The budget is set, the venue booked—it’s time to fill the room!

Marketing an event (whether in-person or virtual) is full of highs and lows. There is typically a spike in revenue when the tickets go on sale, another spike as the event draws near, and a lull in the middle. With the proper event marketing plan, you can even out that middle section with a steadier stream of sales.

So how do you fill those seats and ensure your event hits the goals you set for it? It’s not enough to hope for those two natural ticket sales spikes to cover your attendance—you need a clear promotional plan you can follow to ensure you hit your numbers.

The marketing plan for an event is a large part of the overall event management strategy. Event promotion is key, but it shouldn’t just be a grab bag of tactics you throw out if sales dip. Promotions typically start at least six months prior to an event and include a number of tactics as well as performance measurement metrics you’ll need to track progress and prove ROI.

In this post, we’ll discuss an overview of event marketing strategy, provide proven event marketing tactics, and shed some light on how you can use technology to help execute and measure your plan.

Marketing an event: your promotional plan starts here

A quick note: What follows isn’t exactly a template that you should copy and paste as-is. Events have too many nuances to provide a universal playbook. This guide is intended to provide a framework that will allow you to create a plan and give you tips to execute it. Every tip, tactic, and campaign has strategic thinking behind it.

What do we mean by “strategic thinking?”

At this stage of the process, you’ve likely have allocated budget, a venue booked, and speakers scheduled. Now, your promotional efforts need to start with planning how to connect with and attract the right people with the right messaging—a strategy.

Note that your strategy will be a bit more nuanced and complex if you’re using events as part of your organization’s marketing strategy. We talk extensively about this in our piece on event marketing.

What we’re talking about in this article is creating a promotional plan for a specific event and devising tactics that will attract attention, build interest, and boost attendance.

Planning an event starts with targeting. You need a deep understanding of the people you’d like  to attend your event. Your target audience will likely consist of a few different personas, and you’ll also need to craft your messaging based on those segments.

For instance, consider the difference in mindset between a business owner vs. an employee:

  • The owner wants to know how attending the event will affect company metrics like profitability, productivity, and morale.
  • The employee wants to know how attending the event will enhance personal growth, and they might need an angle for how to get the expense approved, the time off work, etc.

Naturally, you can see how the marketing messaging for your event will be drastically different between those two personas.

If you have a list of existing personas, great, use that as a base to start developing your tactics. If you don’t have established personas, you might want to consider creating them now.

Next, start brainstorming some things you know about each audience segment. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Channels: Does your target audience frequent a specific social media site?
  • Content consumption: Do they prefer a particular type of content?
  • Messaging: How does your event meet your target audience’s needs, solve their problems, and help them achieve their goals?  

You’re looking for common ground with the people who would be interested in attending your event so you can target them with strategic messaging. Pair that with how they prefer to receive and consume that messaging and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Ready to see some examples of proven promotional tactics? Read on.

Proven tactics for marketing an event (plus examples)

Your strategy defines what tactics you implement, how they work together, and how they’re measured. But you can’t form the perfect strategy without understanding the full range of tactical possibilities. With that said, this section contains a thorough list of proven event promotion tactics that you can mix and match to execute your marketing strategy.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to tailor your tactics to the preferences and goals of the audiences you identified in your persona research.

Generate buzz on social media

Social media marketing is the most obvious tactic to use for marketing your event, but there are several very good reasons why that’s the case.

Social media provides community – When somebody registers for an event they get a feeling like they’re part of a tribe. When they can also connect with others registered for the event, that feeling of community strengthens. The stronger the sense of community around your event, the more buzz you can generate on social media.

Social media is a part of the buyer’s journey – It can be extremely difficult to sell somebody a ticket who has never heard of your event, even if it’s relevant to their niche. It’s extremely easy, however, to get somebody to engage with a relevant Tweet. In this way, social media provides an easy first step for somebody to start considering a ticket purchase to your event.

