Event marketing is the promotion of a product, brand, or service through in-person interactions. There are many forms of event marketing, and each can be catered to address the marketer’s specific goals.
Event marketing can be hosting an event to build stronger relationships with prospects and customers. It could also be attending an event as an exhibitor to educate potential customers on your company’s product offering. Event marketing can even include digital events such as webinars or live-streamed workshops.
Each of the above examples leverages the power of live experiences to achieve business goals.
Why Is Event Marketing Important?
According to the Event Marketing 2019: Benchmarks and Trends Report, most marketers believe that event marketing is the single-most effective marketing channel for achieving business goals.
Additional findings from the report include:
- Between 2017 to 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17%.
- The majority of company leaders support their company’s event strategies, but this support is contingent on event teams’ ability to prove ROI.
- The most successful businesses are spending 1.7x the average marketing budget on live events.
The bottom line: Event marketing is an essential marketing channel for B2B and B2C businesses.
What Is Different About Event Marketing?
At its core, marketing is communication. It is the ability to convey a message at a reasonable time. Live events provide the opportunity for one to connect directly with stakeholders and communicate their message. It’s no wonder that event marketing continues to grow as one of today’s big companies’ most important marketing strategies.
According to Forrester Research, events make up for 24% of the B2B marketing budget. By 2020, 3.2M global professional events will be taking place on an annual basis. Companies believe in the power of live events, and this trend will only continue to grow in the coming years.
Types of Events
Improved technology, combined with the growing need for events, has resulted in a wide range of event types. Having a firm understanding of each type of event will help event marketers determine which ones align most closely with their specific goals. Below is a thorough but by no means exhaustive list of event types.
These large scale events make up a significant portion of the events industry. Conferences can be either B2B or B2C and usually have a schedule filled with engaging speakers, educational workshops, and valuable networking sessions. The most successful conferences are the ones that balance a professional environment with an energetic, social atmosphere.
For example, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 2019 is a large scale conference. The keynote, content, and product updates cater to the interests of developers and product users. Activities include a highly anticipated speaker and sessions that teach customers how to get the most out of their products.
“I would have to say that for us at Franchise Update Media, our marketing strategy stems from our conferences. Not necessarily the other way around. We diligently analyze the successes and failures of each of our events and build our strategy around the successes, or little wins. We tend to conceptualize our overall conference experience and work backwards from there.”
—Katy Geller, Marketing Communications Manager at Franchise Media Update
2. Trade Shows
Trade shows and expos aim to present new products and services from various related brands professionally. Typically these types of events have a theme that ties the booths together.
For example, IMEX America is the largest trade show for event planners. Held in Las Vegas, IMEX America attracts over 12,000 attendees and 3,000+ exhibitors in one place. The event allows industry movers and shakers to meet, mingle, and explore new business connections and innovations.
To learn more about the IMEX brand and their philosophy on designing a successful trade show, check out our interview with Carina Bauer, CEO at IMEX, on the IN-PERSON Podcast.
Seminars usually take place in a more intimate setting and are heavily focused on educating attendees. The smaller group of attendees allows for more in-depth discussions and valuable knowledge sharing. Seminars usually last one day and often only for a few hours.
For example, the ABM Leadership Alliance held its first seminar in Boston called ABM by the Numbers. The event brought together B2B marketers focused on driving their event strategies with key metrics and gave professionals a channel to share and discuss key learnings and present case studies.
For more information, check out our key takeaways from the event.
4. Internal Company Meetings and Periodic Business Gatherings
Internal company meetings and periodic business gatherings are events used to discuss a select group of topics to assess progress, facilitate project kickoffs, or solve a specific problem. They are common in companies with over 25 employees, but smaller businesses can also benefit from this event type.
5. Thought Leadership and Networking Events
The goal of thought leadership or networking events is to present a brand’s authority in a particular domain and provide opportunities for people with related business interests to meet and interact with one another. This event type can include VIPs or focus more on general admission.
One example is Forbes Under 30 Summit, which brings together young professionals, A-list speakers, speed-pitching, and the infamous pub crawl. The immersive event allows eager young industry innovators a platform to share their voice and network with peers.
6. Ceremonies and Galas
Ceremonies and galas serve various purposes, but these formal events have one thing in common: they provide an elegant way of presenting a brand and its product or service. Whether it’s a black-tie fundraising event in a rented art museum or a kickoff for an annual meeting at a conference, ceremonies and galas provide a sophisticated way of marking a special occasion.
