The number one thing I hear from partners when I ask them about their marketing campaign strategy is that they have an upcoming event planned. I cringe a little upon hearing this because there is a simple truth I’ve learned over the years – an event is not a campaign! While events are often seen as a sure answer to all marketing and lead generating needs, they do not represent a sound, comprehensive marketing strategy. There is much, much more involved.

Don’t get me wrong; events are undoubtedly a great way to meet customers, share your message, introduce solutions and demonstrate value to both current customers and prospects. But, to ensure investments are realized, there is a myriad of advance preparation that needs to take place prior to kick-off well before game day. This is where campaign planning comes into play.

As a longtime channel partner marketer, I’ve come to realize that a sound strategy encompasses many elements that often go overlooked. This oversight can inevitably lead to teams that are frustrated because the results and corresponding hefty price tag for the event yield little ROI. Before planning for next event, here are the three best practices to consider:

  1. Know your audience. Ask yourself “Who should hear my message?,” “What specific customers within a vertical am I targeting?,” “What about specific departments, titles, business or technical decision makers should be engaged?” There is only a small window to achieve your goals, and you want to be as targeted as possible and get laser focused.
  2. Know your message. What do you want to share? Is it a solution, a product, a vision? Once determined, ensure the message is delivered through the most efficient and effective delivery method possible. This can be accomplished in several ways including, email blasts, advertisements, article placements and social media outlets. The right delivery method is key.
  3. Determine your desired outcome. To attain your goals, they must first be defined. Do you aspire to gain the trust of existing and new customers? Or, prove your knowledge about a solution or product? The bottom line is that it should always be about creating leads that can be nurtured into closed deals. Set a number. Make it high enough to make you a little uncomfortable, and then make it happen!

After these three aspects have been determined, it’s time to turn to messaging. Consistency is essential across all mediums, whether online or print. When preparing your outreach, consider the following:

Social Media: Content should be “bite-sized,” something to turn heads but not give away the secret sauce. This content should be for both brand awareness and to compel people to click through to your website or a specific piece of information. It’s even more powerful to have others share or retweet your content for FREE exposure and extending reach beyond your direct network.

Email Nurture: A series of emails or a “drip campaign,” serves up content in chunks that draw the reader in a bit more each time. By the time your prospect reads the second or third one, and you have the analytics and the scoring to demonstrate they have digested content, paid a visit to the website, downloaded a whitepaper, etc., you are ready to invite them to your event or reach out in some way.

Account Calling: There is still nothing better than a simple phone call with a personal message inviting your prospect to an event. A follow-up call based on the actions a lead has taken with your social media and email nurture is the best route. It shows that you have been paying attention, that you as a partner have done your research before calling, and know enough basic information about the customer to have a meaningful conversation about what their technology and/or solution needs might be.

The Event

The moment you have been planning for has finally arrived! You have your registered guests, the venue lined up, the AV, catering, agenda, speakers, content, giveaways and nametags, etc. squared away. The day goes exactly as planned, not a single hiccup. Best case scenario is that everyone shows up (this is a dream of every marketer), but most likely you have 50 percent turnout, which is typical.

Now that it’s over, you take a deep breath and the sales team congratulates you for a well thought out event, even though you know much more went into making this day a reality. You then work with your sales team to have every registrant/attendee uploaded into your CRM/Salesforce tool.

Next steps are to start from the very beginning of your campaign, only this time with follow-up messaging to each and every person whether they attended or not. Of course, there should be different messaging for those who couldn’t make it. Also, include a social media and email note, as well as a personal call to solidify new relationships.

With a little bit of TLC and diligent cultivation, the fruits of all of your labors will start to flourish in a big way.

Good luck!

*This post was originally published on Channel Partners blog.