The experience of planning any online event is quite similar to building your company’s site. You need compelling content to communicate with your target audience and persuade them to perform specific actions – regardless if that would be filling in their data as a lead, going after a job position that you posted or downloading some brochures. Even if you manage to put together an outstanding website, featuring all the right content, you still need to successfully target the appropriate audience - otherwise you simply have another digital asset (a website), which won’t bring in any new business and will simply accumulate expenses. This is why you need the right partner and a carefully curated marketing strategy.
By partnering with TheVirtual.Show as your virtual event platform, you choose a team of project managers who have more than 15 years of experience in the events industry, alongside the fastest growing software companies in Europe, bringing together experience in the events industry with a huge team of developers. But only half of the recipe for cooking up successful virtual events is choosing the right kitchen. The other half comes down to your own marketing and organizational efforts, which must reach out far and wide to attract the right audience and speakers.
If you manage to attract the right people you will spark connections, your attendees’ businesses will grow and therefore your event will resonate within its domain industry. To attract the right people there are a few important things you should keep in mind, when devising a marketing plan for your virtual event. This article will discuss these and hopefully serve you as a guide into the virtual event industry.
Identifying the buying persona is essential for the start of any marketing plan. To target the audience of your virtual event successfully you must first understand who your desired virtual visitors are and the way to get there is by asking yourself these simple questions:
This is important because it will determine your marketing channels, e.g if you are organizing a virtual job fair for younger people, your best options would be facebook or instagram, for professional virtual events such as summits, tradeshows and conferences a linked in campaign would be much more appropriate. Ideally, you will have the buyer persona figured out at the beginning. From then on you should think about what is the best way to reach them and then adapt your strategy accordingly. The best way to measure the success of your campaign is by setting a clear goal from the very start and follow your progression towards that goal.
Once you’ve gotten down your target audience and the milestones which will lead you to your goal, the best thing to do is create a landing page for the event. This landing page will communicate the value which your visitors will receive from attending your event, while enabling you to collect information about them prior to the event.
In a perfect world, the platform where you will be hosting your event will provide you with some help when building your landing page. It is important that you are included in the process of building this page as it needs to be cohesive with your brand and the vision for your event. After all, you are the organizer and nobody will understand the needs of your event better than you. Most importantly, make sure your landing page conveys your message, not someone else’s.
The fundamental elements of a stellar landing page are:
If you launch your marketing campaign long before the virtual event and you risk losing the attention of your audience. If you launch the campaign late, your reach might not be sufficient to meet your goals.
Ideally, you will have your landing page up and live around 2-3 weeks before the tentative dates of the virtual event to secure a slot on your visitors’ calendars. This will also allow you to funnel all your potential visitors coming from social media and other marketing channels, onto the landing page. Apart from attendees being able to sign up, a landing page allows you to retarget those people back on social media and make the most out of your campaign budget.
Of course the timeline above is subjective. For more niche events, it might be best to begin promoting much more ahead of time as a more focused campaign requires a bit more time and is very event-specific. E.g. If you are planning to host a networking event for C-level executives, it would require a much more focused and coordinated direct marketing approach and therefore will require longer time to facilitate.
The main channel for most businesses is their own website. That gives you full charge of the copy of the ad. We recommend featuring the event on your website’s homepage, but you can also build a separate section on the website, specifically for the event. However you decide to place the advertisement, make sure there is a clear call to action and a clear value proposition. Instead of simply telling your potential visitors “Come and sign up for the tradeshow” try something like ”Sign up and Visit the expo area to meet 1:1 with our exclusive exhibitors, where you will learn about their unique products and receive special discounts, only available for the visitors of this event. Be quick meeting slots are almost filled”. Of course this is just an example, what clicks with your audience is unique, as your event is unique, which is why you need to put a lot of thought into this, maybe even bring in your team for a brainstorming session.
There are many other ways to further increase the reach of your promotional efforts. E.g. make sure you create the event on LinkedIn and Facebook and invite lots of relevant people. Make sure you share posts regarding the event via your company’s social media pages and ask members of your team to share it as well.
As aforementioned in this article, video content works best online, so it might be worth it to feature a video regarding your event on your website, social media and any other communication channels that are available to you.
