The Power of Vulnerability in Event Marketing

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A couple of weeks ago I was watching a famous quarterback getting interviewed on stage at a technology conference. And I noticed that everyone around me was on their phones.

Then he said, “You know this year I turned 40 years old. And I realize I won’t be doing this forever.” Everyone looked up. Trying to see the fear on his face that we could hear in his words. Why did this statement cause everyone to stop texting? Vulnerability!

Event marketing in the digital age is almost unrecognizable from its humble beginnings. While conferences and trade shows are still just as important as ever, they look completely different than the stuffy corporate events of the past. Marketers now have a whole world of opportunity that’s opened up in the form of social media, email marketing, video marketing, webinars, and more.

Event marketing in 2019 is driven by technology, making it easier and more efficient than ever before to deal with event planning, management, communication, and post-event follow up, as well as the event itself. In fact, your event could be completely digital in the form of a webinar or online conference, meaning that you won’t see your customers “in person” at all.

While all this technology can make marketers’ jobs simpler, it’s easy to lose the personal touch that comes with directly communicating with your prospects. Partly as a push-back against this “rise of the machines” in data-driven marketing, we’re also seeing an increased demand for authenticity and transparency.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Honesty and authenticity in marketing are more important than ever before.
  • Several brands have had event marketing success by being 100% honest about their marketing tactics, results, and failures.
  • Value and respect your audience and they will give you custom and loyalty in return.

Why Event Marketing Is Still Important

With a million and one ways to reach prospects in today’s digital marketing landscape, event marketing is still effective. In fact, companies are now organizing more events than ever before, and most marketers believe that event-marketing is the single most effective marketing channel they can invest in.

While organizing a physical event can be an expensive endeavor (digital events are much more cost-effective to produce), the fact that so many businesses are investing in them proves that they still offer an impressive ROI.

Unlike other forms of marketing, event marketing gives you the opportunity to connect with a captive and interested audience on a more personal level.

People attend events to educate themselves, but also for the opportunity to network and build relationships with others. This very human need can simply not be fulfilled by any other type of marketing. Even in digital events, virtual and augmented reality make it possible for individuals to connect with others from all over the world.

How Marketers Are Using Digital Media to Demonstrate Authenticity

In 2017, Social Media Examiner founder Michael Stelzner launched an episodic video documentary — The Journey — following the run-up to the annual Social Media Marketing World conference and his attempt to grow ticket sales by over 50%.

The video series offered not only an interesting behind-the-scenes peek into the day-to-day activities at the world’s largest social media marketing resource, but also a transparent no-holds-barred insight into the process of marketing the event.

Of course, the audience that found the content of the videos interesting was the very audience that Stelzner was trying to reach. There are no doubts that the documentary itself helped to increase sales through raising awareness and building relationships, probably more than the marketing activities that were documented.

Stelzner was inspired by marketer Gary Vaynerchuk’s candid “DailyVee” video series, which was highly effective at building the GaryVee brand and catapulting the marketing and social media expert to almost superstar levels (the channel now boasts almost two million subscribers).

As Stelzner pointed out, people are more likely to buy from those they “know, like, and trust”, and his aim with the video series was to help people get to know him better, rather than just as the faceless CEO of a media company.

Rather than taking the approach of hiding marketing tricks that marketers use to try and get people to buy, Social Media Examiner was 100% transparent in its marketing approach, including how they encouraged followers to buy through “fear of missing out“, how they identified and targeted their top leads, how they use emotions to sell, and even what happened when things went terribly wrong in their marketing journey.

How to Be More Transparent in Your Event Marketing Approach

We don’t all have the resources to make our own reality TV show, but there are lessons you can take from the success of The Journey to use in your own approach to event marketing.

Value People Over Data

While the vast amount of data being collected online has made it possible for marketers to create more targeted campaigns and measure success more accurately, data-driven automated campaigns are no substitute for actually talking to your prospects face-to-face.

image source: https://www.salesforce.com/ca/blog/2015/08/psychology-of-trust-in-marketing.html

Don’t lose sight of the fact that your customers are actual people and not just numbers in a database. Take the time to contact them directly, ask them about their needs and ideas, and foster relationships, treating each prospect as an individual.

Think Authentic Over Polished

You’ve probably noticed some of the backlash against edited picture-perfect representations on social media and other forms of marketing. More businesses are starting to understand that consumers are no longer taken in by the lure of flashy advertising.

Authenticity is the key — as proven with the growing popularity of Instagram stories, live video on Facebook and Youtube, and other unedited experiences.

Rather than aiming for perfection, be honest with your audience and think about how you can provide them real value rather than a visually impressive experience that lacks substance.

Avoid Sleazy Sales Tactics

“Buy now! Only 7 tickets remaining!”

“50% discount ends in 12 hours!”

We’ve all seen these sneaky sales tricks that play on our emotions. Most people have become completely desensitized to them. If you bend the truth just to make a quick sale, how can you expect your customers and followers to trust you in the future?

Treat your audience with respect and be transparent in your marketing approach and you’ll be rewarded with better customer relationships, a more loyal following, and the reputation as a truly authentic and trustworthy brand.

Be Honest About Your Mistakes

We all make mistakes — some of the world’s biggest brands have made some shockers, but the difference between a disastrous mistake and one that you can learn from is holding your hand up and admitting you made an error.

If you make promises you can’t keep about an event line-up, own up, apologize, and explain what you’re doing to make up for it (you definitely don’t want to be the next Fyre Festival). If you send an email out to the wrong list, don’t just pretend it didn’t happen. If you realize you’ve priced your products or services too low, don’t just quietly increase them and hope nobody notices — explain your error in judgment and you’ll be more respected as a result.

Transparency is definitely one of the biggest trends in marketing for 2019. Unlike other trends, it’s one that’s likely to be around for the long haul. If you’re not already being 100% honest and transparent in all aspects of marketing and business, it may be time to re-think your strategy.

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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