Virtual Event Marketing: 3 Strategies to Drive Attendee Engagement

This is a guest post from Maggie Greene at Pathable Inc.

The modern marketing landscape is focused on building experiences for customers, prospects, and associates—and this applies to events as well.

Increasingly, successful businesses consider events to be part of their overall organizational marketing strategy. In light of this year’s pandemic, however, we’ve seen many in-person events pivot to virtual events.

See how other companies have used email in the wake of changing business plans.

That necessitates taking a more holistic approach to driving engagement among attendees.

Read on to explore key strategies for marketing your next virtual event, helping you zero in on your audience and create engagement before, during, and after.

 

1. Set your stage early.

The most memorable experiences are those that truly engage your attendees. Establish and incorporate an overarching theme inspired by the event, the time of year, or the latest trends in your industry.

Lean into details like color, design, and sound to articulate the “setting” of your event, which is ultimately the environment you’re seeking to create for your event communities.

Culture

As the event marketer, you know your audience better than anyone. You understand what motivates and inspires attendees and what keeps them coming to your events.

When it comes to your event culture, consider the relationships and conversations your audience will respond to most. Is the event culture one of sales (buyers and sellers, like you might see in trade shows and expos)? Is the culture more about thought leadership and education? Or maybe your event is something more niche—specifically catered to a less-represented group.

No matter your event’s unique culture, keep it top of mind in every marketing message you create. This will ensure the expectations you set before the event are carried through to the online experience.

Check out our 7 email marketing best practices for event promotion.

Environment

We all know the physical space and surrounding an area can be a major draw for in-person events, but how does that apply to a digital experience? And how does it affect your virtual event marketing?

Because you can’t entice attendees based on location or venue, you’ll have to get creative. Consider using emotional triggers to create a desirable virtual environment: one that offers networking opportunities, giveaways, and a supportive atmosphere.

You might do this by opening up Q&As, setting ground rules that both protect and encourage dialogue. Most webinar software offers a live chat option, so try utilizing this to make attendees feel included.

Content

Every event features cornerstone content that speaks to the culture, environment, and overall experience you’re trying to build as a planner. Remember to weave in the key themes you established early in the planning process into your content.

Be sure that all speakers, demo leaders, activators, and staff understand how important it is to align around the event theme. Lean on them to reinforce your marketing messaging where appropriate in their presentations.

Take everything you know about the culture and environment of your event, and seize opportunities to augment content with those details. This will help attendees remember the experience. They’ll feel more confident that your event was time well spent, because it’ll be easier for them to bring value back to their businesses.

Context

We all understand the importance of content, but context deserves the same amont of care and attention. Each message should be thoughtfully produced and considered as a piece of the broader portfolio of communications associated with your event.

Each marketing channel (e.g. email, social media, banner ads, etc.) for your company and event should reflect consistency in brand and tone. Consistency in language, color, texture, frequency of content production—all the things that make a brand’s presence unique—will help you contextualize your messaging for attendees.

The better they’re able to remember and understand, through their own contextual lenses, the more they’ll feel naturally inclined to engage with your event, even before it takes place.

Value

Of all the products and services out there, no commodity is more precious than time. Whether evaluating time spent or time saved, people who attend events make an investment and, as such, they’ll expect a return on that investment.

Marketers are taught to lead with benefits in their communications. For events, consider the ways in which value is perceived by the various communities impacted by your event.

Sponsors and exhibitors, for example, find value in business development. Depending on the culture of your virtual event your attendees will find value in both business development and network-building.

2. Pull back the curtain.

The biggest, most successful events may seem to unfold like magic, but there are actually multiple teams at work behind the scenes. As part of the attendee experience, let them in on that action.

Give them a sneak peek at what you’re building for them. Giving away some of those perceived secrets will help your attendees see themselves in the event long before they attend.

Highlight your speakers, panels, and keynotes. Let them know what they’ll be learning. And if you’re doing a giveaway, tease your attendees with the promise of a free gift.

