What is Event Marketing? Strategy, Timelines & Templates
If you’ve ever run an event, you’ll know that they unfortunately don’t sell themselves. In order to sell tickets, you need to be armed with an event marketing strategy that effectively promotes your event to your target audience, whether you’re planning on hosting in person or online.
But how do you go about creating one? In this guide, we’ll be exploring the different types of event marketing, strategies you can use to create an event marketing timeline (with each promotion reinforcing the last), and how to ensure the right message is delivered at the right time and to the right person.
What is event marketing?
Event marketing is defined by the tools, techniques, and channels you use to promote an event to an audience – usually with the hope of getting them to buy tickets or attend.
Event marketing begins with launching an event idea through to persuading attendees to invite their friends or colleagues and attracting a steady pipeline of leads through channels such as email marketing, blogging, and advertising.
What is B2B event marketing?
B2B (business to business) event marketing means selling an event to other businesses in order to get them to attend, sponsor, or exhibit. The channels of advertising may be the same as selling to the wider public (such as social media, email marketing, or pay per click (PPC)) but the tone of voice and USPs may be different. For example, at a consumer event, the sales techniques will be activated towards personal interest and benefit. But for a business event, the rewards may need to be more tangible, such as helping a business to increase revenue, generate leads, or gain a competitive advantage.
How to create an event marketing strategy
It’s impossible to present a perfect “catch-all” event marketing plan – every event is different, as is every lead time, budget, and target market. For example, you might be planning a virtual masterclass or an in-person festival, and each option requires its own promotional plan. Saying that, there are many common tactics and event marketing ideas that should help guide you in all cases.
The image below shows how your event marketing strategy can be broken down into: pre-event, event launch, day-to-day marketing and “last call” (the final push before your event goes live).
How to write a marketing plan for an event: 13 handy tips
An event marketing strategy is all about raising awareness of your event. You want to direct potential attendees and previous attendees to the “awareness” stage of your marketing funnel, so that you can inform and advise them as they make the journey towards buying a ticket. For those who are already aware of your event, you’ll want to help move them towards the purchase and advocacy stages. Here are some of the best event marketing strategies to consider from beginning to end:
1. Early bird discounts
Once you’ve gone past the initial launch excitement for your event, you’ll need to engineer more reasons to encourage people to register (and register now rather than later). This is where you can utilise the “early bird discount.”
Early bird discounts work by staggering your ticket sales to go up in price the closer to the event it gets. It’s not uncommon to have more than one of these. The rest of your marketing activity should be geared towards building up interest and leads in the run-up to the expiry of your discounts, helping you to create spikes of ticket sales.
2. Pre-event page
Too many people forget they can create an event page and make it live to capture early interest, even if all of the details aren’t yet finalised.
By creating a pre-event page, you can have a central page to drive people to and use it to capture leads that can be contacted later. Plus it’ll help to boost your SEO ranking.
The next step in your event marketing strategy is to tell people why you’re organising it. This is your mission statement.
Use blog posts to publicise this, fuel the rest of your pre-event marketing, and rally people around your idea to convince them of the need for your event. Blogs are also less salesy than an event landing page, so are a great way to attract some initial interest.
4. Social media
Getting on social media early is one of the best event marketing strategies, as it’s key to creating momentum for your event promotion. Social media can also help you to build a community and spread the mission that you’ve written about in your blog posts.
It’s a good idea to create an event hashtag to help you to engage with your community in the run-up to, during, and after your event. Event branding can also make a memorable impression across social media.
Don’t forget the huge range of social media platforms available to you now. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn will all remain important depending on what kind of event you run, but consider Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, Medium, Reddit, and others, too. Find out more about how social media can fit into your event promotion timeline.
5. Partner outreach
Event marketing partnerships and sponsorships can be crucial to your event’s success, so you need to start reaching out to potential collaborators, complementary brands, and media partners early. That means before your event has officially launched. This way, they can help you spread the word from the very beginning.
6. Thought leadership and guest posts
Blogging on your site is important, but you need to reach new audiences beyond it in order to find new attendees. The best way to do this is through guest posting or creating pieces of thought leadership that others will be happy to share.
