If you’re planning an event or run sales for a venue, inevitably this nightmare scenario has played out in your mind: an event where no one shows. Before your big event, this may keep you up at night, nervous throughout the day, and refilling cups of coffee in between. But getting a crowd to attend your event isn’t impossible. Still, unless you’re booking an Adele concert, there’s a good chance you need a strategic plan. Obviously, your event must be memorable in order to make a lasting impact. It can (and should) be more than just a staged advertisement for your brand; instead, it should create meaningful and powerful impressions of your company offerings
“Not all events are created equal. Companies must consider live events an extension of their brand and content marketing and build events that really engage. For me that means thinking about the customer experience you really want to portray. A 6x6 static stand is unlikely to meet that need!”
- Craig Hanna, EVP North America,
Econsultancy, @Cragster As any event planner will tell you, you’ll need the perfect event email marketing plan to succeed. Depending upon your event, signs of a successful campaign could look like one of the following:
- More people will show up than your boss anticipated
- You’ll sell out your event within weeks, if not days or hours
- Your target audience will bring along a few friends
- It will be so memorable, people will become loyal clients or supporters
In general, these are some foolproof strategies to help you reach your event marketing goals:
- Go big or go home: Your event is a big deal, and you’re putting a lot of effort, time and resources into it—so make sure your attendees know that! Sending out an announcement email is a fundamental first step. The key to packaging this message is to make it sound like “breaking news” like C100 did in this emailer.
Source: Campaign Monitor
- Use real testimonials: Customers value authenticity over bells and whistles. What better way to show your authenticity than using real testimonials? Show your subscriber what to expect by showcasing previous experiences. If it’s your first event, include testimonials from speakers or supporters.
Source: Campaign Monitor
- Offer pre-sale discounts: FOMO works. Don’t believe us? It’s an established fact, according to 64% of event planners, who think it’s the best promotional method. Create a sense of urgency and send your contacts discounts prior to your event as an effective way of driving registrations.
- Promote registration at a related event: Why not appeal to attendees of a related event? After all, their attendance shows they care about personal growth. Capitalize on the other event’s resources and success to drive traffic to your own.
Types of events email marketing worth using
The perfect event promotion strategy always includes an email marketing component. In fact, 40% of event marketers swear by it, stating that the most beneficial channel for promoting an event is email marketing. And the perfect plan always begins with the “what,” as in, what do I need for a successful event marketing campaign? You’d be surprised by the number of successful company events you could host with the launch of a proper email marketing strategy. First, keep in mind that there are two basic types of events you’ll want to use email marketing for—online events and offline (physical) events. Here are some events to consider in each category:
Digital channels are opening the door for you to have more events than ever—giving you more opportunities to connect with your audience without busting your budget. Take a look at the various options for online events. Webinars: Have prospects that are moving down your B2B funnel? Host a webinar. Make sure it provides invaluable information. You’ll gain trust and, quite likely, more conversions. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 60% of companies are committed to regularly hosting webinars—using them to nurture clients. To generate interest, these companies use an average of three email marketing messages and three weeks of promotions to attract attendees, according to ReadyTalk. Live-streaming events: When you host a conference, the reality is that many people would like to be there but can’t for various reasons. Don’t let that stop you from inviting those people anyway. Technology broadens your audience. Your attendee list is only limited by someone’s inability to access the Internet. Research has shown that live-streaming is starting to gain more traction as a marketing tool for companies. So, when you host an event, add a live-streaming component to expand your audience even further. But why stop at live-streaming? You can even create an event app to keep your customers engaged. A few features event apps could offer include live-polling, social media integrations, directional maps and gamification. A company called Whova created this photo contest leaderboard, where the organizers could highlight attendee photos with the most “likes” and they would receive a prize. Source: Whova Twitter chats: Events are designed to build a community—to help you connect with your audience. By hosting a Twitter chat, you can accomplish that goal through mobile. As Hootsuite defines it, a Twitter chat can be a great platform for helping a company “talk about a common interest with others during a predetermined time.” Ideally, a moderator will step in to facilitate an engaging discussion. This is one area that can work in favor of B2C companies. Use this more relaxed format to engage customers in discussing a trending topic. For instance, if you sell vitamins, you automatically have an audience that is interested in health-related topics. You could host a Twitter chat about the benefits of yoga, relaxation techniques, running a marathon, or the pros and cons of a juice fast.
