Month: September 2018

Event Customization 101: 3 Tactics to Deliver a More Personalized Experience

People attend events and annual meetings for a variety of reasons, yet increasingly, they share a common demand: a customized experience that feels tailored to their interests and goals.

“With the overwhelming number of conferences, panels and happy hours taking place in a given event cycle, the personalization factor is a marketing must,” writes Kristen Alexander for AdWeek. “Understanding attendees’ personal interests is critical to standing out and marketing to all of these individuals.”

Here’s the kicker: customization, like other strategic marketing initiatives, can seem daunting, especially if you’re not yet doing much—if any—customization.

The good news? Making small changes to deliver a more customized experience can add up to a big impact on your attendees. And you can work with what you have, including an event itinerary, messaging and collateral to begin your journey to a fully customized attendee experience.

Let’s take a look at three key tactics you can use to shift toward a customized attendee experience that feels more thoughtful and personal.

Know Your Attendees

Just how well do you know your attendees? Collecting and analyzing attendee data and input is a critical part of event customization. After all, you’ve got to know to whom you’re customizing and what they want! Consider the following questions:

  • Why is this person attending your event?
  • What is their role, company and industry?
  • What information is this person interested in?
  • What does this person hope to accomplish during and after the event?
  • What event feedback does this person have to offer?

Depending on your existing attendee engagement plan, you may already have some—or all!—of this information at your fingertips. Post-event surveys can be a valuable resource, for example. Another possible goldmine of information? Your event’s social feed. Do some basic research by searching your event and related hashtags to get a sense of what attendees are saying about your event, including their impressions and takeaways.

And if you find you don’t know much about your audience, don’t panic! Simply make a plan to learn more. Again, effective starting points can be your social channels and feedback surveys, whether administered via a mobile app during the event and/or with a survey link sent in a post-event email.

Knowing your audience helps you better understand why they’re attending so that you can deliver a more customized experience. Let’s say a number of attendees are coming to your event to solve some sort of challenge. You could modify your event itinerary to include a breakout work session or roundtable discussion, which would be more conducive to knowledge sharing and problem-solving.

Maybe your attendees are interested in networking, but would prefer something besides the standard networking reception. Instead, you could ask people to gather in a memorable setting, like an unconventional space or rooftop, which helps you take advantage of your host city while also giving attendees a welcome change of scenery. Another great option is to invite attendees to an activity—a walking tour, for example, or a trip to a local landmark—that helps them combine networking and sightseeing.

We mentioned this before, but keep this important tip in mind: you don’t necessarily need to overhaul your entire event agenda. Instead, start small. Gather the information you have about your attendees and assess it. Then, make a plan to begin implementing meaningful changes that increase the customization of your event experience. We all have to start somewhere, right?

Refresh Marketing Materials

Pro tip: effective customization goes beyond simply addressing event communication and collateral to your attendees by name. Instead, examine your existing marketing materials to identify opportunities for customization.

Do you welcome attendees with a gift? If so, consider adding a handwritten note that lets each attendee know how excited you are to have them with you. This particular tip certainly depends on the number of attendees you’re expecting. If it’s in the hundreds or thousands, handwritten notes can quickly become unrealistic!

Or try this basic starting point: separate your attendees into two groups, returning and first time. Then, tailor your marketing accordingly, especially pre-event communication. For returning attendees, you could emphasize what’s new and exciting this year and underscore how glad you are to have them back with you. For first-time attendees, you might offer some tips for an optimal event experience (a short testimonial from a recurring attendee would be an effective resource). Also include travel tips and local recommendations so that first-time attendees can make the most of the experience, especially if they’re traveling in for your event or meeting.

Segmentation can also extend to your attendees’ roles and industries. Let’s say you have a pool of attendees who are vendors or partners. You could create a customized marketing piece that shares recent company highlights, product or service changes, and even testimonials so that this group of valued stakeholders can easily get up-to-date on what’s happening and why they should continue the relationship.

This is when it’s especially helpful to know your attendees’ “why”—what brings them to your event and what they expect to take with them. Then, you can supply them with the content that helps meet those goals.

Build Tracks

Understanding why your attendees are with you—and how they like to consume information—will give you the insight you need to make a particularly impactful change: creating topic-specific event tracks.

You might already be doing this, and if so, excellent! Yet there still might be room to make additional changes. The first step, of course, is to create tracks focused around a specific topic. Maybe your tracks are as loosely defined as “B2B” and “B2C,” for example, or more nuanced, depending on your event.

Consider also incorporating different content styles in those tracks. A mix of presentations, panels, breakout discussions or workshops can help ensure your attendees learn in the way that fits them best. And again, this is why it helps to know how your attendees prefer to consume their event content. Perhaps many of your attendees prefer a more structured, traditional style that’s largely comprised of presentations and keynotes. If your attendees want to take a more active role in the event, an unconference format might be a better choice. That way, attendees have ample opportunities to roll up their sleeves and collaborate.

