​​ The Event Planner’s Guide to Event Marketing - Ultimate Experience

, Published by Ultimate Experience

Over our years of planning events, we've learned one very important truth: the event itself only takes a FRACTION of the time and effort, but the rest goes to promoting the event!

If you think about it: you can set up an impressive event— complete with amazing food and drink, production, and even the best giveaways—but if attendees are few and far in between, the conference or award ceremony isn’t going to succeed.


Experience has taught us that marketing and promoting the event is just as important as planning the event itself. To guarantee a successful event, the right audience must be targeted.

Easier said than done! Thanks to the ever-changing world of social media and marketing, it can be difficult to know how to market events properly. At Ultimate Experience, we learn something new at almost every event we plan.

This guide will walk you through the A-Z of planning events and help you make the most of our experiences planning events of every kind.

This event marketing guide will help you understand the most effective, viable tactics and strategies to promote your event—be it a Christmas party, product launch, charitable event, or awards ceremony. We've included case studies to demonstrate a variety of successful events.

The step-by-step guide will walk you through all the most complex parts of event marketing. Learn from the advice in the following pages, and you can maximise the effectiveness of your events!

Good luck, and happy event planning!

Download our FREE Event Marketing Guide in a PDF Format

Here is a PDF format for you to check our event marketing guide.


Why Events Are Great Marketing Tools

How can you be sure an event is the right marketing option for you?

At Ultimate Experience, we've discovered that events are the best option for reaching a wider audience—including people we would NEVER have reached through other methods.

Did you know that in 44% of cases, events return a 3:1 ROI? That's a pretty impressive statistic, especially when that equates to 300% recuperation of the money you invested in your event.

The truth is that events are becoming even more important for marketing and promotion. A staggering 83% of B2B marketers invest in events every year. 56% of marketers will increase their event budgets in the coming year, meaning they'll be spending even more on events in the hopes it will increase their returns.

So why are they willing to spend more money on events? 84% of consumers will re-purchase a product promoted at an event they attend. Once the first purchase has been made, the likelihood of a repeat purchase is incredibly high. That's A LOT of return and repeat customers. Beyond the numbers of at-event sales, the chance of repeat customers is absolutely worth the expense.

Repeat customers are the foundation of any company's success, and with 84% of event attendees re-purchasing your products, it can lead to some serious success

The Real Impact of Events

How important are events in terms of marketing? The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council sent out a survey to CMOs around the UK in 2013, asking them about the importance of trade shows and events. The answers are pretty fascinating:

Almost two-thirds of CMOs believed that trade shows and events are an excellent option for finding new business opportunities, meeting customers face to face, and generating leads!

Case Study

In 2011, HubSpot took part in the Dreamforce Expo. They became "Platinum Sponsors" of the event, but they knew they couldn't just be one more exhibitor among many. They had to do four things:

1. Stand out from the other event sponsors.

To do this, they wore bright orange tracksuits—definitely easy to spot from anywhere in a packed room! They also made their theme "marketing fact vs. marketing fantasy", using a unicorn as their theme.

2. Offer value to those attending.

To this end, they offered mini-assessments and one-on-one consultations for attendees' inbound marketing.

3. Be "everywhere".

Instead of occupying a traditional booth, they set up four "un-booths"—spots with casual seating, no walls, and places where people could relax.

4. Provide calls to action to increase engagement.

The assessments and consultations included calls to action to encourage people to sign up for HubSpot's tools and services.

With MINIMAL pre-event promotion, HubSpot generated more than 2,300 new leads, obtained over 360 full-product demos after the event, and signed five new customers.

In addition to that, the "Marketing Fact vs. Marketing Fantasy" slideshow posted to Slideshare received 55,000 views in the first few days, and their Dreamforce content received more than 100,000 views.

The unique, out-of-the-box approach to event marketing helped HubSpot to succeed, and it can do the same for you. Find ways to stand out, offer value, and increase engagement, and you'll get an excellent ROI on your event.

