Event marketing: what is it and why use it?

Event marketing is the direct promotion of a brand, product or service to potential customers through live, face-to-face interaction. Whether hosting, sponsoring or exhibiting, businesses utilise corporate events as an opportunity to engage delegates with both inbound and outbound strategies.

More than 40 per cent of mid- to senior-level marketers believe live events to be their most effective channel for driving business outcomes - more than content and email marketing combined, according to Bizzabo.

In this article, we'll examine exactly what event marketing is, how it generates stronger business outcomes and how you can achieve a next-level event marketing strategy.

What is event marketing?

Event marketing is a strategy many marketers use to leave a lasting, brand-focused impression on targeted customers. At live corporate events, such as conferences, trade shows, or product launches, your brand ambassadors can directly engage with a targeted audience of prospective customers, helping to drive a number of key objectives.

Businesses today are engaging in event marketing in a variety of ways. Bizzabo reports that most organisations invest nearly a quarter of their annual marketing budgets into live events, with 49 per cent of businesses prioritising hosting their own corporate event, followed by 30 per cent preferring to sponsor and/or exhibit, while 19 per cent allocate their budget to attending events.

In practice, effective event marketing works by engaging customers while they're in a willing, participatory position. Because delegates are at events to network, learn or be entertained, they're already open to experiences and therefore more ready to engage with your brand activation or overall messaging.

Simply put, event marketing is one of the best ways to:

  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Engage customers directly.
  • Generate leads.
  • Educate prospects.
  • Achieve thought leadership.
A successful corporate event can bring significant benefits to your organisation's strategic outcomes.
A successful corporate event can bring significant benefits to your organisation's strategic outcomes.

Why should you use event marketing?

Chaos Theory Games suggests that, by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

With today's corporate buyers more empowered with choice and knowledge than ever before, marketers must employ every tactic available to build relationships and earn the trust of potential customers and delegates. Sales pipelines are longer, and buyers are looking for more than just a sales pitch - they need to be cared for, engaged and inspired before they're ready to make a purchasing decision. 

Corporate events provide a unique platform for direct, in-person brand interaction and engagement, allowing delegates to gain first-hand insight into the customer experience offered by your organisation. Event marketing must be an integral part of your organisation's broader marketing strategy, helping you to attract, engage and delight delegates across the board.

Let's take a closer at how corporate events help you achieve your business outcomes.

Lead Generation

The most common primary reason for organising corporate events is to support lead generation and sales acceleration, according to Bizzabo.

When delegates attend an event, particularly one you are hosting, they've already shown interest in the product or service you're offering. In many cases, they may already be prepared to make a purchase decision. Through live corporate events, your brand ambassadors can interact with delegates to gain a stronger understanding of their pain points and guide them further along the buyer's journey with in-person tools. Effectively, live events remove the barriers of distance and the "digital fortress", empowering you to make more meaningful connections with delegates and capture leads successfully.

Over two-thirds of B2B marketers agree that live corporate events help to generate the most leads, with case studies used as a follow-up to accelerate and convert, reports Marketing Charts.

Corporate event marketing can increase brand awareness and build a stronger affinity with your delegates.
Corporate event marketing can increase brand awareness and build a stronger affinity with your delegates.

Brand Awareness

Increasing brand awareness and reputation is the second most common primary reason for organising corporate events, reports Bizzabo.

Standing out and fostering a positive relationship with potential customers in today's extremely competitive market is crucial. Live corporate events are a powerful tool for improving brand awareness among a captive audience. You may choose to sponsor or host specific marketing events to gain access to a highly targeted audience and demonstrate your brand's personality to your most valuable demographics.

Attendee engagement and satisfaction is the most important metric for most senior marketers, according to Bizzabo. This is because these KPIs have significant implications for broader event goals, such as brand awareness. A highly satisfied delegates is more likely to attend future events, develop a strong affinity with your brand, become more aware of your product or service offering and eventually convert to a future customer.

Supporting this, EMI & Mosaic report that 72 per cent of event delegates say they positively view brands that provide quality event content opportunities and experiences. A larger percentage of consumers (74 per cent) say engaging with branded event marketing experiences makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted.

Successful events also have the power to elevate your brand within your industry, with 54% of marketers believing events are a great opportunity to position their brand among industry leaders, according to CMO Council and Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA).

Delegate Engagement

Additionally, live events represent an opportunity to create a more genuine, emotional connection with delegates - the kind that inspires the coveted word of mouth marketing most marketers hope for.

By creating an immersive, unique and memorable event experience, you invite your delegates to interact with your brand on a personal level. Tapping into the real-time emotions of delegates and fostering an intimate relationship means delegates will be more inclined to share their experience with friends, colleagues and other businesses. As a result of engaged customers, your organisation reaps the benefits of:

  • Customer retention.
  • Genuine word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Higher purchase intent.
  • Potential for customers to spend more.

Corporate events may not necessarily be designed around directly selling products or capturing leads. By simply providing a meaningful. valuable event experience that is intrinsically connected to your brand, you can improve reception and foster a community of brand advocates.

Engaged delegates are powerful advocates for your brand.
Engaged delegates are powerful advocates for your brand.

Are events the silver bullet of marketing?

