Event Marketing Part I
Defining the Why for your Event

This is the first in a multi-part series on using events as an avenue for marketing your brand, product, or industry.

In his viral TED talk that has reached 31 million viewers around the world, Simon Sinek defines effective leadership not with a bold statement, but with a question. The question: Why? Sinek argues that the world’s most effective leaders start with that one question, shaping their every decision around its answer. Where better to begin our journey of marketing through events than with that very question.

Why?

In using events as a marketing strategy, well-meaning efforts to publicize and promote will be futile without the answer to that one, defining question: Why? Why are you holding the banquette, throwing the party, or planning the meeting? Why does it matter? As Charlie Rose might inquire, “What’s the significance of the moment?”

Defining your goal doesn’t have to be beautifully inspiring, nor does it have to be strictly driven by profit or numbers. But it might be either, and it could be both. Either way, it has to be defined. Perhaps your answer will resemble one—or several—of the following:

  • We want to grow our customer base.
  • We want to build our reputation as an industry leader.
  • We want to build relationships with potential partners.
  • We want to thank our customers or give back to the community.
  • We want to strengthen our existing customer and partner relationships.
  • We want to create buzz about a new product or offering.

In many ways, your purpose will act as your guide through the rest of your event planning journey. Your rationale behind the meeting, conference, or convention will give you the confidence to say yes to great opportunities and no to poorly aligned contributions. In other words, it will shape the what.

What?

With your goal set, it’s time to start building the framework. Specifically, what. What is the focus of your convention? Is it for an entire industry, just a specific type of product, or your product alone? Here is what it looks like to market events from a single company (Apple) with three starkly different answers to the question, What?

WDCC

WDCC may not be familiar to you, but for software engineers, it’s a must-attend annual event. We’re talking about Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Developers are invited to learn from Apple engineers through keynotes, workshops, and even one-on-one sessions. Apple also uses the stage of the WDCC to announce relevant product launches, which are usually (you guessed it) new software.

What? Partner (developer) education and new software announcements.

Apple Special Events

Steve Jobs created a level of hype and speculation around his product launches that no other brand has been able to match. Journalists are invited to a cryptic, secretive “event,” for which they rearrange their schedules for the honor of hearing about…something. The understood purpose: a new product that will take the world by storm, earning journalists coveted clicks and shared on their coverage.

What? Heart-pounding media coverage of new products.

MacWorld

MacWorld is a annual conference that has been receiving flocks of the Apple-faithful since 1985. And it wasn’t even started by Apple. It’s a convention of Macintosh fans, one that Apple merely participated in until 2009. While WDCC is used for software updates, and Apple’s Special Events are showcases of new products, MacWorld conferences are exchanges for tips, tricks, and speculation from Apple’s best customers.

What? Fanatic immersion in all things Mac.

Who?

You know why you’re planning this event, and you know what you’ll focus on. Now who are you going to invite? Here’s a more insightful version of the question: for whom is my vision and purpose relevant? You can always earn a crowd with free food or giveaways. But nothing beats relevance. You attendees could be…

  • Colleagues in your industry.
  • Partners or even competitors in your line of work.
  • Newcomers to your field, or those merely interested in learning about your topic.
  • Customers or potential customers.
  • Brand new employees, longtime sales staff, or achievers worthy of recognition.

In thinking about who you’ll invite to your event, a slew of other questions should enter the picture. After all, there are a number of things that will shape who is able to attend your event, such as price, distance, and value. Consider these sub-questions as you frame your would-be attendee list: What would make an attendee want to attend? Is this event worthy of travelling from out of state? (Consider that travel costs can amount to between $1000 and $3000 including flight, hotel, and meals.) Are we generating enough value for our potential attendees to justify the expense?

How much?

Conference prices run the gamut. Standard admission to the famed TED conference runs a whopping $10,000, while many events struggle to charge even $10. So where does one begin in setting a fair price? It’s a matter of value. Consider the impact of your event on an attendee’s life, work, career, and bottom line. On top of travel expenses, how much should they pay you for the education and opportunities they’ll receive?

Do some research and see what the industry standard is for an event of similar caliber. Do similar conferences exist? If so, how much do they charge? Don’t forget to make a profit! Do your prices allow for paid staff to get the ball rolling in the first year? Remember that you’re building value for the conference as well. What is that worth to you? Will your pricing plan break even (or profit) over a reasonable amount of time?

Think about the internal value of what you’re building. How measurable is the value of each attendee to you? Is their attendance worth $50 each in advertising and sponsorship opportunity? It may be worth taking a loss in ticket sales to create such a high-value gathering.

Finally, when it comes to advertising your price, address the value offered before the price requested. Can you measure the value provided to attendees? Use that as a topline cost, then discount it to a “special price” for marketing your event later.

How do I add value?

We’ve all rolled our eyes as, “but wait, that’s not all!” is shouted at us from a late night infomercial. But there’s something to learn about the concept of creating unexpected delight to a transaction, offering, or sale. In your case, an event. Adding value to your convention or conference can come in many forms:

  • Inspiring or educational talks from industry professionals.
  • Keynote speeches from industry professionals or charismatic guests.
  • Specialized in-person training that would normally carry significant costs or devotions of time.
  • Networking opportunities that could promote business growth or development.
  • Other factors that result in a competitive edge in one’s industry or field.
  • Opportunities to give back to the community or charities.
  • Engaging entertainment.

Where’s my team?

There’s a lot of work ahead of you, so you’re going to need a support team. Planning a conference or convention is not the time to prove your independence. Organize a team, and delegate tasks. Have a clear budget, broken down by responsibility to avoid dozens of “can we buy this?” conversations. In our three decades of event planning experience, we’ve found the following to be an ideal team makeup for most events:

  • Web Developer
  • Marketer
    Responsible for overall strategy and email campaigns.
  • Copywriter
    Drafts content for the web, collateral, and social media.
  • Designer
    Your designated eye for branding, logo, font choice, colors, web design, collateral layout, and schedule design.
  • Meeting Planner & Coordinators
    • Staff Managers
    • Schedule Adherers
    • Vendor Manager
  • Real-Time Event Coordination
  • Videographer/Photographer
    Tasked with creating content before, during, and after event for use in event marketing.
  • Event Production Manager
    You! The brains behind overall Strategy, vision, budget, team management, and accountability.

Next Monday we will address sponsorship as a means for securing financing for your event, and how to position your events value to make the decision easy for potential partners.

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