Earlier this week I ran a masterclass on the basics of events marketing, and I thought it might be useful to share some insight here. Although the theory of a successful marketing campaign is essentially the same whatever product you're promoting or industry you're operating in, I think there are some nuances to marketing events that can really help to boost delegate numbers.
I often get asked for help at the last minute to try and get bums on seats - but the best way to do this is through a sustained, multi-channel marketing campaign that will help to build trust and loyalty in advance of the event. Although most delegates won't book until the event date is near, it's important to plan your marketing from around 18 weeks before the big day. This allows you to raise awareness, build profile, generate some leads and then focus on converting those leads in the run up to the event.
Be clear about what you want to achieve
When I ask event organisers what their goals are, I almost always hear something like: "I need 50 bookings". It's true that the ultimate goal is to sell tickets, but that is a sales target, not a marketing objective. Marketing is about lead generation, and if you set some clear, SMART objectives at the beginning, it will be easier to focus your messaging and ultimately measure how successful your marketing campaign has been. So a specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound objective for an event might focus on the type of lead you want to generate, or the target organisation you want those leads to come from. Your marketing goals shouldn't be about delegate sales.
Look after your customers - and potential customers
One easy way to build loyalty and create a buzz around an event that is often overlooked is to continue to market to delegates who have already registered. Now I don't mean send emails every week reminding delegates of the date and what's on the programme - everyone does that and quite frankly it gets boring very quickly. I'm talking about content marketing. This is valuable both for getting bookings in and building engagement once a booking has been made. If you send a delegate an interesting report, article, blog or white paper on a related subject a week or two before your event takes place they are going to feel looked after. They are going to start getting excited about the event, because they're already receiving value from their booking, and they are going start talking about you. Send them useful content and they'll share it. And there is no better marketing for an event than word of mouth.
Use your champions
I could write a whole series on how to make best use of the obvious marketing channels like email and social media (in fact, maybe I will!), but I'm going to focus on one method that I think most events marketers could make more of. Use your champions. The nature of an event means you have a whole host of people who want delegate bookings just as much as you do, and they can help to make this happen. Provide speakers, sponsors and exhibitors with the right tools and they will do your marketing for you - and often reach audiences you wouldn't be able to reach yourself, therefore growing your customer base.
And finally - don't stop asking questions
This goes for any type of marketing campaign, but is almost more important when marketing an event as you have a finite time period in which to sell your product. Throughout your campaign you need to carry out ongoing measurement and analysis. Look at your statistics every week and ask questions - why was that email subject line not as successful as you hoped? What's happening in the market that meant you suddenly got a boost in website visitors last Thursday? How can you exploit this week's news to boost interest in your event? Did the word 'book' in your call to action lead to more clicks or fewer? Don't be afraid to question and evaluate everything you do and experiment with new and different methods until you find out what works and what doesn't for your own customer base.