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A Shift in Digital Event Marketing: What to Watch in 2019

By Wilson Tang and Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes


  • Globalization is becoming the norm
  • Think beyond email marketing
  • Targeted communications are key
  • Constant connections are a must
  • Voice search speaks for your brand

What’s ahead for event technology in the next year? This final installment in a five-part series takes a deep dive on what we see becoming important for event professionals to consider in 2019. Missed the previous parts? Read about how data is growing up, how artificial intelligence is changing everything, how the mobile web is growing up, and how digital realities are enhancing experiences.

Event professionals should know that digital marketing is a must to grow their audiences and experiences.

It helps drive awareness, registration, attendance, and engagement. Digital marketing also provides a valuable data set that, in return, can fuel the next year’s strategy and reconnect back into the marketing funnel.

But a show doesn’t expand its audiences and reach by just building a website and a few emails. With the marketing technology landscape in a constant state of change, and new, popular channels appearing seemingly every day, show organizers and event marketers must keep up with the latest trends and constantly test out different strategies on evolving audience behavior.

Here are the digital marketing trends that we see making an impact right now for organizers and marketers:

Trend #1: Globalization

Shows can grow fast, especially when they become known for providing great experiences year over year. And with fast growth comes growing pains when you outgrow the local attendee market or the local venues. That’s why it’s important to think on a much bigger scale for your event. Globalization is fast becoming the norm as more organizations compete for attendee and idea share on an international scale.

Smaller locations and developing countries are hungry for events to bring in tourism dollars. These may hold opportunities for a tremendous amount of growth when it comes to international expansion. And if you’re not ready to “glocalize” your event, or you simply want to bring down the borders for attendees. The problem and opportunity is that every audience behaves and uses various channels in ever-changing ways. Digital ad spends in a channel like Facebook that might drive a large audience in the U.S. won’t work in China, where WeChat is the dominant social channel.

Campaigns and messages that work in one area may simply not resonate in your expansion. In general, they rarely do.

Trend #2: Beyond email marketing

Email marketing doesn’t have the monopoly on digital communication. Social messaging apps and built-in texting on mobile devices have added their voices to the mix, and short-form social communication is constantly on the rise. But just because email isn’t the newest form of digital contact doesn’t mean that you can’t use it…it just means you must evolve past spamming your mailing list to grow your show. Eventually you’ll trigger a spam filter, or get hit with unsubscribes.

Finding new target audiences can be increasingly difficult using email marketing alone, which is why you should look to growing your social marketing presence. It turns out that attendees from a particular industry happen to know many other potential attendees from that same industry! This allows you to leverage social connections to get more eyes on your event. Have a medical show? While they may never admit it, we promise they are on Facebook and know many other doctors.

Expanding your campaign beyond email also gives you new channels to communicate with younger audiences who get more information from Instagram and Snapchat than Gmail. And don’t forget — both email and social marketing provide a wealth of data that you can use to get to know those audiences better.

Trend #3: Targeting

At today’s events, everything is generating data, from registration to social interaction to movement around the show floor. Even before an event though, your audiences are generating tremendous amounts of data when they visit your websites and at-mention your social channels. That means that organizers, exhibitors, and marketers have a wealth of data about audiences that can be used to create more targeted communications and a more personalized event experience.

More critically, by tracking and consolidating your marketing data, you can create effective conversations and campaigns all year long. This isn’t just a marketing cliché. When you need to drive registrations, there are few brand enhancing things that can be performed weeks before your event. Monitoring your campaign performance early on, gives you the ability to retarget audiences gently through paid media and other less intrusive digital marketing tactics.

Trend #4: Constant connections

Keeping attendees interested in your event isn’t just about capturing their attention in the moment. It’s no longer enough to have a small lead up prior to registration, and a simple post-show follow up. In today’s world of always-on devices and 24:7 social feeds, you must engage your audience throughout the year — on their terms.

You must create a constant stream of compelling content that positions your event as an essential for your audience. More and more shows are creating content that furthers repetitive behaviors, like checking a website every day for new information, listening to industry updates on Alexa, looking for a weekly newsletter to hit the inbox, or following and interacting with social feeds regularly. Keeping your event top of mind through these connection points is becoming more vital than ever for marketing success.

Trend #5: Voice search

Optimizing for voice search in the world of Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri is a unique challenge, especially for events. When a user is using voice search, they don’t want to hear more than one result — and your brand or event needs to be that result.

Right now, being first to market with skills in Amazon’s Alexa marketplace or Google Assistant actions are the key to making sure that you hit the top of the search. This is likely going to change and evolve, just like SEO is still constantly evolving. Creating and using omnichannel chatbots are a great way to get into this nascent channel.

Start at your event and use a virtual assistant like Alexa to answer common questions about your event, but use it as a launching point for your literal all-year conversation. Think about the likely questions and natural language that your audience would use, and start there, then test and refine your approach. For example, an association for legal professionals can get industry updates on their Alexa devices, rather than shifting through the hundreds of emails a day they get to find your newsletter. Soon enough, when marketers talk about their brand voice, they will literally mean the brand’s voice.

Ready to apply these digital marketing trends to your events?
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