What is Event Marketing? Strategy, Timelines & Templates
If you’ve ever run events, you’ll know that no matter how amazing they are in concept, they very rarely just ‘sell themselves’ (annoying, right?). In order to sell tickets, you need to be armed with an event marketing strategy that effectively promotes your event to your target audience.
But how do you go about creating one? In this guide we’re going to discuss what event marketing is, 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.
How to create an event marketing strategy
While 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 – there are many common tactics and event marketing ideas that should help guide you when setting out your own event marketing calendar.
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!).
Pre-event marketing strategy
This initial stage is all about raising awareness of your event. You want to direct potential attendees and previous attendees back into the “awareness” stage of your marketing funnel, so that you can inform and advise them as they make the journey towards buying a ticket. Here are some of the pre-event marketing ideas you could build into your strategy:
- Pre-event page
One of the most common mistakes people make in marketing their event happens before they’ve even started! 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, use it to capture leads or pre-orders and early interest (who can then be contacted later) and it will help build up your SEO authority with Google.
If you do go down this route, you could also offer a super-early bird incentive to those who pre-register, helping you to capture even more early interest.
- Blog post
The next totem in your pre-event marketing strategy is to tell people why you’re organising it. This is your mission statement. If you’re not sure why it’s important to have a mission statement or explain ‘why’ you are organising an event, take a few minutes to watch this video from Simon Sinek (you won’t regret it!)
You can use this to fuel the rest of your pre-event marketing and rally people around your idea and convince them of the need for your event. Blog posts are also less salesy than an event landing page, so are a great way to attract some initial interest.
- Social media
Getting on social media early is important to creating momentum for your event promotion, building a community and spreading the mission that you’ve written about in your blog post (which you can link back to in your posts).
At this stage you should already have an event hashtag sorted (read this on how to create a good one) and be using it in your social posts.
Don’t forget the huge range and diversity of social media available to you now. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will all remain important depending on what kind of event you run, but consider Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Medium, Reddit, Quora and others too. This post has some great ideas on using Snapchat as part of your event marketing, to share behind the scenes footage and to give coupons and increase user-generated content.
- Partner outreach
Event marketing partnerships can be crucial to your event’s success, so you need to start reaching out to potential collaborators, complementary brands and media partners early, before your event has officially launched. This way they can help you spread the word from the very beginning. If you’re not sure how to approach them, check out our handy templates.
Now you’re ready to launch your event. You’ve used your marketing to date to attract initial interest and put the idea in front of your audience. Now it’s time to raise a buzz and start to sell those initial “early bird” tickets using these tactics:
In the event industry Pulse Report, email was voted the single most effective tactic by event organisers, so it will no doubt be central to your campaign and ticket sales too.
With your event now ready for prime time you should get your first major email blast out to your potential attendees, including those who pre-registered.
If you’re new to Eventbrite, now would be a good time to check out these help centre articles:
- Press Release
While it’s unlikely your event will be picked up by national press, it’s still worthwhile issuing a press release and use an event PR strategy to get your event seen more people.
If you write a release with key search terms in mind, then anyone with Google Alerts set up for those terms will see your news, and you may get some local, trade or niche press pick-up (not to mention blogs and other personal authority sites).
If you are looking for wider press coverage, then you need to avoid talking about your event in a formulaic way, where you focus only on the date, location, price etc. You can’t focus on features or even benefits – that’s sales copy and not a news story. Instead you need to focus on one of two unique press angles:
- Why your event is completely novel, strange, a landmark first, quirky etc. Think about whether commuters would chuckle about it or be curious about it if they read it on page 5 of their paper on the way to work. Chances are if they would, a journalist may also pick up on it.
- Dive into the human element. Are you (or anyone involved in the event) an interesting story? Have you overcome adversity and challenges? Is there a weird or funny story attached to how and why you’ve come to organise this event? Telling the human story is a universal strategy of mainstream press, so play to that if you can.
Read this post for more ideas on how to successfully create PR for your event.
- Blog and social
Your second blog post should focus on main benefits of attending your event, which usually centres on the schedule. Who are the headline bands, keynote speakers, celebrity chefs etc? You can then take the content from this post, rework it and use to create a series of social media announcements.
Now is the time to ask your partners for their marketing support. The event is at its hottest when it’s first launched and all the details are fresh and new.
Don’t make them work too hard for you though, otherwise you’ll find they don’t actually do as much as you’d hoped. In order to counter this, you might want to write the emails and social updates you want them to send, and let them tweak for their channels.
It’s good for all this activity to hit more or less at the same time, because even if the same people are being targeted, it should give them a sense of the event’s momentum and importance, while helping to reinforce your message.
