Event Marketing

Maximize your marketing strategies to sell out your event, leveraging event data for customer engagement that aligns with your business goals.

What is event marketing?

Today’s consumer faces countless pitches and advertisements a day, so when it comes to making purchasing decisions, you really need to catch the buyer’s eye. One particularly effective method of connecting with customers is through event marketing. Event marketing describes the process of developing a themed exhibit, display, or presentation to promote a product, service, cause, or organization leveraging in-person engagement. Events can occur online or offline, and can be participated in, hosted, or sponsored as a form of engagement. Using events as a marketing channel gives potential customers a unique, firsthand interaction with the company and a true sense of the company’s focus, perspective, and personality. The self-directed buyer of today goes about making purchasing decisions at their own rate after careful consideration, so marketers must be ready to seize every opportunity to start a relationship, generate goodwill, and earn the trust of prospective buyers. While there are less time-consuming and costly methods of marketing, incorporating event marketing into your overall marketing strategy can pay dividends in connecting with buyers on a meaningful level.

Event marketing can benefit your business in a variety of ways. Aside from helping to build brand presence before, during, and after the event, you can generate leads, pipeline value, and new opportunities. In addition to leads, event marketing can help promote a specific product or feature and increase overall customer satisfaction, retention, and engagement. Planning events can also give your partners and sponsors a tactical and visible engagement point to enforce their own return on investment (ROI). 

Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses to stand out from the crowd, and event marketing is a great place to start. Not only does event marketing give you new channels and methods to use to connect with future and returning customers, the customer data you collect from other sources can allow you to get to know them prior to the event, so they can be treated as individuals rather than a crowd being sold to. And it works—73% of event planners believe that personalization and data-driver marketing is a priority for their events. Whether you are hosting a small webinar, a large-scale international trade show, or an executive-level private function, event marketing should be an integral part of your demand generation mix. 

“Not all events are created equal. Companies must consider live events an extension of their brand and content marketing and build events that really engage. For me, that means thinking about the customer experience you REALLY want to portray. A 6x6 static stand is unlikely to meet that need!” 

 - Craig Hanna, EVP North America, Econsultancy


Common problems that event marketing can solve

Beyond giving you the ability to engage with buyers in real time, event marketing offers a myriad of other unique benefits that can solve several common problems.

  • Problem: I need to build brand awareness. One of the biggest reasons for a business to participate in an event is to establish and grow its brand. Event marketing allows your company to interact with potential buyers and express itself in real time. Through events, you create the perfect venue to share your ideas, thoughts, and name in the exact manner you want to present them. 

  • Problem: I need new ways to generate leads. Another important reason businesses choose to participate in an event is to generate leads. One of the best ways to do this is to become part of an event that will attract your target demographic. Choosing the right event allows your company to interact with a group of prospects that already have an interest in who you are and what you do.

  • Problem: My customers aren’t engaging with my current marketing tactics. The engagement provided by events is uniquely powerful, providing an invaluable opportunity for positive personal interaction that builds loyalty. Since companies can realize the biggest ROI on their marketing dollars by retaining and growing existing customers, staying connected is key. At events, you experience the chance to upsell customers to a captive audience by introducing them to products and services that they may not know about—or may not realize could address their needs. 

  • Problem: I’m struggling with event attendance or engagement. Most people attend events to network and be educated. Both are powerful draws in their own ways. No matter what type of event you are at, it is critical to impart knowledge that the audience will value—and that sets your company apart. By securing quality, high-profile speakers, you can draw a crowd. By sharing unique insights that are relevant to the audience,you can advance your reputation as a thought leader in the industry and establish a critical connection between your brand and prospective buyers. 

  • Problem: I’m struggling to show the ROI of my events. You’re not alone—even though events command the highest share of marketing budgets and 69% of marketers consider in-person events effective, marketers admit they don’t know how to calculate the true ROI of an event. To crunch those numbers, you need to connect your event metrics with your company and sales goals beforehand.

Learn more about how to measure the ROI of your event performance in our recent blog post "How to Measure Event Marketing Performance and ROI."

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Types of event marketing

To create a holistic event marketing program, be sure to include both offline and online events to reach as many potential customers as possible.  

  • Online events. Online events connect presenters and participants through a web-based interface. Common types of online events include webinars, virtual events, and livestreaming events. Online events are often less costly than in-person events and can enable you to easily reach a geographically dispersed audience. 

  • Webinars. Webinars revolve around presentations, discussions, or workshops that are delivered via the web. They can happen in real time or on demand, and typically last from 30 to 60 minutes. Real-time webinars enable interaction among participants, providing the opportunity to receive and discuss information on a topic that is presented through web-based conferencing tools. Real-time webinars can be interactive on many levels, and typically allow attendees to ask questions directly to the presenters. 

