Events are one of the most effective marketing channels in terms of ROI, allowing you to build brand awareness, generate leads, up-sell customers and educate your market. But even if you’ve chosen the perfect date and a venue this strategy will only be successful if you manage to draw in the right audience. This is where event marketing comes in to make sure your getting the result and maximum ROI you can get from your event.
In this post, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of event marketing so you can maximise the ROI of any event you run. Learn how to choose the right event format, which event marketing channels to choose, how to correctly promote your event and measure your ROI.
What is event marketing?
Event marketing is the practise of promoting events via a range of marketing channels to generate the maximum possible turnout and return on investment from any given event run by a business or person. The success of event marketing can be judged by measures including attendance, audience interaction, direct sales, brand awareness and press coverage.
Choosing an event format
Before beginning to market your event it’s imperative you choose the right event format that will support the objectives you’ve set for the event and overall marketing. For instance, if your focus from running an event was to generate B2B sales, one of the best event formats to use would be a lunch targeted at the executives in a specific industry your looking to sell into.
Event format is critical to event marketing, as before you can even promote the event you must make sure the format you’ve chosen is attractive to the audience your trying to market too and get too attend the event. Below you’ll descriptions of the most popular event formats (including online and offline) typically used by large and small businesses.
This type of format allows for 50-100 people at a single networking session and offers a lot of value in generating qualified leads and creating a buzz around your company, product or service. They’re typically held in the evening or afternoon with drinks/snacks and offer an intimate setting for your team to interact with potential customers, partners and other parties. For networking events its also a very good idea to make sure you provide name badges to attendees, this is instrumental to getting attendees to break social barriers and interact.
Webinars are presentations, workshops or seminars held online that typically last no more than an hour, they can be held in real time or recorded. If you’re choosing this format, real time is a better investment as it will allow you to engage and interact with your audience directly.
Large industry-specific conferences rely on sponsors as the large operations team and budget you’ll need often will outway the potential marketing or sales gain. Conference sponsorship has become very popular over the last few years but often advise clients to avoid it as its very costly, hard to measure the impact and often it’s much cheaper and more effective to have your team members attending the event and networking.
An excellent way to establish yourself as an industry leader is to create industry-specific awards you can build an event around. It’s a costly endeavour both in time and money but can yield significant results and position you right at the centre of your industry.
Thought leadership events are content focused and the objective is to position the company or brand as leaders in the area. For instance, a data analytics company might hold an event on the transition of business intelligence over the last decade with the marketing objective of positioning the company as at the cutting edge, and they would have a great value proposition to draw in a very specific target audience.
Livestreams are done alongside a physical event as it allows you to open a physical event to a global audience who’s interested in your subject matter or area. Especially with larger conferences live streaming has become increasingly popular.
Private breakfast, lunch, or dinner
These events include an informal meal, networking and typically a short talk. They are are often focused on a particular industry (i.e. business insurance breakfast, machine finance annual dinner…) and aimed at drawing a very senior audience consisting of decision makers (Managing Director, Head of x…).
Which is the best event format?
There is no one size fits all for events, it’s often the case that blending one or more of these event formats will produce the best result depending on your industry. When choosing try to look at what competitors have done successfully and take from that the format and build from there.
However if your focused on hard ROI/sales, the best format is typically a mix of thought leadership including a networking session, it’s a relaxed environment but with a strong value proposition and the opportunity for your business to market to a very specific audience.
Deciding on event marketing channels
Once you’ve decided on a format for your event it’s time to review what the best marketing channels are for you to reach potential attendees and generate noise surrounding the event.
The marketing channels generally used to market events can be both offline and online, including display advertising, PPC, e-mail marketing, social media marketing, leafleting, face to face networking and outdoor advertising (such as billboards or posters). Events can also be offline or online, this includes networking events, conferences, product demos, webinars, live streams and many more formats.
Pay per click
PPC focuses on reaching a target audience through internet search. For instance, when you Google the term “event marketing” you’ll see several results at the top of the page above the main area, these are pay per click adverts and you pay a set amount every time someone clicks your ad. The idea is that the specific search the person who clicks makes, will qualify them as the right target audience.