Obviously, there’s a lot more on the line when you host an event at a physical location. Chances are you have dedicated more funds and resources to pull it off, including rentals, travel, and staffing. It’s essential that you develop an email marketing plan that is fail-proof for attracting attendees. Take a look at several possibilities for connecting with your targeted audience face-to-face, like panels, keynotes, and trade shows. Trade shows: Showing up at a trade show continues to be a strategic way to connect with prospects and clients. In a report by Exhibitor Media Group, 48% of marketing professionals said they plan to maintain their trade show budgets from last year. Another 29% said they planned to increase it. But as always, the challenge during a trade show is making sure you stand out from the crowd. Get traffic to your booth or event by building up excitement around a new product demonstration that really provides value to those who show up. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” If you can’t come up with a compelling reason that people would head straight to your booth, then you may need to create another hook. A free gift for the first 100 people to show up to your booth could be another attraction—and don’t forget to make it worthwhile. (After all, everyone already has plenty of pens, candy, and notepads.) Whatever you do, build anticipation about what you’re offering. And, of course, promote it through a strategic event email marketing campaign. But more on that later. Conferences: If you’re planning a conference, go all out. We mean big as in providing big value. Just about every attendee will need to justify the cost. It’s always hard to convince your boss (as well as attendees) to provide more of a budget, or to justify the monetary and even non-monetary costs (like networking opportunities) of the event. Moz breaks down the cost in the form of an infographic, for everyone to see: Source: Campaign Monitor When it comes to speakers, plan carefully and strategically. As Ted Talks sessions prove, you don’t necessarily need to choose a speaker from your company’s ranks. Consider a speaker who will provide an inspirational message. Emerging trends show that thought leadership combined with innovative problem-solving are the future of customer experience, according to Forbes. The company also noted that entertainment is key, with the word “festival” emerging as a term to describe conferences or expos. Bottom line? Build excitement around this being an event that prospects don’t want to miss. And, of course, communicate that message as part of your email marketing campaign. Here’s another thing you may want to consider: Some companies are experimenting with virtual conference and virtual trade show components. Try the virtual route as a way to expand your audience. Seminars: With seminars, you have the ability to provide training that is focused on designated topics. For instance, identify needs in the industry and designate a series of seminars to fill in those gaps. These seminars don’t necessarily need to tie in directly with your products and services, but they should be designed around other related business topics, including management, cyber security, or improving communications. Provide clear value and clearly communicate that value in your messaging. Lunch and learns: Everyone needs to eat lunch, right? Make use of this time by hosting a lunch and learn. You can provide the lunch for free as an extra incentive. Consider inviting a guest speaker to present on an inspirational topic. Again, a Ted Talks-inspired presentation could be a winner, depending on your audience. If you’re hosting an internal meeting for employees, it could simply be a matter of providing that free lunch and running an in-house presentation. Make it meaningful by hosting a discussion afterward. Meetups: Here’s yet another way to host an event that’s sure to be successful. The popularity of Meetups, spurred in part by Meetups.com, have been widely successful because they bring people together with common interests. Even with that common interest as a strong force to pull people together, you still must dedicate your efforts to getting the message out in a compelling way. That’s why you need to read on. You’re about to learn the ingredients of a successful event email marketing campaign. Event email marketing is an art. And we have the perfect plan. Planning your event email marketing sequence So, you’ve decided on the “what,” and your event is already starting to take shape. Now it’s crunch time. Don’t lose focus. Your event’s success depends on it. It’s time to tackle the “how” aka your Email Sequence Strategy. That’s just a fancy way of saying, “Let’s plan this thing out to ensure maximum success.” First things first: Develop a strong event email list. Don’t buy some email list and blast subscribers who don’t even know you. Instead, be thoughtful and strategic by developing a comprehensive plan. Starting with a targeted, segmented contact list is key to crafting the perfect email. Through marketing automation, you should already have an idea of which subscribers have an interest in a specific topic. If you’re planning an event in a physical location—without live-streaming or other online component—use geo-targeting to identify the people on your list who are in close proximity. If it’s a lunch and learn, narrow the focus to a 5- to 10-mile radius from your location. Go farther out if you’re planning a 1- to 2-day training seminar. Many people in bordering states may find it worth their while to drive 2 to 3 hours to attend. Now, take a look at the additional data you’ve gathered to make sure your seminar, lunch and learn, Meetup or other event is ideally suited for the audience you’re going after. This type of pairing and data analysis can’t be neglected. Just because someone works five minutes away from your office doesn’t mean they’re necessarily interested in your event. You want the people on your list to feel like the information is so relevant to them that they’re missing out if they don’t attend. If necessary, work backward. Do some reverse engineering. If you have an audience you really want to attract, do your research to determine which topics are of most interest to them. Find out what types of questions they’re asking. Review analytics. Talk to the sales reps and client relations team to determine pain points in the industry, then build your event around that topic. Get a guest speaker who can speak effectively on that topic. So, got your list? Great job! Time to write to the hundreds of prospects who are just sitting there, ready for the perfect emails from perfect you—inviting them to an event perfectly suited for them. That’s what you’re going after. To be successful, event emails should take all that into consideration. It must go beyond that initial email. Remember we’re talking about an Email Event Sequence Strategy. It’s important to develop a comprehensive plan for all of your emails related to the event before you ever hit send on the first one. Here’s what we’re thinking. Try this sequence on for size:
Email 1: The invitation
Source: Campaign Monitor Timing is key. If you’re hosting a lunch and learn or Meetup, send your first email two or three weeks before your event. On the other hand, if you’re planning a conference or trade show appearance with a $300 to $1,500 registration fee, send that initial email much earlier—around six months or more. The more the event costs, the more time you should give attendees to plan and make a case to their boss for attending. Again, the key is timing. Gradually build up excitement about events planned out in the future. That first email could be as simple as “Save the Date.”
