October 11, 2021Marketing10 Min ReadCreating an Event Marketing Plan in 7 StepsOlivia VanCurenClients and stakeholders rely on you to plan and launch great events—there’s a lot of pressure to perform well and smash targets. But successful event marketing is not always simple or easy. It encompasses much more than branded hashtags and Facebook posts. it’s detailed and calculated, and requires time and dedication to execute successfully.The good news is that you can set up your event marketing to succeed from the beginning. A strategic event marketing plan will provide direction and the steps needed to achieve goals and prove ROI.This article will introduce a 7-step event marketing plan for event planners. We’ll explore each component of the plan and help you put all of the pieces together so you can see the big picture and also follow it step-by-step.We will hopefully answer your top questions:What are the elements of an event marketing plan?How do all of the pieces fit together?How do I know which marketing tactics and metrics to use?What tools can assist with event marketing?Let’s dive in! What is an event marketing plan and why is it important?Event marketing entails much more than sending emails and posting on Twitter. Planning a large-scale event requires time and focus, and your event’s success will hinge on how (and if) you develop your event marketing plan.The problem we’ve seen industry-wide is that event marketing has been oversimplified to a few slapped-together tactics and on-the-fly adjustments. This random, chaotic approach might feel like an easy solution to a complex problem, but in reality, it wastes marketing spend and eats up resources. Case in point: you don’t want to be marketing via YouTube videos when your target audience prefers long-form blog content.A solid event marketing plan is well-thought-out, strategic, and aligns with your organization’s goals. It details why you’re hosting the event (goals), what steps you’ll take to promote it (strategy and tactics), and how to measure performance and ROI (analytics and metrics). Below are seven steps to creating a solid event marketing plan. We’ll summarize them here and then go into each one in much more detail throughout this article. The 7-step event marketing plan for strategic and organized planning1. Set your goals and marketing budgetGoals outline what you want to get out of the event and what success looks like. Essentially, they answer why you’re hosting your event. They also identify the metrics that measure your performance (attendees/registration numbers, website traffic).The identification process starts with your business goals, which inform your event goals, which then inform your promotional goals.Be careful not to measure campaign task performance in place of actual results. For example, if you’re launching a 10-part email campaign for new event registrants, tracking the completion of these emails (task completion) to ensure they launch at the right time is not the same as tracking your email campaign results (open rates, clickthroughs, conversions).Pro Tip: Don’t limit your metrics to simply attendee and registrant numbers. Think about the lasting effects of your event (revenue, pipeline impact, community-building) and define metrics that align with your business objectives (here are 41 event metrics to track).Set your event marketing budgetThe easiest way to finalize an event marketing budget is to review past events. Gather historical data on marketing costs to inform your current budget. If you don’t have historical data, we recommend creating an event planning checklist   that includes all potential marketing costs.If you’ve already created an event budget, it’s likely you set aside your marketing costs. The next step would be to break down your marketing campaigns and allocate spending for each.Allocate 5-10% extra as a contingency if you face unexpected situations where your marketing campaigns require a little more spend (a campaign is performing better than expected). Note that you can fine-tune your marketing metrics and budget once you define your event marketing tactics. We’ll talk about tactics a little later.2. Create a solid marketing strategyYou should have some marketing goals and potential metrics that align with your business objectives by this stage. As we continue with this process, those goals will get more defined.The next step is to create a strategy that will help you promote your event.Your strategy is critical because it defines your marketing campaigns and keeps you focused on the actions that will help you achieve your promotional goals. Strategy is an integral part of the process because it details the messaging and tactics that will target your audience with precision.A solid promotional strategy starts with deep market research that reveals information about your market and its consumers. These are your potential attendees and the people you want to attract to your event.Customer personasYour market research will then enable you to build your customer personas, which become your target audience. Your personas will drive your strategy and provide your campaign direction. Your personas also tell you which marketing channels to target with your event promotions.A customer persona is a realistic or fictional representation of your ideal target consumer. Getting intimately acquainted with your targets will allow you to establish a connection and convince them that the event you’re hosting is what they’re looking for.Choose 3-5 personas (or fewer depending on the event size and topic) to target with your event promotions. Choose based on your event type and goals. So if you’re hosting an in-person event focusing on local businesses, you won’t advertise the event outside of your event’s geographic location. Suppose your event goal is to close pipeline opportunities. In this case, target your qualified leads or late-stage prospects instead of casting a wider net. How do you research your market and create personas? Market