You could further customize your event tracks by adding a special event to each. Let’s say that one of your tracks is technology-focused. Why not set up a small exhibit area so that attendees can drop in and out and demo new tools and gadgets? For those interested in cultivating their thought leadership, you could host an author talk and signing with someone who’s written a relevant book. And if you find you have an event full of bookworms, setting up a small bookstore or book swap is a fun and thoughtful way to give your attendees easy access to more resources.

We hope this list has sparked some inspiration so that you can start your own event customization! Remember: it’s perfectly fine to start small and to work with what you already have. With regard to customized event marketing and experiences, small changes really can have a big impact. Plus, those small changes will give you a foundation on which to build a more comprehensive customization strategy.

Keep an eye on our blog. Now that we’ve covered the basics of event customization, we’ll periodically revisit this critical topic so that you have no shortage of information and inspiration. And if you find yourself interested in customizing your next event but aren’t sure where to start, let’s talk!

Ready, Set, Gift: 4 Corporate Holiday Gift Trends for 2018

Brace yourself: the holiday season will be here before you know it!

And that’s why early to mid-fall is the ideal time to plan your corporate holiday gifts. You’ll feel less rushed and you’ll be able to explore your options to deliver a thoughtful gift that delights the recipient and supports your larger brand goals.

To help get the ideas flowing, we’ve compiled four corporate holiday gift trends based on our recent client collaborations and market research. Let’s dive in!

Quality, not quantity

We all love a tower of chocolate as much as the next person, but current corporate gifting trends indicate a preference for quality over quantity.

It makes sense, right? Most people would likely prefer receiving a well-made and/or valuable gift that will bring lasting enjoyment, rather than a handful of tchotchkes that will be tossed in a drawer and forgotten.

Plus, opting for a high-quality gift is an effective way to extend your brand experience. The message: “Our company cares about you and values our relationship.”

Yet you don’t have to bust your budget to deliver quality over quantity. Think first about the experience or emotion that you want the gift to evoke. Then, brainstorm some options. Perhaps you can source a locally made gift—a set of two or four glasses, for example, and a local beer or wine.

Or, instead of the classic “coffee mug and coffee” combo, what about swapping that for an insulated travel mug and a bag of locally roasted coffee? Bonus points if you can work with the roaster to create a blend just for your company!

Regardless of the gift you choose, you want your recipients to feel valued. Opting for a higher quality item that shows the thought you put into the gift can help you do just that.

Wellness is always welcome

Kara Quinn, senior brand experience coordinator at Wellington, recently attended the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market and said she noticed “a huge trend in wellness.”

Corporate holiday gifts can be an ideal time to incorporate items related to improving health and wellness, especially with the new year just around the corner (hello, resolutions!).

Kara noticed several innovative wellness gifts at the Atlanta Gift Show, including gem-infused water that offers a variety of health benefits; blue light-blocking glasses; and essential oil blends.

Again, think back to the experience and emotion that you want to evoke, then brainstorm options for a gift that will be the most effective in helping to create that experience.

For example, the holidays might be a high-stress time for your recipients. To help counter that stress, you could give some relaxation-themed gifts that might include a calming candle or tea, yoga accessories, or, depending on how many recipients you’re buying for, a gift certificate for a spa service or massage. Talk about surprise and delight!

Tech (still) rules

Think high-tech gifts already had their time in the spotlight? Not so fast! Kara noticed at the Atlanta Gift Show that tech-themed gifts continue to be popular. One of the current favorites: wireless charging pads.

One of the benefits of giving high-tech gifts is that you can hit multiple trends at once. Nothing says quality like a coveted, brand name device. Consider a smart speaker, noise-cancelling headphones, a foldable keyboard or a portable charger.

You could also combine tech and wellness with a fitness tracker or, if your gifting budget allows, a smart watch.

Because tech gifts are so popular, this is one trend category that definitely warrants some strategic planning. We’ve said it before in this post, but focus on the experience you want to convey and what will be most appreciated by your audience. Not all companies view them this way, but corporate holiday gifts really are part of your larger series of touch points with a valued group of recipients. By delivering an experience, you also help evoke lasting emotion, which benefits your company in a variety of ways.

Creative curation

Put your own spin on corporate holiday gifts with a curated gift box. Start with a theme and then stock a small basket or keepsake box with thoughtfully chosen items that support your brand experience.

A popular option is a “shop local” box that includes locally made or artisan gifts. Think of it as a way to treat your recipients while also showcasing some of your city’s talent. A “travel essentials” box is another ideal option, especially if your recipients are frequent travelers.

This is another chance for you to tap into multiple trends. A health and wellness-themed collection will likely be a hit. Or, you could compile a few thoughtfully selected tech accessories like a portable charger, ear buds and a screen cleaning kit, for example, to help your recipients get more use out of their devices.

If you opt for a curated gift box, don’t overlook the packaging. Gift presentation can be an equally effective way to support the intended experience. Instead of a cardboard box, could you opt for a wooden container? Acrylic boxes can also make an engaging first impression. Your packaging choices depend, of course, on your budget, and also how many gifts you’ll be shipping.

No matter which gift you ultimately choose, remember this: it’s all about the experience. You want to convey emotion and also make your recipient feel like a valued part of your brand. Adhere to that line of thinking, and we have no doubt your corporate holiday gifts will be a huge success!