In reality, the conversion rates for this type of adverts are now quite low, inferring qualification through search doesn’t work in a targeted way and the PPC market has become saturated meaning it’s costly to bid on high-value keywords, you’re paying if someone clicks, not on whether they convert. Overall for events at scale it remains one of the primary marketing channels but also part of the reason we exist, it’s a very wide, costly, and ineffective channel unless properly administered.
Developing search traffic through content creation is a great way to generate long term viable traffic and an audience for an event, but from an ROI perspective only if you have a large event and a long marketing timeline. For the short term, you won’t reach the necessary rankings or specific targeting to see positive results, unless it’s combined with the right social strategy.
Social media marketing
Social media promotions for events generally involve promoting across major social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are three primary ways you can use social media to promote an even. You can use your own business accounts to promote to your current audience and use your contacts and connections to reach a wider group. You can also buy social media promotion, the primary revenue form for many of these social platforms is advertising and they offer a decent level of targeting. We’ve found that if you’re going down the paid route for B2B events, out of the social media platforms LinkedIn is your best bet for ROI.
You can also consider paying influencers, a growing trend in marketing has lead towards major companies paying influential social media figures for the reach to their audience or endorsement, this can also cover content promotion, including video. This strategy can be useful for larger events but for smaller, specifically located events it’s likely to be costly and ineffective.
Email marketing & newsletters
Email marketing is arguably one of the most effective channels for marketing events, if you can gather the right data you can target and reach out to the exact audience your looking to for your event. However this said you’ll often need to have a marketing agency carry out this work on your behalf unless your clear on advanced marketing techniques, data ad collection and GDPR.
The second type of email marketing is newsletter promotion is typically when you pay a well-known blog or influencer for promotion through their email newsletter. This is often ineffective for events promotion as newsletters are generally not geo-targeted, curated or up to date.
For B2B events, leafletting isn’t an appropriate channel and you won’t reach the right audience but for B2C events it’s still one of the cheapest and most effective ways to generate an audience.
Network science proves that you’ll likely have people with similar interests in your network and through connections will be able to get the right introductions. If you’re looking at on the ground marketing, using your network and attending similar or related events to generate attendees is always something we recommend. The only problem is it’s not a scalable strategy and it’s time costly.
Offline billboard/display advertising
This is only suitable for large B2B or B2C events from a cost perspective of this type of advertising, whether it’s billboard or posters on the tube. Still, offline advertising is seeing a resurgence as brands try to stand out from the online noise.
Which are the best marketing channels for events?
It depends largely on your budget, marketing objectives and timeline, largely speaking your running small geo-targeted events such as a networking lunch, you should be able to promote your event locally at little to no cost.
What to prepare before you market an event?
Once you’ve decide on a format and the channels you’re primarily going to use to market your event, you need to make sure you have the fundamentals in place. This means being clear on who your audience is, creating a value proposition, finishing any preparation or planning and creating an events page.
1. Define your audience
Before you can start marketing your event you need to know who you want your audience to be and understand who they are and how you can appeal to them. It’s always a good idea to specify who the event is for. Who are you expecting to show up?
This works both ways, it will discourage people for whom the event is irrelevant to register and will attract even more those who you’re interested in hosting as they’ll feel identified. It’s reassuring to know an event has been planned around your interests and needs.
2. Create a strong value proposition
The success of an event is greatly dependent on initial planning stages when the theme and format are put together. It’s critical you have a good value proposition and unique selling proposition that will resonate with the audience you’re looking to attract.
The topic should be interesting, current and highly relevant and the format should take into account the content, experience of your audience as well as event objectives. You need to create a value proposition that is enticing to your target audience of attendees, this is a critical factor you should spend time on.
3. Prepare and plan for your event
Once you have a value proposition you should take care of all the planning and logistics needed at this stage ie location, catering, speakers… (remember to make sure the event is prepared and will meet the expectation of what your marketing it to potential attendees as).
Here are some key things you should decide on and prepare prior to marketing an event. Planning an event especially for business can be a very tricky endeavour, here are some of the critical mistakes you should avoid ensuring a successful event.
Too much or too little catering
To underestimate and overestimate the catering needed for an event is one of the most common mistakes we see. Attendees won’t have a good experience if there are not enough refreshments and on the other side, an overestimation could blow a hole in your budget as catering is one of the largest and often overlooked costs. As a final note, if your event is over lunch, breakfast or dinner, you need to serve food!
