There’s no doubt about it – live events are tough to pull off. Months of preparation going into an event that lasts just a few days — maybe even only a few hours. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome with pulling off a successful event is actually getting people in the door.
These days, there’s so much working against you.
There’s the ever present (and growing) list of competing voices for your audience.
There’s so many choices and some of them are online. Why leave your desk and put up money for conference registration and hotel fee if you can learn it in a webinar during lunch?
Then there’s the tightening on travel that have become popular at the corporate level. And travel budgets are getting slashed. And your competitors.
Let’s say you get passed strict restrictions and dwindling resources. Then you have to prove your event is even worth the valuable time someone will be missing at work.
In short, there’s a lot you need to do to convince people to click the “Register” button.
Here’s four ways to use the content you already have to pack the seats and make your event a success.
1. Create a Content Marketing Schedule
You’ve secured the location. The date is set. The agenda worked out.
Now you need to start getting people signed up. You know content marketing is the way to go. The best way to pull it off, though, is to create a content marketing plan that will hit all your target audiences.
Start with the Basics
Start by creating a skeleton outline of key campaigns to your audience. Get the obvious ones out of the way first:
- The Save the Date
- Registration is Open
- Main Event highlight
- Registration Close Date Nears
Don’t forget to build in reminders to send detailed event instructions, directions, etc., to attendees — especially as the event date nears.
A good milestone to use when building each individual campaign is the is the “send” date, or the day you’ll pull the trigger on your social media push or email marketing campaign.
Make sure to give yourself a few buffer days around the send date. You’ll need a bunch of time on the front end to make sure your creative is baked out. Also, make sure you save time after the send to followup and track response. Track your progress and duplicate your wins.
It may sound really obvious but it’s worth mentioning: whether you’re working on paper or on a spreadsheet, it’s helpful to start with the last campaign first and work your way back.
This way you’ll avoid pushing the entire calendar back when you get ideas.
Highlight What Sets You Apart
Find the standout sessions or big issues in your event and build campaigns around them.
Anybody can send out a boring email with the event date, time, and a registration link – people do it everyday.
If you take a good hard look at your event and find the things that make it special, you can craft messages around the strongest portions of your event that potential attendees with find interesting. Whether you’re doing a full-week conference or one-night speaker event, challenge yourself to find a couple of unique aspects of the event and highlight them in separate campaigns.
In short, take the time to give your audience a compelling reason to attend your event. It’s worth it.
Paying attention to the elements of the event that make you different is what is going to get people to commit.
Never assume your audience knows everything about the event just because you sent our an invite. Don’t assume your prospective attendees scoured the agenda.
Build in as many campaigns as possible to tell your audience what you want them to know.
2. Use All Channels — Appropriately
Now, I’m obviously a huge fan of email marketing. I’ve been using it for a better part of my professional career. It’s my got-to for getting things done for a simple reason: it works.
So here’s some great news.
If you have a decent opt-in house list, loyal Twitter or Facebook following, or a bunch of quality connections on Linkedin, you’re off to a great start.
That’s going to be your number one source of attendees.
This is critical because events – especially new events – thrive on existing contacts. In fact, most of your attendees – I’m betting 75% or more — are going to be people you know.
The point here is use every channel possible. Announce your event on every platform you have a voice. Don’t get caught up in the game of ignoring this platform or that platform.
But Do It Appropriately
Just for fun, let’s say you’re running a blogging conference. It’s going to have four tracks on all types of blogging including Tech, Sports, Music, and…. Stamp Collecting.
(I know, just hang with me)
Let’s say you find an awesome session featuring a red-hot Stamp Collecting blogger and you’re going to build a campaign around it.
So you blast your email audience with news of the Stamp session. That’s your entire email list, by the way. Then you post it to Twitter and alert your Facebook following. Your Linkedin folks get a message. Everybody.
Suddenly, your loyal Sports blogger following is getting bombarded with Stamp Collecting emails. Huh? What’s this about?
