What Is Event Marketing?
Event marketing is the promotion of a product, brand, or service through in-person interactions. There are many forms of event marketing and each can be catered to address a marketer’s specific goals. A company can host its own event, building stronger relationships with its prospects and customers. A company can attend an event as an exhibitor and introduce their product to potential clients. Online events, such as webinars or live streamed workshops, vary in scope and prove to be just as impactful as live events. Whatever the format, event marketing is a versatile and incredibly effective strategy that builds long-term value upon relationships with clients and partners alike.
Why Event Marketing?
At its core, marketing is communication. It is the ability to clearly convey a message at the opportune time. Live events provide the opportunity for one to connect directly with stakeholders and clearly communicate their message. It’s no wonder that event marketing continues to grow as one of the most important marketing strategies for today’s big companies. According to Forrester Research, events make up for 24% of the B2B marketing budget. By 2020, 3.2M global professional events will be taking place on an annual basis. Companies are believing in the power of live events and this trend will only continue to grow in the coming years.
Below you will find a thorough and comprehensive guide on event marketing best practices. Whether you’re planning a 3-day conference or attending an international tradeshow, this guide will give you a more complete understanding of event marketing strategies and how to maximize their impact.
- Types of Events
- How to Measure Event Success
- 3 Tips for Finding the Right Venue
- How to Create An Event Website
- How to Improve Your Event Website SEO
- How to Promote Your Event on Social Media
- 3 Keys to Land the Right Event Sponsors
- How to Integrate Event Data
Improved technology combined with the growing need of events has resulted in a wide range of event types. Having a firm understanding of each type of event will help event marketers determine which ones align most closely their specific goals. Below is a thorough but by no means exhaustive list of event types.
These large scale events make up a significant portion of the events industry. Conferences can be either B2B or B2C and usually have a schedule filled with engaging speakers, educational workshops, and valuable networking sessions. The most successful conferences are the ones that balance a professional environment with an energetic, social atmosphere.
“I would have to say that for us at Franchise Update Media, our marketing strategy stems from our conferences. Not necessarily the other way around. We diligently analyze the successes and failures of each of our events and build our strategy around the successes, or little wins. We tend to conceptualize our overall conference experience and work backwards from there.”
—Katy Geller, Marketing Communications Manager at Franchise Media Update
2) Trade Shows
Trade shows are also very large in scale, hosting thousands of attendees from all over the world. These events are usually held within a specific industry and give companies the opportunity to exhibit their products and services. Trade shows are the ideal setting for collecting qualified sales leads that have a higher probability of converting to customers. Whereas conferences are usually open to the public, trade show attendees often must be pre-screened buyers, company representatives, or press.
Seminars usually take place in a more intimate setting and are heavily focused on educating attendees. The smaller group of attendees allows for more in-depth discussions and valuable knowledge sharing. Seminars usually last one day and often times only for a few hours.
Similar to seminars, roundtables also have a specific educational goal in mind. Roundtables can vary in size but are usually smaller in scope. These events are often times set in a more intimate setting, giving each attendee the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Roundtables are usually comprised of higher level executives such as CEOs or CMOs, which provides a much more concentrated networking opportunity for attendees.
While most events are open to the public, summits are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Summits are often times exclusively reserved for the highest level executives, industry leaders, and government officials. This is where the big ideas are discussed and major deals are transacted. Summits are a bit smaller in scope due to their high profile nature and consist of very important speakers.
6) Virtual Events
Virtual events are ideal for companies that may not have the resources to host a full-scale live event and for companies that cannot afford to travel to an international conference. Virtual events allow people to participate from all over the world and strives for a more globalized and diverse group of attendees. As the technology for virtual and augmented reality continue to evolve at a rapid pace, virtual events may quickly become a mainstream form of live events.
7) Hybrid Events
An event may have elements of both in-person interaction and online engagement. Such hybrid events provide versatile functionality and gives event organizers the freedom to stretch the limits of the event, both in terms of scope and reach. For example, for the annual Google I/O conference in 2016, the Google team decided to provide a live 360 degree video stream of the keynote speech. The 360 video technology allowed attendees to not only listen to the keynote, but also feel like they were present at the event. Hybrid events create a heightened experience for both in-person and virtual attendees.
In order to maximize the impact of event marketing strategies, it’s necessary to set the right goals and utilize relevant KPI’s. Defining and measuring event success is just as important as the event itself. Below are a list of ways to articulate event marketing goals followed by nine metrics to properly measure event ROI, helping to ensure continued success.
Before diving into the specific KPI’s, it is worth mentioning the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to help you better understand how to achieve event marketing success. Defining goals with this method will help you reach your desired results in the most efficient way possible.
Specific: The more specific you are when articulating your event goals, the closer you will be to achieving them. Asking detailed questions can be a great way to come up with comprehensive answers.
