Event marketing should be a key aspect in a dealership promotional plan and for many dealers, the key effort that positions their brand directly in the face of the target consumer.
WaterTop Unlimited has been involved with a wide range of marine event projects over the past 20 years, all with varying objectives but ultimately to spread a specific brand message and induce a consumer reaction. No matter what kind of event we produce, there are enough similarities to inspire us to use a basic formula when approaching each project.
The three basic formula components include strategy, production and effort. The strategy is the idea behind the project, while the production is the operational aspect. And the effort ultimately determines the success of an event.
The project must have a clear objective and defined goal. An event sends a message to attendees, and it is key that the message leverages your existing company branding and remains consistent with other forms of marketing communications.
An event may be focused on a specific aspect of the business or a specific product, but the overall tone and message – from a visual, audible, and human interactive standpoint – must “look, say, and feel” the same thing. So, be consistent.
The first steps in any event are to define the objective — why and how will the event help the business and brand? This is the creative part of the effort, and it drives everything else.
The second step is to lock in the location and the dates, the earlier the better. With adequate advanced notice, you minimize costs and stress, and maximize the opportunities to leverage the event and all it offers. So get the event on peoples’ calendars ASAP.
Simply planning an event isn’t good enough. Pre-planning is crucial. And the “pre” part is the key. That is why we “square” the P in our formula.
Planning is the basic objective from an operational standpoint and must be steered by the strategy in every phase of project development.
WaterTop builds a project grid for every effort, using a simple Excel document to keep track of the project and to help plan the work. A line is dedicated to every possible aspect of the event, including a description, who is responsible, what the company is providing or supplying, location, cost, comments, and colored status cells; “to do” in yellow and “done” in green.
Effort extends beyond the planning to the people actually on-site at the event. I have seen great events fail to deliver because an organization did not put in the effort to make it successful. Proper staffing is crucial — the right number, the right attitudes and the right knowledge.
The staff must be informed of all the key aspects of the event. They are the event representatives, and they need to be able to answer questions and be engaging to attendees. Energy has to be as high for the last person leaving as it was for the first person arriving. The personal interaction makes the biggest difference.
Let the newspaper, TV stations, Web forums, and social networks talk about the event. Promote it heavily beforehand and just as strong afterwards. Take a lot of pictures and video. This allows the event to live on and reach a larger audience beyond those who attended and adds value to the effort.
Finally, don’t forget: Great events are remembered, but so are the bad ones. Do things right and event marketing can have an incredibly positive impact on your business. Simply follow the formula.