Diversity

Events—whether physical or virtual—draw in a number of professionals. Lock in a diverse group of speakers and panelists from a number of organizations to provide a sense of inclusivity and representation for your audience.

Your attendees will likely not want to see a group of speakers who have similar titles, work for similar companies, and have similar experiences. In fact, 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment opportunities.

This means your event could be a driving force for change.

Humanity

As modern marketing is focused on building great experiences, it’s important to recognize the most powerful brands are no longer nameless, faceless corporate entities with no personality. The professionals who work there are as human as the people they serve.

Opening the proverbial curtain to reveal what’s behind-the-scenes at your event makes attendees feel like they’re part of your plans.

If you want to drive greater engagement, especially pre-event, lead by example across all your available channels. Show them you’re human and genuinely excited about the event. Give them a taste of what they’ll experience.

3. Tell them a story.

The human brain is wired for stories. Narrative arcs help us retain information and activate senses that ultimately control decision making, actions, and taking risks.

Every good story has a hero and conflict with moments of change, then (hopefully) concludes with a positive ending or valuable lesson.

Your event is the hero, perhaps, and not attending would be a tragedy. Tell them why they matter, build up their connection to the experience before it happens, and explore what they’ll gain by attending.

Give them a part to play.

Invite attendees to lean in with you at every touchpoint of your event:

  • “What sessions are on your can’t-miss list?”
  • “If you could ask one question of the keynote speaker, what would it be?”
  • “If you’re a first-time attendee, what are you most anxious about?”

These are all examples of open questions you and your teams might pose (in open or closed social media groups) to attendees before the event takes place.

Be sure you’ve planned to continue the conversation because, if you’ve cultivated the right culture and environment in your marketing messaging, they’ll be eager to open up and engage.

Personalize communications.

Consumer expectations have evolved such that personalization is requisite rather than recommended for effective marketing. Personalization is often as simple as leveraging existing data to tailor a broader message.

This data can come from any number of sources: your CRM, registration solution, or a combination of both.

Attendees need you to help them along their journey through your event experience. Personalizing communications is one way to assure them you’re paying attention to who they are and what matters to them.

Set them up for success

Recordings of previous years’ event content and highlight reel videos are great for giving attendees a peek at what they can expect to experience.

Proactively inform them how they can plan ahead by sending them emails to excite them for the event, as well as reminders and countdowns.

Additionally, mobile event apps and conference microsites are great examples of technology built for attendees.

Wrap up

While your on-site event marketing may have turned into a virtual event marketing strategy, there are still plenty of ways you can curate a unique experience attendees enjoy.

Consider the culture event attendees crave, the environment they want, as well as the content, context, and diversity they need to feel empowered. By doing this work on the backend, you’ll create an event attendees will be sure to remember.

And for a deeper dive into getting attendees to engage with your emails, check out Campaign Monitor’s Comprehensive Guide to Elevate Your Email Engagement.


Equal parts voracious reader and passionate writer, Maggie Greene is an expert in communication. As Marketing Manager for Pathable Inc, she’s customer-obsessed, results-oriented, and dedicated to celebrating the value of highly customizable event apps and web solutions.

The post Virtual Event Marketing: 3 Strategies to Drive Attendee Engagement appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

9 Email Marketing Strategies for Driving Event Registrations

Article first published September 2017, updated November 2019

When it’s time to host an event, marketers need strategies for promoting the event and encouraging registration. One channel they turn to? Email.

Email marketing can be instrumental in driving subscribers to sign up and attend, which drives the ROI of your event.

According to research done for our Event Marketing 2018: Benchmarks and Trends report, most event organizers believe that email marketing is the most effective marketing channel for promoting events.

But how can you build email marketing strategies that help you reach these goals? While there may be no silver bullet, there are many strategies that have been proven to work as you promote an event.

