How to Use Social Proof to Market Your Event

There’s a reason why the average consumer reads 10 online reviews before making a purchase decision — people trust recommendations from other people, and that also goes for whether to attend an event.

Author: Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes       

Rick Bayless ad for National Restaurant Association Show

The National Restaurant Association Show used industry professionals — including Chef Rick Bayless — to market the 2021 show.

event marketing

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes

Understandably, we put more stock in what users and experts have to say about a brand’s products and services than what the brand says about itself. And that’s what makes social proof such an effective tool for marketers, including event marketers. Here are six ways to leverage this tried-and-true concept to convert attendee prospects:

  1. Bring in the experts (and celebrities). Industry luminaries are often thought of when creating speaker lineups and influencer marketing. But even if you’re not bringing them in as official influencers for your attendee-acquisition campaign, a few words of praise or simply having their names associated with your brand can go a long way. In a recent campaign for a large foodservice client, mdg leveraged the words of renowned food and beverage experts who spoke about the state of the industry, although not the event itself, in order to add credibility to the show’s brand. Having their names associated with the brand helped prospects see the show as being in tune with their field and trusted by people in the know.
  2. Showcase past attendees. Give your prospects opportunities to hear what their peers gained by attending your show — or what they’re looking forward to this year — and they’ll have an easier time picturing themselves on site. (See “Benefits Over Features” below for more.)
  3. Go with the crowd. When a large group is seen to be endorsing your brand, other people want to know what it’s all about — and FOMO kicks in. Highlight the organization behind your show and any societies or affiliated associations involved with it. Also consider positioning your event as the place where key members of the industry gather to shape next practices and trends.
  4. Don’t forget the friends. When prospects see that people they know liked a post about your event or RSVP’d, they’re much more likely to consider attending. Regular posting can help ensure that more of your prospects have the chance to see names they recognize in a list of likes. Leveraging partner-in-promotion tactics, like scripted posts and images that make it easy for speakers, exhibitors, and even other attendees to promote their presence at your event, can also lead to more conversions.
  5. Make it certifiable. For products, a “certified by” line with the name of a well-known, standard-setting organization instantly adds credibility and creates trust. It’s a little different for events, but the same idea applies. Think of authoritative figures in your industry who can give your show their stamp of approval and feature their endorsement in your campaign materials. For example, showcasing a keynote session with a speaker from a respected company in your field will read as a sort of certification for your event.

Benefits Over Features

Convertize, a company that helps marketers increase sales from their websites using consumer psychology, points out in a blog post that customers care more about benefits than they do about features. And one of the best ways to communicate benefits is with use cases, where clients talk about how a product or service worked for them. In a business events context, this would mean that attendees share on your event website and on social media how they put what they learned at your past event to use in their professional lives.

Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes is president and chief marketing strategist at mdg, a Freeman Company, a full-service marketing and public relations firm specializing in B2B events.

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