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April 4, 2008

Declan Gane: Make time to market events

At the very top of every marketing manager’s ‘To Do’ list right now is engaging the customer, interaction, experiential and delivering a ‘brand experience’. Live event marketing, as we in the industry know, does all of the above and more in buckets.

Now, we tell our customers this, and potential exhibitors on our databases, and our competitors’ clients, and the trade media, and just about anyone within our own vertical show sectors who hasn’t ‘opted out’. However, there is a big wide world just out there, full of sneaky other channels and routes to market that, very underhandedly, promote themselves as alternatives, and compete for the spend that could, should or might come the way of events.

Spreading the word

My role working part-time with the Events Industry Alliance is to spread the good news about event marketing so that exhibition industry sales execs earn more commission, executive directors take home more from their profit share, managing directors increase their share options and shareholders pocket bigger dividends – no pressure then!

We are an insular little sector, but right now, people – and by that I mean marketers that need to engage with their audiences – want to hear more about what we do and how we can help them sell more widgets. The more savvy, forward thinking and pro-active marketers, the very ones that would be open minded to event marketing and the same ones that your sales guys want to talk to, read Marketing, Marketing Week, B2B Marketing. They get email news and have RSS feeds from Brand Strategy, Campaign and will relax with a copy of The Media Guardian, Sunday Times and the FT. The medium of events unfortunately doesn’t get much coverage in these most auspicious of organs.

Shout about brand experience
Having spoken with editors and journalists from these media targets, it turns out that they do actually like events. They think they are sexy and exciting, but no one bothers to tell them about them in a way that will engage (that word again) their readers. They rarely find our latest industry stats very interesting, our SIC code and lobbying might get a line, but it’s not going to secure a leader or cover story.

They want news on brands. Brands’ success through event marketing is our route to greater coverage, which will feed the impetus currently among marketers towards participating in events – all the research shows it. Regular reading and learning from brand-led case study stories will influence their thinking.

Marketer’s dream
Right now our medium rates extremely highly in the UK's social/cultural psyche. You only have to look at this summer’s YouGov survey results that placed Event Organiser in the nation’s top five dream jobs, behind the mostly unattainable best-selling author, astronaut and the likes. It is a powerful message for brands – in a distrusting society, why not utilise the medium that's already up there and held in such high regard? My challenge is to supply the happy ending to our events story. With every marketing tool in our locker, we lack the killer punch, the knockout blow.

Engaging with your exhibitors, sponsors and partners to develop good meaningful case studies provides a win, win, win situation.

Win 1 – Organisers get a case study to use to sell others in to the show next time round
Win 2 – The event, organiser and the exhibitor, sponsor or partner potentially gains additional exposure in some serious media
Win 3 – Marketers are subliminally bombarded with good news stories on successful event marketing

Generating case study stories is hard work – I know I’ve done it, but it’s not rocket science and is hugely beneficial. I ask organisers particularly, to pull their collective fingers out. Work with the great brands that you have relationships with and capitalise on their success to drive your own sales. Offer the brands, and yourselves, this additional exposure opportunity and work with them to realise it. Then deliver the EIA one, only one, solid success story so I can work for you to push your news to the wanting press.

It’s time to make time for marketing events…

Declan Gane is a freelance marketing and PR consultant employed by the EIA.
He was head of marketing at Montgomery for five years, and before that with Trades Exhibitions, GeoLogistics, P&O Exhibitions and Schenker.

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