Feature Article - January/February 2017

The Evolution of Event Marketing

It's the Experience That Counts

By Rick Dandes

Proper Planning

When it comes to problems to avoid, Landry said, laughing, "I've stepped on a few landmines in my time." Here's how to avoid some of them.

First and foremost, plan ahead. "In our case, lighting and background noise make a difference," Landry said. "Low noise levels will allow your recipients to hear what the Tumi consultant is saying, and ample lighting will allow them to properly shop and see what they are choosing. If an outdoor venue is chosen, shade for all participants is key. If your recipient group had a high female percentage, color matters. Add color to the mix."

Overall, you have to be careful of where the event is, Hatch explained. "If your incentive trip is anywhere outside the United States and you're giving out sandals and glasses, you need to know how to deal with duties and taxes. You need to know how to get the product out of the country. At Maui Jim we have a full-time person whose sole job is to quote the international events. We've done events at the Great Wall of China."

The most important goal is to not disappoint. The assortment of product must be attractive to everyone. The shopping experience makes it interactive and fun.

Maui Jim is fortunate, Hatch said, because as a brand it has retail distribution all over the world. "I know how to get product into countries," he said.

Meanwhile, know whether the event is indoors or outdoors, suggested Forrest. "We did an outdoor event in Hawaii at night and had a jeweler there. He didn't have enough light, so we had the hotel bring in extra lighting. All of these things are important details. You have to ask questions before the event and know everything so nothing happens that isn't somehow anticipated when you arrive."

Also, you need to know your demographics, Forrest added. "Know who your recipients are so you have the right type of product. Know the balance of men and ladies. In our case, you don't want to have too many men's watches and not enough ladies' watches."

Plan to have extra product on site so you don't disappoint people, Forrest said. "If you know there are going to be 100 recipients, we usually try to take 20 to 25 percent extra product. What if one style is more popular than another? You don't want to run out so that the person doesn't get to have their first choice. Over the years we have learned how much percentage overage to bring."

Know when and how the product is given out. For example, if you have 400 people getting a gift, you have to allow for the proper time during the meeting to give out those gifts—especially if you offer sizing.

"You don't want people waiting in line for an hour to get their chance at picking their watch," Forrest said. "When companies put together their agenda, you have to know when the people are getting their gift. In some cases, people get vouchers so that they aren't standing in line. It's really about planning and working with the distributor, who is putting the event together. It is about coordination and asking the right questions and then the distributor working the details out with the hotel or their end-user customer."

Every aspect of the event has to be perfectly planned, and executed at the highest level, Hatch said. "That starts from the very beginning with the people who are setting up. When you are at a high-end corporate event, you need to be professional and dressed appropriately. Every touch along the way is important. Everything has to be memorable, but not just for the recipients—also for the customer, the meeting planner. Their time is so important. You need to understand that everything you do is being watched by the meeting planner."

The most important goal is to not disappoint, Dougherty added. "The assortment of product must be attractive to everyone. With Seiko, we like to bring a variety of watches that appeal to all the participants. Stainless steel, two tone, gold, black PVD, bracelets, straps, chronographs and diamonds should always be included in order to give the recipient the ability to choose the watch they want, not the watch you give them. That's the whole point: The shopping experience makes it interactive and fun. I've been to dozens of conferences and corporate events where we received some kind of swag, and I always talk about how cool it was to try on and pick the golf shoes I wanted … what a great touch."