While planning your event is important, you can't forget the element of promotion.
If you are reading about event marketing, there’s a good chance you are a marketer, right?
Well, that’s good, because guess what: You need to market your event!
Putting time and effort into an event that no one attends pretty much defeats its purpose. So, a big part of event marketing includes the act of marketing.
How do you promote an event?
Brand experience agency FreemanXP polled event professionals in Chicago and Washington DC, and 67% of respondents cited their most significant challenge was growing event attendance. Aside from budget, this ranks right up one of the top obstacles for event marketers.
In the fourth chapter of this event marketing series, I talked about the event planning basics you need to build your event’s foundation.
This section will cover the three main ways to promote an event, including:
With that, let's look at the first and most important step when it comes to promoting your event - the website.
If you hear of an event that you want to attend, what’s the first thing you do? Chances are, you Google it for more information. Making sure your website has all of the event details is imperative to its success.
Your event page serves two major purposes:
- Get people registered for the event. Get people excited so they want to attend, give logistical details so they know if they can come, and give them the ability to register right then and there.
- Give your attendees event details. It is common for your event guests to go to the website even after they’ve registered. For example, they may want a reminder of the location, time, or where the speaker works.
There are a variety of items to include on your page to get guests all that info! In total, there are nine elements you can’t forget on your website.
The elements you should have on your event website include:
- The event name and description
- The event date, time and location
- Speaker or entertainment information
- How to register
- An agenda or schedule
- Transportation information
- Frequently asked questions
- Contact information
Let's start at the beginning, with your event name and description.
Who should come to your event? Why should they go – what’s in it for them?
Make sure your title gives a good summary of the topic. Then you can draw readers in with additional information. Grab the reader’s attention right away. What will they get out of attending?
For a B2B event, you can start by addressing a problem you know your target audience faces, then move into how your event will overcome that. In other events, you can highlight who will be at your venue and what makes it an exclusive that can’t be missed.
Take this landing page for one of my favorite events, Content Marketing World.
It’s got all of the important details front and center, including the date, location, how to register, and what you’ll get out of the event.
The value proposition is the first thing you read under the banner: “Content Marketing World is the one event where you can learn and network with the best and brightest in the content marketing industry.”
Oh, and did I mention that Tina Fey will be speaking at this year's event? Yes. As in THE Tina Fey.
That is definitely information to include! I love the way the Content Marketing Institute has done so by including her headshot in the landing page. The design remains uncluttered, but it remains obvious that Tina is a key part of the event.
These are the details discussed in the previous chapter with – your event fundamentals. Notice how Content Marketing World gives each its own clear visual.
Include the speaker’s name, company title, and a short biography.
Focus on what gives the person credibility and authority. What does your speaker offer that attendees can’t find elsewhere?
If you are hosting a B2C event where there is entertainment, such as a band or comedian, you can also include information about the person or group.
This is a pretty important one; guests need to know:
- How much your event costs
- If they can afford it
If your event is free, that is definitely something to highlight.
You could have multiple ticket prices. For example, at an awards ceremony you might have one ticket price for an individual table, and another if someone wants to buy tickets for an entire table of 10 people.
If any of your ticket levels included extra benefits (such as access to a VIP area), make sure that’s highlighted right next to the cost.
So you’ve got your event details, and people are ready to attend. Make that registration easy as pie! Include a big “register” button. This is your No. 1 call-to-action (Also known as “CTA” in the marketing world).
Take a look at this landing page for the MarketingProfs B2B Forum; notice how there are two buttons to register. One is in the upper-righthand corner, and the other front and center with a strong CTA encouraging attendees save money.
The buttons are also both pink, so they stand out – you can't miss them!
You can read more about event registration below in the event registration and communications section.
When I attend events for marketing, I can’t stand it when there is no agenda.
Okay, the event goes from 5:30 to 7:30, but what if you have a meeting that goes until 5:45? You’d want to know if the event starts with networking, so you can arrive a little late, or if you’d be interrupting the speaker.
