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February 24, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: Effectively Marketing Your Event

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marketing strategy
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Marketing plays an integral role in a business event’s success. Not only does it attract exhibitors, buyers and visitors, but it also informs its audience of its value, new trends and cycles the industry is going through. A strong, well-thought-out strategy is essential for any marketer, and this is woven into the fabric of an event’s planning process. In fact, marketing an event begins as a branding exercise. “Choosing the right venue, the right entertainment, valuable content and having the right partners will ensure a successful event,” says Projeni Pather, Managing Director at Exposure Marketing. “Ensure that all of these elements match your overall brand strategy. Your event is not just an event; you are creating a brand that needs to resonate with your audience for years to come.”

According to Dianne Bussell, Head of Marketing at Hypenica Event Marketing, comprehensive research should be the second item on your list. “This research should include market trends, industry developments, political factors and regulations, past event analysis, competitor events, upcoming holidays, religious festivals and climate considerations,” she says. Understanding the target audience, as well as what makes your event different to others on the market is also important. From there, clearly measurable financial and non-financial goals need to be set, and a schedule outline and timeline needs to be created before launching a marketing plan. 

Projeni adds that if your initial plan doesn’t work, Plan B should already be in place. “Knowing how you are going to downscale your event for a smaller audience but still have an impact is important as it will determine your comeback in the year after,” she says, adding that if you need to cancel an event, do it early enough and be transparent with the partners who have already bought into your concept. 

Navigating the Digital Realm

It’s become widely accepted that the digital world plays an ever-increasing role in marketing strategies. For instance, invitations are sent via email, RVSPs are done through links and software. Sites are smartphone-responsive and even planning is done using apps, reminders and electronic information updates. According to Leatitia van Straten of Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery one should “use digital platforms to get your audience together where they can make use of all their senses, network, have fun, learn and experience face to face. Social platforms are there to assist in outbound marketing, delivering instant messages to large but targeted audiences at the click of a button. However, they are also handy at managing inbound enquiries and leads, or managing your show’s reputation.” 

Janet Gericke, Organiser of The Wedding Expo, advises that if the resources to manage a social community are not available, activity should be limited to where the majority of your audience is. “Just because it exists doesn’t mean you have to be on it, but you must be where your audience is.” She says flexibility is important as there are no absolutes in this space. “Things change so quickly, that part of playing in the digital world means researching, reading and keeping up to date with how things work.” 

“Companies can get very creative in utilising every part of the event planning, preparation, and exhibiting process as digital marketing gold that engages with their customers online before they’ve even stepped foot into the exhibition,” Tharien Padayachee, Group Marketing Manager Reed Exhibitions, adds. 

Venues as Event Marketers

Venues can be a huge help in spreading the word. Many – especially larger venues – have a dedicated marketing team working in this sector as an event’s success weighs heavily on a venue’s ability to deliver on the event organiser’s plans. “You need effective communication leading up to the event. This involves a targeted marketing campaign that reaches the intended audience and lets them know exactly what the event involves, the time and place and where they can get tickets,” explains Tracy Malebana, Marketing and Communications Executive at Expo Centre. “The other important element is your location. Is the venue accessible? Will it serve the needs of the event and its audience?” She adds that the most important element is having a team of reliable and professional suppliers and service providers. “These are the people who form the backbone of the event.”

Association Bodies as Marketing Support

Industry bodies and associations can be a huge help in obtaining marketing support for an event. This can be done in a variety of ways, including partnering with the organisation, collaborating with them on certain elements of the programme, or using them as a way to reach your audience. According to Carol Weaving, Chairperson at the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), detailed planning, research and measurability are the main elements needed in a good marketing plan. “AAXO is dedicated to promoting our members’ exhibitions locally and globally with specific focus on ensuring greater participation by both the private and public sector,” Weaving says. This holistic approach increases the sellable space of members’ shows and benefits venues and suppliers in the process. Some of the ways in which local associations assist event marketers is through promoting them in the media, online, and globally through the dti or convention bureaux. 

Case Study: Food & Hospitality Africa

Strategically combining two events of similar audience and calibre is a trend that continues to flourish. Food and Hospitality Africa has done a great job of working with Hostex, and won the AAXO Award for Best Trade Exhibition in its size category of 1 - 6000m2. Nick Sarnadas, Event Director at Food and Hospitality Africa, explains that maintaining a level of work ethic and attention to detail is one of the standards across all their shows, with each team member being integral to their success. 

Report Findings

Because the event was well planned, this has become its biggest marketing tool for attracting return visitors. “From a strategic perspective,” says Nick, “we take very seriously the message of the show, the under-lying theme, history and personality of the show and how best to communicate this across various channels and media successfully.”

The Main Marketing Mix

The role of delivering value to exhibitors is critical in the execution of the event, and this naturally becomes a focus in your marketing message. An understanding of all moving parts is key, and keeping track of major marketing ‘crucibles’ should be the spine of your plan. “Every detail linked to those crucibles forms the vertebrae, the nervous system, etc.; …Every aspect of the show has an objective and a very clear plan on how to achieve those objectives.”

Marketing Through Lumi’s Event App

At Meetings Africa this year, Lumi Insights was once again official technology partner. A global leader in real-time audience engagement technology, Lumi Show offers delegates an original way in which to interact through their event app. New features included allowing exhibitors to upload their brochures to the app, with visitors to their stand able to unlock these documents with a unique pin. “We are also able to bring together like-minded people based on their answers to a set of questions in the app. This will allow for a shortlist of individuals with the same interests – or across the same sectors – that can then network together for extra exposure,” says Danie Greyling, MD at Lumi. Other features include searchable attendee lists, instant polling, surveys and attendee-to-attendee messaging, while Lumi Say was used for café-style matchmaking sessions between suppliers and potential clients.


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