Planning an event without a strong strategy or having a weak strategy is the same as building a startup without a business model. It’s like going on a road trip and forgetting your roadmap or phone (so you can look up Google maps).
Yet so many companies are running events just for the sake of it, thinking this will help them get more exposure or leads.
There’s no question that event marketing is one of the most valuable tools you have when it comes to promoting your brand.
But if not done correctly—meaning without a strong strategy to back up your event—you’ll fail to achieve the company’s desired goals.
Do you have an event strategy?
So what exactly is an event strategy,and why do many event strategies fail?
According to Freek Vermeulen, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School, a strategy is a set of clear and limited number of choices that fit together in a clear, deliberate direction, which enables the implementation process.
In other words, a strategy is the framework you’ll be using when making decisions and setting up actions, ensuring that everything you do is well-aligned with your initial intentions.
Extended to an event strategy, this definition refers to the master plan that you’ll be following when planning your event.
This master plan will help you stay focused, avoid wasting time on things that don’t matter, and make sure you design actions exclusively serve your goals.
Strategy versus planning
Do not confuse your event strategy with your event plan.
Your strategic framework will determine how you’ll generate business value from the event, while your event plan must be mostly focused on implementation, meaning the exact actions you’ll be taking to achieve your goals.
Unfortunately, most of us are still setting up events with just an event plan (which is often confused with the strategic framework).
As a result, this leads to many frustrations and poor results.
To reinvent your event strategy and make it work, you’ll have to consider a few steps that, subsequently, will help you gain much more clarity and move forward in the planning world with much more confidence.
Step #1. Envision your desired future
Let’s start by highlighting that you shouldn’t plan an event just for the sake of it. If you aren’t sure how event marketing can help you achieve your business goals, you might want to pause and reassess your decisions.
To make sure planning events is the right marketing approach for your brand or company, you should visualize your desired future.
What are the things you want to achieve that can’t be reached any other way?
In other words, start reimagining your strategy by identifying the business goals of your event(s).
Events are usually irreplaceable if you want to interact with your leads or clients face-to-face or build powerful knowledge transfer platforms. However, don’t forget that all this must translate into business indicators later.
Step #2. Analyze your context and environment
It’s also important to understand where your brand or company stands.
- Who are your competitors?
- What type of events are they running, and what’s their target group?
- How are they designing their brand experience, and how are they communicating it to the world through events?
- What are your business’s particularities, and what other important events are happening in your industry?
Answering these questions will help you determine your differentiating assets and give you the necessary information to rethink your event and highlight the value of your event’s brand experience.
Step #3. Determine the planning costs and the event business value
Planning events is costly. Apart from financial resources, you’ll also have to invest lots of time and team effort.
Thus, one key point you must introduce in the event strategy is the resource assessment and potential business value of your event. These calculations will help you figure out how to achieve a positive ROI.
Step #4. Recognize your dependencies (aka your key event stakeholders)
Designing, managing, and running an event involves a big number of stakeholders. From business partners and event sponsors to customers and attendees, there’s a long list of people you’ll be dealing with.
All these groups have different agendas and interests. Moreover, your event’s success depends on how well you manage to navigate these dependencies and ensure every stakeholder gets what they’re expecting.
Step #5. Align your event with the company values and brand identity
The event must embody your company’s personality.
Your attendees must feel it not only through the brand experience, but also through the setting itself and the dynamics.
For example, if your company believes in engagement and friendliness, you’ll want to make sure your event expresses those values through multiple co-creative sessions, a play-like mood, and an easy atmosphere.
The key here is to know what your brand values are and make sure you communicate them to your guests.
Step #6. Design the attendee experience you want to provide
It’s crucial to know what type of attendee personas you want to attract and what their journey should look like. This is strongly related to the end results you want to achieve by planning the event.
For example, if you want to encourage your attendees to try your products or services and connect more with your brand, you’ll want to ensure a stress-free attendance, helping your guests immerse themselves in the experience you’ll be providing.
When creating your event strategy, you’ll want to distinguish the touch points people will have with your event and what you want them to experience (awe, curiosity, engagement, etc.).
Step #7. Assign the accountability indicators
- How will you know if the event was successful?
- What indicators do you want to measure?
- Who’ll be held accountable?
To make your event strategy feasible, you’ll want to foresee the outcomes and determine the necessary requisites to achieve the desired ROI.
Step #8. Decide how to communicate the event
Having a communication strategy for your event is decisive in predicting its success. The way you communicate the event to your stakeholders (customers, partners, attendees, suppliers, etc.) will determine its impact and results.
This could include the main messages you want to transmit and the narrative or the storytelling you’ll be building around the event.
From strategy to a successful event
The last part in creating an event strategy is to ground your vision and transform it into a plan, adding the specific actions you’ll be taking to achieve your goals.
Remember that each action you draw from the strategy must be aligned with your intentions.
Your strategy is your resources allocation framework, and the event plan, which includes tactics and actions, is how you’ll be tangibly achieving what you have in mind.