Event Marketing – Get the Word Out!

event marketingEvent marketing can be a great way to generate publicity, nurture existing customers, raise brand awareness and generate new leads.  Getting to know people in a social (and fun) setting adds the human elements to business relationships, which is good because, well, people prefer to buy from people instead of faceless corporations.

But if you don’t have enough people in attendance, even a well-done event could end up a miserable failure.

The biggest key to event success is promotion. Treat your event promotion as an integrated marketing campaign. Use different media in a defined sequence to effectively get the word out to achieve your attendance goals.

I always like to start with the end in mind, or my attendance goal. Let’s say my attendance goal is 250 people. Of those 250, I’d prefer an even mix of folks from my list (existing customers and prospects) and new people. That means I need to design some direct response campaigns for my list, and cast a wider net for people not on my list.

As I’m considering different campaign options, I think about probable response rates for my list. “If I need to have 125 attendees from my 2,000 person list, I need pretty strong response rates.” The higher the response rate required, the more personalized the campaign needs to be.

While projecting your response rates, make sure to factor in the type of event, the existing relationship with your list, the event location and timing, and the event’s value (and fun factor!) for attendees.

(A quick note on timing: Great events can fail when they compete with other valuable events. Check around so you don’t lose attendance because your target audience is already attending the XYZ trade show that weekend.)

Back to brainstorming. Think about your audience target and ask yourself:

  1. How many invitees will be interested?
  2. How many will plan to attend based on their interest?
  3. How many of those planning to attend will actually show up?

This gives you your true target. If only half of the people that express interest in my event will RSVP, and ¼ won’t show up, then my initial response target is 333 people from my list.

Event Marketing Elements

Medium s) for the existing list

  • Email campaigns – This is particularly effective if you routinely email your list and know your emails are well-received. (You know emails are well-received if you track click-through rates, ask for and receive feedback, or include a call to action that is routinely acted upon.)
  • Personalized letters – In the age of technology and mass communication, a letter addressed to an individual speaks volumes. Send personalized letters that speak to the individual’s interests or needs.
  • Custom mail piece – If your customers respond well to regular mailings, send a custom mailing or an invitation to your special event.
  • Telephone – This is highly effective, though time consuming.

Mediums to cast a wider net

  • Your own email/print newsletter – Past customers may still receive your email or print newsletters. Extend an invitation via your publications.
  • Ads on other industry newsletters – Purchase ad space in an industry newsletter with readership that matches your existing customers’ profile or demographics.
  • Partnerships/affinity campaigns – Co-brand your event with another company or organization. Utilize their email or mailing list as a spring board to reach prospective customers.
  • Social media – Get the word out from your blog or social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace. 
  • Special notice on your website – Include an event promo on your homepage, and link to a page with specific details about the event. Include an RSVP option and a “contact us” option for the prospective customer who is interested but unable to attend.
  • Listings on event calendars – Utilize industry websites with calendars of events. Your local chamber of commerce or another community organization may list events on their websites and newsletters as well.

Once your RSVP list begins to grow, make sure to send reminders to those planning to attend. It’s a lot of work and advanced planning to promote an event, but it’s critical to your event’s success.

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