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Christie Osborne

You Can’t Predict the Future of the Event Industry, but You Can Audit Your Marketing Plan

How smart are you about choosing your marketing strategy? Here are steps to make you smarter:

Part of your marketing challenge as a special events professional is that you aren’t psychic.

You don’t know when the next algorithm change will trash your digital strategy, and you can’t anticipate when a new and trendy competitor will steal market share.

Not only do technologies and situations change rapidly in today’s digital landscape, but let’s face it: Sometimes our best-laid plans don’t pan out the way we expect them to.

So while a marketing plan can help you stay focused and supercharge your success, it can’t be a static tool. Instead, it should be a living document. That’s where an audit steps in and helps keep your plan moving forward--and not end up abandoned as useless in some dusty folder.

Conducting regular audits can be crucial in optimizing your marketing plan, and they don’t have to be complicated. By answering a few thoughtful questions on an annual or quarterly basis, you can transform a simple marketing plan into an exceptional tool, allowing you to:

  • Get to know your ideal clients better through thoughtful evaluation. This can make producing content and engaging with potential clients online exponentially easier.
  • Understand what does and does not work in your marketing mix so that you can optimize your efforts and build a strong brand.
  • Better anticipate and deal with smaller changes in technology, so when the big changes come, you’re not caught off guard.

If your plan is brand-new, I recommend that you do quarterly audits for the first year to 18 months. This will allow you to be flexible and glean powerful insights at regular intervals. A longer 18-month stretch will also allow you to start making some year-over-year comparisons.

For event pros, I recommend you at least review your plan after the close of your high season, when insights from experiences are keen, and again four to six months before your high season, while there is still time to make adjustments.

For wedding pros in particular, review your plan in October before the official kick-off of engagement season at the end of November. That will give you time to make any adjustments to your engagement-season strategy.

Set aside a good chunk of time; a good four-hour block or even a full day can be perfect. Make sure you gather all the data you need before you start analyzing. This will help you be efficient and maintain a big-picture perspective. Have all of your monthly social media, SEO and Google Analytics reports at hand.

Make sure you have your year-over-year sales information available, ideally broken out into monthly reports.

Because of the seasonal nature of weddings and events, you’ll want to compare how your marketing and sales paces for each month in your year-over-year comparison. For example, you’ll want to look at how well you did in January 2017 and how that compared with January 2018.

What you audit will depend largely on your goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). However, there are a few things you’ll want to look at irrespective the specific goals you set. 

1. Review your Ideal Client Avatar (ICA). Looking at how your content performed through the lens of your ICA can help you optimize your content strategy in the future.

  • Is there new information about your ICA that can be gleaned from the data?
  • What content worked and what didn’t?
  • Were there certain core categories that worked exceptionally well or failed completely?

2. Redefine and adjust any objectives and goals as necessary. Look at your year-over-year sales and marketing goals.

  • Are you pacing appropriately?
  • Did you meet, exceed or come close to meeting your sales and marketing goals?
  • Make any necessary adjustments based on your historical data, creating stretch goals to keep you on track and ultimately successful.

3. Look at your campaign calendars and timeline. Also evaluate how you did with meeting your deadlines and sticking to your timelines.

  • Do you need to build in more or less time for your projects and endeavors?
  • Do you have any new projects on the horizon, such as speaking, new launches, holidays, seasonal promotions during the busy or slow seasons that need to be included?

4. Review your competition. Consider your place in the local market and think of how potential clients are evaluating vendors like you.

  • Is there anything your competition seems to be doing exceptionally well that you can test in your own marketing mix?
  • Are there gaps in the market that you can fill with your service or messaging?

5. What did you love or loathe? Think about your own personal relationship to your marketing efforts. Was there anything that stood out as lighting you rup or dragging you down?

  • Was there anything you truly loved?
  • Was there anything that was a total chore?

Consider outsourcing those things you hate now that you have the insight and experience to delegate well.

6. Audit the technological landscape. Technology changes all the time and some of the algorithm or functionality changes to social media, online search or even your website platform can change the marketing game for your business. Regularly auditing your marketing plan can keep your business nimble and allow you to make crucial changes in a timely manner.

  • Were there any major updates in or technological changes that negatively affected your marketing or business? If so, what are some ways you can adapt?
  • Were there any new feature updates you could use to positively affect your marketing or business? If so, what are some things you can test?

So while you might wish for a crystal ball to help with your marketing, with just a bit of thought and some very basic analysis a few times a year you can go from feeling lost, overwhelmed or frustrated to being flexible, nimble and able to adapt when things go wrong, and get ahead of the competition when opportunities arise.

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is an educator who appears across the U.S. with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.

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