To Market Events, Make Them Memorable

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Companies spend countless dollars on events over the course of a year, with everything from industry social events and webinars to large trade shows with expensive booths, sponsorships, hotels, travel, and incidental expenses.

With this type of outlay of financial and personnel resources, companies need to ensure that they capture and capitalize on event attendees and effectively follow up with them so they achieve a good return on their event investments.

“Too many companies see the event as the summit, the ultimate experience. But it’s not a magic bullet,” says Gail Bower, president of Bower & Co. Consulting, which helps companies with event and other marketing opportunities. “There are things you need to do before, during, and after the event.”

Before the event begins, the pre-event planning is essential, marketers agree.

Peter Gillett, CEO of Zuant Mobile, provider of a mobile lead capture application, recommends planning as much as a year ahead for the largest events, determining goals and strategies. The initial planning meetings should include an event manager, marketing, and sales.

In those meetings, companies need to first determine their objectives with the events—whether they want to find new customers, upsell current ones, maintain and strengthen relationships with current customers, or some combination of them all, Gillett says.

But many marketers agree that sales hardly ever happen at the events themselves, so company goals should be more to build awareness and to identify and then prioritize prospects and customers.

After agreeing on the objectives, the next step, Gillett says, is to start marketing the event to customers and prospects.

Bower adds that it’s important to use both email and phone calls for this initial marketing effort. If the company is sponsoring the event, it can invite whomever it wants. If the event is a larger trade show, the company might have access to free or discounted tickets that it can provide to its customers as a way to get them to attend.

“It is important that you are driving activities,” says Kristen Alexander, chief marketing officer at Certain, a provider of event automation and management software. “Who are you driving to the event? You need to think through your data strategy.”

Alexander recommends that companies examine their customer profiles, use that data to target market prospects with similar profiles, and invite them to attend the event. Prior to the event and during the event itself, find out which products interest customers and which challenges they are attempting to solve, noting that the customer might not initially have a specific product in mind, and then email the prospects with information and demonstrations on those specific products, she urges.

“Joe might be interested in product A and Samantha in product B,” Alexander explains. “Have sellers and product experts well-versed in those products contact [prospects] to accelerate interest down through the sales funnel.”

Keri Cook, senior director of demand generation at Clarabridge, says her company looks at previous year’s attendee lists as well as any pre-event information on expected attendees to identify a handful of top prospects to target. “We believe in a more targeted, rather than a firehose, approach.”

Clarabridge uses much the same strategy with its own annual users’ conference, Clarabridge Customer Connections (C3). When planning such an event, it’s important to not only follow many of the same strategies as with an industry event, but also to ensure the event is held at a compelling location. The 2019 C3 event will be in Miami. Previous years’ conferences have been held at Walt Disney World and Las Vegas.

Companies can—and should—go on social media prior to events to inform customers and prospects about their participation, sharing booth locations and previewing any company announcements or workshop sessions where company executives will be speaking. They should also use social media during the event to invite people to informal mixers, where they can talk to people one-on-one away from the noise and other distractions of the event itself, recommends Cook and Joe Salesky, CEO of CRMNEXT.

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