On the surface, event marketing sounds fairly straightforward: you host an event to promote your business.
It's kind of like pulling a good shot of espresso or making a salad as well as sweetgreen does—except on a much larger scale. It sounds super doable, and then you try it and quickly realize it's difficult. To help marketers think through (and potentially explain to others) what a successful event is, we created this guide. In our experience, event markers often have too much to do and not enough time for anything but the bare minimum—and we want to help make the case that they might need more resources, more help, more time.
So what is event marketing? Here's our one-sentence answer:
Event marketing is the practice of hosting in-person experiences that communicate the value of your organization to influence marketing goals.
We'll unpack (and greatly expand on) that definition throughout this guide. And as you'll see, building muscle around a solid event strategy is worth it. The guide gets a little lengthy, so here's a birds-eye view of what it'll cover:
- Breaking down the event marketer's role
- Benefits of events vs. other marketing channels(
- Event size, your audience and "the funnel"
- The connective tissue: experiential communication
Let's get to it!
Breaking down the event marketer's role
In case you're so down-in-the-weeds that you need a big-picture reminder. OR you're trying to break it down for people who just don't get it.
Event marketers oversee every aspect of an event: logistics planning, audience development, topic development, partnerships, experience production, influencing marketing goals, and more.
That's a lot! We can break these tasks down into three broad categories:
- Logistics management: This is the stuff you simply must do for an event to happen. You have to find a venue, a date, maybe hire caterers, and make sure you have signs that tell guests where the restrooms are. You need a registration site and invitations. These are the necessary details for the event to just work.
- Experiential: This is the connective tissue between event management and event marketing. You're not just thinking about the fact that you have a venue, but you're thinking about how guests will experience that venue. You're thinking about how you'll communicate with attendees. (Event app? Texting?) Just like digital marketers focus on creating a positive website experience, event marketers need to think about a good event experience. You take the bare minimum and make it better so your guests get something out of the event—and are, in turn, more likely to help you reach marketing goals.
- Marketing and influencing business: You focus on experiential so you're attendees have a positive branded experience—they associate good things with your company and are more likely to buy from you. This doesn't just happen with a good experience, though. It has to be strategic. How are you laying the groundwork leading up to, during, and after the event? What information are you giving guests, what story are you telling them, that'll help them understand the value of your product/service?
Benefits of events vs. other marketing channels
A bunch of convincing stats, in case you need them.
Everything I just explained means events are a lot of work. So what's the upside?
First of all, let's think about the obvious:
- Your attendees didn't come to your event by accident
- Your audience comes to your event prepared to give you their attention for an extended period of time — without the typical workplace distractions
There is no other marketing channel that simultaneously accomplishes those two things. And there's evidence that it pays off:
Events create positive brand sentiment and foster product understanding
- 80% of attendees said that live demonstrations help define their purchasing decision.
- 65% of attendees said live events helped them have a better understanding of a product or service.
- 84% of attendees say that they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event
Events increase and accelerate sales
- 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation
- 70% of users become regular customers after an experiential marketing event
Events contribute to other marketing initiatives
- 75% of content marketers say that in-person events are the most effective content marketing strategy
Event size, your audience and "the funnel"
Talkin' bout audience and ROI—so, marketing.
Biggest is not best
The best type of event depends on your business, but for most companies, small-to-medium sized events are probably the smartest way to go. Large conferences can be great, but they require huge budgets and months of planning. Smaller events are more accessible and are equally (if not more) impactful per attendee.
As long as you're being strategic about who you invite, the number of people you're inviting becomes less important.
So, who should you invite?
If the most impactful events are smaller ones, don't "cast a wide net" with your guest list.
Instead, take a targeted approach and invite people who:
- Your company already has a relationship with (i.e., isn't a "new lead"), or
- Data tells you would definitely be a good fit for your product or service
Your event and the funnel
The funnel! Marketing and sales' favorite metaphor.
Smaller, more targeted events should sit somewhere between the middle and bottom of the funnel. You're probably not going to close deals at the event itself, but the event should serve as a launchpad for closing deals with attendees.
The connective tissue: communication
Let's take a quick pause to reorient ourselves to our central question: What is event marketing? So far we've established that we absolutely need event logistics to make an event happen, and we know that events can 100% influence marketing, sales, and business goals.
But how do you jump from an event that's got solid logistics to an event that influences revenue?
The answer: Communicating through experience.
How do you communicate through experience?
There are a lot of ways to do this. We can't cover every possible example, but here are some ideas:
- First, the OG methods:
- Human-to-human conversation! Events make this possible—which is part of the reason they're such a powerful marketing tool.
- Panel discussions and speaker sessions
- The tech-powered methods:
- Encourage attendees to take and share photos. People love taking pics and posting them on social media. Events not only encourage attendees to take photos—they also serve up IRL content for your attendees to capture and share. This not only creates a positive brand experience for your attendee, but it also extends your social footprint. #2birds1stone With Event Farm EFx, you can take photos for your attendees, apply custom event filters, and text photos to the attendees in the picture.
- Create attendee teams to break the ice and start the conversation. Depending on the size of your event, you can manually group your attendees. EFx Teams makes it possible to do this at scale. With the touch of a button, EFx will place your attendees in groups of 3-4 and text each attendee the names of their teammates. The teammates might not (and probably won't!) know each other, but that's part of the fun: they'll start asking around to find their group. Once they've found each other, you've helped them break the ice and can then post questions relevant to the event topic for them to discuss.
- Make speaker sessions and panel discussions more interactive with polling. You can poll your attendees whenever—but it's especially powerful when you're trying to make a speaking session more interactive. Polling turns a traditionally passive experience into something that's more active. It also allows you to understand how each attendee responds to a poll, which is marketing data that's something powerful beyond the event itself.
- Create interactive experiences through wearable tech*.* Wearable tech activations can do a lot. You can—and Event Farm customers do—get really creative. A popular activation that's used across the board, no matter the event type, is content delivery. Here's how it works: Attendees interact with content on kiosks set up around the venue. If there is content they want to save and reference later, they scan their NFC-powered wristband at the kiosk and have the content delivered to their inbox. (If you're interested in learning how wearable tech could work for your specific event, we're happy to talk about what else is possible. Reach out to us here.)
The experiential component of your event is where you tie the bare bones of the event to the stuff that matters. It's arguably the most important part. What I just laid out is important—but it's a template of tactics you can use. Ultimately, what you're communicating through these channels is the most important part, and that's up to you.