The Four P's of Effective Event Marketing
We don't often talk about event marketing in this space, but it's not a matter of being unimportant or out of mind. The fact is event marketing, or experiential marketing as it is sometimes called, has been "trending" significantly in recent years. And, increasingly some form of event marketing is involved in much of our work for a number of clients - most notably our responsibilities for McDonald's.
There's good reason for this phenomenon. As traditional advertising media outlets have become more and more fragmented, the rise of social media has enabled marketers to reach a highly engaged audience in a targeted and cost effective new way. In many instances, social media can be a great tool for event publicity before, after - and even during the event itself.
Before we get into our four P's of effective event marketing, let's address what it really is. Businessdictionary.com defines event marketing as "the activity of designing or developing a themed activity, occasion, display, or exhibit (such as a sporting event, music festival, fair, or concert) to promote a product, cause, or organization. Also called event creation". This is a broad definition and appropriately so because event marketing can run the gamut from a flash mob or other modern equivalent to the classic "publicity stunt" all the way to trade shows or major sporting events. With that in mind, here are some important considerations when becoming involved in these types of activities.
Marketing events are often born spontaneously or emerge from creative brainstorming. As a result, the execution of these events frequently lacks sufficient strategic thinking and planning. Is the proposed event consistent with the organization's overall marketing plan? If so, are the necessary human and financial resources in place to make it work? Do potential pitfalls exist that could cause the event to fail – or worse yet, to embarrass the sponsoring organization? Is there a protocol in place to evaluate the impact of the event afterwards? These are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed as part of a substantive planning process. As the old expression goes, "No one plans to fail; they simply fail to plan".
Many events benefit from strategic partnerships. Case in point: on behalf of McDonald's, we have been involved in programs to provide school supplies for area school students. The program was greatly enhanced by the involvement of several key partners including the St. Vincent de Paul Society to help distribute the donations and an area TV station as our media partner. Partnerships are not always essential, but in cases like this one, they were extremely beneficial and have made the event all the more successful.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, adequate promotion is essential to success - especially in the first year of an event. Sadly, though, the Field of Dreams model ("Build it and they will come") is all too often the default mindset. There are any number of potential tools in the publicity toolbox including newsletters, ads, posters and the like. But two of the most effective tools often involve the aggressive use of public relations techniques and the targeted application of social media tactics. As noted previously, the "real-time" opportunities of social media can be a powerful means of drawing attention to the event as it is happening live. Of course, social media can also target messages before the event to stimulate participation and after the event to draw attention to its successful completion and relevant results.
Some events are once in a lifetime opportunities; others may merit being reprised on a regular basis. Because events are often quite time-intensive, it is human nature to take a break afterwards. Unfortunately, that break often ends up stretching out for months. Before one knows it, it is crunch time again and there is no post-event evaluation to review. The evaluation process should be done immediately after the event while everything is fresh in people's minds. The famous quote that "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" is as relevant to event marketing as it is to other areas of human endeavor.
When considering potential event marketing opportunities, executives often struggle with the question of how to evaluate the possible return on investment. There are a number of options to assess impact after the event, but how does one evaluate the risks/rewards in advance? We believe it is helpful to view event-marketing activities much the same as one would consider any form of marketing media. Is the event a good vehicle for our marketing message? What is the potential audience for this event? Does it match well with our target audience? And are the messages delivered to the audience in a positive or potentially fertile environment? If all of those questions tend toward a positive response, selected events may well be an appropriate ingredient in your marketing mix.
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