The world of event planning is rapidly evolving via technology, and there is no one formula that unlocks the key to success when it comes to marketing your event. There are, however, marketing trends and strategies that you absolutely need to incorporate into your promotional plan and post-event outreach. We’re here to let you know what these are and how to use them to your best advantage depending on your objectives, the kind of event you’re planning, and more. We’ll also take it a step further and let you in on the best ways to collect pertinent data about your target audience, personalize your event based on attendees’ expressed interests, and evolve with your audience as they do. Like we said, there is a lot of room for creativity when it comes to event planning. But there are also marketing strategies that could make or break your event, so read on to get ahead of the event planning game.
Live Events: Capturing and Keeping an Audience
Digitally recording pertinent information about the attendees of live events was once a distant dream. Thanks to modern technology, it’s now a reality, but it is not an exact science. The upside of that is that the broadness of marketing in the digital world leaves room for innovation and opportunity. With the right knowledge, you can use your creative license to form reliable feedback systems and marketing strategies that engage your audience.
We’ve compiled some data collection strategies to help you collect demographic and psychographic information about the people who attend your live events. Continual access to this kind of information can not only help you hone your marketing strategies by showing you what works and doesn’t; it also humanizes your target audience if you look at it from the right perspective.
Viewing the people who attend your live events as people rather than merely a target audience gives you unique insights into their expressed interests. Groups tend to blur together, and while the right data collection strategies help you learn about the expressed interests of your target audience, it’s advantageous to get to know them a little more personally. What do we mean by that? Well, you can start with creating and using interactive marketing strategies or social media tools that encourage people to talk about live events. More importantly, this type of interaction also yields more detailed information about expressed common interests among target audiences, which can optimize your event planning even further.
Our upcoming social media tool, aptly named Plans, is uniquely designed to connect people with others who share their interests or causes in your community or beyond. A large, heterogeneous variety of events populate the daily news feed based on the friends you add. Plans is an app that essentially customizes events based on your social network. Our goal is to cultivate quality experiences and friendships- not just an image you can “share” online with friends. The personalized, interactive atmosphere encourages conversation among users, which also makes it beneficial to event planners and PR agencies. The long and short of it is that the more people talk about your event, the more exposure it gains. Plans is also an ideal platform upon which to promote and digitally track data about your events.
Although post-event surveys are important, Plans gives you an open window into information that is usually shared more readily among friends. In a comfortable, familiar social media setting, people are apt to discuss their thoughts, opinions, and consumer needs more frankly. While post-event surveys can (and usually should) include simple questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer, there is a lot of information to be missed in a formal setting. Where are people spending more time and energy, on a survey or a social media app with their friends? If you answered your own question, then you understand the personalized direction that the event world is taking, and are ready to forge ahead with this trend.
Continue the Conversation
In the early stages of event planning, attendees may have seemed eager to share information about themselves such as subjects of interest, job roles, and other preferences. Many people attending live events have a vested interest in gaining a more personalized experience, but once they walk through the door, it’s easy to lose track of people. It’s even easier to lose track of people once they leave.
Building a richer, more thorough profile of attendees needs to be done before, throughout, and after the event. Purposeful registration questions give you ways to personalize your event for attendees, it’s always a good idea to follow them up with post-event surveys. What did attendees enjoy? What didn’t they enjoy? What could have been improved? Keep it short and simple- you don’t want to bombard your audience with too many questions or details because then you’ll lose their attention. But in an era when so much of our communication is done on social media and internet forums, people are eager to share their opinions and express themselves online. Many modern communication theories strongly support the concept that people can form genuine, meaningful relationships and friendships via virtual communication.(As in, before you actually meet the person). Asking a few simple questions that require more than the kind of “yes” or “no” one might find on a multiple choice test can yield more meaningful input- and heightened interest and enthusiasm from your target audience.
That being said, virtual communication does leave significant gaps in communicative continuity; virtual leaders and teams are challenged by the lack of nonverbal communication and more direct, spontaneous interactions that transpire face-to-face. Event planners need marketing strategies that not only make themselves understood, but help them to understand their audience on a more personal level.
