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13 Tips for Driving Event Attendance with Email Marketing

When it comes to promoting an event, few channels deliver results like email marketing. Learn how to drive event awareness and increase attendance with your next email marketing campaign.

Event marketers do it all. They're basically content, email, and social media marketers all rolled into one – with a dash of super-detailed planning tossed in.

To plan a successful event, you probably rely on email for outreach. In fact, 40% of marketers believe email is the single-most effective channel for promoting an event. It makes sense: everyone uses email. We check in the morning, throughout the day and sometime when we should be sleeping. Plus, there are a variety of email and event marketing software that enable marketers to easily launch massive email campaigns.

For the event marketer who is looking to get the word out on their event, the question then becomes: How do you stand out?

We’ve put together these 13 tips to get your email noticed, opened, read, and acted on.

1. Make your email look great on mobile

It's a mobile world.

The number of American adults with a smartphone has jumped from 35% in 2011 to 77% in 2018, according to Pew Research. Additional devices, like tablets, are becoming more popular, too, with more than 50% of Americans owning them.

Given the love affair with all-things-mobile, it's not surprising to learn that more people rely on their phones for everything from checking their email to RSVPing to an event.

What does that mean for event marketers? There’s nothing worse than missing potential attendees because they can’t read your email. You have to make sure your email looks stunning on every device. Use an email service provider that offers responsive templates, which adapt to fit any screen size. Then, always make sure to preview your email on a mobile device before hitting “send”.

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2. Make your email CTAs clear and bold

The call to action (CTA) in every email—be it an event invitation or a post-event survey—has to pop.

Remember, subscribers skim your emails. The average subscriber spends about 11 seconds reading your emailThat's right: 11 seconds. So there is no way that they are reading every word.

To compensate for this, you have to leverage well-defined elements that explain what your email is all about at a glance.

To create a unique call to action, opt for a button rather than a hyperlink. Buttons actually outperform hyperlinks by 33%. Your email service provider should offer an array of ready-made buttons that you can drop right into your email.

You should also make the CTA button a noticeable color; perhaps one that's not used, or barely used, in the email. In addition, keep your CTA copy short and concise. Stick to two or three words, at most.

See how the gray CTA stands out in the email below. You notice it instantly.

How the Fairmont drives actions for their events

3. Create interactive content and GIFs

When you only have 11 seconds to catch someone’s attention, the standard email won't cut it. You have to get more creative. Event planners are great in this arena as they rely on creativity to bring the wow factor to every party, fundraiser, or gala that they ru. So why not bring these talents to email marketing, too?

By using things like GIFs, videos, and interactive quizzes, you're tapping into that creativity digitally – and participants will reward you.

GIFs increase click rates by 26% and videos can increase clicks by 22%. For your next event, why not try to something new? Cut a 15-second video of last year's fundraiser and include it in an email campaign, or use an online tool like GIPHY to create a GIF that thanks participants for attending.

4. Make it easy to sign up for your newsletter

An event newsletter is a great way to keep potential attendees informed throughout the year, not just during the event. The easier you make it it for people to stay-in-the-know by signing up for your newsletter, the more reach your event promotion will get.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Put a simple sign up form on your event website so people can join instantly.
  • Put the form in a highly visible spot, like on your home page.
  • And make sure it's as short as possible with just one or two fields to fill out.

SXSW, an annual conference and festival, has this simple sign up on the bottom of their site.

How SXSW drives event attendance by building their email list

5. Use a preference center to create targeted messages

Give people what they want—personalized emails. Seventy-four percent of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement. The more relevant an email is to a subscriber, the more likely he or she is to engage with it.

Of course, you need customer data to personalize emails. Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? It's not. By using an email preference center, you can gather customer information and know exactly what kind of content, messaging, and events a person is interested in.

Looking at SXSW again, the event uses a preference center to gauge what an attendee likes at the conference, and how often they'd like to receive updates.

A glance at the preference center for SXSW

6. Quantity and quality for list building

Every marketer wants a big list of contacts to reach out to for their next event, but list size isn't going to give you the most bang for your buck. Instead, focus on list quality. It's better to have 100 names that are already excited about your event, than it is to have 200 not-so-interested people on your list.

Think about it like this: if you’re event is a fundraiser, building a list of 100 people who have expressed interest in your cause will increase engagement and bring in more revenue than reaching out to 200 people who may or may not be familiar with your cause.

For your next event, try building a list of quality subscribers through in-person sign-ups at live events or by including a sign-up with a webinar you’re already offering. Utilize what you’re already doing to promote your event in order to find the quality subscribers who want to hear from you.

To make sure you're collecting quality leads, make sure you:

  • Use a double opt-in process
  • State your intentions in the first email
  • Send emails with your subscribers in mind
  • Give subscribers a clear, easy way to unsubscribe

7. Avoid being flagged as spam

Consumers are redefining what qualifies as spam. Back in the day, spam was defined as shady messages that sold fake medications or asked people to send money overseas. Spam used to be equated to a scam, but that's not the case today. Today, thirty-six percent of spam is advertising.

