You’ve had that bright spark moment, found a gap in the market for an event that can bring real value to the B2B or B2C sector, of massive educational or cultural significance. You’ve planned your content, found a venue, it’s plain sailing – but, unfortunately, no one knows you exist.
So how do you sell tickets to an event no one has ever heard of?
You may have an event idea that has the potential to be the next Web Summit or SXSW – but until you start selling tickets it doesn’t amount to much. So how do you not only think outside the box but break right through it to grab people’s attention?
This 10 Step Checklist to Marketing Corporate Events takes you through the importance of developing an event marketing strategy that stretches across social, digital, and traditional media from conception to post-event feedback.
1. The “organising idea”
Attracting attendees to your event requires a clear understanding of what value attending will bring to your audience. Will it change their perception of your product or service? Will it entertain, educate, or inspire?
Collaborate on this with the key stakeholders in the event, get your thoughts together, and mark out your end goal for the event – what you want to get from your audience and what you want them to get from their experience. This thought, what we call the “organising idea”, becomes a rallying cry to bring your audience together and an anchor point against which the event marketing strategy can be created and evaluated.
2. Who are you talking to?
This question probably informed your reasoning behind creating the event, but it really comes into play in your event marketing strategy. Before creating any content, before setting up a Facebook page, before shouting to the great big void that exists when you have no social following, think about who your audience is. What do they do, where do they live, how old are they? Time is a precious commodity – why would they want to give up theirs to come to your event?
When you’re pitching for new business, you don’t go into the room unprepared. You find out everything you can about the person you’re meeting to understand how best you can approach the situation. Marketing an event online takes on the same principles as pitching to a roomful of people – doing your homework always pays off. Understanding your target audience will inform what your message is and how your event marketing campaign is managed so take the time to understand your audience’s needs and wants. We call this process “empathy mapping” – getting inside the audience’s head to create a targetable persona. This starts with HubSpot’s method of developing buyer personas. Lisa Toner, who recently spoke at Social Media Summit, discussed the importance of building buyer personas into your marketing strategy.
“The success of your business starts and ends with knowing your buyer personas inside out and creating immense value for them at every step in their buying journey. A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is destined for failure. The smart marketer understands the need to research and develop their key buyer personas and then put those personas’ needs at the heart of everything they do and create in their marketing.”
Lisa Toner, HubSpot
Not sure where to start? Check out the HubSpot Academy to learn how to develop buyer personas for your product or service.
3. Get your message on brand
Using the information you’ve gathered in developing your organising idea and empathy mapping your audience, it’s time to think about what your brand message is. You know what your audience wants and what you have to offer – how are you going to relay this message to them in your event marketing? What language or tone will they respond to? What are your competitors saying and how are your target audience responding to them?
People are more likely to buy from a brand that they trust and can relate to so take the time to develop a brand personality that will appeal to your target audience and a voice they’ll want to engage with. Don’t rush this process – you’re developing an event experience that people are going to remember and want to associate with.
“Set your stall out as to what your personality and tone of voice is going to be on social media, define that, write it down as your mission statement, put a sign with it up on your wall, and stick to it. A lot of people get confused about their tone of voice and what they’re trying to achieve. At Paddy Power we knew from the start who we were and what we wanted to do and have stuck by that.”
Michael Nagle, Paddy Power
4. Know your strengths
Be clear with yourself what you bring to the table and what you need to ask for help with. To design and manage a successful large-scale event marketing campaign you need to know what resources you have at your disposal – the expertise of your team, your organic digital reach, your budget, etc. – and what you need to obtain. Draft to your team a copywriter who can write compelling content for your blog, a creative director who can design ads that will make people sit up and pay attention, and a digital marketing strategist who can make the best use of your spend. If you don’t have these skills in house, go find them.
Your biggest promotional strength is going to be your speakers. Your target audience isn’t interested in giving their time or money to attend a conference they’ve never heard of no matter how valuable you tell them it will be – but they will pay to learn from respected industry thought leaders. The earlier you get your speakers onboard the more online credibility you can generate for your event. When signing speakers, be clear on what you need from them – remind them that raising the profile of your event will reflect well on them for speaking at it and ask them to promote your event to their social following.
5. Are you in the right room?
You know who you’re talking to, you know what you want to say – now you need the right platform to reach your audience. Knowing your audience and your brand will directly inform what social platforms you target.
“If you’re planning a corporate conference, a large portion of your audience will be on LinkedIn whereas if you’re promoting a new music festival your targets are probably checking platforms like Instagram and Snapchat more frequently. Social demographics will tell you what platforms your audience are likely to use so start there and create content that will suit the platform.”
Daniel Halpin, Cogs & Marvel
Think about what content you have and what you can get. Sharing insightful articles on the state of the industry and latest trends might resonate with your LinkedIn audience but aren’t what people go on Instagram to see. Look at you own social patterns as a barometer for this – when you’re on Facebook or Instagram late in the evening you’re not looking for work related content but if you’re scrolling LinkedIn in the office you don’t want a loud, flashy showreel playing. Think about what works for each platform, what times of day your target audience is like to be searching, and position yourself in front of them. If you have the time and money, create a variety of content – blogs, videos, podcasts, etc. – to suit the platforms you’re on.
Don’t try to be everywhere though – for marketing events on social media, you’re better being strong performers on a few platforms than running thin everywhere. If you’re researching an event that hasn’t posted in six months how relevant do you perceive them to be? Think about your resources and what is achievable – don’t promise things you can’t deliver.
6. Social media ads
Organic reach on social media won’t get your brand far. To get in front of your audience you’ll need the money to back your event marketing campaign. While advertising on social media can get expensive quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing, done strategically it can give you direct access to your target audience.