Throughout your event, be sure to capture behavioral data as attendees move through your event, and integrate this information into post-event surveys. For instance, let’s say your event was a concert or performance, and food vendors were available throughout the show. For the purpose of this example, let’s assume that the food vendors were an unexpected hit, attracted more attendees than you thought they would, and word spread through the crowd that the food was excellent. Obviously, you know you’ve stumbled upon a gold mine that you’ll want to incorporate into future events. But you can also use post-event surveys to ask what your attendees loved about it so you can modify the menu over the course of future events. For a different example, let’s assume that multiple bands performed at your live music event, and one band was particularly popular. Take this opportune moment to post more information or start discussions about that band on a blog or interactive social media site or app connected to your event.
Keeping track of attendees’ behavior during your event yields a lot more pertinent information about their interests than you might realize. If your event was a multi-faceted one with multiple attractions, sessions, or booths, note and record which of these were most frequently visited. (You want to factor in both numbers and demographics; for example, what did children and teenagers enjoy? If your event was exclusively for an adult audience, many times you can still factor in age along with other important demographics). Minute attention to detail may not always feel necessary in the moment, but for event planning, redundancy often factors strongly in how successful you are. This is because one the information gleaned from registry, post-event surveys, or even a generalized look at the behavior of your attendees won’t give you a truly comprehensive overview. You need to get a feel for the flow of your event, but you also need to know and record both subtle and obvious trends over time.
Many social media apps and tools offer mobile event polling, in-app session ratings, and even live Q & A’s that give you even more personalized information about your audience, and also get people talking about the event online and with their friends. Continuing the conversation is probably the most important thing you can do to keep your audience engaged and ensure that your event won’t fade into the obscurity of crowded cyberspace.
Cyberspace is unique in that it is overly populated with people, opinions, and communication, but because it’s so easy to get lost in the crowd, it can also become a void into which your event falls into obscurity- and that’s what these marketing strategies will help you ultimately avoid. We can’t stress enough the importance of social sharing, search engine optimization in blogging and social media forums, hashtag searching, and interaction within online communities. Make your event visible on popular and upcoming social media and event planning sites and apps. But follow-up is the key that unlocks the kind interactive relationship you need with your audience to yield candidness and authenticity from their responses.
We know that event planning and brand-building is complicated to say the least, so we’ve gathered a short list of essential marketing strategies. Pew Research Center’s State of the News Report named 2011 the “IT year” for its burgeoning trends in social media. Back then these digital marketing strategies were just emerging, but they have been modified with the technological advances of this pioneering decade. For brands and sales teams, keeping up with evolving digital trends is imperative to forging and maintaining a strong relationship with customers. Circulating back to live events, brands and sales teams have been reaping substantial benefits from exhibiting at events populated by target audiences.
As we’re sure you know, events are considered a primary resource for networking, introducing new products or content, and taking leadership initiatives. Social media is inundated with promotions, and brands are in a perpetual rat race to populate search engines.
One simple, tried and true tip is to start your marketing plan right away. As soon as you’ve developed your event, begin devising your marketing plan. The importance of pre-event marketing cannot be underlined enough. Your plan should include clear communications and/or PR efforts, social media connections for promotions, and company objectives to focus on during all three stages of an event: before, after, and of course during.
Interestingly, email marketing techniques are often overlooked as mundane and thus of less importance than other, flashier marketing imperatives. This is especially true in terms of events where brands might be exhibiting content or products. Nonetheless, email marketing should really be an integral part of your plan because it personally invites attendees to visit your booth, attend your session, or hear an executive from your company make a speech. Your emails should be both engaging and concise. The concise part is important because there are so many emails circulating that nondescript or overly standardized messages are relegated to spam. Marketing emails should contain a clear message and a call to action that catches attention. Following the event, you should also send out emails thanking guests or attendees for being a part of the event, and possibly keeping them abreast of upcoming events.