Why is that? If a subscriber didn't ask for the email or considers the information irrelevant, they could report it as spam which means your email might not even arrive in the rest of your subscribers’ inbox, robbing you of those precious 11 seconds.

You might have the world’s most engaging email marketing campaign—but it won’t matter if no one sees it.

To stay out of the spam folder, make sure you are building a quality list of subscribers, only emailing people who opted-in for your campaign, and keeping your emails relevant and engaging.

Increasing engagement not only leads to greater event ROI, it also tells email providers that you send high-quality content and reduces the likelihood of winding up in the spam folder for your future campaigns.

Ideally, when your targeted audience reads your personalized and engaging emails, they’ll want to forward these to their friends and peers. The result is that you’ll be able to increase your subscribers, and ultimately registration, attendance and return for your event.

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8. Use smart content to increase click-through

Smart content is a game-changing tool that gives you the power to alter a piece of your email based on the subscriber receiving it.

For example, you could dynamically change the image in an email based on a subscriber's location. People attending a conference in Tucson will see images of that city, but they'll change to pictures of Phoenix for anyone going to the conference in that city.

Dynamic content isn't just a time-saver; it can also improve click-through rates by 20%, so it's easy to justify learning how to use dynamic content in your next campaign.

9. Use both original and curated content

Creating content like blog articles, infographics, and videos are great event promotion strategies. For instance, a blog series could feature stories or insight from a previous event; behind the scenes footage could introduce attendees to the people and work that goes into planning the event. You can also create content that demonstrates the significance of the topic of your upcoming event.

But great content can be time-consuming to make. Fortunately, research suggests consumers respond to a healthy combination of both original and curated content. For instance, you could utilize content already created by your event’s speakers or notable guests.

When you curate content, just be sure it's up to your quality standards and there are no mentions or links to any competitors.

10. Use strong images to drive engagement

Research shows that 65% of readers in the US prefer image-heavy emails. This is great news for promoting your event. Pictures of the location and venue show subscribers luxury or glamor and help your readers see the value in attending your event.

Meanwhile, including images that show people's faces help engage subscribers by allowing them to see themselves attending your event and the people they’ll meet while there. It’s easy to understand why showing people having the time of their life at the previous event—or an event that’s similar—will encourage subscribers to want to attend the upcoming event.

Just make sure the images represent the purpose of the email or content and accurately reflect the event you’re promoting.

In the below email, CONEX highlights a new speaker for their event by putting the speaker's photo front-and-center.

Conex Event Invitation Email

11. Know your audience

Knowing your audience is key to sending relevant emails and sending relevant emails is key to driving engagement, thus turning subscribers into attendees.

There are a lot of ways to know your audience, like collecting customer data, conducting surveys, and, that age-old classic, asking for feedback. Once you know your audience, you can utilize event email segmentation to send only relevant information to the people who are already interested. This piggybacks off of having an already targeted list—as mentioned above—and will allow you to design more specific emails based on ticket type or a person’s industry or their interests.

12. A/B test to improve every email

While experimenting is great, you still need a way to measure your success, preferably before it’s too late for the results to do you any good. Enter A/B testing. By creating two slightly different emails and sending them to a small subset of contacts, you can see which email subscribers prefer and which one delivers the best results. Then, the best email can be sent to the bulk of your list, improving engagement and interaction with your content.

You can test many different components, like subject lines, tone of voice, layouts, headlines… really anything you can think of.

For instance, if you have a list of subscribers who have already registered for your event, try splitting them into two groups and providing each group with a unique call to action. Once you see which CTA performs better, you can implement those results before you send out the email to less enthusiastic subscribers, instead of waiting until the next campaign.

13. Measure performance over time

Just like the A/B test allows you to track your results immediately, don’t forget to keep an eye on your event metrics over time to see which emails perform best. Key metrics like opens, clicks, and conversions allow you to see what works for your audience and what doesn’t.

You can learn if increased images in an email encouraged subscribers to follow your event on social media or if including stories from last year’s attendees led to an increase in registration. Remember, every email and every campaign provides an opportunity to learn and evolve. As audiences and communication continue to evolve, so will we.

To keep all of these tips straight, here's a handy infographic from Campaign Monitor:

Event Email Marketing Tips - Infographic

Wrapping up: Your Event Email Marketing Strategy

Email is just one aspect of event marketing, but it's an important one. Email has the power to reach a large set of contacts, keeping them informed and encouraging them to participate in events.

Email marketing allows event marketers to:

  • Reach people where they already are, in their inboxes, on their mobile devices.
  • Emphasize CTAs that drive results.
  • Create specific and personalized messages that stay out of spam folders.
  • Focus on building a quality list of subscribers who engage with your content.
  • Measure your results and implement what you learn, thus improving success on your current campaign as well as in the future.

Using the tips above, you'll be able to nail your next campaign, and see the kind of metrics you want. You can find more event email marketing tips here. You can also find examples of successful event emails here.

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