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Bringing an idea to life through event marketing can be a beneficial way to cut through the noise and build brand awareness. When executed correctly, the return can be priceless.
“Consumers are genuinely seeking more authentic connections to the products they buy,” says Tabitha Rand, events manager for Low Res Studio, via email. “We have become so over-exposed to brands through the internet and social media that it has the overwhelming ability to be perceived as disingenuous. Creating positive experiences through event marketing builds honest and lasting relationships almost immediately.”
Rand is one of the event marketing experts who breaks down the planning process, and shares lessons learned to make the experience not only positive, but profitable.
Here’s what they say works.
1. Approach event marketing as relationship building tool.
As an online business, Jeana Anderson Cohen, founder of A Sweat Life, a fitness site that hosts three to four events a month, sought to create an opportunity for readers to connect with the brand in real life. The decision was based on getting to know the company’s customers, rather than the event’s ability to pad the company’s bottom line.
“For most brands it’s not about sales,” says Cohen in an email. “It’s about forming a deeper connection between your message and your consumer.”
Janice Yu-Moran, Complex Director of Public Relations for Conrad Chicago and Waldorf Astoria Chicago, echoes this sentiment. Through email Yu-Moran explains how experiential events are different from other marketing tactics.
“With event marketing, the goal is awareness,” says Yu-Moran. “That can’t be measured through revenue generation. Instead we look to event attendance, media coverage, social media mentions and sales leads to measure success.”
2. Collaboration leads to profits.
If the primary purpose of an event is not to make money, it is important to find resources to offset the cost of production. One way to do so, says Rand, is by creating partnerships with local businesses.
“Through [local] relationships we are able to get amazing services on trade or even donated,” she says. “This helps to control our bottom-line while also building our B2B network.”
If events are being produced at a higher frequency, Cohen recommends pursuing corporate sponsorship. Nike, Gatorade and GM are all brands who have partnered with her in the past. She suggests having conversations with potential sponsors frequently and a minimum of five months in advance.
Her other bit of advice, learned the hard way, is to avoid building something custom for a sponsor unless it is truly authentic to a company’s mission. “Invite sponsors to be a part of things you’re creating,” she says. “That’s probably what attracted them to you in the first place.”
3. Spend and invite strategically.
When the Conrad Hotel in Chicago opened its doors, it made a splash with a “Mad Men” themed party estimated to have cost $40,000. “While public relations and advertising helps with name recognition,” Yu-Moran says. “The hospitality and service of a hotel is best experienced and not just read about.”
She justifies the expense by explaining how with one activation, the company targeted traditional media, sales clients, local tourism organizations, investors and social media influencers in one night. “With more than 300 people in attendance, the cost would have been too high to host individualized one-off events,” she says.
An opening is one of the rare opportunities a company has to attract a crowd. Yu-Moran leveraged the company milestone and targeted influential people in the hospitality industry to ensure word of mouth marketing happened long after the event had passed.
4. Rookie mistakes to avoid.
Begin with an event idea and date. From there event logistics begin to fall into place says Victoria Kent, founder of Victoria Kent PR, in an email.
She suggests researching to see if there are any competing events that take away from a company’s core audience. Once the date is set, securing a location is the next step. From there a timeline of what needs to get done by when, begins to unfold.
“Too many people get paralyzed by the idea of how much work an event can be that they never start,” Kent says. “Execute an event within the scope of what you offer, or around something that has personal meaning in order to stay authentic and true to your brand. Planning around something you’re passionate about will keep you excited during the process. ” She also quickly to points out that creating off-brand events for the sake of hosting something, is a mistake.
And the biggest misstep someone can make when it comes to event marketing? Not delivering on what is promised.