Event Marketing: The Definitive Guide (2019)

There are seemingly a million ways to go about event marketing. In fact, depending on your role in your organization, event marketing can take quite a few forms. What’s undeniable? When it comes to events, promotion is key. Marketing has a place in every stage of the event process and events are necessary to an all-inclusive marketing program. Through the use of technology, data, and analytics, event marketing is actually very easy to implement across events and at scale. This event marketing guide will explain what event marketing is, how to create a winning strategy, and how to carry that strategy out to improve your events program.

What is Event Marketing

For many organizations, events represent a large share of their overall marketing spend. In fact, many companies allocate anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their budgets for brand experiences, with the predominant portion going to events. Many marketers believe that, after a website, events are the most effective channel in their “marketing stack,” given the power of live experiences and the ability to forge one-on-one connections. That’s why event marketing is critical. From promoting your events to utilizing events as part of your marketing strategy, events are powerful.

Event Success

Types of Event Marketing

Event marketing is a broad term. For some, it refers to the promotional plan for an event and for others it refers to the strategic use of events to market effectively. If the event marketing you do involves planning a calendar of events that will support your marketing plan, then your strategy and planning process will be more complicated and nuanced. For others, it’s a promotional plan for a specific event that can be broken down into a more manageable plan.

  • Email Marketing
  • Event-based strategy
  • Event website
  • Advertising
  • Social media

The Event Marketing Process

Events are costly, which is why determining your event strategy is important. Your budget, goals and more will determine what events you plan and the type of promotion you run with. The event marketing process begins by acknowledging that there is an event that can help your organization achieve a goal. Events can add to the sales pipeline, help improve morale, promote a product, and more. Really, the event marketing process comes down to the goal of the event. By identifying what you hope to achieve, you can plan promotion and objectives based on that goal. Event strategies are wedded to the event marketing process.

Event Marketing Plan

Promotion, promotion, promotion

Your event deserves to have a killer promotion plan. But it’s not always easy to know where to start. Your marketing plan should begin right when event planning begins. The two go hand in hand. After all, without a great promotion strategy, no one will know about your event. So, how do you do it? We’ve created a basic event marketing plan template below to help you get started. Fill it out to create the best marketing plan yet! 

Know Your Event

The first step in your event planning is understanding your event and its purpose. From there, you can focus in on the details such as event name, theme, tagline, and color scheme. This event breakdown will serve as the blueprint for your event marketing plan.

Know Your Event Basics

  • Event Name
  • Event Purpose
  • Theme
  • Tagline
  • Color Scheme

Your Event Website is Critical

marketing events

There are few events that can get away with not having an event website. If you’re not sure if you need a marketing website or a registration website for your event. Your event website will be the primary touchpoint you have with potential attendees. It needs to contain key information and convince attendees to register. Event technology can also help you personalize the entire event planning process. You can create a branded event registration website that’s designed to identify who is visiting your website. This lets you modify the registration process based on attendee type. With more sophisticated software, you can even create dynamic registration paths and pricing based on preset criteria.

Types of Websites

First, what type of website will you be building? Event websites can be broken into two types, registration websites, and marketing websites. While there are many other types of websites that exist in the world, those are the two to choose between when creating a website for an event.

Registration website

How complex is your event? If it’s a one-day seminar, this is the type of website you’ll want to create. Registration websites are perfect for events that don’t last long, are held in one location, and require very little information to explain. Generally, there will be one page of information and a call to action that takes the user to register.

Marketing Website

A marketing website is perfect for more complex events. Often, this type of event lasts multiple days, takes place at different locations, has multiple registration paths, or takes more than one webpage to explain. The marketing website allows you to set up multiple pages to give attendees all the information they need. These events tend to be more costly for the attendee, which means the marketing website needs to explain why the cost and time out of the office are worth

Your Event Website Should Include:

  • Time and Date
  • Location
  • Cost
  • Call to Action
  • URL
  • FAQs

Create an Email Marketing Plan That Doesn’t Irritate Potential Attendees

Emails marketing is a key part of all promotion plans. If you aren’t using an email marketing tool, find one quick! They make it easier to design and automate emails. When planning, don’t overdo it. If you create a great, attention-grabbing subject line you’ll get those opens, but if you spam attendees they’ll unsubscribe.

