Blog post

Event Marketing: ROI, automation and the need to diversify


Marketing has changed.

Without wanting to dumb down the marketing process that’s largely worked for the past several decades, building campaigns purely on big advertising budgets and big-splash press releases to the trade press and the newspapers are no longer enough. In events you can no longer predominantly rely on paid advertising and press release outreach to ensure attendance at your events. The whole process is becoming a lot more creative and marketers are having to diversify the arsenal of tools they use to engage with the customer.

It has even been argued that the Four P’s of marketing are no longer important. Brian Fetherstonhaugh of Ogilvy One suggest marketing is about Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and Evangelism – the Four E’s. And that was 6 years ago…

In our recent events industry survey we saw a lot of comments on this subject from marketers and senior directors, and in this blog we’ll look at the shift to digital marketing, the importance of automation and data now and in the coming years, and comment on what is next for B2B event marketing and events recruitment.

“The competition for marketing dollars is intense and the need to demonstrate real ROI is increasing rapidly.”

This, from a respondent to our survey, is a great summary of the challenge event marketers are facing. Focussing on the first part of the above quote, the competition for marketing dollars is certainly intense and is also very different in 2015. The money that went into traditional above-the-line media is now being pushed into digital and social channels. Instead of advertising to the trade in print it’s now vital to perfect the correct blend of content marketing, paid and organic social media, PPC, SEO and more. And that’s just the beginning – there’s an increasing need for insight and marketing research teams to look at the different marketing channels and assess their potential to increase ROI.

This sense of competition for spend was a concern of the respondents in our events recruitment survey with 50% of them worried about attracting and engaging with the audience. This seems to imply a confusion about the most effective ways of spending the marketing budget - and that builds pressure on marketing teams to deliver.

Looking at the second part of the above quote – the need to demonstrate real ROI is increasing, largely because measurement of ROI is getting more and more accurate as the shift to digital takes hold. Again content marketing and social media can improve this as they can generate results with little or no spend. Shares and retweets are a way of gathering feedback and measuring engagement for your event, and social proof can be a powerful driver of buying decisions. What’s not always clear is the conversion from this sort of engagement to revenue – it’s hard to tell which part of the strategy is directly turning potential customers into sponsors or delegates, as monitoring and analytics aren’t always perfect.

This was highlighted in the events recruitment survey focussing on delegates in particular – as 83% of marketers saw generating delegate revenue as the biggest challenge in their roles.

I think that the role of marketers and marketing directors responsible for the event strategy is really challenging at the moment. The outlook is looking more complex with different tools to try and the need to measure and improve to show ROI. This is why Automation and CRMs will be key for events marketing teams. This was another point that emerged from our survey, and we comment on it below.

“Events companies will continue to shift their spend from sales to marketing, with increased use of automation.”

Just knowing how to market an event will not be enough for an event marketer over the next 5 years. They must have a clear understanding of automation and internal CRM systems, knowing how these work and how their effectiveness can be maximised.

Marketing automation systems enhance events and, if understood and used correctly, make the marketing of events a more efficient process. Invitations, email campaigns and post-event communications can be personalised to different segments. Landing pages, surveys and other data capture methods will let you target customers in the future. Even automating the use of social channels should make the role easier. However, having a clear understanding of automation tools and how to best to use them is essential for generating revenue on events year on year.

Automation brings to the fore another feature of marketing that keeps creeping up in our conversations in our role as an events recruitment agency. That is the use and understanding of data. We have touched on segmentation and making sure you target customers appropriately but fully understanding data, and making data led decisions will be a crucial aspect of the marketing makeup.

This knowledge surrounding data and automation will become essential for an event marketer, along with being able to measure success, write interesting content, and manage social media outputs amongst other things. This is on top of being a student of your market, understanding the new tools and channels that are available. From conversations I have with event marketers it is clear that this brings a level of anxiety alongside the excitement and interest.

What next for Event Marketing?

Based upon our conversations with marketers looking to dip their toe into the jobs market, I know that the new tools and potential channels make for an exciting time in event marketing. Many are looking to join events businesses with a more innovative and creative outlook backed by a strong brand.

For the full results of our events industry survey click here


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