Measurable: Specific goals are all the more effective when they can be quantified because you are then able to measure their direct impact. Easily measurable factors like costs and revenue are the best way to answer the question, “How will I know that my goals have been achieved?”
Achievable: Keeping in mind the difference between ambitious and unrealistic, make sure to set goals that are able to be reached but never out of reach. You should set a goal that you think you and your team will reach 50% of the time if you had to repeat the event. You can set an additional “reach goal” that you think can be reached 10% of the time, which would serve as motivation for you and your team.
Results-Oriented: Goals should measure results, not activities. While it might be helpful to send 50 individual emails to prospective event sponsors, a better goal would be to secure a hard commitment from 5 event sponsors within the next 6 months.
Time-Bound: All goals should have subsequent deadlines. Create a timeline for your goals and analyze how they will develop over different points in time.
For a more in-depth discussion of event marketing goals, be sure to download the SMART Event Marketing Playbook.
9 KPIs for Measuring Marketing Success
"I think live events are critical. They end up having this effect across the board, across all of the funnels that you might not notice at first. What we notice, is if we don't do events, it affects everything."
—Cari Goodrich, Senior Director, Global Marketing Programs at Looker
The total number of registrations is obviously an important metric to determine event success. However there are a number of ways to slice this metric to ensure that you are gaining the most important insights. You can look at registrations over time to see which months saw the highest demand for tickets. Or divide registrations by ticket type to better understand which tickets were most popular among attendees. There is plenty of insights to draw from registration data. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions and having the right event technology to help find the answers.
2) Gross revenue
If it is a paid event, gross revenue is a very important indicator of event success. It is also a metric that must be delved into more deeply. Besides the total dollar amount, the gross revenue can reveal other key insights such as the demographic of attendees that were most present at the event, the type of tickets that sold most quickly, and the time of year when ticket sales were at its peak. All of these key insights can be drawn from the gross revenue metric.
3) Attendee satisfaction
Whatever your specific goals may be, all events share the same overall objective of satisfying attendees. But it is important to specify your definition of “satisfaction.” Was the goal to simply entertain your attendees during the conference? Did you want them to take away specific knowledge about your product? Make sure to be intentional with this particular metric to gain the most insight about your attendees. A great way to measure overall attendee satisfaction is by calculating the Net Promoter Score which is summarized in the figure below.
4) Attendee engagement
Understanding attendee engagement can be a clear indicator of whether the event content was relevant and valuable to attendees. Event marketing is about fostering relationships with customers and prospects so monitoring their engagement level during the event would help better gauge the success of the relationship building.
5) Social Media Mentions
In today’s digital-centric world, social media and events go hand in hand. Events themselves have become a source of content for both organizers and attendees. It’s no wonder that 98% of consumers create digital content at events and that 100% of those attendees share the content on their social media channels. Thus, maximizing social media mentions is crucial for overall event success and in ensuring that your event brand is reaching audiences all around the globe.
6) Speaker page engagement
One of your main objectives should be to offer event content that resonates with attendees. One of the main sources of content during your event will most likely be the speeches and keynotes. Thus it is important to ensure that your speakers are offering valuable knowledge that is connecting with attendees. One way to measure this impact is by monitoring each speaker’s profile page. How many times has their page been viewed? How many likes did each page receive? Engagement metrics like these will show if your event content was relevant for the attendees present.
7) Total check-ins
Make sure to record the number of check-ins during the day(s) of the event and compare this number against the total registrations. A high discrepancy between these two figures would be worth looking into. Similar to registrations, the total number of check-ins can be sliced in different ways to better understand the attendee demographic.
8) Cost to revenue ratio
The total revenue figure is unimportant if it is not compared against the total event cost. This ratio is crucial in helping you understand the quantity and quality of resources that were required for the event and if the resources helped to achieve your event marketing goals.
From the number of qualified leads you collect from the event, keep track of which ones actually resulted in a closed deal. This will help you calculate the direct ROI of your team’s event marketing efforts and help you strategize for future events. Understanding which tactics worked and which did not when attempting to gain new customers is a crucial insight for event marketing.
For a deeper dive into event success metrics, make sure to check out our blog post on event KPI’s.
Once your goals are set and your KPI’s defined, finding the right event venue will be crucial in determining event success. There are many things to consider when choosing a venue and to help you start thinking in the right direction, check out the 3 tips below.
1) Review the data
Make sure to dig into the data of previous events that you’ve organized to analyze which aspects worked well and which needed improvement. If you had attendees fill out post-event surveys, use these responses as your guide. Based on the feedback, choose an event venue that caters to those needs. Did your previous event venue provide enough space for effective networking? If not, it would be best to find a venue that better facilitates networking sessions. Ask yourself detailed questions based on previous events as well as attendee survey responses in order to better understand what type of venue will best address those areas of improvement.
2) Draft an Interior Design Plan
Creating a space that induces creativity and collaboration is just as important as the event content itself. The physical environment plays a significant role in inspiring attendees to engage and actively participate.
To create such an atmosphere, lighting is always an important factor. Effective lighting can be used to drive networking or to help attendees focus on a specific aspect of the event, such as a speaker or an exhibitor. In addition to lighting, the choice of furniture can also help create an environment for increased interaction. If you’re organizing an event in an outdoor space, bar tables and chairs encourage mingling. Smaller seating areas would induce more intimate conversations.
3) Consider Accessibility
It is always important to make sure your event is easily accessible. Make sure there are clear pick up and drop off areas for attendees, clear directions on how to arrive at the venue, and ample parking space if needed. Your attendees should be able to focus on the content of event rather than worry about getting to their destination. Keeping in mind wheelchair accessibility is also crucial for ensuring an inclusive event experience. Make sure to ask venues about wheelchair accessibility and plan your event agenda accordingly.
For a more in-depth look, check out our guide to finding the perfect event venue.
One of the first touch points for potential attendees is the event website. Their website experience must be exceptionally memorable in order to increase their likelihood of registering for the event. And a memorable website isn’t just about the aesthetics. High SEO ranking, relevant content, and showcasing the event brand are all important factors in creating an amazing event website.
Event Website Design
The cardinal rule of exceptional design holds true for event websites: simplicity. Especially because event websites are promoting a single offering (the event itself), it’s important to keep the messaging concise and to the point. Having a loop video in the background with logo front and center is a great way to grab visitors’ attention while maintaining a minimal homepage layout.
Be sure to keep a simple and consistent color scheme as well. The same goes for font style. In the example below, you will see that the Virgin Disruptors event website only contains four colors: red, black, white, and grey. This color scheme directly aligns with the brand, providing a consistency that will be memorable to potential attendees who visit the site.
To add more dynamism to your home page, consider placing a countdown clock as part of the header to build up anticipation for the event as well as create a sense of urgency for potential attendees to register.
Want to become the Michaelangelo of event website design? Check out this comprehensive guide to the principles of event website design.
Event Website Content
While maintaining the rule of simplicity, an event website should offer an array of engaging content. Each piece of content should be relevant to the event as a whole and should influence readers to register for the event and or spread the word on it.
Content marketing in general has become very popular over the last few years because it is a cost effective way to provide a positive experience for consumers and thus generate more business. Providing valuable content in the form of blog posts on your event website will drive more traffic to your site and thus more event registrations.
A popular form of blog post is the list format. Create list articles that build up anticipation for your event while educating readers on a specific topic. A great example of this would be how Social Media Marketing World creates posts that directly add value to their event brand. Some articles, such as “6 Reasons To Attend Social Media Marketing World”, get straight to the point. Other articles, such as “6 Ways Businesses Leverage Social Media During Live Events”, have a more educational intention but nonetheless point readers into learning more about the event. Having a variety of posts like these will provide knowledge to readers as well as increase your event website’s SEO ranking. For more info on creating content to promote your event, click on the ebook below.
"Make sure you use video, but don’t over-complicate it. I think some people get really nervous about presenting. They build it up a lot, they look at the video that we at Wistia create and think, 'We can’t do that!' Your video doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s important to have it."
—Karla Franco, Events and Marketing at Wistia
Another medium of content is video. Dreamforce (the annual Salesforce conference) does a great job of including video content from the previous year’s event to give website visitors a glimpse of what to expect for the upcoming conference.
Video content from the previous year’s conference is always great to include on the website because it builds up anticipation for the event as well as creates the illusion that the event is never “over” - the momentum is simply building up towards the next conference. For more best practices on video content, check out this post on how to promote your event through video.
After all the effort into creating a beautifully simply event website with valuable content offerings, it is crucial that people get the chance to see it! This is where search engine optimization becomes crucial. Organic search accounts for about 28.5% of all traffic driven to websites on the internet. Make sure that you have a sound SEO strategy in place.
On-page ranking factors
Make sure you are using target keywords on the event webpage. For example, if your event is all about B2B digital marketing, make sure to have this phrase strategically placed throughout the website. Including the keyword in the page title, body of the page, and meta description of the page will all help for you to rank for that keyword.
Internal links can also help to increase your SEO ranking. This means linking to other web pages within the same event website. When linking internally or externally, the link should be anchored to the keyword or keyword phrase you are targeting. If your target keyword is “B2B digital marketing”, linking to “click here” is not nearly as effective as linking to “B2B digital marketing.”
