Traditionally, the role of events in the marketing program mix has consisted primarily of tradeshow exhibitions. While tradeshows have recently been on a slight upswing after years of decline in number and attendance, event managers are recognizing that proprietary events—those that target the enterprise’s constituent audiences of prospects, customers, partners and suppliers—can have a greater impact and potentially be more profitable to the business than anonymous, third-party tradeshow exhibitions.
The result is that, while tradeshows may still be a part of a company’s event marketing program, they are being greatly augmented, if not largely supplanted, by a blend of in-person, virtual and recorded seminars and conferencing sessions. Marketing and sales managers recognize that these proprietary events—particularly those offered over the World Wide Web—can be a powerful way to hit customer touch-points, such as when new products are rolled out or old ones are upgraded. Rather than requiring customers to travel to a conference, participants access a web-based application to view a presentation or listen to a speaker.
A web event can be a powerful tool. A large publicly-held U.S.-based software company is a good example. The company’s marketing organization had determined that 30 percent of people who attended the company’s web seminars converted into customers. For this company, the challenge was twofold: how to offer more web events and how to attract more actual attendees to the events?
Eight events a day
After evaluating a variety of solutions, the company opted for an event marketing automation system to help manage and deliver 150 web seminars a month—averaging nearly eight web events a day! This accelerated event program has driven significant top-line revenue growth.
But event marketing success like this has some prerequisites. The first is to adopt a programmatic approach to your event program. Successful event programs take a campaign approach and are architected as series designed to interest, inform and educate an audience on topics or solutions that will help them perform tasks and do their jobs. Integrated with the other elements of the marketing mix such as a company web site, advertising and direct marketing, web event series can forcefully propel a company’s market awareness, sales lead generation and overall business momentum.
The second consideration is implementing the processes necessary to ensure high “meeting density.” Most companies experience attendance drop-off rates of at least 50 percent from event registration numbers. It’s not enough to devise and promote a web event that attracts large numbers of registrants. You have to create a communications strategy of confirmations, reminders, updates and other relevant communications to convert registrants into event attendees. Because meeting density contributes to the development of a strong database of potential sales leads, it is the single most important metric in measuring the effectiveness of event marketing.
Leverage your data
Sophisticated event marketers tackle this issue by leveraging the data already available for many in their companies’ lead management, CRM or sales force automation systems, to understand product distributions across a customer base or product or topic interest within the prospect base. From these baselines, they can begin to personalize communications to customers and prospects and better target event offerings as part of integrated marketing campaigns.
Finally, it’s essential that once you’ve converted a person from registrant to event attendee that you keep the person in attendance. By polling registrants before the event, your sales and marketing teams can understand and fine-tune event content to the interests and expectations of prospects and customers, helping to reduce event abandonment rates. Beyond this, survey information can be used to enrich the lead follow-up process by the sales force.
Pre- and post-event survey results instill a closed-loop process that event marketers can use to build continual process improvement into event-based programs. This is key because events—whether delivered live, in-person or over the web—are time- and resource-intensive and are always scrutinized for their ROI.
Leading companies are employing a new breed to technology solutions designed to automate process management and analytics associated with events. These solutions automate workflow—from scheduling, marketing and registration to communications and reporting—allowing sales and marketing staff to increase the number and reach of their event offerings without building out administrative resources.
The role of sales and marketing events in the CRM lifecycle is established and will continue to grow in importance as companies strive to create one-to-one interactions with their prospects and customers. As events become a larger part of a company’s marketing strategy, the winning companies will use the program approaches and technology solutions now available to turn every event into an opportunity to create a new sale, a satisfied customer or a more motivated and successful partner that will contribute to the bottom line.