Event Marketing: 4 Rules of Engagement Every Marketer Should Know

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Courtney Kay

VP of Field Marketing

Events are content too you know…

event marketing
Event marketing image via Shutterstock

You spend countless hours scoping venues, scrutinizing over your directional signage, arranging for a gift that will make you the Oscar gift bag of your speaker community, all while making sure you have just the right amount of coffee served in a room that’s the optimal temperature (you event folks know just how comical that statement is). All that effort only to have half as many people show up and the remainder arriving late or leaving early…

Ok, I might be exaggerating slightly, but the point is still valid: events are a BIG marketing expense, a HUGE effort to pull off and are entirely dependent on our ability to get people – the right people – in the seats. Now unless you’re hosting the next Oscar gala, that can feel like pushing a bolder up a mountain in the middle of winter. Why is it that in a world where it’s easier than ever to reach out and touch someone, it’s actually harder than ever to actually reach out and touch someone?

I have a theory: while we’ve upped our game exponentially in distributing and measuring content, we tend to stop short of rolling those newfound, phenomenally effective strategies into our event recruitment and conversion efforts. We must remember, events are content too! What’s more: events are the highest level commitment content we can deliver. That’s right, I grade content based on the level of commitment our prospects have to expend to access it. White papers and data sheets = minimal commitment. Webcasts and trials = moderate commitment. But events?! Events are practically marriage!

Event marketing is a lot like dating – Understand these 4 rules of engagement and you’ll be just fine

When it comes to generating an event registrant (and even more importantly, an attendee), you’re asking for far more than a basic, transactional content download. You’re moving from the flirtatious text, past the phone call and cup of coffee, straight to dinner! Generating commitment from a prospect to attend an event is the equivalent of getting him or her to commit to a date. And, all the same rules apply…

1. “Make me feel special – I’m not just another girl (aka white paper lead)”

Clearly you got my contact information somehow, and how you got it can give you good insight into how you can get me engaged in the event you’re hosting. Did I download a piece of content? Read an article on your website? Subscribe to a particular newsletter? Or meet you at an industry event? Regardless of the initial activity, there’s probably some piece of topical insight I’ve shared, and you should use it – particularly if I came in initially through a 3rd  party channel.

Your prospect’s content history can shed light into his or her topical interest(s), use that insight to introduce your event from the perspective that will resonate best. Remember, that history extends beyond your universe – leverage activity insights to augment what you know about your account base to pinpoint the best current prospects. For example, if I downloaded 1 or 2 content pieces that addressed the issues surrounding the deployment of a BYOD strategy, talk about your upcoming event from the perspective of the topics it will touch on related to BYOD policies. Remember, at this point, we’re still flirting; this is about introducing the event and piquing my overall interest. I may not know that you even exist!

2. “Use your words (and make them meaningful)”

You want me to set aside the time, show up to the location of your choosing and engage in meaningful conversation with you for hours, knowing full well you’re only after one thing… my business… you better show me what I’ll get out of it.

Ok, I know who you are, now I need to understand what makes you so great (and so different) from all the other events I’m getting inundated with invitations to. The value of any content is subjective, use the insights you’ve garnered about my interests to tailor your value proposition to directly address what matters to me. Some of the best, most successful event promotions are those that highlight the 2-3 things a prospect will get out of the content you’re distributing. Take that one step further to customize those based on the topical interests of your prospect. Looking back at our BYOD example… show me how attending this event will specifically help me with my BYOD strategy: “ attending this event will help you 1- figure out what you need to consider when crafting your policy 2- identify who you need to get buy in from and 3- craft the policy that’s right for your business.” Suddenly, there’s a real value to my attending your event.

3. “Just because I agreed doesn’t mean I’m definitely showing up…”

A lot of “better offers” can pop up between the time I commit to our date (aka the point of registration) and the day of. It’s important to continue to sell and reinforce your value while simultaneously creating urgency. Reinforcing that commitment starts immediately following that registration. When a prospect registers, use that opportunity to call and create a personal connection. Extending that outreach as part of the confirmation process can also serve as a means of collecting additional prospect insights that sales can leverage for faster onsite prioritization and progress. Use that confirmation call to:

  • Further scope the business opportunity(s): identify pain points, determine projected budget, isolate the location & timeframe of the project, etc.
  • Identify and invite other buying team members. Provide incentives for prospects to extend the invite to other team members.

4. “Prove to me you’re committed to this relationship – don’t squander all that we’ve built”

Realistically, through this entire process, several individuals will interact with the prospect- callers, registration personnel, sales reps, etc., but one of the most important things to remember is that each of these individual interactions creates another opportunity to further personalize and reinforce the relationship. Be sure that whatever information you’re collecting and optimizing throughout the process is accessible to any of the folks who might interact with the prospect along the way. Event apps are a great (and scalable) way to optimize and personalize the onsite experience for your prospects.

If you’re new to events, there are lots of resources out there to help, including thi s great guide from the folks at Marketo: Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Event Marketing.

Furthermore, if you’re working to deploy your own events and need ideas on ways that you can more effectively get your prospects to commit, feel free to reach out with your questions and I can share more dating (aka event marketing) advice! Leave a comment below or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

content, content marketing, Customer Engagement, event engagement, event marketing, event promotion, IT events, technology events

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