It's clear event marketing has extremely strong potential to support your business objectives. However, don't mistake it as the single solution for your brand's marketing strategy. Event marketing must be handled with consideration and care to truly deliver return on investment and objectives.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of event marketing?

Whether you're exhibiting at a third party event - such as a trade show, exhibition or industry conference - or hosting your own event, there are unique pros and cons to be considered.

Advantages of self-hosted corporate events

As the hosting company of an event, your organisation as ultimate control over the format, audience and performance of the event. These events can be anything from an executive breakfast to a large-scale conference or training day.

Key advantages of a self-hosted corporate event include:

  • Proven effectiveness: Corporate events are well-recognised by B2B marketers throughout the world as one of the most effective marketing strategies.
  • Full control: As the host event, you have total control and customisation over the event themes, goals, design messaging and overall performance. You're better able to tailor the whole event to suit your delegates, resulting in a more personalised, high-quality delegate experience.
  • Greater touch points: Not limited to a single exhibit, speaker time slot or sponsor space, the potential for intelligent touch points across the entire delegate journey is maximised. This means you're able to capture data and leads, and create meaningful moments, every step of the way.

Disadvantages of self-hosted corporate events

While the potential for excellence in a self-hosted event is significantly higher than sponsoring a third-party event, it's only natural that there are greater potential risks.

Key disadvantages of a self-hosted corporate event include:

  • Financial risk: As the host of an event, you assume greater costs and more responsibility to ensure maximum ROI across the entire event. Expenses range from venue and equipment hire to procurement of talent, catering, decorations, marketing and much more. You must be confident your organisation can assume the risk comfortably and has the expertise available to them to deliver positive ROI.
  • Logistical scope: Depending on the scale of your event, it may have a considerable logistical weight. Consider how much your team is able to take on - do you have the flexibility to expand as necessary to manage planning and operational logistics?
  • Duty of care: In addition to financial risk, your organisation assumes a duty of care to all delegates, rather than a third party organiser.
Exhibiting at a trade show may bring its own benefits to your marketing outcomes.
Exhibiting at a trade show may bring its own benefits to your marketing outcomes.

Advantages of exhibiting at third-party corporate events

Sponsoring and exhibiting at third party corporate events enables you to showcase an effective, unique brand activation and reap the benefits of face-to-face interaction with potentially less risk.

Key advantages of a third-party corporate event include:

  • Captive audience: Third party events allow you to access the existing delegates of the organising party, helping to place your brand before a predefined audience and broaden your visibility beyond your own delegates.
  • Lesser burden: Working at a smaller scale within an existing event, your team will have less to manage, giving you more time to focus on other marketing events.

Disadvantages of exhibiting at third-party corporate events

That said, third-party corporate events typically aren't as effective as a self-hosted event.

Key disadvantages of a third-party corporate event include:

  • Less control: Though your team has less to manage, they also have less control over the entire event. This means there are a number of variables you cannot tweak to meet your strategic event marketing goals. Even if you've done everything right with your exhibit or keynote, if the event has failed to draw the right crowd, that can have a negative impact on your ROI.
  • Lower focus: Third-party events aren't about you. While delegates may be interested in your exhibit, they're likely to also be drawn to competitors who may be attending. As a less focused channel, third-party corporate events can end up a bit like a shotgun approach to event marketing.

When working event marketing into your broader marketing strategy, consider the costs and benefits of different approaches. A mix of both self-hosted and third-party corporate events may be suitable to your business, depending on your budget, goals and industry.

Investing in event marketing? Ensure you're taking the right steps to achieve your goals.
Investing in event marketing? Ensure you're taking the right steps to achieve your goals.

3 golden tips for effective event marketing

As with all marketing strategies, event marketing comes with its own risks. By approaching events strategically and holistically, you can maximise your event marketing ROI.

1. Set goals.

Evaluate why you're hosting an event, in terms of the event's individual goals as well as how it feeds into your organisation's strategic objectives. Consider your events holistically throughout the design of your event. Each touch point should be carefully designed to lead delegates along your intended journey, and you must define the metrics that are directly relevant to your goals as well as how you'll measure them. 

2. Consider the lead-up and follow-up.

The event itself is one thing, but to be truly successful you also have to create pre-event and post-event plans. Before a corporate event, determine how you'll reach your intended audience and engage them early. This can help to generate demand, improve attendance and on-site engagement, and in meet sponsor requirements.

Meanwhile, a messaging strategy for after an event keeps delegates engaged after the fact, reinforcing the positive brand association your event has helped to foster. Engaged delegates are more likely to attend future events, provide valuable feedback and recommend your brand and events to others.

3. Keep your delegates at the centre.

Organise your events first for your delegates, and then for your organisation. By keeping the delegate experience front of mind, you ensure your event is targeted at the right people and will leave a lasting impression. Think about:

  • Who your delegates are.
  • What they want to get out of your corporate event.
  • What channels your delegates can best be contacted through.
  • How your touch points will inspire desired delegate action.
  • Particular pain points of your delegates.

4. Find help when you need it.

Corporate event management can be a big beast to take on alone. When organising a corporate marketing event for your business, don't feel as though you have to go it alone.

As the perfect extension of your team, cievents delivers scalable corporate event management services ranging from logistical support and procurement through to complete creative and strategic event design. If your organisation is interested in improving its event marketing activities, reach out to the team at cievents today.

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