The date is set, the venue is booked, registration is open; you're ready to start marketing your event, which, as many planners know, is easier said than done. Not only does it take time to cultivate the right messaging and find the right people to market your event to, but the marketing scene is constantly evolving and with new ways to reach and target your audience emerging every year.
While this stage of the planning process may seem overwhelming, there are lots of simple, but effective ways to get your event's name out there and to increase your registration numbers. Whether you're an event marketing novice or just want to catch up on the latest trends, check out these keys ways to market your event.
1. Put More Focus on Your Digital Marketing Campaign
Start with your event's digital marketing campaign, especially with popular tactics such as search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search. SEO is an inbound and outbound technique used to help a business rank higher in search engine results to attract more organic, free traffic to their site, while paid search is where your site is advertised on a search engine’s sponsored listings or a partner site. Overall, these two tactics are key to driving traffic to your event website and therefore, increasing your event registration. Together, SEO and paid advertising can help keep the awareness and engagement going to turn new attendees into loyal ones.
Utilizing SEO is useful to event planners who want to publicly advertise their event in the months and weeks leading up to it, as it helps your event website become more visible and drive more traffic to increase your event registration.
Before your event, you can optimize your event’s website or landing page with keywords related to your audience. For example, if it’s an event for planners, you might want to use “event management,” “event planning,” or “events,” so you can increase your website’s rank in the search engine results.
According to a click-through rate study conducted by Advanced web ranking, 30 percent of website visitors click the first the first result on their search engine. So, choosing keywords for your target audience and consistently using them is very important for digital marketing success.
You can also incorporate your company’s keywords in your site navigation bars, your landing page, blog or other content, on your social media platforms, like LinkedIn, and in email marketing. Including your keywords in your site’s content, like white papers, Q&A’s, and other publications, can also help optimize your event page.
In addition to keywords, you can create audience segmentation to grow your page’s SEO. Audience segmentation is a group segmented by specific variables, like language, location, job title, preferences, etc. Adding audience segmentation to your event page will create a more personalized user experience and improve your SEO ranking.
Using SEO to drive more traffic to your website can increase your conversion optimization rate (CRO). However, you should note that although SEO is an effective digital marketing tool, SEO campaigns may be slower to turn leads into conversions since SEO focuses on building a presence in an organic search.
This is where paid search comes into play. You can advertise your website or an event through paid social media advertisements, like Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram ads. Each platform has its own benefits depending on your event; Linkedin is great for the B2B market or to target job titles or verticals; with Facebook you can target interests, which makes it a great place to promote content or keynote speakers; and Instagram is perfect to showcase powerful imagery related to your event. Paid ads should be a tactic on top of regular posts on your event’s various accounts, the use of hashtags and content creation.
In addition to social media ads, you can promote your event through paid search ads on Google. Back in 2015, Google released a new type of paid search, which they call customer match. With this product, you can upload email addresses and create customized ads or campaigns to reach an audience you already have a relationship with. Google ads also allow you to tailor ads to your event. You can create countdown ads like, “Only four days left to buy your event tickets” or motivate people to purchase tickets (e.g. ,“Only X number of tickets left!”).
2. Enhance Your Event Website
The event website is vital to an event's overall success. It's where attendees find all the information they need about your event and, most importantly, it helps drive them to actually register. It's why effective event websites need to be professional, modern and engaging. Here are a few tips to help you market your event even on your event website.
Think Through the Eyes of an Attendee
Before you start building your event website, think about what you would want to know if you were going as attendee. What the event is about? Where it is? Where can I stay overnight? What will I be doing at the event? Are there sponsors or other companies going? Are there fun activities? How much does it cost? Those are your major pages that should go on your site: About, Venue, Hotel, Agenda, Sponsors, Pricing, Register, etc.
Keep an Eye on Design Trends
Don't underestimate the power of a beautifully designed event website. Take note of the latest website design trends and incorporate one or two into yours to help it stand out. For example, some current big trends include featuring pops of color, illustration/hand drawn elements, and minimalism. Take the time to do some research and write down what design elements you like on websites you admire. The point is, don't be afraid to try something new for your event website design as a modern, distinctive aesthetic may be a key driver in getting people interested in your event.
Include Optimized Call To Action Buttons
A more traditional, but still effective way when used properly to convert attendees with your event registration website is through call to actions. Call to actions or CTAs that are focused on converting your attendees on your event registration website should be clear and include the word “register” on the button. The CTA should make it clear that if they want to register for your event all they have to do is click this button. An unoptimized, confusing CTA button will only prevent attendees from registering for your event.
