Is It Time For A Paradigm Shift In Marketing?

how to market an event

Problems can either destroy a business or an industry or give it insights on how to make positive changes.

Over time, these problem-solving insights tend to accumulate.

When they reach a certain threshold, this leads to innovation.

Then, over a longer period of time these innovations pile up.

This leads to paradigm shifts.

A Paradigm Shift In Internet Marketing

A classical example of an industry that has experienced a paradigm shift is Internet marketing, in particular eCommerce focused on selling information products.

Here’s how it has evolved:

First, marketers tried an ethical bribe on landing pages. They would put ads, say Google’s Pay Per Click ads, to attract people to come and get a free report. After people clicked the link, they would go to a landing page with an opt-in box.

Once they signed up to get the free report in exchange for their email address, they also received a steady stream of emails for months. Initially curious, customers eventually stopped reading these emails because they came to realize that these were usually an endless series of product pitches.

While this income model worked sometimes, it did not often enough to create a successful business model.

For marketers, the cost of customer acquisition — paid advertising to drive customers — fell behind the rate at which people purchased products. Over time, more people unsubscribed than purchased.

When the dropout rate exceeded the retention rate, the business model threatened to collapse. Today, the model is still used, but with more content to improve retention.

On top of this high level of customer dissatisfaction, marketers faced a new problem. Google didn’t like them either, and did not give them high ranking on search engine results pages.

This crisis forced marketers to come up with an entirely new solution — content creation. At this point, blogging became the new normal, while websites served more like catalogs.

Now everyone is happy with the content creation solution:

  • Marketers are happy because people come to their blogs from social media pages, sign up for the newsletters and enjoy receiving more content in their emails.
  • Customers are happy because they are getting some valuable information rather than being harangued to buy immediately before the special offer disappeared forever.
  • Google is happy because search has become relevant again. Customers get content-rich pages, not just opt-in pages.

The Relevance for Event Planners

What has this example from the world of Internet marketing got to do with event planners?

There are many parallels between the two industries, but here at least two lessons event planners can learn from the story of the paradigm shift in information marketing techniques online:

  • First: While Internet marketers had problems with getting traffic and retaining subscribers, conferences have poor turn-outs and many people don’t stay for the entire conference.
  • Second: While online subscribers got tired of opening up emails that pitched them to buy more, conference attendees get burned out on pitch-fests.

The solution for event planners, of course, is to get some insights on how to do things better. However, before insights, more data gathering may be necessary.

It’s difficult to make changes, to usher in a paradigm shift, when there is only a vague notion of what is and what isn’t working.

The Magic of Metrics

When trying to figuring out what people want, it’s important to know what they do want but are not getting.

If people aren’t coming to conferences or staying, then it’s important to know what holds their attention and what creates dissatisfaction.

If people don’t like pitch-fests — but it’s important for speakers to upsell their consultancy business after a speech — what is the ideal balance between delivering content and making business-building promotional offers?

The way to find out what people want and what they don’t want is to start gauging audience response.

Before the age of mobile apps, this was actually hard to do. Sure there were survey cards and people calling up to interrogate them about their experience, but the problem was that people either didn’t fill out the survey forms and return them, or they gave unhelpful answer to the telephone interviewee before excusing themselves.

Now, the game of event marketing can be as robust as that of Internet marketing. In the world of Internet marketing, savvy marketers found out what people wanted through metrics and started to give it to them.

The result was that business flourished online. It’s not uncommon for popular bloggers to make six to seven figures a year online.

The Mobile App Revolution

Today, mobile phone apps make it easy to collect data in abundance. For event planners, using conference apps can be a game changer. Here are some of the benefits of deploying the right app at a conference:

  • It can capture important customer data.
  • It can measure customer data.
  • If acted upon, this data can improve traffic to conference, attendee satisfaction and revenue generation.

Here are some things you want a good app to do:

  • Give you a meaningful graph of the analytic information, rather than a bewildering statistical table.
  • Reveal attendees levels of satisfaction through a sentiment analysis to gauge whether they felt more positive or negative about the conference.
  • Provide event planners with some data that reveals when attendees were engaged. This will give them a better idea on how to organize their next event.

Once event planners understand what attendees want, they can give it to them. Fortunately, with mobile apps, it’s easier than ever to get the right analytic information.

Armed with this data, event marketers have everything they need to create a paradigm shift in their industry. In actuality, people love attending conferences; the trick is figuring out what it is exactly that they love so that it’s possible to give them more so that they keep coming back.

When transforming your conference, start small and build up by using metrics to figure out your next best step.

(Photo by Jeffrey Zeldman / CC BY)

Tina Su is the editor at Work Awesome and Think Simple Now.


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