Q&A: Mobile Makes Inroads On Event Marketing

Uzair-DadaFor years, marketing at events has been pretty much the same, whether the event was fun (think Lollapalooza), dreary (maybe the annual convention of the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America) or high profile (perhaps the GOP Convention, opening next week in Tampa:) Sponsor buy banners and booths and hand out bumper stickers and logod totes bags, while attendees rub their aching arches. “If you dissect the pain point for most marketers,” says Uzair Dada, founder and CEO of Iron Horse Interactive, a multichannel marketing company based in San Ramon, Calif., “they go to an event or a trade show and hope to generate more business, more leads, or more awareness.  And then many come home and say, 'Well, that didn’t happen.’ And often, event marketing feels very generic.”



Dada thinks the fact that since attendees are already glued to their smartphones, there’s a world of mobile-dependent marketing ready to liven up events. He talks about it with Marketing Daily:

Q: What role is mobile already playing at events?

A: We are just emerging from the experimentation stage, and for large conventions, getting an app for the event is starting to appear on checklists. 

Q: Who’s doing it well?

A: Well, 'well’ is a relative term, I think, since it’s all so new. Tom’s Shoes has done some interesting things. But most are pretty basic. Take the upcoming GOP Convention in Tampa: It has an app, and there are all the usual things, the things you’d expect: A schedule, maps, shuttle bus times, taxi info, that kind of thing. But I think in the future, you’ll see those things as sort of a minimum. Apps will be tied into Facebook and Twitter and social feeds, and connected to information on different candidates. There will be polling features. They can be tied to donation widgets, so people can make a contribution right then, when they are there and excited and ready to shell out cash.

Q: What should marketers think about when creating event apps?

A: They need to be less focused on what they want, and more focused on why people go to events. Are they there to network, to get leads? Then think about apps that make it easy for them to do that.

Q: Is this something you think marketers will do more of?

A: Yes, especially for big events. But I think there’s huge potential for small events, too. Something like 80% of events have fewer than 100 attendees. I don’t think it will be long until you see people create apps for things like family weddings or bar mitzvahs. And instead of disposable cameras on the tables, people will be using their smartphones to upload video of Uncle Lou dancing or whatever. I think we’ll see reunion apps. 

Right now, the problem of creating such specific apps is scale. And it can take up to eight weeks to create an app. But with things like HTML5 and increasing user receptiveness, we’ll start to see it happen faster.

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