooH billboards in relevant areas of your venue’s home city as opposed to targeted social media ads.
“Sandra! Sandra, you’re on mute!” Nobody has gotten through the last few years without experiencing a virtual event of some kind. Whether that was a family “pub quiz” to try to stay sane in isolation or the digital replacement of a gigantic convention.
There are a great many benefits of holding an event virtually, not least of which is the fact that they are considerably cheaper than live events. They also entail much less preparation and enable streamlined real-time data collection, allowing for constant optimisation.
While conferencing software and rudimentary digital hosting platforms have been around for many years, the pandemic fast-tracked the advancement of virtual event software – catapulting the industry into the future.
That said, as we shall explore later, the uptake of this software has resulted in an overexposure to virtual events which has left many feeling fatigued by the format. Moreover, after continuous virtual events, the weaknesses of the virtual event – the dearth of stimulation, engagement, excitement, and authentic interpersonal connection – have been made all too apparent.
Another format that rose to popularity in the last half decade is the hybrid event. Although its burst of popularity is also waning as more people once again feel comfortable and/or excited about attending events in person. What’s more, event marketers have good reasons to avoid the format. Namely, that it can be almost double the work, double the cost, and double the amount of things that can go wrong.
That said, there are plenty of advantages of the hybrid event format too. It allows people to enjoy an event at their own comfort. It can prevent geographical, monetary, or personal issues preventing attendance, all while still offering the full event experience to those who want it.
Combining a virtual event with a live event is a good catch-all solution, and it will be up to the event marketer to decide the details of the split between virtual and live offerings. That decision means answering lots of questions: Will the hybrid event just be a live event with livestreamed keynote speeches? Will it be a fully integrated combination? Will you offer variable ticket pricing for each? Will there be exclusive content for certain formats? Will there be digital-only or live-only sessions?
Figuring out an optimal combination is demanding. The trick is making the format part of the appeal to impress your audience with your competence, creativity, and innovation. Hybrid events have the ability to impress but be prepared for a huge workload.
Size, it matters. But in events, bigger is not always better. One of the most important decisions an event marketer will make is the scale of the event itself.
Macro events with thousands of attendees can make a significant impact on the industry. They create a big splash while helping to establish the hosting brand as the go-to-company for their product or service. Large events are expensive, complicated, experiential occasions. They can take a year or more to plan and can last for multiple days. But when executed well, the entire industry will be talking about your brand.
Go big or go home? Think again. On the other side of the coin, micro events with a select audience can actually be more effective at reaching specific business goals. Leaving out the thrills and concentrating on providing added value to highly select audiences is often the best way to target a niche demographic.
Types of Events
Now that we have established an event marketer’s key decisions for working out the best form of an event, let’s look at some of the most popular examples:
Conferences and Conventions
Usually hosted by a single company, though sponsored by a great many brands and businesses, conferences and conventions have taken place online and offline in recent years. While conferences are usually more B2B focused, conventions are often a more B2C-centric equivalent. They are filled with interesting keynotes, workshops, and seminars and are unmatched in their ability to provide networking experiences.
Trade Shows and Expositions
Trade shows and expositions are not overly dissimilar from conferences and conventions but tend to have a narrower focus on a particular industry or product category. Trade shows are a great opportunity for brands to showcase their latest products and projects. If the goal of your event is to maximise leads and sales, trade shows and expositions are ideal as most attendees will be pre-qualified buyers and salespeople.
Seminars, Webinars, and Roundtables
Seminars (and their digital equivalent, webinars) are far smaller, shorter, and easier to organise. They can be run as part of a larger conference or as standalone events. They provide more intimate networking opportunities centred around lectures, discussions, and educational content. Roundtables are similar, but even smaller. They usually feature a variety of experts of similar levels of expertise discussing a specific topic.
Much like seminars, webinars, and roundtables, workshops are small, education-focused events. What differentiates them is the attendees. While seminars and roundtables are invite-only exclusive events, workshops tend to have open invites to those in the industry or even the general public. While not centred around products and sales, they still have great business advantages – they build brand authority and help establish the speakers as industry thought leaders.
Launch Parties, Activations, and Celebrations
Launch parties can be used to mark the launch of a new start-up, product, or service, or to formally announce a new direction, milestone, or declaration. Often an intimate event with a VIP feel, they are a brand’s opportunity to declare, “We’re here, we’ve got something great, and you should be as excited as we are!”
Their purposes include awareness-building, securing leads and investors, forging and strengthening relationships, or showcasing a particular achievement. Invitations to events like these can also be a great way to let your important contacts know that you value them.
Other Event Examples
Of course, these are only a few of the event types available. There are team-building weekends, festivals, pop-up shops, competitions, job fairs, sponsorships, award ceremonies, training events, and many more. Only you can say which is right for you but be sure to research your options carefully before committing.
The reasons behind event marketing, and why it is so very important, all packed in 10 juicy benefits.
The Magic of Event Marketing
Events not only work, but they work wonders. They unite brands with existing customers and potential customers in a meaningful and entertaining occasion which fuses community and branding.
By creating events from the ground up, brands can design an experience which paints them in the light they wish to be viewed in. Well-run events increase brand credibility and awareness while strengthening bonds between clients, experts, customers, and partners. They establish brands as experts in their chosen fields, they build long-lasting business communities, they generate new leads and sales, and they facilitate unrivalled networking opportunities.
10 Benefits of Event Marketing
Event Marketing Grows Brand Awareness
The most popular reason for hosting an event is spreading good word of your brand. No matter your industry, brand interactions exist in an increasingly digital space. As dynamic as those spaces are, they have limitations. Events provide a physical space to associate with a brand. Make the space exceptional, and the attendees will leave thinking of your brand as an exceptional one too.
Events get people talking, be it via attendees’ word of mouth, traditional media coverage, social media, or attending influencers.
Event Marketing Builds Brand Authority
More than just awareness, authority. Events are a unique opportunity to educate people on what your brand does well. You can showcase your achievements in style and show attendees that you are the best at what you do.
And spreading brand awareness and authority to your target audience will no doubt lead into something a little more tangible…
Event Marketing Generates Leads
You’ve shown off your expertise, you’ve showcased your product, you’ve demonstrated that you’re the brand to beat, and you’ve collected vital data on would-be partners and customers. What’s more, you’ve done so to a targeted group of relevant attendees in your industry. That can only result in one thing – promising leads through your registration form.
Event marketing creates myriad short-term and long-term business opportunities, both those foreseen and those unforeseen.
Event Marketing Generates Sales
Depending on your business, you may be able to skip straight to sales. Events can be combined with product demos, exclusive discounts, referral schemes, and early-bird promotions. You have created the ultimate showcase of your offering, and now you get to sell to customers who have spent hours or even days getting hyped about it.
In addition, while ticket-sales focused events fall more often within the scope of event management than event marketing, there is the potential to make a healthy profit from ticketing. Some large corporate events charge hundreds of euros for attendance and have thousands upon thousands of attendees. You do the maths.
Event Marketing Accrues Data
Data is digital gold. Even at the registration process, you will be generating lists of details of potential customers. Surveys, competitions, and check-ins provide even more valuable data-gathering opportunities over the course of the event lifecycle.
Plus, as we’ll explore later, event software can generate detailed data profiles on attendees. For example, by tracking which seminars in a conference specific attendees went to, you can segment attendees into categories that you can target with tailored emails or ads at a later date.
