Natalie Adler Skarzynski
Drive Higher Event Marketing ROI Using an Event Content Strategy
5 min read
Last month, I had the pleasure of participating on an event marketing panel at my local chapter of the American Marketing Association. Events are a vital part of the marketing mix for many businesses, but can often be one of the most expensive line items on the budget. The goal of this panel session was to share best practices for getting the most value from event marketing, and my piece dealt with the nexus of events and content marketing.
Events and content marketing share a common problem: proving ROI.
A major mistake I've seen when it comes to content marketing is investing significant time and effort in creating a content piece, but not getting enough mileage out of it to warrant the investment. This can be do to lack of promotion, failure to adequately re-purpose the content across different channels, issues with the content strategy, or all of the above.
Similarly, companies often spend a lot of money going to trade shows, holding user conferences, or putting on other promotional events. But it can be difficult to drive a good return from this investment. For example, take a trade show expo event. In addition to the cost of the booth space, there's the cost of the booth elements themselves, like banners and kiosks, as well as the cost of any additional collateral produced for the event – not to mention the travel costs to get your staff there. Participation in trade shows can cost tens of thousands of dollars (or more, depending on the show) and the cost per lead is often insanely high.
So how can you increase the ROI of your events? By creating and implementing an event content plan.
But you'll need to unify your marketing strategy first.
To get the most value, you need to seek to unify events and content marketing strategies, which are often handled by separate people or teams. The best approach is to take a step back and think about your overall marketing strategy as it relates to the needs of your buyers.
Start with the buyers' needs, develop a handful of overarching messaging platforms, and think about how each part of your mix – content and events included – supports one or more of those messages. For example, let's say one of your buyer personas is an HR/recruiting manager struggling to find qualified candidates. The messaging platform that speaks to him/her should revolve around the pain of this issue, how your solution remedies it, and what they'll gain from choosing you.
Once you've worked through your messaging, think about all the different marketing disciplines you have at your disposal and how they each can support and promote the message. These are the fundamentals of marketing campaign strategy, and taking this unified, message-first approach (instead of a siloed, channel-first approach) ensures that you can easily cross-purpose and re-purpose content.
Use events as a content-gathering opportunity.
With messaging and channels sorted out, it's time to prepare for the event itself. As part of your event prep, think about which members of your team will be present. Then split them into hunters or gatherers.
The hunters. These are the customer- or prospect-facing folks that drive the action of the event. For a trade show, they're the salespeople in the booth. For a customer event, they could be account managers interacting with customers. Maybe they're featured speakers representing your company at a symposium. As hunters, they have specific tasks to complete, like creating new leads or sales opportunities, deepening customer relationships, or giving a kick-ass speech.
The gatherers. These are the behind-the-scenes folks, often marketing staff who help ensure the event goes off without a hitch. In addition to whatever work needs to take place in the background to keep things running smoothly, designate 1-2 people as your content gatherers. Their job will be to observe and document for the purpose of creating content.
Here are some different types of content your gatherers could seek out. For each, you must evaluate whether the content is relevant and valuable to your strategy and whether it fits with your campaign themes. If so, you're looking at a great content creation opportunity.
If someone from your is company presenting thought-leadership content: Plan to re-purpose that content later on as a whitepaper, webinar, or whatever format works best.
If other people are presenting: Consider partnering up to re-present later as a webinar, or to co-author a report.
Create a "round-up" of different session insights and trends from multiple presentations.
For social media promotion: Since humans want to see other humans, posting event photos featuring attendees or speakers consistently get high engagement on social media.
For future event promotion: Especially if it's your event and you plan to do something similar in the future, it could be worth it to have a professional photographer take some candid and/or environmental shots for later use.
Customer testimonials: This is one of the best ways to get maximum ROI from a customer event. References are golden, but you don't necessarily need a complicated setup to capture customer testimonials. You'll want a professional videographer, but the videos themselves do not need to be elaborate to be successful.
Content created for the event
Did you create content of any kind specifically for the event, like a video, a brochure, or other piece of collateral? You can probably find a way to re-purpose it (and get a bigger bang for your buck).
Just listening to what attendees are talking about and engaging them in conversation can yield valuable insights. Identify a handful of common themes that kept popping up throughout the event and consider adding them to your content calendar.
With the tips and ideas above, you can set yourself up to get more value from your event marketing spend.