The 2018 marketing conferences season is almost here. Before you say, “Oh, there’s plenty of time to market,” consider this: the competition may be activating a game plan to woo customers—right now.
With all the hurry-scurry energy, conferences are the holy grail of marketing exposure for multiple levels and channels. They offer brands the chance to make face-to-face connections with customers and foster partnerships with compatible companies or influencers while demonstrating thought leadership.
And it’s all in one convenient space.
Which makes understanding why you want to attend a specific conference so important. Move beyond the keyword match on your Google search, and do your homework. Only attend conferences that help establish greater brand awareness with your target market and allow you to showcase the brand as innovative and industry leading.
Once you choose the best conference options, prime the pump—or in this case, the attendee list. Reach out strategically during the month before the conference through email, blog, social media, video, and more. With the right touch, an event can turn into a lead generation that lasts the whole year long.
But before jumping into logistics and preparation for marketing materials, schwag, demos, and outreach, do your team a favor: Review last’s year’s insights and performance to build a strong strategy that creates opportunities to connect with the right attendees and influencers.
Rewind and Review before Going Forward
When there’s a lot of ground to cover and powerful potential at hand, brands need to use every possible angle to establish themselves as a thought leader in their field.
One of the best places to start when planning for marketing conferences in 2018 is to generate a “lessons learned” from the previous year.
Some sample questions:
- Was the marketing message clear last year?
- Did the brand connect with the right types of people?
- What worked well? Should it be replicated this year?
- What fell flat? How could it have been avoided?
- Is there a customer survey or feedback that can provide clear insight into specific improvements?
- Did the marketing team maximize time and effort at the event?
- Are there ways the brand could have improved traffic at the booth, scaled up involvement with on-site events, or connected with more potential customers?
Any details discovered can be used to inform the strategy and approach for events in 2018, including curriculum, social strategy, marketing outreach, schedule, venue details, and more. You may even use these insights to create a blog series about “lessons learned” as part of pre-conference outreach.
Also, review sales and social stats from around the time of the event if you attended the same conference last year. What social platform garnered the most traffic? What type of content got the most likes and shares? How did attendees find and connect with the brand?
Build the Game-Winning Play
Once the do’s and don’ts are fresh in your mind from an event performance review, start connecting with customers. Think of it as the pre-show to a football game. Get people interested, then excited, and give them a reason to continue to connect with the brand even more before the conference doors open.
Here are some easy ways to develop a clear pre-conference playbook to keep your planning in order and running smoothly.
Know the Budget and Stick to It
Specify a precise budget for every conference, the number you want to attend in 2018, and the types of opportunities available at each. Not all conferences are created equal. Each offers something unique for overall brand exposure.
Determine which events make the most sense to pursue in terms of a speaking opportunity versus making the most of networking opportunities or classes. A defined budget also helps teams determine the quality of brand exposure, then create a conference marketing strategy to match it.
Brainstorm Every Detail as a Team
The energy of brainstorming is fun and helps team members get more excited for the event. Diverse input from various departments ensures all potential customer needs and angles are covered, grabbing attention in a way that goes beyond the free schwag.
For example, how do you want people to approach the booth and what can they do there? Share their email? Watch a demo? Talk to a salesperson about the latest features and how they’re leading the industry?
This demonstrates that you understand your potential customer and their needs and that you can provide a high level of customer service from every angle. It makes content development easier and provides a reason to deliver little drips of marketing to build anticipation through social media and email. Also, share how and where your brand will be involved and fun ways to engage online before the big day.
Do a Social Media Audit Prior to the Conference
Conducting a social media audit before the event, including buyer personas and messaging, is a time saver. It gives the marketing team a chance to zero in on the specific needs of the target market of the conference and lays the groundwork for staying on message. Outline who will be managing social media before the conference and during it.
Social media coverage is key to leveraging an event marketing strategy and helps build and maintain rapport with connections long after the close of the conference.
Choose a Twitter Hashtag during Planning
Don’t wait until the show to start leveraging the power of hashtags. Conference management will provide a few hashtags to help promote their efforts, so choose one or two key hashtags to use in combination. This provides a variety of ways to spark traffic and build brand awareness quickly, so it’s top of mind for attendees during the event.
Be sure to prominently display chosen hashtags on marketing posters, signs, display screens, and any print handouts. Clear hashtags also help inform social media managers what types of content need to be included in every post for consistency.
Focus on the Needs of the Audience
Any pre-conference marketing should still follow the same rule of thumb: how can the brand provide value? Use angles on problems you can help solve or improve a potential client’s business if they attend the event and connect with the brand personally. Email is great for this as it’s a longer form than social and can provide extra details on specific reasons attendees should drop by your booth or presentation.
Set up Key Appointments Ahead of Time
Conferences are busy and crowded, so set up some face time with long-time customers as well as hard to reach connections beforehand. This will provide prep time to gather your thoughts before an important chat and ensure that you can hold their attention on a personal level in the midst of all the event distractions.
If your brand is presenting during the conference or happens to be the keynote speaker, share that information tastefully before the big day. Find creative strategies to cross-promote with the conference host to build interest and engagement. You can also promise to deliver a copy of any presentation details via slides or video after the conference if people share their contact information.
Leverage Marketing Automation for Event Planning and Outreach
Potential attendees will be hungry for information prior to the conference. Gathering information and planning ahead helps them make the most of their experience and eases the sense of chaos that so often accompanies events. Use marketing automation to reach out via email or social media, and include material that showcases the brand’s knowledge and willingness to help.
Marketing automation also helps track specific segments of an audience and simplifies some administrative tasks related to conference preparation.
Nurture during the Event
Conferences can often create a sense of information overload. To help alleviate that, continue to leverage marketing automation to push out relevant information to attendee lists at appropriate times. Create a cadence that matches with the days of the conference and what’s being featured, including those awesome hashtags!
Also, push out notifications when your brand is hosting an educational session or big drawing or when you’re sharing a demo of a new product or service. The more top of mind you can be, the easier it will be to take attention away from the competition and demonstrate dedication to customer service and support.
Offer a Detailed Wrap-up of Conference Highlights
Some people may not attend the conference in person, so give them the highlights through a blog or video series each day. Share new connections made with people or influencers at the conference in a personalized way. You can also offer up your brand’s key messages and tie them in with conference happenings. Simply focus on ways to share insider tips from the attendee perspective that serve an educational purpose.
No matter what marketing conferences you decide to attend in 2018, there’s no reason why you can’t get started with targeted marketing now. Get ahead of the competition and make that pre-game show sparkle and shine!