Whether planning a large-scale trade show or an intimate function, event marketing is an integral part of a meeting's content-generation mix. Audiences vary, and prospective attendees might use a number of ways to discover a conference, so a marketing plan that includes a mix of platforms -- including email campaigns, public relations and social media -- plays a key role in event success. Following, we explore a number of outlets every planner should be taking advantage of in order to market their event like a pro.
Identify Goals and Objectives
All event-marketing strategies should begin with identifying goals and objectives. In its simplest form, that means defining why the event is taking place. Is the company or organization trying to:
- Build a loyal customer/employee base?
- Teach people how to more effectively use its resources?
- Become an industry resource?
- Launch a new product or service?
- Create an additional source of revenue?
Once the "why" has been identified, select an objective that will help shape the marketing campaign, whether that be driving more event registrations or retaining last year's audience.
Use What Works
With budget and audience in mind, you can begin strategizing your tactics for promoting the event. Here, we've compiled popular outlets for connecting with and keeping your meeting top-of-mind for attendees.
1. Email Marketing
Before hitting send, develop a messaging plan so marketing emails each have a unique value proposition. It's customary to send from four to eight emails over the course of a few months to potential attendees. Remember, each email should have a different message and a unique spin on the urgency to "register now." Repeatedly sending out the same, generic email can actually work against your goals.
Kick off the general email campaign up to six months ahead of an event, with follow-up messaging sent out each month.
2. Social Media
Social media is one of the best ways to spread the word about an upcoming event and to encourage registration. By accurately leveraging the most common platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc.), you can reach audiences across multiple demographics. But while social media seems like an easy box to check off, a strategy should be created and followed -- coming up with a variety of content topics and a posting schedules, for example -- to see a return on your efforts.
In the weeks leading up to the event, highlight the meeting content that will have the biggest draw for audiences. Spotlight notable speakers, exciting topics, receptions and activations to get audiences excited to attend. All social media channels and posts should reflect the event's branding throughout the campaign. Replace generic background images with event logos and always incorporate a unique event hashtag.
If a blog that speaks to the content and theme of your upcoming event isn't already up and running, now would be the time to get this platform going. Use posts to profile the speakers, preview the sessions and outline logistical information, then have someone live blogging from the event, all to tell the event's story. Blog articles should also be linked to campaign emails and social posts so multiple platforms are conveying a similar message. For example:
- Pre-event: Write short posts that provide a look behind the scenes as the event comes to life. Share information about the theme and conduct in-depth profiles of your speakers. While social and email tend to be short bursts, the blog provides an opportunity to share more information.
- During the event: Live blog throughout the event -- post from sessions, the show floor and more.
- Post-event: Wrap up the meeting with a series of summary posts. Share memorable moments, attendee favorites and photos. This extends the life of your event and keeps the conversation going.
4. Public Relations
Drive awareness and event credibility with industry press and blog coverage. Give relevant publications a good story regarding your event early on, and provide them with incentive for covering it (potentially granting complimentary press tickets, for example).
A strong PR hook should be a compelling, one-sentence explanation about your event. Essentially, the hook is what will make the event newsworthy. Don't use the same hook for every publication you approach; it should be tailored to the outlet and the writer.
5. Paid Ads
Search-engine marketing platforms like Google's AdWords are marketplaces where you can pay to have your event advertisements placed at the top of a search results page, as well as on YouTube, mobile apps and more than 2 million websites.
The top social media platforms all offer advertising in the form of paid posts or sponsored content. If you're not seeing traction with your organic social posts, you might want to think about investing in paid advertising on these platforms. And because the platforms allow you to aim your ads at segmented groups, you can easily reach your target audience.
Jacqueline Lynch is the marketing and communications manager for Guidebook, an event mobile-app-building platform.