We often don't know our audience as well as we think we do in the meetings industry, and that's become especially clear over the previous, challenging year. We have only a basic understanding of their needs — and as a result, our strategies and tactics are pretty basic. This is about psychographics more than demographics.
To understand prospective attendees — your customers — you need to know what makes them buy what you're marketing. That starts with looking at the marketing messages that are attracting customers more broadly. Here are 8 key consumer trends driving marketing strategies and tactics today, and what that means for promoting your events:
1. Digital is here to stay. You must continue to invest in digital marketing and in developing your digital competencies. Marketers have to be better, faster and smarter about digital in order to survive. Most of all, continue investing in digital events. They will never replace in-person events, but they are "good enough" in your customer's mind.
2. The future is digital. We live in a digital world. It's a digital economy. Digital transformation is for real. We are all media companies, even if we don't realize it yet.
3. Millennials represent the largest consumer group in history. Millennials are spending money on experiences, not products. But most events are poorly designed "products," in search of an audience. Keep asking yourself what kind of experience — or relationship — you are designing.
4. Loyalty is dead. Demographic groups are becoming more brand agnostic. Millennials are already there. People will not be loyal to your brand, but they will be loyal to your brand experience — so your brand's event experience must be built upon relationships, not needs and wants.
5. Availability and value are the "new black." Digital events provide greater availability and value than in-person events. Availability is about access 24/7/365. Value is about content and community. This is where to focus your attention, resources and messaging.
6. Consumers are craving a return to basics. Why do we meet? What's in it for attendees or their organization? Educational sessions and networking (both formal and informal learning) are the basics they're craving. Individual and organizational performance improvement are the only outcomes that matter.
7. Time is more valuable than money. Consumers want value for their money, but they value their time more. Ask yourself how effectively — and efficiently — your event is delivering value.
8. Technology should be leveraged for exponential (not incremental) returns. Most event marketers leverage digital technology while experimenting with incremental marketing tactics. This isn't about that; it's about leveraging digital technology and implementing an event marketing strategy — exponential thinking — to generate exponential results.
Remember: If you want to formulate and implement a successful event marketing strategy, the core of that strategy must be your audience. And the key to audience knowledge and insight is analytics.
The other crucial element of your event marketing strategy must be your audience experience, determined by your event content and your experience design. Now more than ever, content is king — especially in the digital world. And your experience design provides the context for your content.
Develop a transformational event, not a transactional one, by treating your event like a service first and then "productizing" it. That means providing solutions to your customer's goals, challenges, or problems.
Today's event planners are good at identifying goals and talking about challenges or problems, but their events too often fail to actually solve them. That's why your attendees find themselves having the same conversation over and over again. The features and benefits of products have no emotional resonance or relevance. But the value created by services — and experiences and relationships — forms the emotional response you've been looking for in your event.
John Nawn is co-founder and chief strategist for The Event Strategy Network, a diverse group of trusted advisors dedicated to unleashing the full business potential of both in-person and digital events. John helps formulate and implement event marketing strategies that align with an organization's overall strategy.