One way to celebrate a formal event with customers is through an award ceremony. For example, Oracle hosts the Markie Awards to shine a light on the luminaries in digital marketing and customer experience. This is a great event that honours Oracle customers in a fun and meaningful way.
7. Product Launches
Product launches are used to showcase new products or solutions to customers and prospects. A product launch aims to get existing customers and potential customers excited about the features and functionalities that are coming to their product.
Every year, Adobe hosts MAX, a creativity conference for users of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Attendees get a front-row seat to the latest product updates and innovations from Adobe.
8. VIP Events
VIP events (or sales acceleration events) focus on providing the most influential shareholders, customers, and other honoured guests with an exclusive (and impressive) experience. The goal of any VIP event is to increase revenue by maintaining these key figures’ loyalty ultimately.
For example, Atlassian held an invite-only CIO Lunch in both New York and Silicon Valley. The VIP event allowed industry leaders to come together to discuss challenges and breakthroughs that were relevant in their field.
9. Job Fairs and Recruiting Events
Most job fairs and recruiting events aim to find and secure the talent for their company across several departments. Typically held at colleges and universities, this event type is popular among start-ups or companies looking to find fresh minds to expand their business.
For example, DeveloperWeek attracts developers in San Francisco, New York, Austin, and Chicago. The week-long event includes multiple developer conferences, a hackathon, and a hiring mixer for prospective job seekers.
10. Team Building
Team building events are internal meetings focused on providing fun and interesting ways for employees to bond. The goal is usually to facilitate relationship building so employees can become better leaders and collaborators. It’s also a helpful way to get people from departments without direct contact to be introduced to one another.
11. Field Marketing and Activations
Most field marketing or brand activation events aim to form stronger emotional bonds between a company and its audience. Since relationship-building is the primary focus of this event type, it’s especially important to know which specific audiences you are targeting to plan the activities accordingly.
A great example of targeted brand activation is media and lifestyle brand Refinery29’s 29 Rooms. The annual event is designed as an interactive “playground for adults” that features a curated selection of experiences with musicians, companies, and content.
12. Virtual Events
Virtual events are ideal for companies that may not have the resources to host a full-scale live event and for companies that cannot afford to travel to an international conference. Virtual events allow people to participate from all over the world and strive for a more globalized and diverse group of attendees. As the technology for virtual and augmented reality continues to evolve rapidly, virtual events may quickly become a mainstream form of live events.
For example, Gainsight’s PulseCheck is a virtual event that is recorded and streamed to virtual attendees. This allows attendees to consume content on their time. To increase their audience, Gainsight offers recording sessions for free to new Gainsight subscribers.
How to Measure Event Marketing Success
To maximize the impact of event marketing strategies it’s necessary to set the right goals and utilize relevant KPI’s. Defining and measuring event success is just as important as the event itself. Below is a list of ways to articulate event marketing goals followed by nine metrics to measure event ROI, ensuring continued success properly.
Before diving into the specific KPI’s, it is worth mentioning the SMART acronym to help you better understand how to achieve event marketing success. Defining goals with this method will help you reach your desired results in the most efficient way possible.
Specific: The more specific you are when articulating your event goals, the closer you will be to achieving them. Asking detailed questions can be a great way to come up with comprehensive answers.
Measurable: Specific goals are all the more effective when they can be quantified because you can measure their direct impact. Easily measurable factors like costs and revenue are the best way to answer the question, “How will I know that my goals have been achieved?”
Achievable: Keeping in mind the difference between ambitious and unrealistic, make sure to set goals that can be reached but never out of reach. You should set a goal that you think you and your team will reach 50% of the time if you had to repeat the event. You can set an additional “reach goal” that you think can be reached 10% of the time, which would motivate you and your team.
Results-Oriented: Goals should measure results, not activities. While it might help send 50 individual emails to prospective event sponsors, a better goal would be to secure a hard commitment from 5 event sponsors within the next six months.
Time-Bound: All goals should have subsequent deadlines. Create a timeline for your goals and analyze how they will develop over different points in time.
Wrapping-Up: Event Marketing and You
All signs point to event marketing, maintaining its status at the essential marketing channel for businesses—in 2020 and beyond. And there’s a good reason why. Marketers finally have the technology that allows them to prove the ROI of their events to business leaders.