For sure Covid-19 won’t bring an endgame to the event marketing industry, but how do the offline marketing business get through the difficult time has become an immense challenge. The challenge is not about when will the business come back, it is more on how to future-proof the event business model.
When people cannot meet face to face, we all go online. For the event marketers, this is a different game. Fighting for attention is hard especially on the screen (mobile screen is even harder). A virtual event experience simply cannot reassemble the interaction at a physical event. And also the most important aspect is that the virtual business model cannot sustain the P&L of a traditional event business. No event organizer can survive without restructuring the business; or let me be blunt here, most of the event organizers are not tech capable and the event business infrastructure will not support the transformation.Endgame or New game? How can we have a future-proof event business? Click To Tweet
Virtual event is a pain killer
The consideration stuck in how to move outside the comfort zone. Investing in the technology takes years to have the return, buying a tech startup will likely clash with the brick-and-mortar business culture, paying a third-party virtual event solution is short-term. But even it is a short-term solution, it makes the event organizers relevant and keep the visibility. So, most of the event organizers will pay for a virtual event solution and re-market it for their customers. Virtual event solution becomes a pain killer but it is not future-proof.
Can we have a future-proof solution for event business? A general consensus is to pursue a hybrid solution. Common sense, right? We can have the best of the both sides. I have come across some hybrid event business frameworks but nothing is an actual deliverable. I have seen the event organizers developed a website, a marketplace, an online business directory to complement an physical event. Some go beyond the static catalog model and do live-streaming of the content. But all these are not new. The solution and the outcome have lost to the tech companies who have different level of sophistication (just different core competency). Stepping outside the comfort zone is not easy.
If I am given a position to lead an event company, this is what I will pay attention.
- Event is a content business. Technology enables interaction with the content. I will focus to re-invent the content and not the technology.
- Adding digital or online to complement an event is not hybrid. People have always misunderstood the concept of integration. Adding one to the other is not integration. I always use diet coke as an example – you don’t sell less sugar and a can of coke for a diet solution. You sell one can of diet coke for one price. The ingredients are inseparable. One optimal price for all. Nothing is free nor more is expensive.
- Adding a CRM or pipeline management service extension to the event, selling a business journey instead of the space. If you understand marketing, a sales journey (a buy flow or a funnel, whatever you want to call it) involves a series of marketing touch points. How can we expedite the speed or cut short the steps along the journey makes difference in the customer’s consideration for our solution.
Technology and space are the bad marriage
At the time I am writing this article, the world is still going through the pain of the pandemics. It is very likely that we will have to live two years under the abnormality. Some of us are forced to step outside the comfort zone and some of us are holding our faith for a better tomorrow. The pain will be over eventually so as our business will evolve everyday. A marketer will understand that different marketing touch points exist for its distinct purpose. An marketing event is fundamentally and also purposely different from a website or an App. They will not be a substitute of each other. An marketing event sits in the last mile of a marketing plan when all the leads can be engaged face to face for a conversation rather than a click, a tap, or an eyeball’s impression.
How do we improve the value of the conversation? It depends on how the event organizers will fit the content into the environment. A meaningful hybrid event solution is certainly not a marriage between technology and space. It could be the content and the deliverable of the content that derive non-fungible benefit for the event participants. To me, the non-fungible benefit that event marketing can produce for business is a good outcome such as a learning which can turn into an inspiration, a reciprocal relationship, a trust in the business, a new friend who I’ve met at the event.
I picked up something interesting. Reported on Macrumors.com – an Apple fans site, Apple asked the participants of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this year in an annual survey if they preferred in-person event over the online format after two years of organizing the virtual WWDC. I didn’t know the answer of this survey, but I did a count of the comments in an Apple fans forum,
Out of the total 66 comments found in the forum, there are 43 to 23 with more people prefer an in-person WWDC to a virtual WWDC next year. Are people more receptive to the physical experience?