Why be at the mercy of events when you can put them at the core of a well-defined content marketing plan?
Corporate events. A logistical headache for many, they can inject a sense of fear into any planner’s workload. The view of corporate events is too often defined by the significant expense, complex venue requirements and unsocial hours required by staff in trying to impress those customers who pay your bills.
C-suite stakeholders are a tough nut to crack when you’re trying to justify such a programme of administrative heavy-lifting to reach out to your clients. But when viewed through the lens of a strategic content marketing plan, events are absolutely the gold standard of strategic content marketing.
The push to digitise and automate the marketing process has great advantages – but to make it work you need to combine that benefits of rich data with something so much more valuable to customer relationships: the power of human interaction.
So here’s a set of strategic essentials to ensure you can take control of events and create a story that you’re able to promote with genuine impact on your customers.
1. Kick-start your conversation well before the event
First off, it’s important to create the advance ‘story’ that gives you a reason to meet in an event setting. Set the scene by focusing on the biggest thought leadership issues within your sector or industry. Are they exciting or even controversial enough to warrant customer engagement by your client-facing staff? If so, now is the time to build a buzz around those issues. You’re the experts in your field so why not shout about it?
2. Don’t just save the date. Get them to crave the date
Your next two moves are crucial. Craft your most burning issues into the kind of hot topic that will leave customers and prospects in little doubt that they need to participate for the good of their business. And if you have a well-functioning CRM strategy, you will then be able to target both your most established high-value customers and your warmest leads with a proposition they’ll find hard to resist.
3. Identify your crowd-pullers
Choose your spokespeople carefully. As a business, you’ll no doubt have a vast array of expertise to impart at the event. But there’s a fine line between providing helpful, valuable insight to delegates and presenting a route-one corporate view that ultimately fails to engage and inspire the audience. Why not therefore create structure and nuance to the debate with third-party industry commentators or recognised peer companies who can provide their take on the issues?
They may not even be from your organisation – but if they have a strong message to contribute, you will have ensured that they’re speaking in association with your brand and on your turf.
4. It’s all about the exchange of ideas
Once the event is up and running, you’re now at the heart of what could make your story take on a life of its own. The delegates who have chosen to turn up will be fully aware of the issues arising out of your pre-event marketing activity – and they will expect this event to be a very good reason to have given up their time back at base.
You will need to achieve this through smart, interactive structuring of your programme. The booking of one well-known and inspirational keynote speaker might help drive delegate attendance, but your core content opportunities will come from audience discussion, break-out sessions, live polling and exercises rather than a series of ‘lectures’.
Most importantly, somebody needs to be getting all this down – for example in the can using a film crew if budget allows, or in words using professional writers who are tasked with covering all sessions.
5. What did we all learn here today?
One of the best things that could happen by the end of the event is that the original theme has taken a different turn. If it has run well and delegates have shown a willingness to participate, you will be the curators of large quantities of owned content – opinion; independent reaction; polls; fresh insight; commentary from industry, business and experts.
The buzz that was created around the build-up to your event has now moved up several levels and it all effectively happened under your roof. So what are you going to do about it?
6. Spread the word, and quickly
In the short-term, post-event customer relationships and discussions will be significantly richer and valuable to both sides. Beyond the core themes you targeted at the beginning of the process, your content marketing strategy can now trigger a fresh cycle of conversation with engaged customers. This is why it’s important to seize the moment with a follow-up content plan. That way, the longer term will take care of itself.
Remember all those customers that you invited but couldn’t make it? You can start the CRM process again with a new take on your industry issues that will be the ideal way to pull them in to your next event.