Event Marketing Builds Relationships and Networks
The networking opportunities of events are unrivalled. We would predict that more handshakes and business cards are shared at conferences and conventions than on any other occasion on Earth. In an increasingly digital world, live events in particular provide a rare opportunity for in-person connection.
Whether it’s that first “hello!” to an attendee or a conversation shared over a beer with a guest speaker, if networking is your goal, event marketing should be your game.
Event Marketing Benefits Customer Retention
Think of an event like a forge, not only building new bonds but strengthening old ones. Events are a great way to prove your dedication to existing clients, who are all too often neglected by marketing channels. Give your invitees a VIP experience to let them know they are valued. Explore new ways to cooperate and provide them with added value so that they are incentivised to stay in your good books.
Shared experiences are the secret to connection and community. Just a two-day event can do more to strengthen a business relationship than three years of casual emails.
Event Marketing Achieves Specific Business Goals
Thanks to the influx of new event platforms and software, event marketing can be used to target specific business goals. Are you looking for experienced beta testers to trial a new product? Are you hoping to expand your email list by 1,500? Are you looking to get 10 new companies to sign-up to your premium service? Whether it’s a micro event with one specific objective or a larger event with multiple specific objectives, measurable goals are now not only possible but the new status quo.
Event Marketing Facilitates Product Education
Most events have a direct or indirect educational component. Perhaps you have a niche product or service that is highly useful, but its benefits take time to explain. Maybe you have a technical offering that you need CTOs, CEOs and other CxOs to see demonstrated first-hand.
Events are your opportunity to explain why your products or services matter. In the busy, crowded business world we live in, it is rare to have an opportunity to hold people’s attention for as long as an event provides. The secret to nuanced event marketing is subtly incorporating your promoted goods and services into a broader educational and entertaining experience.
Event Marketing Improves the Industry
The educational nature of events combined with their facilitation of cooperation and collaboration benefits entire industries. Events provide a chance for decision makers and other influential people to explore the more theoretical, philosophical and/or technical elements of an industry. They bring together sectors’ best minds into a collaborative melting pot of ideas.
This might seem like a selfless act, but as the event host, you have all of the same benefits to gain, plus the gratitude of the attendees, and a reputation for being at the forefront of your industry’s innovation.
How to implement an effective event marketing strategy in your business.
The Stages of Event Marketing
Marketing an event is as easy as ABC, right? Well, sadly no. It’s more like x=MC². Fortunately, we’ve simplified these complex processes by breaking them down into five key stages. It’s not quite ABC, but it’s at least ABCDE.
Planning, Strategy and Research
Marketing Plans and Pre-Registration Promotion
Ticket Sales and Registration
Actualising those vast benefits above requires event marketers who excel at their roles with a thorough understanding of the entire event lifecycle. Event marketing is time critical. The approach, tone, and sub-channels used should vary considerably from stage to stage. Below, we delve deep into these key stages. Take good note of each stage as we shall be referring to them throughout this event marketing guide.
A) Planning, Strategy and Research
The fact that you have taken time to read our comprehensive event marketing guide is a good indication that you are taking the planning stage seriously. Still, researching event marketing is only the starting point – a fraction of the research required for event marketing success.
A1. Define Your Event Goals and Objectives
The event marketing software and data revolution of the last few years has enabled the achievement of hyper-specific quantifiable business goals. Thanks to this new tech, success can be measured with much more accuracy and specificity. Capitalise on this by defining your event marketing objectives at Day 0, then basing every following step around meeting those goals.
The S.M.A.R.T. goals practice is now so well used it’s almost a cliché. However, like so many clichés its popular for a reason. Set more than one event goal, and ensure that each is:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Attainable
R - Relevant
T – Timely
By running goals through these criteria, event marketers will avoid vague goals such as “increase sales”. Instead, they might opt for “Increase sales of product X by 25% before August 15th” or “Grow the mailing list by 750 before the end of Q3.” Moreover, clearly defining these goals will give direction to the rest of the planning process and indeed the execution and measurement stages.
You may, however, wish to set additional goals which are less easily measured and quantified. Goals like increasing brand reputation are more difficult to quantify, but there are still ways to measure them such as via post-event surveys with qualitative opinions represented through numerical scores.
With goals defined, it’s time to start planning the nitty gritty. Event marketing is an unusual marketing channel in that most events, especially larger ones, require quite a lot of marketing of their own.
Event budgets are not always easy to know in advance. Sponsorship and funding figures are not always knowable from the offset and often increase in the run up to an event. Budgeting is a crucial deciding factor in that it will determine your approach to almost every aspect of your event’s organisation, from venue to entertainment to ad budget.
With such an important factor often not set in stone, all you can do as an event marketer is attempt to garner as accurate an estimation of budget as possible, while retaining a high degree of flexibility coupled with contingency plans.
A3. Target Group Research
Target group and target customer research is the most important research of all. Your goal as an event marketer is not about maximising footfall but getting the right feet through the door. Reaching, understanding, and engaging your ideal audience is essential for event marketing success.
As you are deciding who the ideal attendees would be, constantly refer back to your S.M.A.R.T. goals and your broader organisational objectives. The more accurately that you can define and target your ideal audience, the better.
Every brand thinks they understand their target market, but intuition is far from sufficient. To effectively market to someone, you need to know their motivations, habits, goals, platforms-of-choice, budgets, fears, worries, anxieties, and hopes.
Target groups are not homogenous. After researching your target groups, you will need to segment them into a range of subgroups, then take time to empathise with the perspective of each. These subgroups should not only determine how you plan and market your event but also your every communication and touchpoint with members of each group – from event invite to post-event survey. Be sure to update each subgroup with the new data and info that you gain along the way.
At this stage, you should have a good idea of your budget and a very clear picture of the audience you wish to target. Now it’s time to design a cost-appropriate event that appeals directly to them. It is at this stage wherein you should make decisions on all of the event format decisions listed in The Many Forms of Events and Event Marketing section above.
Will you opt for a macro hybrid convention lasting three days or a micro virtual roundtable lasting three hours? An education-focused conference or an entertainment-focused brand relaunch? How much of your budget will you spend on the venue? Will you set a novel topic or theme to give the event some flavour?
Here, you should answer questions of when and where; research and outline your event schedule; contact keynote speakers; and think about the workshop sessions that would appeal to your target groups. Of course, you do not need to have every decision made before you start to market your event, but unless you want to be Fyre Fest 2.0, then you are going to want to have some key elements set in stone in advance.
B) Marketing Plans and Pre-Registration Promotion
The earlier people hear about an event, the better. If you wait until absolutely everything is in place, you will lose out on crucial marketing time. As well as building initial excitement for your event, this time should be used to solidify your marketing plan and begin the time-consuming process of reaching out to partners, sponsors, media, and collaborators. Then, when the time is right, they too will be ready to help you spread the word.
There are other advantages of starting your marketing initiative early too. The earlier would-be attendees hear about an event, the more likely they are to remember it. Moreover, attendees are more likely to be free on your chosen dates, and marketers have more time to work their magic.
B1. Make a Marketing Plan
At this stage, you should have more than enough information to make a marketing plan. In the following section of this guide, you will find a breakdown of the recommended channels for different event types and advice on how to capitalise on them. Though it is at this point in the event lifecycle, if not earlier, that you should be putting pen to paper and creating a detailed plan of action.
