Brea Carter examines three important ways to drive attendees to in-person, hybrid and virtual events
The spectator-free Tokyo Olympics are kicking off this week amid a state of emergency in Japan, face-to-face events are very much back on the cards in the UK following Freedom Day, and on the other side of the world in Australia, a large chunk of the country is in lockdown.
A quick look at the state of the world right now shows us that we’re all at different stages of returning to a post-pandemic ‘normal,’ and our events are reflective of this.
However, there are several marketing tactics conference and event organisers can embrace to increase their numbers, irrespective of whether the event they’re planning is virtual, hybrid or in-person.
Dial up the personalisation piece
From Spotify and Netflix providing curated suggestions following an analysis of our listening and viewing habits, to social ads targeting us based on our scrolling behaviours, personalisation isn’t exactly new. But given 66% of people expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 80% are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalised experiences, it remains incredibly important now.
So, maintain a commitment to personalisation across every touchpoint and stage of your event, and you’re setting yourself up for success. This might involve segmenting pre-event email comms to drive click through rates, taking a crowd-sourced approach to agenda creation, and encouraging attendees to share their thoughts as the event happens via a virtual chat, social media (an official event hashtag is essential here) or event app, so that they get to influence the way it unfolds.
Then post-event, lean on the data before following up with each attendee to learn more about their event behaviours, and ensure comms is reflective of that data. Initiatives like sending attendees a personalised gift will act as a powerful memento of the experience, too.
Focus in on your event website
According to a recent report, the majority (50%) of consumers feel websites are most effective at helping them understand the benefits of a brand’s products or services, followed by events and experiences. But did you know it takes someone about 50 milliseconds to decide whether they will stay on a website, or leave?
This means it pays to invest in a well-designed, mobile friendly site – both from an aesthetic and user experience perspective. Company and event branding is important, but make sure you consider principles like a simple design, visual hierarchy, the grouping of similar information, opting for smaller chunks of text rather than endless paragraphs, and a clear call to action.
Don’t let your hard work go unnoticed, either! A strong SEO strategy will help ensure your audience find your finished site, as will a regularly updated, SEO optimised blog or news section.
Meet your audience where they are with good PR
As former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée once said: “advertising is saying you are good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good”. Most of us have a curated list of media outlets and journalists that we turn to daily, and their impartial endorsements tend to carry a lot of weight.
Lean on the research you conducted to develop your attendee profiles, and consider where these different personas might go for their news and information. Then, write up bespoke pitches and even press releases about how and why your event will benefit these audiences, and connect with the relevant journalists (to ensure you’re engaging the right people, it really pays to do your research here) at the media outlets you’ve identified.
Tactics like awards and speaking engagements also form part of the PR puzzle, so consider how you might be able to weave these tactics in at the post-event stage to raise awareness of both the event brand, and those involved in bringing it to life. It might just increase your numbers at future events, too.
Regardless of where you are in the world right now, or the type of event you’re working on, it pays to devise a robust, complementary marketing strategy. It’ll not only ensure you attract the right audience and desired attendee numbers, you’ll enhance brand relevancy and awareness along the way.
Brea Carter is founder and director, Experience Maker PR
Balloon image: Amy Shamblen