A simplified event attendee buyer’s journey might look something like this:

  1. Sees a friend Tweet about your event
  2. Reads your event landing page
  3. Signs up for email updates
  4. Purchases a ticket

But you can’t start that waterfall of marketing actions if you don’t have a social media plan in place! Here are some quick hits you can use to bolster your social media presence leading up to your event:

Build a content timeline – Your social content should not be static, evergreen posts encouraging ticket sales. Start with topical, top-of-funnel content starting six months out and increase the urgency as you get closer.

Publish event teasers – Part of your content timeline should include some hard facts about your event like speaker profiles, past even highlights, activity descriptions, and venue notes.

Engage your speakers – Speakers want to have their sessions fully booked, so lean on their audiences to help spread the word about their upcoming keynote. Bonus points if you make it easy for them with branded graphics featuring their headshots.

Brand your profiles with event info – If your event is crucial for your overall marketing efforts, use your profile and cover photos to promote your event. Include event branding and hashtags.

Giveaways – Hosting contests or giveaways for event tickets is a great way to generate buzz on social media, but also add people to your email list. This will also give you an indication of the general interest level of your event.

Paid social ads – Support your organic efforts with a social media ads budget. Consider promoting some content that’s primary message isn’t ticket sales for further reach and higher engagement. You can always retarget users who have been to your sales pages with bottom-of-the-funnel ad messaging.

Launch a pre-registration campaign and offer early-bird benefits

Marketing isn’t solely about promotion; price is also one of the four P’s in your marketing mix.

Build anticipation with a pre-registration period. Prior to the actual registration, create a teaser registration page that details some of your event highlights, shows past event photos, and invites users to opt in to get notified when registration opens.

Additionally, selling early bird tickets casts a wider net for attracting attendees by appealing to bargain shoppers. Early bird registration provides some savings for event-goers and it generates some early cash flow for your event. You might even consider a tiered early bird system with deadlines accompanied by the appropriate marketing communications.

Personalize your messaging with event-specific actions

As discussed earlier, personalizing your messaging via your personas will increase the reception of those messages. Here are a few other areas you can look to segment your audience into personas:

  • Past attendees – If your recipient attended a previous event, send them event photos and memories to build a deeper connection.
  • Content preferences – If a segment of your target audience attended sessions around a specific topic, focus on their preferred topics in your marketing communications.
  • Stage of registration journey – Use their buyer’s journey (first touch, visited your registration page but exited, received two emails but didn’t click, etc.) to tailor the messages they receive.

Encourage online registrants and harvest data

Not all registrants will become attendees, especially if your event is free. According to a recent study by Markletic, the percentage of no-shows at most virtual events is roughly 35%. Use your registration page as an opportunity to gather information on your registrants. Use this data to personalize their upcoming messages and entice them to attend the event.

At Webex Events, we believe data is extremely powerful for event organizers, which is why we created the ability to provide branded event registration pages that allow you to get to know your audience better. More data means better personalization and increased relevance for your marketing communications.

Cater to the multichannel journey

Event attendees rarely convert on the first try. They will likely interact with your event promotions 5-7 times before they register. As we touched on briefly in the social media section, it’s important to take a multi-channel approach to your marketing plan.

  • Social media is great for multimedia content at the top of the funnel.
  • Blog posts can provide detailed answers to topical questions
  • Email is great for updates and announcements
  • Advertising helps generate awareness and move people toward conversion

Make sure you have the appropriate content planned for all of the above channels at a minimum.

Utilize your existing channels

Do you or your client have a high-traffic blog? An engaged community on YouTube?

Weight your promotions on those channels more heavily to take advantage of engaged audiences. Post content series, videos, and blog posts and include a call to action for your event.

This doesn’t mean you have to totally revise your typical content offerings. Rather, incorporate event promotions within your blog posts and videos as CTAs within your regularly scheduled content, almost like a commercial for your event. You can also make an educational content series that relates to your event’s topic—the folks that view those will be great candidates for retargeted ads for your event.