Miscalculating staff required
At an event there needs to be someone greeting and registering new arrivals and speakers, staff on catering, AV, depending on the layout people to direct, people to sell and the list goes on. It’s common for people to forget basic staff needs or to miscalculate it. Make sure you’ve seen the venue beforehand, and you’ve worked out how many staff members you’ll need for the event to run smoothly.
We’ve spoken about days and times that work in event strategies, but often event failures can be put down to hosting an event on an entirely wrong time of the year. In general, avoid bank holidays, half terms, Christmas, Easter, as a further example don’t run an accountancy focused event at the end of the financial year, or don’t run an event for retailers close to Christmas as they’ll be busy selling.
Not choosing an easy to reach venue
With events in London especially, we’ve often seen that having a tube stop nearby can make the difference between people coming to your event or not. Make sure you’re near a major public transport hub if you’re hosting the event in a city, that there’s ample parking if needed and that you give clear directions to the venue.
Not standing out from the crowd
It’s critical that your event stands out from the rest, you need to give people a reason to take time out of their busy schedules to attend your event. Don’t have a boilerplate topic, choose your speakers carefully and make sure it’s a creative theme and format. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to be on topic, trendy and relevant.
4. Create an event page
An event page will display all the information about the event (this could be a web page or a separate website depending on the size of your event). The event page is where everyone will be directed to through your marketing efforts, it’s the front-face of your event, so it needs to be spot-on.
Add key event information
Make sure you include all relevant information in a clear way and make the page scannable, you don’t want anyone to get confused, bored or lost before they register. As musts, you should always outright display the name of your event, date & time, venue and a description that clearly states your value proposition.
Make sure to add a signup form
Make sure you request all the information you need (personal and business) and make the essential fields required. This form is a great opportunity to acquire more information on your audience but be careful not to make it too long or tedious for people to fill in. You don’t want to lose anyone during this process!
Add a call to action
This is extremely important! Guide your audience to where you want them to go, to the registration form. That is the main objective of the page. Chose a catchy format to display your “Register now!” message or button, which you could even have several times throughout the page depending on its length and format.
Add an image
People are visual and having an image on the page will not only make it more attractive but will also help attract your audience, so make sure it’s the right one. It needs to be relevant, catchy (no one wants to see a picture of just a building on a gloomy day) and often overlooked, it needs to have a good resolution.
Sell your speakers (if you have any)
Speakers are a major part of the event value proposition, and your audience will always want to know about the people they’re setting time aside to listen to. That said, find out the most event-relevant information about the speakers and write interesting bios, and don’t forget to include profile pictures, they add legitimacy to your text.
Market your event at the right time
Often one of the biggest failures of events comes down to marketing too early or too late; you need to switch on and scale your marketing at the right times to maximise attendance. Timing is also greatly dependent on your marketing strategy but a good rule of thumb for smaller events is to start marketing 4-6 weeks earlier, this gives people enough notice to book.
5. Set marketing objectives & measure success
It’s important to have clear objectives and goals when creating an event. You need to have a clear idea of the work to be undertaken, your goals and what you plan to gain from the event, otherwise, you run the risk of having poor attendance and not being able to measure the outcome of your event against KPIs.
As we mentioned at the beginning, it’s important to have clear goals of what you want to attain from an event; this will allow you to assess later how successful it’s been. Measuring event results can be tricky as a lot of the value can seem abstract compared to other marketing efforts, where you spend X and get Z. A few key areas that are useful to measure are overall social engagement, feedback form results, lead generation, and customer upsells, of course always dependent on what your objectives are.
Create & execute an event marketing plan
Once you’ve got everything ready its time to create an event marketing plan get marketing your event, this section will guide you through the fundamentals of email marketing and social media marketing when it comes to promoting your event and how you can continue to market throughout and after the event to attendees and non-attendees.
Marketing to potential attendees via email
Once your event page is set up, it’s time to reach out and invite your ideal audience. Direct e-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to do this, so once you have a great list of people you want to invite, start typing.
