It’s been a complicated couple of years for events–BUT, smart marketers shouldn’t discount the value of face-to-face contact in a marketing strategy. And keep in mind, a marketing strategy that includes event marketing can include virtual events as well! We’ll give you some pointers on an event-based promotional strategy in this post, head on down to the sections below:
- What is Event Marketing and Why Does Event Marketing Matter?
- The Benefits of Event Marketing
- Types of Event Marketing
- Essential Features of Event Marketing
- How to Create an Event Marketing Plan
- Examples of Successful Event Marketing
- How to Measure your Event Marketing Success
- Kaltura Virtual Events
- Final Thoughts
What is Event Marketing and Why Does Event Marketing Matter?
Event marketing means taking on a marketing strategy of leveraging in-person engagement. In event marketing, one develops a themed exhibit, display, or presentation–an event, you might say–to promote a product, service, or organization. Events can occur in person or offline, and give potential customers a unique first-hand interaction with your brand or company, providing a true sense of your personality, perspective, and areas of focus. In many cases events represent a large share of a company or organization’s marketing spending; even as a switch to virtual and digital was required, significant emphasis has remained on brand experiences.
Event marketing matters because it’s able to reach through the clutter of numerous pitches and advertisements that every consumer experiences each day. Event marketing remains critical because of the power of in-person and face-to-face virtual experiences to create one-on-one connections with your brand. While it certainly requires an investment of time and budget, as part of an overall marketing strategy it can inevitably pay back by helping you connect with your customers on a meaningful level.
The Benefits of Event Marketing
- Establish a relationship with customers
We made this point above, but, just to reiterate, the main purpose of event marketing is being able to establish relationships! You won’t get as solid of a connection with customers from a website, marketing campaign, or even social media.
- Increase brand exposure
Related to customer relationships, events are a surefire way to get potential customers and prospects to discover your brand and attract attention to brands, organizations, and products.
- Reach a target audience
Sometimes you need to reach out directly to the audience who’s interested in what you’re offering. Events can help you narrow down and reach out to your target demographic.
- Create credibility
Given the opportunity to interact with customers on a personal level, events help you establish expertise in your field by giving an opportunity to help and teach others.
- Boost sales
At the end of the day, marketing is about helping to sell products and services. If your events make a positive impression, you’ll have more customers, it’s as simple as that.
Types of Event Marketing
For the sake of this article, our main focus will be the discussion of actual, individual events as part of your overall marketing.
The types of events you can have are:
The traditional type of event. Physical events require a significant investment in location and other in-person accouterments. On the other hand, the path of creating in-person promotional and marketing events is well-traveled. You have no shortage of examples of how to set up physical events and tailor them appropriately to your budget.
It’s no secret that following two years of stay-at-home orders, the virtual event space is blossoming like never before. As we’ve mentioned on this blog before, virtual events can provide the same value as in-person, as well as a few unique advantages. However it’s important to understand how to make the most of them–and a top-notch virtual event platform is usually your best foundation.
Other types of marketing activity that might fall under “event marketing” encompass aspects of advertising/social media marketing (for instance the idea of making a premiere or product launch into an “event”), event websites that tie in with in-person or virtual events, email marketing (as a lead-up promotion or attendee follow up for an in-person or virtual event) and SEO marketing (search engine optimization) that makes an event rank higher in searches.
It’s also important not to confuse “event marketing” with “event-based marketing” or “event-based marketing strategy”, which refers to a type of automated marketing, not coordinating branded in-person or virtual events.
Hybrid events have merged as a combination of virtual and in-person events; attendees can choose whether to attend sessions virtually or in-person. In both cases, they’ll have access to all of the content–a “best of both worlds” approach that leaves the decision in the audience’s hands. Some people prefer the immediacy and personal connection of the in-person format; others can choose to attend virtually for reasons of schedule and travel, preference for social distancing, accessibility, or any other potential bar to attendance. There are similar advantages to virtual events for organizers and attendees, however, the challenge to organizers is greater when planning a both-at-once strategy.
Essential Features of Event Marketing
- A Range of Events: Putting on one small event a year is not a real supplement to a marketing strategy. Better to think in terms of several: trade shows, exhibition, branded entertainment–cast a wide net!
- Events are Goal-Oriented: An event without goals is not a commercial or marketing strategy.
- Effective Communication and Promotion: Events need to get the message out to the target audience, and generate interest from the audience in the event.
