7 Ways to Improve On-Site Communication With Your Team and Your Guests
July 31, 2018
Amy Barone, Sr. Director of Marketing Events & Engagement Programs at Tableau Software, shares her event marketing secrets in our A New Era in Event Marketing webinar with Harvard Business Review and AdAge. Below, she gives an inside look at how Tableau grew and scaled a high-performance event program.
Sometimes the question isn’t ifyou should include events in your marketing strategy, but how. And one of the first decisions you’ll be faced with is whether to host your own event, or sponsor someone else’s.
Most companies do a mix of both sponsoring and hosting events, but recently, more and more are taking the reins of their events. According to Harvard Business Review's Event Marketing Evolution report, 40% of enterprise brands plan to spend more on hosting events in the year ahead, and 30% plan to spend more on sponsoring.
Ten years later, our annual conference attracts nearly 20,000 customers and partners, our company has grown to 4,000 people, and we have a first-class marketing team with dedicated event professionals who are the best in the biz. Events have been a crucial part of our brand and help us better connect with our community, evangelize our customers, and ultimately grow our company.
Here’s how we did it:
Why the shift?
In short, hosting your own event means you have more control over the entire experience — and companies are starting to realize the value in this.
99% of the time I say ‘no’ to sponsoring a general event. I’d rather invest our budget on an event where I can control the content.
That’s not to say that sponsoring events (e.g. large industry conferences) isn’t worthwhile, but it all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. So, we put together this quick guide to help you consider whether hosting or sponsoring (or both!) is best for your event strategy.
Sponsoring: What you need to know
Sponsoring an event usually means you’re paying another organizer, company, or organization to participate in their event. This could come in many forms: a trade show booth, an experience or service (like an espresso machine at an industry conference), a sponsored session or speaker slot, a satellite party, VIP dinner, etc.
The benefits of sponsoring:
• You get brand exposure to an entirely new audience, which is great for driving net-new leads • You’re not responsible for the hardest parts of an event (venue, speakers, scheduling, audience development, logistics, etc.)
• It requires less manpower at a lower price point
The disadvantages of sponsoring:
• You lose control over the branding, guest list, and entire experience • In most cases, you have to be smarter and work harder for a better ROI
Hosted events offer much more freedom, since you can choose an event type that directly benefits your overall goal, rather than relying on another company’s. Hosting your own event means you have full control over the entire event experience, including the branding, promotions, content, and guest list.
But this also means you’re responsible for all the nitty gritty details, like finding the venue, driving attendance, securing speakers, booking talent or food vendors, managing the event pages, providing branded swag, and more.
The benefits of hosting:
• You can tailor the event to your exact goal (e.g. in-store sales, recruiting, customer engagement, or product promotion) • You have more control over the event: the theme, messaging, audience targeting, etc.)
• Guests fully experience your brand, and your brand only
The disadvantages of hosting:
• Compared to sponsoring, it takes more time and more manpower (but there are ways to offset these costs with partnerships, event technology, or hiring outside help)
When it comes down to it, the goal of any event is to grow and nurture the relationship between your guests and your brand — whether you’re promoting a product, building community, or looking to increase brand awareness.
This way, guests didn’t have to worry about memorizing each other’s names or drawing a blank when they turned to chat with the person next to them, and we also got to show off our product in a natural way.
Real World Example: Splash's Dreamforce strategy
With 170,000 attendees, 2,700 sessions, and 300 exhibitors, Dreamforce is one of the biggest tech conferences in the world — and known for being one of the toughest to crack. Without a big budget, it can feel daunting to stand out in the sea of exhibitors.
Two years ago, we switched up our conference strategy and decided not to sponsor a booth at Dreamforce, and instead focused our efforts on hosting 6 events, each catered to a different audience.
By doing so, we could target the right attendees, control the events’ branding, and ultimately align our event strategy to our goals. The results? We drove 40k in new opportunities and 140% ROI, without ever setting foot in a booth.
This isn’t to say that conference sponsorships aren’t worthwhile. You have to think about what you’re trying to achieve — for us, hosting our own events was a more strategic (and budget-friendly) option for our Dreamforce presence.
While many event marketers are shifting towards hosted events, sponsored events are still a valuable part of an event strategy — in the right context. The choice between sponsoring and hosting really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The most important thing to remember is that every company (and event!) is different — so the decision will largely depend on your business, your audience, and your overarching goals.
Even though there’s no magic formula that'll tell you whether you should host or sponsor (an event marketer can dream!), thinking strategically about what you want to get out of your events will help you get started.
Even if your event doesn’t require a full seating chart with assigned seats, think about how you want the flow of your event to go, and how you can create natural opportunities for meaningful connections.
• A sense of privacy: a completely private and closed off room for dinner proved to be an extremely crucial element. At one of the venues, an open section in the room allowed noise to disrupt the flow of conversation — making it feel less private and less special of a night compared to dinners that were completely closed off to the public.
6. Create the best guest experience possible
At the end of the day, throwing events mean nothing if you’re not providing value to your customers.
At our conferences, we provide “Tableau Doctors” on-site that help customers or prospects with any questions about our product. Not only do these one-on-one appointments empower customers to engage with us in a meaningful way, they’ve also been the critical to driving event ROI.
Sara is a Content Marketer at Splash, where she assists with content strategy and creation. As a Midwest native, she's slowly but surely getting used to East Coast life – typically by searching for her latest favorite restaurant in NYC.
The Universe of Events: everything you need to plan, promote, manage, measure, and optimize a successful event program.