research involves studying your market, deep-diving into your analytics (gathering behavioral and conversion data on your website, customers, past attendees, etc.), and talking to your customers and consumers.Be careful not to rush this process. Every piece of data should come from detailed research, not guesswork and hunches. Even if you think you know your targets, back it up with data before you use it to form your strategy. Strategy first; tactics secondLaunching YouTube ads and sending follow-up emails are not strategies; they’re tactics. It’s essential to know the difference.If you launch tactics randomly without foreknowledge of why you’re using them and whom you’re targeting, you’ll waste marketing dollars and time trying to pinpoint your market.Use the information you gather from your goals and market research to create your event marketing strategy. When finished, your strategy should tell you whom you want to target, where they hang out, how they consume content and purchase, and how you’ll use this information to promote your event.Your strategy data informs your marketing tactics, not vice-versa. For example, if you discovered that one of your personas consumes YouTube videos to learn more about the topics your event will offer, consider tactics such as launching YouTube ads and/or creating videos that get them excited about your upcoming event. We’ll dive into more specific tactics in a later section of this article.3. Map out the attendee journeyWe discussed diving deep into your target audience to create the right messaging, and launch tactics that maximize marketing dollars. Part of the event marketing strategy involves discovering opportunities to delight registrants and event attendees with unique experiences.The event lifecycle starts with promotions and ends with post-event communication. In between these touchpoints exists many more touchpoints, places your targets will interact with your brand. We call this the attendee journey.Map out every way an event registrant or attendee could interact with your organization. Start with the first touchpoint, which might be learning about your event from a blog or social media post. Final touchpoints might be a post-event survey or email followup. We talk more about post-event surveys in step seven on event performance.Below is an example of how a virtual attendee might discover your event and interact with other participants and stakeholders along the way:Mapping out the attendee journey gives event marketers the unique opportunity to personalize attendee experiences and delight them at every touchpoint.Part of this process involves gathering user data during the registration process (preferred business topics, preferred content formats, job roles, interests, characteristics, etc.) and creating segments based on these data points. As an example, if you’re hosting some fun training classes such as yoga, dog grooming, or cooking, list a tentative class schedule on your registration page and ask registrants to rate their preferences. Use this information to delight attendees during their event lifecycle. Some examples would be:Sending personalized event reminder emails to registrants. Personalize the emails according to their preferences.If they choose your yoga class during registration, remind them to get their yoga mats ready. Or they can expect their event swag in the mail (sponsor-branded yoga mat) to use for their class.You know from your registration data that this target wants to learn more about influencer marketing. Invite them to a topic-focused virtual coffee chat or networking session about influencer marketing.Curating attendee agendas based on their topic preferences, preferred content formats, and job rolesRecommending topic-focused networking sessionsPersonalizing post-event follow-ups to encourage attendees to further engage with your community4. Implement strategic marketing tacticsLet’s talk tactics! We discussed how strategy defines tactics, so make sure to consult your strategy before you outline your event marketing tactics. Your tactics should align with your strategy. Below are some proven event tactics for inspiration.Social media (organic and paid)Your event marketing strategy will tell you which social media sites to leverage for your event marketing campaigns. Whether LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or YouTube, post content that elicits a response. Questions, discussions, and educational, engaging videos/imagery will be effective and attract potential registrants.AdWorld Conference’s Instagram channel posts educational, engaging content that aligns with the content attendees will learn at the conference.Remember that social media sites spark conversations that typically aren’t salesy. While some native brands survive entirely off social media, many use it to engage with their communities. Your organic content should balance sales content with posts that start organic discussions and attract attention (weigh more heavily on the side of non-sales content). Leverage social media sites for your pre-launch promotional campaigns as well and post live content and imagery during the event.You can also advertise on social media sites to get your content in front of your target audience. If advertising, implement remarketing campaigns to increase the chances of conversion.Email marketingUse email marketing before, during, and after the event to attract prospects, remind them about the event, maintain excitement, and build a post-event community.Pro tip: Keep track of where your contacts land, so you don’t send them too many emails. For example, once a prospect registers, stop sending them your pre-launch 1 sequence. Otherwise, they’ll be receiving pre-launch 1 emails (which doesn’t apply to them anymore since they registered) and your pre-launch 2 campaign emails that remind them about their event.BloggingUse blogging at every stage of the event to generate buzz, excitement, and share memorable moments.Pre-event – Write educational