Events are so much more than a group of people being in the same place at the same time. The event experience often begins months before the physical gathering of people. It might start on social. Perhaps it begins with a compelling invitation or preview of the content and speakers. It might even begin with a conversation with a colleague, peer or something published by a third party about the event.
The reality is that an event experience is the sum total of dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of touch points that occur before, during and after the event itself. Some of these touchpoints are physical; we shake hands and have a conversation. Other touchpoints are digital or social and might occur on our mobile devices.
The smart event marketer is thinking about this event experience holistically and building a comprehensive strategy around all of these touchpoints. The goal is to make sure that all of your attendees have a positive experience at every step of their journey. They should be able to find the information they need when they need it. They should be able to easily register for your event in a way that builds anticipation and excitement.
When the event happens and perhaps more importantly, after the event happens, they should feel connected to your organization and walk away with a strong impression and a desire to take action. Whether that action is to do business with you, do more business with you, refer a friend or otherwise advocate on your behalf.
In this conversation with Tim Hayden, we discuss these opportunities and how to capitalize on them in your own event marketing strategy.
Scott Ingram: Tim, you’ve always done a great job of seeing experience holistically as the sum of numerous touch points. In my book, you talk about “live, mobile and online.” Why don’t we start with the big picture of how all of this comes together?
Tim Hayden: Sure, the concept of “live, mobile, online” is that everything that happens in digital media; it all starts offline. Whether it’s an idea in someone’s head before they write a blog post, or they create copy for a website. Or if it’s the fact that when there are quite literally millions of photos that are being shared every single day in social media; Instagram, Facebook, other places. It’s really an extension. What’s happening in digital media is an extension of what’s happening in real life. If you think about it in that context, the whole idea of the “live, mobile, online” construct which is a methodology, it’s an approach to communications and marketing that I have been practicing for the better part of 8 years now. Honestly, it’s about understanding that if you can deliver a wonderful experience offline, everything else will take care of itself. Of course, now we live today, 8 years later if you will, in a world where people are much more digitally connected. So, being able to make sure that you’re optimized at all of your touch points. Ready for what is the sequential next step or the expectation that your audience has whether they’re coming at you, at a booth, at an event, or through their phone, or while they’re sitting in front of their computer. Or if they call you (because people still do that), it’s about being ready holistically for the expectations that someone has. Especially in the capacity of events. Having all of those things tied together if you will to operate like a symphony.
SI: I like that. What I’d like to do today is talk a little bit about each of the pieces and then really bring the symphony, bring the orchestra together and talk about how that really completes the brand experience, especially as they relate to events. Why don’t we start with social and storytelling? Your work now with Zignal Labs is probably most closely related to that. And in some ways might be the longest thread. It starts long before the event, probably accelerates and peaks during the event, and then can have a trail after the event. How should marketers be thinking about social and their storytelling strategy around events.
TH: Well, I think when your audience or when people register to attend an event. That has largely been left to being a transactional experience. Let’s collect some information about you and all of that’s going to go into our CRM or Marketing Automation System. But it fails to be the moment for most organizations that like to leverage events as marketing opportunities. It fails to be the starting point to start a conversation. Which is, to your point, if you want to tell a story. If you want to generate curiosity and suspense. We want to have people excited. We want them to be interested. We want them to be ready. We want them to ask the right questions, meet the right people and go through the demonstrations, conversations, meetings– otherwise those engagement opportunities you have at an event and get them ready for that. Not just knowing that they’re going to walk through the door, which, again, is what I think most people do. They try to confirm that you’ll be there. They don’t go the extra step to ask you some questions about your personal preferences. They don’t start to have a conversation with you, unless you’re super active on social media and they can find you easily. We’ll talk about that later on how that usually falls on deaf ears of the event organizer, and rests within the Hootsuite of the social strategist. I think the days when someone has committed to making the investment, and it is an investment even if you gave them a free ticket, even if you paid for their travel to attend your events. They are investing their time, and they’re investing their attention whenever they’re going to come spend the days of the week with you when they do that. You have a responsibility to tell a story that has them intrigued. I used the word suspense earlier. To be suspenseful. Expecting them to have something pay off when they’re there at the event. Give them a reason to come shake hands with you. To actually engage in a conversation with you, not just keep a seat warm and watch people on stages. I think it’s probably the biggest gap or missed opportunity by companies today in understanding there certainly should be more than just transaction form filled bread crumbs that exist before an event that says who’s going to show up to the event. When there should be more focus and more effort put toward understanding what makes people tick, and how can we speak to their interests before, during and after an event.
Listen to the whole interview here:
About Tim Hayden, VP Marketing, Zignal Labs
Tim Hayden has more than 15 years experience in leading high growth technology firms, marketing agencies and business strategies for many Fortune 50 brands. Before Zignal Labs, he led marketing technology and process improvement programs for clients of TTH Strategy, a consultancy Tim founded. Also having led the Mobile program for Edelman Digital in North America, he has been a founding member of agencies and technology ventures (NION Interactive, GamePlan, Captix) and a catalyst for innovative change in some of the world’s leading brands (CafePress, Dell, Bacardi, AMD,ExxonMobil, Hilton Worldwide, Kraft Foods, BrandTrust, Edison Research and others). Tim also serves on the advisory boards of Rivet Works, Wonder Technologies and Captix. He is also the co-author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution (QUE Biz Tech, October 2014).