Looking to build a corporate event management plan but not sure where to begin? Check out this article to learn the top best practices that lead to a strong corporate event management strategy—in 2019 and beyond.
Live events have become a key part of marketing efforts for both B2B and B2C companies. According to the Event Marketing 2019: Benchmarks and Trends Report, events are the single most effective channel for achieving business goals. However, the amount of moving pieces with an event is significantly greater than those in an email marketing campaign or social media campaign.
The key to any successful marketing campaign is to make the process repeatable so that campaign success is always attainable. The process must be converted into a scalable plan that can be reapplied to future marketing initiatives. The same goes with events.
In the following section, we'll review the best practices for launching a corporate event strategy.
For more information on the latest trends and best practices in corporate event management, read the Event Marketing 2019: Benchmarks and Trends Report.
Set Overarching Goals
Diving straight into an event strategy without properly defining the goals of the event can lead to poor results. That's why it's essential to set aside ample time to articulate the objectives for an event. This process can also give your team the opportunity to come up with other creative corporate event ideas.
Be thorough with this initial goal-setting process so that each successive step falls in line with the bigger picture.
- Define Your Audience: Whether you are launching a B2C or B2B event marketing campaign, targeting a large group of individuals as part of a general brand awareness strategy or a small ring of executives as part of a focused multi-touch marketing strategy will determine the ultimate aims of your event.
- Make it all measurable - Setting goals that are not measurable will make it difficult to understand the impact of your event. With each main objective, attach a relevant event KPI to keep track of its progress and measure performance over time.
- Standardize metrics across events - Establishing metrics isn’t always enough. If your event strategy consists of a portfolio of different events, you’ll want to ensure consistent metrics across all event campaigns. This significantly assists with the post-event data analysis because a cohortized view of all event data will yield the most insightful and actionable results.
- Align goals across teams - Perhaps the most important aspect of the goal setting process is to assure alignment across the marketing and sales teams. Having a shared objective and tethering that KPI to the performance of each team will incentivize both groups to work together. Cari Goodrich, Senior Events Director at Looker, also emphasizes the importance of marketing-sales alignment for event strategy:
“The most important strategy the Looker team has done with regards to our events is simple: Marketing has complete alignment with the sales team. We create shared registration goals so we are all working towards the same finish line. We focus our collective efforts around creating exclusive and intimate experiences for a perfectly curated audience."
- Cari Goodrich, Sr. Director of Events, Looker
Manage Your Contacts Database
Once the goals have been solidified, the next step is to organize and define the audience you’ll want to target. Having a clean and reliable contact database is important for not only the event at hand but for all future event marketing campaigns.
- Integrate with your CRM - Firstly, make sure to sync your event software with your customer relationship management platform. This provides a central location for all contact info and makes running your campaigns much easier as you won’t have to hop in and out of platforms to target different audiences. You may also be interested in exploring other event software integrations.
- Segment audiences - Once all of your contact data is one place, use filtering capabilities to segment the audience based on different properties such as job type or industry. This will help you keep inventory of the number of contacts you have for each category as well as assist you in executing targeted marketing campaigns, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
- Ensure GDPR compliance - All of these contact management best practices should be prefaced with the fact that GDPR will largely influence your handling of this info. Although enacted in the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation applies to all companies who interact with EU citizens. This means that nearly every corporation must be thorough and transparent with their data handling. Event data security should be of the highest priority and outlining how your company is GDPR compliant will be important to maintain a trusting relationship with your audience.
"Increasing data and privacy protection will be needed. As a planner, make sure your registration company is PCI compliant and take other steps to guard attendee information captured. Also, be aware of the coming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) a sweeping set of privacy regulations that will affect any event with European attendees or members regardless of where the event takes place."
- Corbin Ball, Founder, Corbin Ball Associates
Promote The Event
Event promotion is how you spread awareness, build anticipation and ultimately drive registrations. Because there are many ways to market your event, using a multi-channel event marketing approach for event promotion will ensure that you are taking advantage of all resources.
- Website - Given that the event website will be the primary touch point for potential attendees, it should encompass all of the strengths of your event while being packaged neatly into your brand aesthetic. Articulate how your event stands out from the rest and make sure to maintain visual brand consistency throughout. Check out this example of a strong event website by Namely:
The simple, on-brand colors and clear value propositions of Namely’s annual user conference make it memorable for the website visitor. For more inspiration, check out this list of event websites that drive registration.
- Email marketing - As mentioned in the previous section, segmentation is crucial for effective campaigns and this especially rings true for email marketing. Segmenting emails based on industry, location, industry, and other contact properties will yield higher open and click-through rates. Each segment should have its own triggered workflow that sends an email after a certain action, such as opening the previous email or visiting a certain page on the event website. Having a series of emails based on behavior will make the experience much more personalized and relevant for the recipient.
- Social media - The key for social media campaigns for events is to maintain uniformity. Use the same hashtag and handle across platforms so people know how to refer to your event on social media. Additionally, devise a social media content calendar at least one month in advance to make sure people have posts to engage with, keeping your social media buzz healthy leading up to the event.
- Content marketing - Whether it be blog posts, video series, or a combination of both, content marketing is always a great way to spread awareness about your event. Serial content works well because it gives your audience a reason to continually come back to your page for new content. The example below shows a video compilation promoting the annual Dreamforce conference:
This behind-the-scenes video series makes people want to know more about the event while also keeping it top-of-mind as the registration deadline gets closer.
Drive Online Event Registration
Event promotion is all about spreading awareness for your event. Moving further down the corporate event marketing funnel, you’ll want to have specific campaigns dedicated to driving people to register for your event. Whether your goal is generating revenue from ticket sales or building relationships with prospects and customers, you need people to register for your event.