The nature of events is dynamic. New data and information will come in throughout the process, and your marketing plan may well need to be updated. Be adaptable.
B2. Make a Timeline
Your event will need to be promoted for months before its launch. Your marketing channels should be designed and aligned to complement one another. Having an integrated multi-touch promotion timeline covering email, social media, text, ads, newsletters, apps, and calls will give your complex marketing plan valuable structure – ensuring that you’re not just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.
B3. Pre-Registration Promotion
Building hype around your event begins sooner than you would think. Before tickets are even available for early-bird sales, ensure you’ve created a streamlined website and set up SEO-friendly social media pages designed to build hype and intrigue.
If needed, you can build awareness and excitement before you even have a concrete date, location, or event name. Getting the word out, even via simple alerts such as “Something big is coming to your city soon!” could translate into major registration boosts later. This early stage of the promotional process is about generating buzz, stimulating intrigue, testing interest, and laying the foundations of event community.
C) Ticket Sales and Registration
Now is the time for your primary marketing push utilising all of the marketing bread-and-butter, tricks, tips, and expertise that your team has available.
C1. Early Birds
You have raised awareness and built initial hype, now it’s time to sell your first tickets. If you are looking to attract VIPs to your event or reward existing members of your community, consider making tickets available to them before general release.
Following your initial marketing outreach and VIP invites, you should also reward early interest through early-bird ticket releases at discounted prices. Having these “first movers” accounted for will not only be a comfort to your team but will have knock-on promotional benefits. It will start conversations, encourage organic word-of-mouth referrals, provide you with valuable estimations as to how much you will have to incentivise later ticket sales, and help with cashflow.
Staggering ticket prices into various time-related tiers will incentivise attendees to purchase their tickets early and help build a sense of urgency which will fast-track hesitant attendees down the funnel. Consider sending reminder emails or app notifications to guests who have already expressed interest – “Only 35 super-early-bird tickets remaining, don’t miss out!”. Be aware that people are somewhat desensitised to these techniques; circumvent their cynicism by showing some subtlety and nuance at these pressure points.
And what if your tickets aren’t selling? Do not just plough on regardless. Take note of this early indication and re-examine your research, marketing plan, messaging, channels, and techniques.
C2. Crank Marketing Up to 11
It’s here that the marketing subchannels should go into overdrive. It’s time to share press releases, activate your influencers, publish content of all kinds, release your targeted ads, talk to mainstream media, and much, much more.
You will likely be looking to reach out beyond your established network to bring in new clients and customers. One often overlooked resource for events reaching out to large audiences is adding them to event listing websites. There are plenty out there, though their popularity is geographically dependent. Simply pop “Best Event Listing Website” into your localized Google search and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
To learn more about the most effective channels for event marketing, read Event Marketing Channels and Sub-Channels, below.
C3. Final Call (Late-Stage Ticket Sales)
You have extensively marketed your rapidly approaching event, but you still have tickets to sell. Late-stage registrations require a distinct approach to push those undecided attendees over the finish line.
If you have been gathering data effectively, you should by now have a database of those target guests who have shown interest in attending but have not yet committed. To convert this interest into late-stage registrations, use ad retargeting to pinpoint those who have already shown interest.
In your retargeted ads and your “final call” communications, change your tone to one of increased urgency. Use more prominent, direct CTAs that emphasise how it is truly “now or never”.
Provide social proof with evidence of some of the exciting guests or brands who have already committed. Never underestimate the power of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and use it to your advantage. If things go really down to the wire, don’t hesitate to give potential guests a polite phone call.
D) The Event
You have triple-checked everything in advance, studied your event attendee journey maps for weaknesses, established contingency plans, reminded your core team members of your event goals, and are ready to roll.
While the more traditional marketing responsibilities may be over, the event marketer’s role is far from finished. In the theatre of events, event marketers must play many parts. Their responsibilities include outward-looking duties (ensuring plans go off hitch-free, facilitating press and VIPS, etc.) and inward-looking duties (feedback gathering, damage control, real-time analysis, etc.).
D1. Real-time Promotion
Even though your event has begun, you don’t need to stop marketing it. Dedicate resources to during-event promotion to catch last-minute press coverage and give attendees who failed to register a taste of what they’re missing so they don’t make the same mistake next time around.
As well as through traditional media channels, build excitement around your event via social media. Be sure that attendees are using your event hashtags and sharing their own content and thoughts. Livestream footage, keep tweeting throughout, and share teasers for all major announcements.
D2. Stimulate Engagement
Effective event marketing requires engagement before, after, and during the event. Keep your guests happy, deploy competitions, gamification, live polls, dedicated apps, and emotive video highlights. Encourage active participation wherever you can and do everything you can to ensure your attendees are having an enjoyable and valuable time.
For more ideas on ways to enjoyably stimulate engagement, read Event Marketing Techniques: Fun and Games, below.
D3. Crisis Management
If you think you have attended a major event that has gone off without a hitch, you’re either not paying enough attention or the team in charge has managed to hide it well enough. Events are, for lack of a better word, “eventful”. Things go wrong.
While many of these problems can be avoided through careful planning, it’s impossible to plan for every occurrence. It is how you deal with these problems when they arise that makes all the difference. How will you react to an attendee publicly complaining on Twitter? Will you be refunding tickets for disgruntled guests? What do you do when your keynote speaker comes down with food poisoning? You need to stay on top of it all if you don’t want your hard-earned marketing efforts to be undermined.
Ready to put your feet up and bathe in the warm glow of your success? Think again, the fun’s not over.
E1. Post-Event Communications
In 2022, the generic “thank-you” email is insufficient. Event marketers need to be emailing out photo and video highlights, sending out personalised surveys and thanks based on their target group segmentation, sending community invites, releasing exclusive content, publishing footage and media from the event online, and solidifying the community that your event has helped build.
E2. Evaluating Success
Later, we will delve deep into how event marketers can and should measure their event success based upon their business objectives and smart goals. There are numerous benefits to a thorough analysis, one of which is ensuring you’re best equipped for your event’s next iteration. It may seem early to be thinking ahead to your next event, yet the best time to get that ball rolling is just after your last event when its strengths and weaknesses are at the forefront of your team’s minds.
Tools, Techniques, and Channels
Having laid out the crucial stages of event marketing, let’s take a look at the tools, techniques and channels that will determine whether each stage will be successful. For it is through these means that the effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of your event will be decided.
Event Marketing Channels and Sub-Channels:
Social media marketing and email marketing still dominate event marketing channels, though new contenders are beginning to vie for the throne. A comprehensive event marketing strategy will include many channels carefully choreographed for effective multi-touch marketing.
There are many channels to choose from, most of which will not only increase your reach and ticket sales, but also generate engagement, brand awareness, excitement, and that ever-desirable sense of community.
We advise against an over-reliance on the sales-heavy channels which over the years have become more saturated and less effective. Most people in 2022 and 2023 will be looking for a more personal, human approach.
Whichever channels you opt for, ensure that they are all reasonably consistent in tone, messaging, and style unless you have a concrete reason not to. Moreover, ensure that all your published marketing copy and materials are SEO optimised and based on the browsing habits discovered in your target group research.
Event Marketing Channels: Your Event Website
Whether you create a standalone event website or simply a landing page on your brand’s main website, the site will likely become the go-to place for potential attendees to find information about your event. As such, you need its messaging to be absolutely perfect.
