Whether you are trying to build awareness or drive registrations, a well-coordinated event promotion plan is key. Check out this guide on how to effectively promote your event in 2020—and beyond.
Event websites, emails, promo codes, PR, SEO, Google Ads, social media, SEO, attendee advocates—are you checking all of the boxes in your event promotion plan to sell out your event?
Event promotion can seem overwhelming if you’re trying to tackle it all at once. With all of the different ways to market your event, it’s hard to know where to start. However, once you break down your strategy into digestible pieces, it becomes a lot easier to conceive and achieve.
This guide will help you devise an actionable event promotion strategy that is specific to your event strategy. Thinking about your promotion plan as compartmentalized initiatives will not only make it more manageable but also easier to measure and analyze once the event is over.
What is Event Promotion?
Event promotion is the practice of using different marketing strategies and channels to get the word out about your event and drive event registration. This can range from email to social media to flyer handouts. Any marketing tactic that brings awareness to your event is known as event promotion. By contrast, event marketing is the process of driving business goals for a product, brand, or service through in-person events.
Marketing tactics for both B2B and B2C companies are largely the same, however the promotional examples used in this guide will specifically feature events that are more B2B-focused.
How to Successfully Promote an Event
The most effective way to promote your event is through coordinated campaigns across different marketing channels. Depending on your audience, certain channels—like LinkedIn, email or content marketing—may work best to deliver your message. The idea is that your audience will become familiar with your event brand through touch points after multiple interactions and, eventually, convert.
Your event marketing and event promotion strategies can seamlessly fit into an integrated marketing campaign. Similar to multitouch marketing, an integrated marketing campaign starts with identifying your target audience. Once you've identified that audience, you can curate the most effective marketing channels, content, and messaging that will resonate most.
For a more focused flavor of integrated marketing campaigns, you may want to look at event personalization and account-based marketing strategies.
In this guide, we'll discuss different channels that can be leveraged on their own and in concert to effectively promote an event.
Table of Contents
- Define Your Event Promotion Goals
- Aligning Your Sales and Marketing Teams
- Ways to Leverage Existing Channels
- How to Reuse Promotional Content From Previous Events
- Ways to Segment Email Campaigns
- Tips For Promoting Your Event on Social Media
- Ideas For Distributing the Promotional Efforts
- Key Takeaways
Define Your Event Promotion Goals
Before strategizing your event promotion campaigns, you'll want to sit down with your team to identify specific goals. Depending on your event goals, your promotional strategy may shift.
For example, if you’re using an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to target specific accounts, you’ll want to zero in on unified messaging and campaigns that attract your ideal attendees.
To do this, you may want to target registrations for specific ticket types, which would require building promotions for those tickets and the corresponding attendee personas. Some metrics tied to ticket/attendee persona goals include:
- Total number of registrations
- Number of paid registrations
- Number of discounted registrants
- Number of free registrants
Keep in mind that event goals should be SMART goals. For example, you may want to have a goal of 200 targeted contacts registered for your event 2 months before the event date.
When aligning your promotional outreach with other teams across your organization, you may want to create goals of how many registrants are attributed to specific teams. For example, you can may want to track:
- Number of registrants from customer success
- Number of registrants from sales
- Number of registrants from marketing
- Number of registrants form executive leadership
Adding event goals and benchmarks will help you build and optimize an attendee registration journey that brings the right people to your event.
Aligning Your Sales and Marketing Teams
Event promotion is ultimately a team sport and aligning your sales and marketing organizations is key in successfully filling the room with the right contacts.
To achieve company alignment soft skills like collaboration and communication are critical. Check out a few tactics below to help bring teams together for a common goal.
1. Aligning teams for your ABM strategy
Before planning your event, you may want to work with your sales and marketing leadership to carve out your account-based marketing and events strategy.
You'll want to discuss:
- Defining your target accounts and organizations
- Creating target personas
- Crafting your event message and positioning
Once you have the foundation of your ABM strategy in place and taken in to account all relevant stakeholders, you'll want to educate both your sales organization and marketing groups. Awareness and education will empower your teams to work in lock-step to get the right contacts to your events.
