A strategic approach to more effective event marketing

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The uncertain economic climate is driving CMOs and other marketing leaders to re-evaluate spending in all areas of marketing, including event marketing. Every event in a given portfolio must meet increasingly stringent expectations for ROI. Marketing leadership is looking to their event professionals and integrated marketing executives to deliver more thoroughly on the promise of their event portfolios while keeping investment at the same or even lower levels than in the recent past. Too often this spurs managers to cut on-site execution costs such as give-aways, number of staff and measurement tools. However, experience tells us that the solution doesn't lie at the execution level of the event planning process. It's not about last-minute cost cutting on the event floor. By fine-tuning your understanding of the market and translating that into a high-performance cross-marketing strategy that touches attendees before, during and after an event, you can significantly improve the frequency and quality of your brand's interaction with your audience. Keep the following tips in mind when creating integrated marketing programs: ? Beware of myths masquerading as logic. To ensure your portfolio is well-aligned, look at each event for an understanding of where and when audiences are best engaged and select those events that best deliver against objectives. In every event portfolio there are always events for which the thrust of the rationale is centered on two of the event marketing world's most meaningless myths: “We go because we've always gone” and “we go because how would it look if we didn't go?” Events with such flimsy rationale are the most likely candidates for elimination or downsizing. And for all events, a sharp eye has to be cast against the question of how much space is needed to engage people in meaningful conversations. Sometimes it makes great sense for some of that space to be off the show floor. “Bigger is better” is a myth. ? Aim for a 360o customer experience. Customers' information needs don't begin when they walk onto the show floor or end when they leave; and feeding these needs more completely ultimately means stronger results. Take the time to build a detailed map of your target audience (and subsegments) and then design a series of interactions they need to behave according to your objectives. By matching messages and experiences to audiences then integrating those messages into multiple media before, during and after the event—based on which media format is best for different stages in the cycle—you are ensuring both that the experience is relevant and consistent for attendees and that your spend is most efficient. ? Use digital media. Digital assets such as event microsites extend the event experience beyond a single place and time, enabling the 360 principle and making the onsite messaging and experience live before and after the event. But those same assets can serve as the basis for onsite, interactive, media-rich displays that convey a tremendous amount of information while keeping attendees in-booth for extended periods of time. ? Use contact management tools. This is one area where a tactical solution can drive meaningful performance gains after an upfront capital expense. Review current CRM and lead tracking systems and how they tie back to where and when you meet your audience. A good measurement model, well-applied through the capture of quality data and analysis, can deliver insight into how to improve future events and how each event has contributed to the bottom line. True optimization in event marketing is about creating new value with existing resources, not deploying a new onsite tool to magically be more effective. More planning and a strategic, portfolio-based view of the entire marketing spectrum enables real innovation. Committing to that more complex, but ultimately more valuable model is the real economic decision event marketers face today. David M. Rich is senior VP-strategic marketing, worldwide at George P. Johnson (, an experience marketing agency.
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