- Evaluation and Feedback: It’s impossible to improve or meet goals without learning from successes or mistakes. Likewise, it’s important to solicit feedback to meet your audience’s needs.
- Location or Virtual Location: Per the above section, part of the added value of an event is where it takes place and what advantages that can provide.
How to Create an Event Marketing Plan
A “how-to” for event marketing is practically a topic on its own, however, a broad overview should give you enough to inspire your own research and practice. Here are the main points to consider for creating your event marketing plan:
- Goals and Budget
-Keep your goals specific, measurable, and attainable; you’ll need clear direction during the planning and for deciding whether the event was a success. “Drive sales”, for instance, is vague. “Make 100 sales by the end of the event,” on the other hand, is specific and measurable. “Make 1,000,000 sales by the end of the event” could however be unattainable (depending on your product and event).
– As always, budget is the “bottom line.” Carefully consider what resources you have, what you’re able to spend, and what return on investment should look like related to your goals. Even if it’s not a “profit” per se.
- Theme, Branding, Schedule
-For marketing, you’ll want to establish your event’s name, theme, brand, and purpose. What information and content are you marketing? What value will people get from attending?
-Start putting together a schedule of when things will happen: keynotes, workshops, networking, etc. It doesn’t all have to be locked down but it gives you a starting point and some things to start promoting.
-See also point #5, “Timeline”.
- Audience and Audience Reach
-In other words, who are you marketing to, and in what way can you reach them? Understanding your audience, the people who will enjoy your content, learn from your workshops and speakers, and be interested in your sponsors, is the heart of the event. Web and social media are “no brainer” marketing channels in today’s digital world, but you also might consider printed advertisements for the local area, or other marketing placed in more traditional media (TV, newspapers, magazines, radio, etc.) Look into email marketing. Use all avenues to get the word out!
- Content Creation and Content Management
– What, where, when, who, why, how … there are a lot of factors and a lot of information in play. Decide as early as possible what you’ll need to produce, who will be producing and/or creating it, and how you’ll control the process. Also, information will need to be released, updated, and changed over time: who is updating the website? Will you be creating an event app? The sooner you can answer these questions the better!
– Content management can also be aided by a high-quality virtual event platform. Whether you want to archive or are working on a virtual or hybrid event presentation, strong video content management and hosting capacity are a huge help.
– Similar to the actual event schedule, this will tie in with your overall timeline.
-You’ll want to create a timeline that incorporates both your event schedule and also counts backward from the event day(s). This provides both mile markers for preparation (“Keynote speaker must be booked by this day”; “Venue will be available for rehearsal on this day,” etc.) and a longer-term promotional timeline. Get the word out… and schedule what you release over time to pique your audience’s curiosity and anticipation.
- Promotion and Marketing
-Related to the timeline, you’ll want to be promoting during the lead-up. As mentioned, get a wide variety of promotional media going! And particularly with social media promotion, keep it going even while the event is happening!
- Measuring Success
– Make sure you set some targets for determining if your event was a success. You’ll probably want more data and deeper insights than, “Well, the room was full.”
-We’ve also bullet-pointed a few helpful KPIs below!
Examples of Successful Event Marketing
This could practically merit a post on its own, but, here are a few ideas for leveraging events to your benefit! Remember that what you’re offering is not content alone, but an experience.
1) User Conferences: One of the classic business/organization events, they usually have a theme relevant to your industry. Conferences were traditionally in-person, although by 2020-2021 there have also been many successful examples of completely virtual events. And now that social distancing orders are loosening up, a hybrid conference is also a great option.
Example – South Summit (https://www.southsummit.co)
This European startup conference was held in person and additionally took advantage of the virtual by creating an app that allowed attendees to message each other in real-time, learn more about events and speakers, and submit feedback. It also functioned as a tour guide through the busy and dynamic conference, an enhancement that helped attendees have the best in-person experience.
2) Networking Events: A top choice for in-person events but you can go virtual (or even hybrid!) as well. These can come in all shapes and sizes from a meal or happy hour to anything else that will get folks interacting one on one.
Example – Lean Startup’s Networking Events (https://leanstartup.co)
Lean Startup offered innovative networking events within a larger conference. They used immersive networking opportunities to promote higher quality guest interactions; the networking events used “global community” as a theme, and additionally provided a frequently updated guest list so visitors would know they could find other like-minded individuals.
