Smarter Marketing Blog

Can You Handle the Truth about Event Marketing and Engagement?

free-concert-event-marketing

Straight up, here’s the truth – using events as part of your marketing activity is the real engagement that people need and want.

In this post, after initially discussing event marketing, we are going to look at ways to evaluate third party event sponsorship. Thereafter we will provide our usual section on marketing tips and timesavers. This time, the tips are focused on event planners.

We totally subscribe to the fact that we have all become more connected than ever and that the volume of communication has risen.  We would also agree that, to most smartphone owners, connecting online has become as normal as talking to a neighbour across the fence.

What we’d like to suggest, however, is that the value of that communication has decreased. This is mainly because brands appear to be focussing on the channels / tools more than the audience. And anyway, in reality, an online relationship isn’t always reciprocal.

If you look at it from a business point of view – we have staff working in digital marketing, we have community managers, content marketing, online publications and many more methods of communicating with prospects. The trouble is, as we see it, brands are in danger of losing sight of what they are trying to do – which is to make a person feel important.

After all, it is these people that are the lifeblood of our businesses. With our constant analysis, projections, ROI and margins sometimes the human touch gets lost in it all.

Get back to the future by using event marketing to talk to people

Look at this another way – how do we engage with our friends? Well, I for one prefer to talk to them face-to-face. We usually enjoy similar interests but still appreciate each other, if not. Basically, we have trust and we help each other out.

Now we know that a brand is not going to have such a close relationship. Surely, though, it should, at least, try to create an authentic and relevant interaction about whatever it is the customer is using / buying. An excellent place for such interaction is at an event. What people don’t want is for irrelevant brands to interrupt or waste their valuable time.

Since the dawn of time, marketers have known that it is emotions that drive action so I guess we need to go back to the future here. Being real and talking to people through event marketing allow brands to have a better chance of moving people from being watchers and listeners to doers.

At an event, people get to meet the real you, your people and the brand’s personality. We don’t believe that relationships can be based on online impressions, likes, click-thru’s and web traffic. True relationships are action based and as such are about reciprocal bonding – just like in the old days of the local shopkeeper.
Even our friends at www.twitter.com have realised this by recently removing their ‘share counters’ and changing the favourite button to a heart button.

We would argue that the driver of engagement is not online activity but real-life experience. Certainly engaging in relevant conversations online can help nurture relationships. However, by facilitating participation, that allows people to come into real contact with your brand, is how you ensure people will remember you / your business.

Just observe the attendees of any sports event, theatre production etc. what do you see? Emotion – that’s what. It is only by sharing these emotional experiences with them will you truly engage with people and manifest your brand in the real world.

Evaluating 3rd party event sponsorships

In a previous life as Head of Sponsorship in AIB Bank, my constant battle was with our finance people about sponsoring unplanned for, third party events (i.e. not your own hospitality). These would have been outside of my initial budget. They could have ranged from exhibitions at trade shows to large sports activities and small student events.

The most important part of my arsenal was the research element undertaken before I approached them.

Of course, there can be many reasons why a business might sponsor a specific third party event and there are too many to cover here. Suffice to say, though, whatever the reason a business gets involved in an event it must always be based on advancing an overall business objective – in a measurable way.

From a sponsors point of view, here are some items to address in your proposal to the CFO (or to ask yourself, if a business owner).

  • Stick to the details – does the timing and location ‘fit’ with your other marketing activity? How large an audience will there be and does the activity and theme ‘fit’ with your brand message? Don’t engage in deficit funding i.e. absorb the risk from the event owner. Are there other sponsors (are they complementary) and is there a hierarchy (gold/ silver etc.)?
  • Look at the people involved – are the event owners ready and able for a professional sponsorship? Can they deliver on their promises and your objectives? Is the promised audience actually going to turn up? Look at audience demographics from previous events, what level of leads might they be, (executive vs manager)? Can the event add value for your internal audience in any way?
  • Determine what value you will get – Speaking or customer engagement opportunities, lead generation, branding basics, outside-the-box promotional opportunities, digital visibility opportunities, content creation or savings from an advertising budget. How will the audience / customer benefit from your sponsorship involvement? Make sure you include a figure for activation – depending on the type of event start-off with a €1:€1buget.
  • Measurement – measure by cost per 1,000 attendees not media value, how many new customers / leads? include digital analytics if available and summarise with the overall impact the sponsorship should have on business growth.

Here is a very good article based on recent research, from marketingprofs.com, which proves that businesses are using events to reach customers. For example, “nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents say events are one of the better sales and marketing approaches that a firm can employ to engage customers.”

Tips and Timesavers

Whether working with businesses or event owners, a constant obstacle that we come across is the expectation that each party has of each other. This obstacle usually relates to money i.e. who is paying who to do what. That is, the event planner is relying on sponsorship funds to make the event bigger and better – the sponsoring business wants a top return on its investment. Obviously, a clear agreement, backed up by an activation plan, is paramount at the start of the relationship.

We have covered sponsorship from a sponsors’ point-of-view previously, (e.g. here), so here are six tips for the event owner / planner:

  1. Planning and logistics are very important but a waste of time if there is no audience. Make sure you outline a realistic marketing budget and then allow the potential sponsor to augment it
  2. Don’t presume a sponsor will undertake the marketing for the event. Brainstorm to develop some creative marketing ideas – think about digital opportunities the sponsor might want
  3. Don’t be a one-man show. Use a community of designers, social media influencers, techies and PR people. Many start-up businesses might be glad to be involved for awareness and networking reasons
  4. The event really must have its own website. If you don’t have the expertise there are many free templates etc. out there (e.g. www.wordpress.com ). Attach google analytics so you can show results to your sponsor and you can undertake simple SEO yourself
  5. Do we even need to mention that social media should play a large part in the marketing of an event? How about inviting a well-known speaker / performer that you are connected to online? They might even guest write for you or offer a promotion on their own media sites.
  6. Will the event be interesting to any specific media? Don’t just circulate a press release, think about who would want to cover the event story in a specific way e.g. sports vs lifestyle. Link your database to an email marketing system such as mailchimp.com. You will need to send a group promotion piece, so depending on the number, it might be worth upgrading to a system that can handle your requirements.

One caveat to the above tips is that the event you are planning must be relevant to someone, preferably a specific audience and that it would be affordable for that audience to attend.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, an event should be a win: win: win for all parties involved. The owner / planner wants to host a successful event, the audience want to have a wonderful experience and the sponsor / business wants to achieve a business objective. So really, it’s a combination of how the success of the event is measured by all parties, that leads to a better understanding of its value, in the long run.

Here are three other ways to think about an event – i) did it grow (year-on-year)? ii) do the activation insights show an increased appreciation in general? and iii) one for the financial guys – how was the cost per attendee? – total promotional spend / no. of actual attendees = cost per attendee.

As we’re prone to saying here in Ireland – ‘is there any better way to engage with people than to throw a bit of a party’.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

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