There is no doubt that events of all types can benefit from creative, consistent and effective marketing. But the challenge for many digital and hybrid event marketers is how to position these new event models. One way to look at digital events is through the product vs. service lens: For a post-pandemic audience, marketing digital events as a service might be your best choice.
Products vs. Services
Products and services offer two very different sets of attributes, benefits and value propositions. Consider the basics:
- A product is tangible, whereas you can’t see or touch a service.
- A product likely has a more homogenous feature set, whereas services are more diverse in character.
- A product fills a need or a want, while a service can more easily build trust and, ultimately, relationships.
- A product might require minimal contact or engagement with customers once it's delivered, while a service depends on a high degree of engagement.
- Products deliver a similar value to all, unlike services, whose value is unique to each customer.
- A product implies a transaction, while a service suggests transformation.
- Product business models deliver lower margins and are less profitable than service business models.
- Product design and innovation require a longer lead time than service design and innovation, which is more spontaneous.
Think about your current marketing tactics and whether they reflect your ultimate objectives. Are you marketing a one-size-fits-all product or a one-of-a-kind service? Are you trying to fill a one-time need or building long-term relationships with your audience? Are you narrowing down the definition of value or opening it up to interpretation and expansion? Are you stuck with one event model, or can you explore multiple options when the need arises?
Marketing Digital and Hybrid Events as Services
Some may argue that digital events share both product and service characteristics. But consider that digital events represent a relatively new option for event participants — and, as a result, they require a more flexible, service-oriented marketing approach.
Digital events are less tangible than in-person events — in terms of time as well as space. Marketing them should be based on establishing trust and building a solid relationship with the audience over time. You are essentially selling yourself.
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Digital and hybrid events are incredibly customizable. When marketing them, highlight their uniqueness. Because your audience is likely to be more comfortable with in-person events, you'll need to describe a compelling, meaningful audience experience that is at least as good as that of an in-person event.
Digital and hybrid events can be challenging to market, especially as in-person events reemerge. However, by defining them as services that can evolve and adapt to meet audience needs, rather than as replacement products that could fail anew, you can respond more adeptly to changing business conditions. You'll remain more flexible in the event models you choose to offer.
Marketing is only one aspect of delivering digital and hybrid events. To learn more, download our free resource, “A Planner’s Guide to Digital and Hybrid Events.”
John Nawn is the cofounder and chief strategist for The Event Strategy Network, a diverse group of trusted advisors dedicated to unleashing the full business potential of events.
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