While most business marketers will agonize endlessly over the most minute details of a brand’s online promotional strategy, their preparations for even the most important events are more likely to focus on the excursion elements than to be firmly placed on the bottom line goals and objectives to be achieved. Events are not just an excuse to get out of town, eat some nice expense account meals and stay at a four star hotel. They are branches of your brand’s marketing strategy and should be evaluated on a Return On Investment (ROI) basis just like any media buy or other “hard” marketing expenditure.
The keys to ensuring that your event participation doesn’t turn out to be a mindless immolation of $100 bills include:
Prior to the Event:
- Create buzz – Social media is the ultimate channel to build anticipation towards virtually any event, so set up a plan to obtain a crescendo of trending and buzz and work intensively and consistently towards carrying out that strategy.
- Obtain insights into the participants – If it’s a B2C event, are you showing up with materials that will be of interest to B2B attendees and vice versa? After all, how many consumers are interested in a million dollar lathe or the purchase of athletic shoes by the containerload? Know your audience and craft your event offerings to suit.
- Determine what your goals are – You need to clearly identify what you’re trying to achieve as well as the metrics that allow you to determine how you’ve performed. You have to be merciless in applying these metrics and the entire process should be evaluated against the unwavering standard of ROI.
During the Event:
- Don’t limit your engagement to attendees – Some of the most valuable contacts you’ll be able to make at any business focused event is with some of the other exhibitors, so ensure that you set considerable time aside to check out the other exhibits and chat with their staff. You never know where your next invaluable contact will come from.
- Maximize your time efficiency – Every experienced event exhibitor is aware that the majority of attendees you come into contact with are mere tire-kickers who have no intention of purchasing your products or services and are just there for a day’s entertainment, free snacks and swag. Learn to differentiate the casually curious from the seriously interested and direct your time and efforts toward the latter.
- Wear comfortable shoes – Why? Because you’ll likely be standing for most of the show. If you think that you can lounge on a chair behind a table for most of the event you’ve failed before you’ve even started. You must project an image of accessibility and that is done by standing and engaging attendees freely, not sitting behind a desk like a bank manager taking a mortgage application.
After the Event:
- Follow up quickly – There will be ample online social chatter about the event, but it won’t last forever. Strike while the social iron’s hot. Have a strategy of intensive social posting and engagement set up well before the show so you can implement it readily in the first few days after the event.
- Evaluate pitilessly – The achievements of your entire event marketing strategy need to be evaluated pitilessly as not only do you need to understand what you did right and what areas you can improve upon next time around, but you also have to determine whether the ROI justifies attending the next event. This evaluation should be set up at least a month or two after the event when you can reasonably evaluate the bottom line results from the contacts garnered at the show.
- Build anticipation – Take a page from the politicos who started discussing 2016 candidacies literally a few minutes after Ohio was called. It’s never too early to start setting up the subsequent promotion, so leverage your social media assets to get that customer expectation flowing!
Adhering to these critical activities will ensure that you will not only be able to readily measure and evaluate your ROI but you’ll also turn your event participation from a semi-vacation to a serious business stratagem!