As Omicron cases surged earlier this year, major events across multiple industries were once again forced to send the dreaded “This event has been postponed/canceled” emails to thousands of registered attendees. Reminiscent of 2020, marketers who relied on experiential marketing for everything from brand awareness to lead generation scrambled to adjust to yet more unexpected adversity.
With the past two years keeping everyone on their toes, it’s high time marketers stop hedging their bets on in-person versus virtual and instead establish the infrastructure to be prepared for the unexpected.
Experienced marketers can handle seamless transitions for their targeted content — regardless of when, where and how events are taking place — if they deploy a customer-centric strategy and a comprehensive event management platform. Of course, with so many marketing services and event tech point solutions vying for attention, it can be difficult to know where to start. Regardless of where your events are happening, follow these guidelines to ensure you’re driving the most value out of your programs in 2022.
1. Embrace The Power Of The Pivot
Experienced marketers know to plan for the unexpected with contingency plans at the ready. In event marketing, unexpected hiccups have always been unavoidable, whether it’s a caterer not showing up, a vendor falling through at the last minute or poor streaming quality for a keynote. With even more uncertainty around events in 2022, marketers need to have backups for their backup plans, with multiple mapped routes to reach their goals and successfully engage customers.
In short, we hope for the best but plan for the worst. Successfully pivoting takes more than just planning. It’s crucial to have technology that allows you to implement changes on a moment’s notice without sacrificing the customer experience.
Marketers depend on robust functionality and require a top-to-bottom platform that’s as nimble and agile as we are. We need the tools and real-time data insights to effectively target, collaborate and customize content, build customer relationships, make real-time business decisions on the ground and capture live interactions and preferences in an attributable way.
2. Content Is King, Regardless Of Where It’s Consumed
While many marketers still believe nothing can replace the value of a good handshake, the past two years have proven that, at least for a period of time, business can still successfully be conducted without physical interaction. The key to a successful event isn’t the venue; it’s the content.
Even the sleekest, most chic and alluring venue or event destination cannot make up for poor planning and subpar content. Without engaging content, attendees will become bored and that’s the last thing any event marketer wants in any format. An in-person conference with dull content is far worse than a virtual event that keeps attendees’ eyes on screens and engaged with other attendees.
The No. 1 rule for events is to invest in thoughtful, relevant content personalized and targeted to each attendee based on their interests, preferences, past behaviors and the stage of their unique journey with your brand. This process enables 10,000 unique experiences versus an event for 10,000 attendees.
3. Don’t Silo Your Event
Whether in-person, virtual or hybrid, events are a powerful marketing channel. However, enterprise marketers all too often silo their event marketing tools from the rest of their martech stack, hindering their ability to aggregate customer data in a meaningful way across 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. Failure to do this will negatively impact data quality and therefore future experiences with the brand.
Conversely, the ability to collect and analyze event engagement data in real-time, integrated with other marketing tools, enables a smooth and familiar customer experience and an efficient campaign workflow on a year-round basis. For example, we need to recognize an attendee who just registered for an event is the same customer who downloaded a specific E-book or white paper a few months prior, and automatically recommend tracks and content that map back to related topic areas.
This takes the guesswork out of agenda planning for the customer and instills confidence that they’ll gain value from attending your event. As event data is captured, it can be used year-round for continual engagement with relevant touchpoints mapped back to their event experience. 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.
Events aren’t successful because they’re in-person; they’re successful because they engage and strengthen relationships with captivating, highly relevant content. When planning your programs in 2022, don’t put all your eggs in one in-person or virtual basket. Embrace the unknown, ensure you’re flexible enough to pivot and create tailored, captivating content targeted with customer preferences and insights. When done right, 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.
JR Sherman is the CEO of RainFocus. With more than 20 years of leading highly impactful service and SaaS businesses, Sherman 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.