3. Work With Your Speakers to Promote Your Event
Speakers and presenters are being asked to do a lot more than just shine up and show up at the time you have scheduled them in your program. While you may think your speakers' recognizable names or interesting session topics alone may help increase attendance, you can always take it a step further and ask them to help you promote your event. Here's how:
Include Speakers' Social Media Savviness
Starting with the call for proposals, ask for your speakers' Twitter handles and other social media profiles to see which ones are accustomed to engaging attendees with these platforms, and who has large followings. If you end up selecting them, then provide them with basic social media messaging, hashtags, logos, images, etc. to make it easy to promote their speaking engagements and your event. In order to make your social media efforts with speakers successful, make sure that you communicate your goals and objectives before and during the contract phase of the relationship so that they are prepared to help you instead of doing you a favor.
Create Video Content With Speakers
Ahead of your event, have your speakers and presenters record short introductory or session preview videos. These videos are great content to help you promote the meeting or event. Another great option is to ask them to participate in a live webinar or Facebook Live session where potential attendees can be included and ask engaging questions. By recording these videos you can repurpose them on your event website, social media channels, emails and more.
Encourage Engaging Presentations
Whether or not you provide your speakers with a template for their presentations, you can ask them to include the conference hashtag on their slides. This helps encourage attendees to share what they are learning during your event. If you have someone monitoring the hashtag from each session, it could also be used for questions from the audience. Your introverts in the audience will appreciate a way to participate without raising their hands. An audience response system can be implemented if you have several presenters who are willing to work with you on polling, Q&A and surveys.
Recommended Resources: Learn how to optimize the attendee journey with the latest event tech.
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4. Utilize Video Content
Whether it’s on social media, your event’s website, or incorporated into your event, video storytelling is regarded as one of the top most effective digital marketing tools today. Why? Because videos can help you create a demand for your event while driving more traffic to your site.
In fact, research on video usage has found that not only do videos hold people’s attention for five times longer than images, but videos can also boost your event or meeting’s page registration by 80 percent.
Here's how you can use videos across different channels to drive event demand.
Add a short, promotional video to your event website. You can combine images and video clips from past events with this year’s speaker lineup, product displays, and more. Adding video content to your event website has been found to increase conversions on key landing pages and reduce bounces rates.
Take a section of your event website’s video and add it to your event social pages (e.g. Facebook Event Page) to drive your event page’s engagement. You can also tease your followers with speaker lineups and featured products that will be at your event. If the videos are short enough (90 seconds or less) you can also post them to your Instagram or Snapchat story.
Although you cannot yet embed videos in an email, you can include an image or gif thumbnail with a link back to your event’s website or social pages. Including such content will increase your click-through rate by 250% and help you drive demand to your event.
5. Don't Forget About Email Marketing
Despite the emergence of more advanced marketing channels, email still boasts of one of the highest ROI at 4,440% or $44 dollars earned for every $1 spent. Email — as a communication technology — hasn’t changed much over the years, except for a few innovations. That said, it comes as no surprise that best practices in email marketing have remained relatively the same, yet many event marketers struggle to get the most out of their email campaigns to promote their events.
Here's how make your next email marketing campaign successful for your next event.
Build Excitement and Suspense
One of the biggest mistakes event marketers make is providing too much information in their promo emails. Why would potential event participants register or attend an event if they already know everything that’s going to happen? Event email marketing should contain enough information to pique audience interest, but leave out enough to encourage registration and increase attendance. If an event app is an essential part of the event experience, this is also the time to provide instructions describing the app, how to download it, and how to use it.
Create a Strategic Email Autoresponder Campaign
There is power in numbers. When it comes to email marketing to promote events, the magic number is 5. According to research, the ideal number of emails that marketers need to send out for the best conversion rates is 5. This reiterates the importance of multiple touchpoints in marketing. The key to creating multiple touchpoints with email is to write emails with varying messages, moving within the same narrative. Utilize essential email marketing tactics such as guiding recipients through an email promotion funnel based on their actions (those who open versus those who don’t; those who click versus those who don’t).
Targeted Messages for Targeted Audiences
One size fits all marketing will no longer suffice in this day and age. Segmentation and personalization rule email marketing and event managers need to get on board to achieve the best results. Every email list for event marketing should be segmented based on buyer personas. Different event email marketing campaigns should be created with targeted messages that will resonate most with specific profiles.
Create Clear Calls To Action
This is another rule of thumb that is often forgotten. Each email should have one, single-minded, simple, and compelling CTA. Whether it’s to register, review the event’s agenda, or download a mobile event app — an event email should always end with a call to action.
6. Engage on Social Media
We know connections are a big part of an event planner’s definition of success. But how do you expand your connections and gain more attendees at your next event? Social media may be your answer. According to EventMB, event planners listed social media in 2018 as the most effective marketing tool. With 3.196 billion people on social media, you can expand your event’s influence and audience through platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Here are some tips on how to do just that on social media platforms most used by event planners.
- Event Pages: Facebook allows you to create a page specific to your event. The page prompts you to fill out event specific information (date, location, and description) and then to invite all of your Facebook friends or followers to the event. All you have to do is type and click! Once you have created the event’s page, you can focus on marketing your event on your other channels.