Still think that's easier said than done? Keep reading, and you'll find out what you need to do…

Why You Should Host Corporate/Company Events

Is an event really the BEST use of my limited marketing budget?

It's nearly impossible to say what is the "best" of anything. However, the statistics above show that events do yield a good ROI—potentially better than most other marketing events.

Beyond ROI, there are a few other reasons to consider company/corporate events:

Company ​Visibility

The only way to find new clients/customers is to go where they are. Or, get them to come to you. Events are highly visible, and they're an effective way to promote your products and your brand.

You can reach a much broader audience through an event than you could through any other form of marketing (email, social media, print, newspaper, etc.).

Branding Growth

Your brand is built upon the mental associations people form as they get to know you. For example, everyone KNOWS that Domino's Pizza is prompt, simply because they have built a brand around their "30 Minutes or it's free" concept.

Even if the quality of the pizza isn't as good as others, people call Domino's because they can guarantee a quick pizza. We've built that positive association in our mind.

That sort of positive association is vital for the success of any brand, but it’s not easy to build it. Events like TED, the Oscars, Fashion Week, the Olympics, or the Super Bowl are a way for businesses to associate their brands with things that people are interested in. Your event can be much the same.

By using an event to build that positive association in people's minds, you encourage them to think favourably of your brand—increasing the likelihood they will become a customer.

Generating Leads

This is potentially one of the most important reasons to host events. Events are a good way to not only network with fellow businesses, but it gives you direct access to "leads"—people you can convert into customers.

Of course, to generate those leads, you need to make sure you have the right demographic. Your guest list should be filled with your target audience. To do that, you need the right pre-event campaigns to reach the right people. In fact, you also need the right post-event campaigns to turn existing leads into clients, and to prepare the way for your next event.

Download our FREE Event Marketing Guide in a PDF Format

Here is a PDF format for you to check our event marketing guide.

Your Event Email Marketing Guide

To kick things off, we're going to start off with one of the most important tools for promoting/marketing your event: email.

Email is the perfect blend of customisation and access. You can reach millions of people around the world, but you can narrow the email list down to only the people who you want to target. Email marketing is touted as the most effective method of reaching an audience with a product or service. It's certainly your best tool for marketing your event.

Case Study

In 2011, network security company Stonesoft wanted to make a splash at the Black Hat Briefings. To that end, they created a "zombie-themed" campaign. 

They connected the concept of malware-infected computers to zombies, and thus their entire marketing theme revolved around zombies. Everything from floor stickers to event posters to booth flyers to the tabletop display had the same theme.

To increase engagement, they offered an incentive: a trip to Universal Studios' "Halloween Horror" event. They also held giveaways with zombie-related prizes, and their event promo video followed the same theme. They even went as far as hiring a makeup artist from "The Walking Dead" for the video.

But email played a vital role in their marketing. Three emails were sent to the Stonesoft subscriber database. In those emails, the "zombie spokesperson" invited the subscribers to the event. 

The goal: 

Increase attendees at the Black Hat Briefings while simultaneously driving more traffic to the booth.

This resulted in:

  • 384 leads from the event
  • Over 400 new contacts made
  • 10 new business opportunities
  • A revenue impact of $1.2 million​

Combined with the clever theme, the email marketing worked extremely well.

Pre-Event Email Marketing

The more lead-in time you have before the event, the better! Not only does it give your guests more advanced notice, but it gives you more time to send out multiple emails. And that "multiple" is very important.

Do you remember an event email if you only hear about it once? Unlikely, with competitors targeting your customers in the same way, you need to stand out and remind the customer your event is the one to attend, it can take at least 2-3 emails before a subscribers acknowledges your event.

You need to plan your emails in advance so customers have the opportunity to save the date and can prepare for the event if necessary, and you certainly don't want to send multiple emails within too short a time period (a week or two).