blog posts on topics your target audience wants to learn more about. Share event speaker profiles, details on the event theme and purpose, and include calls to action to the event’s website or registration pages.Pro tip: Repurpose your blog post’s content into promotional micro-videos, social content snippets, image quotes, poll questions, and more.Mid-event – During the event, blog about live happenings and share them on your social accounts and via email.Post-event – Use your blog to share event highlights, photos, memories and encourage attendees to stay connected and updated on future events. Miscellaneous marketing tacticsGet attendees and event speakers involved – Encourage attendees and event speakers to share the event and promote it to their audience on their channels.Event swag – Send sponsored event swag before the event so people can take photos and share them on their channelsEvent hashtags – Create branded event hashtags and include them with promotional material and user-generated content.PR coverage – Leverage story-driven content for promotions on media outlets and distribute press releases. Consult a PR specialist or contact industry writers with a newsworthy story about your event to get some press coverage.Leverage previous event data – Did a particular graphic or story perform well for an earlier event? Re-work it and customize it for your upcoming event.Digital marketing – Leverage digital marketing tactics regardless of whether you’re hosting an in-person or virtual event. Chances are, most of your attendees will find your event online. But don’t trust us! Always rely on real-world data. Dig into your target audience research to confirm.5. Create your event marketing timelineOnce you map out your tactics, create a timeline (from campaign initiation to post-event). Your timeline doesn’t have to be super detailed; it is designed to provide a top-level overview of the marketing campaigns that lead up to and follow your event.When should you start marketing your event? Start planning at least 6-9 months before in-person and hybrid events and 3-6 months before virtual events. Give yourself enough time to do market research and formulate your strategy.The following is an example event marketing timeline that broadly lists milestones and kickoffs. This is a more general list, but you can provide much more detail when mapping out your event timeline. Ideally, mapping out your timeline and tracking steps via a Gantt chart or similar project management system will produce the best results. We talk about project and event management software in this article on event management tools.6. Measure your event’s performanceEvent ROI is a lot more complex than simply calculating money in vs. money out. That’s where your event marketing strategy and tactics come in.During the strategy creation process, you should have defined event metrics (attendee registrations, check-ins, session views) based on your goals and objectives. You’ll also have marketing metrics that will determine the success of your event marketing campaigns (website traffic, ad conversions, social media engagement).When evaluating your event data, pull out learnings that can inform future event promotions and goals. For example, we’ve found that you need at least 2X+ registrations to hit your target numbers for free and virtual events. Leveraging this information, you might adjust your registration count targets for future events.Also, run post-event surveys to gather feedback on your event and get a pulse of your attendees’ experiences. What content did they gravitate toward? Did they interact in the activities? Did they prefer one learning format over another? Discover what worked and what didn’t and use the data to improve future events.7. Choose the right tools to power your event marketingFrom registration to post-event data analysis, a good event marketing plan is data-driven, so it leverages tools to gather data and measure performance throughout the event lifecycle. It produces measurable, optimizable, and repeatable events that reward event managers with robust information that informs future event decisions.Event tools also save you time and resources. Replace manual tasks and spreadsheets with automated processes and unified dashboards that make collaboration and organization straightforward.Socio is an end-to-end event management platform that offers event managers a comprehensive solution for launching engaging, memorable events. From customized tools and unparalleled support to automated processes and robust event data and analytics, you’ll receive a tailored solution that meets your unique needs and powers your event marketing.We talked about the importance of data to map the attendee journey and attract the right target market. Socio enables you to gather data on registrants’ preferences, roles, and other interests directly from your custom branded registration form. Socio will then automate the data collection and transfer it into its database for easy segmentation. Getting a well-rounded view of event performance is also necessary to calculate and prove ROI.Socio’s Data Dashboard offers a 360-degree view of event performance and captures top-level data (attendee numbers, engagement, session minutes) and granular data (attendee-level metrics). The comprehensive analytics dashboard provides you with a complete picture of what’s working and what isn’t so you can quickly course correct.Socio’s comprehensive analytics and reporting give you maximum visibility into your event marketing data. The platform also integrates with other marketing tools and can become a welcomed addition to your MarTech stack, making it easy to implement your marketing tactics, sync your event data, and track your performance.Ready to see Socio in action? We’d love to give you a personalized demo. Request one here, and we’ll be in touch shortly!Olivia VanCurenContent Marketing Specialist @ Socio. Words enthusiast. Passionate about events that foster meaningful connections.