2. Getting Executive Buy-In
At the end of the day success comes from a top-down investment in the power of events. Articulating how your event ties into larger business goals is key when speaking with executive leadership. It helps them understand why they should prioritize your event as a business objective.
Try building a high level overview or detailed presentation that clearly defines your event vision and the impact events will drive to your customers, brand, company values, and revenue.
Executive buy-in can not only help influence other business units and teams to make sure they're helping to drive event promotions but also move obstacles while you're rolling out different event campaigns or producing your event.
3. Developing clear communications and instructions
Once all teams are aligned on the value of your event and event promotions, you'll want to develop clear lines of communications.
Dedicated weekly updates in the form of a town hall, stand-up, or email can keep teams up-to-date on event targets, next steps, and areas of opportunity. If using collaboration tools like Slack, you can create designated channels for each event keep the announcements and conversation in one place. When using an ABM strategy, each of these channels allow you to highlight teams and individuals that helped attract target accounts and contacts.
4. Incentivizing teams to share event collateral
Historically, marketing as a practice has been a one-to-many approach. However, arming different teams with event collateral, messaging, and fun goals can help you reach new groups of people and target accounts that you may not have access to.
For example, you can provide your teams with creative banners and copy that they can share on social media like Twitter and LinkedIn. A short, templated email can be used to send to prospects, friends, and personal contacts. This makes it easier for teams to directly engage in event promotions.
5. Designing competitions and spiffs to motivate your entire company
There's something about a challenge that instantly revs up the troops and gets everyone motivated and excited! Once you have buy-in from your teams and the promotional assets they can use, launch a fun competition to keep everyone engaged.
Try organizing different business units into separate teams. Build a highly visible leaderboard and create registration goals in the lead up to the event. Adding an award to the winning teams and individuals introduces some friendly competition and gives a sense of accomplishment for everyone involved.
"If we create an event strategy in isolation without alignment across the customer journey, across the rest of the company, and across what sales is trying to achieve, we're not going to be successful. Fundamentally, alignment is the core and the foundation."
— Nicola Kastner, SAP
5 Ways To Leverage Existing Channels
Before trying to think of the next great promotional idea, make sure you’re working with what you've got. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Chances are that your organization already utilizes marketing channels for other initiatives, so using those existing channels to promote the event should be fairly simple. As a best practice, it often makes sense to start promotions in those channels earlier to see better engagement for registrations.
Below are some common channels that you can leverage for your event.
1. Content Series
Assuming your company has an ongoing blog or other content channels like a video library or podcast series, you can leverage your content channel to promote upcoming events to your target audience.
The content need not be overtly promotional in nature. For example, in a blog posts you can include a relevant call-to-action button at the bottom of the page or add a witty shout-out in your podcast series. Perhaps you can do an interview series of the speakers you’ll have at the event in order to offer more context to your readers and potential attendees.
Remember that video is also a great content marketing strategy. Shoot a “behind the scenes” series of the event to show readers the amount of meticulous planning that goes into the event and post the series on your blog. Using video content to promote your event will create a more engaging experience for readers to learn about the event.
In the example above, INBOUND created a montage of clips from INBOUND 2019 to highlight the event attendees, speakers, amazing activations, and venue specs from their most recent event. This video helped capture the energy and creativity behind their event.
The overall mindset here is to create content that will be of value to your readers while also bringing awareness towards your event. When done right, this can be an effective way to shift your blog audience from readers to attendees.
2. Email Signature
Given all of the emails your team sends every single day, advertising the event through an email signature is a tactic that is low effort and potentially high reward. In your signature, place a link to the registration page as well as a small image to promote the event.
As you can see in the example below, the team at Growth Marketing Conference used their email signatures to promote their annual conference, Global Growth Marketing Conference.
Using an email signature to market events can prove to be a useful channel as long as the campaign is started well in advance.
If your company is already sending out a monthly newsletter, why not dedicate a section to market the event? Aside from creating email campaigns from scratch, event promotion through newsletters is a good way to bring awareness to your event while still delivering monthly content to your subscribers.
Above, you can see an example of a Bizzabo newsletter that includes a promotion for an upcoming event. Keep in mind that your newsletter shouldn't be completely dedicated to the event as that might be a turnoff to your regular subscribers. Plus, you’ll want to have separate email campaigns dedicated to promoting your event which we will get to later.
