For the past two-and-a-half years, marketers have focused almost exclusively on digital interactions. But now that pandemic restrictions are lifting, in-person events and experiences are making their way back into the marketing mix. Have you begun this pivot? How are you revising your strategies to adapt to all that’s shifted in the marketplace and in the greater business environment?
In-person events are top of mind for me, because here at Sitecore we’re in the middle of planning our first in-person Symposium in two years. Here are my key insights from our process:
1. Begin by fully recognizing how much has changed.
The past two-and-a-half years have been transformative, with disruption driven not only by the pandemic but also by social unrest and other significant swings in business, technology and society in general. Much of how we live and work has been dismantled and rearchitected—and in the process, we have learned a lot about ourselves and our priorities.
From a marketing perspective, one of the most important evolutions has been the accelerated adoption of digital interactions. Consumers are now accustomed to switching seamlessly between digital and physical experiences with brands, and they have developed new preferences and expectations. That, in turn, means brands need the capabilities to identify, activate and optimize experiences across all channels.
2. Leverage learnings from digital to improve in-person experiences.
Marketers are gregarious by nature, and most if not all of us have been eager to return to in-person events for quite some time. Even so, it would be a mistake to let that excitement overshadow everything we learned from being 100% digital.
After all, we now know that digital strategies can be very effective. We also know much more about blending the digital with the physical to create meaningful engagement. Ultimately it’s these hybrid strategies that are proving to be the most successful because they allow customers to choose which type of interaction is optimal for them.
We opted for this approach for Sitecore’s Symposium 2022. Certain aspects of the conference will be available only for in-person attendees, but we are going to live stream the keynote speeches so that other audience segments can participate virtually.
3. Sharpen your focus so you can chart a new course.
Adding in-person events back to the marketing mix—and doing so in a way that meets the new expectations of your customers—will require juggling multiple and sometimes competing factors. It’s bound to be challenging for sure, but the one thing that will keep you on track is focus.
Today more than ever you need to be clear about your team’s short- and long-term goals. Then you need to direct your efforts at defined objectives for each target audience. Remember, all buyers are on their own individual journeys, and each journey is characterized by its own multiple dynamics.
That’s why when we were choosing a theme for this year’s Symposium, we decided on, “Meet every moment.” It’s our way of emphasizing that, in order to thrive in a post-pandemic world, brands need to deliver authentic experiences at every touchpoint, whether those touchpoints are digital, physical or hybrid.
4. Make peace with ongoing uncertainty.
Because all of us—marketers and customers alike—are still trying to assimilate everything that’s happened over the past two-and-a-half years, the marketing environment is likely to remain dynamic and changeable for quite some time. Whatever “rules” we were following about digital versus physical are in flux and we have to accept that there is no certainty about where it’s all going to land.
In the near term, I anticipate that attendance at in-person events will increase due to pent-up demand and digital fatigue. But will those increases be sustainable? We will have to wait and see. As always, the key will be to keep testing so you know what’s working for your audience. Then dip your toe in the water, staying open to new information as it comes in.
Adding in-person experiences back into the marketing mix requires a fresh vision as well as new levels of adaptability that enable you to meet every moment. That’s because as powerful as a digital approach can be, these past few years have also taught us that, as humans, we crave in-person connections.
We must recognize that those connections are vital to propelling the buying journey and be able to combine them with direct and contextual customer data, analytics and business intelligence. In today’s complex customer ecosystem, that’s the only way you can truly understand your audience and deliver relevance, whether online or in person.