Last weekend we were honored to be a part of another successful event at our client’s downtown center and it got me thinking that a great post would be one discussing digital marketing best practices for events and everything else that is necessary to make an event successful and get the kind and quality of participant you want.
Before I start, although there are a few places where this will overlap with non-conventional marketing, this will solely focus on the digital marketing components.
Step 1 – Define Everything As Far Out as Possible
What’s your event about? What activities will there be? What are the goals of the event (or organization throwing the event)? What kind of people (and count) are we looking to attend?
The answers to these questions are absolutely vital in planning for, and executing, a successful event – from a marketing perspective.
As far out as possible (meaning at least 3 months ideally) you should have all of these documented to hand off to your web marketing team for them to assemble a plan of execution. If the event is particularly LARGE in scale/scope (thousands of people) – make sure to check other activities happening in your area to see if there are any conflicts. We’ve seen repeatedly for example, in our area in Southwest Florida, that many large groups compete for awareness and attendance when their activities fall on the same day. Definitely, something that can be overcome by following the steps in this guide, but if it is possible to reschedule/shift dates, it can make a world of difference in attendance.
Step 2 – Website
The most important element when preparing your own events for success and online marketing, is making sure the event is actually on the website. There’s a couple ways to do this, and at it’s core, it involves planning your website in–advance to allow for this, but whether you have an event plugin on your website (with calendar) or simply a section of your site where you list your events as a page, it’s vital this gets posted.
An important note on this, to make it as simple as possible for potential visitors:
Consider naming the event based on the search queries someone might do. For example, if it’s a fishing tournament for a non-profit, consider naming the event “Fort Myers Fishing Tournament for kids…” that way should someone search for that kind of event your website, and the event itself will come up.
Other key usability elements to consider (and make sure are on the event page):
- Event Title
- Exact Event Date and Time
- Location (and consider adding some kind of map)
- Additional Important Details – Called out at the top, it’s helpful to list any additional details (parking information, pricing ,etc. – this depends on the event)
- RSVP Tools – If RSVP’ing is required, make the process simple and straightforward and test it before publishing live
If you don’t yet have a tool on your website for managing calendars we highly recommend the following plugins (if your website is wordpress based):
Both of the above plugins are great for easily managing events and calendar items (and include additional features and functionality to manage RSVPs).
Step 3 – Email Newsletters
The next step is to generate an email newsletter for the event and send to a relevant audience. In addition to this, I would highly recommend some kind of multiple-mailer process, whereby you let your audience know about the event (and link back to the information on your website) and setup mailers to go out continually as the event approaches. You don’t want to overdue it but I’d recommend 3 emails – initial announcement, a week out, and a final email the day before the event as both a reminder to sign up and a reminder for those that have already signed up to participate in the event the next day.
Step 4 – Social Media
This is perhaps one of the most important parts of this guide now-a-days. In our experience events that have a corresponding social media push literally receive 10x the results (attendance, signups, sales, etc.) as non-social media marketed sites. And to explain here, we’re talking a multitude of different things when it comes to social media:
- Event Placement
- Social Media Pushes
- Event Advertising
Event placement refers to specifically to making sure to create the event on the platform. Here we really recommend facebook events, as so many people run their social/personal calendar using Facebook (and the system has automatic reminders) it’s definitely the place to be for any kind of social or business event. Additionally, we highly recommend some kind of event promotion using Facebook’s ad tools. The specific-targeting Facebook provides allows you to zero in on your audience effectively (and inexpensively). For a recent event we helped our client receive over 10,000 attendees with little more than $1000 budget (conventional advertising would cost more than 30x that).
Bonus – if you’re attending an event, say for your own company – we highly recommend writing a blog post about the upcoming event and what you’ll be doing (table, just attending, etc.). We’ve done this for all major events and it has the positive impact of helping you appear for search results for said event (and helps introduce your business ahead of time to audience attendees).