B2C events should also have a schedule. Whether it’s an awards ceremony or a festival, people like having knowing where they need to be when. It also gives potential attendees a better idea of what they will get out of your event.
Having information how to get to your event can be very helpful.
Is it right next to a train station? Let people know. Is parking available, or a specific location you recommend people park? Be sure to include that too.
People don’t always plan time for parking. By including that information, you’ll help guests arrive ready to enjoy the event. Kicking off an event isn’t as fun after 20 minutes of looking for parking in a big city!
For a big event, it’s a great idea to also include FAQs. This can save you emails, phone calls, and questions via your social media profiles. For example, if your event is outside, guests may wonder if they can bring their pets or not.
I’m speaking from experience – this is a question I have spent literally 30 frustrated minutes online trying to find the answer to when attending an outdoor art festival!
Even with FAQs, there could be questions that arise. I’ve had situations where I can no longer attend an event, and I want to be polite and let the organizers know. However, when there’s no contact details, I can’t do that!
You could have guests with special needs that require you to make specific arrangements. While you don’t want to give out your cell phone number, you can share an email address.
Create an email address to be used just for events. This will prevent your email address from being put on unwanted sales lists! You can also share the responsibility of checking and responding to emails among coworkers.
When promoting your event, it makes to first and foremost have it on your website.
Depending on your company, you might even be able to put it on your homepage to direct people right there. Your company goals, and the size of the event, will affect whether or not the event goes on your homepage.
Aside from your website, there are other ways to promote your event. Four of the most useful tactics to promote your next event are:
Email marketing is one of the biggest ways marketers publicize their events. You’ve got a database of contacts; now it’s time to use it!
Be sure to target the emails. If the event is only relevant to some people on your email list, send it to those contacts, NOT everyone! If time allows, take those who have already registered off of the recipient list for those “register now!” emails.
Think about it: Once you’ve registered for an event, do you want to receive five more emails telling you “only 30 tickets remaining!” It doesn’t take long to get annoyed with email overload.
And, once someone hits that “unsubscribe” button, you can wave them goodbye. You’ve now lost the chance to promote not only future events, but also anything else to that person.
Share your event on every platform where you have a presence – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – leave no platform untouched! However, if your audience is more engaged on one platform than others, focus more of your efforts there. You could even try paid promotion.
Social media is free and, guess what, it works! A Constant Contact study showed that 77% of event marketers use social media to market their events, and 74% of those doing so found it to be effective.
Find relevant hashtags related to your event, and keep your networks updated with any event news. Be sure to share any ticket promotions or news surrounding those who will be at the event. You want to continue building excitement in the months and weeks leading up to your event.
A report by Eventbrite and Buffer states that almost 25% of traffic to event registration pages comes from social media. You don’t want to miss 25% of your potential registrations!
In addition to sharing the event on your company’s social media profiles, some employees are also willing to share business-related posts on their LinkedIn or Twitter profiles. (But don’t push anyone if they’d rather not – people have the right to keep their accounts personal!)
Keep an eye on what your speakers, sponsors, and entertainment are doing. Then, when your amazing masterclass teacher shares a story they’ve written, you can share it too. Repost her original tweet with the note “Don’t miss your chance to learn from our speaker in person!”
Whatever social media platform you use, and whatever text you share there, make sure you always include a link back to your event page, where potential guests can get more information and register!
There are many places you can pay to promote your event.
If it’s a B2B event, there may be an industry publication you can take advantage of. Wherever you advertise, consider including a promotional discount.
This way you can track where your registrants are coming from; then, the next time you are planning an event, you know where to focus your advertising dollars. You can also advertise your event on social media channels, which offer filters so you can target a specific audience.
You can also do paid promotion industry websites. A business-to-consumer (B2C) event also offers these opportunities for advertising.
If you do decide to spend money on advertising, don’t forget to include it in your budget!
Advertising is the paid form of promoting your event – this is the free one!
Publicity for big budget events can often be gained through the use of press releases. (If you want to learn more about press releases, or brush up on best practices, check out our Ultimate Guide to Press Releases!)
