In my opinion, SXSW is the gold standard when it comes to events. It’s the perfect combination of pop culture, innovation, and inspiration that attracts thousands of movers and shakers from across the country and around the world in marketing, tech, music and film. Here are four of the many applicable event-marketing lessons that I learned from my experience this year…
1. Don’t let your CTA rule your message.
What?! Blasphemy! How will people know that we want them to register and attend? With some artful persuasion and a focus on the top of the funnel—that’s how. Conversions don’t happen by shouting demands (or begging or pleading), and the emphasis we’re placing on the call to action is to the detriment of our event brand. We’re so hyper-focused on last-click attribution that we’re forgetting about the 60 percent of marketing that comes before.
Your prospects will naturally want to register and attend once you have provided them with a clear purpose and value. As marketers, we need to guide them to the conversion. Tell the brand story behind your event; develop content that’s entertaining, inspiring and directly speaks to your audience. The key to attendee acquisition is not just putting a show name, features and a “REGISTER TODAY!” message in front of your prospects, but getting them interested by providing relevant information, understanding their likes and dislikes and showing them why they want to attend. Once you unlock your brand’s purpose and pull back on the harsh sell, action will follow.
2. Focus on mobile.
But please don’t retarget your users to death. Frequency is good, but not if you’re serving your audience the same creative over and over. Lose the same old formula of brand name, trite business cliché and CTA and replace it with the reason “why.” Get creative with digital by using your ads to tell prospects your brand story and purpose and to differentiate your event in a clear, simple and engaging way. There are so many brands moving toward video ads to drive digital conversions. If you leverage those first 3-5 seconds of video, your viewers will have a reason to continue watching, which will provide you (and them!) with a fresh perspective and a creative touch.
3. Sharing is caring.
Let’s face it, with the digitization of just about everything, we share just about everything, from our likes and dislikes to our weekend plans and five-year goals. This new age of sharing has given marketers a power of personalization that we haven’t always had. A reported 65 percent of consumers are more likely to buy if they are recognized, remembered and receive relevant recommendations. So what are you waiting for? Give your attendees what they want with an experience that reflects their preferences, passions and needs from the first pre-show email to the last post-show email. SXSW was on top of the personalization game with a pre-show email, including recommended sessions based on attendees’ preferences and selections through the event app.
4. Do gooder, be cooler.
Being cool isn’t about your fashion, music and social preferences. It’s about how you use those to better the world around you. There has been a shift in culture to focus more on the meaning behind the brand you are wearing, the musician you like, the people you surround yourself with and even the food choices you make. So how can you use the cultural shift to your event’s advantage? By providing attendees with a meaningful opportunity. Today’s attendees want to make a social impact, to do something good that’s worth sharing on their social profiles. They want to take action, spread the word, get reactions. Give them an opportunity to do so and they will arrive eager to get their hands on whatever you’re offering. Here’s a tip: Use this opportunity as a chance to extend the creativity of your brand! Let’s get attendees excited with some non-aggressively branded apparel, where a portion of the proceeds goes to a relevant charity. Give them a reason to use Snapchat and Instagram, share an update via Facebook Live or tweet something visually appealing like a graphic structure built by attendees with their recyclable items. Whatever you do, just think outside the box and inside your brand, while looking at the bigger picture of doing good and having a lasting impact.