At the very least, they’re going to be confused. “Why would I care about stamp blogging?” More than likely, they’ll think something went wrong with the marketing folks.
The point is, if you don’t segment you audience and target appropriately, you’re pretty much saying that you don’t care about the relationship you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.
In other words, to gain the trust of the audience you’re trying to convince to attend your event, give them something they want (and nothing they don’t.)
With email marketing, this is especially vital. Modern CRMs and email marketing providers give you the ability to tag your contact with metadata.
Use this. Segment your audience and segment again. It’s not creepy – you’ll be doing them a favor by not sending them something they don’t need.
Try this exercise before you ever send a campaign: Think about the message and why it should resonate with the list you’re sending it to.
And never, ever, buy an email list. If you still need convincing, read this.
3. Convey the Value of Your Event in Your Content Marketing Plan
My first paying gig out of college was writing for a twice-weekly community newspaper in Southern Maryland.
I learned some really important stuff there. Many of the lessons still echo into the present.
I remember early in the game I was typing up a 500-word quick hit on a speaker that breezed through the area. I don’t remember the guy’s name or the content of his speech.
I do remember quickly banging out the space-filler and it ended up being a little more than boiler-plate meaninglessness. Something to the effect of “Minor Celebrity X Spoke Last Thursday at the Knights of Columbus”.
My editor knew what I knew – it was just space filler and I treated it as such.
Still, I didn’t get a pass. I got the copy back in an attachment with the following short but brilliant sentence.
“Nobody cares that someone spoke. The interesting thing is what they said and what it meant.”
If you’re working to convince others to attend a live event you can learn a lot from that sentence.
These days, more than ever perhaps, people are awful busy. Life moves at a rapid pace and everyone is competing for your audience’s attention. It’s your job to earn that attention.
If you are going to convince people to spend an hour, afternoon, or even a couple of days at your event, you need to make it clearly worthwhile.
Here’s some key questions you can ask to unlock the value in your event:
- If I was a prospective attendee, what would it take to convince me to attend this event?”
- What will my attendees learn from this event?
- What are we teaching at this event that will make attendees better at their jobs?
- What are we offering at this event that attendees won’t get anywhere else?
Takeaway: Convey the value in your event clearly and people will register
4. Creating Landing Pages for Each Campaign
Now, I’m going to guarantee you’ve seen this scenario before. I know I have, I saw it twice in the last month.
You get an email with some pretty compelling copy and nice design. You’re interested. You click the link to learn more.
Then you’re dumped onto the event’s main page. Huh? Wait a minute…
It almost feels like something went wrong or the sender pushed out the email with a wrong link. And that’s nearly correct.
Here’s the deal: When you put that link out there, be it an email newsletter or on Twitter, you’re in a way creating a contract with the user.
A link is another way of saying, “If you click this, you and I are going to continue the conversation.” Don’t drop the conversation.
The next step continues — more importantly, builds — the experience. You need a page built specifically for the campaign. A thoroughly planned next step. You need a well-formed landing page.
Landing pages are the critical proving grounds for your copy. It’s the logical continuation from your email marketing message or social media post.
There are people out there a ton smarter than me doing an amazing job with landing pages. Oli Gardner is one of them – he wrote The Smart Marketer’s Landing Page Conversion Course. Read it, embrace it, love it.
Right there on the first page in block letters is the largest mistake event marketers make; shoving a marketing campaign out the door without a dedicated landing page.
Let’s say you have a good bit of compelling content in targeted marketing campaign you’re pulling off. Maybe three or four long paragraphs on a keynote speaker.
Maybe you also have a video montage of the speaker at the last event. You’ve also got a bunch of pictures in a slideshow. Just a bunch of great content.
The last thing you want to do is bog down your email message with all that copy.
Create a succinct mailer – don’t try to tell the entire story right off the bat. Then fill a dedicated landing page with copy and use the video to drive conversions (it’s proven to work). Just don’t forget a strong Call to Action.
One last thing. Make sure your design hangs together. Your email should look like your landing page and the landing page should mirror your site design.
But don’t forget: