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Event Marketing Automation: The 2020 Guide

Learn how to increase your productivity and get more out of your events in this guide to event marketing automation best practices in 2020.

Ask any successful marketer how to promote a product or service effectively, and they’ll tell you that success starts with understanding your target audience. Once you’ve identified that audience, the name of the game is providing personalized experiences to members of that audience.

But there’s a problem.

Providing personalized experiences to thousands of prospective and existing customers is hard to do. That’s where marketing automation comes in.

Marketing automation platforms, often abbreviated as MAPs, provide marketers with the ability to create personalized and adaptive experiences for prospective and existing customers at scale.

If you’re an event marketer at a medium to large organization, chances are this is old-news for you. You’re probably already using a platform like Hubspot, Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, or Eloqua for event personalization.

If MAPs are new to you, that’s fine too. Depending on your goals, a marketing automation platform might be able to help you provide significantly more effective experiences compared to what you’re doing now.

In either case, marketing automation isn’t just for demand generation marketers who sit around thinking about increasing white paper downloads, or driving demo requests.

Marketing automation can also be used by event organizers and field marketers who want to either integrate events into existing multi-channel campaigns, or who want to produce a more effective event marketing workflow.

But enough with the high level generalizations, let’s get to the meat of event marketing automation. Here’s what this in-depth guide will cover:

  1. What is marketing automation?
  2. What is event marketing automation?
  3. Five tips for getting started with event marketing automation.

"We created 30,000 attendee experiences versus one experience for 30,000 attendees during our event. The second we start thinking about it that way and the second we start to really put ourselves in the place of the attendeewe make better decisions and the data helps enable us to do that."

- Colleen Bisconti, IBM

Listen to Colleen Bisconti on the IN-PERSON Podcast

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is that feeling you get when a brand sends you just the right email at just the right time.

It’s when you interact with a website that feels as though it was built just for you.

It’s when a brand seems to have an established presence on all of the platforms you use regularly to consume content, engage with friends, or search for new resources.

Marketing automation tends to take place via a marketing automation platform (MAP), which is usually a feature rich product that includes some sort of contact database, email automation, analytics, and content management system.

Similar to a good event software platform, having a robust MAP can make it easier for marketers to deliver highly effective experiences to prospects and customers since a suite of tools live under one roof.

Most marketing automation platforms operate by allowing a user to construct a workflow, which triggers various actions based on the behavior of the contact and on what is known about that contact.

Marketing Automation Workflow Example

An example of a marketing automation workflow. (Source: Aritic.com)

The workflow above is a typical example of the sort of actions that can be performed through marketing automation. While each action could be performed as a one-off event by a salesperson, or through a siloed tool, the fact that all of the actions shown above can be coordinated from a single platform is one reason why marketing automation can be so powerful.

In the example above, a new contact is created. The contact is assigned a lead score, which allows marketers to gauge how aligned the lead is to the organizations target customer.

Next, the workflow either sends the contact an email or reaches out to the contact on social media depending on what action the contact takes. Based on the contact’s behavior further automated messages via text or email may triggered.

Depending on the MAP in question, you may be able to trigger an even wider array of experiences based on various pre-set criteria. A few additional examples include:

  • Updating the content on your website based on the contact’s past behavior
  • Enrolling a contact into a series of remarketing ads displayed on one or many different channels.
  • Assigning a contact to a business development representative or account manager.

As we mentioned, there are a variety of MAPs on the market. Depending on how you define “marketing automation” there are potentially thousands of products that fit into this category. A few of the key marketing automation products include:

  • Hubspot
  • Marketo
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud
  • Eloqua

Each of the products mentioned can be used to great effect by marketing teams at medium to large organizations. Smaller organizations may see success with less-robust marketing automation products like:

  • GetResponse
  • Infusionsoft
  • Autopilot

What is event marketing automation?

Imagine a world in which the information collected from an event registration could be used to personalize future marketing communications. Or, imagine if you could personalize the event experience based on information you already have about an event registrant  thanks for data stored in a CRM or MAP.

Thanks to event automation, creating a seamless digital experience for event-goers can become a reality.

Constructing an automated event marketing program will require a few tools.

First you’ll want an event management platform if you are organizing events with complex registration needs. Products like Bizzabo provide event organizers and marketers with an all-in-one solution that includes tools for event registration, event website, mobile event app, and event-specific analytics.

In most cases, you’ll also want to invest in a marketing automation platform like the ones mentioned in the previous section.

Using both tools and event software integrations you can trigger automated actions that make event goers, or prospective event goers feel as though your brand truly understand them and their needs.

Take a look at a potential workflow below: Event marketing automation workflow, example

On the right, a record who already exists within a MAP registers for an event. This situation is common for organizations who invite existing contacts (such as customers and prospects) to an event.

Once the registration occurs, the event software appends the existing record with new information, making it easier for marketers to segment and communicate with this record in the future.

