In spite of our increasing connectedness through digital channels, companies across industries continue to flock to trade shows, conferences and other industry events. It’s clear that these live events are educational, engaging and effective—and face-to-face marketing is still alive and well.
Because of this, attending, sponsoring and exhibiting at events and conferences is a major commitment—and financial investment—for many organizations. The problem is, like most forms of outbound marketing, it’s difficult to calculate their ROI. With so much marketing budget tied up in events, you can’t afford not to.
The solution? Coordinate online and offline marketing efforts to promote your presence at events, create opportunities for engagement and conversion, and better understand ROI. Here’s how.
Inbound Event Marketing: 7 Steps
If you want to take your event strategy inbound, consider this your guide. Note: This timeline is does not include full support of event attendance, such as exhibiting, booth coordination, travel, etc. Make sure you plan for that stuff, too.
1. Complete Pre-Event Planning
The best way to generate maximum ROI from events and conferences is through pre-event strategy and preparation. Do you want to generate leads? Increase you team’s skills through event sessions? Develop relationships with customers and partners? Take the time to document your goals for the event and how you will measure success.
Tip: Download PR 20/20's Marketing Conference Grader to assess the investment and potential of upcoming events, set measurable goals and evaluate post-event performance.
2. Research Content and PR Opportunities
Media and bloggers often attend conferences and industry events in search of story ideas and event coverage. Capitalize on this opportunity by proactively engaging with them prior to the event. For example:
- Pitch relevant guest posts to be published around or during the event.
- Identify media contacts attending the event, and coordinate an on-site interview with a company spokesperson.
- Offer to send insights and takeaways immediately following the event to be included in coverage.
Identify target contacts six months out so you have time to coordinate or publish related content.
3. Create an Event Landing Page
To better connect online and offline activities, create an event landing page that centralizes related content assets and event information.
The landing page could include:
- A contact form to schedule a meeting with a company representative on-site.
- Digitized versions of the collateral that will be handed out at the booth.
- Links to related content.
- The event hashtag and links to corporate social accounts.
- Booth number and location.
- Company speaker names and sessions.
- Short poll or survey questions.
- Contest or giveaway details.
- Dedicated phone number to track inbound calls.
Include a web form to capture leads. You can further customize visitors’ experiences if your marketing automation solution enables dynamically updated content. For example, content offers based on industry or calls to action based on lifecycle stage.
Use a short, unique URL, such as yourcompany.com/event. Then use this CTA everywhere—in email communications to attendees, on your booth, in print collateral, on social media, etc.
Tip: Using Google Analytics or another web analytics solution, segment landing page views by new / returning visits to assess event performance from a brand-building perspective.
4. Initiate Promotional Activities
Make sure customers, leads, partners and peers know you’ll be attending, especially if your company is exhibiting, sponsoring or speaking at the event. Promotional activities to include in your plan.
- Publish a blog post with event information.
- Segment contact lists and send targeted emails. Encourage attendees to meet up at the event, and even reach those who aren’t attending with relevant content.
- Share your attendance on social media, including @mentions of the team members going and the event hashtag.
Prepare and execute promotional activities starting a few months before and leading up to the event
5. Engage During the Event
The event itself is a great opportunity to engage with attendees and to create valuable content for those unable to attend. A few ideas to consider during the event:
- Share highlights of the event using the event hashtag, and take notes of sessions for post-event content.
- Take photos of your booth, attendees, speakers or venue.
- Record podcast or video interviews of attendees.
- Monitor the event hashtag for influencers or target contacts that are attending. (You can create a separate social media monitoring list for select attendees to make it easier to engage.)
And don’t forget to interact face-to-face. Use Twitter to coordinate a face-to-face meet-up with someone, enjoy the sessions, learn and have fun!
6. Be Prompt with Post-Event Follow-Up
Marketing and sales efforts don’t end with the event. There are still a number of opportunities to engage with event attendees after the event, as long as communications are timely and relevant. Here are a few ideas:
- Send a follow-up email to event attendees. (Attendee emails might be obtained through the hosting organization, through speaking event registration, at the event booth, in person or through the event landing page.)
- Draft a blog post recapping highlights of the event, or summarizing key takeaways from a specific session.
- Send an email answering frequently asked questions at the event booth.
- Create content based on surveys or polls of attendees.
- Follow up with contacts you met at the event (send an email, connect on LinkedIn, etc.).
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to solidify relationships made at the event.
7. Complete Post-Conference Measurement and Assessment
After returning home, attendees should assess the event based on the metrics and goals set at the beginning. Allow for the team to “debrief,” recap highlights and share feedback.
Performance, combined with team feedback, can help inform decisions around participation, investment and goals for the following year.
Do you have a standard event checklist, or unique ideas you’ve tried in the past? Share them in the comments below.
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