The best way to plan your pre-event email marketing is to give yourself a lot of lead-in time (3-4 months) to send out multiple email blasts about your event.

Strategy #1: Automate It​

Automated emails are great: you write just one email, set a time and date to send, and let the email service send it out for you. That one email is blasted to everyone on your list, all with one click of a button.

Email automation is incredibly efficient, and it can help you to get those pre-event emails sent off in just a few minutes. You'll spend more time writing the emails than sending them! You won't have to go to your email inbox and send the emails one person or even one group at a time. It's a simple one-click setup.

Drip, Mailchimp, Aweber, and Sendloop - Email Marketing and Automation Service are just a few of the services you can use.

How often to send emails? This is a VERY important question. You don't want to over-send emails to your subscribers, but you do need to keep reminding them of the event.

In recent years, accepted practice is up to 2-3 email per month. However, for your event:

  • 12 months before the event, send out the first event notice email
  • 1 month before the event, send out two more email notices about the event
  • 2-3 weeks before the event, send out at least one more email notice about the event
  • 1 week before the event, send out another email notice
  • 1 day before the event, send out the final email notic

The frequency increases the closer to the date, that's intended to increase anticipation for the event and keep it in the forefront of your subscribers' minds.

VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure the emails are different every time! You'll want to include the sign-up/registration button in every email, but you need to send different content every time. This can include:

  • A list of activities taking place at the event
  • Notice of special guest speakers or notable attendees
  • Video promoting the event
  • Notice of special incentives or prizes for attendeesnt

Make sure each email you send is different, and that it adds to the excitement for the event.

This flowchart, courtesy of Smart Insights, can give you an idea of what to send in each email:

You can prepare emails months in advance, and use a mailing service. Certain dates and times trigger the workflow, and a new email is sent out. It's the best way to save yourself a lot of time and make sure all the emails are sent out at the right time.

Strategy #2: Segment Your Email Audience

Your newsletter list is made up of hundreds or thousands of individuals, all with their own unique behaviour. Some people don't see or open your emails for days, while others never click on links. To make the most effective use of your email marketing list, you MUST divide that list into segments.

Most online email marketing solutions (MailChimp, Aweber, etc.) will allow you to divide your list into segments, according to things like:

  • Date they joined your list
  • How many emails they opened in a certain timeframe
  • How many links they clicked in a certain timeframe

However, you can also create your own segments, using Excel CSV files (templates for email marketing services) to organize your subscribers according to their age, profession, hobbies, and anything else you can think of.

Why is this important? For example, if your company sells shoes and you're creating an event to market a new pair of sports shoes. Your target demographic is athletic people who would wear those shoes, so you would want to send the marketing email ONLY to those who fit that profile.

The people who have subscribed to your company newsletter to find deals on kids' shoes, dress shoes, or Crocs probably won't fall within that target demographic. By dividing your list into segments, you can make sure to hit the right people for the event you're hosting.

It takes a lot of time and effort to make a properly segmented list. You must review your list and research the data for each new subscriber. To be able to do that, you need to make sure your subscriber form captures enough information for you. You need to invest time into researching things like:​

  • Job title
  • Industry/career
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • and the list goes on

By doing that research and examining previous email behaviours (opens, clicks, purchases, etc.), you can determine the segment of your list that will be the most suitable for your event marketing.

Case Study

In 2016, Litmus was attending The Email Design Conference and wanted to make sure the attendees from the previous year were invited. 

They created an email list segmented according to location (the conference was held in London, Boston, and San Francisco).

They sent out an email targeted to 2015 attendees, including links to posts from the previous event (tips and tricks, memorable sessions, etc.).