A great subject header is crucial
You need to break through the noise and stand out from other emails in your recipient’s inbox. Come up with a subject line that provokes feelings, ask a question, mention the person’s name, include numbers; all these strategies have proven to increase open rate. Whichever you choose, stand out from the crowd.
Keep your email short
Don’t write a super lengthy email. Include the essential key pieces of information such as title, location and date along with a short but catchy description. You might be tempted to write everything that’s going on, but it will play against you, focus on making sure your value proposition is clearly communicated.
Send your email at the right time
The ideal day and time depend on who you’re reaching out to. Do some research on what is best for your target group, for example, is it best to email during working hours or at the weekend?
Include a call to action at the bottom of your email
This is a critical component of your email. Think about what is the objective of your email and make sure you have a clear call to action – do you want people to let you know if they’re interested via email? Do you want them to register by filling in the form on the event page? If your aim is the latter, which we’d strongly recommend, make sure you have a visible link to the registration page.
Make sure to follow up
If you don’t receive a response to your first email, don’t give up, follow up several times at appropriate intervals. You’ll be amazed to see how many people will reply or action after a second, third or even fourth email.
Market to potential attendees via social media
Use social media to make a buzz and promote your event to a wider audience. But it’s a strategy that cannot be taken lightly, to see results you must have a plan.
Make sure your communicating the right message
As with email, your value proposition and key information must be there, but you will need to find the best format for each platform. You don’t communicate on Twitter the same way you communicate on LinkedIn, so tailor your language and style.
Include a call to action to the event
Don’t forget to link to the event landing page! You want everyone to visit the page and register.
Send multiple messages via social media
Not everyone will see your first post or tweet, so post and tweet often, don’t be afraid to do so several times a day. Have a plan/ schedule and consider important dates such as when a discount is coming to an end or when registration is closing.
Have your speakers reach out their audience
Speakers will be your marketing allies, especially if they are active on social media and have a good following. Mention them on your tweets and encourage them to re-tweet and share with their connections and friends.
Target social media messages via audience
Always have in mind who your audience is, find relevant groups in Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter… and post. Also follow and connect with relevant people who will be interested in your topic.
Marketing to attendees during an event
One of the biggest missed opportunities when it comes to events marketing, is engaging and marketing to your audience during the vent.
Make sure you’re properly engaging the audience
If you have specific sales, brand awareness, product education or upselling objectives for your event, you need to make sure you have ample time and touchpoints to engage with your audience in the most effective way.
For example, try to make sure you have enough team members for mingling during networking sessions, if you’re focused on sales make sure there’s call to actions at the end of presentations pre-networking, that you have a dedicated company/demo area and moat important rule of all, don’t sell! Be informal, engage and build relationships, soft selling is the best way to approach an event.
Tweet and tweet some more!
With the majority of your audience on social networks, being socially active and engaging with your audience across platforms during and after the event is a great way to build awareness and relationships.
It’s also an opportunity to reach a wider group and more potential business in attendee networks. Make sure someone is dedicated to actively engaging on your event, and relevant social platforms are up and running.
Marketing to attendees & non-attendees after an event
Follow up with attendees and non-attendees. If you’re looking to gain feedback, drive sales or build relationships, it’s critical you follow up with both attendees and non-attendees alike after events. A lot of the value generated from an event will be seen in post-communication.
Is event marketing worth it?
- Events are still viewed by 80% of B2B marketers as one of the most effective marketing channels in terms of generating ROI in four key areas.
- Events remain a great channel to build your brand and gain market awareness and media exposure. Being able to choose your venue, theme, content and format allows you to build an experience that reaches your exact target audience, providing real F2F exposure for your company or brand.
- Events are the most effective way to get face to face with a group of prospects who are interested in your product or service, and face to face interaction remains one of the best ways to ways to engage with leads and close sales.
- Events are ideal for engaging with your current customers, identifying further needs and upselling. They give you an informal opportunity to grow your sales funnel and maximise revenue from your current customer base.
- Events are also a great way to educate your target market, particularly if you have a complex product or service. The right event format gives you the opportunity to explain the benefits of your offering to the potential customer and to tackle any unanswered questions.
But if you don’t correctly market your event you’ll never achieve the return on investment you could of on the points above, take your time and make sure to invest in marketing your event.