Event marketing has transformed: Are you falling behind or rising to the occasion?

Kyra Albano

The marketer’s world today

In a modern world where humans are almost completely dependent on technology, it’s hard to believe that there was ever a time when cave paintings were a main form of communication. We’ve come a long way since. From the age of the printing press and the first telephone to the Internet, smartphones, and even artificially intelligent machines –innovations that we now often take for granted but were once incomprehensible. Our ‘new world’ is now defined by whirlwinds of constant change, rapid tech advancements, and streams of endless information.

Photo by Andy Kelly

As marketers and communicators in particular, it has never been more challenging to keep up with it all. Let alone to stand out in an ever-growing sea of noise and competition. Put COVID-19 into the mix and we’ve got our work cut out for us unlike ever before.

The hard truth that marketers face today is this: The unprecedented level of digitalization coupled with a completely status-quo-shattering pandemic demands nothing short of digital transformation, and fast. And that’s true whether you or your organization feels ‘ready’ for it or not. Budd Caddwell puts it in a simple yet powerful way:

“There is no digital strategy anymore, just strategy in a digital world.”

The burning question is... Will you be one to fall behind in the face of change, or will you be one to thrive upon it?

Event Marketing in 2020 - Disruption and opportunity

The space of marketing alone has drastically evolved within the past few decades thanks to new technologies that have popped up left and right at record speeds.

Some industries have done better than others: Finance, media, and telecoms, for example, have proven successful in embracing digitalization. While industries like manufacturing and construction seem to lag more behind. The difference now is that it’s no longer acceptable not to go digital. Basically, it’s that or bust. This is particularly true now that COVID-19 has fundamentally attacked a major part of what many marketers have long relied on as a way to uniquely drive revenue, generate and engage leads, and differentiate themselves from competitors: events.

Photo by Kyle Glenn

It goes without saying that the pandemic has left a gaping hole in the events industry. It’s a hole that, depending on how you look at it, is either something to fall into and perish in or that can be creatively filled up and transformed to your advantage.

Obviously, marketers are interested in the latter option. But to achieve that, we first need to make a distinction between two types of responses to change and digitalization. A distinction that makes all the difference.

Let's learn from the past: 2 major ways to respond to change

We can look at the early days of email as an example.

Photo by Bert SZ

When email was invented in the 70s, sending letters by post still played a significant role for most. Having an email address was for long not seen as the societal expectation that it is today, but more so as a curious ‘luxury’. It was only in the late 90s when internet usage, and by extension email usage, exploded.  And from here we can see the two responses:

The Passive – Reactive Response

Some saw email merely as an add-on or replacement for traditional postage. For them, there wasn’t much more to it. Email didn’t serve to instill a transformative change in behavior or thinking, nor in the way one saw the world or the future. For them, email could be treated in essentially the same way as post: secure an address, write the message, send it out.

The Proactive – Transformative Response

Others saw beyond. Email wasn’t just this simple add-on or replacement. Email represented the dawn of an entire paradigm shift in the way entire societies communicated; in the way industries operated; in the way business and marketing strategies would from then on be designed and executed. Ultimately, this group recognized that this technology was opening up the floodgates for opportunities they’d never had before. They saw the need to adapt to the digital transformation happening in the world, and in effect to transform their own selves.

Photo by Markus Spiske

It is this second response that separates the healthy, agile, and leading entities (whether that be people, organizations, or industries) from those that lag behind, lose their competitive advantage, and hinder their growth.

The opportunity is yours for the taking. Are you seizing it?

When it comes to event marketing and event technology, the story isn’t too different from that of email.

Event marketing is now more digital than it is physical, where new innovations hold the potential to add unparalleled value to customer experiences and company success.

According to ON24’s Webinar Benchmarks Report (Covid-19 Special Edition), latest stats from April 2020 show:

  • A 230% increase in webinars (with over 100 attendees) from 2019
  • An overall spike in registrant-to-attendee conversion rates at 61% in 2020 compared to 55% in 2019

When conversation rates of 35% - 45% are already considered good in the webinar world, these new numbers just go to show how much the landscape has changed. More and more marketers are turning to webinars, and more and more audiences are seeking to engage within them.

Photo by Austin Distel

This reality only reinforces the need for marketers today to step up to the plate in what’s now a “Digital First” world. People’s attention spans are short, consumer expectations are sky high, and pretty soon we’ll all be competing for the same eyeballs.

It’s therefore imperative to remember the story with email. Realize that it’s not enough to merely “add” digital on top of existing norms, strategies, and operations. You can’t just replace physical events with webinars and then call it a day if you’re aiming for long-term success. You can’t just be the 'passive – reactive responder'; to do so would be to turn a blind eye to the greater value that digital transformation has to offer.

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Instead, you need to be the 'proactive – transformative responder'. You need to actively set yourself ahead and apart, and you need digital transformation to do it.

Get ahead and stand out

“But, how?”

It’s a big challenge, we know. That’s why we’ve decided to set up this series all about how marketers can better achieve both quick wins and structural change through digital transformation.

Throughout our series we’ll be sharing best practices, tips, interviews with thought leaders, and other key insights over the coming weeks. If you want in then don't forget to sign up on the form on the top right-hand side of this page!

For now - thanks for tuning in. Until next time!

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