At this point in time, it would be redundant to emphasize the importance of social media to marketing strategies. So let’s focus on how to use it the right way. Prior to your event, you’ll want to send messages across all of your social media outlets. The messages should pique the interest of your target audience, but they should also be easy to read and informative. Be sure to include information about your location (what booth you will be in, ect.); what times you’ll be making an appearance; and perhaps most importantly, what separates you from other brands like yours. In a marketing world full of saturated, competitive industries, standing out is vital to staying relevant.
One way to do so is to allow your emails and messages to briefly tell the story of your brand, company, or event, ect. Who are you and what is your mission? What are your goals and values? Why would attendees want to interact with you? Again- and this cannot be underlined enough- why are you different from other similar brands or events? People become loyal to services that meet their needs and add enjoyment to their lives, so know your target audience and the rest will unfold easily with the right marketing strategies.
You can even run a contest during an event which will entice attendees to stop by, and also be updated in real time on winners of the contest, new products you are launching, etc. Using the event-specific hashtag will also drive conversations at any event about your brand and bring in the right traffic. As social media continues to scale, taking part in two-way conversations and reaching out to attendees through social platforms is crucial. Keep in mind that most consumers search or buy products today based on a recommendation from a friend, reading online reviews or engaging with brands socially. Don’t be afraid to interact – it’s the best way to keep conversations flowing, and develop personal relationships with attendees who can potentially be a consumer of your brand.
You can “hashtag” this advice #boring or trite, but hashtags are a thing in the social media. (We echo your sigh, but they really are). Marketing campaigns really are enhanced by them as they triple and sometimes quadruple the amount of exposure your event gets. Hashtags, social media messages, and promotional posts on interactive forums all serve to leverage your event as an opportunity for attendees to interact with you. It’s a good idea to keep your campaign on the cutting edge with interesting, up-to-date content.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but we can’t emphasize it enough: Reach out to the people who have reached out to you. It can be surprisingly easy to get lost in a marketing corn maze, which is why this article is dedicated to helping you navigate it. By overlooking attendee outreach, you’re marginalizing yourself because word spreads like wildfire on the internet. It’s an unfortunate conundrum faced by more brands, event planners, and even PR reps than you might think, so tuck away this piece of advice and pull it out when it’s needed. (It will be). Digitizing outreach and responses is equally as important because it provides you with the qualitative, quantitative data you need.
In summary, consolidating and analyzing attendee data from start to finish is ultimately empowering to any event planner. Trends and public interest is constantly evolving, so changing with the times is crucial. Even if attendees don’t consciously register that you are listening to them when an event is improved based on their feedback, they will feel it. And it will keep them coming back and spreading the word.
Marketing Strategies for Online Events and Webinars
Planning an online event requires an even stronger digitized marketing plan than a live event. The advantages afforded by live interaction are numerous: Attendees can directly interact with you, hear you speak, experience your brand, or at least get up close and personal. With webinars and other online events, your main resource for brand-building is digital media. That’s all the more reason to choose wisely when it comes to social media tools and marketing strategies. Again, highly interactive tools with multiple, diverse platforms for engaging with target audiences are best. Plans is just one of them, but we designed it with both event planners and attendees in mind. Because we are all about connecting communities and enriching the social and cultural life of our users, we welcome event planners who want to create a personalized experience. Trends in digital marketing continue to show that personal is better when it comes to marketing strategies for events.
There is a common perception that it is easy to run a virtual event, but realistically they require just as much planning and deliberation as live events do. It’s a good rule of thumb to start organizing a virtual event about 4-6 months before it takes place. That doesn’t mean that organizing your virtual event has to be tedious or overwhelming. With the right timing, preparation, and focus, virtual events offer many conveniences not afforded by live events. Namely, most steps can be organized from behind a laptop. Also, you save big time on costs related to venues, booths, performers, and other frills that bring a live event to life.
But what brings your virtual event to life? Well, web events challenge you to emulate the look and feel of a live event, translating it into a virtual space. (There are plenty of software programs available online to help you do this, and most are available at relatively lost cost. Depending on the type of event you’re hosting, they may even be free; for example, there are especially good prospects for free programs used during educational seminars or webinars). The good news is that you don’t have to work within the parameters of location and capacity. There is less cap on your creativity. Whatever virtual events may sometimes lack in quality due to lack of live interaction, they usually make up for in quantity. Virtual events turn out a higher quantity of conversations and engagement. Although conversations tend to be less in-depth during a virtual event, they typically facilitate better quantity and reach.