Event Email Marketing

vendors

The right event email marketing can ensure you get the largest and most relevant audience for your event – but your efforts shouldn’t stop there. You want to build a buzz around your event and get your registrants engaged and talking before, during and after your meeting or conference.

Email marketing is huge for events: More than 75% of B2C companies use email marketing as the number one tool to promote their events. Yet, 50% of email marketers (yes, half!) struggle with getting potential attendees to respond to their email efforts [Hubspot].

The effectiveness of email marketing is proven, and your leadership team is sold on the ROI of email promotion. But how do you use email to drive attendance to your event? We’ve laid down some basic best practices for building your email marketing strategy, and As we gear up for our annual conference, Cvent CONNECT, we always keep these tips top-of-mind.

Top 5 Email Marketing Tips for Events

  1. Use online email marketing software to easily review, manage, segment and update your contact lists.  Targeted campaigns will significantly drive registration.
  2. Allow your recipients to opt-out to comply with CAN-SPAM and privacy regulations
  3. Create your emails to be consistent with your event website to ensure brand cohesion.
  4. Maximize registration by pre-scheduling emails, automating updates, and be sure to send confirmation/thank you emails.
  5. Review reporting (your marketing software will help you do this easily) to analyze open and click-thru rates to see what’s working, what’s not, and to uncover additional marketing opportunities.

Bonus Tip: Test, tweak, and track your emails to get the most out of your campaigns.

With the right event management software tools and a dash of innovation, you can work wonders for your event marketing.

You Can’t Avoid Using Social Media

Event marketing

In terms of free promotion, social media is one of the best tools. If you have a presence on all platforms, then you’ll want to promote on all of them. However, if your demographic trends towards using Instagram, don’t feel the need to promote your event on every platform. For more ideas, read 5 Ways to Promote Your Event Using Social Media.  (INCLUDED BELOW)

Where Will You Promote?

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

Social Media Basics

  • Hashtag
  • How often a week will you post
  • Any vendors or speakers to tag

Fun fact: the average smartphone user looks at their phone 300+ times a day. That’ means a lot of social media use.

Social media is an easy and free way to market your event, so in reality, it’s a no-brainer. Here are my five recommendations for using social media to promote your event.

Use these 5 social media tactics to promote your next event

Hashtags

Create an event hashtag and stick with it. Hashtags are an easy way to track your event across all social platforms for you and your attendees. Use the same hashtag in every post and encourage your co-planners and attendees to do the same. When coming up with your hashtag, make it relevant, easy, short, and rememberable. If you have a catchy hashtag, you eliminate the hassle of constantly reminding your attendees what it is.

A good tip is to make the hashtag the name of the event, which means you need to be strategic when you decide your event name and theme. For Cvent CONNECT, we use the hashtag #CventCONNECT. Seems simple right? It is, but it does more than what meets the eye. By naming our event Cvent CONNECT we remind our attendees that this is a networking event with industry peers. Every time they type the event name or hashtag it, it triggers a reminder that that’s what the event’s all about, connecting! See how it works?

Contests

Contests are an easy way to get your attendees tweeting, Instagramming, or Facebook posting. Put your creativity to work and see what contest fits best with your event. One idea is to use your event hashtag and integrate it with a contest for most social activity prior to your even. Then, the winner could receive a grand prize during the event. Another idea is to hold a photo contest to see who can receive the most likes or comments on a pre-event picture.

Ambassadors

Recently we combined our attendees and social platform into one and designed a social media ambassador program at Cvent CONNECT. This was a huge success for us. During the registration process, we included a section where our attendees could express interest in becoming one of our social media ambassadors. Once we had a pool of applicants, we selected the top candidates and went from there. It was simple and effective.

