Apply the rules of inbound marketing to in-person events
Okay, which is a more effective business builder, getting a booth at a trade show (or similar event), setting up a table and smiling at people as they walk by – or – sitting on a bench at a bus stop? Trick question. They’re about the same. Event marketing is an extremely powerful tool. But it’s vital to have a clear idea about what you hope to accomplish – and a process for bringing these goals to fruition. Too many people take a show-up-and-see-what-happens approach to events. This is where thinking about it in terms of inbound marketing can help.
Inbound marketing is usually employed online as a way to reach into a crowd of strangers, convince them to visit, turn them into customers and ultimately convert them into brand ambassadors who will create buzz and promote your brand. The steps, as presented in an infographic on HubSpot, are pretty straightforward: Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. And there are a number of specific tools for doing this online – SEO, blogs, landing pages, email, social monitoring. But who says you can’t win people over in person. In fact using inbound marketing in-person and online can be a winning combination.
Inbound marketers often use blogging as a way to build an audience. Marketers who have a blog should use it to their advantage and talk about the event. For marketers who intend to have guest speakers at their event, getting these speakers to write a blog post for you can help generate interest. You can also leverage your personal contacts to boost attendance. Get your marketing team to send out a notice to their LinkedIn or Facebook connections.
The process of converting general attendees to customers begins by getting them in the booth – giving you a chance to interact. If you are a food marketer at a consumer-focused event, the answer could be as simple as offering samples. This sounds easy, but the logistics of food preparation can often be daunting. For the kind of sale or conversion that evolves over time, the key thing is to collect contact information. Trade show promotions that require attendees to register are useful for this. Holding a seminar or conducting a contest are a couple of approaches that work well.
Closing requires getting people to align themselves with the product – getting them to see themselves as your brand’s kind of customer. Offering wearables like tee shirts or hats helps people self-identify with your brand. It also turns them into billboards for your product. Another way to have people lend their personal stamp of approval to your product is to create a scenario whereby they have their picture taken at your booth – with a mascot or celebrity, for example – to be uploaded on Facebook or dedicated, branded site.
Making the event as entertaining and informative as possible is a great way to delight your attendees. When you impress your attendees, they’re more likely to share their story and say good things about you. This creates buzz. Turning these good feelings into a lasting benefit requires turning your attendees into brand ambassadors. Nurturing loyalty and long-term relationships with customers is fundamental to business success. Take note of particularly promising individuals. Research how active they are on social media. Having collected attendee’s contact information (see step 2, Convert), use that to build a relationship. Send them something, a small token of gratitude for taking the time to visit your booth. The cost will be offset by the amount of goodwill your brand will receive online.