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Allison Saget is an author, speaker, accomplished marketer, self-proclaimed “brand-a-holic,” and president of her own event-marketing consulting firm. In her 20-year marketing career, she has created, designed, and managed more than 1,000 events, and has worked in advertising, television, collateral design and production, logo merchandising, and direct marketing. Her clients and work experience have included such companies as Harcourt Achieve Inc., Oracle, SAP America Inc., and Tektronix Inc. Saget’s book, “The Event Marketing Handbook: Beyond Logistics & Planning,” was a featured title on EXHIBITOR magazine’s 2009 Summer Reading list, and can be purchased by visiting www.ExhibitorOnline.com/

anaging an event is like being a short-order cook. You take orders from everyone at the table, you’re expected to fill those orders in what seems like no time at all, and after meeting those expectations, your “customers” complain about how much it cost. But according to Allison Saget, author of “The Event Marketing Handbook: Beyond Logistics & Planning,” there’s a simple, three-pronged approach to event marketing.

Corporate EVENT spoke with Saget about these three key event-marketing ingredients, her motto for face-to-face marketers, and how she envisions the future of corporate events.

Corporate EVENT: What initially prompted you to write “The Event Marketing Handbook?”

Allison Saget: At the age of 16, I interned with the largest advertising agency in Philadelphia. Unlike most kids at that age who worked at McDonalds, I worked on the McDonalds account. Part of the rotation included marketing research. At the time, McDonalds couldn’t manage to get consumers to buy French fries. So the campaign created was “Do You Want Fries with That?” While I was cleaning out the promotional merchandise closet and hangin’ with the Hamburgler, I got it — marketing was all about sales.

After college, I worked for a cable TV network, then at an array of technology companies, and then for venture-capital start-ups as well as large corporations in a variety of different industries. And no matter where I went or what I was marketing, it was all about sales, and it still is.

I wrote the book because I wanted to transfer the knowledge that was in my brain. The book discusses what I believe are the core principles of event marketing. It doesn’t matter if you produce external or internal events, user conferences, or road shows — the same core principles apply.

CE: And what are those core principles of event marketing?

AS: In a nutshell, event marketing boils down to the following four principles. First, strategic events must be both integrated into but also integral to the larger marketing program. Second, strategic events should deliver a “high-touch” market-outreach opportunity to connect with clients and prospects within a comfortable, welcoming, and relevant context. Third, strategic events must succeed in differentiating the brand, products, and services. And finally, strategic events must always achieve these two objectives — extend the brand and shorten the sales cycle.

CE: A big chunk of the book revolves around a concept you call EventBLT. What does the BLT stand for?

AS: As a self-proclaimed event marketing “brand-a-holic,” I have an own-and-dominate approach, which is achieved through the positioning framework I created, called EventBLT. The BLT stands for brand recognition, lead generation, and thought leadership.

In EventBLT, the bacon represents brand recognition. It’s also the money, as in “bringing home the bacon.” Companies spend so much on the brand, it’s the job of the event marketer to turn a slice (the logo) into a slab (the logo and brand message), and events provide a vehicle to blanket the brand everywhere. How many times have you attended a welcome reception and had no idea who sponsored it? What a waste of money. Simple things like cocktail napkins with your logo, table-tent cards, hang tags on giveaways with your message, your sales team in branded apparel, and adequate signage can make all the difference. Always brand your events as if your attendees don’t know who you are or what you do.

The lettuce represents lead generation. Just like a head of iceberg, you’ll need to peel back the layers to get to the heart, which is your target audience. The tomato represents thought leadership. In vaudeville, if you were on stage and didn’t have a good spiel, your audience would probably throw tomatoes at you. The same holds true at your events. You want your events to position your company as a thought leader in your industry.

What I’ve learned over the years is that no matter what the sales initiatives or business objectives, these three primary ingredients create a successful event. If you’re unsure whether or not your events meet the mark, ask yourself the following questions.

Brand Recognition:
Is your logo and brand identity omnipresent on everything from pre-event promotional materials to post-event communications?
Would someone unfamiliar with your company be able to tell, just based on visual cues, that there’s a relationship between your brand and your event?