4. Strengthen Event Website SEO
While you most likely created an event website before even setting the event promotion game-plan, there’s a difference between making a website and optimizing it for organic search. Doing the latter would mean that you are leveraging your existing event website to promote the event as effectively as possible.
A core pillar of strong SEO is to target the right keywords. Summarize your event in a few words or phrases and create a keyword strategy from the group of words. Use tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer or Keyword.io to see how often those keywords are searched and how competitive it will be to rank for those words. Below is an example of using Moz's keyword explorer to find detailed rankings on the term "customer success conference."
Once you've chosen your keywords, optimize on-page elements such as the title tag, meta description, and alt text to reflect those keywords. You’ll also want to make sure your website is mobile responsive as this will affect your ranking.
For more practical tips on optimizing an event website for search, click on the CTA below to read our SEO Guide for Event Planners.
5. Mobilize Your Attendees
Whether you've already held an event or you've managed to secure some registrations for an upcoming event, your past attendees are an invaluable asset. While it might be strange to think of attendees as a channel, advocacy marketing is becoming an increasingly important piece of marketing campaigns.
Encourage your attendees to spread the word by providing unique promo codes to share with their network. If they manage to bring in another registration, reward them with a partial refund on their already purchased registration OR offer a discount for the newly purchased referral. You could also offer both incentives for a powerful one-two punch.
We'll specifically discuss how to approach this attendee advocate framework later in this guide.
“For event registrations, you’ll want to work with the list of people that have already registered, because they're the ones that came out, they're the ones that are interested, so they're the ones that are already going to know who else should be attending that event.”
— Janna Erickson, Drift
6. Enable Your Sales Team
Day in and day out your sales team is on the front lines connecting with customers and prospects. Unlock new channels of communication by enabling your sales team to directly promote events to their prospects and customers.
Create email templates, social media copy, and collateral that sales can use to send to their accounts. You can also create tracking links and specific promo codes to help measure your sales outreach as an additional event marketing channel.
How To Reuse Promotional Content From Previous Events
With all of the hard work that you put into previous events, think of ways to repurpose that content to help promote your current event. Being as resourceful as possible with previous video footage, images, and attendee reviews can prove to be a very effective form of pre-event content marketing.
Promotional Video - Instead of telling people that your event will be great, why not show them? Creating a promotional video with footage from previous years’ events will help people visualize themselves at this year’s event. This video should then be used in email, social media, and exist on the event website homepage. Make sure the video is no longer than one minute to ensure that people watch it all the way through.
Previous Event Photos - For the concise event marketer, the perfect event picture is worth a thousand words! Curate your best event photos from previous events that capture the energy, mood, activations, and experiences you're hoping to replicate or surpass in your next event. By adding photos from previous events to your event website, you'll be teasing out a compelling story to help potential attendees see what the experience will look and feel like.
Previous Speakers - When thinking about the target audience you want to attract, it may be a good strategy to include previous speakers and organizations that have played a role in past events. Before releasing your current speaker lineup, strategically place past speakers on your event website so that attendees can see the themes and topics you've covered.
Positive Reviews - Collecting all of the positive feedback from previous events is another way to amply the success of your event program. Place them in a visible section on the event website and show others how much people loved your event in the past. Direct and off the cuff quotes can sometimes be the most persuasive pieces of collateral for potential attendees who have never heard of your event. Creating social proof through this display of positive reviews is an effective tactic.
Video Testimonials - Similar to the promotional video, these testimonials will focus on individual attendees speaking directly into the camera about how much they loved your event last year. If possible, grab footage of previous speakers who also spoke highly of your event. Stitching all of these testimonials together into a piece of promotional content will be very useful for all future events as well. Alternatively, the audio testimonials can be used in video montages on your event website.
7 Ways to Segment Email Campaigns
According to the 2019 Event Marketing Benchmarks Report, most believe that email marketing is the single-most effective channel for promoting an event. One way to ensure that your emails remain an effective channel is to devise sound segmentation strategies to strategically promote your event.
