Event Marketing Strategies and Best Practices

While 2020 shook many industries to the core, the event sector was one of few that felt the impact of Covid-19 most abruptly. Event marketing was pretty much put on ice for the first few months of the global lockdown while organizers disrupted, digitalized and adapted their strategy to keep the sector alive.

93% of event professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward, meaning that event marketing will look starkly different from what it did in the past. However, that’s not to say it’ll be any less valuable in helping marketers establish relationships, get feedback from their audience, promote new products and increase brand awareness. And, with the right planning and strategy, you’ll continue to see ROI from your event-based marketing efforts in 2021.

During this post, we’ll walk through event marketing tips to ensure you have the knowledge required to optimize your event promotion efforts, increase visibility amongst your target market and win more event-based marketing budget for next year.

Table of Contents

Think about your event marketing goals

Before you decide on event marketing tactics, you’ll first need to establish event marketing goals. Your goals should be linked to your organization's overall business objectives, so there’s no one size fits all approach here. That being said, 55% of event marketing pros cite the following as the most common goals for their events:

  • Attendance
  • Customer relations
  • Education
  • Retention

Having clear event marketing goals doesn’t just guide your marketing tactics, your goals also help determine the type of event you should attend. As Bizzabo explains, “Intimate VIP events may help to win new customers, while thought leadership and networking events may help to increase brand awareness, and awards ceremonies may help to generate revenue from ticket sales and sponsors.” So, the type of event you organize will depend on the objective you are hoping to achieve.

Consider how you want to execute your event-based marketing strategy

Investing in the right event marketing access that also aligns with your marketing goals is the first step in your event strategy journey, so make sure you give this consideration time. If marketing budget resource is restricting you from investing in a full pass, you’ll want to look into other options, like gaining general press or industry access or only having a (virtual) exhibition hall pass. Remember, there’s always wiggle room to haggle on costs, so don’t take the price at face value.

Attend a conference as a participant

If the marketing budget only allows you to register as a regular audience attendee, roll up your sleeves and enroll in workshops or (digital) breakout sessions. Use your time wisely by attending the workshops that’ll help you solve your own business and marketing challenges.

Although it’s tricker, 'attendee only' access can still be used as a resource to drive marketing lead generation. Take a look at the exhibitor list and during the breaks make a beeline for any that could be potential prospects and start to promote your product/ services to them. You should also consider attending the workshops of prospects that you are keen to speak with.

Put up a booth at the event

Booths are particularly useful for sales product demonstrations, so if you’re launching something new, we’d recommend including this option in your marketing strategy. The good thing about booths is that they encourage 1-1 dialogue with attendees, so your sales team can really personalize their pitch. You can also ensure you’re being strategic with booth traffic by booking meetings with attendees and sales reps prior to the event, which will help generate organic footfall as crowds tend to naturally gather around busy booths!

A stand at a tradeshow

Snag a speaking slot

If you have enough marketing budget to invest in a speaking slot, do it! Speaking slots help position you as a thought leader. They can also help you drive traffic to your booth if you have one. Most trade show organizers provide the details of people who have watched your talk, so it’s a great marketing lead generation tool.

We’d recommend using the opportunity to collaborate with an influencer, this might be profiling a client or joining forces with a thought expert. Whoever you decide to put on stage, they need to be both knowledgeable and charismatic. Do your research beforehand by watching videos from previous talks and running a search on their name in your media intelligence platform. Doing so will help you understand what topics they’ve presented on in the past that have generated the most positive buzz.

Sponsorship options are great brand awareness boosters. This too can also help position your brand as a leader through association. Sponsoring doesn’t tend to drive attendee leads, so if that’s your event-based marketing goal, it’s better to invest in one of the alternative methods mentioned above.

