Why You Should Spend Your Budget on the Experience, Not Marketing

Need to do more with less in your event budget? It’s the experience you need to concentrate on, not the marketing.

While your general event budget does not dictate your event’s success, how you allocate it does. The general rule of thumb is one-third of your event is food and beverage cost. Some professionals believe it should be more like 55%. With a major chunk of your event spent on F&B, what does that leave for the rest? You still have things like:

  • Audiovisual
  • Entertainment
  • Speakers
  • Venue
  • Promotional items
  • Staff travel
  • Decorations
  • Marketing

Marketing made the last spot on this list because once you create an amazing and memorable experience, the marketing falls into place. Here’s how you can focus on the event experience.

Ideas on Creating an Event Experience

Creating an event experience is like transporting your attendees somewhere else; somewhere that up until you did it, they didn’t even know they wanted to go there. This unexpected transportation delights attendees and gets them talking, which feeds into the ability to cut back on your marketing spend.

Think about the Disney amusement parks. Yes, Disney is a vacation and not an “event” per se but the brains behind the parks look to create an experience and they have a 70% return rate on first-time visitors to prove their success.

Experience Begins Before Getting There

From a magical website to branded buses that meet and greet visitors at the airport, Disney looks to begin the experience long before visitors step foot on their property. Event planners need to keep this in mind when creating an event experience. Your theme begins before the event. It’s seen in your communications, your social media marketing, even your website or event landing page.

These ideas get attendees excited long before they get to your event. People who are excited tell other people. And what does that mean? Less money you need to spend on marketing.

Make Sure Your Trains Are Running

In an article written by Gregory Ciotti about the magic of the Disney experience he tells us of Walt Disney’s primary concern in creating a great experience and it’s one event planners can take to heart:

“Think of process as a railroad engine. If the engine does not run properly, it does not matter how friendly the conductor acts or how attractive the passenger cars look, the train will still not move and the passengers will not pay their fares. Process is the engine of quality service.”

At the most basic of levels you need to ensure every need is met and the event is as you claim it to be. Everything works (some of that is in your control, some not) or there’s a solution if it doesn’t.

Host at an Amazing Venue

An amazing venue needn’t be the most expensive ballroom in town. There are tons of unique spots that you can select for a memorable experience and greater entertainment value. Pop-up venues are very trendy right now. If you host your event somewhere out of the ordinary, you can bet people will be talking about it. Can you hear those marketing dollars going down?

Using Awesome Tech

One of the easiest ways to make a big impression is using amazing technology. Your event app, the audio visual experience you provide, and the tech behind your entertainment can make a big impression. Attendees sharing their tech experience on social media… guess what that means for your marketing spend?

Surprising and Delighting

The Internet is filled with stories of the hospitality industry surprising people. Maybe you’ve seen the video/pictures of a lost stuffed bunny who spends a whirlwind day of fun with hotel employees (the pictures prove it) before being handed back to the little girl who left her furry friend behind.

As an event planner there are countless moments where you can surprise and delight your attendees on a small scale. When this happens, they’ll likely share it on a large scale. And that means…. more free word-of-mouth marketing.

Use Multisensory Experiences

This is one reason you don’t want to cut your F&B budget. Humans are stimulated by all five of our senses. But appealing to your attendees’ sense isn’t just about fueling them up with delicious foods. You can also limit the stimulation of some senses to deepen the experience of others, like darkening a room for a more impactful audio experience. When you take this approach, you catch people off guard, which means they pay more attention to what’s going on around them. An event that boasts a multisensory experience will be talked about for a long time, improving brand perception and free marketing.

Don’t End with the Closing Keynote

Often event planners of multi-day events end their event with a big finale. This could be top-line entertainment, a keynote, or a final gala that everyone looks forward to. But just like a kid on the day after their birthday, there’s a natural let down that occurs when the most exciting part is over.

You can avoid this by keeping the experience going. No, your event can’t go on forever but you can create a space where it does. Use social media or a private online community to continue the excitement everyone experienced at your event. Help them stay connected to people they met and you’re already improving retention for next year.

If your event doesn’t lend itself to a community or continuing the conversations on social media, then continue to delight attendees after the final entertainment is complete. Help people feel the magic as they’re sitting in their desk chair the next morning. If they had a wonderful time, they’ll still be thinking about it and your communication will be well received, so don’t miss this opportunity to reach out again.

In Conclusion

When you create an amazing event experience, you can scale back on the marketing spend. Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools an event planner has at his/her disposal. In order for it to be successful, you not only must create an amazing event, but you must give people the tools they need to provide easy reviews, hashtags, picture opportunities and other ways for them to share their experience. While all of these things take time, they are free. When you concentrate on giving people experiences that give them reasons to talk and share, they will.