Marketers have used events to promote their products for centuries. Vendors can be sponsors (logos on cars at a NASCAR event), participants (session leaders at a conference) or exhibitors at a trade show. In its broadest definition, event marketing is using an activity (e.g. trade fair, sporting event, street festival, concert or a themed meeting) to promote a product, brand or cause. The goal of event marketing activities can be to start a relationship, build a brand, move purchasers through the buyer’s cycle and of course, sell something.
In B2B marketing, the types of activities in the event marketers bag of tricks includes trade shows, seminars, user group meetings, road shows, conference speaking and other familiar business events. In the B2C world, event sponsorships, product sample distribution and giveaways (how many bobble head dolls do you have?) are just a few of the event marketing techniques being used. Today, we are also seeing some very innovative marketing with experiential events such as flash mobs, treasure hunts or other activities where consumers can interact with a brand.
Let’s not forget the digital marketing world. Events such as webcasts, webinars, virtual trade shows and other online activities are increasingly popular because of their broad reach and lower costs.
So, event marketing is a broad topic and is a growing part of the overall marketing programs for many companies. Events can be used to accomplish important marketing and business goals as long (as they are used effectively) and are a great return on investment (more on ROI in another post.)
Should Event Marketing Be Part of My Marketing Program?
Let’s start with a “qualified absolutely!”
Every business needs to achieve the following goals (among many others!):
- find new customers
- educate the market on their market and products
- establish industry partnerships
- improve brand recognition and understanding
- learn how to achieve operational excellence
- uncover new trends in their industry and technology
- establish themselves as thought leaders
- build relationships with customers, media, industry analysts and other influentials
Successful marketing events contribute to all of these goals. They are rarely the only marketing activity used to achieved these goals, but are best used as part of over brand improvement, promotional and relationship building programs.
So why the qualified ‘absolutely’ above?
Events are rarely the most cost effective way to achieve any single goal listed above. Other marketing tools can be used for a specific goal; for example, using direct marketing for lead generation. However, when executed properly, a single event such as a trade show can contribute to all of these goals and become a very cost-effective marketing activity that makes progress on all marketing goals.