3 Ways to Use PR & Content Marketing for Events

Whether you are just attending the event or you are speaking at it, there are several different ways you can leverage the opportunity in your content marketing and social media strategy. We'll explain how social media posts, press releases and blogs can be used to increase awareness around an event, expand your network and become a thought-leader.

1. Increase awareness through public relations

PR is a great way to get the word out, create audience buzz, improve visibility and drive registrations & booth visits when it comes to promotional activities. As discussed in our blog 10 examples of effective press releases, a press release must be adapted according to the campaign, promotion and message. This means the format of a product launch press release will be different from one of an event campaign.

When putting together a press release around your event, keep your overall goals in mind and frame the press release around what you want journalists to do after reading it. For example:

  • Do you want them to promote your event to their readership?
  • Do you want to personally invite them to come?
  • Do you want to invite them so they can cover the event and relay this back to their audience?

When it comes to sending out press releases around events, “what doesn’t work is writing the same old press release for the event,” says Vannessa Wade, Founder, Connect The Dots PR. “Add flare. Talk about the event with excitement. Have a clear call to action.” Olivia Adams, communications strategist at Byrum & Fisk adds, “Whenever possible I try to connect client events to a local community conversation or a trend. This makes media advisories, press releases, pitches, and social media content all that more relevant and impactful when the event is connected to a bigger conversation.”

Once crafted, you need to identify relevant publications to promote to and pitch your press releases. Don't forget to post the release on your website, circulate it via social media and issue the release on wire services. Then, when coverage starts coming in, share the articles on social media and feature them on the event landing page.

Tip: Another event promotion tactic you can use to help land coverage is by interviewing the keynote speakers before the event or arranging for them to speak with members of the press.

writing skills matter for pr

2. Use content marketing for event promotion

At this point, you may have an idea of how you’d like to promote your event and cover the conference. But during an event, especially one that is a week-long, it’s challenging to do anything other than focus on what’s happening in the present. Your marketing team will be busy networking, attending sessions, taking notes, watching exhibitor demos, and going to either happy hours or dinners in the evening. Attending a conference can feel chaotic, so having an idea of what your coverage should look like before the event is the best course of action. One way to ensure you are able to create and produce content during the event is by blocking out time in your schedule ahead of time. You'll already be planning out which talks and presentations you go to, so make sure to slot in time to create and post your social content.

Leveraging content marketing before (or soon after) the conference is over will allow you to engage attendees while they are still thinking about the conference and searching for information. For example, you could post a wrap-up blog or infographic at the end of the day outlining your key takeaways from each session. If you share the content on social media, you'll also be able to interact with attendees engaging with the event hashtag on social channels. And, who says networking can only happen over a cup of coffee in the lobby before the event begins? You can easily begin networking with the other attendees who are active on social media during the conference.

Here are some other event marketing coverage ideas to help promote your attendance:

  • Engage your target by creating interview videos to be used in daily Twitter updates
  • Share photos highlighting speakers or attendees that reflect your target audience’s demographic
  • Post live videos to Facebook, Instagram ot LinkedIn from the conference floor
  • Create a daily blog post that recaps panels
  • Promote your attendance via live tweet with attribution (Twitter lists comes in handy here)
  • Share general coverage of the event on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram with hashtags, which will help other attendees learn about you during the event
  • Develop an infographic or blog post-round-up that includes lessons learned that can be used by your target, it’s also a good opportunity to include your favorite quotes

Whatever event promotion content type you choose to create, remember that people don’t buy into the event itself; they buy into why the event is taking place and how attending will benefit them. Therefore, you may want to write about why you decided to attend this event and what sets it apart from others.

3. Increase engagement through social media

Social media can be utilized during every stage of the event marketing process. For instance, it can be used to increase awareness of the event (Facebook and LinkedIn event features are great for this), keep your target audience updated with insights throughout the actual event, and generate a community of likeminded people that can continue the discussion once the (virtual) doors are closed. Let’s look at the role of social media during your event marketing strategy in more detail.

