How to Promote an Event on a Budget

Four low-cost ways to market your meeting online.

digital marketing

Collaborating with influencers is a great way to promote your next event, but there are low-cost digital marketing tools that can be even more effective.

"Digital marketing is simply online advertising," says Pippa Jameson, a UK-based creative business mentor. "It's a fast and often low-cost way to sell globally and create brand awareness with immediate results. It is particularly useful for event promotions as you can target key markets."

Another big bonus of using digital marketing is that it's measurable. You can track analytics and important data, such as your audience's most popular online time, to discover when and what to post to get the best results possible. Here are four low-cost ways to promote your event online.

Up Your SEO Game

When building your event website, it's important to carefully consider which keywords prospective attendees might use in search engines. 

Google Keyword Planner is a great tool for finding popular and more importantly, relevant key terms. Try to opt for those which have a high search rate and low competition. Then, weave them through your webpage (naturally — don't force it), so search engines can understand what your page is about.

Key terms are just one aspect of SEO. You'll also want to look at device compatibility, including internal links to other pages on your website, external links to other authoritative websites and good meta descriptions and image descriptions. 

"I recommend using the Yoast SEO plugin if you have a WordPress site," says Jameson. "It works using a traffic-light system, so the aim is to get a green light before publishing a page or post. It provides tips and pointers and highlights areas where your SEO can be improved. It's easy to use and ensures you are maximizing your content."

Share Your Event on Social

"Social media is ideal for spreading the word about your event, but it's best to have a strategy in place," says Jameson. "Focus on a few platforms, so you can target your ideal audience without spreading yourself too thin. Choose those platforms based on where your audience spends most of their time."

If you're hosting a local, in-person event, you might choose to direct your energy toward Facebook, where you can share event posts and reminders in specific groups. If your event is linked to education, career-boosting or networking, LinkedIn might be a preferable option. 

Each platform has its own set of criteria for success. But common threads include: creating quality content, utilizing as many features as you can (on Instagram, for example, this would involve creating Reels or IGTVs, posting on stories, and using polls and question boxes) and being consistent.

Then, use analytics to determine best days and times to post, and create a manageable schedule that you can commit to week-in and week-out. 

"Use a scheduling service, such as Hootsuite. This will help you plan and prep your posts in advance. And don't underestimate the benefit of engaging with social media users," Jameson advises. "Like, comment on and share their content. Not only will this work in your favor when it comes to algorithm success, but they might just share your content or purchase a ticket to attend your event."

Don't Skip Email Marketing

Email marketing is a tried-and-true tactic that can provide a significant boost in your promotion and registration efforts. A report from the Data & Marketing Association found that the ROI from email marketing in 2019 was $58.22 for every $1.39 spent.

"What's great about email marketing is you can tailor communications to certain segments of your audience and you get to engage directly with them," says Jameson. "Plus, they're likely already at their desks checking emails anyway, perhaps more frequently than they would refresh social media."

Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp tend to have tiered memberships. Therefore, you can choose one that suits you, your audience and your budget. Some memberships are free for smaller email lists.

"Focus on writing catchy subject lines and snappy, to-the-point copy," Jameson advises. "Think: When we receive so many emails every day, what's going to make someone want to open yours? Urgency — discounts or pre-sales for a limited time, for example — can help to encourage that email open."

Put on Your PR Hat

Interested in getting press coverage for your event? Start by researching relevant publications and consider your hook: Why is your event important now? It could be that yours is a unique, one-off event; has a well-known headliner; or perhaps it's seasonal or tied to a current trend or big movement. Figure out your hook, and use it to promote your event to the press.

"If you have a short lead time, you might be better off approaching digital media," Jameson says. "Print publications often have longer lead-times, so unless your event is scheduled months in advance you'll likely miss the boat. Consider approaching bloggers and vloggers in your field too."

When you decide on which publications to approach, make sure you direct your email to the right team member so you have the best chance of getting your event featured. Additionally, if you plan on writing a press release to distribute to multiple media contacts keep it short and to the point.

Abbi Henderson is an editor at Ticketpass, an ethical ticketing company that helps event organizers sell tickets online and donates 50 percent of its booking fees to charities around the world.