In the past 12 months, in-person events have, understandably, seen a huge resurgence.
Whether you’re hosting, exhibiting, or attending, there are significant costs associated with events and conferences, so it’s crucial that you develop a marketing strategy that maximises your return on investment.
Despite what Jim Morrison’s apparition says in Wayne’s World 2, ‘If you book them, they will come’ is not a good strategy.
You might be chuffed with the agenda and panels, but just because an event has a few big names associated with it, that doesn’t guarantee attendance.
Event planning is time and resource intensive. As soon as you’ve got a date and venue locked in, it’s time to kick off planning how to promote your event.
Make the most of your budget
Once you know your marketing budget, it’s time to decide how it will be distributed across channels. Which channels does your audience use? Where do you currently get the most engagement? Which channels convert best? All of these are important questions to answer.
But even once you know this, unless you have a massive social media presence and an engaged email marketing database, it can be difficult to attract people to your event, or let them know which event you are attending as an exhibitor or delegate.
This usually means resorting to paid promotion of some form. Events are a bit of a tricky one, as the pool of people you’re trying to reach is comparatively very small to say, the audience who are actively searching for a product or solution. There are not many people out there who are searching for events to attend specifically – and if they are, it’s probably because they’ve got something to sell, too.
Remarketing offers a cost-effective way of reaching the right audience, as they have already visited your website and are therefore aware of your brand to some extent. Another tactic is ABM (Account Based Marketing), which works well with LinkedIn Ads. Both can be controlled with geo-targeting, so if the event is in Berlin, you can ensure that you’re not wasting budget by showing ads to past website visitors based in Australia.
Working with publishers is also an option. Many industry publications offer banner ads and solus emails to their database, and this can be a great way to promote an event. This can work even better if they allow you to target subsets of their audience, for example, users who read specific sections, or have certain job titles.
This can be expensive, but if you already have a package with one or more publications, consider tying this into the wider content strategy, for example, ‘Get your free download of our latest report. Don’t miss our CEO at this event where they will explain what these findings mean for businesses like yours’.
Content is key
There’s a lot to be said for developing a robust content plan around an event.
Not only should the event landing page be well-optimised (i.e. if you are hosting a marketing conference in London, you should make sure those keywords are included), but it should also drive users to take action.
Do you want them to buy tickets? If so, consider early bird rates to drive registrations. As spaces fill up, you can tweak the landing page copy to add a hint of FOMO to encourage sales (over 100 leading marketers have already registered – don’t miss your chance to attend). A countdown of remaining tickets also works well and this sense of urgency should be echoed throughout all other comms.
If you’re exhibiting, make sure you provide enough information on the event itself – people who land on your site will want to know what the benefits are of attending as delegates. And if you want to make your stand look busy while also doing the sales team a solid by setting up meetings for them in advance, include a form that links to their calendars so it’s as easy as possible to schedule 1-2-1 meetings.
If you are appearing on, or hosting a panel at an event, agree on the topics early on, and begin researching and planning pre-event content to demonstrate authority in these areas. Blog posts, reports, white papers, and webinars can all be used to get people’s attention ahead of the event – as well as acting as a way to capture data so you can invite them to attend, too. Or, you could set up a community to encourage attendees to connect both pre and post-event.
When posting on social media, consider using different content formats, including video, variations of static images, and documents. Typically, posts which feature human faces are preferred by algorithms, so take this into account too.
There may also be company announcements you can make while in attendance. Consider launching a new product or service and reach out to your PR contacts with an embargoed press release before you head off to the event.
If it’s a big event, it’s also likely that journalists from industry press will be in attendance.
Find out who is there, and if possible, schedule time for your spokespeople to meet with them for interviews. If you do land any opportunities with the press, remember to ask whether you are allowed to repurpose or reshare the content they produce (for example, if they film an interview with your CEO, are you permitted to upload this content to your own YouTube channel).
If you’re working with a partner, speak to them about how they will be promoting the event and set expectations of what you expect them to deliver. Do they need to publish X number of social media posts? Do they have to link to the event from their website? Send an email to their database? Will they assist with setting up meetings for sales?
When working with partners, or if you are on a panel with other speakers, make it as easy as possible for them to promote the event by creating supporting images and drafting social media posts they can adapt.
If you’re exhibiting at an event, it may be worth confirming early on if they can share a list of delegates that have opted into third-party comms, as this means you will have a warm database to email, resulting in a far higher chance of them being engaged. But don’t just email them to inform them you’ll also be there, offer something of value.
Capture the moment and keep the momentum going
Once you’re at the event, it doesn’t mean it’s time to stop promoting it.
Have someone on hand to take photos before and during the event to share on social media. Thank people you’ve had constructive or interesting conversations with. And if possible, have someone attend panels to take notes of key topics, as well as reaching out to other businesses in attendance to ask if they’d be willing to share their insights for a write-up of the event.
At the stand, you could run a survey to capture data from attendees, which can be used for future marketing and insights.
Use QR codes so that sales collateral can be easily accessed online at the event – this could link to product sheets or demo videos that showcase your offering.
You may also want to consider planning a more relaxed networking event at the end of the main day’s event to provide people with an opportunity to wind down and get to know each other better. This can help to forge stronger relationships with prospects, clients, and partners alike.
Once you return from the event, think about some of the content you can produce off the back of it. This could be a simple write-up of the event, or a whole series of blog posts based on the most important trends and topics being discussed there.
If you need support with planning a digital marketing strategy around your next event, get in touch!