You can create a press release when your event is announced, and then whenever there is news to share. For example, you might announce a new internationally known speaker or artist performing at the event. Make sure that your speaker is actually newsworthy; otherwise, it’s just a waste of your precious time.
Having an obvious way for attendees to register for your event seems like a given. However, believe it or not, I have received an email promoting an event and there was no way I could register for it. Which is super annoying when I want to attend and can’t book my place! (No surprise, my calendar got booked and I didn’t attend.)
Usually, your event website will have a “button” to register for your event. Rather than a button for your shirt, this is a button with your CTA (call to action) encouraging the person reading to, you know, take action. These usually say “Register” or “RSVP.”
Buttons are also used in emails. Here is an example of a button within an email announcing a Meetup group:
Once people click on the button, the actual registration happens in one of two ways:
1. Using an event registration and ticketing tool.
Some of these event registration and ticketing platforms enable you to embed a form on your website for attendees to register. Others will give you the ability to embed a button on your event’s landing page, which will lead to the registration form.
Once attendees have registered, you can view attendees, and see how many people have registered. By regularly keeping an eye on the number of registrants, you will know if your numbers are low (time to send more emails!) or if you’re getting close to capacity (hooray!).
Some of these platforms will take a percentage of your ticket fees, but if your event is free then guess what – using that platform is too!
2. Via email.
You may have a button which leads to an email address. Your contacts will click “RSVP,” and an email will pop up. This is often done for smaller events. The person managing the registration can then create their own spreadsheet with event guests who have RSVP’d.
While it is always ideal to include the option to register then and there, there are times it can be problematic. You may have a situation where you know your event date and speaker, but some details (such as time and location) are still being finalized. Your event is a month away, and you need to start raising awareness before it’s too late.
Just like a wedding, this is where you can do a “save the date.” When I’ve done this in the past, we’ve included these as part of a monthly newsletter. The ability to register is ideal, but at least with this option you’re not leaving your customers frustrated (like me!) as they look for a way to register.
Event Reminder Emails
Once you’ve gotten your attendees registered (and given yourself a pat on the back), be sure to keep them updated about the event. Even if your event is small, always send a reminder email. A speaker presentation reminder might be sent a day or two before the event. For a conference, you could send the email the week ahead of time.
When you send a reminder, be sure to include any information which might be helpful such as parking information, or directions for when guests arrive at the venue. This is helpful for both business-to-business (B2B) and B2C guests.
I planned one event where we brought on a new event sponsor to have a post-conference cocktail hour. This didn’t happen until a few weeks before the event, when most people had already registered. In this case, we sent an email announcing the cocktail hour in addition to the reminder email.
Your reminder email doesn’t have to be boring; you can use it to get people excited!
MarketingProfs B2B forum is one of my absolute favorite business events. Here you can see part of the email I received the week before the event. It included packing tips from Ann Handley, the chief content officer of MarketingProfs and a huge influencer in the content marketing world:
I’ll talk more about the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum when we get to event branding in the sixth chapter of this series, but there’s an example of the creativity you can infuse into attendee emails.
Regardless if your event is B2C or B2B, “boring” does not have to be a part of it! Find creative ways to attract attendees and build excitement for your event.
Now you’ve got the basics for your event planned, you’ve promoted your event, and you’re starting to get registrations. It’s time to keep talking details in our next chapter!
Stay tuned for Chapter Six, where I’ll discuss 12 event planning details you need to know leading up to your event.
In the meantime, check out the other chapters in this event marketing series:
- What is Event Marketing – Understanding the Basics
- The Top Six Benefits of Event Marketing
- The Best Ten Types of Events Utilized by Marketers
- How to Start Planning an Event
- Event Networking Networking for Real People From a Real (Awkward) Girl
- The Ultimate List of 50+ Resources for Event Marketing Professionals
- How to Create Event Name Badges (Minus the Headaches!)
- How to Write Post-Event Survey Questions
- Event Venue Selection: Checklist and Worksheet