122 Ways to Market Your Event with No Money

Skift Take

Event Marketing is incredibly important but it doesn’t have to be expensive.

In fact, there are MANY ways you can get attention for your event without spending a dime.

In this article, we’ve provided well over one hundred ways to market your event without the hefty price tag.

Too good to be true?

Start with our top 10 ideas below and, if you really want to crush it, read on to find out how to market your event without spending anything.

Our favorite 10 Ideas to try now

Blog About What People Search For to Rank Higher
Use Image Quotes from Past Attendees to Grab Attention
Create a Facebook Frame for Recognition
Express Your Sense of Humor in Video
Use the Phone to Work Your Network
Personalize the Emails Past the Name to Influence Action
Add an event registration pop-up to your website
Create your own Bitmoji
Use Reciprocity to Get What You Want from Attendees
Offer industry influencers a discount or affiliate program

How to Promote an Event Successfully: Preparation

How to Promote an Event Successfully: <strong>Preparation</strong>

If you have absolutely no money in your budget for event marketing, preparation will help you have a successful event. If you fail to prepare because you assume you can get it done as you go, you’ll end up spending money and time you don’t have. These pre-event marketing tips are designed to help you spend nothing but time for maximum results.

  • Pre-Event

You want to create a foundation for a zero-spend event by building your brand. If people see you as a creator/planner of amazing events, they’ll keep an eye out for your soirees. So start with these marketing tips before you need them:

Build Your Brand on Social Media to Become Known as Someone to Watch

Consider adopting a niche or specialized segmentation so people in an industry or demographic check your calendar for events they know they’ll enjoy.

Get to Know Bloggers for Increased Word of Mouth Marketing

Make friends with as many bloggers, influencers, and social media ambassadors as possible. They will help you get the word out if they know, like, and trust you and are integral to your low-budget event marketing.

Make Journalist Friends for Increased Event Coverage

If you throw events that are press worthy, it benefits you to get to know these folks too. Don’t forget writers for magazines, travel sites, or anything that fits the type of events you put on.

Keep Lists Clean to Ensure Greater Reach

Assuming your client loves you, and they’ll want you to plan next year’s event as well, work with your client’s marketing department to ensure the attendee list from last year doesn’t get stale. Engage the attendees throughout the year with email campaigns, and they are more likely to attend next year. The Content Marketing Institute remains in contact with past attendees by sending email alerts on early-bird pricing, deadlines, contests, award applications, and more throughout the year so the event stays top-of-mind.

Some of these tactics will appear later as well but the “pre-event” work is different than your event marketing strategy. This pre-work is focused on your brand, not your individual event.

Now let’s get into the event marketing tactics involved in pre-event marketing.

Event Promotion Ideas: Get Organized

All too often, cash-poor event organizers get themselves lost in the details of planning the program, organizing the venue, and managing the logistics and overlook how to market an event. All of those things are important but if you don’t have an audience, you don’t have an event.

The less money you have to spend on your event marketing, the more important it is to get organized. You need to make up for your lack of funds with a good plan and creativity. The sooner you do this the better. In fact, your marketing plan should be one of the first things you think about.

Line Up Event Marketing Sponsors to Fund Your Big Ideas

When you are concerned about budget, this tends to limit your creativity and imagination regarding your event. Your inclination will be to play it safe, feel worried, concerned, and constrained. While it is important to protect your bottom line this can also suffocate good ideas.

What would you be doing to market your event if money was no object? Do some brainstorming with your team. Chances are, many of your big ideas don’t actually require big budgets. For those ideas that do require money, the next place to look is sponsorship.

One event prof organized a charity event where they wanted to advertise on the back of buses. However, they didn’t have the budget to afford the $3000 price tag for this kind of advertising. Rather than give up on the idea, they found a sponsor that wanted to be associated with the event. The event planner included the sponsor on all the event advertising, including the buses.

Event sponsors want marketing and coverage. If you partner with the right organization it’s a win-win as you both get in front of a larger audience.

Create a Team for Nothing (or near to it) for More Expertise and Assistance

It’s likely you won’t market your event on your own. You need a team that includes writers, designers, technical experts, web designers, social media and PR.

But what do you do when you need the expertise but can’t afford it? Where will you find a team of willing volunteers?