Obtaining the right partners and sponsors is key to pulling off a successful virtual event that brings in both new interest and revenue. Ideally, your partners and sponsors for the event should be as personally invested in it as you are- this way, you can count on them to put forth the same wholehearted promotional efforts that you will. Motivate them with incentives and simplify the process for them as much as possible. You can incentivize partners with higher pay depending on the number of attendees they drive to your event, but you can also offer prizes or room for advancement in future work with you or your company. If your brand offers products or services, free ones make excellent incentives. Just remember to assign each partner a separate URL so that it’s easy to track how many registrations they individually drove.
To make the planning process easy for partners, there are many promotional packages available online that include email and social messages as well as art to catch the eye of your prospective audience.
We’ve all heard people say that timing is everything, but with virtual events this is not a cliché- it’s a hard truth. A high majority of virtual registrars register 2-3 weeks prior to the event. So if you begin promotions much earlier than that just to get the word out there and plant the seed, save your best for last (or at least later)! And don’t be discouraged if you’ve begun promotions early and registration is slow. It’s very likely to pick up in the final weeks before the event. It is really within that time frame that you’ll get a clearer idea of the registration numbers you’re looking at. No matter what your expectations, be sure to choose promotions can be adjusted to accommodate a larger or smaller audience than you originally envisioned. Another cliché that holds merit in the case of virtual events: You can never be too prepared!
Time is of the essence, but you also want to master the art of fusing quantity with quality. What does that mean? Because the amount of messages you can send out will be limited to some capacity (if not by program than simply by the constraints of time and reach), you’ll want your messages to pack a major punch. Each message you send should contain a powerful selling point, but you’ve got to present it in a concise enough manner that it holds people’s attention. The ultimate question you want to answer for your prospective audience: Why should they attend your event? Persuading attendees to become loyal to your brand or make purchases comes later. After all, that’s what your event is for. So keep promotional efforts strong and simple, and rank selling points so that you know you’ve gotten your most important messages across first. Effective communication with your partners oils the wheels of this process, so make sure they’re always on the same page in terms of consistency across email and social media channels.
Last but not least, make sure you’ve got the highest quality speakers possible for your event! In fact, speaker quality is perhaps even more important at a virtual event than at a live one. Virtual events are amazing, but they lack the live interaction and interpersonal aspect of face-to-face communication. Thus, it’s of the utmost importance to hire a focused, animated speaker who knows how to capture your audience’s attention. They should also be so familiarized with your brand that it comes naturally for them to powerfully convey its selling points. Obviously, a disinterested speaker is a negative, but you should also avoid speakers who drone on and on or are disorganized. Ideally, you want to hire a popular speaker who is trendy or at least highly regarded in your industry right now. When seeking a speaker, also seek out professional opinions about who and how to hire.
Measuring Your Success
Post-event, one of your most vital jobs is to measure the success of your event in several capacities. For paid events, gross revenue not only gives you an overall sales number, but it also provides insight into the demographic of attendees, the type of tickets that sold out most quickly or in the highest quantity, and the time of year when ticket sales reached their peak.
Attendee satisfaction is more important in many ways than gross revenue because it gives you a more comprehensive idea of what you’re doing right- and what needs to be improved to up ticket sales on the next go-around.
Attendee satisfaction is based on what your attendees have to say, but it’s also based on your definition of their satisfaction. If the goal was to entertain and educate them at once, but you were more successful in one area than the other, what can be done to change that for your next event? Long before your event took place, you likely asked yourself what you wanted your attendees to take away from it. Did you want them to form a specific impression of you as a brand or a person? When you’re measuring for success post-event, ask yourself how many of your incentives were fulfilled. Also develop a keen sense of what new trends and needs that might be emerging within your audience. A third and final cliché for the day is that the only constant is change- especially in event marketing! The standards by which you measure your success should be well-define, but you’ve also got to be able to go with the flow.