Read on to discover 9 outstanding email marketing strategies paired with some favorite examples. You can also use these tips with our free email event templates to announce your biggest event yet!

6 types of professional events worth considering

Before you can focus on driving event registration, you have to choose which type of event will suit your brand’s needs the best. There are hundreds of different event types out there that can help increase engagement between your brand and your target audience, so we’ve gone ahead and narrowed down your choices to these top 6.

1. Webinars

With more and more people turning to the internet to solve their pain points, a webinar could be an excellent choice for your next event. Webinars can be both prerecorded or live and are great when it comes to new customer acquisition.

Webinar topics can range quite a bit but tend to focus on some introductory content that your audience is searching for to help them with an issue they’re having.

Webinar email invite example

Source: Really Good Emails

2. Product launches

Product launches are another great example of an event that your brand can host to help you better engage with your current audience, all while still drawing in new prospective customers. Product launches are excellent because—like webinars—they can be held both online or in person.

These events focus on updating your audience on a specific launch or product update. That means that the topics of discussion are very specific to whatever you’re launching, making them more suitable for existing clientele.

Product launch email invite example

Source: Really Good Emails

3. Conferences

Conferences are great events to help bring together industry experts and a specific audience. These events typically revolve around a given niche but cover a wide variety of learning topics that professionals can benefit from.

An excellent example of a conference is the Content Marketing Institute’s yearly Content Marketing World Summit event.

 Content Marketing World event information

Source: Content Marketing World

4. Networking events

Networking events tend to take on a similar tone as conferences; however, they focus on bringing together industry experts and those in the industry looking to get to know one another and share information amongst each other.

While these events may have some learning seminars worth checking out, many of the event highlights focus on networking 1×1 with like-minded individuals.

 Networking event email invite example

Source: Really Good Emails

5. VIP events

VIP events allow your brand to really get to know those who share your beliefs and passions. These events are often created to celebrate those who are considered VIPs within your brand. These can be special dinners to honor your VIPs or special promo events that allow your VIP segment to experience something that your standard subscribers may not get access to.

6. Trade shows

Trade shows are exhibitions where companies can present their latest products, but also get to know their customers on a more personal level. These shows allow consumers to come to you, ask questions, get demonstrations, and leave you with valuable feedback that can help you develop new products or content to share later on.

9 email marketing strategies that will help you drive event registrations

Once you’ve decided on what type of event you’re hosting, you’ll want to utilize email marketing to help you drive event registration. Not sure where to start? Consider these 9 email marketing strategies to help you get started.

1. Be deliberate with your announcement.

Your event is a big deal, so make sure prospective attendees know it. Sending out an announcement email is a fundamental way to drive registrations.

The key to this email strategy is packaging your message as breaking news. Help your subscribers feel like they’re the first to hear about your awesome event and get the enthusiasm flowing.

For example, C100, host of 48Hrs in the Valley, does an excellent job of announcing their event and the companies that’ll be at the center of it:

Notice how they offer congratulations, as though this is the first these 21 companies have heard about the selection. It’s a small copywriting decision that creates intrigue and excitement.

2. Include a video.

A study by EyeView video found that having a video on a page increased conversions by 80%. In another study by Vidyard, 70% of marketers reported that video is more effective than other content in driving conversions.

Including a “sizzler” video from previous events is a great way to immerse subscribers in your event. This video can showcase speakers and explain what attendees can expect.

Influitive, a customer success software company, tackled this brilliantly for their Advocamp event series with a fun and educational video featuring Head Counselor Buck.

3. Share testimonials.

Along the lines of the video approach, show your subscribers that your event is going to be awesome with the assistance of previous attendees.

The ClientSuccess team does a great job of this for their CS100 event series. The event speaks for itself through people like Elizabeth Doherty, its biggest champion.

If you haven’t hosted the event before, you can include testimonials from speakers or future attendees that share their excitement. If you’re hosting a retail store opening or a one-off event, you can showcase testimonials that share how much people love your brand or products.