Make it pleasing on the eye with aesthetics and concise messaging that support your event’s USP. FAQ sections and detailed information can be added as navigation bar options but use the homepage to concentrate on converting interest to signups. It should streamline clients towards registration in the minimum number of steps possible.
Ensure your webpage features at the top of search engine results and pay to promote it if you’re failing. Don’t forget to update your website before, during, and after your event. And, importantly, as with all of your messaging, be sure to make it accessible to those with disabilities through the implementation of techniques such as closed captions, clear fonts, and textual alt image labelling.
Event Marketing Channels: Social Media Marketing (SMM)
In our aforementioned event management report, we asked survey respondents which technology had the most positive impact on events. Social media, at 78%, was by far the most given answer. Social media is a constantly evolving powerhouse with incredible reach and equally incredible engagement when done well. Never underestimate it.
There are plenty of social media platforms to choose from. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the old guard, but Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitch have a relevance even for corporate events which may surprise you.
Pre-event, each of these platforms can be used to its own strengths to spread awareness, acquire registrations, build excitement, and more. But your event marketing social media usage should continue during and after the event too. Using dedicated event hashtags is all but essential in 2022, encourage attendees to tag their content with it throughout the event lifecycle too. Beyond the hashtag, be sure to keep the engagement-focused creative elements flowing with contests, giveaways, polls, caption competitions, discussion groups, and more.
Event Marketing Channels: Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can be an incredible boon for events. Getting the right influencers talking about your event before, during, and after it can create a more natural-feeling, authentic excitement. Imagine the effect on undecided invitees were they to see their favourite industry expert passionately discussing his planned attendance.
The art of influencer marketing is all about choosing the ideal influencers for your event. Historically, superstar influencers with massive followings have seemed the obvious choice. However, in B2B and B2C events, it’s much more engagement-effective and cost-effective to find relevant, respected industry influencers even if their following is but a fraction of the size. Splashing out €1,000,000 for a five-second TikTok video by Cardi B about your auto-insurance conference is not going to be a good use of your event marketing budget.
Study trusted experts in your field. Look past vanity metrics like follower counts which are often bought or faked. Instead, evaluate their current reach and engagement stats, as well as the content they have produced for previous campaigns.
It’s worth giving attending influencers the VIP treatment. The happier they are, the more authentically and passionately they will sing your praises to their loyal audiences.
Event Marketing Channels: Email Marketing
Email marketing has maintained the best ROI of any marketing channel for a decade. That is thanks to its huge reach and individualised route to correspondence.
In today’s era of niche TikTok influencers, interactive DooH billboards, and headline grabbing guerrilla marketing campaigns, email marketing sounds like a dinosaur. But unlike those prehistoric predators, email marketing has been evolving with the times.
As a direct channel to guests and invitees which allows them to respond at their own leisure, email marketing is an event marketer’s best friend. Carefully crafted periodic emails, personalised according to your audience segmentation, should be dispatched throughout an event’s lifecycle. From early bird invitations to last-minute changes of plans, email should be your first port of call.
That said, there can be too much of a good thing. And where exactly the line is drawn will vary from guest to guest. While your audience segmentation should give you an idea as to how much communication a guest would like to receive, a more effective method is giving them the choice by granting them power over their own email preferences.
Some attendees will want the bare bones essentials, compacted into as few emails as possible. Others will want an email for everything: weather forecasts, traffic warnings, updates to schedules, new speaker announcements, competitions, entertainment and more. Putting the decision in guests’ hands will not only increase your CTR, and avoid annoying guests, but it will let them know that you value their preferences.
It is often worth creating distinct email addresses for events so that event communications are separate from general marketing efforts. This also ensures that if you get the balance wrong, and your guests hit the dreaded “unsubscribe” or worse yet “mark as junk”, then you will not be losing out on broader avenues for communication. Just be sure you’re staying GDPR compliant.
Event Marketing Channels: Content Marketing
Content comes in many forms, and we’ll explore some of its more interesting variants below. But no matter how varied your content, one classic form should always play a key role in your event marketing strategy – the written word.
Publish longform and shortform content, including brief updates, thorough educational content, and interviews with your event personalities. The best written content for event marketing is informative and adds value while remaining conversational, authentic, and somewhat entertaining.
Unless you have a talented team with a lot of time on their hands, to achieve all of these goals, you will need to hire professional writers and editors. Ideally, however, they will work closely with your own specialists via regular cooperation or detailed briefs. That way, you will align your messaging and stay consistent.
Talking of consistent alignment, your choice of content format should also align with your broader organisational objectives. Is the objective of your event to establish your CxOs as thought leaders? Opt for high-quality ghost-written content in their names. Is your objective to build brand authority? Opt for highly linkable educational deep dives. Is your objective to increase leads and sales via the attraction of new customers? Concentrate on search-engine optimised content targeting the right keywords to entice your target attendees.
Event Marketing Channels: Video Marketing
Video marketing is a powerful tool, especially when combined with social media marketing. Most social media platforms now prioritise video content.
Vary your video content based on your audience and platform. Make shorter, more personal teaser videos for platforms like TikTok. Upload longer “best of” videos showcasing highlights from previous iterations of your event to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Make simple, soundless background videos for your website. Launch interview series with keynote speakers on your LinkedIn. And even consider exclusive, web-only, educational content for those who have signed up.
As the event approaches (Stages A-C), add behind-the-scenes set up videos to build excitement. During the event (Stage D) livestream some of your most compelling talks. And after the event (Stage E) share highlight reels and compelling snippets.
You can make some of these videos in-house if you have a competent team, especially for videos that benefit from a more personal approach. However, know that the last decade has seen a massive spike in video quality even from amateur content creators. With that, expectations have risen too. If you’re trying anything complex with your video content, hire professionals to both film and edit it.
Event Marketing Channels: Podcasts and Webinars
Podcast marketing is an underused marketing channel that is a wonderful fit for event marketing.
Much like webinars, podcasts are highly impactful and cheaper than ever before to put together. Your podcasts and webinars can guest-feature keynote speakers and influential guests, and/or even be hosted by the same personalities as your event. You can tease topics before an event and do follow-up deep dives once the event is finished – these can be offered as VIP content for those who have joined your community.
Talking of communities, the conversational nature of a podcast is brilliant for helping to create them. If executed well, podcasts are great for establishing brand authority. From there, dedicated communities of likeminded individuals will form around that core added value. A great podcast makes the listener feel like they are a part of the conversation.
Event Marketing Techniques:
Having looked at the event marketing channels with the best reach and engagement, let’s take a look at the most effective event marketing tricks and techniques for capitalising on them.
Event Marketing Techniques: Community Marketing
Today, community in events marketing can function as a channel, a technique, a resource, and an objective.
We’ve all been isolated in one form or other during the pandemic. As a result, a sense of community is more valued than ever. More voices are better than few. Following a community-driven events marketing approach leads to organic promotion – taking the pressure off the marketing team. If you don’t have a community already, build one of your own.
We shall continue to explore the trends of community in event marketing later. For now, take note of these tips for hosting and stimulating community:
Facilitate and encourage attendee-generated content such as blogs, social media engagement, testimonials, photo, and video.
Create and promote a unique event hashtag throughout the event stages and across your social media channels. Of the many benefits of an event hashtag, an overlooked one is the facilitation of organic networking between attendees.