Again, what the specifics of this look like will heavily depend on your event. For conferences and B2B events, it’s relatively straightforward as you can create an industry report or offer a white paper that combines top tips from all of your speakers.
For consumer events, it might be less obvious. You could create interesting infographics, gifs, or other visual assets, write about breaking trends, or produce a series of YouTube videos or podcasts that capture their attention.
7. Paid promotion
Whether it’s paid social media advertising, Google Ads, or retargeting, now’s the time to put cash behind your campaign if you’re going to do it at all. (For getting the most out of your paid digital marketing, check out our guide.)
You can turn any of these options on and off at will. So you could concentrate your spend just a couple of weeks before each early bird offer, or your event launch, helping to reinforce and amplify your other marketing activities to enjoy maximum reach and impact.
Email is a crucial tool in your event promotion plan. With your event now ready to be launched, you should get your first major email blast out to your potential attendees, including those who pre-registered.
Eventbrite offers tools to help you send manual and automated emails to boost engagement with your community and communicate important reminders like how to find your venue or log into your virtual event.
If you’re new to Eventbrite, now would be a good time to check out these event email templates.
9. Event press release
Gaining press coverage can help to amplify your event beyond your own network and can increase ticket sales. It will also help to build your future brand strategy, increase links to your website, and potentially boost traffic for future events, too.
Here are a few tips on writing a good press release:
- Copy the press release into the body of your email. Traditionally, press releases were sent as email attachments, but journalists today prefer to be able to read the release as part of the email. This saves them time and will increase your story’s visibility.
- Add an introduction line. Personalise the introduction for every journalist and their publication. This will make them more likely to scroll down and read your press release.
- List the basic details of your event. Keep things simple to help the journalist find the key information easily.
- Come up with a compelling hook. Find your unique story angle. For example, why is your event new, exciting, a first, or a novelty? Do you have an interesting backstory? Who is attending – anyone famous?
10. Final blast
Whether you’ve been marketing for a matter of months or weeks, the final few days always call for a last push. This will probably be a combination of blogs, social media updates, and email blasts.
If there’s any networking involved, then it’s a great idea to utilise the concept of “social proof” at this stage and show the world who’s already going to be at the event. This can help convince others that they should be there too.
Your final blog posts, social media updates, and emails should now take on a more urgent, sales-focused message as you’ve spent the past few weeks or months building up a relationship. Now’s the time to be super clear with your direct calls to action and convert that long-term strategy into ticket sales.
11. Attendee referrals
This is a frequently missed opportunity. Many organisers focus solely on bringing in new attendees, forgetting that they have a strong network of potential advocates that they can already tap into.
Word of mouth is consistently shown to be one of the most powerful and effective marketing tactics. So why not reach out to your existing attendees and incentivise them to promote the event on your behalf? You could even offer referral fees if they become an affiliate, which is easy to track and manage with Eventbrite.
12. Influencer outreach
If you’re looking to fill a few last-minute places or get word out in an impactful way, then influencers could be your best shot.
You may have already reached out to some at the start of your event promotion campaign. But if they haven’t already committed (or if they did but have forgotten), now’s the time to re-engage with them. If they’re free, they’ll no doubt appreciate the invitation and repay your generosity by telling their network about the event.
If you’ve noticed that a few of your targeted attendees or some of those pre-registered leads still haven’t bought a ticket, why not give them a call?
Ask if there’s anything you can help with. Do they have any questions? It doesn’t have to be a hard sell, but it’s much harder to ignore a phone call than an email or one of a thousand tweets on their timeline. You’ll probably find that it’s a relatively time-intensive but effective way of securing a few more sales if they’re needed.
Refining your event marketing strategy
If you take the suggestions above as a roadmap to help shape your event marketing strategy, you’ll find yourself in a much stronger position to build momentum and achieve more ticket sales. For support promoting your online or in-person event, check out our event marketing strategy template and suite of marketing tools, which range from targeted email campaigns to powerful app integrations.