If you are hosting an event to increase customer engagement, you know that the goal is to get people through the door. By choosing your event promotion timeline carefully, you can maximize your event’s exposure and increase attendance. Promoting an event requires a delicate balance: you want to engage your audience and generate excitement without becoming tiresome or spammy.
When to Launch
Save-the-dates and occasional teasers can start as soon as you have a firm time, location, and event landing page. Remember: you can’t undo the impression a bad invitation creates, so hold off on this step until everything looks great. Your event landing page should be accurate and the registration form should be functional. If you’re not ready to accept registrations yet, you can include a simple contact form to collect email addresses.
The sweet spot to kick off your promotional push is 45 to 90 days out. This gets your event on customers’ radar and also gives your marketing team time to build buzz without becoming stale. Larger, more elaborate events may require more lead time, and informal or online-only events may need less.
Before you launch, draw up a clear plan of attack. Your promotional plan should state clearly what you are going to do, when and how frequently you are going to do it, and what method of communication you will use. Since your goal is to get people to the event, be sure that all of your communications have a clear link to your event’s registration page.
Ramping It Up
Your brand’s most loyal followers will be excited to help increase your event’s visibility. Keep the conversation two-way: engage with commenters and people who use your hashtag. Answer questions. People get annoyed with being bombarded with sales-y messages and want authentic, likeable engagement from businesses.
In the weeks preceding your event, gradually increase mentions of your event along with your normal social media content. Because images result in more online sharing, post branded images on social media. At the six-week mark, do this once or twice a week. As you approach the event, increase your frequency. In the few days before, post about your event daily.
Email marketing is a must for building awareness of your event, and you need a clear plan to avoid under-promoting. After your initial “save the date” email, send out another message to coincide with your six-week push. Your email should have a clear call-to-action that leads to your registration form. Then, touch base with potential guests every one to two weeks. Segmented email marketing works great at this stage: you can send messages to those who have not yet registered and encourage them to do so. A different message can be sent to registrants, looking forward to the event and encouraging them to invite family and friends.
Reminders are Essential
To avoid no-shows, you have to give people a helpful nudge. Set up your email marketing platform to send a reminder email a few days before your event to those who have RSVP’d. Consider investing in an automated voicemail service to remind your registrants to actually show up. Or try something new to increase attendance: Twitter and text messaging are two of the fastest-growing methods for influencing customers’ decisions to attend your event. (Just be sure to collect the necessary contact info during registration!)
During and After the Event
Post your event hashtag prominently to encourage online interaction. If you can, designate a live-tweeter/live-Facebooker/live-Instagrammer for the event. Have them keep an eye on your social media accounts to see what people are posting about your event. Retweet or share great photos or comments. (If you don’t have the manpower to do this at the event itself, do it the next day.) Immediately following an event is the best time to convert attendees into customers, so follow up with email and social media.
For some great conversion insights on event registrations and other web forms, click below to download our 2015 Form Conversion Report.