Think about all the information Facebook has on you. They know your age range and what gender and location bracket you fall into. They know who your friends are. They know what posts and pages you’ve shown interest in. When marketing on social media you can take full advantage of Facebook’s (or Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) library of information and target your audience using the information you built in your empathy mapping.
Plan your event marketing strategy from right now, create a content calendar, mark out the milestones along the way that you’ll want your audience to know about, and form your budget accordingly. Don’t plough all your budget into week one shouting about how great you are and leave nothing to announce your speaker line up.
Most importantly, track your spend – see where it’s going and what level of success it’s bringing. Don’t stick all your eggs in one social basket – run split tests using different copy, graphics, and ad types on different audiences to find what works. Set achievable goals to meet – don’t just pick a number and expect to reach it. Social media is a powerful tool for marketing events but if you aren’t putting the time into creating content that resonates with your audience it’s not going to go anywhere.
There are reams of articles on how to craft ads for different platforms which we couldn’t condense into one post so here’s our go-to library of how to create great ads on social media.
7. Digital marketing
A piece of sound advice – if you have the budget, leave it to the professionals. They’re pros for a reason! To find a digital marketing partner worth their salt check out the Google Premier Partners – trained and certified by Google in the AdWords products.
If you’re going it alone, similar rules to social etiquette apply: look back to your empathy mapping to target keywords and sites your audience will be searching, be intelligent about your spend, and stick to the imagery guidelines. Don’t ignore AdWords because it’s outside your comfort zone, but don’t run into it blindly either.
The best help comes from the source. The links below will help you choose your ad type and get you started on Google Advertising today.
8. Buyer’s journey
Think about how your audience experiences your brand, from the first time an ad appears in their newsfeed to completing purchase on a ticket, as a journey that you can control. Chances are you won’t have many people who go straight from a first glance to closing sale – you’re going to have to coax them along. What assets do you have to point them back in the right direction when they veer off course?
At the awareness stage they’ve seen an ad, maybe taken a look at your social pages, and clicked through to your event website. Where have they landed on your site? Where do you want them to go next? Make the discovery path you want them to take the natural one that leads to that end goal: the ticket page. Make your case compelling to get them as far down the sales funnel as you can – but don’t be disheartened if they leave without sealing the deal. How often do you buy without consideration? Probably more than you’d like to admit but, on an unknown brand, you’re more likely to do your research. The people who have visited your website have shown that they’re interested so don’t lose them through neglect.
Remarket to them: create ad sets across social and digital marketing specific to those who have made it to your event website and not purchased. Help them remember who you are, what value you have to offer, and pull them back for more. Don’t bore them with the same content – show your event as innovative and engaging. Treat it as a conversation with your buyer – if you are rehashing the same points over and over again on every social platform they’ll begin to hate the sight of you so it’s key to have new and exciting content specific to their buying stage.
9. Strategic partnerships
It’s well and good you shouting about your event but, without a reputation to back you up, why would anyone believe you? Aligning yourself with a person or brand that your audience trusts and respects adds weight to your offering so develop strategic partnerships that will add real value to your event marketing campaign. As a start-up event that you or your company is financing, paying for advertising space and marketing and PR expertise is a big investment so create attractive partnership opportunities with sponsors that can help you along the way. Some partnerships that you should be thinking about…
Traditional media – radio, print, television – gives you access to a wide audience; get a media partner on board early and get them talking about your event. As a sponsor of your event, the outlet that you align with will impact people’s perception of you, so align with a platform that has your target audience under their media umbrella.If you’re flying in speakers or targeting an international audience you’re probably looking to get an airline and hotel partner. As part of
If you’re flying in speakers or targeting an international audience you’re probably looking to get an airline and hotel partner. As part of sponsorship negotiations ask them what they can give you to offer as a competition prize to your audience – things that will entice people to like and share your page or incentivise them to buy tickets by a certain date.
As we’ve mentioned (once or twice) getting in the right expertise is invaluable to your marketing strategy – talk to advertising and digital marketing agencies about what they can offer you in exchange for exposure across your platforms.
10. Show up
Unless you’re planning for a one-off event, chances are Year One is an investment in the future. Advertising for Year Two begins the minute the audience walks in the door so don’t forget to meet them there. Have an on-site event marketing strategy in place with scheduled updates throughout, but don’t neglect what’s happening in the room. Ask the audience questions. Poll which speaker or act they’re most looking forward to seeing. Think outside the box to add to their event experience.
Think about how you want people to engage online throughout the event. Think about how far you can reach if you have your audience, speakers, entertainers, festival-goers, etc. telling their following how much fun they’re having at your event. So create photo opportunities, tweetable moments, and shareable content – give people a reason to shout about your brand.
Once the audience is gone, the set taken down, and the (deserved) celebratory drinks are had, don’t just switch off for another eight months! If you’ve delivered on the experience you set out to people will have opinions. Good or bad, these are invaluable learnings for next year so track everything – keep your brand alive. Set up a post-event feedback form with some incentive (maybe a discount code for next year?) for the audience to fill out. The more information you have the stronger your position is to develop your event marketing strategy for Year Two and build on your brand’s legacy.
At Cogs & Marvel, we believe that every time you get a group of people together, whether they be staff, customers, partners or consumers, you have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with you. You have an opportunity to turn passive admirers into an army of advocates for your corporate brand. Cogs & Marvel is an event agency that creates brand experiences to delight in the moment and inspire lasting change.
Want to inspire change in your audience? Get in touch with the Cogs & Marvel team.