Event marketing

A dissection of modern event marketing strategies

If you need a case study on the impact of digital transformation on marketing, events are a great place to start.

Print magazines and billboards were once the co-champions of event promotion. A new data-driven era is now dawning on the industry, with greater emphasis on personalization, measurement and, of course, ROI.

If you organize your own events, there are several ways to learn from the best conferences, exhibitions and private meetings. Let’s see how they reduced the noise in 2019.

What about event marketing?

If there’s one driver of the change we’re seeing in event marketing right now, it’s data – more specifically, the information used to determine the success of our platforms and strategies.

Event marketers aren’t the only ones looking for a more data-driven approach. Yet, according to information from Event Marketer, they seem to be moving faster than their branded counterparts.

Three-quarters (74%) of event marketers use data to inform their marketing strategy, compared to just over half (54%) of brand marketers. In total, 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 attributes this to two different reasons, namely:

  1. Event marketers have a definite starting point and end point. This makes it easier to use data to quantify success.
  2. Events are a broad channel when it comes to data and ideas, which means there is always information to act on.

The advent of data has triggered a sea change in the types of technologies used to plan, manage and promote events.

Once considered a “nice to have”, data integration between vendors is vital. This is no small feat, as events are used to using dozens of different platforms to promote themselves.

Multiple technologies also bring the puzzle of multiple dashboards and, in turn, multiple metric definitions. This sparked a shift to platforms with built-in functions for CRM, analytics, email marketing software, and more.

The result of what we see is:

  • Data is key to demonstrating the success of event marketing
  • Events need technologies that can integrate with their other platforms to create a performance analytics framework
  • All-in-one solutions offer a workaround, but very few have the required functionality

Either way, a more responsible, data-driven era for events has brought them to the doorstep of three major marketing channels. They are:

1. Email Marketing/Marketing Automation

Events are some of the biggest cheerleaders in messaging software. Their open rates sit at 20.41%, above gambling, telecommunications and retail. We’ve heard that 40% of event planners cite email as their #1 marketing channel in 2019 and we’ve seen no reason for their enthusiasm to wane.

One of the biggest updates concerns automation. Rather than spending hours sending hundreds of thank you messages, you can now queue them up and send them automatically, after the event, for fast, fast delivery.

Another automation task is converting attendees who have had their information captured by the CRM (e.g. web form for free content, newsletter signup) but failed to pay with a let. to pass.

Cart abandonment for event tickets is at a relatively low 30% – well below the 53% reported by fashion retailers, but still representing nearly one in three visitors. Retargeting messages rarely go beyond anything too blunt, as this example from Race Roster shows.

Events tend to have bigger problems with gradual rolling. This is especially the case with annual gatherings, attracting tens of thousands of people, which creates large mailing lists (one positive) and dozens of disengaged customers (one positive and one negative). Your re-engagement message should reflect the target audience. Learn how the Vans Warped Tour approaches the task of securing opt-in for its former users.

Vanz newsletter example of using email marketing for event marketing strategies

The channel is frequently used as a method of recovering unused sales and customers. And it might as well be called “marketing automation” for the role technology has to play here.

2. Influencers

The Fyre Festival will not claim any prizes for its management and the experience of its participants. However, through its multi-million viral marketing campaign, it has produced one of the best case studies of using influencers to promote events.

After watching Emily Ratajkowski get paid over $200,000 to promote a festival that barely happened, many analysts have pointed to the importance of being transparent about what’s being promoted and fostering long-term relationships rather than occasional campaigns.

Fortunately, this seems to have trickled down to the events themselves, which deploy influencers in tactical and resourceful ways.

Many of our users (both B2B and B2C) have compensation models for the most important and respected figures in their industry. They range from extremely basic options like:

  • Free products/services
  • Free tickets
  • Speaking opportunities and sponsorship packages

Events also have influencers working under an affiliate marketing model, where commission is paid for sales. There are, however, a few caveats. B2C events can use influencer networks to find good partners and payment structures without too much trouble. If you are a B2B pharmaceutical conference, you may find it difficult to find the same.

For an example of influencer marketing in action, see how Philadelphia’s Made in America festival taps into Meek Mill followers. Tracking the artist’s code will reveal how many sales they’ve generated, which could lead to a commission.

Meek Mill's example of using influencer marketing for events

The use of affiliate codes and models is optional. Still, by getting to know your analytics and marketing attribution, you can start using influencers in a way that only lets you pay for results.

3. Paid social networks

If email is for B2B events, paid social networks are definitely the weapon of choice for their B2C counterparts.

Whether you’re looking for ultramarathon competitors or jazz music fanatics, they can often be found among the hundreds of millions of active users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

After the decline in organic reach on major pages (42% on Facebook alone), events were almost forced to invest in paid social networks. The good news is that social media promotion is cheap, effective, and comes with a list of out-of-the-box targeting options.

If you’re using Facebook to promote a modern art festival in California, you can enter:

  • Location: California+10km
  • Age: 25-34
  • Gender: All
  • Interests: Art

Another option is to use tools like Audience Finder, Twitter for Business, and Google’s App Install Campaigns to find people who have certain apps on their smartphones. For example, 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 this data into paid social and mobile app campaigns.

In messaging and social media creative in general, we find that the focus is still on driving sales. Most events have a very short lifespan, which leaves little room for extensive branding and outreach missions. Take the example of Live Tech Event and its appeal to exhibitors on Twitter.

Use paid social networks for events

It’s the same thing to generate interest around tickets. Although the Web Summit takes place in November 2019, the public is still encouraged to take action four months before it is hosted.

Web Summit Example of Using Paid Social Media for Event Marketing Strategies

Good results can be achieved by retargeting site visitors with tools like Facebook’s Custom Audiences. And preferably through ads that elicit the urgency of “sold out tickets” or something similar.

Is all this a good thing?

Despite the acts of the pioneers, many events stick to traditional, offline methods of promoting themselves. Certainly, 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 incredible progress. It’s a sign that not only do we want results, but that we’re willing to take extra steps to achieve them.

Event marketing is entering a data-driven era. And if you really want to get better at audience targeting and measuring ROI, we advise you to go with this particular trend.

Jose Bort is the CEO and co-founder of all-in-one event management software, EventsCase. It can be found on Twitter .