Look for up-and-coming individuals and companies who are in the process of making a name for themselves and may be willing to sponsor the event. You may need to talk with a lot of people and make some bold requests. Money is not the only way to reward people. Acknowledgment, publicity, and networking are great motivators.

Another possibility is to hire a communication team on a commission basis. Offer them a proceed of the ticket sales as their reward.

Find the Target Market to Ensure You’re Working Smarter, Not Harder

You may have plenty of contacts, but if you take a scattergun approach to marketing the event, you’ll spend a lot of effort on minimal return. Ask yourself:

what kind of people would come to an event like yours
where can you find them
how do they like to be spoken to
what could you promise them about the event that would prick their ears up and make their hairs stand on end?

Some planners believe marketing is just about getting the details out there and letting the internet do the rest. But people don’t spend their free time browsing event sites and picking events to attend.

Many event planners make the mistake of being far too general in their approach to event marketing. Big mistake. People lead busy lives, and they will only make a decision to give up three hours of their valuable time if they are given the best reasons to do so. They expect a personalized approach and a tailored invitation at the very least.

Find out what sort of person your speakers appeal to. Give yourself enough time to discover exactly what they do, who their clients are, and how a group session would change the dynamic of how they normally work.

If you are planning on running and selling an event, expect to be talking to people non-stop; event planning starts with a computer and a social network, but it most definitely does not end there!

Extend Your Reach Through Digital Marketing

Extend Your Reach Through <strong>Digital Marketing</strong>

Digital marketing has opened up amazing avenues for event planners that require no investment outside of time

If you are not doing digital marketing, you are late to the party.

Very late.

Still relying on the postman to send invites?

You can do better than that. How?

Here you go ->

Creative Ways to Promote an Event with Blogging

Blogging on the Company Website Helps Land Warm Leads

Blogging on your site is a solid way to convert visitors into attendees. They are already warm leads interested in something about you/your event.

Use your blog as a platform to announce the event. Post your event press release. That way, you can easily reach your subscribers and stakeholders who already have an interest in your organization. You can also share this announcement on your social media channels.

Next, gather interest for your event from your company blog by writing relevant and useful blog posts and then call attention to your event in the conclusion.

This strategy will help attract new readers who may have not heard about your event before. Readers are interested in how you can help them, so if you offer help first and then follow-up with an invitation to your event, you’ll attract more attendees. After all, they’ve already shown interest in the topic. It’s easy to invite them to deeper learning on the same topic at your conference or event.

You’ll also earn more social shares because of the nature of the content, which will get more eyeballs on your event announcement.

Case Study

For example, imagine you’re hosting a fundraising event for an animal shelter. Think about what possible donors—who are likely pet owners themselves—would want to read about in a blog post. Around the holidays, you might write a post on great gifts to get your dog. That way, you pull in dog owners and animal lovers. At the end of your post, you could include a call to action along the lines of, “Want to help out other pets? Give the gift of a home this season,” followed by the details of your event.

Submitting Guest Posts for Greater Reach and New Audiences

If you don’t have a company blog or you’re looking to get the word out further, consider submitting guest posts to sites with the audience you’re trying to target. Be up front that you’re looking to promote your event, and many blogs will be happy to accommodate by sharing a link to your event page at the end of your post or in your author bio.

This tactic is a lot like the previous one where you use helpful content to call attention to the event at the end of the post. The difference is that the blog post is being published on a site different from your own to reach new audiences.

Be sure not to duplicate content and to pay attention to the target blog’s audience.  For instance, an animal shelter fundraiser will target pet blogs in the same geographical area, not health blogs based in another country. Here are a few other tips you need to know about guest blogging.

Encourage Popular Bloggers to Write About Your Event for Word of Mouth Marketing

You needn’t  write all of your own blog posts. Instead, get popular bloggers or your speakers to post about your event on their blog. This tactic comes with numerous benefits, including that it can save you time and money since the blogger is doing most of the promotional work for you.

Contact bloggers in your niche. Ask them if your event is something they’d be interested in covering on their blog. To entice more bloggers to write about your organization, invite them to your event.

If you know of bloggers who have attended your event in the past, or who are planning to attend this time, get in contact with them. They’re clearly already interested in your event, and chances are their friends and followers will be, too. You might offer an incentive, such as free admission, to convince bloggers to cover your event.

