According to recent industry research from American Express, most event professionals are optimistic about the outlook for 2020. But many are also concerned about budget constraints, particularly given the increasing expectations of attendees for unique event experiences.
Of course, the challenge to "do more with less" is nothing new to event marketers (or corporate marketing professionals generally), and planners are devising a variety of tactics to cope with them—such as making greater use of non-traditional venues and "second tier" city destinations.
But if you're an event organizer looking for ammunition to justify a larger event budget, the just-released study, The State of the Experience Industry: The Changing Face of Events, from experiential agency Marble LDN, may be helpful.
Here are four critical conclusions from the report proving that investments in event marketing are worthwhile.
Events Provide Brand Value
According to the Marble LDN report:
- 98% of users feel more inclined to purchase after attending an activation.
- 84% of event attendees "say they have a more positive opinion about the company, brand, product, or service being promoted after the event."
- 70% of users become regular customers after attending an experiential marketing event.
It's no wonder then that, according to the 2020 Experiential Marketing Trend Report from Agency EA, " Over 43% of brand-side marketers value creating human-to-human experiences at events." (Actually, it's surprising that figure is only 43%.)
To achieve these results, however, event planners have to keep in mind what matters most to attendees. The Marble LDN report echoes the findings previously published here that "The top two priorities for attendees at corporate events are networking (82%) and learning (71%). Entertainment as a priority is way down at 38%."
Focus on ways to foster connections between attendees, and on making the session content an interactive learning process. You (probably) don't need a million-dollar entertainment act; it just needs to be unique and noteworthy.
Events Are More For Branding Than Direct Response
The report notes that although 90% of respondents (evenly split between agency and corporate marketing professionals) say that "live experiences are an essential part of the marketing strategy," more of them said increased brand awareness was the most important outcome (27%) than said it was new business acquired (22%).
It's not that event ROI is unimportant of course, but that it is "a consequence rather than a straightforward goal." This is particularly true for big-ticket items like cars (on the consumer side) and enterprise software (in B2B) where no one is going to write a check at the event.
As this finding is summed up in the report:
"Although marketers were ultimately looking to grow their business financially as a result of the live experience, the immediate return on investment was further down the list than getting people talking about the brand. A live experience could be considered an investment rather than something purely designed to produce conversions."
Attendee Priorities are Evolving
Beyond the networking and education, attendees use a number of additional criteria when choosing which events to attend, based on where the events are held, how they are organized, and how technology is used.
This graphic from the Marble LDN report illustrates the relative importance of several different factors. Other research previously reported here corroborates the importance of sustainability, personalization, unique event venues, and making attendees "feel as though they are part of shaping the event."
Events Are Simply Essential
As the report points out, there are numerous statistics that demonstrate the value of live events. For example:
- 87% of C-suite executives "believe in the power of live events and plan on investing more into them."
- 63% of marketers plan to increase the number of events they organize this year.
- 70% of users become regular customers of a brand after attending a live event, compared to a conversion rate of just 1.6% for social media.
But it's a few of the subjective conclusions in the report that are perhaps even more compelling than the numbers:
"Connection is a fundamental human necessity. Marketing is all about communication, and there will never be a replacement for face to face interaction...Live experience transcends the borders established by other types of marketing interaction...
"The right kinds of events, on whatever scale and budget, allow brands to present a human side, to reach out and connect with their consumers and make them feel part of a community...By 2020, the customer experience will overtake price and product as key brand differentiators. This means that the experience you engineer could be the thing that ends up defining your brand."
There's much more. To really prepare yourself for requesting that budget increase for live events this year, download and read the entire State of the Experience Industry report from Marble LDN.