Ensure that there are opportunities for socialising via entertainment, warmers, social mixers, games, and buddy systems.
Create an event environment and atmosphere wherein attendees feel comfortable and valued in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Offer bonuses such as freebies, discounts, early access, and exclusives so that attendees feel they are part of an elite club.
Set up private, invite-only social media and app groups where you can illicit suggestions, answer questions, and forge new bonds between attendees.
Following these tips will help build a community-led event marketing approach with far-reaching benefits. You will generate PR opportunities, advance ticket sales, word-of-mouth recommendations, visibility, and heightened SEO.
Event Marketing Techniques: Active Participation
Closely related to community marketing, active attendee participation has wide-reaching long-term benefits. By getting attendees to generate their own content, you will be able to generate free promotion with all the authenticity of influencer marketing at a fraction of the price.
Active participation and community involvement rightly makes guests feel like they were a component of an event’s success. That will make them feel invested in it and feel pride in the results. It replaces the dated, top-down “us and them” narrative with just “us”. Moreover, it will strengthen the bonds of community, elevate engagement, vary the voices associated with the event, and increase your reach as people are much more likely to share event-related content they have been directly involved in on their personal channels.
These feelings of involvement will be stronger the earlier that the attendees get involved. So, the best time to start with active participation is Day Zero. Bring attendees in at Stage A: Event Planning, Strategy, and Research via surveys, opinion polls, or even just tweeted questions “What would you like to see at our XYZ Summit 2023?”
Event Marketing Techniques: Collaborations
Attendees and community members are not the only non-team members whose content can benefit your event. If your event benefits the industry, even competitors can be motivated to spread the word. Invite industry experts, sponsors, and even those competitors to publish articles on your blog. These can be offered in exchange for blogs on theirs, allowing you to share your audiences with each other. It’s a bona fide way to double your reach and get your message to new members of your target groups.
These collaborations work for nearly every channel described in the previous section: invite specialists onto podcasts, run interview series with industry leaders, get your event included in other company’s newsletters, and encourage the mutual sharing of social media posts.
Event Marketing Techniques: Calling The Press
Make good use of the two “PRs”: Public Relations and Press Releases.
Be sure to invite press, offer them free tickets, and give them the VIP treatment. Also, remember that overworked journalists not attending your event may still want to publish content about it. Be sure you get the message out there, so you’re not overlooked in roundup content such as “The 10 Most Exciting XYZ events this year.”
In addition to directly leading to increased registrations, media coverage will increase awareness, excitement, reputability, and SEO for your event – each of which is likely to lead to indirect registrations too. Moreover, coverage in reputable media bodies will add legitimacy to your event which will be helpful in the acquisition of sponsors, speakers, and influencers.
The press in question could include local press, industry press, and/or mainstream media if your event is big or unique enough. As well as the recommended step of using an established PR firm, you can take matters into your own hands by reaching out to the press via cold-contacting, contacting established contacts, and using journalist portals where press releases are shared according to industry and category.
Talking of press releases, there is an art to them that should not go unstudied. Journalists are busy, and they’re always looking for a hot take. Your job is to make your event seem too good not to cover while simultaneously making their lives easier:
Ensure all of the key event details are summarized in the first paragraph of the press release.
Include quotes from keynote speakers or company CxOs.
Include impressive figures and talking points.
Provide accompanying press kits with images, logos, and videos so the journalists do not have to search for their own; ensure they’re of good quality and in helpful formats.
Think of a good hook for each press release title or subject line. Ask yourself what is unique about your event? What makes your event more interesting and exciting than others? What would make a good headline?
Don’t make your press release too sales heavy. If a reputable journalist thinks they’re just repeating a company’s marketing materials, it will deter them.
If you’re emailing press releases to journalists, create a compelling subject line and a personalised introduction. Include the press release in the body of the email; attached press releases went out of vogue a decade ago.
Finally, don’t just stop at a single press release. Keep them coming with every major announcement. Bloggers and journalists are always looking for more content; make your event sound like the next hot scoop that’s too exciting to miss.
Event Marketing Techniques: Paid Promotion
Events usually have a long lifecycle, giving plenty of time to achieve organic growth without an over-reliance on paid advertising. Still, there will be multiple stages of the process, such as Stage C2 above, wherein paid promotion is needed to take things to the next level. Time is money; splashing out on premium advertising options may still be the most cost-effective solution even for event marketers working on a shoestring budget.
Paid for advertising options are myriad. There are Google ads, social media promotion opportunities, influencers, retargeted ads, DooH, and plenty more options available. Today, all these options are fast, targeted, measurable, and effective. Determining which combination to choose for your target groups is essential.
Furthermore, constant evaluation of the performance of your paid promotion is vital in order to ensure optimal results. If you have a limited marketing budget, observe the posts that are performing best organically, and make them the target of your paid-for promotion.
Event Marketing Techniques: Attendee Journey Mapping
Mapping out an attendee journey is the best way to ensure an event goes off without a hitch. The process should always begin with your target group research and segmentation, from which you can create different attendee journey maps for each subgroup. Take the time to truly learn what each subgroup is looking to gain and looking to avoid.
The purpose of your event journey mapping is to put yourself in the shoes of attendees to see what negative and positive experiences they will encounter along the way. With that information, you can pre-empt weaknesses and account for difficulties before they ever arise.
For a great breakdown of why and how to map your attendees’ journeys, we recommend this guide which includes a free downloadable cheat sheet aligned with the event marketing stages we’ve laid out above.
Event Marketing Techniques: Fun and Games
Big showstopping wow-factor events are not currently in vogue in today’s value-focused events industry. But that doesn’t mean you should hang up the party hat yet. Just because you haven’t booked Drake to headline your convention, doesn’t mean you should underestimate the power of the fun factor.
Your guests are people, they want to have a good time even at a work event. Get creative in your entertainment with an array of competitions, photo contests, games, treasure hunts, puzzles, raffles, riddles, caption competitions, giveaways, goodie bags, and more. Raise the stakes and the competitive element by offering desirable prizes. These competitions and games don’t need to be restricted to the event, they can run anywhere from Stage C: Ticket Sales and Registration to Stage E: Post-Event.
As well as vastly improving attendee satisfaction with feelings of excitement and relaxation, most of these fun experiences will benefit engagement, both offline and online. Be clever about your online competitions by making the criteria for victory the social media post which garners the most likes or shares and includes your event hashtag.
Remember that while some attendees will love the gamified elements of your events, organised fun can be a real turn-off for others. As such, don’t make any of these games obligatory. That’s especially true if any of your event revolves around alcohol. Not everyone enjoys a pub crawl; make sure guests don’t feel pressured even if they know it’s optional.
Event Marketing Techniques: The VIP Treatment
Whether you make a point of officially distinguishing guests as VIPs or merely pay more attention to their experience, it’s an undeniable truth that some attendees will hold more sway over your event’s success. Keynote speakers, journalists, influencers, and major industry figures are all worth impressing.
If you’re working with PR companies, request that they send their own representatives to look after media VIPs. If you’re on your own, you can offer free transport, exclusive content, early check-in, front-row seats, premium catering options, access to greenrooms, better accommodation, as well as regular check-ins to see if they need anything.
People aren’t that complicated. If you want people to say good things about your events, give them special treatment and special treats. It’s as simple as that.