Our ambassadors engaged the other attendees and their own followers to promote our events before, during, and after. This life easier for the Communications Team, while simultaneously showing a more personal side to our brand.

We also incorporated a competition within the ambassadors for the most engaging content which helped get the content flowing.

Consistent Posting

This is simple, post and post a lot. You need to stay on your followers’ minds and be relevant. Social media is all about your followers and what they can get out of your posts. If you never post or if you post irrelevant things, then expect to be unfollowed. To avoid this, post creative and personable content. Give your followers what they’re looking for.

Interaction with Followers

Interaction is key. As I said before, you want to be a personable brand because then your consumers will feel more comfortable with you. This is true for your events too, if you want people to come, then you need to engage with them before the event even starts. Once you’ve promoted your hashtag, follow it! Type it into the search bar on your social platforms and start replying to anyone using it.

By using your hashtag as a tracker you’ll find people expressing questions, concerns, and praises. Respond to them right then and there. Social media makes it easy to fix problems immediately. If your attendee finds a problem with your event’s online registration, they might tweet at you.  If you aren’t on top of your social handles then you could miss their comment and ultimately miss an attendee.

Paid Digital Promotion

digital marketing

It’s easy to use primarily free modes of promotion for your event, but paid promotion is still extremely effective. It all comes down to how much money you have in the budget. If your event has a large budget and is targeting a wider demographic, paid ads might be a great option.

A Few Basic Questions

  • What is your budget?
  • How many impressions do you hope to get?
  • Print, digital, commercials?
  • Consider other forms of promotion – direct mail, calls, etc.?

Additional Promotion

Influencers, blog posts, and word of mouth are incredible ways to market your events. Really, there are endless methods of promotion you could you. It all comes down to your event. Do some research and brainstorm – you might come up with something great.

Don’t Forget About Sponsors

Not only are you marketing to attendees, but you need to be able to market to potential sponsors. After all, they’ll be key to defraying costs and gaining more interest. Work out clear sponsorship packages that can be conveyed easily, but also be ready to be flexible. Almost any sponsor is a good sponsor!

Defining Event Marketing Success

How do event marketers define success? According to a recent study by Cvent, the metrics for event marketing success encompass financial results, event attendance, lead generation, overall awareness, and post-event analysis, all aligned with the company’s overall business goals. Event marketing objectives help guide strategy and create a baseline to determine event ROI.

Alignment with Company Goals

The reason for an event should be tied to the goals of the company. Each event needs to show what it has achieved towards that goal. Event marketers need to focus on aligning their activities with the marketing department and the company’s overarching objectives.

Event Attendance

Measuring the total attendee draw is a natural gauge for event success. Higher attendee numbers have a trickle-down effect as they can translate into more leads and greater event buzz.

Media Impact

The media metric has several component parts encompassing social media traffic and new followers generated; clicks and website visits; viewership for broadcast events such as sports and entertainment; and press coverage, both quantitative and qualitative.

Post-Event Surveys

These surveys can provide an accurate and timely read on the experiences and satisfaction levels of event attendees. The survey can also touch on other helpful areas such as likelihood to purchase.

Revenue and Lead Generation

Event attendees show buying signals through their actions at events. By tracking your attendees on-site and integrating their behavior back into CRM systems, event marketers can track the monetary impact of their programs.

Past Event Learnings

Event marketers are eager to understand and act upon insights from attendees at past events to continuously refine and improve their marketing at future events. The ROI calculated from an event can be helpful in budget-setting for future events.

Event ROI

Meeting and event ROI

To get a true calculation of event ROI, you need to take a deep dive into both the costs and benefits of running an event. Far more than simply adding up the direct costs to produce an event and the direct revenue it delivers, it’s important to understand the full spectrum of costs and benefits. To help you through this calculation, we’ve outlined the eight essential drivers of event ROI.

