People today are just as hungry for extraordinary events as they were pre-pandemic.

A March 2021 survey found that almost 50% of people reported wanting to try new experiences, and 41% wanted to try more experiences in 2021 and beyond.

Pent-up consumers are craving more and new event experiences — and event managers are ready to provide them with an almost even mix of virtual, in-person, and hybrid events planned for 2022.

planned marketing event distribution

Are you prepared to promote your marketing events in this changing event environment?

It’s no longer about knowing which event marketing tactics are useful — everybody already knows those. Instead, it’s about developing an event marketing strategy that applies those tactics at each phase of the marketing funnel so that you’re consistently applying the best maneuver at the best time for wildly effective event promotion.

Follow along as we explore the stages of selling an event to potential attendees and which promotional tactics to enact at each step to build a successful and repeatable event marketing strategy.

What is an event marketing strategy?

An event marketing strategy is a promotional plan that event planners put in place to get marketing events in front of the right audiences to grow awareness and attendance. Having an event marketing strategy is pivotal in helping you achieve overall event goals, such as generating ROI, replenishing your leads list, completing a certain number of sales, strengthening sponsor relationships, and more.

Your event marketing strategy should flex as your event types, target audiences, and goals do. That’s why this guide isn’t about building a singular strategy as much as it’s about learning how to use the marketing funnel to guide you through creating the best plan every time.

What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is also known as a purchase funnel, a marketing pipeline, and sometimes mixed in with the sales funnel. It’s a formula that shows how a consumer interacts with a brand’s marketing as they go from becoming aware of a brand to becoming its customer.

You’ll see many marketing funnel templates in use today. However, most are still variations on the traditional AIDA marketing funnel — which outlines these core marketing phases: awareness, interest, desire, and action.

What is a marketing funnel?

Later, when we delve into where your event marketing strategy and the marketing funnel should align, we’ll show how this traditional model has changed slightly to better serve modern consumers.

Why more event managers should consider the marketing funnel

One of the things that makes a marketing funnel so worthwhile is how it encourages marketers to think deeply about their ideal audience every time their paths cross. When looking at the marketing funnel, it’s evident that someone who is engaging right at the top of the funnel — maybe they’re just reading their first article on your company website — is going to appreciate a different experience than someone who’s closer to the bottom of the funnel — perhaps searching Google to find a discount code before purchasing one of your offerings.

Event managers who can think of potential attendees the same way marketers think about leads will be prepared to create intentional journeys that are more likely to convert and retain attendees.

Marketing funnels are also invaluable for businesses as they provide a roadmap that highlights opportunities for cross-departmental support. And with this complete view of marketing across the organization, it’s easier to understand marketing spending and impact.

In a similar way, applying event marketing tactics within the context of a marketing funnel helps the event planner create an organized, visible strategy that makes it easy to see where and when to pull in help — and how much is being spent in each phase. By adding in a modern event platform, event planners can even track attendee interactions the same way marketers use technology to monitor the effectiveness of their campaigns. This relatively new development in the event world is powerful for measuring ROI, especially for events with virtual elements where engagement can be harder to understand.

Build an event marketing strategy: How to apply event marketing tactics at each stage of the funnel

Allow us to guide you through each stage of the modern marketing funnel and which tactics to apply along the way to build an effective event marketing strategy every time.  

modern event marketing funnel

Pre-funnel: Set goals, determine timing, etc.

Before you dive into the funnel, here are a few essential steps to take to set overarching guideposts for your event marketing strategy.

Set goals

Of course, every event — and the event marketing strategy — needs goals that outline why you’re hosting it in the first place.

When setting goals, think about the big business goals that inform your event goals. From there, identify which metrics will show that you’re moving towards each goal. For example, if a business goal is increasing product sales, a related event goal might be driving traffic to your product demo booth at your event. To generate this traffic, you might use your mobile event app to advertise that your booth is holding a contest — and measure contest entries as a metric for measuring traffic generation.

For more ideas, here are over 40 metrics you can track for events with in-person and virtual elements.

Build a budget

A budget is another guiding light you’ll want to have so you know where you should save and where you should spend on event marketing tactics.

To create a preliminary event budget, which can be tweaked along the way, look at past events and historical marketing costs to get an idea of what you’ll need in the coffers. Next, create a list of every single expense, estimate the cost of each item, and then prioritize in order of importance and price. As your budget gets more accurate throughout the event planning process, you’ll be prepared to reprioritize on the fly if things are getting tight.

Generally, entire marketing budgets, events included, cost 15% or less of sales revenue. As far as what most businesses are spending their marketing budgets on, the most significant chunk goes toward paid media, then marketing events, then marketing technology.

