When it comes to pulling off a successful event, there are 4 components you need to have covered: planning, budgeting, defining your audience, and promoting the event. Presumably, you have a set budget for the year to spend on your events. Let's say it's $100,000. When you're putting together your annual plan - a list of events and conferences you're hosting/attending - you'll want to assign some budget to each one. Be sure to leave at least 15% unused as undoubtedly you will go over budget for several events and we all know that securing budget above and beyond the initial amount allotted can be very challenging. Determining the amount of budget per event depends on the type of event and what you plan to do at that event (are you sponsoring, hosting a micro-event outside of the conference, etc.), as well as a look back on spend from previous years should that information exist.
Arguably, the most crucial component is the audience. Assuming you've planned a stellar event with insightful content and speakers, if you don't get the right attendees to your event, the event is effectively useless and you can bank on achieving little to no ROI. But if you're able to identify the right target audience - perhaps a mix of customers and prospects that want to hear from you on a specific topic and an enticing agenda, that's when you can go back to your management team and justify your spend. So how do you get these people to attend and make you look like a rockstar for pulling it all off? Depending on how big the event is, give yourself 30-60 days for event promotion. For larger, multi-day, 500+ attendee events, 3-9 months of promotion is more like it.
Frequency of outreach (promotion plan), well thought out messaging (copy), and consistency in branding (design files, logo, colors, tag lines) should all be part of your event marketing game plan. Once you have that nailed down, there are a number of channels to promote an event and depending on your product, service, and industry, you'll find varying resources. When it comes down to it, the basic building blocks are as follows:
- Press Release - this is the most obvious, and likely not going to drive a ton of visitors to your event website or event, but it helps quickly get the word out and is an additional resource for promotion.
- Social Media - posts and promoted ads. what to promote: speakers, agenda, evening events, networking opportunities, who else will be there, testimonials. If this is a regular event, and you have a large enough following, create separate social media accounts. Create a Facebook event page, LinkedIn group, Instagram, and Twitter hashtag or handle.
- Influencers - are experts in their field and your future evangelists. Invite them to your event, give them content to promote, discount codes. They will help you spread the word amongst their large followings.
- Blogs - creating a constant stream of content, helpful for SEO, gives people background they need to know why they should attend. testimonials, case studies, references.
- Event Website - consistency with branding, event logo, event name goes a long way; testimonials.
- Giveaways - free tickets, contests, access to speakers, one-on-ones with executive team members.
- Sponsors - use your sponsor networks to spread the word. Create compelling sponsor packages that include a number of free tickets. Provide a discount code for the sponsors to share amongst their network and track to see which sponsors get the most people to attend.
- Pre-events - host lead up events or attend other events where you can promote your upcoming one.
- Swag - anything with your logo/branding that people will use beyond your event, especially if the event is repeatable is essentially a walking billboard for your event. Get creative and avoid the usual. No one needs another mug or stress ball.
- SEO - Use the word “event” in your title tags. Use it in combination with other words that your target audience would be interested in. Use bullet lists, images, videos, and internal links.
- Event Calendars / Directories - get your event listed on popular directories, event aggregators, and news outlets.