If you need a case study into the impact of digital transformation on marketing, events are a great place to start.
Printed magazines and billboards were once the joint-champions of event promotion. A new, data-driven era is now sweeping into the industry, bringing an increased emphasis on personalization, measurement and, of course, ROI.
If you’re running your own events, there are several ways that you can learn from the very best conferences, exhibitions, and private meetings. Let’s see how they’ve been cutting through the noise in 2019.
What is happening to event marketing?
If there is one driver of the change we’re currently seeing within event marketing, it’s data – more specifically, the information used to determine the success of our platforms and strategies.
Event marketers are not alone in their pursuit of a more data-led approach. Yet, according to insights from Event Marketer, they seem to be moving quicker than their brand counterparts.
Three quarters (74%) of event marketers use data to inform their marketing strategy, compared to just over half (54%) of brand marketers. A total of 71% use it to track brand awareness (vs 52% of brands), 60% use it to track leads (vs 35% of brands) and 47% use it to justify their marketing budget (vs 28% of brands).
The same research puts this down to two different reasons, namely:
- Event marketers have a definitive start and endpoint. This makes it easier to use data in quantifying success.
- Events are a broad channel when it comes to data and insights, meaning there is always information to act on.
The onset of data has triggered a seismic shift in the types of technology used to plan, manage, and promote events.
Once viewed as a “nice to have”, data integration between suppliers is vital. That’s no mean feat, though, as events have a habit of using tens of different platforms to promote themselves.
Multiple technologies also bring the puzzle of multiple dashboards and, in turn, multiple definitions of metrics. This has triggered a shift to platforms with in-built functions for CRM, analytics, email marketing software, and more.
The upshot of what we’re seeing is:
- Data is vital for demonstrating the success of event marketing
- Events need technologies that can integrate with their other platforms to build a framework for analyzing the performance
- All-in-one solutions provide a workaround, but very few have the required functionality
In any case, a more accountable, data-driven era for events has led them to the door of three main marketing channels. They are:
1. Email marketing/marketing automation
Events are some of the biggest cheerleaders for email software. Their open rates sit at a healthy 20.41%, above the likes of gambling, telecommunications, and retail. We’ve heard that 40% of event organizers list email as their no.1 marketing channel in 2019 and we have seen no reason for their enthusiasm to wane.
One of the bigger updates concerns automation. Rather than spending hours delivering hundreds of “thank you” messages, you can now queue and send these automatically, post-event, for a quick and timely send-off.
Another task for automation lies in the conversion of attendees that have seen their details captured by CRM (e.g. web form for free content, newsletter signup) but failed to checkout with a pass.
Cart abandonment for event tickets is at a relatively low rate of 30% – far below the 53% reported by fashion retailers, but still representing nearly one in every three visitors. Retargeting messages rarely go beyond anything too blunt, as seen by this example by Race Roster.
Events tend to have bigger problems with gradual churn. This is especially the case with annual gatherings, attracting tens of thousands of people, which creates big mailing lists (a positive) and scores of disengaged customers (a positive and a negative). Your re-engagement message should reflect the audience being targeted. See how the Vans Warped Tour approaches the task of securing opt-in for its lapsed users.
The channel is used frequently as a method of recapturing lapsed sales and customers. And it may as well be called “marketing automation” for the role that technology has to play here.
Fyre Festival won’t be claiming any awards for its management and attendee experience. However, through its multi-million viral marketing campaign, it produced one of the best case studies into the use of influencers for promoting events.
After seeing the likes of Emily Ratajkowski being paid over $200,000 to promote a festival that barely took place, many analysts have highlighted the importance of being transparent over what is being promoted and favoring long-term connections over one-off campaigns.
Thankfully this appears to have carried across to the events themselves, which are deploying influencers in a tactical, resourceful way.
Many of our users (both B2B and B2C) have remuneration models for their industry’s biggest and most respected figures. They range from extremely basic options like:
- Free products/services
- Free tickets
- Speaking opportunities and sponsorship packages
Events also have influencers working to an affiliate marketing model, where the commission is paid for sales. There are some caveats, though. B2C events can use influencer networks to find good partners and payout structures without too many issues. If you’re a B2B pharma conference, you might struggle to find the same.
For an example of influencer marketing in action, see how Philadelphia’s Made in America festival taps into the following of Meek Mill. Tracking on the artist’s code will reveal how many sales it generated, which could result in a commission.
The use of codes and affiliate models are optional. Nevertheless, by getting to know your analytics and marketing attribution, you can start to use influencers in a way that only sees you paying for results.
3. Paid social
If email is primed for B2B events, then paid social is definitely the weapon of choice for their B2C counterparts.
Whether you’re looking for ultramarathon contestants or jazz music fanatics, they can often be found amid the hundreds of millions of active users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
After the decline of organic reach on large pages (a reported 42% on Facebook alone), events have almost been forced into investing in paid social. The good news is that promotion on social media is cheap, effective, and comes with a list of ready-made targeting options.
If you’re using Facebook to promote a modern art festival in California, you might want to input:
- Location: California+10km
- Age: 25-34
- Gender: All
- Interests: Art
Another option is to use tools like Audience Finder, Twitter for Business, and App Install Campaigns from Google to find people that have certain apps on their smartphone. For instance, if I know my audience has Shazam, Ticketmaster, and StubHub on their device, I can assume their interest in music and live events. We can then funnel that data into paid social and mobile app campaigns.
Within the messaging and creative on social media in general, we find there is always an emphasis on driving sales. Most events have a very short lifespan, which creates little room for extensive brand and awareness-building missions. Take the example of Event Tech Live and its call for exhibitors on Twitter.
It’s the same for driving interest around tickets. Though Web Summit takes place during November 2019, the audience is still encouraged to act four months prior to its hosting.
Good results can be had by retargeting site visitors with tools like Facebook’s Custom Audiences. And preferably through ads that instill urgency about “tickets running low”, or something similar.
Is this all a good thing?
Despite the acts of trailblazers, many events remain loyal to traditional, offline methods of promoting themselves. Admittedly, industry magazines still have a good reputation for driving sales and awareness in these circles.
But the industry’s pursuit of all things data and digital is an amazing piece of progress. It’s a sign that we not only want results, but we’re willing to take extra steps to achieve them.
Event marketing is ushering itself into a data-driven era. And if you really want to get better at audience targeting and measuring ROI, we’d advise you to move in the direction of that particular current.
Jose is the CEO and Co-Founder of the all-in-one event management software, EventsCase. He can be found on Twitter @Josebortcs.
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