June 23, 2022
Welcome back to How to Promote Your Virtual Event, a three-post series on all things virtual event marketing!
Last post, we talked about building a thoughtful event marketing strategy. Now it’s time to execute. That means creating all the splashy graphics, pithy copy, useful emails (and more) that’ll convince people your event is worth their time (and arranging all that into a schedule that your team can stick to. Easy, right?).
If that sounds overwhelming, good! If you’re accounting for every possible touchpoint, and care about executing each one well, it should feel a little imposing — but not impossible.
So start by prioritizing the channels that’ll yield the most success: Event planners listed social media as the most effective tool for event marketing (74%), followed by email marketing (66%), their website (60%) and their event registration site (26%). From there, you can start to build visual assets, write messaging and create channel-specific content to drive registrations.
(Note: Whether social or email is more effective for your brand depends a lot on your demographics, but those two channels will almost certainly rank one or two for you.)
Take a deep breath and top up your coffee, people. There’s a lot to cover here. But we’ll break it down discipline by discipline so each person on your team knows what they need to make an impact. Here's where to start:
The most effective marketing strategies look and sound the same across all platforms. Whether they find you via email or social media, your website or your podcast, your attendees should know what to expect from your event experience — promised takeaways, biggest speakers, aesthetic and tone — and how they can register.
That cohesion doesn’t happen if your social media and digital interns are making up copy on the spot, 20 seconds before hitting publish.
Instead, have your writers and designers create template communications and graphics, then distribute to your social media, email, SEO and other team members. From there, develop an event branding kit that your team can refer to when creating their own assets.
Besides making your marketing more cohesive, this saves major time for your team: They can copy and paste key marketing assets into their social media posts and emails, tweak them for the format, then move on to other tasks.
Doomsday headlines be damned, email marketing is NOT dead. And that’s especially true for event planning, with 76% of marketers saying that email is the single most effective way to drive event registrations. So effective email marketing could double your event size, but lackluster email marketing could blow back on your brand. Here’s how to do it right:
1. Start with your list: Since many of your registrations will come via email, you’ll need to beef up your email list in order to maximize registrations. 10 years ago, this would’ve taken a year and/or the rights to your first-born child. But now you can easily upload new contacts (ethically!) from your website exports, integrations with other platforms, free trial and demo lists and your current customer lists.
The more people you have in the pipeline, the wider your potential audience. Because even if your recipient can’t attend, they could tell their coworkers and/or sign up to receive a recording — all of which still has business value for you.
2. Segment, personalize and send. Starting with a wide pool is good. But if you send event invites to all 50,000 of your subscribers, and only 1,500 even open the message, your emails are likely to be marked as spam and diverted to the junk folders of all your recipients — even the ones who want to hear from you.
Since so few people think to retrieve emails from spam (unless they’re receipts or flight confirmations), this can kickstart a negative cycle that erodes your email’s success and your event’s potential. (Learn more about sending spam-free bulk emails here.)
So step two is identifying your most interested users and sending your invites only to them. The best way to do this is prompting users to opt into different kinds of communications when they’re first subscribing to your list.
Using an opt-in checklist, have your users select the kinds of communications that they want to receive from your brand: product updates, business news, new content, and/or a combination of the above. If they opt into two or more of the above, or they opt into hearing about your content, they’re more likely to attend your event — or at least open the invite.
3. Go short and sweet on content. The average office worker receives more than 120 emails per day. PER DAY. So even if you’ve planned four days full of relevant content, Pulitzer-winning presenters, etc., nobody’s got time to read all about it. At least, not in one email.
So give your guests what they need and nothing more: Two or three sentences teasing your event content and biggest speakers, an event graphic giving people the logistical details, and a bright and prominent registration button. Tell them to register and get out. If you’ve done your job, that’s really all you need to earn registrations.
4. Encourage referrals. Face it, your followers are more effective promoters than you. Because even the snappiest subject lines and coolest GIFs can’t replace the value of advice from a friend who knows you.