Here are some ways you can segment your event email marketing data.
To ensure your email content is relevant, organize campaigns based on industry. An email sent to a SaaS marketer should be tailored differently than an email sent to a financial analyst. Segmenting campaigns based on industry will let your attendees know that the event content will be specifically relevant to them, further cementing their excitement for the event.
2. Job Title
An attendee’s specific job function will largely determine the reason they registered for the event. A C-level executive will be attending the event for different reasons than a sales associate. Similar to content marketing, the information communicated should directly address the interests of the intended recipient. Segmenting email campaigns based on job function will do just that.
3. Geographic Region
Location is a significant differentiator among attendees, especially if your event attracts a global audience. By sending emails specific to a person’s location, the message will be that much more personalized. Whether that means sending an email during a country’s specific holiday or crafting an email that refers to the particularly cold weather of the recipient’s location, segmenting event email marketing campaigns based on location will help to increase overall engagement levels.
4. Registration Stage
With an advanced event software system, you can filter for individuals who started the registration process but did not complete it. Segmented campaigns based on incomplete registration is crucial as these campaigns target those who clearly exhibited an intent to purchase but never completed the action. Sending a follow-up email that nudges them to finish might be exactly what they need to officially register.
5. Target Account List or Tier 1 List
When prepping your ABM promotional campaigns, you will want to identify your target accounts and create a designated email list. The more accurate the list the more precisely you can shape your messaging and positioning to resonate with that audience. It also allows your marketing team to hone in on what that particular group of accounts need to drive more registrations. For example, based on your target account list you may want to create a direct mail campaign with swag or complimentary gifts that add an additional personalized touch to your invitations.
6. Customer and Prospects
Your customers and your prospective customers should be segmented in separate lists. This ensures promotional content and event outreach comes from the right contact. For example, customers may be more receptive to an invite from their main POC like a customer success manager or account manager rather than a sales person. Alternatively, a prospective customer may already be in contact with a sales person and will likely be receptive to an invite from that person.
Creating event promotion campaigns for sponsors is a fantastic way to drive engagement. Your messaging can include more detailed information on how sponsors can gain value from your event, what they can expect, and give more visibility on other sponsors that will be in attendance. An added bonus of including a sponsor segment is that you have a channel for nurturing a community of event sponsors in order to deepen those relationships and set them up for event success.
For example, for Techcrunch's upcoming Disrupt Berlin event, the team sent out an email for sponsorship opportunities. The email offered detailed information about the event, sponsorship opportunity, and event exclusive events for sponsors.
Need a spark of inspiration for your targeted campaigns? Check out our examples of event invitations to get the ball rolling.
Tips For Promoting Your Event On Social Media
With the constantly updating best practices and features of social media platforms, it may be difficult to know exactly where to start when it comes to socially promoting your event. Here are several tips to help you narrow down your social media strategy.
1. Consistent Hashtags/Handles
Brainstorm and decide on one hashtag for your event and push this hashtag on all of your event collateral and touch points. This hashtag will ensure that your social media campaigns are all tied together and will help potential attendees quickly find your social channels.
Same goes for handles. Ideally, the handle and hashtag will be the same. The key here is to claim your hashtag and handle very early on to avoid losing it to someone else.
2. Retargeting Ads on Facebook
Social media is a great place to catch people who have already visited your website, but have not yet registered. Serving ads to these visitors is known as retargeting and Facebook is one of the best social media platforms to do this.
To target visitors who have already visited an event website, promoters will need to insert a piece of HTML code provided by Facebook that will track the visitor until he or she opens Facebook. Once the visitor is on Facebook, they will see an ad reminding them to register for the event. For in-depth tips on these types of ads, check out this blog post on event retargeting.
An example of a retargeting ad on Facebook
3. Sponsored Content on LinkedIn
Another form of paid social media is LinkedIn’s sponsored content. This feature allows you to promote your event to the specific audience of your choice by having those ads appear on their LinkedIn newsfeeds.
LinkedIn’s native advertising can be especially effective because their database of millions of professional profiles allows for very specific audience building. With this type of data you’ll be able to market your event to the types of attendees that will find the most value from your event.
