This post featured in Exhbition News magazine this month.

Standing out in an already crowded marketplace is a tough task. And there’s no doubt with every passing day the event industry becomes even more competitive, to the point where it is no longer enough to just plan a good event. You need to do more than that if you want to get noticed.

A high quality marketing strategy is essential if you want to earn the attention of potential attendees. You can plan the greatest event in the world, but if you don’t tell anyone about it then it’s going to fall flat. Ideas rarely come together unless they are shared with the right people – and once you find those people you have to spark their interest, engage and inspire them.

But that is just the beginning. You need to stay relevant, important and keep on inspiring them. You want them them to be your fans, get this right and they can become one of your greatest assets, spreading the word about your events, buying tickets and spending their cash with you, as well as continuing to talk about it afterwards, writing reviews and showing others what they’ve missed. You’ve got to keep them happy and engaged across all touchpoints, the entire time. It doesn’t matter how many suppliers you have or how great your speakers are, if you can’t keep your audiences inspired then they’ll just disappear forever.

Sound difficult? Of course it does, if it were easy then every organisation in the world would be getting it right. This requires research, planning, vision, imagination, powerful stories, hard work, time and money.

At Chillisauce we pride ourselves on getting people talking. Here are seven of my favourite tactics that you can use to enhance your own marketing strategy.

#1 Forget the competition, learn from inspirational companies

Rather than focusing on direct rivals or search engine competitors, analyse aspirational organisations instead. From disruptive startups in our industry like Tilt.com, Sosh and Eventbrite, to similar events in other cities across the globe like Sydney, San Francisco and Beijing. We investigate these organisations and deconstruct their stories. We ask questions about milestones to their success, why people care about them, and analyse what they’re doing differently to others. Always think how you can apply these principles to your own work – what is your own version of this?

#2 Debate current issues in marketing

Every week our marketing team meets to discuss and debate the latest trends in marketing, whether it’s something new that other companies have done that week, or key developments in technology. We’ve covered everything from the world’s first tweeting chicken, to the latest Google algorithm update. These sessions should always finish with a creative brainstorm around your company, events and campaigns, and focus on how your own work could be inspired by the current issues.

#3 Start creating and actioning recommendations from day zero

Whether it’s a white wall filled with Post-it notes, a shared Google Doc, a project management tool like Trello, a social intranet like Hipchat or a private board on Pinterest – create a space for everybody to dump ideas, inspiration, and recommendations. Don’t wait until you’ve completed the research section of your strategy to start building recommendations. Also, don’t wait until you’ve finished your strategy to start actioning great ideas. If you’ve struck gold with great ideas, make them happen as soon as possible.

#4 Define your customers, intelligently

All customers are different, which makes our jobs harder. Rather than solely grouping customers based on age, gender, location, job titles or industries and then making assumptions on assumptions, group them by pain points, common interests, the types of experiences they buy, their journey on your website, their first touchpoint, or the answers they provide on the phone. By finding alternative ways to group potential attendees you can develop tactics to acquire more of them faster, build better relationships, solve more of their problems and to be able to provide them with a tailored experience.

#5 Collaborate with others

When building something or developing a new event idea, try taking coffee and cake around to existing customers or local businesses and ask them what they think. Don’t just do this once, go and see heaps of them to continuously learn and improve ideas, quickly veto bad ones, help them get what they want faster, and help you build personalised journeys for that group. A scalable way to get more data faster, would be to engage your email database or connections via social media. Making use of your established networks is a great way to validate ideas early.

#6 Investigate: who is your event?

Your brand isn’t just the logo chosen by your designer, nor the kit sourced from your supplier’s warehouse, it’s about much more than that. Try to get to the heart of what your brand is about by interviewing key stakeholders about ‘their story’ of your business. Investigate why customers would pick your brand over others, and develop the core principles that will shape your identity and everything that goes into the experiences you provide.

#7 Does your campaign pass the pub test?

When developing a new campaign idea don’t just guess whether it will work, get out on the streets and find out. Start explaining it to be people and see how they react. Even better than that, film their reactions (with their permission of course). Their responses will tell you whether or not your idea will spark interest and get people talking. We call it the pub test – would people talk about your campaign or event at the pub? If they would, then you could be onto a winner.

michael

Michael Chidzey is the chief juicer of eventjuice and heads up marketing at Chillisauce, an event company based in London, UK. He also blogs on several websites and is a visiting lecturer in events management at London Metropolitan University.Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelchidzey