One of the biggest buzz terms of last year, content marketing is the strategy of consistently creating and curating relevant content in an effort to attract and retain customers and influence consumer behavior. Big brands are taking funds away from traditional advertising to create their own videos, blogs and print magazines, resembling publishing houses in the process. Companies like Coca-Cola, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Red Bull are all creating stories in an effort to make an emotional connection with customers.
Planners need to make an emotional connection with customers too, to attract and retain attendees. Most already do some form of content marketing, through blogs, videos and social media, yet Joe Pulizzi—a 15-year vet of the event business and founder of Content Marketing Institute, which produces the annual Content Marketing World, the largest gathering of content marketing professionals in the world—says planners are leaving some valuable opportunities on the table.
Strategize for the Long Term
Why set aside time and money for content marketing? Maybe the goal is to attract more attendees, generate greater revenue by cross-selling additional services and products, or to create sponsorship opportunities for exhibitors and partners.
Start by defining long-term goals and your ideal participant. “Take a step back and ask, what’s the big ‘why’ for our organization, and how can we use content to create better attendees?” says Pulizzi. Then, define the real “who.” Your event likely attracts all kinds of people, but who is the No. 1 buyer?
It’s not enough to capture attention for the one weekend your annual event occurs. The ultimate goal, according to Pulizzi, is to monetize subscribers for a longer cycle. “We want to keep our attendees engaged throughout the entire year.”
No Pain, No Gain
Address topics relevant to your audience beyond the scope of the event. Content marketing is about storytelling, not advertising or self-promotion. Think about
the business challenges of your ideal buyer. What problems can you help them solve? Therein lies the blueprint for your content marketing strategy.
“If we can solve the pain points of our attendees, we can really build a good long-term relationship with them, and they will be
more likely to come to our event and spend more,” says Pulizzi, who attends nearly 100 events annually.
Mark Your Calendar
Marketing with content means thinking like a publishing house, so it makes sense to stick to a publishing schedule, also known as an editorial calendar. Plan a year in advance, breaking it down by quarters, months and weeks. Anticipate ramping up the frequency of publishing as your event draws closer.
Decide where to publish. Perhaps your content’s key component will be a blog, a podcast or a custom print magazine. Which social media channels appeal most to your audience?
“Are you creating the go-to website with daily or every-other-day content to help with your search engine optimization or to help drive more subscribers?” asks Pulizzi. “What’s the channel that allows you to be the go-to informational resource?”
Implement a subscription strategy. Pulizzi says this might be as simple as an email subscription of daily or weekly content that will help potential attendees move forward in their buying decision.
Delegate Beyond Marketing
Thinking like a publisher requires a journalistic mind-set. Pulizzi suggests appointing someone outside the marketing department to look over the editorial calendar. “You need a specific person to help figure out how you’re going to tell that story in those channels. You need editors to crack the whip on the editorial calendar.”
What to Do at the Event
There’s a fairly obvious low-hanging fruit that Pulizzi says 90 percent of the events he attends do not take advantage of. “They don’t videotape or record their sessions in any way, which is the best marketing you could have,” he says. “It blows my mind. I cannot believe when an event spends money to bring me there, and I go in and nobody’s recording it.”
Live event coverage is another must-do. Consider outsourcing live tweeting and blogging to volunteers who receive free admission in exchange.
It’s OK to Give Content Away—Really
Critics are concerned that offering so much free information will deter potential attendees, but proponents say content marketing done well actually drives in-person registration.
“Some people are worried about sharing actual content from previous years’ sessions, but I think that showing real peeks at previous events is the best way to get people to come in the future,” says Lee Price, marketing director for Reputation Capital, a content marketing agency that recently published the guide, “How to Turn Your Next Event in to a Content Goldmine.”
Price recommends anticipating registration obstacles. “Maybe they don’t think it’s in their budget or that their boss will approve it,” says Price. “Help them overcome those objections with a blog post on the five reasons you’ll get return on investment from coming to this conference.”