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The Basics of Event Marketing

Confererence Marketing Fundamentals

Let's talk about science for a moment.

Don't worry; there won’t be a test and if you stick with me you'll improve your conference marketing. 

Atoms are the building blocks of the universe. Everything that exists — you, your lunch, the Empire State Building, every star in the Milky Way — is ultimately made of atoms. Atoms are a necessary component of anything and you can create literally anything with them.

When it comes to event marketing, there are also certain necessary elements from which you can build anything. These atoms of event marketing are what I want to discuss today.

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The first, and most important, element of event marketing is your goals and objectives. What are you trying to achieve with your conference and how does it tie in with your organization's larger goals? These goals need to be as specific as possible; examples would be "we want to collect 200 qualified leads from this event" or "we want 90% of event attendees to be aware of our new offering." Your event's goals should be SMART.

The next essential element is to know your audience. Who they are — age, sex, geographic location, job title, industry, personal interests; the more you know the better — what they value, what motivates them, what they would want to get out of your event. Your event very well may attract several audiences. If that's the case, you need to know about each.

If you understand who your attendees are, you can understand what matters to them. You'll be able to put yourself in their shoes, which will change your perspective on your event. Instead of thinking of the messages you want to get across, you'll think in terms of what provides value to your audiences. What do they want to experience and learn? What is the value in attending? Adopting an attendee perspective will allow you to create a unique event that speaks to what your audiences want.

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Those two elements — your goals and knowing your audience — are the foundation of your event marketing. With them in place, you can build a framework of what will bring people to your events.

If you worked in events a decade ago, you no doubt remember all the predictions about the imminent end of the events industry. In the face of the Great Recession, and with the rise of online video, many claimed all events would be virtual.

Clearly, that has not happened. This is because events are not just about speakers. They are important elements, for sure, but what they’re really about is experiences. If you look at the best, and fastest growing events, you see a great collection of experiences. An obvious example would be Dreamforce, but also the Tableau Conference.

Your event is a product in a crowded marketplace. Knowing who your audiences are allows you to create the moments, community and experiences that appeal directly to them and help your event stand apart. This is true for corporate and association events. A great, relevant and unique product allows your conference to grow organically, with less pushing from you.

In addition to experiences, your content is the other fundamental block of your event marketing. There is a stat we quote all the time because it's so important: 2/3rds of your attendees register for your event only after seeing your event content. Typically, that would mean your sessions, speakers, and sponsors and exhibitors. You want to target this content to your audiences and what they want to learn. This content is how they know your event will be valuable to them, and your content is part of your larger overall experience your event offers.

With these four elements in place — your goals and objectives, knowing your attendees, unique and desirable experiences for your audiences, and relevant content — the rest of your marketing is straightforward and largely tactical. Your conference stands out and is relevant to your audiences. You just need to find ways to get in front of them and tell them about it.

If you have past attendees, get them hyped about this year via channels and relationships you already have with them (email, social media, website). For net new attendees, look for places where your audiences gather — it could be a website many of them read, a group they participate in, or an influencer they follow — and work with them to promote your event or find creative scrappy ways to get your event covered by those places.

That’s it! And now for the science test (kidding!).

Want to learn about specific event marketing strategies and tactics? Download our free Event Marketing Guide!

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