JR Sherman is the CEO of RainFocus. With more than 20 years of leading highly impactful service and SaaS businesses, he is highly regarded for his expertise in SaaS, events, marketing and experiential marketing. Sherman was named one of the 25 Most Influential Executives by Business Travel News.
This year, marketers continue to find themselves in a tough spot as COVID-19 and other viruses such as monkeypox impact the event industry. Cancel an in-person event? Postpone it? Move it to a virtual platform? Even with limited viable options, major events scrambled and struggled to change course in an efficient and gratifying manner. In the same vein as the initial COVID outbreak in 2020, experiential marketers, brand managers, digital marketers and every practitioner in between found themselves in another round of unexpected adversity. Today, COVID is still a consideration, as attendees and organizers alike tap into testing technologies to ensure in-person events are safe and secure.
For event marketers especially, the uncertainties remain as global disruptions continue aside from the virus having an overwhelming presence. While wishful thinking can help us get through the day, the reality is that marketers must prepare for unpredictabilities that cause last-minute changes and adapt with a nimbleness that will better the brand for years to come. Here’s how marketers can hope for the best but plan for the worst while still successfully executing their upcoming events.
It’s tempting to assume in-person events are the ideal, and online events are an adequate substitute. This binary thinking—pitting in-person events against online ones—will only lead to disparate marketing strategies.
In fact, with the right customer-centric strategy and a comprehensive event management platform, experienced marketers can put on a show that results in exceptional ROI via webcam, in a conference center or in a combination of the two. The benefit to hosting a conference virtually or in a hybrid sphere is the ability to hyper-personalize content for attendees, garner data on what was impactful and engaging for listeners and put insights to use.
For example, recognizing an attendee who registered for an event as the same customer who downloaded a specific eBook or white paper a few months prior allows for targeted recommendations on tracks and content that fits their specific needs. Event data can be used year-round to continue engaging customers with relevant touchpoints that map back to their event experience. Regardless of when and where learning and networking take place, events are a powerful marketing channel.
The binary can also exist beyond the online versus in-person debate. Enterprise marketers are guilty of siloing their event marketing tools from the rest of their marketing technology stack, even though customer data is pivotal to successful events. Platforms and tools used for event marketing and management need to be closely integrated with MAPs, CRM and other tools to ensure a comprehensive and real-time picture of the customer journey. Integrated, end-to-end technologies that break down data silos can optimize the customer experience from registration through post-event touchpoints, creating unmatched value for both customers and marketers.
Make no mistake. Marketers, an in-person presentation or Q&A does not guarantee quality content. Just because there may physically be bright lights, a sleek destination and rockstar guest speakers doesn’t mean the audience is sold. Just as you might pour over a presentation for a stadium audience of thousands, content shared online must be informing and engaging, offering personalized insights based on the viewer. An in-person conference with dull content is far worse than a virtual event that keeps attendees’ eyes on screens and engaged with others attending virtually, as well.
By investing in thoughtful and relevant content that’s targeted at participants based on preferences, buyer stage, interest and previous engagements, virtual events can create 10,000 more unique experiences versus a more traditional event.
Event marketers aren’t out of the woods yet when it comes to the return to normal. But by approaching events holistically and creating tailored, captivating content targeted to customer preferences and insights, your event marketing programs will transcend the binary choice of virtual and physical, and deliver personalized content through engaging experiences to grow customer relationships and strengthen brand affinity.
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