Chris Marr is an award-winning entrepreneur and the founder of CMA (Content Marketing Academy), the United Kingdom's largest membership organization of its kind. He's the driving force behind CMA's live events and online resources that have helped hundreds of businesses  master content marketing. His events, including CMA Live, are among the most popular marketing conferences in Europe.

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I invited Chris to Marketing Smarts to discuss the power of live events and to share his expert advice on hosting a memorable, effective conference as well as on using live events to support other areas of a business.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Events and experiences are the future of brand marketing (04:55): "We're in 2018 now and...the digital world's become really noisy...and everything's free or no cost. What's the one thing that people are going to pay for in the future? Experiences, because it's the one thing you can't replace. It's one thing that you can't duplicate. You can't make it into a digital thing. You have to go there and you have to experience it in person.... If you miss out on it, you can't just turn up next year and expect it to be the same.

"Live experiences and live events in the marketing space are really special. They hold something valuable for people. It's not just about the speakers, and the value, and the education, and the teaching, and the people you meet in the room. All of that combined creates this unique experience. That's what we want to create when we run a live event."

If your brand's not currently hosting some type of live event, you should be (06:30): "You're really missing a trick if you don't do something where you have people coming together for something, for some reason, for some purpose, with your brand, with your customers. Even from a customer-experience perspective, a lot of companies don't see their customers all that much. Having them come someplace once a year where they can meet other customers is a great way to connect your favorite people with each other. That's the way I look at it anyway.

"I have my customers come to one room once a year and they end up becoming friends with each other, spending money with each other, using each other's services and products. That's networking at scale. Every brand has this opportunity to create something really special for their customers, their suppliers, or whoever's in their closest network."

Every live event should feed your other business areas (11:08): "There's four or five or six different ways that people can do business with us, and coming to the live event is just one of those ways.... If I do one activity over here, how can I make that exponential, how can I get maybe two or three sales from one person over the course of maybe six months or a year.... Everything has another path, somewhere else where the customer can go for more. Every effort I put in is multiplied by the opportunity to buy from us in different ways."

Hosting a great event starts with having empathy for your attendees (12:55): "I'm always thinking to myself, 'How do we make [our event] a better experience without having to spend any more money?' You can make a really big impact on people without spending any more money and, in fact, sometimes spending less. For example, one of the things that really frustrates me about conferences is the food and the coffee, especially over here in the U.K.... The coffee and the food is really bad.... So we've thought of all different ways of doing this, get an independent coffee retailer to come in, looking at independent and organic foods to try and make it a better experience for people.

"Last year at our conference, people talked about the coffee. What conference do people go to and actually talk about the coffee in their blogs, their videos and their tweets? Nobody does that, but because we made a change in their expectations, it became something special. We didn't have to spend any more money to do that, but the quality and the experience was improved because of it. I think to myself, 'What frustrates me and annoys me about conferences and events, and how can I make sure that my customers never have that experience?"

To learn more, visit or follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisMarr101.

Chris and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by GoToWebinar:

GoToWebinar makes it easy to produce engaging online events. Whether you want to connect with your prospects, customers or employees, GoToWebinar has the tools and analytics you need. Start creating interactive and educational webinars your audience will love.

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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