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Event Marketing 101

Event Marketing 101

Event marketing can be an effective way to connect with customers/prospects, build brand awareness, and expedite deals. Or, it can be a corporate boondoggle, erode brand goodwill, and be a colossal waste of valuable resources. The success (or failure) of your event marketing is largely dependent on whether you’re prepared or not. 

How to find the best Events for you

Every industry has regional, national, and international events; but how do you find the best events for you?

Start by doing research on what’s out there. Many websites list trade shows and events per industry. Often, other companies within your space have already done the heavy lifting and put together a list of the “must attend” events for any given year. While each list is biased, after reading a handful of the same articles you’ll begin to notice which events always make a list. You can also look for advertisements on industry website journals.

Once you have a general idea of the most common events, talk to other people in your space about which events they found most valuable and why. Ask your peers which events they’re attending, and ask industry influencers which ones they recommend. Industry influencers may have ulterior motives, so take all advice with a grain of salt. Perhaps more importantly, ask clients and prospects which events are their go-to.

Sometimes the biggest event isn’t the best event for you. Events like: Dreamforce, The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), LeWeb, and SXSW are amazing marquee events. They cross many industries, attract thousands of attendees, and pull in media from around the world. However, they also all cost a significant amount to take part in. When deciding which events to go to in, focus on:

  • what your objectives are
  • which events will help you meet those goals
  • how you maximize the budget/resources you’re working with

Set some Criteria

Based on what you’re trying to accomplish and how big your budget is, decide some criteria for each event. For example, decide if you should attend, get a trade show booth, or only go if you’re speaking (and get a free conference pass). You can also attend just to secret shop the competition and/or recruit talent. Lastly, if you don’t have the budget to attend the event, you can always be in town and arrange meetings and demos at nearby coffee shops/hotel suites.

What are your Objectives?

What are you trying to achieve? Customer acquisition? Brand awareness? Whatever it is, always begin with the end in mind and create quantifiable metrics to justify your overarching goal.

Building a Budget

Don’t forget the hidden costs; it’s hard to think of every cost until you’ve done many events. Here are a few we like to keep in mind:

  • Shipping costs for booths and collateral
  • Additional power requirements
  • Internet – many trade shows will charge handsomely for this (most shows also charge for power) 
  • Furniture, carpet, and drayage fees
  • Per diem costs per employee
  • Taxis, rentals, and parking per diem for employees
  • Client dinner and drinks

Pre-show:

Negotiate:

Offer value for the organizer in exchange for free conference tickets or a trade show booth. Does your product do something that would benefit the organizer? Or, can you offer a service that’s of value? 

Go Hunting:

Find out who is going and start reaching out to attendees you’d like to target months before the actual event. Then follow up one month out and one week out from the event to set and confirm meetings.

Ask the organizer for a promo code so you can invite people and use the discount code in your content and social posts leading up the event. Ask clients and prospects if they are going and invite key prospects (if you have the budget).

It’s easy to find out who’s presenting ahead of time. Don’t chase the keynote presenter, they’re very busy and sought after. Instead, find connections/referrals to meet select presenters, influencers, and media. Again, offer them some value in exchange for meeting with you (educate them, don’t “sell” to them).

Promote:

Promote each event through your own channels (blog posts, press releases, videos, and social) and paid media. If you’re speaking, advertise your session with a discount code. If you have a trade show booth, encourage booth visits and include your booth number.

At the Event:

If you have a trade show booth, be prepared by knowing the schedule ahead of time. Find out when setup and teardown happen and when peaks times occur so you can plan appropriately (don’t forget to schedule breaks).

Assume anything of value will be stolen. Never leave laptops or company information on any devices that will be left in the hall overnight or could be easily lifted. Never attend a trade show with less than two employees. If more than a couple employees are attending, make sure you schedule shifts. Collect business cards and, always, make notes on who they are and what you talked about. If time allows, enter information into your CRM instantly so those notes aren’t forgotten or lost. 

Post Show:

After the event, follow-up and follow through quickly. It’s all about timing, so make sure you stay top of mind. Here are three best practices we like to follow for post-event marketing:

  • Before sending a batch email, ensure you’ve excluded people your reps have already reached out to.
  • Have ALL business cards are followed-up on within seven days.
  • Have any pre-negotiated deliverables with the organizer are delivered.
  • Keep an eye out for videos and professional photos to use on social, the website, and in content.

Wrap Up

Get in touch if you have any questions about how to pick or prepare for conferences/event. We created a Trade Show Checklist, which you can download here. This resource includes a high-level overview of all the content in this blog post. As well as, a tactical corporate and personal packing list.

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Eilidh Lindsay-Sinclair

PR girl and third culture kid with an interest in entrepreneurship. I help fast-growing SaaS companies reach their Sales and Marketing goals through Inbound Marketing, SEO and online advertising.

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