- Facebook Analytics: You can also use Facebook Reports to analyze your profile’s engagement and see which posts received more impressions than others. Facebook also provides you with your page’s latest demographics. Facebook demographics break down your followers (by gender, age, location, income, and education) so you can determine who you should target your material for.
- Facebook Live: Though Facebook is a great tool to use prior to your event, you can also use the platform during your event. Using Facebook Live, you can stream live content for your followers. Users can interact with the livestream by commenting on or reacting (in emojis) to the stream. Once you finish livestreaming, the content will remain on your page for others to view and share. This is a great way to reach an audience other than the attendees at your event.
- Engaging Tweets: To build buzz around your event, your tweets should contain new and original content that’s relevant to your event and target audience. You can include pictures or videos from previous events, announce an event session, and other exciting announcements. Live Tweeting is also a great way to engage people who are not there and make memories with the people that are. Designate a person or two to Live Tweet your event. They can quote speakers, take photos, answer attendee questions, and re-tweet posts.
- Promoted Tweets: Twitter also has a targeted advertising platform that can help you gain event attendees. To create a promoted tweet, Twitter has you choose a goal (followers, engagements, leads, etc.) and create your tweet with text and a picture. After, you can select your target audience by gender, language, demographic or location.
- Track Hashtags: Twitter hashtags are used to track a topic or event. As an event planner, you can create a Twitter hashtag to promote and track the conversation around your event. Your hashtag should be short, so it doesn’t take up too many characters in your tweet. Make sure you incorporate your hashtag in event promotion, so attendees are aware of and can use the hashtag prior to the event.
- Hashtags: Similar to Twitter, hashtags are used on Instagram to hyperlink the word or phrase. Users can then search or click on the hyperlink to access any content that is tagged with the hashtag. Hashtags are a great way to establish your brand or event, host an Instagram contest, and organize photos from your event.
- Your Page: Instagram is also a great platform to create and share your brand or event’s narrative. You can announce keynote speakers, show attendees interacting with the product or speaker, and post inspirational quotes to your page or Story. This material will create your event’s unique narrative, which may help attract attendees.
- Instagram Ads: Looking to quickly reach a wider, target audience or gain more followers? Instagram ads can do this! Instagram gives you three options for ads: a single photo, a 30 second or less video, or a multiple photo post, known as a carousel. These ads have a “learn more” button which connects to your website or Instagram page.
- Special Offers: To gain Snapchat friends, you can share your handle name on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your website). Entice your followers with special content offered to Snapchat users. Event planners always want to create a buzz before their event. Using Snapchat, you can do this.
- Build Your Event Story: Once you have a network of Snapchat friends, you can excite potential attendees with “Snapchat only” sneak previews of speaker lineup, featured products, and announcements. You can also post content to Snapchat’s “Story” feature to entice your audience. Your Snapchat story lasts 24-hours so your followers can view your story multiple times.
- Behind the Scenes Content: You can also use Snapchat to provide your attendees with a behind-the-scenes look at event preparation. Creating a surprise to expect at the event through pictures or video content can also help build attendee engagement.
7. Build Up Your Event's FOMO Factor
No matter what event marketing methods you choose to use, a common theme should involved the element of FOMO. FOMO, or fear of missing out, is an now a well-established concept in the events and marketing world. When you apply the concept of FOMO to event planning, you create experiences that people don’t want to miss. On top of that, if you create experiences that make people want to share them (especially online), they help spread your event’s FOMO to their colleagues and friends. This is important as a personal friend or colleague's influence is immeasurable.
Here are just a few ways to up the FOMO factor at your events:
Whether it's on Facebook, Instagram or another platform, live streaming event content prior to or during your event generates a lot of FOMO. After all, it's one thing to read about a great event, but another to actually see it. Include real-time Q&As with speakers and showcase behind the scene developments of your events. Not only will this help get prospective attendees excited about a famous keynote, for example, but the live element allows you to gauge their feelings through reactions, data and comments.
Memorable Networking Experiences
Networking is a top reason why people attend events. Therefore, one of the ways to create FOMO is to create unforgettable and new networking experiences that attendees are dying to be a part of. Whether it's an extravagant networking reception or the utilization of technology to pair like-minded attendees up, if you make networking an unique, but also seamless experience, attendees will be talking about it for years to come.
Instagram is huge, hip, and relevant, unlike other social media platforms, and creating buzz and making your event more Instagrammable is easy. For example, invite attendees to snap and post photos is by setting up several backdrops. Fun props and other keepsakes are also great. Cute puppies, kittens, and cut-outs of famous people are surefire attention grabbers. Use unique place-cards on the tables showing a guest's name and seating assignment.
Tackling your event marketing may feel overwhelming at times, what with the countless methods and strategies out there. But the beauty of marketing your event is that there is no one size fits all approach to success and that there's room for experimenting year over year. Don't feel like you need to tackle every marketing stream laid out this post or elsewhere. Try out one or two that inspired you most and track what works and what doesn't. Any chance to discover what audience responds to most will lead you to event marketing success!