Talking about live events in the era of digital marketing seems odd, even dumb, to some people. However, if you think of it from the customer experience perspective, you will likely rethink that position. After all, why do people go to concerts when music is readily available via much cheaper recordings? Why do people still flock to Broadway shows when they can watch television or even movies?
Because events still work on many levels. That’s why many business-to-business marketers say events are their top tactic. That’s why religions are still putting in so much effort and money into the settings of their events, as demonstrated by the new Oakland Cathedral (the image illustrating this post), or why people will pay exorbitant prices to see the NBA championship live. You have a lot more focus on what you’re learning when you attend a live event and get away from distractions like the phone or the kids. You also understand information differently when it’s presented live, compared to just aurally or just visually. And, of course, there is the added magic that happens when people come together and have a group experience. People like that that event experience so you can’t leave events out of your marketing transformation.
Having seen how event marketing is treated in some transformations, though, I think there are a few things all transformation leaders should strive to ensure occur. They all fall in and around the general concept that event marketers have to be trained and held to the same standards as other channels. That sounds obvious but, trust me, there is gap between what some events-focused marketers think that means and what a transformation marketer means. It’s not necessarily their fault, given the huge historic emphasis on on-site experience but that doesn’t mean segregating events marketers should continue.
So, invest in a little education and policy guidance and ensure you are aligned on the big issues:
- Events have to align to the buyer persona to the same degree as the rest of the campaign. That means knowing what the buyer’s purchasing considerations are, whether the buyer is a visual learner or prefers hands on techniques, who is an influencer of that role, etc. If the event team only has a job role title to use as the basis of their efforts, the event is not going to be as effective as it could have been in increasing your bottom line.
- Similarly, the content used in the event should have the same messaging as the overall campaign. You don’t want the customer to see message topic A (perhaps on the efficiency the product/service will give the buyer) on the website or in email and then see topic B (perhaps scalability) at the event. At the very least, the two should be logically connected so there is no feeling of having walked into the wrong event – or that the product/service they were interested in isn’t what they thought it was. The advertising industry was built on the knowledge that humans have to be exposed to a message before it sticks. That means all your tactics – including events – have to reinforce the same messages for the message to get through to the buyer.
- Every aspect of the event has to take into account what stage of the buying cycle the in and execute the function of every other tactic at that stage, namely progressing the customer journey to the next stage by meeting the needs of the buyer at the current stage. That means using events without too much time commitment (i.e, lunch & learns, breakfast events, etc.) in the Awareness stage to give attendees info on doing their jobs better or helping them in the purchase decision-making process while helping build the organization’s database or fill the top of the marketing funnel. When I was responsible for marketing to existing customers, I used events very successfully in the Implementation and Loyalty stages (i.e., user conferences, special interest groups, etc.) by concentrating on use cases and best practices and so on, presented by professional services, support staff, and implementation engineers. Regardless of where your events occur in the buying cycle, ensure that everyone related to the event has the same understanding of that stage of the consideration and isn’t try to push purchasing in Awareness or skimping on product use details in Implementation. That is a fast route to higher costs per lead and slower completion of the purchasing cycle.
- The area where events marketing seems to fall the furthest away from the rest of marketing is in the area of measurement. Given that marketing transformations are all about improving results, this is not ok. Event marketers are great at keeping up with technology to measure engagement at events but, you’ve also got to integrate them into the analytics work required of other tactics. Measure registration website visits versus conversions and optimize the page weekly or more often (depending on how much time you have before the event). Look at the drop off of people who visit the actual registration page versus those who complete (which can be detected by the thank you/confirmation page). Set key performance indicators and benchmarks for each of these areas and hold event marketers accountable for reaching these goals and not just actual attendee numbers or engagement and so on. If you can improve performance of these areas, it will impact customer experience and potentially decrease the length of the purchasing cycle so you have faster time to revenue. Then use marketing attribution to see how much influence your event(s) had on the final purchase.
Don’t forget to train marketers that each marketing channel should be feeding each other. On-site search data, for instance, can help you find keywords that might help make your webinar promotions more relevant to your target audience. Facilitate that process by building methods and processes that allow all channel marketers to easily share and find relevant data. Event marketers, for example, should integrate events session data into your database so that other marketers can use that to more create more finely targeted segments.
Comments are welcome, especially examples of how you integrated events into your marketing transformation.