In recent years, the remit of the conference or exhibition marketer has expanded – mostly to cover more strategically critical areas of an event’s value proposition.
The marketer’s role is no longer limited to planning and delivering a pre-event campaign to get ‘bums on seats’. It extends to how customers experience the event itself – i.e. the ‘brand experience’, or more often called the ‘customer experience’.
Don’t let marketers be excluded from customer experience decisions
Marketers often have a deep understanding of an event’s brand and the value it delivers to customers. However, when it comes to event design, they are not always at the decision-making table. So, it often happens that customers experience an inconsistent brand message across the full event’s design, product development, marketing and delivery cycle.
This can take the form of speakers being booked because they are high-profile and attract attention, even if their expertise or profile is inconsistent with a brand’s positioning. Or, it can be as simple as delegates’ information packs lacking correct visual branding.
Any approach which leaves marketers outside the planning and decision-making process about event design and customer experience should be confined to history.
Marketers need to see things differently to achieve strong brand positioning
A good marketer must have a deep understanding of how a strong brand position needs to be developed and embedded in every aspect of an event and should champion this strategy. This ensures all internal event stakeholders are working to a consistent branding strategy when working on event features and when engaging with external stakeholders like speakers, sponsors and delegates.
A good marketer will also challenge the business and event team if an event brand doesn’t include a compelling unique selling point or very strongly differentiated proposition versus competitors, or if the positioning is not consistent across all channels and touch-points – the most crucial of which is the ‘at-event’ experience.
Marketers need to ensure brand consistency for brand loyalty
Marketers should take on board the responsibility to step inside the customers’ shoes. What does the customer expect from your brand, based on what has been promised? How is the customer understanding and absorbing the brand’s positioning and messaging via every interaction?
A customer’s ‘event consumption’ and ‘at event experience’ should feel completely consistent with the marketing campaign that attracted them in the first place. From the customer service interaction in making a booking and paying an invoice, to signage that directs the customer to the check-in desk, to the physical passes they are given as they sign in, to the look and feel of the event space – the brand must be consistent.
Similarly, when multiple events run off a parent brand, the experience should be consistent and therefore lead to a positive impact of delegates attending multiple events and increasing the loyalty to the brand as a whole.
Marketers must measure success to be masters of event brand experience
As it’s so emotion-based, customer experience and brand perception are often difficult to measure – but that doesn’t mean it should not be measured!
It is essential to understand how your event brand is being experienced and if it is living up to its promise. Marketers must pay attention to the following metrics and measurement methods:
- Customer retention – are event customers coming back year after year?
- Are we conducting ‘at-event’ customer surveys?
- Are we doing in-depth post-event customer research?
- Are we paying attention to social media engagement and sentiment?
For marketers to confidently and meaningfully take on a more strategic role they need to ask for and embrace the responsibility of managing event brands.
As Jeff Bezos, the famous founder of Amazon once said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. It is up to marketers to know what those ‘other people’ (the customers!) are saying and ensure the business takes notice too!