Event Marketing: The Complete Guide

Event marketing continues to grow in popularity.

Several recent studies show that, more than ever before, North Americans who are active in the job market travel to attend events.

Millennials, who now have real economic power, are particularly receptive to events that help strengthen brand, company or organizational “experience.”

Faced with this new professional reality, event marketing, which is sometimes called experiential marketing (given its immersive character), is becoming an essential communication tool.

Although most corporate decision-makers are conscious of opportunities they can seize with the creation of corporate events, some questions remain. What points are important to identify during project creation? How can the event be integrated with already implemented marketing strategies? How can the return on investment be assessed?

Before investing in any particular marketing strategy, it is essential to grasp all its subtleties.

An introduction to this discipline is necessary.

We have, therefore, compiled a complete guide to event marketing.

And to tell us about the creation of corporate events, who better than an organization that considers event marketing to be the central pillar of their marketing strategy!

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Table of Contents

  • Organizational Event Marketing as Seen by an Organization
  • What is Event Marketing?
  • How Is Event Marketing Incorporated Into a Company’s Marketing Strategy?
  • Why Invest in Event Marketing?
  • What Golden Rules Make a Corporate Event a Success?
  • Event Marketing and the Target Customers
  • Event Marketing for Partners or Employees: Nuance?
  • Practical Examples of Event Marketing
  • How to Measure Event Marketing ROI?
  • Develop the Company’s Signature and Share Its Values

Organizational Event Marketing as Seen by an Organization

For the past 10 years, The Association of Québec Women in Finance (AFFQ) has produced approximately 70 events per year to contribute to the professional advancement of women in the field of finance and to highlight their role in Quebec’s development.

We met with Ms. Martine Cantin, Managing Director of the AFFQ, to understand the importance of event marketing for her organization and to highlight the successes of such events.

Together, we discussed important concepts that enhance our guide to event marketing, including creating specific identities for each event and the need for sharing important company values with guests at an event.

But before we open the books and go into detail, let’s start by laying the foundations for our considerations by establishing a practical definition.

What is Event Marketing?

Event marketing is, in itself, a communications tool that consists of creating events that are out of the ordinary in order to promote a brand or an organization among a target audience.

To understand the value of event marketing, it is important to clearly qualify the term “public audience,” which is often used generally in the field of marketing.

For corporate events, the target audience is very specific… and very real! They are present in the room, attentive and receptive.

When we talk about sharing values with or communicating a meaningful message to participants of an event, we are referring to directly reaching the “heart” of a handpicked and highly receptive customer base.

For Ms. Cantin of the AFFQ, event marketing is the ability to create an event to promote an organization.

“At first, it’s the organization that brings the event to life, and then it’s the event that brings the organization to life.”

This premise sets the stage to explain the importance of the initial investment and the attention paid to creating a unique signature for each event.

How Is Event Marketing Incorporated Into a Company’s Marketing Strategy?

Generally speaking, professional events are created to be initially integrated into the company’s communications plan.

The various projects will then have their respective marketing budget portfolios, as occurs with advertising campaigns for social networks.

At the AFFQ, each event has its forecasted mini-budget.

The organization forecasts the costs and revenues (some AFFQ events are paid for) as well as the duration of the project over the fiscal year.

Ms. Cantin also specifies that when creating a project an amount is set aside for branding the event (name, concept, logo, visuals, etc.).

Although the design of a brand image generates additional costs, it will ensure the sustainability of the event as well as a return on investment for several years.

“We realized that naming our programs and attaching a brand image to them makes people take ownership of our events.”

The AFFQ operates with estimated budgets that include an assessment of costs and revenues as well as an estimate of the contribution from the main partners. Subsequent sponsorships received are then added as surplus.

Why Invest in Event Marketing?

Because an organization that produces a corporate event will work with an ultra-targeted, present and receptive customer base. Proximity to the target audience is the feature that distinguishes event marketing from all other types of marketing.

If the event is well built, the company significantly increases its chances of successfully conveying a “meaningful” message, while meeting its internal objectives.

This mechanism is the complete opposite of a message displayed on a billboard and addressed to the whole world. In the case of the latter, the “target” is dispersed and the message loses considerable coverage.

For the AFFQ, the brand identity created with event marketing helps sell the different programs offered by the organization.

