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Event marketing: touching the consumer

SOMETHING tells me this is going to be our year. The year of the consumer, the customer, the client. You and me. It will be the year that businesses will pull out all the stops to use the most effective business communications tools to reach us. They will greet us at the store-front, entice us and lead us to the cash register -- goods in hand. The only difference is that this year there will be little or no trickery involved. We have been fooled long enough.
In times like these businesses find it difficult to attract new much less existing customers, so they find innovative ways to meet us face-to-face to listen to what's on our minds. One of the super-strong and successful ways for 2010 is through event marketing.

"Organising, sponsoring or otherwise participating in events is proving to be a cost-effective strategy for many companies to communicate valuable information such as new product," says Justyna Piesiewicz, writing in Communications World (January - February 2010). The results of the writer's survey conducted in 2007/2008 in Poland, revealed that conferences and seminars "play a significant role in communication strategy and are perceived as the most cost effective types of events".

I don't know much about the Polish, but many of the people I know here in Jamaica like to go out and meet new people. They like to be seen and they like to see others. In fact, if you were to do a random (anonymous) poll they will tell you that their 'ambition' is to be caught on camera in a fabulous outfit and placed on the Observer's Page Two among the 'beautiful people'. Of course, they will never admit it up front. But I know. There are just so many parties my friends can attend (or crash -- as the case may be) per year so they 'beef up' the stock of events of places to be seen by attending trade shows, charity events, road shows, workshops, conferences and mass and entertainment events.

Seventy-two per cent of respondents of the study conducted by Piesiewicz said that "the primary purpose of participating in large scale events is to enable direct communication between the participants and the organisers and sponsors". It should follow logically then that these events should be a marketer's dream to catch them while you can. Where is the best place to position your products and find out what the users of your services are thinking than at these events? Here you can meet them face to face, record their gripes and even get free advice on how to deliver better services and goods. Believe me they will have the time to give you an earful, especially if there is a free sample involved at the end of it all.

If you have deep pockets you can either sponsor an event or rent a booth (or table) or event just stand at the door and offer free give-aways. But before you venture there, it is always good to check to see if event marketing is what will work for you right now. No matter what they tell you in the dancehall: one size does not fit all. What are your company's needs, message and budget? In short: can you afford it? Will it reach the people you sell to? Do you have anything to show or tell them? If you do not then it is back to the drawing board for you. Do not waste your time or money in vainly trying to tap into a venue that does not exist for your product.

Or perhaps, it is that you need to meet your consumers on-line. Now this is the new, hot and happening place to be 'seen'. On-line events do not cost much and audiences from all over the world will 'attend' them. According to Piesiewicz's article the most popular types of on-line events include webcasts (multimedia presentations delivered live or on demand; where participants can ask questions via phone or chat and podcasts (audio material posted on a website). I am not sure how many Jamaicans you will find in this 'location' because there is a high chance that photographs of them looking cool will not be taken.

Many Jamaican organisations have effectively used events to market their products, services and their social responsibility projects. The Sigma (now Pan-Caribbean) Fun Run is one of largest and well-organised charity events that has been running for several years now. The Jamaica Stock Exchange has for the last five years hosted a regional conference on investments and the capital markets, that has attracted attendees from overseas and sponsors who find good product placement. The members of the financial industry also finds it a
winning place to position
their products.

So, how do you know if you have received your money's worth from an event? My opinion is that it depends on the reason your organisation invested in the event at all. If it is that you wanted to do small scale research on your product then, the feedback you get from its exposure to the public will be a good test for you and it might be worth your time and money.

As the stage is set for the year 2010 to be one where the consumer regains his crown and once again reigns as 'king of the world', business should not lose the chance to make sure that they reach out and get that Midas touch through event marketing.


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