4. Snapchat/Instagram Geofilters
In case you didn’t know, Snapchat and Instagram allow businesses to purchase and customize their own filters and have them designated for a specific geolocation. This type of native ad is ideal for events because it encourages attendees to create and share self-produced content.
5. Post-registration Referral Links (Attendee Advocacy)
Instead of only celebrating every time someone registers for your event, why not turn those attendees into advocates? Generate referral links for people who have just registered for your event so that they can share it one their own social networks.
Create an incentive where the original registrant receives a discount or swag items every time someone new registers with their link. This type of organic referral or advocacy campaign can end up doing a lot of the promotional leg work for you.
While there are several ways to orchestrate a campaign like this, tools like Ticket Boost from Bizzabo provides a streamlined approach replete with customization options and analytics.
Below is an example of how event organizers can build and monitor their Ticket Boost campaigns.
6. Snapchat/Instagram Geofencing
In case you haven't heard, Instagram now allows businesses to use geofencing to serve more targeted adds based on user locations. Event marketers can promote content for upcoming or ongoing events. You can also leverage content from the Stories feature to give more interactive content to potential attendees.
7. Twitter Campaigns
Twitter isn't only an outlet to promote your event, it's a channel for engaging in larger conversations and cultural discussions. Try leveraging a trending conversation and hashtag to build out a promotional contest where potential attendees can snag a ticket. This can drive more buzz around your event and drive registrations.
For example, at HubSpot’s flagship event INBOUND, the team launched a fun campaign for the trending hashtag #fridayfeeling to find any person with the name Jennifer. Those with the namesake were given a chance to win a pass to see the actress turned entrepreneur/INBOUND19 speaker, Jennifer Garner!
3 Ideas for Distributing Promotional Efforts
Clearly, event promotion is not an easy task so why not share the load? All great event marketing plans require a helping hand. Here are some ways you can distribute the promotional efforts to ensure that you are bringing in other stakeholders who can help with marketing your event.Teaming Up With Your Sponsors - Given that your sponsors most likely have resources and an audience that you won’t have access to on your own, propose some joint marketing ideas. This could be in the form of your event sponsors sharing your event on their social media platforms, including it in their newsletter, or creating partnered content that promotes the event. Remember, your sponsors want you to have a successful event so don’t hesitate to propose ideas that will help to get you there.
Influencer Marketing - All industries have thought-leaders who hold a certain amount of influence. If you know any influencers whose audiences align with your target attendee group, reach out to these individuals to discuss possible partnership marketing opportunities. Tap into your greater network of professional contacts to see if you already know an influencer through another connection. Even easier, reach out to the speakers on your panel and make sure they’re promoting the event as well. Brainstorm different ideas to make use of their influence in the industry.
Internal Team Buy-in - Remember that there are other people in your company, not part of the event marketing team, that can share some of the responsibility. Remind them that a successful event is not just a win for your team but for the entire company. With that spirit in mind, encourage your sales team, customer success team, engineering team, and everyone in between to help with event promotion. You can gamify their efforts by creating tracked promo codes for each team and rewarding the team with most registrations with a cash prize, team bonding activity, or other incentive. Get creative to ensure collective buy-in.
Key Takeaways: Your Event Promotion Strategy
Regardless of event type, there are plenty of ways to create an event promotion strategy. To tie it all together, here are the main things to keep in mind, whatever strategy you end up creating:
- Define your event promotion goals to build the right promotional strategy.
- Align your sales and marketing teams to drive higher organizational engagement and buy-in.
- Leverage your existing marketing channels for highly effective event promotions.
- Don't reinvent the wheel! Leverage content from previous events to help promote your upcoming events.
- Segment your audiences to create more targeted and effective messaging.
- Join the conversation on social. Use different channels and promotional strategies to drive more engagement on all your social media outlets.
- Reach out to sponsors, speakers, and other teams within the company for joint promotional ideas to ensure that you are taking full advantage of their wide networks.
Use these tips and takeaways to create a promotional strategy that is right for your event. With the right resources and knowledge, event promotion becomes less of a daunting task and more of an achievable challenge.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these event promotion ideas.
Editor's Note: This post was initially published on January 18, 2018 and has since been updated.