Event Marketing Techniques: Automation and Event Efficiency
Advances in technology now allow the best processes, manually honed over the years, to be optimised through automation. Many time-, energy-, and labour-intensive processes can now seamlessly be completed through software – allowing team members to concentrate on the tasks which most benefit from a human touch.
Remarkably, in 2022 only half of event professionals successfully automate the majority of their processes. Many event organisers still use antiquated systems like Excel to manage guest lists and registration. The efficiency savings that they could make are huge and cover more or less every aspect of the event marketing lifecycle.
Event efficiency and automation tools are not just for the event manager, there are a great many underused tools designed specifically for making event marketers’ lives less painful and their work more effective. Part of the problem is that event marketers are still unaware of the breadth and benefits of the tools available to them…
Event Marketing Tools, Platforms, and Software:
New tools covering every aspect of the events marketing workflow have become commonplace, desirable, and cost effective.
Endless hours of work can be saved through bespoke software tools designed specifically to streamline event management and marketing. The software covers registration, feedback, reporting, analysis, and more. Beyond just saving time, machine learning, AI, and automation software can now perform many tasks more effectively than people can, with less chance for human error.
To ensure that you are not another event marketer whose time is unnecessarily consumed by mundane, trivial, and repetitive tasks, study the tools and software available via the links we have provided below.
Event Marketing Tools: Event Promotion Software
Event promotion software is a catch-all term that can cover event apps, easy-to-set up event websites, event insights, and email-marketing automation.
These software offerings enable a multifaceted approach allowing you to reach your registration goals with ease. From landing pages designed for your segmented target groups to a streamlined registration funnel, event promotion software is all about maximising conversions with minimal effort.
Learn more about Event Promotion Software
Event Marketing Tools: Guestlist Management Software
36% of event professionals rank guest management tools amongst the most useful technologies for their work. Guest management software allows you to instantly import guestlists then seamlessly organise and segment them, taking into consideration preferences, priorities, duplicates, and actionable insights. Having all of your attendee data in one place is extremely useful for staying on top of the complexities of segmented audiences, especially when the software is easily synced with marketing and sales CRM tools.
If you’re finding yourself spending hours on data-entry in 2022, it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror.
Learn more about Guest Management Software
Event Marketing Tools: Guest Check-in Software
Arriving at an event has historically been one of the most frustrating moments. Queues and chaos abound as guests arrive at the same time, fill-in forms, sign-in, and collect their wristbands or lanyards. Considering first impressions count for a lot, all of us in the events industry are grateful that this need no longer be the case – thanks almost entirely to guest check-in software.
Automatically streamlined and staggered arrival times coupled with apps, QR codes, and auto-printed name tags now means that guests get the welcome they deserve. Plus, guest databases can be updated in real-time providing you with crucial data on attendance.
Learn more about Guest Check-in Software
Event Marketing Tools: Virtual Event Platforms
A mediocre virtual event is easy to put together. An exceptional one is certainly not. Good virtual event platforms are an all-in-one solution for helping you aspire to the exceptional, no matter the size of your virtual event. The best virtual event platforms allow for flexibility through integrated widgets, livestreams, surveys, breakout calls, tech assistance, virtual networking, collaboration, games, interactive whiteboards, and even virtual goodie bags.
Event Marketing Tools: Event Communications and Email Marketing Software
With the click of a button, event communication software can handle all of your event reminders, fast-tracking your way to securing your target attendees. What’s more, the software gathers valuable data throughout the event lifecycle.
Few aspects of event marketing are riper for automation than email marketing. Event communication software allows for targeted, personalised, engaging, and segmented email campaigns complete with drip sequences and data analysis. You should be able to pick from aesthetically appealing code-free templates with calendar and wallet integrations as well as tracked delivery rates.
Other Useful Event Marketing Tools
Of course, in today’s technology-driven world, these are far from the only tech solutions to optimise event marketing processes. There are countless innovations designed to minimise human error, make your event unforgettable, or merely save time.
These include, though are certainly not limited to:
Influencer Marketing Platforms – Compare the success and relevance of thousands of influencers and their campaigns via influencer and content creator databases which are searchable by industry, experience, audience, and more. Find the perfect fit for your event.
Social Media Software – Schedule your posts in advance, compare your posts’ success rates, and automatically optimise them via A/B testing. Set up alerts for whenever your event is mentioned, see which post types work best, and track all of your posts and campaigns in dashboards designed for ease of use and quick visual analysis.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – Add wow-factor to both in person and live events. Many are yet to try out the experiential wonders of VR and AR, making it the ideal way to impress an audience. You can even trial running digital events exclusively in virtual reality; if your event is a small one, consider sending out cheap smartphone-compatible headsets like Google Cardboard to every attendee.
Event Apps – Having an app for your event is another sure-fire way to impress. An event app is a direct-to-attendee line of communication that can be used for notifications, reminders, digital ticket wallets, schedules, FAQs, questions for speakers, competing in games, and much more. You won’t need to design your app from scratch, there are plenty of apps designed specifically for events which already feature all this functionality – you simply need to customise them.
Bluetooth Beacons and Digital Badges – Join the savvy theme parks and venues that constantly gather data by tracking movements and sub-event attendance. These badges and beacons can take the forms of apps or even wristbands that track footfall, attendance, and more.
Chatbots – Free up your team with friendly, helpful chatbots that can answer attendees’ most frequently asked questions for you, 24/7. While these chatbots are advancing in capability, most of us have experienced frustration towards them at some point; always include the option to talk to a human too.
10 Event Marketing Trends
It is important to understand the difference between event marketing trends and event marketing fads. It is always best to treat so-called “all-in-one event marketing solutions” with a rather large pinch of salt. One-size-fits-all solutions simply do not exist in events marketing, the crux of which is about developing the ideal solution for your specific target groups. Moreover, as an industry undergoing transformation, many solutions that would have worked wonders just a couple of years ago are now ineffective.
All that said, the existence of fads and the non-existence of a “master key to unlock ultimate event marketing success” doesn’t mean that there aren’t important industry trends that are worthy of your attention.
“The pandemic has fundamentally affected events. New technologies, trials, and trends continue to reshape event success and disrupt the routes to achieving it.” Florian Kühne, CEO of Sweap
The following event marketing trends not only evidence what is working for other brands, but also represent important shifts in attendees’ attitudes and priorities. Some of these trends will likely last no longer than a few years. Others, unlocked via the technological advances of the event marketing tools listed above, will be here for the long run.
Event Marketing Trend: Expect More Events
There are countless avenues through which to market a product or service, many of which are innovative and effective. And yet almost a third of companies are designating at least 50% of their marketing budgets into events.
Businesses are ditching their historic sales-led approach for one that is more authentic, personal, and value-adding. Events are an ideal way to do this, and that has not gone unnoticed. More than half of event professionals forecast an increase in the number of events this year, with only one-in-ten predicting a decline.
For event marketers, this insight should reveal an important point – their event will likely have competition. Studying planned (or past) competitor events will help event marketers to determine how they can distinguish their own.
Event Marketing Trend: Let’s Get Analytical
Measuring event success was once a matter of simply proving attendee satisfaction. No longer. Events are now far more data-focused and results-driven due to the proliferation of new tools and the subsequent specificity of the event business goals which can be targeted.
To capitalise on this capacity for quantifiable, measurable results, having data specialists on your team is highly recommended. Though now more than ever, the wider events marketing team needs a competent level of data literacy too.
