Events are a key part of the marketing mix and, for many B2B (business to business) brands, provide a unique opportunity to interact face-to-face with target audiences. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations have flexed their approach to events, moving them online to maintain momentum and to attempt to gain the same buy-in that events so often create.
As pandemic restrictions have begun to lift, some live events have returned, while others remain online or are taking a more hybrid approach. But whether a live, in-person or online event, the core objective remains the same: to be in front of your audience, delivering your message. And an omnichannel marketing strategy will help you achieve just that.
What is omnichannel marketing?
Omnichannel marketing is the strategy of taking a holistic view of all online and offline touchpoints that your audience has with your brand, in order to provide a consistent experience. That might sound straightforward enough, but when you consider the vast array of channels that this could encompass, it can be a real test for brand efficacy and internal communication.
But it’s worth it. An effective omnichannel approach provides much greater breadth of coverage and message penetration. It allows you to reach new audiences and reinforce your campaign with those that see it in multiple places. This has a compound effect on your marketing efforts, making them far more effective and helping you achieve much greater results.
Have a strategy and stay on target
Without a clear strategy before you start, and close ongoing management throughout, each of your campaign’s channels could easily deliver a disparate feel, especially if the assets themselves are being created and tactically implemented by a range of teams across your organisation, or by different channel-specialist suppliers or agencies. And whether this disconnect is in the tone of voice used, creative visual approach or anything else, it will reduce the potential results.
- At best, your audience won’t instinctively connect the dots of each campaign element, and you’ll lose the multiplicity of messaging impact you could have achieved.
- At worst, the experience will jar in their mind as they wonder if the lack of coherence is due to a deliberate change in your core messaging or poor internal communication. In this case, you could risk alienating your audience and undermining your brand in the long term.
With such an array of different channels engaged, it’s imperative that omnichannel campaigns are thought through and well-structured, with strong project management from the start. Every team that has responsibility for executing their tactical element of the campaign must understand the brief and how their area effects every other.
Omnichannel for events
It’s clear that an omnichannel strategy is worth exploring as part of a brand or marketing campaign. Events can be both a contributing part of an omnichannel campaign and be enhanced by them.
Events as part of Omnichannel strategy
By their nature, events often require the use of multiple channels to both lead visitors up to event attendance and to reinforce messaging and follow up after the event has taken place.
Coherence of brand identity and campaign messaging is paramount to provide a joined-up, seamless experience, and taking an omnichannel approach will offer the best way to achieve this.
The old adage states that people need to see your message seven times for it to sink in. With this in mind, it’s clear that providing consistency across a wide range of channels that your intended audience often utilise will help achieve this with a larger proportion of them.
And as a golden opportunity to interact with your audience in a direct, memorable way, ensuring coherence of your omnichannel campaign at your event is a great way to impress your message upon them.
Consider your campaign objective
Thinking in omnichannel terms when planning your next event gives you the chance to put your best effort into providing that coherent experience. While deals done on event day are one marker for event success, impressing upon your visitors a campaign or brand message that is effectively reinforced and reiterated via other channels post-event is another.
When someone who has visited your event is later exposed to a corresponding message in another channel, be it social media, email, digital advertising or anything else, it will act as a reminder of the positive “real-world” experience they had on the day. Events represent the possibility of a tangible experience being linked to these other, potentially more distant-feeling, channels. This gives your message greater impact, improving response and conversion rates, enhancing the longevity of your events success, and helping your overarching campaign reach its objective.
How omnichannel can improve event success
For many marketers, events make up a significant portion of budgets. As such, they demand similarly significant effort and planning to ensure the best possible ROI. Where other channels may provide lower cost access to individuals, but with a potentially less directly engaged response (we’re looking at you, social media), events are the counterpoint.
Events may need a higher initial outlay, but the relative response on a per-person basis has the potential to be so much greater. Attendees of an event can interact face to face with the brand. This level of engagement builds strong bonds between brands and their audiences and can often be the defining factor in purchase decisions. In B2B at the very least, people still often buy from people.
While some event visitors may well be new to the brand, for many an event represents a point in the buying journey much closer to the end of the sales funnel. An omnichannel strategy provides coherent steps along that journey that guide prospects toward the end goal of becoming a customer. In a B2B environment events often offer the first real chance of that direct real-world interaction between the brand and the audience.
Consider two different approaches to inviting your audience to an event. In this example we’ll imagine a B2B organisation running a launch event:
- You mine your database for relevant contacts and send them an email invite. You also put a number of posts up on your social media channels to advertise your event and send an internal memo to your staff asking them to invite their key contacts. People register and attend your event. Afterward, you send a thank you to those who attended.
This could be considered a success.
