Since the 1960s, companies have relied on Jerome McCarthy’s concept of the four Ps—product, price, promotion, place—to drive their marketing strategies. Scott Schenker, Microsoft’s general manager of worldwide events, has tweaked the concept to address the unique needs of marketing for face-to-face events. During a Webinar Wednesday hosted by BizBash and Eventbrite, Schenker outlined the elements that can help a planner ensure an event’s strategy, design, and execution support the host’s marketing objectives. “These are not individual things that operate in a vacuum,” he said. “They are levers that can be used to distinguish and differentiate the event experience from other events and other experiences.”
Whether your event is a large trade show or a nonprofit gala, your brand’s identity should be apparent to guests as soon as they walk in the door. This can be accomplished with signage, a uniform color scheme, and decor elements. “We have found recently that these window clings are a very small, very simple undertaking and can have a significant impact on sense of place,” Schenker said. “People feel that they are walking into a Microsoft building in which an event is taking place, and that’s very much the sense of place you want to provide.” Depending on the needs of your audience, creating a sense of place may also mean carving our dedicated spaces within your event for small meetings, executive sessions, or information sharing. Online events also need a distinct design that aligns with the brand and event.
The strategic goals of the event should be clear and understandable to everyone. Is it primarily for lead generation, brand awareness, sales, or something else? It also means understanding that the audience will have different purposes at the beginning, middle, and end of your event. “Changing the environment and messaging to reflect that stage of their purpose makes people feel you really are connected to what matters to them,” Schenker said. “You are being relevant to their place and their purpose, and you are being relevant to things that matter to them, and that furthers the sense this was a valuable thing for them to do.”
Schenker likened pride to the concept of curb appeal in real estate, and it is communicated to your attendees in everything at the event, from the cleanliness of the venue to the attitude of staff to how the host responds to complaints on social media. By conveying a sense of pride, the host strengthens both the event’s place and purpose and validates the attendee’s investment of time and money. Hosts can tap into their attendees' pride by creating opportunities where they can take photos and share them on social networks or by offering buttons and ribbons that allow them to identify their purpose for attending. “The pride that your attendees show can add very much to the pride of the show as a whole,” Schenker said.
“This is very much a society of … referral and social, and people are much more likely to consider or try or buy something because their friend, colleagues, or associates did,” Schenker said. Microsoft incorporates this concept of cross-promotion by providing Xbox gaming stations at some of its events. “We found exhibitors challenging attendees to a game on the Xbox as a way of breaking the ice or furthering the conversation,” he said. Planners can also create cross-promotion opportunities with sponsors and vendors. For events with educational sessions, cross-promotion can be incorporated into follow-up with attendees. “So if you give feedback on a session that’s positive feedback, what’s our cross-promotion opportunity to engage you further?“ he asked. “If you gave negative feedback, what is our cross-promotion opportunity to take you to the next step or maybe address that issue?”