Tuesday, May 17, 2016

On With the Show: Content Marketing for Events

If your organization is hosting or co-hosting a big event such as a conference, trade show, networking event or fundraising gala, you may be biting your nails over whether you're going to get the hoped-for turnout. Even if you do enjoy a full house, how can you capitalize on that healthy attendance by keeping those attendees focused on what's going on -- and then keeping them interested in your ongoing endeavors long after the show's over? That's where appropriate, targeted, varied marketing content can come to your rescue. Let's look at some of the different strategies you can employ during the entire "life cycle" of your event.

Before the Event

Online invitation and notification platforms such as EventBrite and Constant Contact make it easier than ever to blast your event invitations to your target crowd, ascertain the responses and get a semi-reliable head count for the event. But as visually attractive and easy to use as these platforms are, you still have to sell the event itself. Take the time to craft a compelling message that you know will grab the attention and boost the pulse of your invitee. You may even want to create a small website or blog entirely devoted to event information and updates.

Don't forget the power of print while you're getting the word out online. Print marketing may be less cost effective than email marketing, but some people who never check their email will always take delight in receiving a colorful invitation letter or postcard -- just as others who routinely toss all junk mail will never neglect an email from a trusted organization that relates to their interests. A two-fisted digital-plus-analog approach will ensure that you get everybody's attention.

During the Event

Some events are relatively streamlined, uncomplicated affairs, while others are massive undertakings that break out across multiple sessions, rooms or even buildings. The sheer glut of possibilities in these larger events can seriously overwhelm or confuse guests to the point that they don't where they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be there or what they're supposed to be paying focused on. Here's where a combination of strategically-placed marketing content, helpful banners and handheld materials such as programs or catalogs can come in handy.

Most people these days are inseparable from their mobile devices, and your attendees will likely be no exception. That's why you want to keep blogging, tweeting and using whatever other social media your organization uses throughout the event, encouraging guests to join in the online conversation. You can even make use of real-time polling programs as an interactive feature of your panels and presentations as one more means of promoting audience engagement.

After the Event

Your event may be over, but your marketing journey with the attendees has (hopefully) just begun. As guests leave, present them with goodie bags containing your organization's promotional trinkets, discount offers, brochures and other marketing materials -- including an invitation to your next big event.

After your attendees have returned to their respective homes and/or offices, it's time to follow up. Checking in on them can be as innocent as sending a thoughtful thank-you note, postcard or email. You're also perfectly justified in sending out comment cards asking for the attendees' opinions on how you can make your next event even better. From there, you can start emailing them special offers, new updates and helpful little articles from time to time -- just make sure you include an opt-out link.

From initial invitations to post-event communications, the right marketing content can lead to a better experience for your attendees and more worthwhile results for your organization. Mix your methods, provide the right content for the each phase of the event and stay in touch with your target market -- and you'll have something to show for the big show you're putting on!