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Think experience design, not event planning when it comes to event marketing

Think experience design, not event planning when it comes to event marketing

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A recent report found that across the board, nearly one in two business-to-business (B2B) leaders surveyed say the chief marketing officer (CMO) now has a more direct impact in driving revenue and growth. In fact, the APAC region saw the most significant uptick in the importance that organisations now accord to CMOs, and by extension, the marketing function. For marketing teams, this means they are under increasing pressure to prioritise return-on-investment (ROI) and deliver results to the bottom line. Event marketers in particular face a more uphill battle as events often require a higher budget to plan and execute compared to other marketing channels.

Yet, events remain a critical channel of any marketer’s toolkit.

The trick to truly maximising events ROI is to zero in on the customer experience and ensure every customer touchpoint, be it online or offline, is effectively utilised for engagement, connection, and most crucially - conversion. Here’s how marketers can keep customer experience top of mind at every stage of an event’s life cycle:

Experience starts well before the event

Hybrid events, in-person events, and virtual experiences all have a place in the modern event landscape. However, what underpins the success of events, no matter the format, is giving customers the flexibility of choice that takes into consideration their needs, situations, and preferences. For example, some organisations have taken to cutting travel budgets as part of austerity measures. Offering the option to attend virtually could make events more attractive for this group of customers. Ultimately, building a superior customer event experience starts before the customer “enter” the room, whether that’s a physical event hall or a virtual room.

Marketers are slowly recognising this too: a Morning Consult study found that 91% of event marketers globally believe hybrid events play an essential role in future event planning. Brands need to arm themselves with the capabilities required to provide a seamless, one-stop event experience that is consistent - from web, mobile, and face-to-face interaction, to wherever their customers are.

Innovate to bring the best of in-person and virtual experiences together

Getting customers into the room is only half the battle won; it is equally crucial to keep them engaged throughout the event for eventual lead generation. Hybrid events have an inherent advantage as they allow brands to extend their reach to a virtual audience. This is especially important in a diverse region like APAC, where not everyone has the time or resources to attend an event in person.

What makes an event great, however, is the ability to marry the virtual and physical aspects of an event seamlessly to ensure that both remote and in-person attendees feel equally engaged with each other and the content presented.

The same Morning Consult survey found that 61% of marketers believe the interaction between virtual and in-person attendees is the greatest benefit of hybrid events. While in-person networking has been a mainstay of marketing events, networking with someone behind a screen does not come naturally. Brands need to proactively provide virtual attendees with the same opportunities to connect. This could be through virtual breakout sessions or expo floors that mimic the same level of intimate engagement as they would have in person, or having live audiences participate in online chats that facilitate interaction between both groups of attendees.

Technology makes all the difference

To make this possible, marketers must invest in a communications platform that is equipped to handle the entire lifecycle of event management, from pre-event registration to event engagement and post-event lead generation. The benefits of an all-in-one platform in maximising ROI are two-fold.

Firstly, marketers can give customers the choice to attend events in their preferred modality, while driving up cost efficiency through consolidating their marketing channels into a single platform. Built-in generative artificial intelligence (AI) features can also assist with preparing event invitations, sessions, and event lobby chats, making event preparation and live event support so much easier - and more cost-effective.

Secondly, the data collected throughout an event can be used to assess the performance of an event, identifying peaks and troughs of customer engagement to be used as key learnings for future events.

Data analytics within an event platform, for example, give brands access to dashboards that capture key metrics and generate reports. Specific data points can show precisely where customers tend to drop off during a virtual event. This means that marketers no longer have to guess ROI outcomes or attendee engagement because transparent analytics tools do the hard work. This empowers planners to make evidence-based decisions on where to direct their investments that can improve the customer experience at every touchpoint.

As the modern events landscape continues to evolve, so will the complexity and variety of customer engagement points. The good news is that the tools at marketers’ disposal have also significantly improved. From data analytics to AI, marketers are well-positioned to push beyond the traditional realms of event planning. To ensure marketing efforts lend into an organisation’s bottom line, marketers now need to think beyond their role of event planners, but rather, see themselves as “experience designers”.

This article was written by Amy Gates, head of Zoom events, APJ.

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