Determine your marketing timeline

Here we’re talking about developing a plan for how your marketing campaigns will play out before, during, and after your event. This is yet another way to make sure your event team has the tools and cash it needs to pull off powerful promotions.

For in-person and hybrid events (which have both in-person and virtual components), we recommend you start marketing your event 6-9 months before it begins. For virtual events, turn on the marketing 3-6 months out.

Awareness stage: Market research, content promotion, etc.

In this first phase of the marketing funnel, prospective attendees are just becoming aware of your event and likely your brand as a whole. They may have stumbled across you online or gotten a recommendation from a friend and are trying to figure out what your event has to offer them.

Your job here is to develop a deep understanding of your ideal audience, build an experience that keeps drawing them in, and create content that continues to raise awareness.

Conduct market research

To pull in potential attendees at this phase, you need to know who they are to understand the kind of content and experiences that entice them.

Conduct market research to identify your existing audience, related audiences, and what they find valuable. While there are firms that specialize in market research, you can also do some of your own by digging into your analytics and communicating directly with current customers. This information can inform the development of personas, which are fictional profiles that represent ideal attendees. Personas give you a “real” customer to keep in mind as you create messaging that attracts the kinds of attendees you want.

Map consumer journeys

Events are key milestones along a customer’s journey with your brand. These crucial milestones include journeys and touchpoints of their own, which you need to be thinking about.

To ensure an event is an impactful milestone that helps keep consumers continuously engaged, attendees need to enjoy each touchpoint. It’s up to you to map out the interactions in each event journey to make sure attendees are able to achieve either value or ease — whether they’re registering for an event or participating in a year-round event community after the event has ended (more on this later).

Create an event website or landing page

You need to have a space where you can direct potential attendees to learn more or register for your event. In most cases today, this is an event website or landing page. Most of your marketing campaigns will end in consumers landing in this spot, so it should contain all event details, convincing content about your event, and a way for visitors to take action — such as purchasing an event ticket.

Keep your blog optimized and fresh

It’s no surprise that search engines are the primary starting point when consumers go looking for a product online. If you want to show up where consumers are, you need to be present on search engines. That means following the golden rule of search engine optimization (SEO) — keep your content fresh and high quality.

The best way to do this is to build a content creation strategy that aligns with what your audience desires and what your organization can handle. That may mean publishing monthly articles to your blog, or it could mean creating weekly podcasts — it’s all about what makes sense for you. When event time starts rolling around, you can create content that focuses on sharing details about the event itself, profiles of event speakers, and other information that encourages readers to stay tuned or go ahead and sign up for the event.

Share content across social

High-quality content shouldn’t just live where you publish it. Extend its reach by sharing it across the social media channels where your ideal audience is active (this is something you should be able to find out with market research).

Remember that social media conversations are meant to be less polished and more personal. Also, the format of your content may need to change when hopping between LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and so on.

For example, Ad World is a large yearly conference that knows how to create Instagram content that’s on-brand, high value, and easily consumable, just the way Instagram users like it.

Apply ongoing email marketing

For every dollar spent on email marketing, the ROI is around $40 — making this an incredibly effective marketing channel for event planners.  

The interesting thing about email marketing is that it can impact consumers anywhere in their journey. Email marketing is excellent for spreading awareness about the value of an event to potential attendees. It’s also a great way to keep up with and retain existing attendees between events. Just be sure to invest in an email marketing platform that enables smart segmentation so you can avoid annoying and alienating email subscribers with off-topic messaging.

Consideration stage: Engage guests, dive deeper with content, etc.

The consideration stage of the modern marketing funnel is where consumers are engaging with your content and have accepted that they can benefit from an event like yours. Your job now is to build trust and convince them that your event is the one they want to choose.

Dive deeper with content

As a powerful driver of any digital experience, you’ll again want to turn to content when it comes to showing a considering attendee your specific value.

Since readers at this stage have likely already engaged with your top-level content, it’s time to serve up something more profound. This means creating extremely valuable pieces of content like ebooks full of tactics, whitepapers full of data, and long-form interviews with recognized industry pros. This tactic will position your brand as a thought leader and makes it easier for potential attendees to trust they’ll derive unique value from the events you host.

Engage speakers, sponsors, etc.

The speakers, sponsors, and vendors you’re able to secure for your events say a lot about your event mission and the experience it promises. When these special participants promote your event, it can help highlight the unique value and features attendees can expect.

As an event planner, you may need to incentivize your presenters, sponsors, etc. to help market your events. You may also want to provide them with custom content to make their jobs easier and ensure their messaging is on point for your ideal audience.