- Early bird tickets - Let potential attendees know that there is only a limited time to purchase discounted tickets. Create campaigns around unique ticket types like early bird pricing to further the feeling of urgency and to spur action on their part. The following example shows how HubSpot brilliantly reminded people of their limited time offering through a humorous and timely email and gif. (More tips on increasing event ticket sales here.)
- Promo codes - Once a person has registered for your event, generate a promo code they can share on their social media channels. If someone else completes registration with the code, the person who shared the code will receive a discount. You can also make it so that the person who uses the code also receives the discount. These are known as one-sided and double-sided incentives.
This type of referral marketing has the potential to go viral so make sure your corporate event management software has such a feature. Below you can see how the Bizzabo platform facilitates this kind of marketing through a feature called Ticket Boost.
- Remarketing campaigns - One strategy that complements the aforementioned event promotion strategies is remarketing (otherwise known as retargeting) ads. Remarketing can be done in many ways. One way is to serve ads to those who have visited your page using cookies on your event website. Another type of remarketing is to upload list of email addresses to Facebook Exchange in order to retarget those individuals with ads on Facebook. To learn more about this topic, check out this blog post on retargeting ads for event promotion.
For more registration tips, check out the Event Registration Guide.
Maximize the Attendee Experience
Once the event is underway, the focus should now be on maximizing the attendee experience, from check-in to the final sessions. Whether your corporate event is internal or external, optimizing the attendee experience is a key aspect to overall event success.
- Seamless check-in process - From the moment they walk into the venue, attendees should feel delighted with their experience. Consider using an advanced on-site event check-in solution such as Boomset to offer services such as self check-in kiosks, QR code scanning, and on-site badge printing. Ideally your event management software will integrate with your check-in solution to ensure one-to-one validation between registration info and check-in credentials.
- Event app - For the duration of your corporate event, attendees will be referring to the event app for a multitude of reasons. Make sure to have an event app that easily integrates with your corporate event software so you can swiftly pull engagement analytics after the event. The following two points will also be dependent upon the capabilities of your event app.
- Live polling - A great way to keep your attendees engaged is to ask questions through the app during a particular session of workshop. Receiving real-time feedback will help you make changes to not only future events but the one that is currently being held.
- Community messaging - Perhaps the most impactful feature of the event app is the ability to facilitate relationship-building between attendees through the native messaging platform. The key here is to build a community well before the event start date. If attendees begin getting to know each other months before the event, the event itself will be that much more rewarding for everyone. Namely’s field marketing manager, Amy Rosenberg, explained how this tactic worked very well for their annual user conference.
“For Namely, the conference really starts months before the actual event. We use our online community called Backstage Pass where clients and attendees get to know one another, ask questions, and suggest things for the event. I didn't have to worry about if they would show up and register because they built such a community with other attendees and had gotten so involved in the conference. We ended up getting twice as many attendees as we expected.”
- Amy Rosenberg, Field Marketing Manager, Namely
To learn more about event engagement, check out the Mobile Event Apps Guide.
Prove Event ROI
Now that the event has come to a close, it is important to accurately measure and prove the ROI of the event. Properly analyzing the numbers as well as communicating them effectively to the right people is a key best practice to corporate event planning. The campaign should not be considered complete until a thorough post-event analysis and debrief is conducted.
- Focus on the key metrics - What were the KPIs that were discussed prior to the event? Revisit your original event objectives and create a report that keeps consistent with the initial goals. This will make for a more coherent and digestible ROI report for your relevant stakeholders, whether that be event sponsors, managers, or the executive board.
- Connect event KPIs with overall business metrics - The event ROI should not be self referential. Articulate how the event performance impacts bottom line business metrics. Instead of saying that 300 new contacts were acquired from the event, show that 100 of the 300 new contacts have already been connected with the sales team and that the sales pipeline has increased by 60%. Connecting your event metrics to the larger company objectives will make it easier to prove the event’s impact.
- Schedule a follow-up report - Often times the impact of an event can only be fully understood after a few months have passed. Whether the goal was brand awareness, customer acquisition, or increasing sales pipeline, most event metrics require time to mature. Set a reminder on your calendar to send a follow-up report to relevant stakeholders informing them of how the event has continued to influence the overall business metrics. This shows initiative on your part and helps prove the point that corporate event marketing is a long-term strategy. Check out what Britta Schellenberg, VP of Corporate Marketing Operations at Brightcove, has to say about proving event ROI:
“I usually prepare a 30 to 40 page document with lots of graphs and visuals, measuring everything. One part of the report records how many of our customers who attended are renewing their contracts next year."
- Britta Schellenberg, VP Marketing Operations, Brightcove
Key Takeaways: Your Corporate Event Management Strategy
Corporate event management consists of many moving parts, but half the battle is knowing what to focus on. Fortunately, there are many established best practices and tools to help you get the best results in 2019 and beyond. To recap the aforementioned points, here are a few takeaways:
- Compartmentalize your corporate event strategy into actionable tasks and make sure they align with the overall event vision.
- Integrate your corporate event management software with other marketing and CRM platforms to better organize, execute, and manage your event.
- Attach measurable KPIs to each objective of your event to more effectively prove ROI after the event.
- Engage attendees well before the event start date to build up momentum for the event
- Execute a multi-channel approach to event promotion and keep the messaging consistent.
- Measure the findings of each event individually and across event campaigns.
Use these best practices to build the framework for your corporate event strategy and distill your process into a repeatable procedure that results in event success.
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