Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One of the biggest tech conferences in the world, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), was in full swing earlier this month, January 8-11, in Las Vegas.

Gadgets, devices and electronics from the practical (smart appliances that send text messages when the laundry is done) to the quirky (an iMusic BodyRhythm massager controlled by an iOS device) were on display, and an estimated 150,000 were in attendance to see them unveiled.

Some are arguing that in today’s rapidly evolving tech world, the relevance of CES is fading. Granted, big names like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft didn’t even make it to this year’s event, preferring, it seems, their own product launches. Still, CES 2013 drew a record-breaking crowd and created what appeared to be non-stop publicity for the constant parade of new “must-see” electronics.

What can marketers learn from the success of this year’s CES? Here’s my short list of the key take-aways:

A dedicated, multi-media event hub is essential. The CES website includes blogs, videos, social media outreach, apps and an interactive MyCES Planner that allows users to create a personalized show agenda. This kind of online home base can: 1) generate pre-event excitement, 2) keep attendees (and a worldwide online audience!) engaged during the event, 3) gather feedback and 4) promote upcoming events. (If you’re curious, next year’s CES is scheduled for January 7-10, 2014.)

Use influencers to create buzz. It’s relatively easy to create compelling copy and eye-popping visuals when your subject matter is none other than the world’s “coolest” gadgets and gizmos. But these days, even the best content needs social reverb so it can get recognized above all the digital noise. CES 2013 got a boost from a daily live blog at Wired, other websites devoted to updates, etc. So consider novel ways to tie in with partners, and extend the reach of your marketing messages.

Make an impression. As I mentioned above, trendy new consumer electronics typically have little problem creating headlines or drawing crowds; however, the hurdles are much higher when you’re trying to market a B2B event. B2B event marketers have to think differently . . . and bigger. Here’s an example: At PARTNERS, the Teradata User Group Conference & Expo, we invited attendees to download our custom Event app, and use it to schedule, track and keep abreast of their conference schedule, event proceedings and news. A year earlier we invited them to opt-in to a Socialization of Data Experience, so they could receive targeted offers based on their social preferences. This experience helped us tap into the buzz surrounding the socialization of data and intelligent 1:1 marketing while our audience had the opportunity to test-drive new technology in real-time. (See the results here.) When we go to trade shows, we also try to innovate beyond the standard corporate booth. In the past, we’ve used “Revolution Walls” (a low-tech approach using sheets of brown paper and Sharpies) to get attendees to weigh-in with their market insights.

Measure value. Today’s C-suite demands marketing accountability, and I’m sure the CES team has already begun to carefully assess the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s program. Big data analytics can add valuable insights to this process as event marketers consider exhibiting expenses and calculate cost-per-contact, cost-per-lead and ultimately, the program ROI, overall. Since B2B marketers work with a longer selling cycle, it may take months, if not longer, for them to make a final determination of event value. All the more reason to build in some compelling and snazzy attention builders from the get-go.

Gather post-event feedback. What worked? What didn’t? You won’t know if you don’t gather input from attendees post-event. You can also learn valuable information by analyzing social media chatter before, during and after your event. Take a look at these results from CES 2013. You’ll see that Samsung won for Twitter engagement, and that CNET finished first in the “top tweeted domain” category.

Were you following the product roll-outs at CES 2013? What captured your attention? Did you run across any marketing tactics that you plan to incorporate into your next program?