Event Marketing PlanBy Mike Schmidt, AEM Industry Advisor Editor

When it comes to event marketing in today’s modern business environment, the only constant is change. And in order for companies to have any chance of being competitive, the task at hand is clear: evolve... or else.

While participating in trade shows, exhibitions and events remains an effective way for organizations of all types and sizes to showcase products and services to customers and prospects alike, the tried and true methods of event marketing simply don’t work as well as they once did. Further complicating matters is the fact that buying habits and preferences continue to change with time, forcing companies to constantly evaluate and adjust marketing efforts in order to remain relevant.

“Today, you have about 30 seconds to capture someone’s attention with something at a trade show or event and get them interested,” said Dale Beyer, vice president of client partnerships and business development with AEM member company ASTOUND Group, a design and fabrication firm that specializes in the delivery of exhibits, events and environments around the world. “Thirty seconds. You have to walk them through why they should buy from your company, explain all of the solutions, and then demonstrate how you can work with their company to make it more successful.”

Marketing a product or service at an in-person event is no small task today. It’s doable, but it requires the successful execution of a key task: an exhibiting company must be able to present itself as a collaborative partner capable of driving innovation and positively impacting the customer's bottom line.

The only question then is “How?”

Experience Is Everything

“People today are seeking personalized, tailored and targeted experiences,” said Don Whittaker, vice president of events at AEM member company Czarnowski, a full-service marketing firm that produces brand experiences for organizations in a variety of industries. “Demographics are really shifting, and younger audiences are expressing a desire to consume things in a different way.”

Approaching in-person events as experiences requires exhibiting companies to examine a wealth of relevant factors, including:

“How are you looking at all of these different points – both in the digital space and person-to-person –  that make an event feel like a memorable experience and a solid story?” asked Leslie Maynes, public relations lead at AEM member company Two Rivers Marketing, a marketing and advertising firm.

 

Whittaker

 

“People today are seeking personalized, tailored and targeted experiences,” said Don Whittaker, vice president of events at AEM member company Czarnowski. “Demographics are really shifting, and younger audiences are expressing a desire to consume things in a different way.”

 

Exhibiting companies willing to put in the necessary work stand to benefit from their efforts, as customers and prospects today are increasingly willing to socialize in-person events and act as brand ambassadors.

‘We’ve also noticed exhibiting companies are increasing their investment in market research, field research, surveys, as well as getting to know audience behaviors and learning styles, and it really allows them to be smarter,” said Whittaker.

Put a Plan in Place

No undertaking can be successful without engaging in strategic planning, and event marketing is no exception. So before organizations can expect to see a reasonable return on investment (ROI):

  • A comprehensive event marketing plan needs to be developed and put in place
  • Objectives to support the plan need to be clearly defined

“You need to get aligned internally, so you’re focused on business objectives,” said Whittaker. “That really ensures what’s being delivered moves your business forward. It’s one thing to be interconnected, but the more you can really align on what you’re trying to achieve and constantly working to improve, the better off you’ll be. More than anything else, though, you can’t be afraid of change – especially if it’s in the best interest of your business.”

Once a plan has been developed, said Beyer, key stakeholders must secure full buy-in from everyone affected by it – both inside and outside the organization.

“You need to explain ‘This is the direction we’re headed,’” he continued. “And then it comes down to being dynamic enough on the execution to be relevant enough to be able to accomplish one thing, and that’s stop people in their tracks.”

 

 

“Today, you have about 30 seconds to capture someone’s attention with something at a trade show or event and get them interested,” said Dale Beyer, vice president of client partnerships and business development with AEM member company ASTOUND Group.

 

What’s at Stake

It’s no secret participating in exhibitions and events can be a costly endeavor, so it’s crucial for exhibiting companies to possess:

  • A keen understanding of whether or not involvement in a particular event is worthwhile
  • Data to support the case for or against involvement in the event

“It all starts with determining what needs to be achieved,” said Maynes.

“And the narrower you can make those goals related to your show experience, the better your plan is going to be,” she added.

Once involvement is confirmed and goals have been set, organizations need to make sure any marketing messaging being developed is on-point. For messaging to be effective, it must:

  • Be unique and innovative
  • Enhance the exhibiting company's brand
  • Provide clear value to its intended audience

In-person events remain the premier way for organizations of all types and sizes to get their products and services in front of customers. However, as buying habits and preferences continue to evolve with time, so must the ways in which organizations approach event marketing. And ultimately, success hinges on an organization's ability to ensure  – and prove – it invested the right amount of time, effort and resources into marketing strategy and tactics.

 

Maynes

 

“It all starts with determining what needs to be achieved,” said Leslie Maynes, public relations lead at AEM member company Two Rivers Marketing.“And the narrower you can make those goals related to your show experience, the better your plan is going to be.”

 

“So often it’s easy to jump into tactics without doing the hard homework,” said Maynes. “I can’t say enough about the fact that it’s worth the time on the strategy side. And when it comes down to it, strategy and an effective communications plan for your internal audience should be where you spend the bulk of your time, and the bulk of your dollars goes toward that execution.”

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