The 2017 conference season is right around the corner. Conferences are incredibly valuable as they enable brands to drive highly engaging connections to a very targeted and captive audience. According to Forrester Research, trade shows and events are the second most effective tactic in the marketing mix, after the company’s website.¹ But just having a booth and being present at these conferences isn’t enough when you’re up against a sea of competitors all vying for the same eyeballs.
So how do you break through the noise? It starts with defining your objective. Most brands’ conference objectives can be boiled down to two key areas: 1. Brand Awareness and 2. Lead Generation. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to meet these objectives. But there are guidelines. Your strategy should be tailored to your brand’s specific business and marketing objectives with a plan that employs tactics that can be measured, optimized and repeated again in the future.
While there are a lot of traditional advertising options out there, such as out-of-home, direct mail, print ads, sponsorships etc., some of these tactics can be hard to measure and less cost effective than implementing a digital marketing strategy. We’re not talking about your standard display campaign, although useful in its own right, we’re talking about digital efforts that will differentiate your brand and garner a return on your investment. There are so many different digital marketing opportunities to choose from, but let’s review just some of the options against key conference objectives.
- Utilize social media. Post content ahead of time and frequently about your brand’s presence at the conference, activities and labs you’re offering and speaker agendas. Make sure to highlight key benefits of what’s happening at your booth (i.e. free samples, demonstrations, CE credit, etc.)
- Create a geofilter for your brand on Snapchat to provide booth visitors the option to add a location graphic to their image and either share or add to their story
- Provide incentives to followers who help share your conference content and follow them back
- Create a hashtag specifically for the conference to encourage online conversations between the attendees and the brand during the conference. Promote your hashtag anywhere and everywhere you can, including your website, e-mails, social channels, display etc.
- Set up a raffle, contest or drawing for attendees to upload their own user-generated content like photos and videos while at the conference. Using the latest technology products as prizes, for instance the latest iPad or Virtual Reality Goggles, tends to draw more people in
- Generate a keyword list specific to your brand and the conference to develop a timely PPC campaign that drives traffic both to your event and your website
- Set up a geofencing campaign targeted to the conference’s physical location. This type of campaign allows you to serve ads, updates, contests and relevant content to anyone in the defined geographical area in real time
- Offer an incentive for people who provide their contact info or repost your content on their networks. This incentive can range from getting content from the brand (i.e. a whitepaper download or e-newsletter signup) to contests, raffles and giveaways. Of course, the heftier the incentive, the higher the likelihood of getting leads
- Create a conference-specific landing page that promotes your presence at these conferences, benefits of coming to your booth, useful educational materials, etc.
- PPC campaigns and optimizing your conference-specific landing page for organic search will be crucial to drive traffic both to your website and your booth. You’ll want to include a contact form on the landing page to capture new leads. The volume of leads garnered will be much higher if they are offered some type of incentive, promotional offer or exclusive access to information
- Consider setting up marketing automation so you can easily and quickly push content to all current contacts in your database and new leads. Oftentimes, these conferences will offer pre-registrant lists that can be purchased and used to push out new content
- Employ an account-based marketing strategy wherein you identify key prospects to push highly targeted sponsored posts to them via LinkedIn
- Hashtags are great for brand awareness and advocacy but can also be used as a lead generation tool. When people post, comment or share content about your brand on Twitter, you’ll want to capture their profile/contact info so you can tweet them directly and continue to nurture the lead
Whew! This sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but done effectively and in advance, it can really pay off. There are tons of tools out there to help. For example, Eventbrite offers downloadable timelines, templates and tactics to help you get started. Not all of these tactics need to be implemented but Hubspot reports that the average number of promotional methods to publicize an event is five.² Regardless of the number of tactics in your plan, all should be integrated together so that each effort ladders back up to a single strategy that accomplishes your objective.