Attendee profiles are constantly changing. Those who attended our events in the past may no longer be candidates as they are changing jobs within their current industry, retiring, or have taken new jobs in other industries. Given such changes, can we really know who next year’s attendees will be with any degree of confidence?
When I ask event marketing people what they are doing differently given these dynamics, the answer I get back is usually is an answer which includes some combination of tools, technologies, analytics, market segmentation, ad targeting, and social media outreach. The answer rarely includes telephone outreach with one on one conversations with members of key constituencies or meeting attendees walking the aisles of our tradeshows and conference rooms and engaging in face-to-face conversations. Indeed, why are so many staff members in the staff office the majority of their events talking to each other? I think that the failure to personally connect with live attendees is a huge mistake.
“The event marketer of the future will be a jack of all trades and master of many. They must be an experience curator, an expert in their community and use the data of their marketing campaigns to refine and optimize. Marketing teams will have sub-specialists or experts in data analytics. Key to the event marketer of the future remains an ability to write copy, understand how to communicate value proposition and excitement. I have said for many years, that your strongest marketers should be easily able to switch places with your best salespeople. They also must have a sense of humor and adventure. You never can fully know what will be thrown your way and must be able to flex where and when needed.” (The bolding is mine).
How far away is the typical event marketer from this ideal? A considerable distance. And the lack of personal insight about your attendees could well prove a mortal wound for your events. How can you create marketing plans, project milestones, production plans, and budgets solely by sitting behind a computer screen looking at analytics and click through rates? When I hear about event companies who bemoan the challenges in acquiring attendees, I am shocked when they have no plans to contact or meet their prospects. How can we talk about face-to-face events as being essential, when we ourselves don’t practice what we preach in our own marketing efforts?
What’s getting in the way? Perhaps it’s the nature of the typical event marketer. How many of your marketing staff could switch places with your best sales reps? Very few, I am guessing. And why is that? Because a marketer is often an introverted person, whereas a sales rep is generally an extrovert. A good salesperson is comfortable and confident in engaging with the prospect to understand what they need. For a marketer, that engagement might not come as naturally. Though there’s been considerable advancement in the quantitative elements of modern marketing, numbers and the analysis of those numbers can only take you so far. After all, numbers are merely the numerical aggregation of many individuals. Numbers don’t make decisions – people do. And those numbers rarely can capture the nuances inherent in human decision-making. The real risk is that marketers can “hide” amongst the numbers and fail to understand the true motivation behind decisions, it is ironic that those most responsible for getting attendees to an event may be the furthest away from the customer.
Don’t be resigned to the status quo. You must press your marketers to get to know your attendees personally, whether it be via focus groups, communities, walking the show floor, or otherwise being physically present where the attendees are.