By Sara Faatz
Events – whether creating your own, participating in a third-party event, or hosting a virtual affair – afford you the opportunity to interact with the developer audience in a meaningful way. They are powerful marketing tools that require thorough planning and attention to detail.
Throughout this guide we will cover the basic elements of every event: purpose, content, and theme. We’ll also touch on driving attendance, important details to remember, and success metrics.
There are many reasons to host or participate in an event – customer appreciation; building champions; generating revenue; establishing your expertise; building or maintaining your brand; building community; raising money for a cause – to name a few. Understanding the why of what you are doing is essential to building the foundation for a successful event.
For instance, if you have the following goals you will likely want to host your own in-person event:
- Meaningfully engage existing and potential customers
- Generate excitement about your product
- Establish yourself as a thought leader
By producing your own events, you are able to have a captive audience for a set period of time (usually in the order of hours). For comparison sake, consider large industry events (like exhibiting at a trade show) where on average you get your customer or potential customer’s attention for three to four minutes as they stop by your booth to talk or see a demo.
While there are a lot of compelling reasons to participate in large industry events (brand transfer, brand awareness, partnerships, etc.), if your goals are similar to the ones outlined above, your money would probably be better spent hosting your own event.
Once you’ve defined your purpose the next step and most important thing is to determine your content. Whether you are conducting demos in a booth or hosting an ancillary event at a conference, remember: content is king.
It always has been and always will be.
Details such as location, venue, cost, and day of the week, are all critical components of any event, but at the end of the day if you don’t have content that excites your developer audience, they will not come. Or even worse… they’ll leave disappointed.
As an example, say you are launching a new tool for developers to use when creating mobile applications. Interesting to your target audience? Sure. Worth taking time out of their work day to listen to you basically pitch your product? Probably not. In a time where information is readily accessible, why would they come to what they’d deem a sales pitch when they could just as easily watch a webinar you’ve produced, read about it on your website, or peruse tech forums?
So how do you make something like that appealing? Quality content.
Partner with an industry influencer and invite the audience to hear a keynote that provides an in-depth look at the future of the industry. Offer interesting talks and workshops that are strictly technical (no marketing fluff, just pure content about topics that are important to them and germane to the product you are launching). Let them have a sneak peek at your latest toolset. Provide value.
By recognizing that their time is important and giving them valuable content they can go back to the office with and use right away, developers won’t mind sitting through the product announcement. They will be excited to see it and will be able to justify the time they spend with you. It’s a win-win for all involved.
Picking a theme is a milestone in the event planning process. It is usually born out of the purpose and content. It’s also something we’ve all done – with birthday parties, weddings, bridal, or baby showers. The theme can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but you should know what it is.
Here are some key things you should think about when setting the theme:
1) Does it make sense? There was a great book written by Steve Krug called “Don’t Make Me Think.” It was written about web usability and web design, but the principles he discusses translate naturally into so many other facets of life – event planning, and theming, in this case, as one of them. If you have to explain it, don’t do it. Don’t make your attendees think or guess. The theme should make sense.
2) Also along the lines of “does it make sense?”, you also want to make sure that the theme aligns with your purpose. The events you produce or your participation in an event should make an impact.
3) Is it appropriate? Not only is the theme itself appropriate socially, but is it appropriate for the audience and your goals. Is it unintentionally cheesy? Is it a true representation of your brand experience?
At the end of the day, anyone can throw a party, plan an event, or participate in one. But your theme is what will help you rise above the noise. It can help you create or make your participation in the event memorable and impactful. It is the springboard for building creative ideas to make the event interesting and fun, and to make people want to take time out of their day (or money out of their wallet) to attend your event or visit your booth. Think about the details that will inspire people to attend.
Using the goals you established for the event, the theme, and the content, you can create a set of messages you will use for all of your promotional material. The messages should be consistent and easy to digest.
Creating messaging for an event isn’t any different than creating your overall marketing messaging. You should come up with the core tenets or pillars – the two or three most important things you want to get across – and all of your campaigns will flow from there. Just remember to be consistent.
Once you’ve created your messaging framework and your campaigns, you can work on the design. Again, consistency is key. The design should be consistent with your theme, consistent with your brand experience, and consistent from communique to communique.