Email marketing is a powerful tool to utilize, when it comes to virtual event marketing. If you have a mail list which you can reach out to, definitely include that in your promotional strategy. According to research, more than 40% of marketers believe that email is the best channel to promote events.
There are a number of fundamental points you should take into consideration when building an email marketing campaign for your event:
In a perfect world you will have more data points about the recipients in your mailing list. If you have a way to filter those people and invite only the relevant ones to your event via your email campaign that will be most effective. In your mailing schedule you should plan at least 2-3 emails to be sent out before the date of the event. This will raise awareness and raise the number of your pre registrations.
As aforementioned the subject of the email is extremely important as it will be the first thing your recipients will see. Try using mass mail tools such as Mailchimp or simply use your CRM (e.g. Salesforce) and send two different emails with different headlines. This way you will be able to test and see what clicks best with your audience.
Word of mouth is the best way to promote any product or service and the same goes for events. If you hear from someone who you respect, that they recommend you to visit a tradeshow or networking event, wouldn’t you consider it?
The two main reasons why you should encourage people to share their participation are:
Timing is an important factor here. You can’t expect someone who has not registered to share the event with their friends. What you can do though, is ask people who have already signed up to share their attendance. The best way to do this is to feature a direct call to action, immediately after the sign up or within the registration confirmation email. You can even feature social media sharing shortcuts on your website and within the email itself.
There are a few things which you can do to make your event more ‘shareable’. Firstly the visual - visual representation is the most important factor when it comes to marketing. Our main recommendation is to prepare a short video regarding the event which you can distribute across all your communication channels. This way people will be easily able to share and view the content.
If your event is paid you can further incentivize your audience to share the event by offering them a discount if a specific number of their contacts end up participating in the event as well. This is very event specific and in some cases there are other ways to incentivize your attendees. E.g. If the event is free, but you have a tradeshow, you can offer your attendees discounts for certain products, etc.
A sponsor can be a powerful catalyst when it comes to event marketing. Typically large sponsors have large followings and simply sharing the event via their social media channels could be enough to boost your ticket sales. Sponsors can also provide discounts and other incentives for your attendees to perform specific actions (e.g. share the event with their network or purchase products at a tradeshow). At the end of the day, they would also benefit from a larger number of visitors to the event.
Below you can find examples of different approaches to engage your sponsors in the overall marketing effort for the event.
Similarly to the landing page, your voice should be important when it comes to the copy (text) and creative (visuals) of the marketing materials which will be distributed by your sponsors, regarding the event. You should work closely with them to make sure the content that is being distributed is cohesive with your vision for the event, as the better the copy the better conversions you can expect.
When it comes to marketing in general, the more, the better. The more channels for advertising your event, the higher your chance is to attract a large audience. Involving your speakers in your marketing efforts will increase awareness of your event and will respectively increase your visitors, especially if you have invited high-profile speakers. Typically professionals which are worth inviting as speakers at your event will have a large following. Reaching out to their audience is an extra target group which you can reach for free. The speakers will act as ambassadors for your event and will attract people who want to engage and connect with them. This is another ‘must’ for you as the organizer.
This is marketing 101. At the top of the funnel, you are trying to grab the attention of the customer. Only afterwards can you ask them to purchase your product/service. This is also true in the case of virtual events.
You can simply perform a google search to see what articles are popular in your domain industry or the industry the event you are planning is associated with. This will allow you to better understand what clicks with the audience and will maximise the efficiency of your campaign. Another trick which we recommend is to check out the recommended posts section on your LinkedIn page. Keep in mind that you will have access to that tool if you have a company page with more than 300 followers. Within that tool, you will be able to see what kind of content is currently trending in your industry. Once you have identified what works best, you can try to imitate that content or be original and try to stay away from what others are doing. Either way, you will need to understand the context of your industry first and then adapt accordingly.
To generate organic traffic you should consider SEO (search engine optimization). We won’t dive in too deep into this as it is a separate field in marketing, but what you can do to optimize your content is think about keywords. Ask yourself, what kind of keywords are related to your event. Include all the answers you could come up with in your content and link it back to yours or your partner's websites. This will increase organic traffic to your website and will therefore increase the reach of your campaign. This is one of the cheapest ways to increase your reach and will also be a good training exercise for future events, as we all well know - practice makes perfect. You can feature such content on your website, on all social media platforms and on the blog sections of your partner’s websites, which will ensure the content is being distributed across as many channels as possible.
