December 22, 2020 I Marketing By Numbers I by Mike Robinson

Event Marketing Evolves

Last year, as populations were locked down due to COVID-19, manyconsumers chose to invest their time, energy and money into activities that are not only safe, but emotionally fulfilling and mentally balancing. Among these was certainly music. Whether finally learning to play, teaching our kids, rekindling an old hobby, sharpening chops or writing our personal masterpiece, music has filled the moments of solitude. As a result, many segments of our beloved music products industry benefited from this societal shift in behavior. But what about the events that support the market, and the organizations behind them? Are shows ever going to be what they were? It’s an interesting question to ponder as we near NAMM’s Believe in Music Week.

Can virtual shows open the door for vendors to reach more people at a reasonable cost?

In general, event marketing is a hotly contested subject inside many companies. The customer acquisition cost is higher than other marketing activities because events reach a more limited number of people compared to digital marketing, and have disproportionately higher costs like booth space, travel, meals and customer entertainment. And depending on the industry and the nature of the event, it’s often the same customers year after year.

There’s little argument that events provide the face-to-face interaction and personal connection that can create new relationships and cement existing ones, and we all benefit from and enjoy that value. It’s also true that trade events like The NAMM Show are an opportunity for manufacturers to show B2B customers what’s new and exciting in their product lines. The opportunity for physical interaction with a product, especially one that has the purpose of creating music, cannot be easily replaced by a virtual or pre-recorded demonstration. But do these values contain the sufficient return on investment required to produce and attend these events when the number of people one can reach at an event is finite? Or will these virtual shows during the pandemic leave decision-makers with the feeling that physical attendance isn’t entirely necessary. If sales don’t decline as a result of not having an in-person event, it could be an easy conclusion to draw. In an age when businesses need to think differently and adapt to new realities, how will event organizers adapt, evolve and survive in a post-COVID-19 world? The answer to this may come from the environmental pressure that’s been put on the event marketing eco-system, forcing change. Because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, event organizers had to either cancel or immediately find a solution to virtually convene both vendors and customers. If these virtual events can provide a user experience that feels intuitive, presents content that interests and educates us, and allows us to connect and communicate in a way that feels familiar, then they’ll have a model that has more long-term potential than just a temporary fix in the midst of a pandemic. They’ll also have a means to reach far more people. What if The NAMM Show and events like it finally transformed into a true hybrid B2B and B2C event? In-person attendance could be better controlled and dedicated to the B2B customer, but the virtual experience could be opened to all participants in the world of music, who could explore and learn what’s new remotely.

For certain, this would require that manufacturers finally commit to a proper go-to-market strategy with firm launch dates and available inventory. But if brands could reach the larger consumer audience and create the needed excitement and demand for their products, then NAMM and shows like it would have the keys to a car that can allow more vendors to reach more people at a more reasonable cost. And that is music to a marketer’s ears! MI

Mike Robinson has been working within the music products industry for 20 years, holding both marketing and product management leadership positions at D’Addario and KHS. Currently, he runs a marketing and business management consultancy, advising clients and executing marketing strategies both within and outside the music products market.

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