If you decide to start running events as part of your marketing mix, it’s easy to think the most challenging element will be the logistics. Finding a venue, ordering the AV and staging, sorting out the detail of your handout packs… the list goes on.
In fact often the piece of the puzzle that requires the most work is marketing the event itself. How are you going to get those illusive bums on seats?
We’ve been organising and marketing events for some time and because of this, we’ve seen a lot of mistakes made. See how many of the following mistakes you have made and let’s hope we can all avoid making these in the future.
1. Not allowing enough time
Depending on the type of audience you want to attract and the type event you want to produce, you will need to make sure you allow yourself plenty of time. Commercial conference companies often take six months to produce an event, which will include at least four months of audience generation activity.
You can of course turn an even around in a lot less time and in fact I would recommend a 12 week cycle, but any less and you are setting yourself up for a rocky road. Plan your marketing campaign to start with at least eight weeks to go before the event. Yes you may well find the majority of your delegates book on in the last few weeks, but you need time to warm up your target audience before they respond to one of your marketing messages.
2. Using poor data
When it comes to marketing your event, you will need good data. This will be both your own in house and also paid for data from a broker or media partner. If it’s your own data, make sure it is up to date and, if you plan on telemarketing, TPS checked. If you buy your data, check the recency, permissions on the licence and make sure you have a tight list criteria as loose data is no good to anyone.
Don’t be fooled by the quantity trap here, a smaller more targeted database is likely to respond better to well positioned messages and calls to action. That said, don’t be shy either – you are likely to need to knock on a lot of doors for each sale in this day and age.
3. Thinking social media is the panacea
I’ve been asked this question a lot recently: how many registrations can we generate from social media?
Sounds fair doesn’t it? In reality using social media to generate registrations is no easy task. Chances are if you haven’t already built an audience on some existing social media platforms, or at least a presence in those communities that already exist, you are more than likely too late to use social media as an effective audience recruitment channel for your event.
Sure, use social media as a way to engage with your audiences, build some buzz and awareness and amplification post event, but don’t expect to make a huge difference to registration figures.
4. Adding telemarketing in at the last minute
We’ve all been there, two weeks to go and our registration figures are way below where we wanted. Time to call in the telemarketing agency as they can get going quickly. We’ll just buy some data.
The problem is, with only who weeks to go, the telemarketing agency is onto a hiding to nothing. Not only are they expected to push a message that is already proven not to be resonating with your audiences, but they also have to use cold data.
If you want to properly engage with a telemarketing agency please provide them with three things:
1. Warm contacts who have already seen some communications about your event
2. A good briefing on the message and plenty of support materials
3. The opportunity to test the message and targeting on a set of your data and to feedback
I’m a big fan of telemarketing. Done well you can get your data cleansed at the same time and skilled callers will also be able to unearth sales opportunities and market intelligence for you too. Although of course you have to bear in mind no show rates from telemarketing are often higher than from delegates registered by other means, so just factor that into your plans.
5. Relying on email
Everyone has a big email database these days. Some in much better condition than others. It’s all too tempting to think a good email campaign will generate your audience, but the fact is email marketing stats show a downward trend in performance for event marketers.
The increasing competition for email inbox time is a serious challenge to campaign effectiveness as your messages get mixed up with the myriad of other commercial promotions, not to mention the spam (please, no more offers to send targeted traffic to my website).
Build a cross channel campaign with email as a central part, supported by telemarketing, social media, SEO, PPC, media partnerships etc etc. you get the idea, no single tactic is enough.
6. Handing your audience gen campaign over to a media partner
This is a mistake you might make a couple of times as media companies tend to employ skilled sales man, but once bitten twice shy.
It doesn’t really matter what sector you work in but let’s assume there are a handful of really good trade publications that all of your target decision makers read, each with an equally good web portal. You decide to speak with one of these publications and they offer you the following:
- Email campaign to their database (you choose the exact targeting)
- Retouch campaign to any who open the email
- Supported banner ad on their website
You are quoted a price and the CPM sounds OK so you give it a whirl. However for some reason it doesn’t work. You get a handful of opens and zero registrations and a confused sales manager telling you all his / her other clients always get a massive response.
What can you do? Probably very little apart from choose your partners carefully.
My advice: only book advertising with a price per action, for example cost per registration or even better cost per attendee. Yes if you can convince someone to offer you this, you will pay more, but ultimately the value to you is getting the right bums on the rich seats.
7. Great I have hit my target number, I can relax
Wrong. I you are running free to attend events the hard work is still ahead of you. You now need to make sure people remain engaged and interested enough to turn up. In London it is not unusual for a free event to attract less than 50% of those people who register, which is no good for the humble event marketer.
What can you do to keep people interested? Here’s a few tactics you might try:
* Weekly email update to all registered delegates with links to relevant value adding content
* Maintain an event blog and twitter feed with relevant and interesting content
* Post the attendees badge to them two weeks before the event
* Interview the keynote speakers and post as a video on YouTube
The list is endless. Just make sure the content is valuable and of interest to your target audience.
Of course these are just the mistakes you can make before your event. After the big day it’s easy to think you can relax, but in reality it’s crucial to make sure you haven a suitable post event campaign.
Pass any qualified leads on to sales and feed the rest into a nurturing campaign to cross promote other activities such as webinars, white papers and so on.
Don’t let those non-attendees escape either as they have already expressed an interest in the product area you are marketing. Feed them into a telemarketing programme for further qualification and move them through your sales cycle.
So there you have it, our list of seven of the most common event marketing mistakes made by companies organising proprietary marketing events. But what are your experiences, let’s us know in the comments below.