Over the last eight months, reams of reports declared the decline of the events industry. From dire job warnings to protests in major cities, it’s been a tough time for those in our space.
But, instead of looking at the downsides of this locked-down world, we should be paying more attention to the opportunities. If we can dig ourselves out of the Covid-19 hole, we can give ourselves a headstart in this new normal.
Let’s start by getting a better grasp of our target audience. We need to get inside our demographics and understand who needs our services.
This post will tell you exactly how you can know your audience, using a mixture of social media strategy and more old-fashioned methods.
Build an audience profile
Before you can know your audience, you need to know who you want them to be. There’s no point devoting hours of research to a crowd you don’t want to attract.
Verity Dearville, the founder of the Verity Venue event business, tells us: “In the first stages of event planning it is essential to clearly define your audience, as without this stage it is impossible to target the correct people to attend your event.
“To do this, I find it useful to create an ideal attendee persona, a semi-fictional representation of the people you are attempting to connect with.”
When building your persona, don’t just consider basic details such as age, gender or nationality. Think about what some people call the ‘psychographic’, the reason they might invest in your product or service and the benefits they will get from it.
The more research you can do at this stage, the more accurate and worthwhile your subsequent research will be.
Use the resources you already have
Now, you’ve defined your target market, it’s time to get to know them. And you may well have plenty of information already.
If you’ve already run a similar event, think about who attended last time. Dig into your website’s analytics, to find out who has been visiting your site and the sort of pages that they have visited.
Most important of all, try and recall the conversations you’ve had with attendees at previous events (yours or other people’s). You may find some priceless nuggets of insight.
Use focus groups
When you start to look externally at your target audience, focus groups can provide a great source of information. As Verity Deaville says, “a focus group will help discover what motivates your audience, and their preferred media channels.”
You can recruit participants by going through your existing contacts book or posting ads on social media (we’re going to talk more about the benefits of social in a minute). And you can easily host them online, so there’s no need to test the boundaries of Covid-19 with an in-person meet.
Check out your targets on social media
Ok, we’re going to talk quite a bit about social media strategy now. Because it’s important in loads of different ways. And one of the main benefits is the sheer volume of information people offer on their pages.
When we advise you to ‘check out’ your prospective attendees, we don’t mean you should stalk them. What it does mean is being proactive with your social media marketing campaign, and finding out about the people you want to attract.
Ben Atherton, founder of events business BCA Consulting, says: “Targeted social media profiling is a great way to start improving how to target your content and messages.
“What tone do your audience use on their social channels, what causes have they supported and liked, what comments have they made, when have they stayed silent, who engages with them and more can all indicate a certain bias towards types of content and activations, even influencing choices of venue and style of your set-up.”
LinkedIn offers a veritable trove of information on each potential attendee, from their career history to the business leaders they follow. John Gallery, who runs the Great Potential business support service, says “you can check LinkedIn for individuals, and tailor the invitation to their interests.”
Lead the conversation
In addition to researching your audience on social media, you should offer them something positive in return. To quote an excellent article by social media marketing consultant Pam Moore, we need to “make a commitment to be part of the beating heartbeat that helps the social ecosystem thrive with value, empowerment, relationships and more.”
Posting opinions on LinkedIn, and asking questions on Twitter, is a great way to get your target audience responding to your content. You can also use surveys, and polls, to take the pulse of your desired attendees and find out exactly what they’re thinking.
You can ask about your own events, but also pitch more general questions about the industry or current affairs. The answers your target market provides can unlock crucial information about their outlook.
Similar to the point above, this is all about gaining understanding through positive audience interaction. Hashtags, when used carefully as part of a well-planned social media marketing, are crucial to getting to grips with your target audience.
By creating a hashtag around your events, you can find out exactly how people are interacting with them. Plug into a tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer, set up an alert for your hashtag, and find out what people are saying.
Keep all communication channels open
Keep reminding your target audience that they can contact you at any time. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat… whichever platforms you’ve incorporated into your social media strategy, you can use them to maintain a constant dialogue.
When people reach out to you, reply with an opinion or a follow-up question to keep things moving. The more conversation you have, the better you’ll get to know your audience.
Examine your competition
Truly understanding your audience is a tough ask, but don’t worry: you don’t always have to do the work yourself. Sometimes, someone else will have already done the hard yards for you.
Look for examples of similar past events. Often, the website will still be active, and you’ll be able to see a list of those who attended – as well as their testimonials, showing you what they valued in the event.
Also, look at your competitors’ profiles. Look at things like their website presentation, the way they use social media and the key messages they are putting across.
Maximize the events themselves
Remember: each event is a chance to start planning for the next one. The more info you can glean from attendees at your events, the better your planning will be next time. So take every opportunity to talk to your attendees while the event is in progress.
Emma Jackson, a coach and consultant for tech and creative industries who has organised several events in London, explains: “We would circulate at our events. We met and chatted with everyone so we had an immediate feedback loop that the results of which we often used to move onto new ideas.”
Keep moving with your audience
Your target market is evolving all the time, so you need to grow with them. No matter how good your research, profiling or social media marketing program, it counts for nothing if you don’t keep it up. And, every time you launch a new event, you need to get to know your audience all over again.
Emma Jackson continues: ”Build and they will come has never been true! Or at least, you shouldn’t rely on it. If you’ve choreographed an amazing event, at least have enough respect for it to promote it properly!”
Ultimately, the better you know your audience, the more they’ll be able to know your brand. And the better your events will be, for everyone.