2018 was a big year for event marketers. We saw brand activations rise to a new level at in-person events – from a special performance by Justin Timberlake at SAP’s Sapphire Now conference, to GE’s Healthymagination initiative that brought doctors on stage to share how the company’s technology was used in different healthcare scenarios.
From what we’ve seen so far, 2019’s conference scene is proving to be even bigger than before, with event marketers finding new ways to wow people in the hopes of increasing brand engagement. Earlier this year, Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience (MCX) conference hosted attendees from more than 30 countries, while Adobe Summit recently drew a crowd of nearly 20,000 who experienced a three-room recreation of a nineties-themed office, and onstage appearances from the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.
A major theme of spring events season thus far is the focus on finding bold and inspiring ways to deliver a flawless customer experience. As DemandGen’s CEO David Lewis recently stated in his B2B Marketing Exchange keynote, “Customer experience has to be phenomenal […] Customers now want convenience, value, quality, immediacy, choices, personalization, accessibility and affordability.” Marketers concerned with creating the ultimate customer experience and real brand loyalty are getting smarter about employing a data strategy as the undercurrent of their events to leave lasting impressions. And while we can expect activations to continue to grow flashier and more clever, 2019 is already proving to be the year personalized and meaningful engagement is truly realized.
Speaking with some of the industry’s top influencers about the biggest trends in store for event marketers in 2019, below are some key insights—including how getting strategic with data and making bolder moves will lead to even better connections with audiences this year.
More Data = More Human
At the heart of why data matters is the fact that it allows marketers to be more personalized in their approach to connecting with consumers – old and new. As Sarah Kennedy, CMO of Marketo, said in her marketing predictions for 2019, “Retention is the new growth” – and this will be the year marketing teams focus on delivering value at every step. Through leveraging specific insights, we can be more human in targeting our audiences throughout the entire customer lifecycle, letting them know that we, as marketers, understand their interests and who they are.
“As people are more and more overwhelmed by the infinite amount of information and data available to them, they are going to look for resources to be delivered to them in a highly customized way,” says Zontee Hou, President of Media Volery LLC. “Whether it’s personalized suggestions on a website, emails that are tailored to your interests, or a chatbot that allows you to get your specific question answered right away, the consumer is already shifting into a mindset where they want brands to respond to them as an individual. With that in mind, putting more energy into customer data capture, custom content, and conversational marketing efforts is key.”
Attendee data collected at in-person events, especially, can be leveraged to share specific content that touches directly on the interests of the person being reached. That way, the conversation doesn’t stop when the conference is over, and instead a company can continue to engage in a highly personalized and meaningful way beyond the event’s walls.
Using Brand POV to Build Advocates
With more noise than ever before, events in 2019 will especially serve as a platform for brands to promote bold points of view. Offstage, we’re already seeing a lot of examples of this – from Amazon employees wanting to do more on climate change, to JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon calling on companies to take a stance on social issues. Beyond a personalized experience achieved through better insights, we know consumers also want to feel connected to a bigger message or purpose, and many do this by supporting the companies that take a stance.
“Attendees make time to travel to events in order to pick their heads up from day-to-day work and discover the narratives that shape their realities back in the office. That brings a level of expectation with it. I believe brands have a responsibility to these attendees to continue to push the agenda of their industries,” said Katie Martell, Marketing Consultant at On-Demand Marketing.
“For that reason, I predict 2019 to be the year of the rabble-rousing brand. These attendees need brands to show a bold vision for the future and help them make sense of their worlds. The pace of change in the business world is such that individuals who are willing to take bold stances in-market, promote a unique POV about their industries, and make that POV clear on stage and through their sponsored event experiences are the only ones who will break through the clutter – and event organizers should make space for, and celebrate, these brands.”
My Perspective on Event Marketing in 2019
We know that marketers today have the ability to communicate with their customers just about anywhere, be it in person or via email, mobile, ads, social media… the list goes on.
As we continue into 2019, I believe we’ll see companies develop more meaningful engagement strategies that involve slowing down and starting to champion the channels through which they connect with customers. With access to so much data, marketers will have to fine tune what they are doing with that knowledge, and this year will be pickier about how, when and what they communicate.
It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz surrounding today’s biggest events. But, no matter what companies pull off on the conference floor, the real value of events will come from how they engage with attendees once the show is over. Getting smart about data, supporting a strong point of view, and mastering engagement through the channels that matter most to your business will lead marketers to connect with their audiences in more strategic ways this year.