Buzzwords like “growth hacking” might come and go, but the constantly evolving data science underpinning them will only become more thorough and more complex.
Event Marketing Trend: Community Growth
52% of event professionals already market their events directly to their community, making it the third most popular channel following email and social media marketing. Furthermore, 42% of event professionals ranked community and brand loyalty as a top priority for 2022.
As mentioned above in Event Marketing Techniques, this drive for community at least partially stems from social isolation experienced during the pandemic. Though that does not mean that the concept of events community will just fade into obscurity as we progress into the endemic stage of Covid-19.
Due to the necessities of the pandemic, event marketers and wider society alike now have the tools and expertise to seamlessly overcome physical separation while building and maintaining communities. And communities look set to maintain their importance:
“I think the pandemic really accelerated community growth in 2020 and then you saw it take off even more in 2021 […] You’ll see way more tools and resources being developed for communities […] Communities have given people like me a sense of feeling and belonging. A place where you can ask questions, not be judged, and level up your career to a whole new level. It’s accelerated growth for a lot of people too. Helped them find mentors, new jobs, and just continue to network.”
Nick Bennett, Director of Field, Community, & Partner Marketing at Alyce
Event Marketing Trend: Being More Human
This trend is all about examining the attendee experience on a more personal level. Throughout the event lifecycle, attendees should be treated as valued individuals, not customers or consumers.
Two thought experiments are useful prompts for empathy here:
First, imagine you are the guest, what would make you feel engaged, motivated to attend or contribute? What might deter you? You would likely want to feel a sense of belonging, of community, and that your contribution is welcomed and valued. As you have segmented your audiences, try to empathise alongside your colleagues for each segmentation – considering their desires, objectives, doubts, and concerns.
The second exercise in empathy involves thinking back to how you felt at your last event. Especially after preparing an event over a prolonged period, it can be all too easy to view your plans from a top-down perspective. When you last went to an event, how were you feeling at registration? Were you tired after the first day? What did you want more of or less of? Now think back to other attendees or colleagues with different personalities, did they feel the same way? Were the shier attendees looking uncomfortable at any time? Were the gregarious attendees unengaged at certain moments?
Compare these concerns with your event journey maps to work out the danger points wherein they would be most pronounced. Then enact the changes required to assuage them before they ever come to pass.
In light of the pandemic, remember that many guests will still be experiencing health anxieties and social anxieties. Think about how you can help with these concerns via health and safety procedures, the encouragement of masks, or even colour-coded lanyard systems that indicate if someone is “handshake friendly” or if they would rather play things safe.
Event Marketing Trend: Value Over Showmanship
61% of event specialists said that “unique event conception and attendee experience” was the most challenging part of their role. A further 41% noted it as the most effort-intensive component. While of course attendee experience is paramount, and it’s important to stand out in an increasingly crowded events field, event marketers are waking up to the fact that a big experiential splash is no longer the dish of the day.
Showstopping headliners have their purpose, but attendee priorities right now are more focused on seeking out opportunities for added value provided to them by like-minded experts. It would be a mistake to misdirect all your time, energy, and resources to chasing a wow-factor experience that, frankly, attendees could take or leave. Don’t waste half your budget on something irrelevant to the objectives of your brand and attendees.
Event Marketing Trend: The Return to Live Events
Over 50% of event marketing budgets will be spent on live events this year, marking a dramatic shift from the virtual and hybrid dominated years of 2021 and 2020. The vast majority of event professionals are currently organising live events, and they identify them as fundamental to their overarching marketing strategies.
Virtual and hybrid events have come a long way, but attendees’ preference for in-person events is undeniable. Face-to-face networking, attendee satisfaction, brand acceleration, and client retention are just some of the community-focused benefits of in-person events that are hard to rival digitally.
Even those countries that still have social distancing restrictions in place will likely drop them before the end of the year. Venues and organisers are also now well-equipped to put on safer events should the virus meaningfully return. These two factors combined mean we can expect live events to reclaim centre stage for the foreseeable future.
Event Marketing Trend: Zoom Fatigue
Zoom and other video conferencing software has fallen from good graces almost as quickly as it rose to them. Throughout the pandemic, the virtual event format was king. And yet overexposure to a good thing can ruin it. People are bored with the format and frustrated by its limitations – yearning to replace dodgy internet connections with tangible human connections.
While many digital events are still being planned for 2022 and 2023, it is by far the least popular format compared to hybrid and live.
There are plenty of benefits of virtual events. They are cost-effective, easier to organise, highly measurable, and negate many geographical and financial restrictions for attendees. Moreover, the pandemic remains a concern, and virtual events are clearly the safest solution.
If you are looking to host a virtual event, their declining popularity should not necessarily lead you to cancel it. It should, however, instil in you a drive to distinguish your event from the status quo. That means injecting originality, dynamism, and creativity that will leave guests feeling impressed. Be sure to use cutting-edge platforms delivering high-quality value-adding content.
Event Marketing Trend: Hybrid Hits the Highway
We mentioned the potential pitfalls of industry fads, and hybrid events may be proving to be one of them. Despite the plethora of blogs praising the “best of both worlds” benefits of hybrid, many event marketers now view them as the “worst of both worlds”.
Hybrid events are almost twice the cost, twice the effort, and twice the stress. And yet event marketers are expected to the deliver them without twice the budget or team. 31% of event specialists noted “The Transition to Hybrid” as the most challenging element of their role.
Considering the extra work, additional pressure, and the split of vital event resources, running an effective, efficient, and impactful hybrid event is a challenge that understandably puts off many event marketers.
If, however, the team has the resources to pull it off in attempt to please everyone, the trick is to make the format part of the appeal. Offer differing ticket prices for virtual vs in-person attendance, create distinct landing pages for each, create unique content and activities designed for each. The tightrope hybrid event marketers must walk is to keep both types of guests happy. It’s all too easy for virtual attendees to feel like they have spent money just to be a fly on the wall watching the livestream of an event they’re not truly attending.
We suspect that hybrid won’t, as some predict, fall into obscurity. Nor do we suspect, as others claim, that it is the magic oven-ready solution to the virtual vs live event dichotomy. Instead, our prediction is that the hybrid format will drift out of popularity while it’s refined, only to rise to popularity once again in the years to come.
For now, it should at least be clear that expecting two premium experiences for the price of one is unrealistic. Hybrid events require managed expectations; be cautious listening to “experts” who tell you otherwise.
Event Marketing Trend: Micro Events on the Rise
We have already written about how a “bigger isn’t better” ethos applies to showstopping headliners and wow-factor experiences. The same ethos is true for the events themselves. Most event professionals are planning to keep their events small in 2022, and for good reason.
You couldn’t be blamed for suspecting that was purely because of lingering Covid concerns. However, smaller, brand-centred events have plenty of advantages over stadium-filling bonanzas. Micro-events in events marketing, much like nano-influencers in influencer marketing, can be much more effective, engaging, and targeted. Not to mention cost-effective.
They are focused, intimate, and concentrated on niche topics. Their invitees are highly select, and their business objectives tend to be much narrower. In Stage A: Planning, Strategy, and Research, think long and hard about whether your objectives could be achieved without the mammoth guestlist and fireworks display. Proverbial or otherwise.
