Top 10 Tips for Driving Registrations & Making Your Next Event a Success
Producing an event, conference or tradeshow can certainly test your sanity. Trust me, I know. I have produced and co-produced over 90 educational marketing events since 2009.
No one wants to work on creating the perfect event only to see empty chairs, missed goals and disappointed sponsors. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
At Roger West, we’ve done a lot of successful event marketing and have some tips to pack the house for your next event.
- Plan ahead. Way ahead. I usually tell people it takes a minimum of 9-12 months to plan a successful, large-scale event. You can produce an event in as little as 3-4 months, but your attendance and overall revenue will likely suffer. A year to 18 months of preparation is best because sponsors often plan their event budgets 3-4 months before their fiscal year-end. It also may take time to get your key speakers lined up.
- Add variety to your event. Offer various activities to support the different ways people like to learn and engage. Some people may like just listening to a dynamic speaker, while others might prefer round table discussions, workshops or other activities. I have seen an increase in overall event revenue as high as 50% just by adding workshops on day one.
- Position your event with a powerful brand message. Whether it’s a gala, a conference or an annual meeting, your event should have a cohesive theme and its own branded look and feel. Your event brand needs to be compelling and professional, and carried consistently throughout all of your event materials – from websites to emails, banners to table signs.
- Get marketing support. Make sure to get your speakers and sponsors to agree to help market your event. They will be more likely to do so if you provide them with some sample tweets, blog posts and email copy so all they have to do is cut and paste your copy to share. I found it works best if you provide exactly what you want each supporter to use. While that’s more work for you, it helps ensure your speakers and sponsors will get involved. Make sure to include all the standard sized banners, blog banners, website banners, speaker badges and logos with unique links to track who was your best supporter.
- Create an event landing page or microsite. Make sure your landing page or event site includes an online registration form, and that it is responsive so it can be easily accessed across all devices, including desktop, tablet and mobile. Include all the SEO-friendly information that people would need to know to register and attend your event – including things like booking a room, an agenda, speaker profiles, workshops, nearby attractions, etc. Then all of your efforts need to be focused on driving people to that specific page – via call-to-action buttons, banners, event promo buttons, PPC, referral links, emails, etc.
- Run PPC and retargeting campaigns. Consider running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign with retargeting banner ads. Your PPC ads and other campaign promotions will drive traffic to the event page, while the remarketing ads will display on 3rd-party websites to reinforce your event to visitors who may not have signed up yet. Make sure to have retargeting banner ads ready to go live before you start your email marketing efforts, so you can recapture lost traffic. Change up the banners with discount offers, new speaker announcements, workshop options, etc. for best results.
- Send (lots of) emails. Email marketing is and will probably always be the primary marketing channel for driving registrations to your event. Send out nicely designed, responsive email invitations that drive visitors to your registration form. At the minimum, we suggest a “Save the Date”, a “Formal Invite”, and a “Last Chance” email leading up to the date of the event. I like to send speaker announcements, as well as dedicated workshop emails. The idea is to send something new each and every time.
- Target your emails. I generally kick start my event marketing with national email campaigns to all relevant job titles. Over time I reduce the size of the campaigns geographically. So if I have an event in Chicago I might start with a national campaign, then focus on the mid-section of the country, slowly shrinking the size of the campaigns to just the surrounding states of Illinois. Likewise, while I start by emailing to job titles that may have an interest, I gradually whittle that list down into specific segments that focus on the industries and company size best suited for the event.
- Time and pace your emails. I generally send out the “Save the Date” email as soon as the agenda is 70% complete. During the first few months of email marketing, I like to send email campaigns out on odd weeks, with follow-up campaigns going to the people who didn’t open up the first email a week later. Once you get three to four months away from the actual event date, I like to increase the campaigns to once a week using a different message each time. About a month out from the event, I send emails once a week with follow-up emails going out 2 or 3 days after the original send.
- Make sure you have the data you need. To fill the house at a large-scale event, you need to invite (and follow-up with) a very large list of people. If you are fortunate enough to have a huge database of contacts for your target audience, then you’re all set. If not, you may want to consider purchasing a list or working with an agency that provides data for free as part of your marketing campaign.
Follow these suggestions, and you’ll be sure to have a successful event that gets real results. Need help? This is what we do. Let’s Talk.