Event planning entails not only organizing gatherings of people but also a significant amount of marketing. We can say that events are only products, and we need to sell those products to our customers, which means event organization doesn't mean much without marketing. But, can we say that event organizers are also good at marketing? I am not sure.

Here are the five Ps of event marketing:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Public Relations
  • Positioning

1) Product

Each successful event marketer is first and foremost an expert on his or her product. The product may be anything, such as an educational program, a county fair, or a full-fledged convention. It may be a reunion for a fraternal organization or a corporate product launch. If you are marketing the event, there are essential elements that you must know and questions that you must ask of the event sponsor.

What Is the History of the Event?

Many veteran marketers will attract participation because they can sell the celebratory essence of the event. "The 50th Annual Conference" proclaims the success and venerability of an organization, as well as the pride that goes with being part of it. But even if there is no history, there is the opportunity to be historical. For example, "The 1st Annual Conference" will have no history but can be portrayed as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a "happening" that participants can infer will be an ongoing event, turning into a tradition and developing long-term loyalty. The greatest part of event marketing is the opportunity to create history by attracting people to a synergistic activity that can define the organization and its goals. The celebration of history is a fabulous promotional asset, in whatever way the event marketer wishes to interpret it for the audience.

What Is the Value of the Product?

Marketing an event requires that the message emphasize how the participant will benefit. The promise of increasing productivity, maximizing profitability, or simply having a great time can be legitimate benefits that can persuade a person to buy the product or attend the event. Later in this text, we will discuss the science of studying demographics and determining audience needs. Designing an event with that research in hand and effectively describing how that event will fulfill those needs are keys to effective marketing.

What Makes the Product Unique?

What makes this event different from others? Why should one choose to invest time and money in this event as opposed to the competition that surrounds it? Marketers who can identify the return on investment (ROI) that can be expected by the participants, the special experience that will be offered, and the added value of attendance are those who will successfully market the event. This will require research into the markets and the objectives of the client or organization. Only then can the uniqueness of the product be identified and described in all of the marketing media utilized.

2) Price

Primary among the responsibilities of the event marketer is an understanding of the financial goals of the sponsoring organization. Once this is determined, market research will illustrate the competition's pricing patterns. Who is offering a similar product, to whom, and at what price? Equally important are considerations such as the level of demand for the product and economic indicators such as the relative health of the economy in a particular city or region or, to an increasing extent, globally. Price may be secondary to perceived value. It is in this area that the event marketer can play a major role.

In marketing events, consider these issues of pricing:

What Is the Corporate Financial Philosophy?

Some events are designed to make money, pure and simple. Others are strategically developed to break even financially. And some are positioned as "loss leaders," expected to lose money to gain greater assets elsewhere, such as membership development or community goodwill. Corporate meetings are typically expensed not as a profit center but rather as "costs of doing business" to build employee loyalty and pride and to learn how better to sell products and services. The event marketer must clearly understand the financial mission and design a strategy to accommodate those goals.

What Is the Cost of Doing Business?

The price must reflect the total costs of goods and services, including the cost of marketing itself. Marketing is often relegated to a secondary role in event production because the costs of printing, postage, advertising, public relations, and other basic marketing expenses may not be considered part of the event budget.

Instead, it may be treated as part of the organization's general overhead and operating expenses. The marketer will be considered an integral part of event production when that event's budget provides for marketing as a primary event function and income-expense center.

What Are the Financial Demographics of the Target Audience?

Analyze your market's ability to pay. This sounds simple, but it is critical to the marketing effort. An event designed for executives who have access to corporate credit cards and can charge their participation as business expenses will likely be priced at a higher level than an event designed for those who must pay from their wallets. Market research will help determine the ability and willingness of attendees to pay ticket prices at various levels and, therefore, influence the planning of the event itself.

3) Place

The location of your event can dictate not just the attendance but the character and personality of the event as well. This is a consideration for the earliest part of the planning stages.

For example, for an event being held at a plush resort, the setting for the event should be a key part of the marketing strategy. The event site may even be the major draw featured in brochures and advertising. An awards dinner at a new public facility in your town should emphasize the opportunity to experience the facility as an exciting highlight of the event itself.

On the other hand, an educational seminar at an airport hotel would not necessarily feature the attractiveness of the site but rather could emphasize the convenience and functionality of the location as the major asset for the attendees. The place should be marketed with several important elements in mind:

  • Proximity to the potential attendees and ease of travel
  • Availability of parking for a commuter audience
  • The ambiance and originality of the site
  • Logistical practicality of staging a particular event
  • Surrounding attractions/infrastructure for ancillary activities
  • The existence of related audiences, organizations
  • The degree to which the location fits the character of the event
  • Safety, and security of event attendees
  • Availability of public transportation (airport and city)
  • Availability of overflow space (sleeping and meeting rooms)

4) Public Relations

Public relation is a major part of the marketing mix. You have complete control over what you say about your organization and your event. Public relations can determine how others perceive you and your mission. It may be as bold as a team of press agents distributing releases to newspapers or staging press conferences to extol the virtues of your event. Or it may be as subtle as a trade publication interview with a leader of your organization that includes references to your event and its benefits.

The essence of a public relations campaign is that it never stops; rather, it is an ongoing effort to establish positive perceptions of your organization and its products. You need not be a public relations professional to practice effective public relations. A media release, feature article, or simple phone call to the editor of a trade publication can result in invaluable publicity for your event. You must also care about what people say, and your message to the public must be carefully crafted to reflect the character and strategy of your event.

The effective event marketer will seize every opportunity to plant the seeds of credibility and positive response.

5) Positioning

Event marketing relies on the proper positioning of the product. No event can be effectively marketed until a marketing plan is developed. The marketing plan will likely be the factor that determines success or failure. And the key to a successful marketing plan is "positioning."

Positioning is the strategy of determining, through intuition, research, and evaluation, those areas of consumer need that your event carefully meets. What kinds of events does the competition provide? What level of investment are they requiring of their attendees? Who is attending, and who is not? In other words, what niche are we trying to fill? What makes us different, and how can we seize upon our unique qualities to market our events? And what markets will be receptive to our event concept? The event marketing executive who can answer these questions has the greatest opportunity to fulfill expectations.

Here are some key considerations when positioning an event:

Location: Issues of location must be continuously evaluated because the interests of the markets change constantly.

Attention Span: People forget quickly. Marketing materials must constantly emphasize the needs the event will satisfy and the benefits it will provide because potential attendees will likely be thinking about a thousand other things.

Competitive Costs: Positioning strategies must consider the economic level and flexibility of the audience being sought and meet those expectations. Some organizations hold events where admission is free and the costs are covered by exhibitors, sponsors, and supporters. Others may set the cost of participation exceedingly high to attract only the market niche represented by big spenders and industry leaders. So, there is no definitive answer; other than that, registration and participation fee issues are a significant part of correctly positioning the event and an integral cog in the marketing plan.


Having a snowball’s chance in hell at succeeding in the event business without proper marketing is wishing for something nearly impossible. You might be a great planner, and you might have found the greatest venue, but if you can’t get people to your event then the whole thing is worthless. Marketing must always be done in tandem with event planning, and it should be factored into the budget right from the start.

We suggest you check out our latest article, 'Event Marketing Checklist,' which has already been read and loved by over 1,582 visitors. Click the link to discover more about event marketing and how our checklist can help you maximize your event's reach.

How to maximize your event's reach: A Conference Marketing Checklist

How to maximize your event's reach: A Conference Marketing Checklist