Events, large and small, can be a great way to promote your business, and perhaps turn a profit in the process. I didn’t take the idea of launching an event seriously until I read Joe Pulizzi’s book Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses. Inspired by Pulizzi’s perspective on events as a content marketing tool, my marketing agency launched events in China and Hong Kong to build an audience and our company’s brand in the Asia market. I recently hosted a virtual, online summit with 61 experts on influence like Dave Kerpen, Chris Brogan, Adam Grant, Dorie Clark, and Jonah Berger, and for next year am involved in organizing events in the US and UK.
Organizing an event is hard work, even if it’s relatively small. As a former director of the Hong Kong chapter of Startup Grind, I hosted over 20 events, most with fewer than 100 attendees, but even these minor events were major exercises in project management. One of the greatest challenges to pulling off a successful event is marketing it.
According to Constant Contact, 59 percent of event marketers seek help in finessing their social media strategy. It’s no secret that great artists steal, so an effective way to refine your event promotion strategy is to look to the people who are ahead of the social media marketing curve.
Let’s start with one of the U.S.’s biggest events of the year: the Super Bowl. In 2016, PepsiCo revealed that 40 percent of its budget for the big game went toward digital. Why? Because that’s where the conversations were happening. Pepsi began with the lead-up to the event, which included a 12-day fan countdown on Twitter and a partnered ad with Tostitos featuring Von Miller of the Denver Broncos. During the game, Snapchat provided live footage and real-time content.
What kept the conversation going was Beyoncé’s performance with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, including her first performance of the song “Formation.” Following the performance, Beyoncé immediately released news of her 2016 Formation World Tour. Given the timing, Beyoncé, her tour, and her album were and forever will be linked with the PepsiCo halftime show.
You and I may not have access to the kind of dollars the Super Bowl organizers do, and event promotion, as with any marketing, isn’t as simple as throwing money at a particular form of advertising and hoping for the best. Still, we can learn from organizers large and small how to better market our own events. Here are 9 steps you can take to ramp up your event marketing strategy:
1. Develop a multifaceted marketing plan.
You will never drive the results you want by focusing all your energies on a single platform. Instead, take an approach of organized diversification, starting with email marketing and social media. Create a dedicated hashtag, which will serve as a tracker through every stage of your event. Get your PR team to send out event reminders and take out ads in local newspapers. Most importantly, make sure your website is configured well and that the steps to finding more information about your event are both easy and small in number.
2. Consider paid ads
Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are just a few of the many social media platforms that provide paid advertisement services. On a large scale, paid ads can tell you just about anything you want to know about your audience -- including their location, their age, the device they’re using and even the time they’re most likely to be on social media. Though some information might seem insignificant, remember that all of it can be used to keep your customer engaged long after your event ends.
3. Employ retargeting
Eventbrite, a useful resource for any organization looking to step up its next event, cites retargeting as one of the best tools to get potential attendees off the fence and in the door at your event. Consider retargeting an even more precise approach to paid advertising by specifically focusing on those who have visited your event page but didn’t click “Buy.” Though you might think retargeting is simply a form of pestering, note these statistics: Fifty-nine percent of people have an entirely neutral reaction to retargeted ads, and 30 percent actually react positively to them. Further, retargeting can boost your ad up to 400 percent.
4. Back up your online efforts with signage.
According to an infographic from Ethos3, 65 percent of the population learns visually, so backing up your event with physical graphics is a surefire way to create even more buzz. Take bluemedia’s work at Super Bowl 50. The national signage company was tasked with creating building wraps, banners, stadium graphics and even branded fences for the game. The reach of the promotional graphics is undeniable -- more than 70,000 people flooded Levi’s Stadium, and CBS reported that more than 167 million people watched Super Bowl 50, making it the most watched event in history.
5. Enlist your presenters.
When I launched my virtual event, Influence Summit, I partnered with virtual summit expert Bailey Richert who helped me create graphics, swipe copy for emails and social media posts, and an affiliate program for speakers so they could easily share the word about the event and profit from it. Nicole Holland, organizer of a similar online event called the Business Building Rockstars Summit, invited the speakers to produce short videos which she promotes on social media, and we speakers promote to our own audiences.
6. Collaborate with other event organizers.
Rarely is another event a direct competitor to yours, but there are many that are potential partners or collaborators. If you and another event have similar audiences, but cover different topics and don’t compete in terms of scheduling, then there may be a great opportunity to cross-pollinate. “I collaborate with various groups and publications,” says Ariel Shapira, organizer of Video Trends Conference 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel. “I also collaborate with other events – I don’t see them as competition but as partners – cross publication works very well.”
7. Host mini “preview” events.
Perhaps no entrepreneurship related organization has taken this as far as Startup Grind, which has hundreds of chapters hosting thousands of local events each year. By the time their annual global event rolls around each year they have thousands of excited attendees lined up to buy tickets.
8. Create a great event.
Sometimes organizers get so distracted marketing their event they forget that the best marketing is the buzz created by attendees who love the event. "The most important part of event marketing is creating a remarkable event,” says Christopher Kneeland, Co-Founder, The Gathering. “Spend sufficient time and money making sure your event is uniquely compelling. If you do it well, your attendees will do your marketing for you.”
9. Feature your event, even after it’s ended.
Combine pictures taken at your event with promotional photos and posts from attendees who used your hashtag to create a second wave of interest for your brand. By tracking post-event engagement, you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your budget, the ROI earned and simply whether your attendees enjoyed themselves. Also, consider mentioning the partners who helped you with the event by expressing gratitude. Not only will this be karmic, but it will also give those brands the recognition they deserve.
All in all, remember that the above tactics are not the only ones that will bring your event success. Authenticity is the No. 1 driver of consumer engagement, so make sure your event’s offerings align with your brand to create a lasting impression.