Think about what brands do—they provide value by offering education that informs buying decisions consistently over time. Now think about your event. Do you think about it as a one-and-done, or as something that can extend its reach by delivering consistent value that keeps it top of mind for your attendees year round?
“Don’t treat your event like an event,” said Glenn L. Laudenslager IV, MBA, president of Charge Ahead Marketing, during a recent MeetingsNet webinar. “Treat your event like it’s a brand.” There are three ways to transition from event thinking to brand thinking, he added.
1. Create more content. You can repurpose your event content to provide easy entry points for people all year round who can’t make it to your live event.
2. Nurture via automation. You can leverage content downloads, data, and behavioral information to create messaging that’s more relevant and contextual and so means more to potential customers.
3. Maintain a consistent presence. Don’t let your event website go dark once the event is over. Those who are in the market for education in the weeks after your event will skip right off the page when they don’t find any information that helps them. “Keep your website updated and offer content all year long,” he advised.
Content marketing is one very effective tactic you can use to carry out those strategies and strengthen your event into a brand that will have your learners coming back for more.
Why You Need to Start Doing Content Marketing
Most organizations spend their entire marketing budget during the three to six months leading up to the event. “That makes sense, because that’s when most people are making buying decisions about your event,” Laudenslager said. But if you are rebranding your event as a means for year-round education and engagement, you have to engage potential attendees with content and deliver value in the weeks and months afterwards. That way, you are developing a pipeline of potential attendees so you don’t have to reinvent your brand every year in the months leading up to your event.
People may come to your site just looking for an answer to their question, not necessarily for a whole conference-worth of information, he said. “When your only answer to their question is an event that took place three months ago, what you’re telling them is that it’s all or nothing—they can either register to go to your conference, or they’ll get nothing from you,” said Laudenslager.
The way you deliver that consistent value, he said, is through content marketing. “All you have to do is repurpose some of the knowledge you already provide through your event, and rethink your marketing budget to support year-round coverage,” he said.
Content marketing “provides consistency and continuity, and a call to action that turns ‘Do something for us’—register now—into ‘Let us do something for you—give you a fast and free download.’”
Simple ways you can repurpose information from your conference sessions and speakers include:
• how-to guides
• top 10 (or whatever number) lists
• blog posts
• shareable graphics
You can make this content available for download in exchange for simple, nominal information like the person’s name and email. “This will give you a list of people you can nurture and upsell to become attendees at your next live event, because they’re interested in the same type of same content as that you provide at your event,” he said.
Content Marketing Examples
One example he offered was when the controversial update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) came out in 2013. Massachusetts General Hospital did a simple 10-question email survey to area hospitals and used the survey data to create a free whitepaper download. It did not take a lot of time to complete this, just four to six weeks from start to finish. But it got a big response. Some 1,200 users—all of whom created free accounts on the Mass General website, complete with all contact information—downloaded it. “They instantly became prospects to upsell into other fee-based education,” Laudenslager said.
You also can repurpose content you already have in house, which is what Laudenslager did to create the Boston University SCOPE of Pain Trainer’s Toolkit. They tackled another hot topic—opioid prescribing—not only with a simple survey that became a free download whitepaper, but also used video vignettes and resources BU already had to create an FAQ section. “The approach won several national marketing awards, but more importantly, the toolkit was downloaded by more than 1,400 chief medical officers, CEOs, and other high-level clinical leaders from across the country,” he said. And the toolkit continues to generate leads a full year and a half after the funds were spent to create it. “This is a textbook case of how content marketing makes your budget work longer and harder than other tactics.”
What content do you have that’s unique in your marketplace? Think about how you can repurpose it to provide entry points into your live event for people who weren’t there, and then nurture them to become attendees next time, he said.
Work Content Marketing Into Your Budget
How can you fit this into your marketing budget? It’s simpler than you may think, said Laudenslager. “Just shift a small percentage from whichever tactic you are now using that’s least effective to content marketing. Let’s say for you, that’s direct mail—send a few thousand fewer brochures and use that money to create shareable content.
At first, you can produce and promote your content as part of your normal event marketing cycle in that three- to six-month window leading up to your event, and then after it’s over, use that content to drive engagement during the time when you would normally be silent in the market, he said. As you start to see the results and build your list of potential attendees, it will be easier to budget for those content entry points, versus the typical “Register now.”