One of the biggest event trends of event of 2018 is the event roadshow. This event marketing tactic has become increasingly popular as a go-to solution and has the potential to elevate a company’s overall event strategy.
Planning any event involves juggling a lot of moving parts, but the geography-spanning nature of event roadshows means that there are even more moving parts to keep track of. Taking on such an initiative can prove to be very effective for you and your events team but it requires quality planning from all angles.
Below is an in-depth breakdown of the event roadshow process to help you devise a game plan that aligns with all of your goals, resulting in unforgettable event marketing campaign.
Laying the Blueprint
Before taking to the road, you and your team must devise a clear gameplan that precedes even the logistics and travel details. During this stage of the planning, what’s important is to establish why a roadshow series is necessary and specifying how each part of the campaign can support the overarching goal. In-depth research and candid discussions about these goals should take place before any final decisions are made.
For instance, if you are planning to take your roadshow to four cities in four countries—say, Toronto, New York, London and Melbourne—you will need to have a clear reason why? Why not take your event to four cities in ONE country? What about these cities supports your overarching event roashsow campaign? And what about your event roadshow campaign supports your overall event strategy?
The more clearly you can articulate why your organization needs a roadshow and why each stop along the journey is necessary, the more successful of your campaign will be. For that answer, you may want to turn to concrete evidence.
Harnessing Data to Justify Your Roadshow Strategy
A helpful way to get a better picture of why you should put on a roadshow is by collecting data from your audience. How would your target audience benefit from attending the event roadshow? What kind of content would be most relevant to them? Would they even be interested in a roadshow? These are key questions that must be answered before agreeing to such a campaign.
Below are some suggested ways to gather these insights
1) Explore previous event data
Take a deep dive into all of the information that you’ve collected from attendees at previous events. This event data will give you a clearer understanding of the types of people that come to your events and if a roadshow would resonate with these individuals. Which professional industries do your attendees mostly work in? From which geographic locations do your attendees usually fly in from? Did guests usually purchase individual tickets or group packages?
Answers to these questions will help justify the need for a roadshow as well as inform how you will shape the event content. Getting to the bottom of these questions will be much easier if you have an integrated event management platform that can provide such insights.
As seen from the Bizzabo dashboard above, an in-depth breakdown of metrics are very helpful in drawing key insights that will inform your decisions regarding the roadshow series. Through this data you should be able to come a clear conclusion as to why an event roadshow will be successful and how it should be executed.2) Send out surveys
If you are unsure whether a roadshow will be beneficial for your audience, ask them directly. Send out surveys through email, social media, or even digital paid ads to better understand what the reaction would be. You can even conduct event surveys during one of your events to gauge whether a roadshow format of the event would be something your attendees would be interested in. The bottom line is this: Do not be hesitant in directly asking for opinions.3) Conduct field research
In the case that you have the time and resources, it would prove useful to take a mini tour of the different locations you anticipate traveling to and gauging the interest level for your event content in those regions. In addition to that, you’ll want to see how your event vision can be executed in a certain geographic area. This research will further help formulate why a event roadshow would be a good strategy to take and in what ways it will benefit you and your event brand. Envisioning your event in person will help to solidify the details.
Set Overarching Goals
Once you are able to justify to all relevant stakeholders that executing an event roadshow series would be a beneficial strategy, the next important step is to solidify the overarching goal(s) for the roadshow. Clearly articulate the main objective of the campaign and the rest of the event planning process will fall into place.
Are you hoping to extend your event brand into different regions? Perhaps you want to break into other target demographics that previously have been hard to resonate with? Formulate several overarching objectives you’ll definitely want to achieve and make sure to pin them down as you are planning other parts of the event.
Additionally, make sure the goals you are setting are following the S.M.A.R.T acronym, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, and results-oriented. Ensuring that your goals meet this criteria will help you to give definitive structure to the planning process. Having detailed, measurable goals is just as important as actually achieving them. And when it comes to an strategy as hectic and unpredictable as a roadshow series, having constant and consistent goals will prove to be very valuable.
Below are a checklist of questions you should keep in mind while formulating your goals.
Now that the event goals are set and the roadshow is officially given the green light, the next key part of the initial planning stages is to strategically map out the roadshow route. Where you choose to hold this event will largely impact the success rate.
As discussed in the previous sections, dive into previous event data to better understand your demographic. Perhaps a significant portion of previous attendees have come in from the west coast, so having a few stops along California may prove successful to the event brand.
Source: Marketo blog
The image above shows the locations that Marketo’s roadshow team chose to travel to. It’s evident that they chose major cities that run along the eastern and southern coasts since they’re annual flagship event, Marketing Nation, takes place in San Francisco. Marketo made the strategic decision to have the roadshow stop at cities where attendees may have a difficult time attending their main conference.