The next step is actual execution:
- Promote the event in your newsletter; on your social media properties; in email blasts; in community newsletters; in your advertising.
- If you have partners, leverage their network and resources. As part of the agreement, ask that they promote the event.
- If it is an event you are hosting, use your speakers and influencers. Ask them to promote the events in their blogs, on their website, in their newsletters, etc.
- Provide discounts or incentives to key customers, for early registration, etc.
It has been said both ways: God is in the Details or The Devil is in the Details. Regardless, the resulting meaning is the same. It’s the little things that can make or break an event.
This is one time where it’s okay to sweat the small stuff.
Think about unique venues, clever giveaways, unique speakers, or activities. Think about the time of year and the habits of your target audience. Be aware of holidays – religious and otherwise – and school schedules. In some industries, the day of the week is important as well. If your event will be in a town or city that has traffic problems, try to schedule the event to either end before the traffic starts or start the event after rush hour.
If you’ve paid attention to the details – the small stuff – most attendees will walk away thinking it was a great event.
Now let’s look at registration/check-in. If you’ve focused on the registration experience prior to the event, you will have thought through how you will get people in quickly and efficiently.
- Do people know where registration is? Is there proper signage?
- Do you have name badges? If so, have you pre-printed them and lined them up in alphabetical order?
- Is there an attendee grab bag? Are they collecting that at registration or at a different table? At registration or another time?
- Are there t-shirts in the bag? Are they organized by size? Did you collect attendees’ size information when they signed up?
- How are you going to handle attendees who sign up the day of the event?
Each of these things may seem small, but when one of two of them goes wrong – people notice. Registration is their first experience with your event. Make sure it’s a good one.
At the end of the day, what it comes down to is this: whether you are hosting your own event or participating in someone else’s, you are going to have a lot of unexpected things to deal with. If you’ve paid attention to the details, you will be better prepared to handle the surprises with grace.
So you’ve planned and executed your event. How do you know if the event was successful?
There are some obvious indicators:
- Number of attendees/leads
- Money earned vs. amount spent
- Did everything go off without a hitch (or at least in the eyes of the audience)?
But how do you measure success when you have less tangible metrics in mind? It is a question for the ages.
You could follow your gut. While you might not be the most unbiased judge of success or failure, you will have a pretty good idea of whether people were happy. But the “because I said so” argument typically only works with your children – and even then it’s not always well received. Start by going back to the goals you set when you decided to host the event.
Think back to the first example we discussed in this guide. The goals were to meaningfully engage existing and potential customers, generate excitement about your product, and establish yourself as a thought leader. Those are some subjective goals. What does it mean to “meaningfully engage existing and potential customers?” Who decides if the engagement is meaningful? How do you measure that? How do you quantify “excited about our product?” And how do you judge whether or not people viewed you as a thought leader.
Let’s start with the basics. Before we can gauge the feelings of the people attending, we have to quantify that we actually reached the target audience – Customers and Potential Customers.
You can do this in a number of ways (some more scientific than others) and triangulate the data.
- Compare the list of registered attendees against your customer database.
- Ask for a show of hands at the beginning of the event.
- Conduct a survey before the end of the event.
Once you’ve established you are reaching the right audience, you need to understand how they “feel.” There are a number of ways to handle this including trackable sales using special promotional codes or the aforementioned survey.
Surveys should be short (say 10 questions max). Typical questions could include:
- How would you rate the event? (poor, fair, good, great)
- Would you attend again? (yes, no, maybe)
- Rate the speakers
- What did you like most/least?
- Any additional comments?
Then also include two or three qualifying questions either about what kind of technology they are using, if they are customers, etc., and leave a spot for them to include their name and email address.
There should be an incentive to complete the survey, and have the attendees complete them while they are still at the event – you get a higher return rate and the experience is still fresh.
Events are great vehicles for facilitating in-person interactions. Whether you are hosting your own or participating in someone else’s, you will have the most success if you take the time to plan the event, to honestly assess your purpose, to solidify your content, and to build out your theme. With a focus on details and the use of core marketing tactics to drive attendance, you have a greater chance of creating a successful experience that can be measured.
If you have any questions about event best practices or are looking for help promoting your developer event then get in touch today and find out how Developer Media can help: http://developermedia.com/contact-us/