Ms. Cantin explains that it’s easier to build loyalty when a product is driven by a strong identity.

“I’m part of the Les Étincelles program” is much easier to share with others than saying “I’m part of an integration and networking program.”

What Golden Rules Make a Corporate Event a Success?

If we begin with the principle that the company has the means to conduct quality event marketing and that budgets have been allocated for this purpose, the golden rule for a successful event is to capture the underlying value of the message you wish to convey.

To do so, we try to distill our message into a single sentence. This sentence illustrates the important message to communicate and serves as a reference during the creation phases of the project.

The event organizer will then have to demonstrate some useful creativity. Useful creativity is always ready to support the message we want to convey to our guests.

Whether or not various technological tools are used, the event must resonate with people.

It is this resonance with the target audience rather than the spectacular aspect of an event that creates a commitment to the organization, product or brand.

Event Marketing and the Target Customers

At the AFFQ, events are generally open to all. The event participants are either members of the association (40%) or non-members (60%).

The organization uses its many events to share its message and programs with the general public.

When event marketing is addressed to customers, the company will sometimes want to present its products and services or communicate a change of position in an elegant way.

Ceremonies, galas and special events are often a tool to strengthen the bond between the customer and the brand.

It can also be an opportunity to highlight a special moment or set the tone for a new promotional campaign.

The objective of the event should be in line with the objectives of the communications plan.

Event Marketing for Partners or Employees: Nuance?

The objectives of an event for partners or employees, such as a happy hour pop-up or Christmas party, may differ from those for customers. The fundamentals of event marketing, however, remain the same.

The organization may wish to facilitate relationships between employees or forge links between people from different departments who do not usually have direct contact with each other.

In all cases, the creation of a corporate event will always focus on emphasizing the company’s values and skillfully sharing them with the guests.

Practical Examples of Event Marketing

The AFFQ organizes more than 70 events per year. These events come in a variety of formats, such as professional development and networking activities (Les Étincelles or Carrière 4.0) or school-based interventions with young people.

The organization’s signature event is without a doubt the Les Talentueuses Gala, which brings together 650 people each year to celebrate the career paths or achievements of women who stand out in the field of finance.

Event marketing can also be deployed during conventions that combine conferences, awards ceremonies or large banquets.

The annual corporate party is, of course, a favourite, whether for the holidays or to celebrate the arrival of the vacation season. This is often an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between employees and the company.

The VIP evening is also an effective event that can be used to introduce new products to partners or build business relationships.

The format of the event is chosen based on the marketing objective and the message the organization wishes to convey.

How to Measure Event Marketing ROI?

“What is not measured cannot be improved.”

Event marketing is similar to other marketing areas. An assessment must be made to determine if the initial objectives have been reached. We want to measure and analyze the results obtained by event marketing.

A company will not always earn revenue from an event. Events are often offered for free to participants.

Therefore, the financial assessment must be adjusted. An interesting concept is to replace the well-known ROI (return on investment) with ROO (return on objectives).

The company will assess the effectiveness of an event using the following factors:

  • Target
    • What was the attendance?
    • Did we have the right strategy with our speaker?
  • Satisfaction with the environment
    • How was the atmosphere in the room?
    • How was the food?
    • Did we handle all the logistics details?
  • Learning
    • Was the content presented optimally?
  • Behaviour
    • What did the organization expect people to do following the event?
  • Impact
    • What concrete action was desired? (E.g. increase the rate of loyalty.)

For Ms. Cantin, the questions to ask when creating a corporate event are: “Are we succeeding in achieving the core value of the event and are we communicating it effectively through its branding?”

For the AFFQ, the return on investment is intimately related to the brand identity created with the marketing event. The identity will become an ambassador for the organization for several years to come.

Develop the Company’s Signature and Share Its Values

As we have seen, the creation of a signature specific to each event makes it possible for it to be showcased.

After more than 10 years of event marketing, the AFFQ remains true to its values.

“Each year, with the collaboration of Lulu Events, we rise to the challenge of bringing Les Talentueuses Gala to life in a new way, to lead it forward, and to do so with the necessary sensitivity to clearly understand the customers who participate in the event.”

With the massive arrival of millennials on the job market, event marketing is more relevant than ever.

As an essential tool for the company or organization that relies on customer experience (or commitment), events are now taking their rightful place in the vast world of marketing.

– Lulu Events Team



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