Event Marketing for 2020 and Beyond


Developing an event marketing strategy is a complex process. At first glance, event marketing may seem to mirror a traditional marketing plan. However, there are intricacies when preparing for an event that require a different approach and tactics.  

As the new decade dawns, it’s time to ensure your approach to event marketing remains in step and up to date.

Make a Plan Before Your Marketing Plan

That may seem like over-complicating an already complicated process. However, a carefully thought out, meticulous outline is so necessary to a successful event marketing strategy that it must be created first. 

Event marketers have a lot on their plates. There are many complex moving parts to an event marketer’s day, much less their week, which doesn’t even begin to look at their month (and so on). We get it. Sometimes you’re playing catch-up before a project even launches.

Ideally, that is not the case for your event marketing plan. By taking the time to painstakingly craft an outline, you are giving yourself and your brand the best chance at success. It provides you with the opportunity to identify the most critical tasks so they can be prioritized. It also gives you an idea of how much time is needed for each task (hint: it’s always more than you initially think), so you can establish benchmarks and deadlines.

This is the stage where you finalize your budget for the project and clarify how it will be spent (be sure to include a buffer for potential overages). At this point, you should also establish a clear chain of command. Assign roles to every member of your team and who has the final say is well-defined.

Having a detailed outline will also be helpful for those times when things don’t go according to plan. It’s inevitable, if unfortunate, that you will encounter bumps along the road to your event, maybe even a roadblock or two. However, having an established outline makes it easier to overcome obstacles, identify solutions, and get back on track.

Understand the Needs of Every Stakeholder

The goals of your event marketing strategy are largely determined by the needs of three distinct stakeholders: your brand’s internal departments, event attendees, and exhibitors and sponsors.

To ensure you are pursuing the correct goals – and that those goals align – you must first understand these groups and their motivations.

Your Brand’s Internal Departments

It is pretty easy to determine the goals of your brand’s disparate departments. Ask them.

What’s often much more difficult is getting these goals to align. Ultimately, everyone in your company wants the same thing: for the event to succeed. It’s just that they may not agree on how to achieve success or even what that success looks like.

You may find yourself performing the role of problem solver and mediator. For example, two departments may desire a similar outcome but want to take different routes to get there. That’s when you need to step in, point out the similarity of their desired goal, and reach a compromise on how that objective can be accomplished. 

Event Attendees

To attract attendees to an event, you have to know who they are and what they want.

Start with who they are. It’s not enough to know that your event appeals to millennials or IT professionals. That’s too broad. How can you craft a message that speaks directly to someone who is an IT professional? You can’t. Try to create a campaign that appeals to “millennials.” They’ll laugh in your face – if they even see it.

For your messaging to be successful, you need to really know your audience. Dig through your existing data. Reach out to other departments, such as sales, to gather their input. Search through your website analytics and the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) database. You can also send out surveys to existing customers for help filling in any holes you discover.

Once you have a firm grasp on your attendees, create personas for each “category” of attendee. Make these personas as detailed as possible. It can’t be just demographic data; you need to create a personality for each “person.” Include emotional information, like their fears, hopes, and dreams. By understanding what they want, you will be able to “speak” to your audience in a way that will truly resonate.

Exhibitors and Sponsors

Once you understand your event’s crowd, then you can reach out to companies who covet that crowd.

Potential exhibitors and sponsors will want to know as much information about your attendees as you can provide. Imagine you’re a potential sponsor being pitched two opportunities. One provides basic demographic data (age, gender, location, etc.), while the other delivers that information along with the “personalities” of various attendees. Which is more likely to get your business?

Before you reach out to potential sponsors and VIP exhibitors, you are going to want to do some research on those brands. Do they have any big announcements on the horizon: a market expansion, new product launch, rebranding, company merger, or new location, etc.? Have they sponsored events in the past? If so, which ones, and what was their approach? Knowing how a brand managed past sponsorships can help you understand how to pitch your event.

Sponsors and exhibitors are going to want to know how your event can help them. So, the more information you can provide, the better your chance for securing their business.

Establish SMART Goals

Trying to please so many people and brands can sometimes lead to the creation of goals that seem reasonable at the time, but ultimately prove to be impossible to achieve. One way to avoid this frustration is to use the SMART acronym to ensure your goals are achievable. SMART stands for:

Specific: This is the who, what, when, where, and why of your goals. Specificity shows that you fully understand what you are trying to achieve and that it is possible to obtain.

Measurable: Having the ability to measure your goals, and knowing how to do so, makes it easy to track your progress. Not only can you clearly show the results of your efforts, it is easier for you to stay on track as you work to achieve results. 

Attainable: This refers not only to the goal being achievable, but also noticing any other factors that may get in the way of success. For example, a goal may be realistic on paper, but will your available budget prevent its completion?

Relevant: Will achieving this goal matter to the event’s stakeholders? Also, how does this goal align with other objectives you are striving to achieve? If it feels like an outlier, maybe it is not as important as you initially thought.

Time-bound: Every goal needs a deadline. Your event is looming, is it possible to achieve this goal within your established timeframe?


Create Personalized Content

Once you have a strategy in place, your personas established, and your goals nailed down, it is time to promote. As you create content, think about who is going to see it. Does it appeal to an attendee persona? If not, how can you refine the message so it does?

The stronger your message, the more it will resonate with your desired audience. The result of all this hard work will be a robust attendance and a successful event.