12 Apr 2015

The Value of Events in a Marketing World

You’d be hard-pressed to find a marketer who doesn’t focus on building online relationships; nearly every marketing leader swears by it.

Connecting with your audience online through content, social media, and digital storytelling is no longer an unproven or emerging trend; it’s the foundation of a sustainable and consistent brand, which is why using advanced content marketing strategies can make such an impact.

But the power of face-to-face interactions in strengthening connections is lost in the sea of statistics around social media growth and articles on building online relationships. Whether you host one of the most popular marketing conferences or sponsor another event, incorporating outbound marketing efforts into your overall marketing strategy creates:

  • Quality touchpoints: People like familiarity in business, and the more quality touchpoints you offer prospects, the more likely you’ll be to convert them into clients. Events help your organization establish unique and personalized connection points that are impossible to recreate digitally.
  • A more approachable brand: When you’re present at events, you’re associating a face (or faces) with your brand. Prospects begin to connect more deeply with these individuals, whether they’re senior leaders, salespeople, or your behind-the-scenes crew.
  • A unique customer experience: Events provide the venue for delivering a unique experience on top of the quality service customers and prospects expect. Creating something memorable and interactive shapes attendees’ perceptions of your company.
  • Additional client value: As a vendor, you’re responsible for arming clients to succeed on all fronts — beyond the services they hire you for. By curating quality speakers, networking opportunities, and thoughtful introductions, you become more than just a vendor; you become a connector and a valuable resource, too.
  • Client referrals: Although you deliver a superior service and take opportunities to ask for referrals, nothing sparks a reminder like an in-person interaction. People are more willing to introduce their connections to people they know and trust. When you authentically connect with attendees in person, you’ll earn their trust and respect. Use this to your advantage to drive further ROI from in-person interactions.

The case for combining your inbound and outbound marketing strategies is clear: When prospects can engage with you virtually and in person, you’ll forge stronger relationships.

But organizing an unforgettable event is easier said than done. Best practices, trends, and expectations are constantly changing, which is what makes the annual Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum so valuable. It brings together industry leaders to have intimate industry discussions. I attended last year’s event and gleaned a few key takeaways that can help you create an impressive event:

  1. Treat attendees like a community, not a database. The worst thing you can do as a marketer is to sell, sell, sell. Experienced event organizer Greg Topalian of LeftField Media said that the same goes for events. You should create an experience attendees are eager to take part in, not something that feels dry or generic.
  2. Take the in-person relationship virtual. Joe Loggia, CEO of UBM Advanstar, discussed the process of extending event engagement beyond the venue. You don’t have to distinguish your eventfrom what you do every other day of the year. It’s just one piece of the overall experience. Although bringing relationships offline is crucial, proper follow-through also plays a key role in authentically connecting with prospects. But remember to always make sure your online presence echoes your in-person experience.
  3. Innovate or die. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (which puts on CES each year), said you must be willing to constantly innovate to improve your event. Attendees travel and squeeze your event into their hectic schedules. If you’re not dedicated to innovating and making the event worthwhile, the chances of creating a positive experience will be slim to none.

Like most savvy marketers, you want to create a seamless experience for your audience. And that starts with bridging your outbound and inbound marketing strategies so every touchpoint works toward building authentic relationships.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and knowledge management that are used to fuel marketing efforts.

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