  • Virtual events. Virtual events enable individuals in different locations to participate in a virtual environment that has the look and feel of an offline event by combining education, networking, and interactive features. Participants visit a virtual booth where they can collect materials, meet the staff, ask questions, and even pick up some virtual swag. These programs tend to happen in real-time for all participants. 

  • Livestreaming events. These are live events that you can stream to your viewers. You can conduct these with a simple webcam or employ a full production crew for higher quality broadcasting.  Applications such as Livestream and Ustream, as well as Google Hangouts, offer a live service that allows you to fully stream, record, and engage your audience with chat and social media functionality. 

  • Physical events. Offline events require physical attendance, and interactions take place in person. While they often require more investment than virtual events, offline events allow face-to-face relationship building. Don’t underestimate the impact a handshake or a personal meeting can make on a prospect or customer. 

  • Trade shows. A trade show is a physical gathering of individuals in a particular industry or profession in a forum that typically features numerous companies in a specific market. A business may sponsor or participate in a trade show to show off a product or simply to network and strengthen its presence in a market. 

  • Conferences. Conferences are often company-specific marketing events that gather attendees for the purpose of delivering information such as a user summit. These events tend to be on the larger side and are held by companies for training or educational purposes. 

  • Seminars. The term seminar is usually used to describe smaller meetings, road shows, or field events. Some seminars are set up similar to a classroom lecture, where an expert shares information with the audience in a traditional format. Others are styled as road shows, where marketers take their company’s message out to the public or to employees or partners. 

  • Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. These are typically smaller, more targeted events. They can be both customer and prospect focused. These events are usually very intimate, with eight to ten people, or can be larger, with 50 or more attendees. The smaller functions  tend to be high level and provide executives a private setting for networking. On a larger scale, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners can include thought leadership presentations as part of the event. 

Learn more about what event marketing can offer in our Definitive Guide to Event Marketing.

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ROI of a successful event marketing program

While measuring the ROI of a successful event marketing program is more complicated than other channels, the data you can collect is invaluable.  

  • Event marketing is vital. In fact, over 40% of marketers believe that live events are their number one marketing channel.

  • Event marketing is growing. The number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year has increased by 17% from 2017 to 2018.

  • Event marketing forms real connections. A survey conducted by Bizzabo discovered that 95% of respondents believed that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.

Planning, implementing, and optimizing your event marketing program

Once you determine your goals, you can start the creative process to develop an event that will engage your audience, launch promotions, and generate sales. 

  • Step 1: Set realistic and targeted goals up front. When it comes to event marketing, ROI is not just something you consider after the fact; you must plan for ROI from the outset and continue measuring ROI after the event if you want to be accurate. Keep in mind that your goals should not be limited to only registration and attendance models. The best goals will get into pipeline and revenue impact. 

  • Step 2: Incorporate a strong theme and be creative, whether in person or online. So you’re at the event—now what? In a sea of vendors, how do you make your presence known? Consider using games or interactive tools as a way to pique the interest of attendees. Swag giveaways are also a great way to entice someone to visit your booth. This matters with virtual events also. Keep in mind your look, how you present your collateral, and what sort of contests you might want to incorporate. 

  • Step 3: Segment and create multiple touches in your promotion. No matter what sort of promotion you are using, segmentation is vital to getting the right attendees registered for your event. Make sure you spend time on data quality to ensure that the lists can be reused in the future. Being active on social networks before, during, and after your event is crucial for success, as is determining the appropriate amount of email promotion. Don’t forget, because events are in real-time, attendees often use social networks to engage with other participants in a live environment. Connect with attendees through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on to generate some buzz for future events. 

  • Step 6: Make sure you have the right event technology in place. Virtual event platforms enable an interactive gathering on the web, allowing participants to be part of a trade show, meeting, conference, or any other event without ever leaving their office. When it comes to webinars, each platform has their own value. Determine what is most important to you (price, ease of use, customer service) and go from there. A marketing automation system is crucial here so you can keep your efforts scalabile, trackable, and measurable. 

  • Step 7: Base measurement around ROI. When it comes to measuring event marketing ROI, you have three metrics to choose from.

    • Basic progression measurement. By measuring the progression statuses of your attendees, you can determine metrics such as invited, registered, attended, and no show.

    • Leads by category. This metric tracks where leads are in your revenue cycle and lead category, or in other words, which leads are most worth pursuing.

    • Pipeline measurements. This metric tracks how many opportunities were created, how much pipeline was generated, how many were closed/won and for how much, bookings, and cost per opportunity (CPO).

Learn more about how to get event marketing to work for you in Go from Meh to Yah! 10 Success Secrets for More Effective Events.