5 Bonus Event Marketing Tips

  1. Do a guest blog post with someone else attending the event. That way, you tap into their audience to promote your product/service. The fact that you're hosting them on your site earns goodwill with their followers/subscribers.
  2. Create your own hashtag. Make an event hashtag that's short, clever, and easy to remember. In every tweet or post, make sure to include that hashtag.
  3. Use a standard PowerPoint presentation template. Keep the appearance of your presentation media consistent, and it will stick in your attendees' minds.
  4. Give your attendees pre-written tweets and Facebook posts to share, complete with any hashtags or links you want to include. That way, all they have to do is click "Share" or "Tweet" without having to type anything.
  5. Have your event target a keyword. Drive up your SEO rankings, and your event will become much more visible on Google Search.

Post-Event Email Marketing

Just because the event is over, that doesn't mean you are done—and the marketing certainly isn't! In fact, your post-event marketing is almost as important as the pre-event marketing.

Whatever the primary purpose of the event (sell products, promote a new release, etc.), there is a very important secondary goal: generating leads. You may not sell out at the event, but you can get a lot of new social media followers and email subscribers. There is a lot of opportunity surrounding this.

If you have managed to collect email addresses for 100 new leads after the event. Not all of them will become customers, but if handful small percentage do, that still equates to a bigger client list.

There are two ways to contact people after an event:

Social Media​

It's always nice to contact all your new followers and thank them for their support. You can make a generic "Thank You!" post to go up to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and any other social media sites you use. Thanking your attendees and anyone who supported you is good manners and is sure to garner goodwill among your followers.

Email

Social media may be easier, but email is far more effective! A post-event email gives you a chance to:

  • Thank the people who attended or supported.
  • Share resources, media, and content with the people who couldn't attend.
  • Establish contact with the new leads generated via the event.

It's vital that you have a post-event email marketing strategy in place long before the day of the event. That way, you'll have everything ready to go even as those banners are coming down and the event venue is being cleaned.

Here is the 5 W's of post-event email marketing:

1
Why

As mentioned above, you can use an email to thank attendees and supporters, share content with the newsletter subscribers not able to attend, and make contact with your new leads. Even after the sales have closed, you can continue to increase the ROI thanks to email!

2
How

Once again, set it all up using MailChimp, Aweber, or some other email automation service. It’s good practice to have it set up days or even weeks in advance, with the automated workflow established and the segments built.

You can even create an entirely new list out of the leads generated at the event, and the emails will be sent to the new people on that list. Automate as much as possible in advance!

3
When

The email should be sent out within the 48 hours following the event. You'll already have sent out a "welcome" email to any new subscribers, so this is an email meant to thank them for signing up, offer some additional value (freebie or discount), and encourage them to take another action (joining another mailing list, checking out X product or service, and so on). 

As long as you send it out soon after the event (24-48 hours), you'll capitalise on the positive memories of the event. People will be more likely to take an action in those emails because they still remember the event.

4
Who

Once again, list segments are key! You can create multiple lists, or divide your existing list into multiple segments according to:

  • Behaviour (purchased a product or not)
  • Activity participation
  • Day/s of attendance

You can divide your list up into as many segments as you want. The more segments you have, the easier it is to target people with the content you want to share.

5
What?

What should you include in your email?

  • A thank you. Everyone wants to feel valued, and thanking them for attending/purchasing/signing up/participating is a good way to let people know they matter.
  • Value. Offer a discount, a promotion, or something exclusive that they will want to take advantage of.
  • A call to action. Ask them to click on a link, visit a page, check out a new product, or sign up for something else (that offers value, of course).

This is the key to taking advantage of the new leads you've generated via the event.

Best Practices for Effective Email Follow-Up

Here are a few smart tips to help you be as effective as possible with your post-event email follow-up:

Go over the campaign well in advance

We mentioned this above, but we're reiterating it because it's so important. Make sure to create the follow-up email weeks or even months before the event itself. Go over the content to make sure it's clear, well-crafted, and hits the high notes of the event.

You may need to make a few last-minute additions, but the email should be ready to go. All you have to do at the end of the event is log on, finish the email, and send it out—a few minutes of work!

Keep the recap short

The follow-up email is not the place to detail everything that happened at the event. After all, the people you're emailing were just there!

