From high-tech and medicine to nonprofit organizations, event marketing is a practical and beneficial marketing strategy for any type of business. One of the primary reasons event marketing works so well is because it allows brands the opportunity to speak directly to potential leads. Face-to-face communication, whether it be in person or virtual, helps create brand trust, awareness and loyalty.
From creating an event website to designing an email marketing campaign, this guide will walk you through the process of creating an event marketing strategy fit for your business.
What is event marketing?
Event marketing describes virtual or in-person events that are held with the intention of marketing a brand or business. This type of marketing is unique because it reaches people in a more direct way than marketing assets that don’t allow for face-to-face communication, like written ads, video and blogs. It can also be designed to be true to the 4 p's of marketing.
As a marketing strategy it can be applied to both B2B and B2C companies as well as internal business events, such as retreats, fundraisers and hackathons. Depending on what your product or service is, you can create different types of promotional events ranging from webinars and exhibits at an industry function to tradeshows and multi-day conferences. It also as a subset of referral marketing when done right.
According to a study by Bizzabo, 85% of business leaders believe that in-person events are a critical part of growing their businesses. By providing informative, entertaining and experiential live events to buyers that resonate in effect, your chances of selling your product are likely to increase.
Benefits of event marketing
Let’s go over the three primary reasons why event marketing may be good strategy for your business:
Builds brand awareness
Building brand awareness requires a multifaceted approach. All elements of your marketing strategy need to align with your overall goals in order to expand your reach. Therefore, event marketing is an excellent way to introduce potential buyers to your brand since it lets them experience all assets of your company in real time. This helps create the personal connection that’s so important for creating brand awareness and loyalty.
Generates new leads
If you want to find new clients and generate new leads, hosting events that attract your target demographic can help you land new buyers. Consider that even before your event occurs, event registration sign-ups provide you with a fresh list of potential clients that you can begin moving through your marketing funnel. Event marketing can also be strategic for companies looking to rebrand. It provides an opportunity to present their business at events targeting a different demographic.
Allows for face-to-face conversation
Since marketing is all about communication, the benefits of speaking to buyers in person cannot be understated. After all, this is communication at its core. As a form of local marketing, it's also an effective way of introducing your business to consumers who live or spend time in the surrounding area.
In today’s digital world in which almost all marketing efforts have been moved online, speaking to people directly helps establish trust and authenticity between the consumer and the brand. Consider how face-to-face conversations allow for less distractions and more of a human connection, whether this be in person or via video chat.
Types of event marketing
Here are some of the primary types of events to consider for your marketing strategy:
Conferences are large events that bring industry professionals together for educational meetings and presentations to share new ideas and collectively advance the field toward the future. They can be held both in person and online, and are often held annually. There are usually social and networking activities scheduled to increase engagement and participation, making the overall experience more fun and interactive.
Galas are formal, often black tie events that are also celebratory. A gala may be a fundraiser, awards ceremony or an event highlighting a special speaker or guest host. Whatever the occasion, galas are essentially elegant affairs to highlight a particular brand, product or service.
03. Trade shows
Trade shows are major events where businesses can present new products and services within their given field. The purpose is to educate others about your business, promote new products and generate sales. Trade shows are also excellent networking opportunities and a way for brands to promote new products.
04. Product launches
A business may hold a product launch to bring awareness and press to their new product. This type of event is meant to be fun and flashy enough to pique the public’s interest in your new product and get existing customers excited about an updated version.
05. Seminars and webinars
Seminars are smaller than the previous events mentioned and are typically attended by less people. The sole purpose of a seminar is to provide valuable content and education about a specific industry-related topic. Attendees are usually capped at a lower number to allow for more in-depth conversation and discussion. In today’s virtual world, seminars can also be held online in the form of webinars.
Event planning 101
Before you begin planning your event or creating any marketing assets, you need to have an in-depth understanding of why you’re holding it in the first place.
Here are three steps you need to take to get started:
01. Establish event goals
Consider the reasons you want to hold your event and what you expect to gain from it. It’s not enough to simply say you want to generate more leads or get more product demo sign ups. Set quantifiable goals, such as:
“Our goal is to get a minimum of 150 product demo sign ups by the end of the event.”
“We expect a minimum ROI of 10% from this event.”
Creating a specific list of goals will help guide all your planning efforts and keep everyone involved on track. It’s important for your entire team to have an understanding of what the expected outcome is because this is what’s going to drive all your decision making. In addition, these goals can be used as KPIs to measure your event’s success when it’s over.
However, softer, less specific goals such as increasing brand awareness and gaining positive press can also provide value to help shape the tone of your event. Collectively working toward both types of goals will help you create a well rounded event marketing strategy.
02. Create an attendee persona
With your goals in place, you need to determine your target market. Think about who your ideal attendee is and what they will expect out of your event. Similar to when a brand creates a buyer persona, come up with a minimum of three attendee personas - that is, types of people who will be interested in your event and why.
Consider age, profession, where they fall in the marketing funnel and the value your event brings to them. Whether it’s to network, gain insight and education or find new clients, the most important thing to consider is the why, or reason, behind their attendance and the pain points your event can address. Then, when it comes time to actually plan the event, you’ll have a clear picture in mind of who you’re planning for.
03. Solidify a budget
The goals and KPIs of your event should be the guiding light of your budget plan. At the end of the day, you want your event to result in a positive ROI, so don’t spend more than you’ll ultimately profit.
To create your event budget, make a list of all of your expenses, including:
Number of attendees
Location and venue size
Marketing assets to promote your event
Food and beverages
The budgeting costs for virtual events are going to be a bit different, as you won’t have some of the same expenses. For online events, however, you’ll need to invest in a video conferencing solution such as WebEx, or a virtual event platform like Kaltura.