Recommended: 20 Ways to Effectively Segment Your Event Email Marketing Data

Additionally, the system sends an alert message to the record owner (such as a sales person or account manager) letting her know that a record in her name registered for the event. With this information, the account owner can reach out with a personalized message.

Finally, since we’re talking about an existing record, it’s likely that helpful information is stored within the MAP that can make it easier for event organizers to provide a more personalized experience moving forward. In this hypothetical situation, the record receives a personalized email with an email invitation to invite-only event activities.

Event marketing automation workflow, example 2

On the left, is an example of a scenario in which a record who does not yet exist in a MAP or CRM registers for an event. In this case, you use an integration to create new records within your MAP or CRM each time a new person registers for your event.

If you’re using an event platform with reliable architecture, you won’t need to worry about creating duplicate contacts. (Something your operations or technical team will greatly appreciate).

Once the contact is creating in your marketing system of choice, you can arrange to assign the record to a sales person or account manager. You can also tag the record so that it will be easier to calculate event ROI moving forward.

5 Tips for getting started with event marketing automation

So you want to get started creating automated event marketing experiences?

Before you do, there are a few final things you should consider in order to ensure your early automated event marketing campaigns are a success.

1. Choose the right event management software

Event marketing automation software requires a robust platform from which to operate. That’s why selecting a robust event management software is key. Aside from the usual functions a successful event marketer needs to launch a successful event (event registration, event website, mobile app and analytics), selecting a tool that has a two-way integration with your MAP or CRM of choice is key.

To help you find the right event software for your needs, we recommend referring to an event software buyers guide.

Compare the leading event platforms with our 2019 Buyer's Guide

2. Develop a marketing automation strategy

In order to run a sophisticated marketing campaign that makes the most of event data, you’ll need a marketing automation platform. You’ll also need some sort of framework on which to base your decisions with regard to marketing automation.

  • How frequently should you communicate with contacts?
  • Will you pair email outreach with remarketing ads and website personalization?
  • What sort of action are you hoping to inspire?
  • How will you communicate with other teams about workflows that you are creating?

Marketing automation means that a lot of the work gets taken out of your hands but that also means it's easy to lose visibility into the number of record touch-points or processes that are happening. 

Just like with your records database in your CRM, having good hygiene and a clear understanding of process within your marketing automation strategy is key. 

3. Designate a marketing automation admin

Creating workflows, maintaining smart lists, and integrating platforms can take time and specialized expertise. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing operations person within your organization, you’ll want to find someone on your team who is interested in leading the technical side of setting up automated marketing and event marketing campaigns.

By designating a specific person to run point on setting up various systems, reports and workflows, you also help to minimize the likelihood of running into issues related to disorganization within a platform.

For example, if many different “cooks” are involved in building workflows and tagging leads, you can run into a situation where items are mistagged, or illogically built.

4. Standardize automation processes

Once you’ve designated a marketing automation point-person, it should be that person’s responsibility to help colleagues use the tools properly. There are some things that only the marketing automation admin should handle, like integrating platforms, but there are other actions that all team members should be comfortable doing, like building an email workflow.

To ensure that everyone is organized and on the same page creating a document that outlines naming conventions (how should emails be named?), and tagging procedures (should people use UTM parameters to track URLs shared in automated campaigns?) will create a strong foundation for future marketing automation work.

5. Review available integrations to support your event marketing activities

An often overlooked yet critical component of your event marketing automation program is capturing relevant data and delivering it to the right stakeholders. As you evaluate event marketing automation software, consider the different tools you currently use and how your event software can integrate to offer great visibility and increase productivity. 

Below are just a couple use cases when considering integration options:

A. Integrate with your collaboration tools

For those companies that use Slack, a messaging platform for team collaboration, it's important to capture information in real time. Bizzabo's integration with Slack allows marketers to create an event activity stream on Slack to deliver real time updates on event registrations.

B. Integrate with your CRM

Bridge the gap between sales and marketing with an integration with your CRM. Integrating your event marketing software to a CRM, like Salesforce, offers better visibility to your sales team so they can have more targeted conversations with prospective customers.

For more information, check out Bizzabo's Integrations.

Final Advice for Event Marketing Automation

As a marketing director at Bizzabo, I can’t imagine fulfilling my objectives without marketing automation. Using a marketing automation platform in conjunction with Bizzabo, our marketing team is able to share appropriate messages with members of our target audience to a degree that would be impossible if not for integrated platforms, and automated workflows.

I imagine that for many readers, you’re already familiar with the benefits of marketing automation. But you may not realize just how powerful marketing automation can be when paired with your live event strategy.

After all, the best events provide event goers with a human experience. But events can feel increasingly less personal as more and more people attend. That’s where marketing automation can help before and during the event. After the event, marketing automation makes it much easier to hand off contacts to the appropriate person, tag leads to improve reporting, and streamline post-event communication.

Still have questions about how you can get more out of your event technology to achieve your goals? Take the event technology assessment to see what you’re missing.

Take the Event Technology Assessment

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on August 27, 2018 and has since been updated.