Event marketing holds huge potential for small businesses that are looking to optimize their promotional efforts. It provides a consumer experience like no other, in which potential customers can connect with the product and the company behind it in a face-to-face setting. It also provides unique insights for the business owner regarding how your brand is received.
However, event marketing is also something that is tricky to do successfully. Events can be extremely unpredictable from a marketing perspective, so the team running them needs to be very nimble and prepared to pivot on the fly.
Because event marketing has a lot of moving pieces, it can be difficult to determine if, after all is said and done, campaigns are successful. To make sure that events deliver a return that justifies the investment, small businesses need to focus on establishing a framework for measuring success. As Peter Drucker is quoted as having said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
Here are some things that small businesses should consider as they take steps to assess and optimize their event marketing efforts.
Track success by setting KPIs
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are a powerful tool for evaluating the effectiveness of business efforts that allow you to define your goals and determine whether or not you hit them. KPIs can be especially helpful in optimizing event marketing because they help your business to consider all of the various aspects that go into a successful campaign.
For example, the end goal of your campaign may be launching a new product line with a certain number of sales. Achieving that could require inspiring attendance, driving consumer engagement, providing customer support, and addressing customer feedback. Each of those factors can be included in your list of KPIs and assessed in an effort to understand and improve effectiveness.
Engagement is one KPI that should absolutely be tracked. Allowing your customer to experience the product or service is one element of engagement. If you are sharing a new line of energy drinks, for example, you can track how many “taste tests” people participated in and their feedback on the experience.
Effective engagement can also involve gathering leads. Your KPIs could focus on what contact info you want to collect — such as email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses — and how many you want to add to your database during the course of the event. You may also want to track meaningful conversations with consumers, which can provide insightful feedback, as one of your KPIs.
Once you develop your KPIs, make sure the team that will drive the event knows what they are and how they will be expected to influence them. Clearly communicating KPIs allows team members to know what they are fighting for. After all, you can’t hold yourself, the team, or the company accountable without defining and communicating KPIs.
Overall, keep in mind that KPIs will be your report card for the campaign. If you don’t identify and track them, you won’t be able to grade your performance or know what is needed to fine-tune it for future events.
Seize the opportunity to size up the competition
One often overlooked benefit of event marketing is the opportunity it provides for keeping up with what the competition is doing. It’s common for events like conferences or community fairs to include multiple vendors offering the same type of product or service. Businesses that attend those events can measure their success by comparing their efforts and their impact to that experienced by others in their vertical.
You can explore the type of team other businesses have on site, the way in which they are engaging with consumers, the materials and products they are giving out, and the way in which potential customers appear to be responding. Don’t hesitate to approach a competitor and ask them how it’s going. Even if they know you are a fellow business owner, they still might be willing to share some insights.
As you are observing during an event, you might also keep an eye open for the type of talent that could benefit your business. While I don’t suggest that you go to events with the direct goal of poaching employees from your competition, small businesses in today’s market need every advantage they can get. As you are educating someone about your brand, you may discover that they find your company a little more attractive than the one they are currently working for.
Treat event marketing as a team-building event
Another benefit of event marketing is the opportunity it provides for team building. For small businesses, pulling off a successful event could involve deploying the entire staff team, which brings everyone together for a special time of camaraderie.
The time spent both gearing up for the event and debriefing can be used to communicate values, strategy, and what you consider to be a success. Debriefing can also include a time to celebrate those who made exceptional contributions. One important measure of success is the way in which event marketing contributes to crafting a healthy culture for your business.
Now is a great time for small businesses to invest in event marketing. Covid has retreated, creating space for consumers to get out into their communities again. Brands that meet them there will find opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of how to effectively meet their customers’ needs.
Ray Sheehan is the Founder of Old City Media, a North American event production and experiential marketing agency. He has a background in strategic planning, marketing, event management, and advertising and has helped the company expand from one city in the United States to an international agency. Before this role, Ray partnered with UpcomingEvents.com, a production company in Philadelphia, and worked for 20th Century FOX. He oversaw all aspects of the business and produced a nationally syndicated television show for FOX. In 2020, he launched the G.I.F.T Program as part of Old City Media. Ray is recognized as a leader in the special events industry and an innovative thinker in the Philadelphia community and beyond. Sheehan has been featured in Grit Daily, The Next Scoop, Site Pro News, and more.