Event marketing remains a powerful tool, with increasing number of marketers choosing direct contact as the most effective method when it comes to audience interaction. Yet the IPA Bellwether Report – 2018 Q3 published last month, demonstrates a decline in event marketing budgets for the first time since 2013. Speculation as to what has caused this decline remains varied. And while the long-term outlook seems positive, the current squeeze in budgets makes it even more important to see a good return on your marketing efforts.
And one of the easiest ways of doing this? Focus on attendee retention. Convincing your event attendees to come back and attend your next event is key to successful long-term event marketing. Without achieving this, more of your budget is going to be spent on promotional activities, and you’ll have even less to spend on the event itself.
With this in mind, have a look below at some ideas that can help you deliver the kind of engaging, memorable event experiences that will truly excite your attendees and keep them coming back for more:
1) Make the Right First Impression
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so you need to try to generate the right response from the offset of your attendees’ event experience. The opportunity to make your mark begins with pre-event promotions leading to the event website and the online registration process.
Once you have successfully set the tone be sure to maintain that high level impact with your attendees as soon as they step foot into your venue. This is where design really does matter and it includes everything from the way an exhibition stand looks, to the lighting, sound effects and the graphics you use. As an example, LinkedIn created an Ice Cave theme for a recent Talent Connect conference. Not only were custom exhibition stands used, the entire event was based around this theme, meaning the walls, floor and ceiling resembled ice, and the drinks served were icy too.
Ultimately, a person’s surroundings go a long way towards influencing how they feel about an event. To convince them to come back, you want to provide attendees with a memorable experience that stands out from all the other experiences they pay for. Something which also allows them to form a long-term connection with your brand.
2) Create a Sense of Exclusivity
Another extremely successful technique for keeping attendees coming back is to create a sense of exclusivity around your event. If you can build a sense that the event is special and that those attending are experiencing a unique opportunity, then they are likely to feel valued, which makes them even more likely to return next time.
“Secrets have always attracted people,” explains Juraj Holub, in an article written for the website of the event company, Slido. “The hush-hush instructions and the unique, undisclosed locations intensify people’s curiosity. The venue is usually revealed shortly before the event starts, to heighten the expectations.”
Exclusivity does not necessarily need to imply secrecy. You can also create a sense of exclusivity by hosting your event in a particularly sought-after location. Or by creating a sense of urgency related to acquiring tickets. Or devising an interesting and personalised registration process – or simply offering discounts to those who have attended your events in the past.
3) Use Technology Effectively
Achieving high levels of attendee retention also relies upon you providing them with something they cannot easily get elsewhere, which is why clever use of technology is important. What kind of tech you use will depend on various things, including the nature of your business, the theme of your event and your objectives.
Nevertheless, there is an abundance of exciting technology, that can engage people and make them feel more inclined to come back in the future. This includes things like event apps or more new tech like virtual reality headsets, which are still not completely commonplace as home entertainment products but are steadily gaining ground – along with augmented reality and 3D printing.
Beacon technology is another interesting technology that can be used to target specific offers or promotional content to attendees’ phones, making their event experience a lot more relevant and personalised. Meanwhile, data collection and social media can be used to engage with attendees after the event, prior to your next one, so that you stay fresh in their minds.
4) Put Feedback into Action
It is common practice for an event company to ask for feedback from attendees after the event, and this feedback can be extremely useful, but optimising attendee retention relies on those attendees genuinely feeling that their feedback will be listened to, understood and acted upon. For this reason, it is essential to take real action.
A great technique here is to ask for attendees to put themselves in your shoes. Ask them outright: “If you were us, what would you do differently next time?” Not only will this provide you with valuable feedback, you will present attendees with a sense that they are in control of the event, which will make them much more willing to come back.
“You can go as far as committing to implement the most voted,” says Julius Solaris, writing for the Event Manager Blog. “Such process makes attendees [feel] attached to your brand [and] skyrockets the chance they will purchase a ticket for next year. Your online suggestion box can also be implemented via email.”
Successful event marketing is about providing attendees with positive, memorable experiences, which they can link to your brand. The most successful event marketing strategies not only do this well but they also succeed in generating high levels of repeat attendance.
It’s important to remember, however, that actually building attendee retention levels requires careful planning. Everything from your event invitations and websites to the exhibition stand or booth designs, to the food you serve and the technology you use – all of these can play a critical role in how your attendees feel. To convince them to return, you need to provide them with experiences they cannot easily replicate, make attendance seem special, and make them feel included in your future event planning.
About the Author: Reno Macri is a founder and director of a leading exhibition and event company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in event branding, event production, exhibition stand design, exhibition services in UK and much more. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.
Want to become a tech-savvy event marketer? Learn from industry experts and get the insight you need to deliver successful events by signing up to our weekly Event Tech Talk Newsletter here!