3) Community Events: “Meet them where they are.” You can leverage community either in actual physical space and as well as reaching out to groups together through a common interest. For instance, when seeking goods and services, many people will look for local businesses first. Hosting an event hyper-locally can get customers through your door. Or, as in the example below, unify practitioners from an industry or field and reach out to them there.
Example – Podcast Movement (https://podcastmovement.com)
This event is the place to be for podcasters; professional, amateur, and aspiring. Its narrow focus on podcasting issues and strategies: how to produce a high-quality show, land sponsorships, improve downloads, and so forth. The narrow focus also provides organizers and sponsors with a defined audience niche. The layout is also geared for attending podcasters to interview guests and record episodes while at the event!
4) Special Guest Events: Guests such as entertainers, celebrities, and industry experts provide a tacit endorsement of your business and connect with your customers.
Example- Inbound (https://www.inbound.com)
Inbound is a go-to conference for people looking to learn from some of the world’s foremost entrepreneurs and celebrities. Guests at previous events have included heavyweights like Michelle Obama, John Cena, and Shonda Rhimes. Additionally, the social events and end-of-conference parties have been described as “unforgettable”!
5) Experiential Marketing: A subcategory of event marketing that’s less about structured events and event spaces instead focused on immersing a consumer/audience in a unique and memorable branded interaction.
Example – White Castle Valentine’s Day 2020
US fast-food chain White Castle doesn’t have the brand visibility of a Mcdonald’s, but it does have something of a cult following (New York City residents, for instance, are familiar with both the chain and its’ Valentine’s events). White Castle had ALREADY leveraged experiential marketing for annual Valentine’s Day experiences that were a cute/ironic take on fine dining in fast-food restaurants known for “affordability.” But the 2020 pandemic created a unique challenge. White Castle responded by creating a car-side service event for Valentine’s Day, providing both COVID-safe dining and a nostalgic call-back to 1950s drive-in restaurants. Customers were provided with a unique twist on the beloved annual experience, including a specialized Spotify playlist!
How to Measure your Event Marketing Success
As in most marketing, KPIs are “key” here!
When figuring out how to measure if your event was successful, you can look at factors like:
- Registrations and check-ins
- Cost-to-revenue ratio
- Participant satisfaction
- Note, this is a primary driver for soliciting audience/attendee feedback.
- Social Media Buzz and Engagement
- Leads and Customer Conversions
- Right next to revenue in hand, a key indicator is if your event generates paying customers.
Kaltura Virtual Events
Once you have an event marketing strategy in place, we recommend Kaltura Virtual Events, our advanced virtual event solution. Kaltura Virtual Events is fully featured to help you advance your event marketing through all planning and execution stages, and our mission is to make sure all of your events can be simple to create and execute while remaining on-brand.
When planning and setting up a virtual event, you can take advantage of agenda-building capabilities through Kaltura Virtual Events, as well as fully customizable landing pages and preset event templates. Our platform also offers event templates with robust features for individualized modification and other customization intended to keep you 100% on-brand. Whatever your virtual event marketing strategy is, your template options can also make it possible to extend the reach of the event by scaling up and adding tracks and content. There are 5 standard templates, which can be implemented as-is but are also suitable to be reused or reworked: Interactive Webinar, Town Hall and Large Broadcast, Single Track, Multi-Day Multi-Track, and Flagship Event. Our events come with the full advantages of our platform as well as excellent production support options from our team.
Additionally, we enable hyper-personalization of events for all attendees, including personalized agendas, selecting topics of interest during registration to content recommendations, customizable layouts, personal media collections, and other options to individualize any experience.
Kaltura Virtual Events also features out-of-the-box integrations as a modular framework for your SaaS tools including conferencing clients, marketing automation platforms, and data analytics. Marketing automation features in particular empower your event to create personalized, customized, and automated live marketing that puts you on track for follow-up campaigns. Lastly, we love data and want to share the enthusiasm with you: our platform allows for both quantity and quality of engagement data to help you gain actionable insights to both see the full picture of your event’s performance and advance your event marketing strategy for the future.
While it’s been a challenging couple of years for in-person events, moving forward with a hybrid event marketing strategy embracing both virtual and in-person events will serve your business or org well. Business and real-world conditions may vary but the very human impulse to socialize and connect doesn’t seem like it will go away any time soon. Make sure you’re making the most of event marketing to engage your audience. Paired with a savvy marketing strategy and a high-quality virtual event platform, you’ll have all your bases covered!
Ready to put your event marketing strategy through its paces?