Event Costs

Event expenses can account for 25% or more of a company’s B2B marketing budget and internal meetings can add another 3-5%. The total costs to make events happen requires a closer analysis of expenses at a granular level. Three different costs should be examined.

Direct Costs

These are costs most familiar to event planners. They are the costs of hosting an event. Examples of direct costs include venue costs, food and beverage, travel, entertainment, and rental equipment. Hopefully, you are reconciling your budgets and have a good handle on direct costs.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs offer a more complete view of the investments to run an event. They include salaries and overhead of the teams involved in staging an event as well as other shared expenses. Indirect costs are calculated using accounting processes such as activity-based costing, which assign attributed costs to products, services, and events. To understand the indirect cost of your event, work with your finance team.

Opportunity Costs

Events have an opportunity cost. Your organization chooses to deploy its resources to an event as opposed to digital marketing, or some other activity. These alternative sources of value comprise opportunity costs. To understand this cost, you need to know the benefits the other activities would yield as compared to your events.

Identifying Benefits

Events can impact the top line and bottom line of an organization. Similar to expenses, it’s important to know how to measure the different types of benefits. 

Direct Revenue

Direct revenue is the money made directly as a result of hosting an event. Examples include ticket sales, sponsorship dollars, registration fees, onsite product sales and advertising revenue. Direct revenue varies based on the size and scope of the event. This is the money you are hopefully calculating today to show the value of your event.

Attributed Revenue

Organizations market and promote their products at events which drive future revenue. Onsite product demos and account planning conversations help fill the sales pipeline, fuel new sales, and increase customer renewals. As those new opportunities result in new business, the dollars can be attributed to the event as attributed revenue.

Brand Equity

Some benefits, such as brand equity, are more intangible and cannot be measured through hard dollars. Brand equity doesn’t deliver immediate monetary rewards, but event attendance has an impact on brand attitudes. Consumers like well-known and admired companies, which leads to doing business with that company. Brand equity can help propel Customer Lifetime Value, the long-term profit contribution from a customer. Your events should leave a positive impact on your attendees, driving positive brand equity.

Knowledge Exchange

Knowledge exchange is the accelerated learning that occurs during events. This interaction between customers, prospects and the company can help shape product development, increase learning, fine-tune marketing, and speed receptivity to sales. Your events must create an environment to share knowledge, which leads to brand equity and attributed revenue!

Event Technology and Online Event Marketing Software

Event marketing software makes event marketing easier. The more comprehensive your marketing tool is, the easier it is to integrate with other systems you already use. For starters, look for a tool that allows you to create customized and automated emails. This will alleviate manual email promotions and allow you to allocate your time to more pressing issues (like driving registration). With event management software, you can be sure that you have the data you need to prove the success of your event marketing strategy. The best way to implement these technologies is a comprehensive event management platform.

One Event Management Platform

With one event management platform, it’ll be easier for you and your team to learn and use technology. Additionally, when all the data is collected and stored in one place using event management software, you’ll get better visibility into the event and your processes. Finally, having data all in one place makes it easy to make sense of your numbers and make decisions in the future.

Event Marketing Best Practices

  • Understand the goals and budget of the event
  • Create a plan to meet event goals
  • Set goals so that you can measure success
  • Schedule promotion in advance based on important event dates
  • Use discounts and sponsorships to increase attendance
  • Use event marketing software to decrease time spent on manual tasks

Event Marketing Is An Essential Part of Event Planning

Events can drive organizational success. They empower face-to-face connections and educate attendees. Event marketing is essential to persuade attendees and increase registrations. And, it’s made easier with event management software. Without promotion, no one would know that the event was happening. Through the use of event technology, promotion is easier than ever. As you plan your next event, take the time to outline an event marketing plan.


Madison Layman

Written by Madison Layman

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents. Since then, my word count has hit the millions and won't stop growing anytime soon. When I'm not writing or reading, you can find me binge-watching tv shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.