Instead, give a short recap of all the highlights, then move on to the important part of the follow-up email: the call to action.

Give a specific call to action  

Don't give people the option to "find out more". Instead, give them a very specific call to action: click here, download this, subscribe to X, etc. The more specific, the more likely they are to actually do it!

Consider multiple calls to action

A post-event email can include multiple calls to action, unlike the single call to action recommended in most emails. You've collected a wide range of leads, so create calls to action to appeal to the variety of demographics.

Give people options, and they're more likely to find something they are willing to do (click, subscribe, watch video, try demo, etc.).

Use pictures

Add pictures of the event into the email, and the visual will help to establish the connection in their minds. It's often the only way to remind people who you were among the hundreds of others attending.

Add personal info

Not the lead's personal info, but the info of the person or people they talked to at the booth. Include that person's name, phone number, and picture to make sure the leads remember who you're referring to. Many of them are ready to make the purchase—they just need to be reminded of the person who got them there.

Create multiple emails

You can keep the design and general content of the emails the same, but you need to tailor them to existing subscribers who participated ("thanks for joining in"), new leads that signed up ("great to meet you"), existing subscribers who couldn't attend ("we're sorry we missed you").

This way, you'll reach a broader audience with a tailored message.

Here are a couple of examples of post-event follow-up emails to try:


Sample # 1

Hi [Name],It was great meeting you at (event). Having looked at your website, I think you could benefit from using (recommendation). It’s been really successful when I’ve used it with my own team.

Would you like to find out more about it? I’d be happy to send over some templates and examples if you’re interested.

[Signature]


Sample #2:

Hi [Name],

It was great to meet you yesterday, thank you so much for the insight into (name of company’s) story. I think I’ve found a good solution for the (business challenge) we discussed. Lots of companies similar to yours are getting great results with our (product), which (explain what product does).

Would you like to discuss this further sometime this week? I would be happy to introduce some of our current customers who have experienced the same problem as you. I look forward to hearing from you.

[Signature]


Simple, but highly effective! They can be a simple solution to turn leads into customers with nothing more than a quick email.

Social Media Promotion for Events

Social media can be your best tool when it comes to promoting events. People are always looking for the new and interesting. If your event is that "new and interesting", it's all but guaranteed to garner a lot of attention!

Pre-Event Social Media Promotion

Here is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your pre-event social media promotions and marketing:

Step #1: Create a schedule

Use your social media platforms to spread the word as far and wide as possible.

  • Schedule 8-10 Tweets per day
  • Schedule 3-4 Facebook posts per week
  • Schedule 2-3 LinkedIn posts per week

This will help to create a presence for you on all these platforms, and will provide information about the event.

Step #2: Plan content according to the platform

Your Twitter posts won't perform as well on Facebook, and your Facebook content may be too "buzzy" for LinkedIn. You need to create content for each platform according to the users you are trying to reach. Tailor your posts to your audience.

  • Twitter is ideal for spreading links, especially if paired with clever hashtags.
  • LinkedIn is ideal for higher-level and technical information.
  • Facebook is for splashy, viral content that is visually appealing. It's also best for starting conversations.

Plan your content specifically to your platforms!

Step #3: Monitor performance

When you are posting your content, monitor it to make sure each post is engaging the audience as effectively as possible. Use analytics to schedule the content for the best posting times, and tweak the content according to what people respond to.

Step #4: Get experts involved

If you're sharing technical content, get the people in the know (the technicians and experts) to join in the discussion, field questions, and provide answers. That will increase the value of the content you share, thereby increasing interest in your event.

Step #5: Evolve and change as needed

Perhaps you're finding that certain elements of your marketing have a better response than others. Consider changing your strategy in order to cater to your audience as efficiently as possible.

Post-Event Social Media Promotion

Just because the event is over, that doesn't mean you can't keep the social media momentum going!

You've no doubt generated a lot of interest in yourself and your company, so it's time to take advantage of that fact. How can you do that?