Lead Generation:
Do you have a list of prospects the sales team wants to reach at the event? What is your plan for targeting them?
What is your plan for follow-up to move attendees along the sales cycle?

Thought Leadership:
Who are the “subject matter experts” in your company, and what role are those people playing at your event?
Do you have a list of media representatives the organization wants to target? What is your plan for ensuring their stories contain your key messages?

The book discusses what I believe are the core principles of event marketing. It doesn’t matter if you produce external or internal events, user conferences, or road shows — the same core principles apply.

CE: You urge readers to adopt the mantra: “Event marketing is all about facilitating, easing, opening, accelerating, and shortening the sales cycle. That’s it!” In fact, you repeat it at the beginning of every chapter. Why is that motto important?

AS: I believe the industry needs a major shift in the perception and value events bring to the marketing mix. If you link to sales, you create value. To be profitable, you need to sell something. It’s all about sales, so it’s important to understand truly what event marketing does, hence the mantra.

CE: But in many organizations, the event-marketing team and the sales team don’t see eye to eye.

AS: That is a huge problem for our industry. When I started my career, marketing reported to sales. There was no career path. Then the CMO role was created, and the fundamental disciplines of advertising, PR, research, and events reported up through that food chain. Year after year, I watched the disconnect between marketing and sales become more pronounced.

I never lost sight that it was all about sales. I reached out on my own and created those relationships. I have business today because the sales teams that I’ve worked with in the past call me when they move to their next company and say, “We need the EventBLT approach.” Sales gets it. Listen and learn.

The questions I most often ask event professionals and their vendors are, “Do you know who your sales team’s top accounts are and which customers/prospects they’re going after? Do you work the event and become the relationship introducer between your attendees and your sales reps?” Ultimately, make friends with sales — and accounting — no matter how painful it is.

CE: You make the argument that events open the door, but do not close the deal. Isn’t that downplaying the potential value events can bring to an organization?

AS: It’s the exact opposite of that. Prospecting and relationship building take time and money. Event marketers are not in sales, they are in the business of accelerating the sales cycle. I look at it like this: Teams win championships because everyone does their job well. The quarterback isn’t the field-goal kicker who isn’t the wide receiver. We each have our role and responsibility. If everyone does their job well, it means success. If everyone steps all over each other, there’s no progress in the field. The field is sales, and your company wants sales.

I believe events are the center of any company’s marketing strategy. If executed properly, you can reach your target audience, which in turn supports your sales organization. But all too often, events are treated as secondary.

CE: In the book, you talk about event managers and event marketers as if they’re two entirely different roles. What, in your mind, is the difference?

AS: Unfortunately for our industry, many executives think that event managers are like — dare I say — wedding and party planners. That’s like putting a knife in an open wound. I think this perception exists since there is no standardization of metrics or measurement for the industry.

Fundamentally, event marketers are strategic and event managers are more focused on logistics. Also, everyone thinks they can plan or manage an event because they’ve planned a kid’s birthday party, a family reunion, or even a golf or spa weekend with their closest friends. The term “event marketer” raises the bar and puts events on the same playing field as the rest of the marketing disciplines.

CE: With the economy still struggling, event attendance slipping, and business-travel budgets continuously being nipped and tucked — not to mention the rise of social media, Webcasts, and virtual events — many claim event marketing, as we know it, is dead. What do you see in our industry’s future?

AS: Oh, please. I’ve heard this same crap since the 1980s, and events haven’t died yet. Corporate events are continually reinventing themselves, which is the beauty of our industry. I did not start my career in events — I started my career in marketing, advertising, direct mail, public relations, etc. I morphed into events because I understood the underlying level of integration that was needed. The key is the integration of social media, Webcasts, and virtual events layered with advertising, public relations, and various other marketing disciplines. Enhancement of the traditional marketing model will continue to keep events alive and well.

I believe events are the center of any company’s marketing strategy. If executed properly, you can reach your target audience, which in turn supports the sales organization. But all too often, events are treated as secondary to a company’s more traditional marketing and public relations efforts.

I see it happen all the time: A major company decides to make a big announcement about a new product or service that it’s launching, but it does so two weeks prior to an important, well-attended industry event. That is not a strategic move. Use the industry event to announce the new product and blow it out the door — now that’s a strategic move.

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