Use your data to improve registration numbers

During the pre-event marketing phase, gather data from your event website and your visitors’ activity.

  • Are there speakers or session topics they click on more than others?
  • What devices do they use to navigate your website?
  • Are they clicking the FAQ page too much and exiting the site right after?

Utilize your website data to iterate and optimize your marketing materials and improve conversion rates. Event tools with real-time analytics dashboards that have out-of-the-box functionality are extremely useful for this purpose—much easier than spending hours configuring complex Google Analytics funnels.

Get event speakers and attendees involved

Encourage speakers to promote your event to their followers and communities. Send them event swag early on. Make sure to showcase your speakers professionally and in their best light and they will be more apt to share. Provide them with marketing collateral (personalized graphics, highlight videos, hashtags, session descriptions, etc.) to make it easy for them to participate.

Hold pre-event video interviews with your keynote speakers and allow them to contribute content if they desire. They should be confident that your event will also provide them exposure which will compel them to share.

Also encourage event attendees to share. Reward them for referrals and provide incentives via contests and giveaways to build a strong pre-event community and start networking long before the event date.

Get sponsors more involved with promotions

Most sponsors would be more than happy to put in an extra bit of effort (in addition to their financial contribution) for some added value in terms of exposure. Share promotional opportunities with sponsors to get access to their audience and expand your reach. Marketing ideas and opportunities outside of logo placement can help strengthen your relationships with sponsors and drive ROI for both audiences.

Examples of sponsor-led promotions include:

  • Email blasts
  • Social media posts
  • Podcast interviews
  • Content partnerships
  • Event teaser videos
  • Sponsored event swag

For an in-depth look at how to provide engagement and ROI for your sponsors, check out Webex Events’ virtual event, Event Revenue and Sponsorship ROI!

Miscellaneous—small changes that can make a big impact

Occasionally, one-off tactics without all the planning and preparation of the ones listed above can net you a big result. Make sure you don’t overlook some of these ideas for quick wins:

  • Add a small event promo section to regular newsletters
  • Add the event link/promo to the employee email signatures
  • For in-person events, submit event info to local media outlets
  • Use your post-registration thank-you page to encourage users to follow your social media profiles and share the event. Use click-to-tweet or similar tools so the attendee can share your event message to their profiles with one click
  • Amplify your graphics and messaging with testimonials from past events
  • Add a countdown timer to your emails and registration pages to increase urgency
  • Think through the UX: Include detailed information on event graphics so users don’t have to click to find what they’re looking for. Use a mobile event app or event management platform to provide seamless and memorable attendee experiences.

Simplify planning and amplify results with the right technology

As you’ve likely noticed by now, there is a lot of work that goes into marketing an event in 2022! Increasing your use of analytics can absolutely increase your ability to personalize marketing communications—and therefore increase resonance with your audiences—but that can also lead to complexity.

You need a technological solution to keep everything organized, provide analytics, and create the personalized messaging you need.

This is where we come in…

Introducing the modern solution to simplify event management and prove event ROI

Webex Events is an all-in-one event platform that powers continuous engagement to drive better results for virtual, in-person, and hybrid events. Our platform provides the ability to track event activity in real-time that you and your team can use to course correct your promotions on the fly.

Webex Events allows you to use the event data your promotional efforts generate to boost signups for future events and inform sponsorship tiers. For example, your data might show that a specific sponsor banner placement provides brands with a 50% higher ROI. Providing this data to sponsors in a one-sheet might encourage sponsors to continue their partnership into the next event, but you can also use the data to launch new partnerships.

And once you have that data, you can actually do something with it!

Use insights from our analytics dashboard to personalize event messaging (push notifications, app communications) within targeted audience segments. Event sponsors can also take advantage of these segments for personalized messaging and networking opportunities with attendees.

All of this functionality (plus a lot more!) is fully customizable and uses a drag-and-drop interface, so no technical experience is required to build an event.

Schedule a free demo to see how Webex Events can help you plan memorable ROI-driven events.