How to Market Your Event When You are the Marketing Department
By Kimberley King
Let’s face it – one of the biggest measures of success for any event is attendance.
Sure, we want amazing speakers, a great social night, on-time catering and fantastic reviews. But, first you’ve got to get bums in seats. Right?
Marketing your next event when you have a team of experts is easy – not so much when YOU ARE THE MARKETING DEPARTMENT.
At LimeLight Group we support events of all sizes and colors and we’ve seen it all. This quick read will help you navigate the crazy complicated world of event planning by adopting a strategic mindset. Here goes…
Take a Deep Breath
Yes, there will be last minute booking, unforeseen disasters and panicky moments – it comes with the territory. And you will get through it.
You will get great reviews, thank you’s from grateful speakers and heart warming feedback from delegates. And, yes, you will also have 1.2 percent of attendees upset about something so minor you wonder if they’ve ever left home before.
That’s all part of the game. So take a deep breath because it’s all going to happen. Your goal needs to be strategic thinking—you are planning for this year and next year.
And that starts with the Before Phase.
The Before Phase
Start by mapping out the timing phases of your event: before, during, after. The more planning you put in place now, while the waters are still calm, the better your success. And keep in mind you are planning for future events, so document everything into SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures.)
Whether it’s you or your replacement, a little effort now to record contacts for website changes, catering, transportation (the phone number to Limelight :), etc. and lists of preparation steps will be worth gold for the next event. Pro tip: this is a good time to get comfortable with Google Docs and Sheets – they are easy to share and team members can easily edit in real time.
You are going to run out of time, so now is also the time to get through the easy stuff. Book transportation, hotels, catering and of course speakers. Get your basics nailed down before you move into heavy marketing.
This is also a great time to do some research. Remember there are thousands of events, just like yours, happening every day in North America, including the East Coast. A bit of snooping around in your favourite search engine can result in fresh ideas for: website design, registration, early bird discounting, connecting delegates, use of social media, entertainment – even room set up – and a host of little details you can “borrow.”
Remember, moving through your “before” list early can also mean you get the best prices, have room to negotiate and you can secure the speakers you want and afford.
Your marketing will also have phases. First you want to tease your audience to alert them that big announcements are coming soon. At least four weeks before your launch you should be warming up your target market: announce speakers you’ve booked, talk about the host city, share stories from the last event. You need delegates to have your event on their calendar long before you start asking for their registration.
The During Phase
The delegates are arriving, your speakers have a dozen questions and the stage still needs to be set up. And there’s one more job…
Now you need to switch your strategic planning mind into host mode. Your delegates have committed time, paid money and booked transportation to be here. It’s your job to turn them into marketing engines for your next event.
In psychology there is concept called Primacy and Recency. Essentially it refers to the phenomenon that we tend to remember the start (primacy) and end (recency) of an event – like your event – more than the middle. This is true in meetings, vacations – even movies.
You can capitalize on Primacy and Recency.
Think about the first impression delegates will have: are they greeted at the airport? Is there welcome greeting at the hotel front desk? A local treat in their room? A small investment could garner big results and happy delegates getting on social media to share the surprise that greeted them when they arrived.
You need to be capturing the moments. The best marketing for next year are the delegates this year. Take pictures, set up testimonial interviews, encourage delegates to get on social media, and if the venue is awesome, secure it for next year.
A little forethought in the “During Phase” will go a long way to making your next event a success. Keep thinking improvement and being more strategic for your next event.
The After Phase
You’ve done it – the event was amazing, emails are pouring in thanking you. And you’re exhausted.
Now is the time to remind delegates of special moments and show those who stayed home what they missed; get on their radar for next time! Just because it’s over, doesn’t mean people stop watching or listening. The more buzz you can create now the easier it will be when you start marketing your next event.
Before you escape for that well deserved long weekend, update the SOP we talked about in the Before Phase. This is the time to take your debriefing notes and record them for the next event.
Even though you are doing the work of 10 people and the only person in the marketing department, you can create an amazing event people will be talking about for years to come.