Event Marketing Requires Research, Cooperation and Playing to Emotion

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Florence Torres, group show director, Penton, believes event marketing should be a team effort between departments. "One of our mistakes early on was to not listen more to editorial feedback. The historical knowledge of our audience and readership is important." Involve the staff that deals with your audience on a weekly basis—sales, customer service, writers. And listen.

Many of us have events that we're planning for the fall. SIPA has a Publishers Roundtable Sept. 14 here in Washington, D.C., a Best Practices Series eventNew Marketing and Sales Strategies for Customer Acquisition—in San Francisco, Oct. 14, and our third Business & Media Information Summit (BIMS) in Fort Lauderdale, Nov. 14-16.

That's a lot of marketing. So here are six tips to keep your marketing fresh.

1. Think twice before you discount. Access Intelligence VP Dan Hanover doesn't like conference brochures at all, and he's not big on discounts. "Stop leading with the discount—$200 off is not the road to go," he said. "Use shorter discounts over a smaller amount of time." Hanover also wants you to flip the motivation. Instead of "Last chance to save $200," he strongly prefers "Prices will go up $200 tomorrow." "The fear of paying more works better than the benefit of saving."

2. When marketing events, play to emotions and don't undervalue. "It's the emotional element that we play up," said Bill Springer, group vice president, Diversified Communications. "These are people who work with payables and receivables, so they're not very famous—but we would grind to a halt without them. Attending a big event lifts their self-esteem. I thought $2000 to go was expensive, but it's a place for them to feel a part of something bigger."

3. Research your audience. Copywriter Bob Bly gave us the example of a group trying to sell a communications workshop to IT professionals. The initial effort, with the headline, Interpersonal Skills for IT, fell flat. "What beliefs, desires and feelings do they have?" Bly asked. "They're smarter. IT is a most important technology. They're constantly adding new programming language, new skillsets, and they also want to be respected... There's an adversarial feeling with the users who don't know what they want and can't explain it." So they did a Beliefs, Desires, Feelings (BDF) analysis and decided to write about that adversarial feeling with this lead: "Important news for every systems professional who has ever felt like telling an end user [to go off]." It generated six times the response.

4. "If you don't say it's a big deal, then it's not a big deal," said Hanover. "Your event should be The Must Attend. 'If you miss it, you will not be able to do your job.' He wants publishers to do more video. "Attendees will watch a video before they read anything. They register [for conferences] with their eyes. So use short, impactful content." Hanover pointed to a page that had "Ready. Set. Register." In big letters. I recently received an email that said, "Ready. Set. Festival." Plug in what works for you.

5. Tie your event to your editorial product. "Two months prior to an event we are already thinking about next year," said Torres. "Finding venues is becoming more and more difficult—both in cost and accessibility. Once you have a venue, you can have a website. Set up a YouTube channel with post-show content, interviews and snippets of sessions."

6. Push your content teams more front and center. "The beauty of having an event tied to your editorial product is that you can market it all year round," said Torres. She urges publishers to "push [editorial people] out there. Let them be those experts" that an audience wants to hear. "Editorial folks are getting better at that. Many publishers have online forums, idea exchanges. Allow editors and content teams to be that front face."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…