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The agency guide to maximising event marketing

Marketing budgets don't need to be split between events or digital. Thomas Harrison-Lord looks at the ideal event marketing approach for agencies to capture leads and build meaningful relationships

As the marketing budget split for many B2B brands and agencies alike is being further dispersed, the humble lead-generating event is coming under threat. Creating a stand, and marketing materials, as well as the cost of the team’s travel and time away from the office, all adds up to a potentially expensive affair.

In our experience, this poses a great quandary for integrated marketing businesses such as Fox Agency. On the one hand, we can allocate time into a considered content strategy, or pour money into Google Search Ads in the hunt for prospects. We currently do both and we recommend investing in a digital strategy for your own agency, in the same way you recommend for your clients.

On the other hand, there’s life left in event marketing too – provided your approach is modernised and engaging.

Can digital and events coexist?

In a word, yes.

All too often at trade shows, we speak to marketing agencies who bemoan the lack of leads but comment that it was great brand exposure. Simply having a presence is not enough. According to research by Bizzabo, 41% of marketers believe that events are the single-most effective marketing channel, but you need to maximise your opportunities.

This starts with social media advertising. In the weeks running up to the event, create a landing page or an online news article promoting the fact that you are at the event, why people should visit you there, and where your display is located. The guerrilla move is to then use the advertising opportunities to target people who follow the event’s Twitter account, or are located within a 30-40 mile radius and are interested in marketing or a particular industry topic; then direct them to the news post.

Social adverts offer targeted exposure for a relatively small outlay. Promote your presence in the run-up, and then during the event, live tweet, post regular updates to Facebook, create an Instagram story and work with your team on LinkedIn employee advocacy. Walk around the show, don’t focus purely on your business, become the authoritative source for the gathering. Be sure to use the official hashtag, and most organisers will share or retweet your content – providing added exposure.

Once an event is over, there are still opportunities. Create a review blog and post to your agency website within a day of leaving. Be genuine, honest and encapsulate your learnings. Show the world that you care about the show and catch the eyes of like-minded visitors. One of Fox Agency’s most viewed blogs of all time was an event review for a B2B marketing event, for example.

Stand out from the crowd

There is little doubt that a major part of event marketing is designing, building and running an exhibition stand. In an ever-busy and cluttered world, standing out from the crowd is more important and challenging than ever.

There needs to be an incentive for visitors to seek you out and speak to you. There are many tricks, such as a VR headset, or a car racing simulator, and these undoubtedly can prove to be popular. But the main thing is to be industry-specific and different.

We recently attended the Geneva International Motor Show and one particular stand, to me, stood out above the others. No, it wasn’t Bugatti showcasing the world’s most expensive car, nor Lamborghini who had a lime-green convertible slowly rotating upon a turntable. In fact, it was Skoda.

They handed out leaflets and pencils. On the leaflet was a map of their stand with six points marked upon it. You walked to each point and there you could find information to answer one of six multiple choice questions. If you answered correctly, you could choose from a free item or merchandise. I went for a mug.

The point being, this was interactive, I spent 15 minutes learning about Skoda cars and then I had something cool to take away. The company could also count the total number of entries and report back how many people visited their display.

Thinking outside of the box will make sure event visitors spare valuable time to hear about your offerings.

Data capture is king

Once you’ve decided to exhibit and have something interesting to try or be part of, the next step is attributing marketing value to your efforts. This is where forms come into play. Imagine you are running a competition or giving away free drinking water – always a winner in my book – to enter, simply fill in a short form with name and business name. Of course, you can’t target these visitors as leads with this information just yet, but you can at least show to CMOs or FDs that a certain number of people visited your display.

Then, you can have optional tick boxes for consent to contact, or even email newsletter sign-ups. That way you can contact them in some form further down the line. Heck, email marketing is not dead, it’s just moved more into the realm of account-based marketing. Prove the event investment by growing your subscriber base.

Bring case studies to life

One thing I have learnt at Fox Agency is that online case studies bring your work to life and are a crucial element of lead generation. Putting strategy, design and content into real-life practical examples that prove a return, help to embolden the opinion of potential prospects.

Turn these into sector-specific marketing collateral to use at events. It may be a video that can be shown on a loop at the event or professionally printed materials that add so much more to the traditional business card. Talk to people at the event, and when it comes to passing along details, also provide them with a tangible example.

You can also use the opportunity to speak. Many events do charge an additional fee for speaker platforms, so it is worth researching to see if you can stretch your funds to cover. If so, a genuine talk offering useful advice, by an engaging team member who can apply marketing knowledge to real-life examples, can act as a driver of traffic to your trade stand.

The alternative strategy

In my experience, marketing conferences are great for agency teams to learn from the best and to find out about new enterprise platforms. But, they will not necessarily generate leads for your business. Visit events regularly to learn, speak to other marketing colleagues, see what new attribution technology exists, etc.

But to generate tangible results for your marketing business, I think you need to be brave and walk down the alternative route. Your business should have clear target markets, personas and industries. If it doesn’t, work hard to define them. Once you have these in place, research the biggest and best events for each of those sectors and invest your event marketing budget there. It may by Automechanika for the automotive aftermarket, it may be MoneyLIVE for FinTech or any number of pharmaceutical or industrial events.

With the right preparation, a structured plan and disciplined follow-up, this will enable you to book an appearance, prepare speakers, promote your presence online and create market-specific case studies. This year, make sure your agency reaps the rewards of event marketing.

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