- You identify your specific target audience for this event. You create a campaign with messaging based on their specific needs and use this to inform a sustained social campaign on their favourite platforms, enticing signups for further information. You follow this up with an email campaign that uses the same campaign creative and messaging, providing insightful content and counting down to launch day.
You create paid search campaigns around the specific keywords that you know your audience will be looking for. The social posts, digital ads and emails drive visits to your website, which is housing the same creative style and provides further insight for those who sign up. Using the same creative theme, you take out an advert in a targeted print publication that also offers a referral from their digital version and banner space on their website. As a local campaign, you may rent billboard space and organise a flyer drop, all following the same creative angle, key hero messaging and content.
You monitor which channels are seeing the most sign-ups through tracking code in digital campaigns and targeted URLs through print. You tweak and change your campaign to provide focus on successful channels and amend those that aren’t doing so well.
Every element sings together, and every element drives the anticipation of the event. Not only do you successfully drive more people to your event, but when they get there, they’re truly engaged and excited to see what the event has in store for them. And the event itself doesn’t disappoint, because your campaign’s look and feel is mirrored in the way you present your event, including any AV, printed collateral and anything else; one consistent, creative theme.
After the event, you follow up with your visitors, as well as those that registered but didn’t end up attending, with targeted, personalised communications that continue to follow the campaign brief, delivering additional valuable insights and information. As a result, you continue to see ROI long after the event itself has finished.
It’s obvious that the second approach would deliver a much greater impact. The first example is an event that uses some multichannel communication for invites. The second is a strategic omnichannel campaign. The key difference is planning and campaign management.
Know your audience
The first step in developing an omnichannel strategy is taking the time to define and understand your target audiences. By building comprehensive audience personas for each of your targets, you’ll understand where they spend their time. In other words, you’ll know which platforms and channels should be the primary targets for your omnichannel campaign efforts. This could include:
- Social media
- Owned apps
- Digital advertising
- Radio & TV advertising
- Point of Sale display
- Outdoor advertising
By getting under the skin of your target audience you’ll understand which platforms you need to have a presence on and can apply a weighting of importance to each of them. You should also map out the journey that your audience take from one channel to another and, in doing so, better understand their thought process. This can help to fine-tune campaign messaging appropriately for each platform.
Get your message straight
This is an incredibly important step. Take the time to really clearly define your campaign’s core message and what you’re looking to achieve. Create a comprehensive campaign document that provides real clarity in both the objective of the campaign and the key messages to use as a central point of reference for anyone that will be part of the execution of the campaign. Something that may seem obvious to you may not be as clear to others, so having these spelled out removes the potential for misinterpreting the brief. This then reduces the need for multiple rounds of revision on campaign assets internally, or worse, misunderstood messaging making its way into the live campaign.
When defining this campaign document, get input from the key stakeholders managing the channels you want to use, as they’ll understand the best methods for communicating the message in each case. For example, you may need some longer-format content for your blog, but some concise video or imagery to use on social media. Create a list of the assets you’ll need along with owners and deadlines. You’ll be in a much better place if all your campaign elements are ready to go before you start.
Taking a lesson from Aristotle
Aristotle’s triptych of “tell them you’re going to tell them, tell them and tell them what you’ve told them,” is a phrase about the effectiveness of repeating your message to your audience and is worth remembering. It’s stood the test of time for a reason.
In omnichannel event marketing terms it can be translated into “make sure you communicate pre, during and post event.” So, once you’ve identified the relevant channels for your audience, ensure that your campaign plans include a communications strategy that extends either side of your event date.
Wherever you can, get personal with your audience. By getting to know your audience, you’ll be able to provide a message that resonates that much better with them. If you’re using email marketing, for example, segmenting your data based on a range of demographics will allow you to tailor your message (as well as adding personalised salutations!).
With paid search advertising, you could run a range of ads based on the different search terms that each audience is more likely to search for. Many digital ad platforms will also provide a way to segment the target audience and serve a variety of ads to them. Make use of the functionality available in order to create more personalised, targeted messages.
Be prepared to adapt
While your campaign document should be your first port of call for all your activities, you should be prepared to test and change your approach. Having a flexible outlook allows you to see what’s working and what’s not and adapt accordingly. Ultimately this gives you the chance to get better results by either tweaking your messaging or refocussing your efforts on your more successful channels.
Tying it all together
Omnichannel marketing provides an opportunity to achieve the best possible results from your events. And equally, as the live crescendo to your campaign, events can be a fantastic way to help achieve your omnichannel marketing objectives.
Just as every event is different, the omnichannel approach you’ll have to take will differ based on your key objectives and target audience.
By taking the time to understand both of these factors at the start, you can develop comprehensive omnichannel campaigns that will elevate your events to an entirely new level.