Engage Your Live Event Audience on Mobile
It is officially my favorite time of year: industry event season. Trade shows, conferences, conventions … I love them all, and I can’t get enough of watching our clients’ carefully crafted event strategies engage huge audiences in real-time through booth experiences and brand activations. I’m a big proponent of using an interactive approach to make the most of your live event spend, but to see the biggest ROI, it’s crucial to ensure that the interaction you design goes beyond the event itself. One of the best ways to do this is to think mobile.
It’s All About the Pre-Show Strategy
You might be wondering: “If I’m going to be meeting my audience in real life at the event, why do I need to engage them on mobile, too?” I’ve seen far too many companies rely solely on their booths to get attention at trade shows, while neglecting to invest in any sort of pre-show communication strategy.
True, live event marketing is all about creating in-person connections, but you don’t have to wait until someone’s standing in front of your booth to start communicating. In fact, engaging event attendees on mobile pre-show can help drive additional traffic to your booth and strengthen the connections you make in person. Rather than hoping that attendees discover your brand at an event, your goal should be to start a dialogue with attendees that entices them to seek you out on the first day. Do this via an app, an augmented reality or virtual reality experience, on social media, or all of the above; the important thing is that you’re meeting your audience where they are — on their mobile devices.
Some of our most successful event campaigns have involved a pre-show incentive to download an app. One (very) large-scale example is the VR direct mail campaign we created for CONEXPO/CON-AGG. To give prospective attendees an idea of the truly massive scale of this 130,000-person convention put on by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, we created an app with a virtual tour of the event's 2.5 million square feet of conference and exhibit space. We sent out customized Google cardboard viewers to thousands of the conference’s key attendees to build anticipation and buy-in. Whether the viewer chose the full virtual reality experience or the 360-degree video experience, it got them engaged with the app, which was then an open channel for communication.
Once the Channel Is Open, Put It to Work
Once you’ve got your audience engaged on mobile before the show, it’s much easier to transition that conversation to the live event than it is to cut through the event noise to start a brand new conversation. Use your mobile channel to drive traffic to your booth so you can solidify the connection in person. We’ve found success with incentives that include interactive experiences in the booth. For example, for International Paper’s booth at this year’s HOW Live, we hosted a printmaker who taught attendees traditional wood-carved printmaking techniques — a unique experience of hands-on craftsmanship that was hit with the conference’s design-minded audience.
You can also use it to gather intelligence about your audience — with an app, let your analytics inform the ways you continue to reach out. If you’re engaging via social media or your mobile website, ask for real-time feedback during the event to ensure you’re making the most of your presence there, or ask questions designed to spark conversations that can be transitioned to in-person follow-ups.
And don’t forget about the value of user-generated content. For International Paper’s booth at Adobe MAX, we constructed augmented talking Print Guys in four colors and challenged attendees to “collect them all” — then share them on social for a chance to win a prize, of course. Because they felt involved in the experience, people truly got creative with their social posts, resulting in a ton of fun brand interactions.
Keep the Conversation Going Post-Event
The best thing about engaging your audience via a mobile channel before and during an event is that it paves the way for you to continue delivering content through that channel after the event. These contacts are now leads, and they’re used to hearing from and interacting with you on their devices. (Pro tip: be sure to create your immediate post-show content before the event — trust me, you will not want to be doing this in the days right after a trade show or convention.)
We transitioned the VR app we built for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers to a post-event content delivery system that can be regularly updated with relevant video content to the keep the audience engaged, along with teasers of the next convention. However you decide to nurture your leads, it can be helpful to approach these ongoing mobile interactions like you would a live event: it’s all about connection and interaction.
Sarah Mannone is the Executive Vice President of Trekk, a tech-driven creative services agency. She works with Trekk clients to develop strategic marketing plans and craft measurable programs that that span print, web, social, and mobile. As part of the Trekk management team, Sarah is involved in the decisions and strategy around adopting new technologies and applications to meet the current and future needs of Trekk clients. Sarah is a member of the Forbes Agency Council and a frequent speaker at marketing industry events.