Content marketing, the buzzword and marketing trend of the past decade, is older than one might think. The practice of gently coaxing a prospective client towards a buying decision by serving them useful and relevant content was invented long before the phrase was coined. Very, very long before.
Here's a classic example of true, by-the-book (no pun intended) content marketing, often brought up in lectures and marketing classes. It takes us back to France in the year 1900. Two brothers, Édouard and André, were worried about their dwindling sales figures. They manufactured and sold car tyres and business was not good. Cars were a fairly recent invention in 1900, and the public hadn't yet realised their potential. People just weren't interested in buying cars-or tyres.
One day the brothers came up with a brilliant idea. They wrote and published a guide book that showcased and recommended great restaurants and pubs all around the French countryside. The guide grew very popular very quickly, and the readers were inspired to leave their home towns and go on road trips in search of the best country pub. Car mania took over the nation, the brothers solved their problem and the Michelin tyre company is still going strong. Today, the Michelin Guide is more famous for fine dining recommendations than it is for car tyres, but it remains a perfect example of content marketing in action.
The Michelin brothers had to rely on printed guide books, but today's content marketer has an array of channels and platforms to choose from. The digital age has produced numerous tools for reaching, engaging and tracking very precisely defined audiences. Content marketing is usually associated to downloadable content offers like guides, whitepapers and video clips. On top of that there's all kinds of blog posts, podcasts and webinars.
But what is the oldest, most ancient marketing channel of them all? Way older than the Michelin guide of 1900? It's us! Human beings have gathered by the fire to tell stories and share experiences since the dawn of time. Face-to-face storytelling is extremely engaging and influential marketing content, and those who rely on events to increase their revenue know this. But why aren't events considered part of the modern marketer's content marketing toolbox?
The most likely reason is that events, to this day, seem hard to measure and evaluate compared to other marketing channels. Events get separated from the other marketing efforts because they require different kinds of attention and actions to be properly managed and measured. There's often lack of ownership within the organisation. Events gobble up a large portion of the marketing budget, but nobody really knows what results they bring in, or how to discover those results. Nevertheless, marketers believe in the power of the human encounter and aim to keep events in their marketing portfolios, even though they can't prove it by numbers.
Think content marketing when producing events-here's five steps to get you started
1) Define your target group
The bottom line of content marketing is to provide a very carefully selected audience with relevant and useful content. Of course, this applies to all marketing methods, but when it comes to events there's definitely room for improvement. More often than not, a full house is viewed as testimony of a successful event. Unfortunately it's very bad data, because an event venue filled to the rafters gives absolutely no indication of the quality of the audience. It's like counting clicks but not conversions. Dare to be exclusive-invite participants that can actually potentially bring you results or revenue, i.e. your ideal buyer persona only. A little something for everybody doesn't do your business any good and the participants end up with a lukewarm experience, at best.
2) Place your event at the right stop on the buyer's journey
The content marketing mantra, aka stages of the buyer's journey: Awareness-consideration-decision. Which stage does your event best fit into? Are you looking to attract prospects buy informing a fresh, new audience about your products and services? That's the awareness stage. Or do you want to focus on building trust with one-time buyers, hoping they'll make another purchase? Aim for the decision stage.
3) Remember continuity and consistency
Once you've placed your event on the buyer's journey timeline, it's time to scrutinise it from a content curation point of view. How well does your event content support the other content offers in this campaign? Thanks to their stepchild status as mentioned before, events tend to be siloed away to be planned and produced separately from other marketing efforts. A common but unfortunate scenario is that a top event agency is hired, big money spent on a great event and a fabulous communication plan, but none of it ties together with the overall story the marketing campaign is trying to tell. Continuity and consistency are absolute cornerstones when it comes to successful content marketing.
4) Set a conversion point
The event is over, what's next? Thank you notes and feedback requests have thankfully established themselves in most event managers' event communication repertoire, but that's usually it. Don't waste the momentum created by the event, take the interest and emotions it has generated and channel them into the next step on your buyer's journey. It's up to you to decide on a conversion point: do you want your participants to download advanced-level material, or would you prefer them to enroll in a class or another event?
5) Set some metrics
As the "full house indicator" clearly doesn't work, it's time to decide on a better way to measure the success of an event. Many companies rely on revenue reports-how many euros did the event generate in increased sales? The problem is that not very many bother to look at the revenue from an individual event weeks, months or even years later. The buyer's journey can take a long time to conclude. If it can take months or even years for a sales opportunity to come full circle and close, the follow-up requires tenacity and continuity. But it's worth it. When it's time to make decisions about upcoming events, even the slightest quantifiable proof of success is better and more reliable than a gut feeling.