Or, in breaking news, people trust their friends more than they trust brands with a profit motive. Word-of-mouth referrals make up 20 to 50 percent of most purchasing decisions, so why not reward your customers for helping you out?
Include a “forward to a friend” footer in each of your emails — or better yet, create a formal referral campaign. We’ve seen hosts invite their best promoters to exclusive networking sessions and roundtables, send them free physical swag boxes, and more, so get creative!
Bonus: If you have different customer communities, this is a great way to give them exclusive access to your content — or allow them to move into a higher tier within your network.
Want to learn more about using email marketing for your online events? Check out our best practices here.
From TikTok and LinkedIn to YouTube and (yes) Facebook, social media is a sprawling, complex beast. The specifics of your social media strategy will depend heavily on your brand, your demographic and your audience's previous levels engagement. However, below are some posts that can inspire action among your attendees, regardless of which platform you're using.
1. Graphics + gifs with basic event data: 6 to 8 weeks before the big day, get your audience buzzing. Start with a basic graphic and/or gif with the who, what, where and most importantly, why of your event. From there, continue posting about it once or three times per week, increasing in frequency as you get closer to your registration deadline.
2. Repost your presenters with an invite for the event: Give your presenters an affiliate link, which enables them to repost your event invite via a trackable individual link. Repost some of them to hype them (and your event) up.
(Pst, give your presenters all the necessary social media posts, copy and/or videos in one partner success kit, so it’s easier for them to promote your big event.)
3. Calendar listings: Especially as virtual events become more widespread, include yours in Facebook and other online event listings for more visibility.
4. Giveaways for followers who share the invite: This makes particularly good sense leading up to a freemium event with some great speakers and exclusive paid networking opportunities. A free upgrade for next-level content could incentivize a lot of your followers to start sharing.
5. Shoutouts for exhibitor and sponsor deals: If sponsors and exhibitors are offering exclusive trials or demos at your event, that’s additional value worth sharing with your potential guests.
6. Blog posts: Leading up to the event, share your company’s blog posts on the issues discussed in your agenda. Pay attention to how they perform, then use any trends to direct the rest of your event/content strategy.
7. Teaser videos: Leading up to your event, post 30-second videos of your biggest speakers in action (you may need to ask their PR team for a clip or use their past appearances).
Pull their best, most event-relevant quote and you’ll heighten anticipation for the speaker’s appearance at your own event. Post alongside the registration link and you’ve got yourself a great conversion tactic.
8. Encourage employee advocacy: As we’ve already established, the right referrals can do a lot of work for you. Following the same logic, encourage your company’s thought leaders and/or your colleagues to share the event with their own networks.
If your event’s suitably on brand, your team members should be able to talk about it naturally and organically, in a way that doesn’t depart from their professional brands. (That said, save time and sweeten the pot by giving them sample copy/graphics, especially if you’re hitting up your company’s C-level employees for free marketing.)
Posting on their own, people can speak more freely and informally than they would on your brand’s LinkedIn account. They can add more of a personal touch to their marketing efforts.
Bonus: If your company leaders are participating in your event, encourage them to post about it on their own account, then share it from your company’s page. This gives your followers another preview of the expertise your event has to offer.
So we just told you to post your presenters in action, and to encourage your team members to share.
But the single most valuable thing you can do to promote your event is to combine those two strategies: Empower your presenters to promote your event as well.
Since most speakers have the goal of building their personal brands, this won’t be a hard sell for them.
And if your team provides your speakers a kit with suggested copy, images and/or videos, they can broadcast your template messaging to their follower base with minimal additional effort on their part.
With just a few posts, your event will reach thousands of unique followers that wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise, and your speaker will get more publicity. Your social media team will see results while being able to work on higher-level tasks. So quite literally, everyone wins.
But beyond the numbers, this allows you to tap into the trust that your partner has built with their audience and transfer it to your event.
Your speaker’s followers are likely to trust his or her expertise and judgment of opportunities. So if your speaker values you and your event enough to participate, their followers are more likely than the average rando on social media to trust your event — and attend — as well.
