Marketing and Sales Strategies for Event Planners

Recommended Marketing and Sales Strategies for Event Planners

Of the many marketing and sales strategies event planners rely on for reaching target markets and increasing attendance, three that show significant potential for generating results based on current research are discussed in this analysis. All three are reliant on communicating to potential event attendees using the channels of communication they most prefer, varying from social media (Bernoff, Li, 2008) to individualized communications via telephone or customized e-mails (Shukla, 2010). All marketing and sales strategies however need to set the expectations of the attendees accurately and deliver consistently above them for customer satisfaction to be created and sustained, and for the events' objectives to be accomplished (Wood, 2009).

Analysis of Marketing and Sales Strategies For Events

The three marketing and selling strategies analyzed in this research include marketing and selling events that occur entirely online, specifically for pay-per-view or online-only music events and concerts; venue-based marketing and selling strategies; and promoting an event based on the celebrity or thought leader speaking and participating in it.

Online Events in Real-Time -- Marketing Using Social Media

The first marketing strategy for an event is based on creating a community of interest online first, then continually strengthening the interest of possible attendees with highly interactive and exciting content. This strategy is based on social networks including Facebook and LinkedIn, two effective platforms for quickly gaining nights into the level of interest of potential event attendees (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Facebook Fan pages, LinkedIn communities, and the use of YouTube and Flickr to deliver video and visual content is critical. Using Twitter and e-mail to communicate the event periodically and engage in conversations with potential attendees also provides an effective, interactive approach to staying on top of what their specific interests and ideas are. Building mobile apps on the Android and iPhone operating systems can significantly increase the reach of any event marketing and selling strategy, further aligning information sources to how attendees are choosing to stay in touch with the latest event information (Hoffman, Novak, 2011). All of these online components of a marketing strategy need to be unified under a single, over-riding and powerfully unique value proposition to be effective. For an online-only event, for example a live video performance of a performing artist or a vidoecast of a major sports event, all the elements of this online-only marketing strategy will also need to have a consistent look-and-feel, convey the same message both graphically and in text, and each fulfill a specific role in attracting and gaining an audience online. As more event marketing is based in large part on social media, this example could easily be applied to live, in-person events and for the marketing of a major new product introduction as well for example. Apple's use of video streamlining for their major product introductions and announcements is a case in point.

Marketing the Venue

A second marketing and selling strategy is to concentrate heavily on the experience of attending the conference itself. This is a strategy that is used very successfully for industry conferences of example, and for large-scale thought leadership conferences in specific industries. The Forbes, Fortune and Information Week Magazine conferences annually are in exotic locations globally including Hawaii, Sydney, Australia, and throughout Asian regions known for their natural beautify and evolving economies. Using the venue and location of the conference to market it has a natural draw. During the winter months every year many of the leading Fortune 500 companies based on the Northeast hold their conferences in Bermuda, Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico coastline or in Hawaii. This approach to venue-based marketing needs to take a lifestyle-based approach to be successful, anticipating the multiplicity of needs that attendees may have during their stay (Wood, 2009).

Another aspect of this strategy is the need to concentrate on delivering an exceptional experience over and above the content provided at the event, whether that is educational, entertaining, or both. The best marketing strategies that are based on the appeal of the venues they are located at create promotional programs and messaging that interviews the value of gaining insight into a specific area, for example business, with the chance to enjoy an exotic, up-scale location like Bermuda or Hawaii for example. The marketing of events based on the venue's appeal has also become the foundation of Web 2.0-based promotional strategies, where video-based content that interweaves the conferences' messaging is often used (Davidson, 2011). This marketing strategy of interweaving the attractiveness and allure of an exotic location with a chance to learn more and gain greater insights has been very effective for brands who sell through business-to-business (B2B) channels (Walker, Hall, Todd, Kent, 2011). B2B-oriented products and services often require longer, more complex sales cycles and by nature are more complex products. The strategy of taking prospects out of their normal environment, to remote, exotic venue is to get them to concentrate more on the unique value a given B2B solution delivers. Enterprise software companies have done this very successfully in promoting their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), order management and more complex supply chain management solutions. The use of a combined venue and learning strategy benefits brands in that they have the potential to clearly define who they are what their solutions can provide while entertaining prospects at the same time (Walker, Hall, Todd, Kent, 2011).

Another aspect of the venue-based strategy is the pervasive use of social media to attract potential attendees as well. The pervasive use of Facebook, LinkedIn and private community sites for large-scale events has become commonplace, as event planners seek to create collaboration across attendees (Bernoff, Li, 2008). Social media use for venues also incudes customized videos that are uploaded to blogs in anticipation of the event (Davidson, 2011) and the continual streamlining of video and written content over Twitter and other social media sites to create anticipation as well. Creating microsites, blogs, video and highly customized materials that communicate the value of attending the event from a personal and professional standpoint is critical for this strategy to succeed (Bernoff, Li, 2008).

Marketing the Celebrity of Thought Leader

Another marketing and selling strategy of events focuses on anchoring conferences with a well-known celebrity or thought leader in a given industry. This approach to marketing concentrates on the current popularity of a celebrity, the recent insights and published books or speaking engagements of a thought leader, or the long-standing reputation of a major figure in business such as Jack Welch, formerly of GE for example. Marketing events by relying on celebrities brings an added dimension of their personal reputation and brand to potential sales. Using this marketing and selling strategy also brings credibility and value to those who see the celebrity or thought leader as valuable to see and listen to.

Examples of this type of marketing strategy include the extensive reliance by Salesforce.com on Bill Clinton, former U.S. President, Wil.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Stevie Wonder. All three are often in attendance at DreamForce events, both as entertainment and as speakers. DreamForce events are known for their world-class speakers and entertainment, which is a major draw for its customers to spend their time visiting San Francisco for these events. What Marc Benioff, the CEO and founder of Salesforce is attempting to do is create a thought leadership forum within his conferences by having these speakers and entertainers. It also bring an excitement to an event to see these world-known celebrities, further making the event a "must see" for Salesforce customers. Of the many companies using this marketing and selling strategy, Salesforce is by far one of the best as they have decades of experience making it work successfully on a global scale.

Another aspect of marketing the celebrity or…