As the event industry continues to evolve, one thing is clear: Not only are planners expected to give their clients more for their money, they are required to prove return on investment for each event they participate. It is important that planners have a clear understanding of what event marketing is and how to maximized their participation.
What is event marketing? BusinessDictionary.com‘s definition is “designing or developing a ‘live’ themed activity, occasion, display, or exhibit (such as a sporting event, music festival, fair, or concert) to promote a product, cause or organization.’
When managing such events, start by listing all the live events that are offered and research what is available within your business categories. Track the pros, cons and cost of each. Create a spreadsheet from this information, adding notes about event history. Add a column with information on how to make improvements, moving forward. Keep this list current and let it evolve along with your boss or client’s expectations.Trade shows are one of the most common forms of event marketing. So here’s a case study of the marketing plan I developed for a client’s participation in one the largest North American trade shows for a particular market segment they serve.
Case study: Marketing strategy for CAE at the 2009 National Business Aircraft Association trade show
Client: CAE, a 60+-year-old company that offers simulation and training services to the aviation industry worldwide.
Trade show objective: Demonstrate to pilots and maintenance personnel how CAE is “Raising The Bar” in the business aviation industry and moving forward, despite the bad economy. While the competition was concerned with maintaining the status quo, CAE wanted to show prospects and customers their commitment to continued growth and delivering training globally by adding to their portfolio of training services.
Pre-show marketing strategy:
- A questionnaire was distributed to salespeople and key employees. Their answers shaped the direction that was taken moving forward on the company’s goals and objectives for the show.
- Six weeks prior, a weekly “Raising the Bar” themed e-mail campaign was launched to potential attendees. In each e-mail, a different exhibit kiosk was highlighted to let attendees know what solutions would be demonstrated at the show. This was intended to not only show energy and forward movement, but also to help attendees pre-plan their time at the convention.
- A microsite dedicated to the NBAA show was established on CAE’s website. We designed this section to be interactive and highlighted each of the demonstrations so people would feel engaged before arriving at NBAA.
- A hyperlink on the pre-show invite and on the dedicated website encouraged attendees to schedule appointments with key personnel in advance.
- An on-site training session with the sales team was held the day before the start of NBAA that included product and service updates, and a review our event marketing strategy.
- Booth staff were given helpful tips on body language — specifically their own and how NOT to look— and how to engage attendees so they could maximize their investment in the show.
On-site event marketing initiatives: With the goal to keep “Raising the Bar” and attempt to reinforce that message, we initiated the following during the show:
- Gave demo participants a Hershey’s candy bar that had a customized wrapper that included the company logo and the text “Raising the Bar.”
- Offered cell phone charging kiosks in a sophisticated lounge so attendees could raise their cell phone power bar while participating in a demonstration or discussing training options with the sales team. A custom wrapper was designed for the kiosk, which also played a corporate video.
- Branded and themed gifts were given to attendees who participated in various demos. For example, e-learning participants got a computer mouse, and visitors to the 2010 classroom schedules kiosk received calendars.
- Constructed two lounge areas on the trade show floor to provide informal, but semi-private meeting space. To emphasize CAE’s technology-driven outlook, two coffee tables featured “Raising the Bar”-branded touchscreens for the sales team and attendees to use to learn more about CAE’s training services.
- Two models were employed to engage attendees and encourage them to try the demos. Before the show, the models were trained on how to use verbiage that reinforced how CAE was raising the bar.
Result: The client had specific lead-generation targets as well as near-term revenue targets; post-show measurements proved their trade show involvement delivered the desired return on investment. Thanks to their support and execution of the event marketing strategy, CAE was able to meet and exceed their trade show objectives with great energy and enthusiasm.
My last piece of advice is to make sure you know what is current within the company for which you are developing event marketing strategies. Research the Internet and survey current employees for ideas. During the planning process, include the people you want to participate in your marketing efforts so they will be engaged when the strategy activates. Success depends on how well you clearly define and execute the event’s theme, and whether the people involved enthusiastically participate to carry the designed strategy across the finish line.
This is my story for now, and I am sticking to it.