It’s no secret that the economy affects the events industry. When event budgets are slashed, event attendance drops, attendees are less willing or able to travel, and those attendees who do show up feel the effects of the economy. Even in good economic conditions, exhibitors are being forced to scrutinize every detail to prove the value of their events.
The upside, however, is that with good strategic planning, a little creativity and a few tweaks to traditional event marketing strategies, corporate marketers will be able to continue holding successful events, even when recessions hit. Here are some strategies and tips you can use to drive attendance and ensure your organization continues allocating dollars towards events during tough times.
Prove yourself through Return on Investment (ROI)
If you don’t utilize metrics and measurement strategies or can only make one change to your event marketing strategy, start implementing a ROI tracking program. Expect CEOs, CFOs and managers to ask you to justify the expense of every event, if they’re not already.
Some of the most basic metrics can record the largest areas of ROI: cost per attendee, cost per square foot, cost per sale and cost per lead. Calculating your revenue from events can be obtained utilizing several techniques. The easiest is to track all purchases made by event attendees on-site. Always track who comes to your event (electronically, if possible) and then check the list of actual attendees against your current database.
In order to institute metrics quickly, most marketers advise hiring a company familiar with how it is done. Some methods they may employ include polling attendees before and after a show via e-mail or surveying attendees during a show.
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Build pre-event marketing strategy
Brand, brand, brand and brand again … remember it takes seven times for a person to see a brand before they will recognize and remember it. If you have the budget for traditional marketing, then ensure you have a complete integrated event marketing campaign that includes direct mail. Make sure it stands out with bright colors and/or unique shapes (we sent a baseball bat-shaped invitation that was long and skinny for an opening day product launch at the local baseball stadium) and send at least three different mailings to the same list. Use the same type of look and feel throughout all your pre-event marketing.
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Should your budget be a bit less, you are in luck. Social media marketing has taken off and is considered greener than traditional direct mail pieces. It may take more of your time, but it will pay off in the end. Some of the digital ways you can reach potential attendees are e-newsletters (make sure these are worthwhile to your audience by being half informational and half promotional), blogging or vlogging (again ensure your topic is current and use your brand to enhance the blog or videos), and creating a Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile and/or a Twitter account. Also advertise/promote your event on various industry-specific social networking sites and groups.
Another way you can use social media to create buzz about your event is to have the thought leaders and speakers who will be giving presentations at the event help spread the word in advance. Have them connect to attendees through social networks or via Web sites and e-newsletters to give a preview of the types of useful information they will be providing attendees.
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Think outside the box
The best way corporate event marketers can adjust to the economy is simply to have an open mind and be willing to make changes. Using metrics to prove ROI should help everyone weather the financial storm and come out the other side with a new set of tools for successful event marketing.
In my future monthly columns I’ll be going more in-depth about how to implement some of the strategies mentioned above as well as other topics relevant to event marketing. If you have a specific topic or questions you’d like addressed, please comment below or email me.
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This story was updated in 2018.