If you plan it, they will come. (At least, that’s the idea.)

Here’s the truth: There’s no guarantee anyone will show up, even when you’re hosting a virtual event. However, with the right virtual event marketing strategy, you can increase your chances of success.

The key to a successful online event is getting the word out to your target audience, which can be a challenge.

So, what do you do? Three words: Virtual event marketing. If you want your target audience to tune into your upcoming event, implement a solid marketing strategy. But spreading the word about your online event is easier said than done.

Let’s dive into the details of virtual event marketing and explore how you can boost attendance and engagement at your next online event.

What is virtual event marketing?

Back view of male employee have online video call on laptop with diverse group of colleagues

Virtual event marketing is a type of event promotion that refers specifically to virtual events. Its goal is to direct more attention to your upcoming event and increase attendance. 

By now, most event professionals are familiar with the idea of an online event. As a matter of fact, 62% of marketers surveyed in July 2022 had hosted virtual events in the past 12 months, according to the Content Marketing Institute. Why? Because not only are they fun and engaging, but they’re also highly effective at reaching your audience. In fact, B2B marketers ranked virtual events second in terms of content assets that produced the best results (behind only their in-person counterparts). 

Looking for some creative virtual event ideas? Click here to read more.

Virtual event marketing vs. in-person event marketing

Promoting an online event uses many of the same marketing strategies event professionals are familiar with. The biggest difference is that the timelines are much shorter, which means you need to make the most of your marketing effort while you can. Typically, planners need between three to six weeks to promote a small virtual event successfully.

Fortunately, there are fewer variables in play. Without physical venues, food, transportation, or any other in-person demands, virtual event planning tends to go faster. However, this also means you have less time to effectively market the event, which means your marketing strategy better be well-coordinated.

Benefits of virtual event marketing

The right amount of promotion proves paramount to event success. With a good plan in place, you even stand to gain a number of important benefits:

  • Brand awareness: An optimized event marketing strategy can increase brand awareness and cement your place in the event planning industry. This, in turn, can help you stand out among the competition.
  • Event registration: The better you promote an upcoming event, the likelier your target audience will register. And, of course, more ticket sales mean more revenue for you and your sponsors.
  • Lead generation: When a potential attendee signs up, you gain their data, which you can use to nurture them as leads and convert them into actual customers.
  • Attendee expectations: Event promotion teaches the target audience about the event. This helps you set their expectations and deliver a top-notch experience they won’t soon forget.

Marketing a virtual event: How to plan your strategy

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As an event marketer, your responsibilities include executing your marketing strategy to the best of your ability. This can be a daunting task considering how many event marketing tactics you have in your arsenal. So, where do you begin?

To get the ball rolling, consider the following when planning virtual events:

Research your target audience

At the end of the day, your marketing effort is all for nothing if it doesn’t jive with your target audience. You need to know exactly who you’re targeting and why. In short, you should at least identify:

  • Potential attendee demographics 
  • Where they spend time online
  • Attendee motivations, goals, and sentiments

This information helps you tailor content to your audience’s interests and needs.

Let’s say you’re hosting a virtual conference. What would the ideal attendee be like? Are they younger or older? Are they B2C or B2B? What do they like about your brand? Where do they receive their content? What are their interests?

Questions like these help narrow down which marketing channels/tactics are worth exploring.

Schedule your marketing effort wisely

Plan your entire marketing campaign well in advance. Sticking to a timeline helps ensure all important milestones are met as you get closer to the big day. Plus, it makes it easier to hold your team accountable for their respective roles in your marketing strategy, such as content creation or performance monitoring. Consider the three stages of the event planning process and what tasks are relevant for each specific phase:

  • Pre-event: Content creation, email marketing, etc.
  • During the event: Attendee engagement strategies and live-streaming production
  • Post-event: Follow-up emails, attendee feedback, and analysis

Keep in mind that timing matters. Don’t start too early, but don’t wait until the last minute. You don’t want to lose your audience’s attention over the course of the journey, but neither should you risk leaving yourself too little time to generate enough reach. 

Establish an appropriate cadence for content delivery over the course of your campaign. This ensures your audience doesn’t get overwhelmed by information, but still keeps your upcoming event on their radar.

Build your message

People won’t just register for your event on a whim. Most of the time, they’ll need a little convincing. In other words, they want to know how they stand to benefit from your conference, trade show, or another type of online event.

Think about your event’s key aspects. Ideally, you should be able to identify qualities that would resonate with your target audience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What value does your event offer a potential attendee?
  • How could your event help attendees overcome an obstacle?
  • Which of your audience’s needs are you addressing?