Event marketing strategies
When it comes to creating your event marketing strategy, it’s imperative to use a variety of digital marketing assets to increase the number of touchpoints you have with potential attendees. As with any marketing strategy, you want to create a customer journey that brings people into your event marketing funnel.
One thing to keep in mind is that the event is usually not the final stop in the customer journey - attending is just another touchpoint. While one of your objectives may be to sell X number of tickets, this is not your final goal. You likely have other targets you want to meet that will require attendee participation and movement through your sales funnel during the event.
It’s also imperative to consider your timeline. You’ll want to start promoting the event at least a month ahead of time - even more for larger events, like conferences and trade shows. This gives you time to establish multiple touchpoints with potential attendees and time for them to convert - that is, to buy tickets or register for your event.
That being said, let’s discuss some of the primary marketing assets you can use to create a successful customer journey.
Create an event website
Every event needs a professional and well-designed event website. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a web designer to do this - you can create a completely customized site yourself.
Using high quality images and an event management platform, your site can be the central hub of your event, consolidating all important details in one place - from ticket sales to registration, to seating arrangements and managing your guest list. You can even use your website to check in guests as they arrive at the event. Of course, if you would prefer to outsource this task, you can always hire a professional designer to take this job off your hand.
Whatever event you’re planning, your website also needs to be a primary marketing tool. It should emulate your event theme and use corresponding colors and fonts in line with your branding. While websites vary significantly depending on the event size, the primary goal is to show people the value of attending. Your website needs to sell the event and explain what they will gain from the experience. To do this, make sure you provide important details, including:
A summary of the event
Date and location
A list of each speaker with their picture and a short bio
The event schedule
Perks and special offers
A clear CTA to purchase tickets or register
Pictures or videos from previous events
Email marketing is an inbound marketing strategy you don’t want to overlook. When creating your customer journey, emails are a primary touchpoint. According to a survey by Campaign Monitor, the average open rate of a marketing email is 18%, with a click through rate (CTR) of 2.6%. However, there are ways you can increase these numbers by designing an email marketing strategy that appeals to potential attendees.
According to Bizzabo, one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to hosting events is attracting the right attendees. Before you send anything out, make sure to segment your subscriber list and A/B test all your emails. After all, there’s no point in wasting your efforts sending emails to people who don’t fit your attendee persona and don’t have any intention of actually coming to the event.
Some other tips to increase open rates and CTR when creating your email marketing campaign include:
Use engaging, eye-catching and personalized subject lines
Don’t overload the email with text
Use attractive images
Tailor the content to your specific audience and make sure it addresses their needs
Include a primary CTA, whether it be to buy tickets, register or visit your website
Include an easily visible opt-out feature to show you aren’t spamming your subscribers
Social media is one of the best ways to promote your event. It allows you to share details and expectations while engaging with your followers. When a potential attendee is scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, your event promotion will act as another vital customer touchpoint. And remember, your strategy should include communicating with your social media followers before, during and after the event to see them through the entire sales funnel.
What should you post?
Your first post on any channel should be an event announcement. Make the post visually appealing and include essential information such as the date, location, how to buy tickets or register as well as a link to your website.
Another option is to create a teaser campaign, for example, where you leave your audience in suspense about special guests or speakers so they’ll be on the lookout for follow up posts. Every additional post can reveal a clue as to who the surprise guest is. Engage with your followers and have them guess who it is in the comments.
Other promotion ideas to post in the months and weeks leading up to the event include:
Reminders to buy tickets or register
Publicize a keynote speaker or special guest
Free swag and giveaways you’ll be gifting
Announce the event schedule
A countdown on Instagram Stories
Post pictures and videos from previous events
If you’re holding contests at your event, let your followers know what the prizes are
Be sure to create a branded hashtag to use on every post across all platforms - this will be a great way to encourage attendees to participate in promoting the event while it’s happening on Instagram stories and Twitter. Hashtags should be easy to remember and something that hasn’t been used before so content doesn’t get mixed in with non-event related posts.
While unpaid promotion and word of mouth marketing are very useful, your business may want to invest in paid promotion if it falls within your budget. It can help you reach a wider demographic as part of your event marketing strategy.
If you buy paid ads, make sure to have benchmarks in place so you can determine how successful your strategy was, such as how many impressions and event sign ups you got.
Paid promotion opportunities include:
Social media ads
Working with influencers
Sponsored blog posts
You can find sponsors by reaching out to them directly or by using a platform like SponsorMyEvent to help match your event with a potential sponsor. Make sure any sponsor you work with targets a similar demographic to those attending your event and are aligned with your event values and goals.
Key reasons sponsors can be helpful include:
Reduced cost. Sponsors provide funding for the event, reducing the cost on your end.
Free promotion. Sponsors may advertise that they’re sponsoring your event on their own channels, resulting in a wider reach.
Added value. Being sponsored by a known brand elevates your event’s credibility - it shows attendees that they're in for a quality event experience. After all, a company wouldn’t sponsor an event if the company wasn’t legitimate and the event wasn’t organized and professional.
Measuring your event marketing success
Measuring the success of your event is critical. It’s how you’ll determine if the event met your goals and learn from mistakes for next time. Be sure to dedicate a generous amount of time to analyzing the outcome.
If you begin the event marketing process by setting specific goals and KPIs, then measuring your success will be much easier. However, here are some other metrics worth considering:
The number of people that attended vs. how many registered
Customer conversions during the event
Number of new leads and if they eventually convert
Social media mentions and engagement
Attendee satisfaction - consider a survey when the event is over to measure
How much revenue you brought in if your event required a paid ticket
A positive overall ROI - this can include new leads
Potential mishaps were avoided