Whether your next event is a fundraiser or a friend-raiser, developing an event marketing plan is key to making it a success. Every possible opportunity to connect with your guests needs to be considered. Today’s customers are more empowered than ever, and there are so many variables when it comes to events. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; however, whether your objective is to generate leads, build a brand, educate the audience on a product, or raise funds for a good cause, there are proven event marketing tactics for all stages of the event that will make yours stand out.
Before the Event
Let’s start with the basics: the invite list, the save-the-date, the invitation and RSVP’s. Event marketing is dual purpose when it comes to the planning stages. It’s great advertising to invite people to events; events expose people to your brand and gets them interested, talking and sharing about it. At the same time, being on top of tracking registrations helps you plan for the number of guests. Using a software program that tracks attendees and handles ticket sales is a must. There are many low-cost cloud-based options out there, and a lot of them have built-in integration to connect with your email marketing and social media marketing.
Depending on the event and target market, invitations and RSVP’s may be physical paper mailers or online registrations. Many times, the sweet spot of an event is a combination of both. If physical marketing pieces are being sent out, this will be one of your higher event marketing expenses unless you are able to print in-house. In order to get the most bang for your buck, make sure your team is organizing the mail data. When there’s no link to click, tracking data can be tricky. Some trusted ways to capture response rates from physical marketing pieces are by printing a unique phone number or email address for the event. If applicable, include a coupon, raffle ticket or contest entry that you can collect at the event. Making these strategic event marketing choices can save you time and money for next time, showing you what’s really working to bring in guests.
If you have an email list, now’s the time to put it to use. Just like traditional mail, save-the-dates should be sent out months in advance, followed by an official invitation. Reminders for registering should be sent out on a weekly basis, then some final notices 2-days and 1-day before the event. Find creative ways to switch up the emails each time so they aren’t repetitive. If there are guest speakers, add content with their biographies. If there’s a key topic for the event, include different photos and videos in each email. Answer frequently asked questions and provide new tidbits of information. You’ll get a better turnout by communicating with your audience early and often leading up to the event.
Another approach to event marketing is taking advantage of local press. Almost every newspaper or city-based website has an event calendar, and most are free to post event listings on. This works best for in-person events, but also has great SEO value by providing a lot of external links to your website. Keep a list of local journalists and send a press release to them. If a member of the press responds with interest in your event, offer them a free invite. Keep a list online calendars, their login information, and posting deadlines.
Social Media is Crucial
For today’s event marketing, being active on social media before, during, and after your event is crucial for success. Since events happen in real-time, guests often use social networks to share their experience as well as engage with other participants at the event. Which social platforms to use depends on your target market. Are your customers/prospects/donors online? What sites do they use the most? Those are the places you should already be marketing. The most popular social media platforms for event marketing are:
- Create a Facebook event that Facebook users can RSVP on and share
- Use a combination of organic and paid (boosted) posts – the more activity the better
- Offer a private Facebook group for guests to network with each other
- Use the new Facebook Live feature to stream the event on Facebook
- Use a hashtag to create an event stream
- Plan tweets ahead of time and use a tool to schedule them every hour
- Live-tweet the event in real-time
- Send out custom invitations that sync with Google Calendar
- Using Google Hangouts turn a live video into one you can post and share later
- Promote your event in LinkedIn groups
- Set the event up for digital check-ins (Physical location required)
The Event Website
You should have a website for your event marketing – or at least a dedicated page on your main website. The design should be clean and simple. The content should be tailored to the event and be informative for guests. For events that repeat annually, semi-annually, or more, it’s a marketing tool you can use year after year. If your event is a one-timer, it still adds a professional touch to have a dedicated web domain for it.
Although a lot of the event website’s traffic should be direct from your emails, mailings, social media, etc. there’s no reason why you shouldn’t implement some SEO strategy on your event website. Search engines like Google look for high-quality original content and they want the content to be relevant to the search terms people are using to find your site. Do some keyword research and target the best words and phrases on your site. Including the keyword in the body of the page, page title, and meta description of the page will help the website rank high for that keyword.
During the Event
Smartphones are going to be out in full force, no matter what kind of event you’re hosting. Even if your event is online, you know most people will have their cell phone within arm’s length. Encourage your guests to take pictures, tweet and share the experience. Successful event marketing during the event is all about making it easy for attendees to be social. The hashtag is also extra-important during the events. Encourage website visitors and event attendees to use the hashtag when engaging on social media. Follow your hashtag stream and like, retweet, and share guests’ content to increase buzz. Attendees are more likely to continue posting throughout the event if they get a lot of engagement on their posts.
Of course, with in-person events all the excitement can’t be only digital. One major element of event marketing is the merch! Goodie bags, door prizes, etc. Stick to a simple, easy to read logo for your pens and other freebies, and try to give away practical items your guests will use, so they are likely to see your logo again and again.
After the Event
The fun’s not over even after the event is finished. One might say that this is where the real work begins. How will you follow up with your guests? Was your event a success, and how are you measuring that success? To answer those questions, and keep your event on the minds of your guests, make sure not to drop the ball here. Use email and social media to share recordings for the people who missed out. In your email list, create a new segment for everyone who attended the event and send them a survey for feedback. Surveys can also provide you with great quotes and testimonials to use when marketing future events.
Keep in touch with your attendees by inviting them to follow you on social networks. You never know if some of them were guests and don’t follow you yet. For success in event marketing, you should always be focused on growing your email list, and events are one of the best ways to do that. Using a combination of your event website, emails, and social media, share stories, say thanks and stay connected. Since Twitter requires more consistent posting than other social networks, it is especially great for thanking the speakers, sponsors and attendees all individually. Add photos to your website and all of your social media profiles, taking advantage of albums on Facebook.
Rinse And Repeat
Days after the event you should still be using hashtags (i.e. #eventxyz) to monitor tweets, mentions and blog posts from others about your event. Keep on sharing! If you plan on holding the same event again, or even a new event for the same audience, take full advantage of all the video content you have. Video from this year’s event is one of the best ways to market the next one. It gives website visitors and social followers a glimpse of what to expect for the upcoming event. Plus, it creates an experience where the event is never truly “over” – the momentum continually builds towards the next event.
While planning your strategic event marketing, the approach will vary depending on your audience and objectives. A business will market an online event much differently than a non-profit organization will market their annual fundraiser. No matter what kind of event your planning, the more “touches,” or opportunities for interaction, you create, the better. Opportunities for building relationships and earning the trust of your guests exist before, during, and even after the event. Events are a chance for people to interact with your brand and get a firsthand idea of what you’re all about. How you market the event is a way to start the conversation early and keep it going long after the guests leave.