For example, check out how Amy Porterfield, an independent coach for entrepreneurs, uses a testimonial pulled from Facebook to promote a webinar:

4. Showcase your speakers.

Dedicating an email to the outstanding speakers at your event is another great way of grabbing subscribers’ attention and getting them to click “RSVP.”

For many events, it’s the speakers who provide the majority of content, so it’s only natural for them to be a big factor as a subscriber decides whether they want to attend.

There are a few ways that you can draw attention to your speaker line-up. You can take some inspiration from Wistia, a video hosting company, and highlight a handful of your top speakers:

Or, if your event is boasting some well-known celebrities, you can feature them front-and-center as Collision, a tech conference, did in the below email:

Another tactic is to list your speakers to showcase how much value is coming to the event. For example, check out this lineup from 48hrs:

5. Give the gift of opportunity.

It’s one thing to tell people that they’ll have a lot to take away from an event. It’s another thing to tell people that they have a lot to bring.

Whether you’re hosting a conference, an in-store event, or a webinar, try giving people an opportunity to contribute to the event. Your event is nothing without participants, so make sure your prospective attendees realize how special they are.

For example, Vanguard, an investment company, recently announced a new CEO and CIO. To help their clients feel comfortable with the transition, the team hosted a webinar where participants had the opportunity to ask questions to the board and the new CEO.

In a similar vein, Gainsight wants their email recipients to know that attending their event is much more than attending an event—it’s taking part in a movement.

6. Offer early bird discounts.

When it comes to creating compelling CTAs, the early bird discount is an established staple. Sending your contacts discounts in advance of your event is an effective way of driving registrations. However, that discount has to end sometime, and having a clear deadline is key for driving action.

Notice how Unbounce creates a sense of urgency for their Call to Action Conference by mentioning how many tickets are left.

Dreamforce makes things seem even more urgent. Whereas most event planners hope that their events will sell out, with Dreamforce, that’s pretty much a guarantee. That’s not something marketers are hiding.

7. Promote registration at another event.

One of the best times to drive registrations for an event is while subscribers are in attendance. Capitalize on your attendee’s elation and let them know about special offers for future events.

This works especially well for annual events. Give your attendees an unbelievable offer now that commits them to an event in the future.

CoinDesk executes this brilliantly with their Consensus event series:

8. Send out content that gives subscribers a taste of what they’ll get.

Once you’ve sent subscribers your best content about early bird offers, speakers, and testimonials, it’s time to move on to other approaches.

Going back to the fundamentals of inbound marketing, think about how you can provide a fun, engaging, and educational spin to your event promotion emails.

One example that we particularly love is these fun facts from SaaStr, a community for SaaS entrepreneurs. These facts are a fun and creative way to get prospective attendees interested in the event, but they also put the spotlight on the people who’ll attend.

9. Send a direct message from a company leader or influencer.

Another email marketing strategy is the direct message. Have your CEO, your CMO, or Head of Events personally address your contacts.

Among all of the visual-heavy images that can flood someone’s inbox on any given Monday, a person-to-person email might be the approach you need to break through the noise.

Here’s a snippet from an email from Social Media Examiner’s CEO Mike Stelzner promoting Social Media Marketing World, their flagship event:

Alternatively, you could send a message from an influencer. If you’re having a retail store opening, for example, you could show a celebrity wearing the clothing to promote the product.

Wrap up

These email marketing strategies are, by no means, mutually exclusive. See how you can combine them for winning combinations. At the same time, certain strategies may see more success in driving registrations than others. That’s why you should experiment, measure, and optimize.

Looking for event ideas? Consider one of these different event types:

  • Webinars
  • Product launches
  • Conferences
  • Networking events
  • VIP events
  • Trade shows

Ready to see how Campaign Monitor can help you send outstanding emails for your next event? Then schedule your live demo today.

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