It’s stupid effective: We’ve seen event organizers double, even triple their reach just through smart partner advocacy.
From a cost-benefit perspective, partner advocacy is the single most valuable event marketing strategy you can use. Make a few friends and you’ll find yourself with a lot more attendees as well.
But it’s hard out there for a hustler, so learn more about leveraging partnerships to benefit your online events here.
If you have a podcast organized around the same topic as your event, host your presenters in the weeks leading up to the big day. This introduces your listeners to your presenter and their expertise in a low-commitment, natural setting, so it can be a sneaky effective promotional tool (or at the very least, prime them to come to a future event).
Especially if you’re hosting a premium or freemium event, that initial exposure could nudge someone on the fence toward paying up and participating.
Be sure to include a registration link to your event and call it out during the beginning and end of your show as well.
Two or three months before your event, it’s go time. Execute your event promotion across each of your channels. Keep these strategy considerations in mind before you hit send:
1. Create tracking links for each channel: Channel-specific UTM codes will help your team identify the source of each registration. Using this information, you can shift your efforts toward overperforming marketing channels and away from less effective ones.
Also give each of your event presenters and partners a link to share with their own networks. From that, you can identify your most active partners and participate in one of their events (and keep inviting them to your own) in the future.
2. Create a master schedule for marketing communications efforts: Remember the last super-catchy song you got stuck in your head? You probably liked it enough the first time. You heard it once or twice per day, over a few weeks, and it steadily grew on you.
You didn’t hear the song 15 times in one sitting, then fall in love. You heard it just enough to build excitement, but not enough that you got turned off, and your enthusiasm built over time.
You should approach your event communications the same way. And although you do want immediate registrations, most people will need to hear about your event 5, 7, even 10 times before they register. So telling them about it 3 times in one day, then going radio silent for two weeks, won’t be as effective as a subtle drip of communication: an email invite on Monday, a social media post on Wednesday, etc.
When your endgame is generating registrations, it’s not just about quantity. You need to space out your communications strategically and consistently to draw the most people.
So as you deploy marketing messages, create a master calendar to ensure your team’s not stepping on each others’ toes (or spamming your multi-channel followers).
If only you could load up your promotional posts, hit Schedule, then sleep until event day. But until the robots come for marketing jobs, you and your team need to keep a pulse on your promotional efforts throughout the process.
Here’s what you need to consider while deploying your pre-event marketing.
1. Track your performance. Compare each piece of communication against your usual numbers, then tweak accordingly.
If your email open or click-through rates are underperforming, consider changing your subject line and email content, respectively. If your social posts are falling flat, consider introducing more video and/or interactive elements showing your speakers in action.
The more proactive you are in monitoring each platform, the more effective your future outreach will be.
2. Decide when (or whether) to close registration. Track your numbers and decide whether or not to close registrations. Note that only about 50-65 percent of virtual event registrants attend live, so shoot for a registration number that’s about 1.5 times your event platform’s capacity.
3. Shift your focus from registrations to conversions: No-shows are a fact of life. Some people, overscheduled during the workday, might sign up solely to get access to the post-event recordings.
But after registration closes, focus on minimizing no-shows of the “I forgot I signed up for this” variety.
Many virtual event platforms have features that can support those conversion efforts—without any manual labor on your part. BigMarker’s confirmation emails include calendar integrations, so registrants can put the event onto their Google Calendar—and block other obligations from their schedules.
The platform also includes multiple automated emails, which are sent to attendees 24 hours before and 30 minutes before the event begins, respectively. You can also choose to send reminder emails for individual sessions, such as matchmaking networking sessions or breakouts. Hosts can also use push notifications and social media posts/stories to generate week-of anticipation and reduce no-shows.
And that concludes Part 2 of How to Promote Your Virtual Event! Continue on to Part 3 to learn how to activate your audience during and after your virtual event. (And to review the basics of virtual event marketing, return to Part 1.)
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