One of the most important parts of event planning is getting the guest list right. Whether it’s a corporate banquet, a trade show, or an employee training session, it’s vital to make sure the right people are in attendance. But when you’re putting the guest list together, how do you know you’re targeting the people who need to be there?
Why It’s Crucial to Know Who Your Attendees Are
The saying “know your audience” is one that’s oft repeated but, unfortunately, not as well understood.
Event planning and marketing involves a significant amount of planning and preparation, plus a substantial financial outlay. Even small events can require a big chunk of time and money. And that’s why understanding your target audience is so important. Events cost time and money; the audience is what makes that expenditure pay off. If the audience doesn’t respond to your event in ways that further your event goals and objectives, then the expenditure is wasted.
In real terms, what does it mean if the wrong audience shows up to an event? At a trade show, for instance, it might mean:
- Sponsors/exhibitors and other backers don’t meet their event goals, like getting the number of leads or sales they expected
- Event attendees don’t find any value in the event, like solutions to the problems they came in with, new networking connections, or new knowledge.
- Sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees feel they wasted time and money on an event that didn’t deliver.
- A low event ROI, few satisfied participants, and a round of poor publicity
And that’s not all. What happens the following year, after the previous year’s disaster?
- Sponsors and exhibitors aren’t interested in returning to your event. Thanks to word of mouth and poor publicity, it’s harder to sell booth space to new exhibitors.
- Attendee registration figures are low.
- There’s less interest from speakers and presenters, making it harder to schedule valuable event content.
Simply put, if an event doesn’t bring together the right mix of content and attendees, it’s a bust. A successful event is one that meets its objectives and goals. For that to happen, the people who attend must be able to meet their goals. And for that to happen, the gathering needs to target the right audience in the first place.
The better a fit the audience is, the higher the event ROI. That goes for everyone, no matter what side of the equation they’re on.
5 Easy Ways to Get to Know Your Audience
In order to target the key audience of people you want at an event, you first have to figure out who they are. You need to know as much about them as possible because this data will inform not just your marketing campaign, but also the kind of content your event needs in order to entice them to attend. What kinds of strategies can help you know and understand your audience?
1. Use Demographic Profiling
The objective of demographic profiling is to define, as accurately as possible, who your target audience is. By narrowing down the demographic characteristics of your audience, you get a feel for who they are and what they want, as it relates to your event.
This kind of tailoring is important not just because it helps you define your event audience, but also because it tells you who to focus your advertising campaign on. After all, there’s no point in wasting advertising budget on people who aren’t likely to attend the event.
Some demographic characteristics that could be important to your corporate event include:
- Gender – It’s not always relevant, but in an industry that skews toward a particular gender, it may be significant information.
- Size of employer
- Occupation/job title/salary
- Career level – Are they an entry level worker? A manager? If they’re a manager, what size team are they working with?
- Location – Particularly important for a local or small national event
This is all potentially useful information because it helps you build a portrait of your ideal event attendee. When you know what kind of people you want to target, you can then work on event marketing—meeting people where they are—and start planning event content. For instance, if you’re targeting people in middle-management positions in a specific industry, what problems do they have that they need help solving? What content might they be interested in?
2. Check Out Your Competitors
Your own research and demographic profiling provide the most important data, but your closest competitors may offer some valuable insights too. Check out the websites and marketing campaigns of those competitors that have the same target audience, focusing on those with a larger market share. Look at their:
- Brand messaging
- Voice and tone
- Marketing strategies
- Other elements of advertising
What are they doing wrong, and what are they doing right? More importantly, can you glean any insights or borrow any tactics that might help you reach your audience more effectively?
3. Monitor Social Media
If you’re running social media accounts, comments and other forms of engagement can provide plenty of valuable information. What kinds of content makes people respond most enthusiastically? What topics are they most interested in, and what information do they value? Over time, you can learn a lot about your audience, and what kinds of messaging most appeal to them.
Not sure what they want to hear about? Ask them! Using a poll can be useful on Facebook and Instagram as well.
4. Send Out a Survey
The most straightforward way to learn more about your audience is to simply ask them about themselves. Surveys with well-chosen questions can provide extremely useful data because it’s coming directly from the audience in which you’re interested. Offer a perk to those who complete the survey to increase your response rate and gain as much information as possible. One benefit of this approach allows you to get both demographic data and deeper insights at the same time. It also allows you to determine what differences exist in your various audience segments; for instance, between those people who subscribe to an email newsletter, who are current customers or clients, and who follow you on social media.
5. Talk to Clients and Customers
When it’s both appropriate and feasible to do so, talking directly to clients and customers can provide you with valuable information too. While this approach doesn’t give you broad demographic data, it can inform you of some of their unique concerns. Gathering this kind of information can help you develop content that’s interesting to the audience you’re hoping to attract to an event.
A Successful Event Starts with the Right Audience
The success of any event hinges on making sure the right people are in attendance. And for that to happen, you must know your audience. By learning relevant information about their likes and preferences, you can plan for an event they’ll want to attend.