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Event marketing: Make a lasting digital connection

Event marketing: Make a lasting digital connection Jordan Greene

Event marketing has long been left out of the interactivity of the digital age. While the computer is an indispensable communication tool and direct response mechanism for marketers, in reality, how many people walk through their lives -- let alone a special event, launch party, conference, or convention -- holding an open laptop? More likely, it is tethered to a desk, or at best, stowed and in the off position in a visitor's carrying case. 

Given this on-site impracticality, an event's dedicated website is a useful interactive mechanism up to a certain point, and then rendered mostly obsolete and unnecessary at the very moment when the audience is at its most captive state. In this scenario, it is easy to understand why the digital options available to event marketers appear to be minimal. 

Enter the mobile phone. 

Even the most rudimentary mobile phones on the market offer a wide variety of interactive methods, and it is a fair assumption that virtually anyone who passes through the doors of your event is carrying one. By crafting smart mobile programs, event organizers can actively engage their audience, and in the process, extend revenue opportunities for their event partners and sponsors. 

Beyond the event basics
The basic digital approach for event marketing is limited to website promotion before day one, and email collection throughout the course of a show for promotion after it ends. The time period missing is the event itself -- the time when consumer interest is naturally at its highest. This is prime time to advertise, update, publicize, and inform. Accessing the varying audiences of any event via the mobile phone fills this void, and enhances the before- and after-event components.
The mobile world is now available to any type of marketer or event promoter and is already widely used by major brands in varying industries. The allure of an attentive audience of 255 million consumers is attractive. The fact that they are active and focused enough to send over 50 billion text messages a month can move a marketer to salivation. But the question is how to successfully get in the flow of this activity. The key is knowledge and creativity. 

Look past the technology
A look at the entire mobile audience for lowest common denominators reveals that consumers use their phones for multiple purposes, including voice, text and mobile web access. Smart marketers use and integrate each of these categories effectively to engage and market to their consumer. Further, they layer on greater functionality to cater to the smartphone group, including the flavor of the month, the "app." This approach creates a natural foundation that leaves no audience member behind due to technological constraint, and it is a roadmap that translates strongly to the event environment. While many professionals, such as those attending your event, carry advanced handsets like BlackBerrys and iPhones, it is important to see the audience possibilities and not just the shiniest technology. Your overall goal is to address the needs of -- or simply catch the attention of -- the different types of event attendees while they are your guests, in your venue. 

Imagine if, for example, the organizers of the upcoming season of "Carbrand StyleWeek" are looking for ways to have more coordination with attendees and branding opportunities with its sponsors throughout its week-long, global event. A well-designed mobile program begins well before Day 1. Members of the press, photographers, attendees, sponsors, or any other group can pre-register their mobile phone to be part of the "CSW Mobile Style" campaign. 

Now, with thousands of categorized registrants in its mobile database, the organizers, sponsors, and even individual designers can begin to send real-time updates -- with branding, of course -- to the attendees via text message, or to deliver daily audio briefings of the day's events only to the members of the press. It can offer the entire registered audience exclusive access to the latest fashion show photos right on their phones. The consistent issue of lost invitations or forgotten seat assignments is solved as well. Confirmations are delivered, either ahead of time or on-demand, to the attendee's phone and presented at the door. The mobile phone becomes the pass to access the show itself.

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Easy information access
Additionally, through CSW's special mobile website and app, registered users always have the official show schedule in their pocket, reducing printing expenses and presenting a green initiative. The press would have key information on-demand regarding StyleWeek, such as a hair and makeup report, a style hot sheet, and a photo selection of key looks that can be easily forwarded on to friends and colleagues. Each interaction continues to grow the mobile audience potential, extending the reach of Carbrand StyleWeek's authority while also providing new sponsor-able media that can be used throughout the year.

No attendee left behind
Those who did not pre-register are not left out either. Signage throughout the venues could have simple text calls-to-action that allow guests to join in. In addition, this type of approach can be integrated into advertising, volunteer outreach programs, printed materials given away at the venues, kiosks, and other outlets arranged by the event organizers. The multiple tactics of the overall campaign engage visitors both on-demand and continuously. These combined efforts increase the size of the addressable audience easily -- at no real additional expense -- and extend the potential value for a sponsor.

In the current environment, a mobile program such as this will be viewed as progressive and earn extra PR opportunities. Marketers and event planners will look clever and cutting-edge, while actually addressing the audience appropriately and creating significant, long-term dividends.

A 21st century approach to capture an event audience will surely garner more access and attention than the re-invention of the 1970s style interactive kiosks. Today's media-savvy event attendee is not interested in stopping at the generic laptop stationed in the media tent or impressed with expensive touch-screen monitors to view a website.  Event-based mobile media access keeps it personal, practical, and direct. 

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Jordan Greene is principal/mobile media at Mella Media. 

Jordan Greene has been on the forefront of the mobile industry for over a decade. At Mella Media, he brings hands-on mobile expertise and vast experience to his clients, enabling them to gain a significant advantage in the current global...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Yashod Bhardwaj

2009, February 03

Jordan your article would definitely help in waking up the consciousness of event marketers like me. One constraint being that organizations have just become too used to the conventional email & print event marketing models and another significant hindrance in mobile's acceptability is that it does not promises instant returns in terms of the event registrations. I definitely agree with you that the approach for the 21st century should be different and to look smarter and equipped with the cutting-edge we should squeeze "MobiLe”! Thanks…

Commenter: Kate Berg

2009, February 03

Great to see this piece--having headed PR for two tech research companies a decade ago (Gartner, Jupiter) I was well aware of the potential for mobile to enhance the attendee experience --and as you point out --to bolster the visibility for the show's sponsors/exhibitors. Alas, mobile had not yet "arrived".

Now, having co-founded a mobile networking tool called M3 (www.M3mob.com), we're working with conference and events pros to use M3's for everything from attendee networking to sponsor value-add. Now your piece has given us more great applications (press updates!) Talk about ROI all the way around! Many thanks~