Event evangelists (event-gelists) do such a great job with evangelism marketing, they might in fact be angels sent down from event planner heaven. Event-gelists are event-goers who market the event to their friends on their own accord, defend the event and its PR troubles to their deaths, and bring in ticket revenues repeatedly.
Event-gelists have the authenticity and connections that a sales team doesn’t. They understand the market in ways you can’t. Building event loyalty is at the heart of nurturing event-gelists. The more event-gelists you have, the more self-sustaining your event marketing strategies become.
1. Relate on an emotional level
Events that resonate emotionally find a more loyal event following. Emotional marketing language is important in helping you connect with event-goers. Emotions such as excitement, sadness, embarrassment and compassion are strong levers of action. Charity runs, events like Singapore’s Pink Dot that centers around a controversial issue, and TED conferences that evoke thought and perspectives that link to social issues and impact are clear people winners.
It’s much harder for a corporate event organiser to connect emotionally. But as long as you develop empathy for your event-goers and address their professional woes in an open manner, your events-goers will see your relevance and view you as an event organiser that is in the loop. This develops greater trust and credibility for your event and helps you stand apart from most events that do not address real problems.
Targeting a smaller segment of your potential market can also help you win more loyal followers. Niche events tend to generate a much more loyal following because people feel like they own the event. If they see it as a part of their identity, they will feel more compelled to share it with their networks. You may sacrifice mass appeal in the process but don’t underestimate the power of event-gelists who can potentially infect a wider network with their enthusiasm and passion. At the same time, choose a niche that people are genuinely passionate about.
By thinking about how you connect with your audience and doing so on a deeper level, your ties with your community become much stronger and your event becomes much more influential.
2. Know your event-goers and identify potential event-gelists
But before planning the event, you need to peer into the brains of your event-goer (or potential event-goer). Then, sift out the event-goers who may become event-gelists. Identify their characteristics and ask what is still preventing them from becoming event-gelists.
You can do so in a few ways:
Interview those in target group
- Read event reviews. If it is the first time you are organising the event, look at reviews for similar past events
Haunt the target group’ favourite places, online and offline for clues to what they are looking for
Engage them by creating communities (online groups like Meetups and Facebook groups, LinkedIn)
Hire temporary staff who are part of this group (and adequately competent of course)
Consult influencers about the target group
Analyse big data to understand demographic patterns
By relating on an emotional level while keeping your eyes and ears close to the ground, you can develop a personality for the event that resonates with your target group. Redbull markets its energy drinks as a booster that gives people ‘wings’ to do crazy things. Its most famous event, Flug Tag, which involves people building flying machines and pushing it off a pier, is precisely designed with their target audience in mind, the crazy and adventurous people who do outrageous things, or like watching others do outrageous things.
3. Communicate that personality
Don’t hardsell your event. Instead, exude a personality. Social media and forums are a great way to push out this personality because you can share personalised and useful content regularly. You also get to interact one-on-one with your target group, which makes your presence online seem more genuine.
You could also plan mini events in the leadup to the big event such as by having meetups or classes that link thematically with the big event to communicate event branding. It’s a great way to hype them up by giving them a taste of what’s to come. It also gives you the opportunity to understand their reservations and resolve them beforehand.
Influencer marketing can also help you reach out to your target group. I previously wrote about influencer marketing in greater detail here. Influencers are trusted communicators in the community and if you successfully engage them, they could even even become your event-gelists! Their insight into the head of your targeted event-goer can be extremely valuable.
Associate yourself as much as you can with things, topics and people that are linked to your event personality and branding to get the word out!
4. Brand the event
That means being consistent with branding on all platforms when marketing events. Achieving a balance between customising the experience to individuals and being relevant to the entire group at the same time is very challenging. That’s why long-term communication is important to event promotion as it enhances trust, shows commitment and creates more opportunities for you to successfully connect with the different individuals within the targeted community.
While I have mentioned developing an emotional connection, event merchandise can augment the personality as well. Again, make sure it is consistent with the brand you are projecting. Merchandise like flower crowns at music festivals, T-shirts at conventions, glow sticks at night runs etc. are things that event-gelists can collect and easily show off. These collectibles are another avenue to increase excitement for the event.
5. Long-term engagement to build long-term followers
Ultimately, you do not gain a loyal event following overnight. Event organisers need to continuously engage with the community in a consistent and genuine manner to nurture event-gelists, who are not just loyal to your event but loyal to the company because they know you have their best interests at heart. Support your event-gelists and produce useful and meaningful content and products to sustain customer loyalty.
6. Plan a kickass event
No matter how much community engagement and event marketing you do, the quality of the actual event is what keeps people coming back. So plan a good event that is enjoyable and demanded by event-goers and your event will fall in place!