Hand on a phone playing on social media

Using social media for promotional activities before the event

Depending on the conference, it may be possible to see an attendee list with accompanying social media handles before you arrive; gather them and put them into Twitter lists. If you’re super organized, separating out speakers and attendees can be useful later when you’re on-site covering the conference as communication will be slightly different. Since Instagram doesn’t have the ability to make lists, just follow those handles. If no attendee names or social handles are included, identify attendees by looking at who is using the event hashtag and search the speakers’ names.

Using social media during the event

Most events have dedicated hashtags and it’s a good idea to be monitoring them through a media intelligence tool so you can join the conversations and connect with fellow attendees in real-time.

Be sure to post a running commentary of the talks too (and include the hashtag) so your social media handles become a ‘go-to’ for guests. Due to the real-time nature of Twitter, it’s best to use this channel for live updates compared to LinkedIn, where wrap-ups are more appropriate. We know that event management can be stressful as things don’t always go right on the day, so we’d recommend scheduling posts, as well as putting out live updates during the event to ease the pressure.

To help increase the reach of posts, you should tag other partners and sponsors as this will boost the likelihood of them sharing your content. Speaking of reach, employee advocacy can be invaluable during the before, during and after stages of event management. Each of your staff has their own communities and influence over their followers. When this is combined, the reach your brand can benefit from is vast. To start with, enable your employees and make it easy for them by creating sample posts to share. If you’re interested in building a more advanced employee brand ambassador program, check out this blog!

Using social media after the event

After the event, interact with the people that used the official hashtag or mentioned the event online. Why not ask them if they attended your talk? And if they didn’t attend, ask if they’d like the slides. Either way, you are continuing to expand your network and developing a community around yourself or brand.

Analyzing the digital footprint of the event on social media can help inspire blog posts, infographics or social posts in the future, as your team will be able to see what topics generated the most conversations. For example, marketers might choose to use the most buzzed topic as the leading message of your event follow up campaign.

Follow up!

You can have the best promotion tactics in the world, but any marketer will tell you that when it comes to driving ROI from your marketing events, it all comes down to the follow-up. And, unfortunately, for any marketers looking to control the entire customer journey, this follow-up is typically handled by the sales team. However, there are a few hacks you can deploy to improve the chances of initiating event marketing conversions.

  1. Research shows that the best response time for following up with sales leads driven by marketing events is within 10 minutes. This means you have a very small window of time to act on hot marketing leads before they go cold, and your event attendance becomes less impactful.
  2. Outbound sales are very different from inbound marketing, so don’t assume your sales teams know how to follow up with event leads. Hold a debrief session with your sales team before sending them the leads, so they don’t end up calling them blind. When you do send the leads through, make sure the follow-up notes are super clear. If you have the resources, set up an inbound marketing organization that specializes in this area.
  3. If your sales team give feedback that a lead wasn’t ready, put them into a nurturing campaign. Lead nurturing is the process of engaging prospective customers by providing them with appropriate content at each stage of the sales funnel to earn their business at the end.

According to research from Bizzabo’s “Event Marketing 2020: Benchmarks and Trends report”, 85% of leaders and executives identified in-person events as critical to their company’s success. Surprisingly, this number is more than double last year (I guess you don’t know what you have until it's gone)! Since in-person live events are unlikely to happen in the next few months, 93% of event marketing professionals plan to invest in virtual events instead. With that being said, 96% of event professionals don’t believe virtual events will totally replace in-person ones, so we’re likely to see more hybrid events (a mixture of live and virtual) emerge when we get nearer to the ‘new normal’. With this in mind, hopefully by now you have a better idea of key event marketing considerations, promotion tactics to include in your mix and advice for converting marketing leads into marketing revenue! Do you have any event-based marketing tips? Tweet us, @Meltwater, we’d love to hear them!

Before you go, if you’d like to read more marketing strategy tips, check out the marketing section of blog!