You should definitely consider creating videos about your event. This can be a preview of the virtual venue, an interview with one of your speakers, a testimonial video featuring visitors of previous events and so many other options. As evidenced by research, video content engages your audience best and is by far the most effective way to drive traffic to your landing page. The best video content is short and informative, making it easy for visitors to understand what the event is all about. It is also shareable and if executed properly visually pleasing.
You can feature these videos on social media, YouTube, your own website, your partners websites and so many other channels, making it the most versatile and engaging approach to digital marketing. It could be costly if you hire a professional to create it, but with so many tools available online you can easily make it yourself if you are working with a tight budget.
A press release might be a good option for the promotion of your event, especially if it is B2B
We assume that if you are considering this option you most probably have a team of marketers and PR specialists who can carry this out for you. For those who do not have access to such resources and specialists - Content is king, as we learned from the previous section. It is vital to pick your words very carefully when preparing a press release. The message you send out will resonate widely and it must include - the value proposition of your event, mention the characteristics of your target audience and surely, include the date and time of the event. Link the piece to your landing page or event website so that you can take advantage of referral traffic, coming in from such press releases.
Apart from the huge audience, online press is more likely to be shared by readers. This allows you to tap into another huge audience and drive traffic to your virtual event. Extra exposure can never be enough especially in the virtual world.
Utilizing social media should not even be considered - it should be intuitive. This is true for all social media platforms, especially twitter. Many companies have utilized Twitter to put their events under the spotlight. With virtual events, online promotional channels are especially important - you cannot expect a virtual event to be visited unless there is a firmly established digital presence. To establish such you as the organizer must utilize all of these channels cleverly and on time.
Hashtags are basically keywords. If you have done your research as laid out by the content marketing section of this article, you should have a pretty good idea of what the relevant keywords are for your event. This will allow you to combine those keywords and be creative when creating the hashtag for your event. Sparking conversations on social media regarding your event will really build up hype and will increase the number of registered attendees.
Just remember not to blast tweets, asking people to sign up. Rather, try to engage them and grab their attention. Maybe you can reach out and ask them what questions they would like to ask a specific speaker, before the event
Social media platforms provide a free and effective way to reach out to huge audiences. We suggest that you post videos, as video format content is found to be most effective in engaging audiences online. Another approach is to publish informative posts on Facebook/LinkedIn and see what clicks with your audience. Once you test the ground and see what works best you can invest in paid promotion of those posts. This will further drive up traffic to your website/landing page and will increase the likelihood of a ticket purchase/ event registration.
If you plan to use Facebook and LinkedIn make sure you have integrated the appropriate codes into your landing page - for example Facebook Pixel. This will allow you to track which people visit your site by clicking on a facebook post/ ad and will also allow you to retarget these people again and again. According to statistics, it takes around 10 times to be exposed to a certain post or ad before you click on it. This makes social media platforms a powerful tool to market your event.
Apart from optimizing your content to rank your website higher up in search results on Google, you can also invest in paid ranking.
Google’s ads will promote your event based on keywords. When someone searches the keyword you are ranking for you will appear before the competition. Similarly to promoted content on social media, you can manually set the parameters of your target audience, based on demographics, location and keywords. This will drive the exposure of your event and therefore increase awareness and visibility.
Ads which stand out are a really good addition to your campaign and will undoubtedly increase your conversion rate. Furthermore, by utilizing search engines, you will also be able to access detailed analytics. Such statistical reports will provide you with valuable insight into the traffic which your website generates and will also allow you to measure the success of search engine campaigns.
SMS marketing is overlooked nowadays. This is because we are so used to online channels we often disregard this marketing approach, which can be much more effective in some cases. In fact, SMS marketing messages have a 80 - 98% open rate, as opposed to email marketing’s 15 - 25%. It is simple, cost effective and enables you to directly address your audience.
At the end of the day, every event is unique and has unique needs. Virtual events can be a challenge at first, but once you get the basics, they become a powerful tool to promote your brand. Partnering with the right virtual venue provider and executing the right marketing campaign will ensure your event is successful in all aspects and will set a president in your company that will allow your organization to cross borders into the digital world. We hope you found this article useful, if so - please share it with your colleagues and friends, after all word of mouth is the best promotional channel.