The strength and importance of a great event marketing campaign cannot be underestimated, and so we have designated a permanent slot in our newsletter to discuss all things marketing. In this issue, we follow on from last month’s topic, ‘Looking at the importance of defining your virtual event’ and explore marketing strategy and community building.
Marketing Strategy and Community Building
Given that we are now truly a part of the digital age, it is important to think about the networks and communities the delegates belong to as this will not only provide a broader reach to your event, but also encourage ‘pack mentality’. Ideally when you market an event be it via email, social media or elsewhere, you want people reading the message to feel interested and excited. If they are ‘engaged’ this will increase the level of interaction, be it through the use of likes, comments or shares, and are more likely to open a discussion.
It is important to use marketing tools that resonate with your audience. Think creatively in your marketing to cut through the noise. Segment your target audience and create a plan that reaches all the following:
- Contacts – these are your direct contacts that you may have on your mailing lists, social media followers, or anyone that may have attended or shown an interest in your previous events.
- When sending a mailing, don’t forget to check the recipients have opted-in to receive marketing from you, so that you are compliant with the Data Protection Act 2018, if you are UK based. However, I would still recommend following GDPR as best practice. Your European data and delegates are still bound by this.
- Wider community – this audience may be aware of you or your event but might not be engaged enough to know the detail. However, they may still have an opinion or vested interest in the subject matter.
- Business universe – they will not know much about your or the event, they may be from a vertical sector that could still have an interest in you, your event, or your community.
It is generally easy to reach your contacts, but harder to reach those within the other two categories.
By relying solely on marketing via email or direct mail, you will usually only reach your contacts. Previously this may have been enough for your physical event but now you are virtual, you have a unique opportunity to grow your audience, raise brand awareness, disseminate information and share knowledge with your wider community and business universe. You are no longer restricted geographically, or by venue costs and logistics. You could therefore, by targeting these groups increase your ROI, raise your profile or even your membership base. To achieve these objectives ideally your message should filter down from your contacts to your wider community and then to your business universe and in doing so you can grow your audience.
You are no longer marketing just an event, you are marketing an online experience and by creating a strong digital marketing plan that includes your own newsletters, websites, networks, and social media you can generate awareness and interest. However, first things first, do you have budget? You may find it has decreased due to Covid-19, but you would be surprised what you can achieve on a limited budget. Based on what your budget is, you may want to consider some of these when marketing your next event:
Your company website can be an effective tool for marketing your event, especially if it places highly in Google rankings and has a decent volume of web traffic. Using your website as a marketing channel will give you easy access your existing audience. You should identify your high-traffic areas and try to promote your event on these pages. Add calls-to-action to blogs, create links to the event and try to make use of any real estate (that is any free space to advertise the event on the website), without being obstructive. Driving potential delegates back to the company website, can also serve to stimulate interest in all aspects of the organisation and not just the event, which can also be good for brand awareness, increasing sales and for membership growth.
Event website and landing page
A dedicated website or landing page is generally the focal point of an event marketing campaign, be it virtual or otherwise. It can be embedded or linked from your company website. Make sure your pages provide a great user-experience, gets the message across quickly and lets your audience know what to expect. Detail everything from the date and time to the format, pricing, agenda, and platform. Explain what they will gain beyond the content, highlight some of the activities you have planned (this is even more important for a virtual event as it can elevate a garden-variety event into something memorable), include any resources or content to help make the event more accessible. Where possible consider adding personalised and targeted onscreen messages using data you already hold.
Remember to also highlight what sponsors and exhibitors will receive by coming on board, but also promote their presence. To learn more about how to create the optimal sponsor experience at a virtual event check out this month’s article ‘Virtual events don’t work for exhibitors!’.
Using email as a marketing channel is commonplace but it is still worth mentioning, as this is going to be one of your best resources for attendees. You can send specific campaigns promoting the event or include it in any existing newsletters. You may even want to create an event specific newsletter to keep your audience up-to-date on programme updates, keynote speakers, sponsor updates etc. This is especially good if you have a long lead-time.
By really embracing social media and community networks, you can get your contacts interested enough to share, comment and like your posts enough for them to reach the wider community. Choose the most appropriate networks for your event and be where the wider community is. Some social platforms may be more effective than others for you. Share event updates, engage followers, post interesting images (infographics or even memes and even GIFS) and create videos that are event specific. Use your posts and hashtags to build excitement in the build-up and during the event. You can even keep the discussion going post-event using the hashtag, so that you have a ready audience for your next event.
Ensure your social media profiles look slick, add headers and/or logos, update the about us and bio sections.
Avoid repeated posts about selling tickets and acquiring registrations; share industry news. If you have well-known speakers or sponsors highlight them to build excitement for the event, get your key speakers and big hitters involved by having them post about speaking at your event, this will help your event get into their circle and broaden your audience.
Run contests to encourage engagement (but be sure to check each platform’s legal guidelines first!).
And finally, don’t forget to tailor content for each network.
Leverage your partners!
Your event stakeholders and partners can be great way to promote your event. Make it easy for them by creating a suite of tools and messages for your sponsors, speakers, and media partners to use, such as social media images and banners, signatures and draft event tweets and captions. This will not only help elevate their exposure, but also promote your event.
Throughout the event you should post quotes from speakers, screenshots of sessions, and continue retweeting or sharing posts from attendees using your hashtag. But for this to be most effective, you need to get your audience, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers involved in sharing – have them do the marketing and communicate the buzz.
It is important to plan your event so that there are activities to keep your audience engaged, that encourages all your stakeholders to share, and that entices them to tell the story for you. You can use speakers to gain interest in wider audiences and business community and make them work harder for their dollar. They should be promoting their presence at the event to the communities and networks they belong to. To make it easier, create a similar toolkit for them as you have for sponsors. Slot their comms activities into your overall marketing timeline and work closely with them to ensure messages are distributed at the right time to support your overall strategy.
Publish interviews with the speakers, or videos and podcasts prior to the event, giving speakers an opportunity to promote their thoughts and what to expect from their session. Start the dialogue early. Not only will this help create a sense of excitement and buzz, but when your target audience sees who is speaking about what, they are more likely to register and attend.
Try not to wait until your event to share valuable information. Tease out compelling content through guest blogs, speaker videos, podcasts, and social media posts, to give your audiences a taste of what is to come. Take your content marketing a step further and build it into your media partnership agreements, to give broader reach to your event. Use content generated on the day to keep your audience engaged throughout the year.
Paid promotion on social platforms or on Google is worth considering, should your budget permit. We have found LinkedIn Ads to be very effective in driving attendance from a niche audience. Through paid promotion, you will be able to reach the wider audience and business community that is beyond your contacts. You will also be able to retarget any visitors to your website. It will help to keep your event at the forefront of people’s minds and encourage them to complete their registration sooner. It is best of course to put your budget into the platform where your audience is already live. Finally, be sure to have all the correct tracking set up.