Once you have your answers, you can start crafting your message. What sets your event apart from the rest? Communicate this to your audience to maximize event registration and generate interest. 

Something to keep in mind: Not all event attendees will be interested in your event for the same reasons. Tailor your messaging to these respective segments to best reach each one individually.

The top 5 marketing channels for 2023

Now that you’ve nailed down the basics, it’s time to put your plan into practice. To do that, you need to understand which marketing channels are most effective, how they work, and why they’re a must-have piece of your promotional puzzle. 

Let’s review five of the top channels you should consider using in your virtual event marketing strategy:

1. Email marketing

Businesswoman typing e-mail on laptop at office desk, composing professional email letter using business etiquette, writing e message to corporate client online, focus on screen, close up rear view

There’s a reason why email marketing is among the most impactful marketing channels in the world. Not only do millions of people around the world use email on a daily basis, but it’s also an incredibly cost-effective way to reach your target audience. In fact, every dollar marketers spend on email marketing generates $36 in return.

When a person registers for your event or signs up for a newsletter, you gain their contact information. This allows you to send regular updates to their inboxes as you get closer to the event — but don’t go overboard.

It’s best practice to send emails at a steady cadence leading up to the big day. Plan out a handful of emails, such as an announcement, reminder, or preview of what’s to come. Make sure to filter your email lists into segments to keep every communication helpful and relevant to the recipient. For instance, you don’t want to send a confirmation email to someone who hasn’t even registered. 

Click here to learn more about pre-event email marketing.

2. Social media

An estimated 235 million people use social media in the U.S. alone. 

That’s reason enough to consider it one of the most critical event marketing channels at your fingertips, not to mention the fact that 88% of marketers say social media increases brand awareness. From branded hashtags and interactive quizzes to behind-the-scenes content and influencer marketing, social media offers countless ways to engage potential event attendees. 

First, consider your target market. Which social media platform do they use? Then, produce content tailored specifically to that channel. LinkedIn, for instance, is a great B2B marketing tool because it’s used primarily by a professional audience. Instagram, on the other hand, is a largely visual medium and is great for promoting your event through photos and videos.

3. Event website and/or landing page

Two women working on new website design choosing pictures using the laptop surfing the internet.

Don’t neglect the power of a well-crafted event website. Yes, your website is home to your event registration page, but it’s also your attendees’ go-to place to find important information. 

Design your event website to be flashy, exciting, and memorable. It should serve its purpose as long as it’s on brand, easy to read, and doesn’t distract your visitors. Include all the key details, such as:

  • Event name
  • Event date and time
  • How to livestream the event (through your virtual platform)
  • Speaker bios
  • Sponsor information
  • Event agendas

Pro tip: Look for a virtual platform with built-in event registration software that allows you to build branded landing pages for your website. This enables you to collect all the necessary data and deliver a seamless registration experience.

Mobile phone lying on open laptop with purple and blue video ad with white play button visible on screen.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads provide a great way to supplement your organic word-of-mouth traffic. In fact, 65% of marketers say paid search is the most effective PPC channel, according to Brainlabs.

With tools like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and YouTube Ads, you can leverage hyper-specific targeting to reach members of your audience who have viewed your event website or engaged with your emails. The best part about PPC advertising is that you can easily track and analyze performance through metrics like clicks or impressions. If an ad isn’t performing well, it can be adjusted and tested for optimal results. 

5. Content marketing

View of open notebook with the words Content Marketing written on the page with various related doodles surrounding the words.

Content marketing is about producing various types of content that your audience would find useful or interesting, such as an infographic, blog post, or video. The common denominator, of course, should be that all assets educate the customer and help them understand why your event is valuable.

Does it work? The short answer is a definite yes: Nearly half of marketers say that content marketing has helped them increase attendance at one or more in-person or virtual events in the past 12 months. 

Pro tip: Pepper some high-volume keywords into your blog copy. This can help boost your organic search exposure and increase traffic to your site. To that point, always link to your event website and/or registration page to maximize conversions.

Optimize your strategy with event marketing technology

The average no-show percentage for virtual events is roughly 35%. That’s a lot of missed opportunities to engage your audience, nurture leads, and generate revenue. 

One way to close the gap? Event technology. More specifically, a virtual event platform like Webex Events.

Hosting your future events on the right virtual platform is important. It’s not just where attendees experience your live event, it’s also how you collect leads and demonstrate ROI. And with a partner like Webex on your side, you can rest assured that all your bases are covered. In fact, G2 recently named Webex Events one of the best event marketing products of 2022.

From branded registration pages and lead retrieval to seamless live streaming and email integration, stay ahead of your competitors and optimize your marketing efforts.

Learn more about Webex Events when you request a personalized demo today.