Forming The Event Content
Now that the foundational parts of the event roadshow have been put in place, it is now time to flesh out the content of the roadshow. The tricky part of preparing event content for a roadshow series is to create content that is simultaneously tailored to each location’s audience while also maintaining a unifying message. Thus, make sure to set aside enough time to plan out the event content so that it resonates with the attendees at each stop.
One clear advantage that roadshows have over conventional one-off events is that a roadshow series allows the event team to be more agile, giving them more opportunity to flex their creative muscle. Thus, be willing to create interactive experiences that may not be possible in a more structured, large-audience setting. Given that the number of attendees will be considerably smaller than normal conferences, take advantage of creating a workshop-type environment.
This would be a good opportunity to explore some experiential marketing ideas to incorporate into the roadshow. The above example shows how the marketing team behind Doc McStuffin, a popular children’s television program, executed an on-the-road campaign which consisted of the team traveling to 20 different U.S. cities and giving children the opportunity to play doctor with large stuffed animals. This campaign resulted in a 5.3% increase in propensity to purchase, interacting with over 7,700 children in the process. This particular roadshow did a successful job of elevating the even brand while also keeping the event interactive and engaging.
Keep in mind that experiential campaigns and event roadshows are not always synonymous. Experiential initiatives are usually stand-alone events that function as a form of brand activation while event roadshows are a continuous series that look to bring direct value to attendees either through product or industry education. However, that does not mean that roadshow teams can’t learn a thing or two from experiential marketing. For more inspiration, check out this list of exceptional experiential marketing examples.
There are clear benefits to having a marketing campaign on wheels. In addition to getting closer to attendees, an event roadshow increases the likelihood of partnership marketing initiatives because companies you previously wanted to work with are no longer too far for collaboration. Once the travel route is set in place, reach out to other companies in the area who you have worked with before or new companies that would make for a mutually beneficial partnership.
Featuring a partner during the event roadshow, even if it’s only for a workshop, can bring a fresh perspective for attendees and offer additional content that they may find valuable. When reaching out to a potential partner, make sure you can clearly articulate the mutual value that can be had and also be sure to avoid any conflicts of interest. Doing so will solidify the chances of a successful partnership.
For more ideas on partnerships, check out these tips on partner marketing event strategy.
Continuing with the idea of leveraging the mobility of a roadshow, think of ways to incorporate are particularly popular with the local attendees. This will give the event an authentic atmosphere with a familiar feel. Attendees will appreciate that you and your team did the research to find out which speakers were from their area and made the conscious effort to include them within the speaker lineup.
In 2017, the Partner Convention Management Association (PCMA), held their annual four-day Convening Leaders conference in Austin, Texas. To appeal to the audience’s Texas roots, the conference featured Matthew McConaughey as a keynote speaker. This was a particularly pleasant surprise as he is also a Texas native and gave attendees more reason to cheer.
Although this PCMA conference was not a part of a roadshow, there’s something to be said about the efforts they made to include a speaker who that was a hometown favorite. Keep in mind that even Hollywood actors can have a soft spot for their hometown. Reach out to all people who you think would be most relevant to your event content, even if you think it’ll be a long shot. If you don’t even ask, you’ll never know how they’ll respond.
Promoting the Event
Now that the event goals, logistics, and content are all set in place, the final step is to promote the roadshow! With a campaign like this you’ll want to make sure all your cases are covered. In other words, take advantage of all possible marketing channels to let attendees know that you’ll be stopping by a city near them.
Use the roadshow as an opportunity to create an exciting content series that builds up anticipation for the roadshow. The series could focus on the behind-the-scenes of putting together a roadshow, the topics that will be the main theme of each event, or any other concept that can be drawn out for a few weeks. The goal is to generate momentum going into the roadshow so that attendees are not only aware of the campaign but excited to attend.
A great example of an event build-up content is Salesforce’s “Road to Dreamforce” video series that explores the different ways attendees can make the most out of their Dreamforce experience. The videos range from topics that will be covered during the conference to the range of sessions that will be held. Remember that a build-up series can be blog posts, email campaigns, or live video streams as well. Be creative not only in your content but with the medium you choose as well.
Take advantage of all social media channels and conduct campaigns across all platforms to ensure maximum exposure. Make sure that you and your team decide on a consistent hashtag to use for each post, creating a unified campaign feel.
Because social media’s strength lies in its shareability, make sure to create collateral that is easily shareable for others. This requires extra effort being put into the design elements of your social media campaigns.
Below is a great example of a piece of collateral that features Bizzabo’s Co-founder and CMO.
Use shareable and aesthetically pleasing images such as these for social media campaigns in order to increase potential for virality.
Chances are that you will have attendees from previous events who will vouch for upcoming roadshow. Remember that testimonials and word-of-mouth advocacy is an extremely effective form of marketing! Leverage your existing group of advocates by giving them the opportunity to vouch for your event brand.