Build trust with user-generated content

Most of us are likely to trust reviews from others we perceive to have similar goals and expectations. Peer reviews help us get a feel for a product, service, or experience without having to spend any money or tons of our own time on research.

Create a program to gather user-generated content (UGC) like reviews, social media posts, demonstrations, etc., and serve it to potential attendees in the consideration phase. UGC feels more trustworthy to consumers than ads and content directly from your brand.

Purchase stage: Implement urgency, remove friction, etc.

Finally, we’re at the stage of the funnel where consumers are ready to make a purchase. They’re pretty familiar with what your event — and competing events — have to offer. Your sole job here is to give them that final push they need to register for your event specifically.

It’s OK to use straightforward language and be overwhelmingly clear about your goal in this phase. Here’s how to move potential attendees toward key conversion points and make it easy for them to commit.

Remove friction

Go back to when you mapped the event journey and touchpoints. Where are things not going according to plan? Where are consumers pausing? Are there any points where they’re abandoning the funnel altogether? Take some time to remove any areas of friction that have shown up and are preventing potential attendees from becoming guaranteed attendees.  

Give a sneak peek of previous events

Free trials and demonstrations work because people like to try before they buy. Another way to create a similar experience closer to the end of the funnel is to offer sneak peeks of previous events.

Video is a great medium here. Clips from past events or recorded interviews with previous attendees can live on your event landing page/website near the call to action. Content like this can also be powerful in the late stages of your email marketing campaign, where you’re speaking to readers with high purchase intent.

Inspire urgency

Stirring up a little urgency or inspiring some fear of missing out (FOMO) is a common marketing technique to apply at this stage of the funnel. Incentivize consumers to complete transactions with messaging that mentions ticket scarcity, how quickly the event is approaching, or limited-time discounts.

Try remarketing

Remarketing or retargeting is a tactic that serves ads to people who have already interacted with your content but didn’t convert. If you intend to conduct remarketing, make sure your online advertising platform supports it. Google and Facebook ads are both prevalent tools for carrying out this approach.

Continuous engagement stage: Build community, harness data, etc.

As we mentioned earlier, the customer experience doesn’t end when the event does. At the bottom of the funnel, it’s all about continually engaging attendees to create life-long customer relationships. After all, the cost of retention is less than the cost of acquisition. Plus, consumers shop more and spend more with brands to whom they are loyal.

Create communities

One of the best ways to create continuous engagement is to create a community where event attendees, planners, speakers, and even sponsors can interact any time, anywhere. While some social media platforms offer community-building functionality, they require heavy mediation and ask members to keep up with yet another account in their already digitally-complex lives.

That’s why we built a community platform right inside the same virtual event application. For both event planners and attendees to use to engage with events. Webex Events Communities enables event attendees of all types to stay in touch both remotely and in person, exchange valuable resources with each other, and make plans to meet at the next event.

Release surveys

Post-event surveys — which can be disseminated via email marketing, social media, or in the continuous engagement community you’ve created — are a straightforward way to gather feedback on your event. Make sure to ask the questions that will help you make your next event even more impactful. Here are some examples:

  • What content immediately caught your eye?
  • Which of the activities did you interact with?
  • What presentation formats were your favorite?
  • Which specific speakers, sponsors, and vendors were the most valuable to you?
  • Would you recommend an event by our brand to others?

Harness data to improve your next event

There’s another even more accurate way to know how attendees enjoyed and interacted with different elements of your event — follow the data.

An event management platform with built-in event metrics and analytics is indispensable for planners who need to show how an event generated ROI, prove performance across specific metrics, and produce actionable insights to create more value with the next event.

Once again, Webex Events’ all-in-one event platform leads the way with a robust Data Dashboard. Webex Events surfaces event engagement metrics such as number of booth interactions, minutes spent watching virtual sessions, usage of interactive features like chat and video rooms, and much more. Webex Events also provides individual attendee engagement metrics such as who exactly clicked on specific banner ads, visited virtual sponsored booths, used a call-to-action button, and beyond.

This comprehensive view of what’s adding value  —  for you and attendees — is pivotal to understanding what’s working and what can be improved before your next event. In addition, Webex Events integrates with the rest of your marketing technology to help make event marketing a more integral and impactful element of your overall marketing strategy.

socio dashboard

Start building your best event marketing strategy yet

Create a compelling and customizable event marketing strategy by using this guide to apply your best tactics at every stage of the modern funnel. And to make your event marketing efforts measurable and easily integrated with your overall marketing strategy — which is more important than ever in an increasingly expensive and competitive event landscape — use Webex Events’ all-in-one virtual event platform.