Event planning is hard work, but that doesn’t mean you can kick back and relax once you’ve booked your venue and organized your guest speakers. Unless you’re planning a unique event in a very popular industry, your event is not going to market itself. You need a great event marketing strategy to get the word out, build buzz, and get people excited about attending.
It can be overwhelming even choosing where to start when it comes to event marketing. This is especially true if you’re running your first event and you have no idea of how popular it’s likely to be.
Just as with any kind of marketing, the key is to have a methodical and considered marketing plan. When you have a good plan in place, there’s no question about what marketing activities you should be doing on what day – you simply follow the plan.
- Careful planning, well in advance, is essential for event marketing success.
- Tailor your approach and the marketing channels you choose to your target audience. Remember, this might not be the same audience as for your general business.
- Set KPIs, track online and offline metrics, and measure the success of your events accordingly.
1. Define Your Goals for the Event
Just as your general marketing plan must align with your business goals, you need to think about your reasons for running the event in the first place.
Do you want to raise brand awareness and forge partnerships with others in the industry? Connect and engage with your audience? Drive more sales and conversions?
Events are expensive to plan and run, so you want to make sure you’re at least getting a positive return on investment. Think carefully about how your goals align with your budget.
For example, you might have a goal of selling X number of tickets to make a profit. This is fine if the only purpose of your event is to drive revenue. However, if this is the case, you’re probably missing out on bigger opportunities.
If you’re running a paid event, ideally you’ll want ticket sales to at least cover your costs. However, if your event brings in new clients that go on to make your business tens of thousands of dollars, income from tickets is negligible. Plan your goals for the long-term, and always make sure they tie-in with your overall business goals and plan.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Before you start thinking about the different marketing channels you’re going to be using, you need to have a clear picture of who your audience actually is.
You have probably already developed customer avatars and have a good idea of the markets your business serves from your general plan, but these customer profiles may not be the same as the people you want to attract to your event.
Who are these people? Why are they interested in your event? What do they want to get out of attending? How do they spend their time? What marketing channels do they pay most attention to?
By thinking carefully about these questions and doing some research you can start to build a picture of the type of person you’ll be trying to attract to your event. You can then tailor your marketing messages and choose your channels depending on the most effective way to reach that particular audience.
3. Create Your Event Website
Whatever type of marketing you have planned for your event, you need somewhere to send interested parties so they can learn more and sign up.
Before you get started with the intricacies of email and social media marketing, make sure you’ve got a dedicated site up for your event, even if it’s just a basic landing page with an email capture form.
Ideally, your event website should be visually appealing and content-rich in order to give attendees a taste of what they can expect. However, this can come with time. Don’t wait until you have all the information before you publish your event website. You can and should add to it and update as you go along.
4. Plan a Marketing Timeline
Marketing for an upcoming event is similar to marketing for a major product launch, except timelines are even more important.
Unlike your general marketing activities for brand awareness, which are not time-critical, you really need to plan out your event marketing activities to the day, and even to the hour.
If you wait too long, your event will be over and you’ll have missed your chance.
The type of marketing you carry out will also vary depending on how close you are to the event. When you’re many months out, you want to focus on raising awareness and interest as much as you can. As the event draws closer, you want to build excitement with your already-confirmed attendees, while also bringing in some last-minute ticket sales.
5. Plan Out Your Content
Whatever type of marketing activities you have planned for spreading the word about your event, you’ll benefit from basing your strategy around content marketing.
With most of the other digital strategies you’re likely to use – email marketing, social, and paid ads – you’ll need content for them, and general content marketing is both informative and helps to build momentum for your event.
Plan out a series of major content pieces that might include blog posts, videos, and emails. You can then schedule these into your timeline and plan your social posts and other marketing activities around them.
Remember, creating content takes time, so ensure your marketing timeline has a long enough run-up before the event and plan in plenty of buffer time in case you fall behind.
6. Run a Smart Email Campaign
Alongside your content strategy, you should plan a strategic series of emails that will nurture your audience toward registering for the event. You can start sending this series as soon as they show an initial interest by signing up to your list.
Make sure these emails are spaced well so the recipients don’t get annoyed because they’re too frequent or are left to forget about you or look for information elsewhere because you’re not in touch often enough.
You can start out with general informative content about the event, coupled with early bird ticket promos. As the event draws closer, utilize the fear of missing out to push more ticket sales, and send out reminders right up until the big day.
7. Define Your Social Media Strategy
Social media can be an effective way to reach your target audience (and beyond), boost your content marketing campaigns, and engage with your event attendees.
Choose a few hashtags for your event and use them whenever you post about it. Encourage confirmed attendees to use them too – turning your attendees into promoters can be a very effective way to boost your ticket sales.
As well as providing a platform for your attendees to communicate with you, you should make it easy for them to communicate with each other. Consider setting up a community page or prompting discussions between those who are already confirmed attendees so they can arrange meet-ups, make transport and accommodation arrangements, and discuss the event lineup. This helps to build excitement and anticipation around your event.
8. Measure Your Event Marketing Success
Once your event is over, it’s time to tally up the results of your marketing efforts and see if you were successful in reaching your goals. If you’ve used a ticketing system or event management software, this should be a fairly easy task as most of the data will be collected for you and presented in an accessible format.
This step is particularly important if you’re planning on running more events. You can use the insights you’ve gained from analyzing the data to run an even more successful event marketing campaign next time.
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