Continue to generate interest

Share updates, news, and content that will keep people interested in you and your products/services.

Provide value

The key to keeping people interested is to keep them coming back for more answers/solutions to their questions/problems.

That means you need to continue posting high-quality content that provides value: how-to guides, informative lists, infographics, discussions, articles, and anything else that offers help and advice.

Repurpose content

The same content you shared before the event can continue to provide value after the event. You may have to tweak it a bit, but you can continue to share it for weeks/months to come.

Use the event as content

Share photos of the event, recordings of the discussions, case studies, and more. Your event can be content fodder that will be very useful to keep people interested in your social media platform even after the event ends.​

Social media is the best way to keep people engaged post-event. It will take a lot of work and planning (before the event), but it's always vital to have a post-event social media strategy in place to capitalise on the interest generated by the event.

Quick tips to promote events through social media

Here are a few of our favourite tips to help you promote your events via social media:

Use visual tweet services

During the event, use services like Visible Tweets to display tweets in real time on screens and monitors. It's a great way to tie your social media platform into your event and encourage people to tweet from the event itself.

Live-Tweet

Live-tweeting events are an awesome way to generate interest and appeal to the fear of missing out. People want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, so if they find out something awesome is happening right now, they're more likely to engage.

Tweet about presentations

Just before you have the guest speaker take the stage, tweet that they are going live. You can stream the presentation to Facebook Live to allow people around the world to see the presentation in real time. It will also generate interest for your event among people who can't physically be there.

Hit that hashtag hard

The more people use a hashtag, the more popular it becomes. Make sure everyone who tweets uses your event hashtag!

Upload those photos

Keep up a steady stream of posting photos, and it will keep people interested in what's going on! People respond to photos and videos far more than they do to text-based content.

Send out thank-you tweets

Send out "thank you" tweets not only after the event, but even during the event. You can send them out to anyone who checks into the event, tweets or posts from the event, or talks about it.​

Use your social media right, and it can be your best tool for spreading the word of your event far and wide.

Tools to Use for Social Media Promotion

If you want to save time and effort on promoting your event via social media, you need to take advantage of a few tools.

Not only will they reduce the time invested in social media promotion, but they'll provide analytics to help you monitor promotion activity. Those analytics will give you better insight into the way your social media followers respond.

Scheduling tools

Hootsuite and Buffer are two of the simplest, easiest scheduling tools, though there are many more (TweetDeck, Viral Heat, Social Pilot, Sprinklr, etc.). These services allow you to schedule social media posts weeks in advance, automating everything for you.

Social media analytics

There are two handy tools to help you measure your social media performance. First is Mention, which allows you to monitor mentions of your company, brand, or social media platforms around the internet.

Hashtracking helps you to measure the "buzz" of your event by tracking the sharing and usage of your event hashtags.

Use these tools to make your social media presence as effective as possible!

Live Event and Event Registration Platforms

Setting up any event can be a long, time-consuming process. Or, you can find tools that make the tasks a lot easier. Here are a few services and platforms that can to help streamline the event set-up process:


Eventbrite

This is a tool that allows you to create events, promote them, and create guest lists, event attendees, tickets, and more. It will help you to keep a close eye on who is attending your event—not only those who register, but those who actually attend!


Certain

This is automation software that allows you to personalise the experiences of your event attendees. It can help you to control brand perception, generate reports of your event performance, monitor analytics, and increase lead scoring.


Marketo

This is a tool that helps you to maximise your digital marketing across not only social media platforms, but also via email marketing, digital ads, and web content.


Cvent

This platform provides event registration tools that can be easily adapted to any social or commercial event.


Download our FREE Event Marketing Guide in a PDF Format

Here is a PDF format for you to check our event marketing guide.

Look over each of these platforms/services and see how they can help you with your event. Not all of them will meet your needs, so it's vital you find out which one works best for the specific event you're hosting.