If you want to track how well your various event marketing partnerships are doing, you can use custom tracking links to do this.
Baseline event marketing activity
Your pre-event and launch marketing activities need to happen at the right time to make an impact. But what about your day-to-day marketing? As well as your big campaigns you should also have a baseline of event marketing activity that happens come rain or shine, in order to keep hold of your audience’s interest. Many event organisers make the mistake of only using marketing channels when their event is a few months away, but by employing marketing all year round, it’ll be much easier to sell tickets in that all-important moment. Here are some of the day-to-day marketing activities to think about.
- Regular email, social and blogging
You’re now into a pretty tough stage of event marketing. With the initial excitement of the event launch behind you, it’s time to knuckle down and find ways to keep the momentum going.
The best way to achieve this is through a cycle of content creation, social promotion & engagement, and email support.
If you continuously send out sales messages, these will get old very quickly and turn your audience off. You therefore need to balance them out with high value, interesting content that your target attendees will appreciate and find valuable.
What that content is depends on your audience, but we’ve got some advice here with ‘6 Steps To A Better Blog That Builds a Loyal Event Following.’
You can then use your social channels to promote this content to your audience, invite them to comment (or create their own content) and keep a conversation going about your event.
Email is also a great support tool, helping you get your content directly in front of your audience, and offering them something of value beyond asking them to register for your event (again).
- 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 straight forward as you can create an industry report or offer a white paper that combines top tips from all your speakers.
For consumer events, it might be less obvious: You could create interesting infographics, gifs or other visual assets; write about ‘what’s hot’ and breaking trends; or produce a series of YouTube videos, or podcasts, that capture their attention.
- Early Bird discount(s)
As mentioned above, 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 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 events.
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 create spikes of ticket sales.
- Paid promotion
The day-to-day event marketing period is the best time to invest in paid advertising. There’s no point doing it too early when you have nothing to sell. But wait until too close to your event and you won’t give it the time to have a meaningful effect on results. So whether it’s paid social media advertising, Google Adwords 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).
With any of these options you can turn them on and off at will, so you could concentrate your spend just a couple of weeks or so before each early bird offer, helping to reinforce and amplify all your other marketing activities so everything enjoys maximum reach and impact.
Pre-event marketing activity
This is your “last call” – the final chance to reach your marketing goals and audience, helping to shift those last few tickets and create a buzz. The type of marketing communications you use in this short window, could make the difference between a make or break event. Here are some pre-event activities to plan for, just before your big event goes live.
- Final email blast, social & blog
Whether you’ve been marketing for a matter of months or weeks, your event will eventually loom large in front of you, and with just a couple of weeks (or even just a couple of days) to go, it’s time for your last-push marketing.
This will probably be in the form of another volley of blogs, social media updates and email blasts.
If there is any networking involved, then it’s a great idea to utilise the concept of ‘social proof’ at this stage and show the world who is already going to be at the event, which will help convince others 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 is the time to be super clear with your direct calls to action and convert that long-term strategy into ticket sales.
- Attendee referrals
This is a frequently missed opportunity. Many organisers focus solely on bringing in new attendees, forgetting that they have a potentially killer marketing tactic at their disposal – those who have already been convinced of your event’s value and registered their place.
Why not reach out to your existing attendees and incentivise them to promote the event on your behalf? Word of mouth is consistently shown to be one of the most powerful and effective marketing tactics you can utilise. You could even offer them referral fees if they become an affiliate, which is easy to track and manage with Eventbrite.
- 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. While it may be advisable to contact them at the start of your campaign, there’s a good chance they’ll be busy and so won’t have committed. Even if they did, by now they might have forgotten about it.
Now’s the time to re-engage with them and, if they are free, they’ll no doubt appreciate the invitation and repay your generosity by telling their network about the event.
Employing telesales teams is expensive, and only effective if you’ve got a great inbound marketing programme to support them with lots of fresh, warm leads.
However, that doesn’t stop you from picking up the phone yourself!
If you’ve noticed that a few of your targeted attendees, or some of those pre-registered leads, have still not 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 it’s a relatively time-intensive but effective way of securing a few more sales if they’re needed.
If you take the suggestions above as a roadmap to help shape your event marketing strategy, you will be in a much stronger position to build momentum and ultimately achieve more ticket sales.
We’ve also put together a handy excel sheet that plots all of these marketing tactics (and a couple of bonus ones not mentioned) into a sample 16-week event marketing template that you can adapt to your specific needs in the lead-up to your event. You can grab your copy of the marketing template for events here.