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Content Marketing for Events: 6 Critical Steps

content marketing world - eventsThis week, I gave a presentation on content marketing for event professionals at the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). These are marketers and managers who run events for thousands of people — sometimes upwards of 10,000 or more.

The events industry is no different than most industries when it comes to content marketing — it is a bit behind. The majority of attendees have no documented content strategy and leverage social media mostly for promotional purposes. In addition, only about 20 percent record or film their programming sessions, losing out on a big opportunity to capture and then reimagine content assets.

So, if you are running an event, where do you start with content marketing?


Most marketers start with the “what” or “where.” Should I do a blog, or what should I publish on Facebook? It’s easy to make the mistake of starting with the channel.

Remember, this is marketing. Content that doesn’t maintain or change a behavior is just that — content. Content marketing means we are helping to make the needle move.

So, our first step is always “why.” Why are we doing this in the first place?

For events, there can be many goals:

  • Attract more attendees.
  • Cross-sell current attendees into other products and services.
  • Create new sales opportunities for exhibitors.
  • Drive more attendees to the exhibits.
  • Lower attendee churn.

Whatever your key goals are, write them down and make this the first step.

Who’s the “who?”

That sounds easy, but it’s not. In most cases, event planners target multiple titles and functions. Then, in turn, you need a content plan for each buyer you are targeting. So we don’t overcomplicate things, start with these first two steps:

  • Who is the main attendee [delegate] that you are targeting for the event?
  • Begin to build out a buyer persona for that target attendee.

Using this process, an example might be:

  • Why?: To attract more attendees
  • Who?: Heating and air conditioning contractors

Finding your story

The number one question I receive from event professionals is on what to talk about. Seems odd, doesn’t it, considering that event professionals create educational programming for a living?

The biggest issue is usually that event professionals don’t know what they are trying to do with their content… they just feel that they need to be creating content for Facebook, Twitter, the blog, etc., because that’s what we do when we promote events.

If we know the why and the who, we can get started on the content planning. Normally, the type of content topics you select should be very much in line with the programming for your event. Now remember, this is not filler content you are creating… this is valuable, relevant, and compelling content that prospective attendees would be compelled to share. That means you have to tell a different story, not just tell the same story in an incrementally better way.

Once you’ve identified your target buyers, begin to construct a list of their critical questions, by asking yourself some questions first:

  • What keeps the buyers up at night?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What kind of content would likely be created at the event?
  • How can you tie your programming content into these pain points?

Think of it this way: If you were developing an educational trade magazine around this event, what would it be about?

From this, you should be able to develop your content marketing mission statement. If we take that a step further and include the why, our example might be:

Our content marketing plan’s goal is to attract more prospects (why) to consider and sign up for our event. The primary attendee prospects for the event are heating and air conditioning contractors in the Pacific Northwest. The main informational challenge (as it relates to our event) for these contractors is integrating online marketing into their traditional marketing programs. This means that our key content buckets should include inbound marketing, social media training, technology systems, and employee training for marketing purposes.


The “what?” Your content assets

Before you develop new content, you need to know what content you have to work with:

  • Written articles
  • Videos and presentations from the previous show
  • Books and/or eBooks
  • Audio interviews or podcasts
  • Print material
  • Pictures and designed images

Then you can match those assets up with the type of content that will solve the prospects’ challenges and, ultimately, get them interested in the event. Technically, this is a mini-gap analysis (finding your gaps in content).

Once that is determined, then look at other assets that may not be in story form, such as:

  • Speakers and their current content (blogs, articles, videos, etc.)
  • Influencers in the community
  • Exhibitor or sponsor content
  • Employee or staff content

Then, once that is complete, you can properly analyze what is missing, and what kind of content you need to create or purchase.

Where to publish

Now that you have your goals and story figured out, you can choose your primary channels. Should you use print? Should the blog be the center of your strategy? Is your printed content more strategic? Is your web content more actionable in nature? Which social media channels should you focus on? What is the type of content that goes into each channel?

Your content marketing channel plan holds the key to helping you decide the type of content to create, your content velocity, and the metrics (calls to action) for each specific channel.

Key metrics

Specific to online content marketing, there are four key content marketing metrics:

  • Consumption metrics: How many people viewed or downloaded the content?
  • Sharing metrics: How often is the content shared with others?
  • Lead generation metrics: How often does the content result in some form of lead for the event?
  • Sales metrics: How often is the content resulting in event registrations?

As I shared in my presentation, I believe subscription is the best method for event content marketing. If you can get the prospect to sign up for ongoing content updates, that will enable you to nurture them to ultimately attend the event. For our event, Content Marketing World, we concentrate heavily on getting people to sign up for our email newsletter. We believe if we can get the email name, ultimately we can get prospects interested in coming to our event.

The second key metric revolves around sharing. Content marketing is so powerful for events because it does more than a simple direct mail or event solicitation — it gets the idea about your event out to your network’s networks (and to what Scott Stratton calls the Third Circle of Sharing).

Final questions to consider

  1. Are you taking advantage of all content opportunities at your event to market throughout next year?
  2. Are you leveraging media partnerships through co-created content marketing projects (like this content marketing secrets eBook between TopRank Marketing and Content Marketing World)?
  3. Are there opportunities to use speaker content (blog posts, Q&As, podcast interviews) before the actual event? Are you getting the most out of your speakers?
  4. Could you create new sponsor opportunities with educational content and your exhibitors that last the full year?

Interested in more content marketing tips for events? Why not register to attend Content Marketing World 2013 and get the insight first-hand?