Event Marketing Trend: Green Events, Not Greenwashed Events
Sustainable events might be at the bottom of this list but they are at the top of guests’ priorities. As climate catastrophe edges ever nearer, these concerns will only grow stronger. Whether it is because you don’t want to be part of the problem, because you want to be part of the solution, or because you just don’t want your guests to feel negatively towards your brand, take action to make your event sustainable.
All that said, if you try to “greenwash” your event by making it seem sustainable when it is not, you will get called out in 2022. Aside from anything else, that can be a PR disaster. “Raising awareness” and other such token efforts don’t fly anymore; people are wised up to what works and what doesn’t so conduct climate impact assessments and take meaningful actions to at least reduce your harm.
Establishing yourself as a climate leader lets all who work with your company know that you’re well-intentioned, informed, and switched on to the most pressing issues of the world. There are plenty of ways to run an event sustainably, including: carbon offsetting your VIP’s flights, making the whole event carbon neutral or negative, minimizing plastic usage, using recyclable materials, including talks on industry sustainability, upcycling decorations and furniture, using environmentally friendly caterers, sourcing local sustainable products, hiring an eco-conscious venue, and refusing to partner with environmentally destructive sponsors.
Bonus Event Marketing Trend: Blurring of Responsibilities
Less of a trend, and more of an evolution, the event marketers’ role is not what it once was. Event marketing teams will be working ever more closely with data analysts, event managers, sustainability consultants, social media managers, sales teams, and more. As the goals of departments align and events have narrower focuses, there is a growing recognition that the relationship and responsibilities of once isolated roles has moved from one of occasional intersection to one that has fully merged.
The roles of event marketers, like those of event managers, have transformed from project management to value-driven holistic marketing. With the blurring of responsibilities and closer-than-ever cooperation, there is a heightened need to define who is ultimately responsible for each duty. Especially now that brands demand measurable, proven results. Furthermore, event marketers must become competent in a new range of skills such as data literacy.
In summary, event marketers’ shoulders bear a heavy burden; neither their objectives nor their responsibilities are the same as they once were. While there are plenty of excellent new tools to ease this burden, be wary of burnout and taking on more than you can handle.
Measuring Event Success
Gone are the days when satisfied, engaged guests were the only measure of event success.
Advances in event marketing software have given event marketers a powerful new toolkit for achieving success. The advent of these tools has also upped the expectations for what event success means. Event marketing success is no longer a feeling, it is a mathematical calculation of quantifiable KPIs.
Defining these KPIs is event and industry specific; they should have been established in Stage A1: Define Your Event Goals and Objectives. Though below, we’ve broken down the calculations, metrics, and KPIs by which success is commonly measured:
Data, Data, Data
Event professionals have finally begun properly utilising data. 89% of them believe that event success can be proven through data, and 53% are already required to prove their success through the submission of data reports.
This is one of the areas in which having a data-literate event marketing team is essential. Data is often misconstrued or misinterpreted; it is all too easy to fall for misleading vanity metrics of social media or influencer marketing.
Fortunately, becoming data literate in 2022 does not require a four-year university course. Today’s data tools make the analysis and optimisation of events accessible to all those with a basic understanding. They will plot your data into easy to comprehend graphs, automatically highlight when you’re behind track and make suggestions in real-time to fix it.
Data-driven event software works on actionable metrics, tracking sales, registrations, leads, revenue, attendees, or other bespoke criteria inputted by your team. This way, over the lifecycle of an event, your highly specific business goals can be analysed and optimised as the software deciphers what is working and what is not.
Sales and Leads Vs Cost
The acquisition of sales, leads, and customer conversions is the most common objective of event marketing. Naturally, they make excellent KPIs. To measure your success, you need to work out the financial benefits of these sales against the costs of the event. If your boss wants you to prove your event success, and you can show him that the revenue earned from the leads surpasses the cost, they should be happy – especially considering all of the indirect and non-financial benefits that should also follow.
It is essentially just a matter of calculating an event’s ROI – making it one of the simplest calculations of event success. If you charged for ticket sales, food, drink, or VIP exclusives, be sure to factor them into your calculation too.
Of course, with “leads” as opposed to direct “sales”, things become trickier. Some leads are not new for the event, but the event pushes them to the final stages of the funnel. Other new leads may take months or years to pay off. In these scenarios, to evaluate your event success, you will have to estimate your company’s average revenue from similar leads and compare that to event costs.
Registrations vs Attendees
If sales and leads are not your KPIs, it’s more likely that you are focused on brand-centric event objectives. In which case, you can assess your marketing efforts by comparing registrations to checked-in attendees.
Examine the registration data in depth to work out at which periods the most and least tickets were sold. Were they when you expected they would be? Why not? What could you do differently next time? If you’ve found you don’t have all the answers to these questions, consider getting in touch with attendees who registered but didn’t attend, or expressed interest but never registered.
Feedback and Surveys
Attendee satisfaction is of utmost importance even if it is no longer commonly accepted as a sufficient measure of event success. Build post-event surveys and encourage the completion of them through prizes and rewards.
A carefully crafted digital survey should provide opportunities for quantitative responses, with, for example, answers ranging from 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Very Much). These numerical representations can then be plotted, deciphered, and evaluated. Quantifiable survey question examples include:
“How familiar were you with our brand pre-event?”
“How familiar with our brand are you now?”
“How engaged were you at the event?”
“How was your check-in experience?”
“Would you rate us as industry leaders?”
Surveys should also provide a space for qualitative responses:
“What could we have done differently?”
“Which seminar did you find most valuable and why?”
“What would you like to see at our next event?”
Carefully choose the content of the questions, ensure they’re easily understood, and ensure that the survey is long enough to be useful to your evaluation without being so long that it becomes annoying for attendees. And don’t make the oldest mistake in the book by making it unclear whether 1 means “Very much” or “Not at all”.
It is worth asking for attendees’ permission to share some of their answers. If attendees have had a positive experience, you can take some of their answers (qualitative quotes and quantitative summaries) and use them in your post-event content as well as in the marketing copy for the next iteration of the event.
Events provide a unique opportunity. They provide meaningful added value delivered by experts in an experiential and social context.
The events marketing industry today, however, is unrecognisable from the industry of just a few years ago. Hyper-specific, measurable objectives are now the norm. Multi-touch approaches can be cleverly deployed combining attributable channels and techniques. Podcasts, YouTube series, interviews, and community mean that the event lasts much longer than the doors are open.
Yet somewhat contradictorily, in spite of this new analytical approach, the magic of events still lies in their ability to foster genuine human connection. The pandemic was a shared experience for all of us, aligning many of our concerns, struggles, and desires for community interaction.
As we hope that we’ve shown throughout our Ultimate Event Marketing Guide 2022, a personal, authentic approach is not only consistent with the analytic approach, but the two can fuse to achieve unparalleled marketing results.
If we were to leave event marketers with just one piece of advice to see them through the rest of 2022 and into 2023, it would be this: Event marketing success is different for everyone. The tools to unlock your version of event success are ready and waiting. Seize them.
If you found this event marketing guide useful, support us by sharing it with your community. Most of the figures scattered throughout this guide came from our own in-depth industry study on the State of Event Management which we conducted earlier this year. We highly recommend it as further reading if you’re looking for more insights into the events industry as a whole.
If you’re looking to learn more about event marketing, we also recommend reading our recent blogs on Event Marketing Strategy, Sustainable Events, and on the Event Attendee Journey. And to learn more about the ways that Sweap can help you find your own version of event marketing success, explore our solutions.
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