- Develop high-level content along with a killer RSVP CTA. Your message should clearly spell out the value of attending the event.
- Do you have a powerful guest speaker? Lead with that and a brief overview of the presentation. Spell out the value of hearing what that guest speaker has to say.
- Highlight events and photos from your previous event, especially if it’s an annual affair.
- Make your messages short and to the point. Explain the value proposition. Will attendees be able to hear reports on what’s working in the industry? Will it boost their outreach? Solve one of their top problems?
- But most importantly, highlight a CTA for an RSVP. You want commitments. Buy-ins.
If you’re not fully clear on all event details, that’s okay. Send that email anyway with teaser messaging. Let your email recipients know that it’s worth their time to attend. Release additional details in future emails. Make sure you let the data guide your messaging. It’s also critical to set up your marketing automation to resend emails to recipients who haven’t opened their emails. Next time around, test a different subject line to see if you get better open results.
Email 2: The confirmation
Again, timing is everything. After a recipient responds with an RSVP, you’ll need to send email #2 immediately. Set up your marketing automation to do the job, but automation doesn’t mean cold. Be conversational with your messaging, and the email will still feel authentic to the reader. It could be as simple as this: “Great! Looking forward to seeing you at xxxx. We’re going to have a great time!” Always provide a way for your new guests to add your event to their personal calendars. It should be a seamless one-step process. Go a step further and invite them to share on their social media channels. Again, make it simple for them to share. This could be a great addition if you have awesome guest speakers.
Email 3: The reminder
Depending upon your event, you need to send regular reminder emails to boost anticipation for those who already signed up, as well as convey to those who haven’t signed up that they’ll be missing out. It’s especially important to send reminder emails for events that are free, such as webinars. If they aren’t completely sold on the value of a free event, they may get distracted by other work and life events. Make sure you send a reminder email three days, two days, one day leading up to the event. And it doesn’t hurt to remind them again about an hour before the webinar starts. With other events, reminder emails also are important. If you’re hosting a conference or a workshop, for instance, send updates about speakers. The key is building anticipation. In every email reminder, you should include the answer to “What’s in it for me?” in short, concise messages. Along the way, highlight event details to make sure that they’re clear. For larger events, consider sending countdown email messages that make them feel the way they do days before a big concert.
Email 4: The follow-up
Reconnect one or two days after your event. Show your attendees how much you appreciated their attendance. Recap some of the highlights of the event with photos or a fun video recap. Help them remember the awesome time they had at your session.
Designing your event emails
is not as difficult as you might think. Don’t overthink it. A great email design provides an ideal balance of words that gets your key message out, as well as design and imagery that pulls the user in. Here are some key factors to consider when designing an effective event email.
Use effective event email marketing design techniques
Your emails should absolutely be responsive. This is a no-brainer. According to email statistics from IDC, more than 2 billion people are using their mobile devices to go online—and that includes reading your emails. That means within a 10-year period, that type of growth exploded by 400%. No email should ever be sent without it looking beautiful and responsive on all mobile devices, both large and small. In addition to an overall strong design, make sure your CTAs stand out. Ways to register, RSVP, and share should be easy and obvious. Your email, of course, should also highlight and reinforce your brand. Every message you send out should reinforce the branding of your company or the branding of the specific event. While your design is key, words also are incredibly powerful. Back up your value propositions with testimonials from people who have attended before. Add photos or video of previous events. Also, if you have that incredible guest speaker showing up, give users a taste of what’s coming. Include a link to a short video that features your speaker. Remember, you’re building anticipation. One last but highly important thing: Test, test, test. This is especially critical if you’re trying to reach a massive audience. A/B test your layout to a smaller audience before you launch a mass mailing. Try different subject lines in addition to various layouts and content. Once you determine the version that is getting the most results, you’re ready to launch the complete campaign.
Event email content ideas
For a little more inspiration, explore the Delivra blog for your event email marketing campaign. Remember, the foundation of any messaging comes down to answering the one question every person will have on their mind: “What’s in it for me?” Of course, you want to include all the essential details of the event, which should include:
- Time and location
- Nearby hotels (if applicable)
- Speaker topics
- Speaker bios
- Sponsor information
- Brief summary of value propositions (“You’ll learn about …”)
- Website link for additional information about sessions
Make sure you use action-oriented copy to inspire the email recipients to sign up, register or go to the website for more information. Bland, passive messaging doesn’t inspire action. Answer subscriber questions before they ask them, and you’re bound to have a full house.