Depending on the event tools you are using, you may have access to a variety of features that allow attendees for promote the roadshow on your behalf. For instance, the Bizzabo platform has two novel features that help turn your attendees into event ambassadors.
Social Media Integration: When attendees register for your event, they have the option of linking different social media accounts to their profile. Then, if they want to share anything about the event, they can easily do so from within the platform. (The entry form will even auto-populate the event hashtag).
Ticket Boost: With Ticket Boost, attendees get rewarded for promoting your event. When they register for your event and at any other time up to an end date of their choosing, attendees have the option of sharing a special link to your event on social media. If someone purchases a link through that link, the original purchaser gets a discount. Ticket Boost can also be set-up so that both the original purchaser and the new purchaser gets a discount. The choice is yours.
If you are not using social media integrations or Ticket Boost, there are still many other ways you can turn attendees into event ambassadors. Here are a few:
- Create a special promo code for them to share and track how many times that promo code has been entered
- Offer special prizes for event referrals and track those referrals over the web by assigning each attendee a specific tracking link
- Encourage your attendees to share your event on social media (you can even offer a prize for the post with the most engagement)
Bonus: Case Studies
Now that we’ve outlined the step-by-step process to successful event roadshow planning, let’s deep dive into some real-life examples. The following case studies demonstrate how the aforementioned tips can help shape your event roadshow strategy into one that aligns with your event brand while also
Innovation in the Nation: Marketo Roadshow
Source: Marketo blog
In the summer of 2015, Marketo launched their Innovation in the Nation roadshow that proved to be successful in terms of creating a stronger event brand and collecting valuable data from specific demographics. The roadshow spanned two continents and made stops in 11 different cities: 3 in Europe and 8 in North America. Each event lasted for roughly 5 hours in but the day was filled with great speakers, content, and workshops that were particularly relevant to the professionals in that specific city.
One key roadshow principle that Marketo clearly abided by was the importance of tailoring the event content for each city. While the overarching theme of innovation was maintained, each event was consisted of curated content that would be most relevant to that city’s particular audience. For example, the roadshow event in London featured Darren Bolton, Creative Executive at OgilvyOne. Since OgilvyOne is known as one of the most successful UK-founded ad agencies in the world, having an executive from the company as the closing speaker was a strategic decision that surely resulted in impressed and delighted attendees.
Innovation Express: SAP India
As one of the largest software companies in the world, SAP SE had done well to convince other large corporations to use SAP as their go-to business management solution. However, over the years they had lost ground with small and medium-sized businesses who thought that SAP would not be a good fit for them.
The German software company hoped to dispel this perception by going on the road and directly speaking with SMB’s about the benefits of using their software. And because the number of SMB’s were growing at a rapid rate across India, the roadshow campaign took place in India across multiple cities.
Source: Jk Spective
The key roadshow principle that SAP India upheld throughout the roadshow was their commitment to the overarching goal, which was to educate and increase brand equity among SMB’s. Traveling across 12 cities in 43 days, the SAP India roadshow team traveled on the “Innovation Express” which was a coach bus equipped with 12 laptops that allowed prospects to demo the SAP product. The events team successfully provided software demonstrations to the hundreds of small business owners they met, properly educating them on how SAP software could very well meet their needs while also opening possibilities to expand their business.
Source: EXHIBITOR Online
The team’s singular commitment to the core objective proved to be a key factor in the roadshow’s ultimate success. Over the course of a month and a half, the campaign attracted with over 1,400 prospects, was featured in 145 news articles, and exceeded the original revenue pipeline goal of 35%.
Salesforce World Tour
In addition to their annual user conference, Salesforce also puts together an annual roadshow series known as Salesforce World Tour. Attendees are able to learn about the product, share industry insights, and network with one another in a more intimate setting compared to the company’s flagship event, Dreamforce. Given that Dreamforce attracts over 170,000 attendees, Salesforce realized that creating an roadshow would not only allow people from all around the world experience Salesforce’s event brand, but to also allow previous Dreamforce attendees to connect and engage with one another in a much smaller, less overwhelming setting.
Source: Silver Line Blog
In 2017, the Salesforce World Tour consisted of 11 events spanning North America and Europe. The roadshow stopped in Amsterdam, Hannover, Washington D.C., Toronto, New York City, London, Boston, Paris, Chicago, Atlanta, and finished things off with an encore in New York City. This selection of cities makes it evident that the roadshow team focused on geographic areas that were furthest away from San Francisco since Dreamforce takes place in the bay every year.
This strategy allowed for the Salesforce brand to gain recognition and credibility among audiences that either may have been unaware of the product or who never had the chance to engage with brand in-person due to the far distance of Dreamforce. Event roadshows are especially effective for disseminating the company brand without diluting it in the process, which is exactly what the 2017 Salesforce World Tour was able to achieve.