Planning a spectacular event? One look through Exhibitor Online’s list of venues and convention centers will open your eyes to tremendous possibilities across the United States. From Phoenix to Philadelphia, unique, unparalleled spaces are ripe for your next sporting event, major exhibition, or world-class conference.
Securing the perfect venue for your event or dome activation is essential to the customer experience and gives you the chance to highlight different elements of your brand message in many different directions. But what happens before, after, in, and around the property can either silence or amplify your brand. Lean toward the latter by focusing on messaging and experiential consistency.
Consider a Denver Broncos game, held at Sports Authority Field at Mile High stadium. People travel miles to see their favorite players and enjoy teamwork in action. They put on their team’s jersey and form tribes with like-minded strangers. Yet their fanaticism began long before they entered the arena; its seeds were sown outside the property in their homes, their workplaces, and within social settings.
To truly own the customer journey, building excitement for an event must start before a fan boards a plane or hops in a car toward his destination. A solid brand experience can take weeks or months to develop. Nurturing the relationship over that time through online engagement, often through social media, connects with customers where they live, work, and play, creating a feeling of community that is just as important as the event itself.
Brands that set expectations and overdeliver with a few twists and amazing surprises, such as dome activations, win hearts. When fans regularly see identifiable signage and promotions, they increasingly make purchases, actively entering the sales funnel. And if they do attend your activation, they feel at home when the dome content and experience echoes and reinforces the message you have established throughout the customer journey.
Achieving this level of connection does take a fair amount of planning and preparation, but turning brand fans into brand advocates is worth the investment. For the Monterey Bay Aquarium Interactive Experience in 2015, pop-up pavilions and mini-venues dotted the region during specific summer events. Participants — and random passersby — became part of the promotion that traveled from place to place, raising awareness and building momentum for the aquarium and its mission. What individuals and families never realized was that each moment was carefully scripted beforehand to produce a memorable result.
How can agencies guarantee this level of consistency and professionalism in their own events? Try taking the following steps when you and your team sit down to scope out your next event:
Fans are unique as people, but they collectively go through many of the same touchpoints on the way to your venue. These can be as minimal as noticing a pre-event announcement on their mobile devices or seeing offline signage directing them to your activation.
Look through their eyes as they park outside the venue, walk through concourses, sit in the seats, and engage with one another and the event. Ask yourself what you’d want to see. Identify ways you can anticipate fans’ needs and drive home relevant messaging at the appropriate time in their journey. When they leave, you’ll need to promote social sharing of their experiences to leverage their social followings as influencers for your brand.
After thinking through the multiple ways consumers get to your event, begin to examine places to naturally incorporate your brand. For instance, you could send out an email newsletter before the event, or even just text attendees. Perhaps a tailgate experience would work for your product, or maybe the venue entrance is the ideal spot to wow them with an unexpected treat. This is the time for out-of-the-box thinking and creativity.
Create a simple, bulleted list of all the possible times, places, and ways you can engage customers before, during, and after the event. Then, narrow your list to the top few most integral to your corporate goal, such as those that will help capture data or touchpoints that move your story along and foster loyalty. Once your list is complete, plan proper budget and staff to execute each element of the customer journey.
Each touchpoint requires a different strategy to engage fans. However, if all your messages were strung together, each should ultimately be consistent and recognizable. If you’re taking your customer’s journey seriously, your messaging will tell an irresistible tale and encourage fandom among event goers.
Keep in mind that your messages don’t need to focus on your product; they might better speak to your prospect customer’s desires and the story the consumer wants to share about the event. If you can tap into the personality and lifestyle of consumers, you can break down walls and build trust.
The next time you’re tasked with pulling together a hashtag-worthy event, definitely do your best to secure an incredible property or partnership, but don’t assume that alone will sell your company’s heart and soul. Only through strategic planning can you ensure your brand — and not just the property itself — gets a boost.
Did the venue you chose make — or break — your last event? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.