Off-page ranking factors
"Though a much tougher practice, this off-page ranking best practice will help strongly boost your event website SEO. Link building consists of other websites linking directly to your event site. The more external sites that link to your event website, the stronger your SEO rank. In order to achieve this, you have to build key relationships with other thought leaders and bloggers in your industry. Building quality relationships offline will lead to amazing results online for your event.
These are just a couple of tips to set you on the right path. For a more in-depth look, check out our guide to events and SEO.
Capitalizing on social media channels and utilizing each of them to maximize exposure is key to event success. In addition to being a great way of generating interest for your event before, during, and after your event (hello, FOMO), social media engagement also represents a valuable opportunity of measuring event ROI.
4 Social Media Best Practices for Events
1) Use Event Hashtags
Use an event hashtag and place it prominently on your website. Encourage website visitors and event attendees to use the hashtag when engaging on social media. Not only is this a great way to encourage conversation about your event, it’s also a great way to track engagement. While you can manually track hashtags yourself, some event engagement platforms will track them for you.
"Letting people know about your event hashtag in advance is an amazing promotional tool. When people start seeing tweets and retweets and posts that have a certain hashtag—even if they don’t know what it’s about—that hashtag will make people interested in it and go to the event."
—Neal Schaffer, CEO & Principal Social Media Strategy Consultant, Maximize Your Social
2) Leverage Stakeholders
Make marketing your event easier by bringing the assistance of stakeholders. Be they speakers, sponsors, or exhibitors, encourage your exhibitors to promote your event. After all, they will benefit from more people being at the event and more people engaging with them. One of the best ways to do this is with speaker cards. Create simple visuals that promote stakeholders that will be appearing at your event while also promoting the event themselves. With any luck, stakeholders will want to share this information themselves.
3) Turn Attendees into Event Promoters
Don’t just stop at turning stakeholders into promoters; do the same with your attendees. Offer special discounts or prizes for attendees who share the event on social media and get people to sign up for it. You can automate this process by using promotional tools like Ticket Boost.
4) Create Online Communities
Even before the event starts, you can create vibrant communities that bring people together. Twitter chats, Slack channels, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn groups all ways that you can start building up buzz for your event before, during and after it. Seventy-five percent of event-goers attend events to network. Giving them more opportunities to do so will only make your attendees more satisfied.
For more information, check out event marketing wisdom from 12 social media experts.
Landing event sponsorships and partnerships is critical to producing a successful event. It's not just a matter of finding sponsors and partners, it's about finding the right ones.
Join Dave as he discusses three keys to landing the right event sponsors:
Executing on event marketing strategies involves plenty of data points. Collecting the right data is a necessary first step in maximizing event success and optimizing for future events. However, simply collecting the data isn’t enough. More so than being data-driven, event marketing should be insights-driven. Gathering the right insights requires data sets that “talk” to one another. Integrating the data to tell a clear story is a sure way to achieve event marketing success. Thus, it is necessary for event organizers to integrate across platforms to ensure a more holistic and insights-driven event marketing strategy.
Some platforms come with the ability to talk with other ones out-of-the-box. These platforms are said to have native integrations. For platforms that don’t have native integrations, even marketers will want to use
3 Event Data Integration Tools
The biggest thing for event professionals with integrated solutions to remember is that everything can be done.
—Ashley Hockney, Marketing at Zapier
There are numerous ways to integrate platforms without the need for extensive technical knowledge. Here are three tools that help to create an integrated automation solution.
Pronounced “ift”, this free web-based service is capable of creating complex chains of automated actions. IFTTT is comprised of two simple features. The triggers are “if this” and the resulting actions are “then that.” There two features make up applets, the core of this automation tool.
Webhooks are used to send data from one web application to another after an action is completed. By sending real time data from one system to another, your processes will be automated. You can use webhooks to send data notifications, changes, and any other real time updates. By specifying a URL for receiving the information you are able to trigger a transfer of data you have stored in your event app to any desired application. Similar to Zapier, Webhooks are comprised of two different types of components. Whenever a trigger occurs (such as a charge being captured or a ticket email changed) data is sent to a specific endpoint (a URL dened by the user to receive events).
With over 750 apps and growing, Zapier is one of the foremost data integration platforms out there. It’s also extremely easy to use. With Zapier, event planners create Zaps to build a workflow between different apps. Zaps are made of triggers and actions. A trigger is an event that happens in one app and an action is the event that Zapier automatically performs in another app. For example, whenever a new person registers to your event (trigger) a new row would be added to a spreadsheet in google docs that you share with your team (action).
A glimpse at some integrations in Zapier.
For more information on event integrations, check out our guide to integrating event data.
Event marketing is rapidly evolving, which is why we're constantly updating this guide. Have any questions that weren't answered? Leave a comment below and we'll get back to you ASAP.
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