Keep these tips in mind when contacting bloggers:

Don’t send a press release without an invite to the event; it’s rude.
In fact, don’t send a press release at all. Personalize your pitch, and bloggers will be much more likely to respond.
Ask about the details of their blogging  audience. You want to ensure the right fit.
Remember that media coverage isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. Build a relationship with attending bloggers for a better chance of earning coverage. For example, subscribe to their blog and social channels, and comment on their blog posts leading up to the event and long after, especially if you plan on inviting them back next year.

Inviting bloggers to your event does not guarantee positive reviews or live coverage, but it can still lead to cost-effective marketing, exposure to new audiences, and a boost in brand awareness.

Blog About What People Search For to Rank Higher

Search is becoming more dependent on problem-solving than specific keywords like “events in NYC.” Write blog posts about very specific content including “Why you should attend ____” and “What to bring to ______.” Cover it from a million creative angles.

Get Content From Speakers

Your speakers (maybe even your entertainment) likely have content you can use. Or create your own on a topic you’re covering at your event and ask your speaker to give you a quote. Now people looking for your speaker will also find your event.

Allow for Easy Social Sharing on Your Blog

Add Click to Tweet or other plug-ins or functionalities to your blog posts for easy sharing. You can create prepopulated posts or allow for text highlighting that becomes Tweetable. The easier it is, the more people will share the content that resonates with them.

Put Together a Contributor’s’ Post to Place in Search and Create Expert Content

Feature your session leaders in a post about the theme of your event. For example, create a post around “15 Industry Experts Predict Next Year’s Biggest Trends.” This gives the audience a little preview of what they’ll learn at your event.

How to Promote an Event Online with Social Media

Effective social media isn’t free (it takes time) but if you pull together a social media team then it is a powerful marketing engine. Download the Social Media ebook to find out how to create a team, leverage your champions and create effective social media strategies. Here are ways to use it for your event marketing:

Use Image Quotes from Past Attendees to Grab Attention

Take a quote from an attendee and slap it up against an interesting background. Just make sure you have gotten their permission to use their quotes in marketing materials beforehand.

Image via Social Media Examiner

Do the same for your speakers and their favorite quotes or info.

Create an Event Page to Entice Friends of Attendees

Set up an event page on Facebook. Share it every day, ideally 2-3 times a day. Share event info and background prep work. Build anticipation. When people interact with your page, Facebook will notify their friends.

Share Information in Online Communities to Increase Interaction

Look for online communities where your ideal attendees can be found. If they’re private on Facebook or elsewhere, you will need to request permission to join. Always offer value, don’t go directly to the sell. Make sure you understand the posting rules in each community you belong to. Some have days of the week in which you can list your events or post URLs.

Hijack a Hashtag to Get Noticed

Look at the trending hashtags on Twitter. Use one in your post, even if it’s not associated with your event, but make your use of it clever. A hijacked hashtag that is not clever will annoy those interested in the real hashtag. Also, never use a hashtag you don’t know or one of very serious consequences, like a national tragedy. You could get yourself into a sticky PR situation.

Use Facebook Pixels for More Effective Ads

Facebook pixels allow you to show ads to people who have already visited your website. You know they’re interested. Now you just need a registration. Customizing your content to their interest can help you convert them to registrants. Pixeling is free but it’s best used in conjunction with Facebook ads, which is not.

Create a Facebook Frame for Recognition

If you want another level of branding, use the Facebook Profile Frame Overlay Maker to creating a Facebook profile picture frame. If it’s visually appealing, people will choose it and use it with their profile pic giving your event additional exposure.

Run a Ticket Contest to Attract Views

Social media provides an ideal engagement platform. You can run a contest to give away free tickets, discount registration, or simply get more shares. Leanne VanDerveer, Corporate/Virtual Concierge with Charm City Concierge LLC, sees social media as a good thing for event professionals. She says, “What better way to advertise for an event than to have people tagging and sharing pictures, positive comments and things they love about the event?! Free marketing is one of the biggest tools an event planner can use in today’s social media-craving society. Not only does it help advertise but it can also bring people together and present another way of viewing the event, through its participants.”

Contests can also take a more active form like this scavenger hunt.

Vendors often host contests as well. Remember to share their posts and they’ll likely share more of yours.

Create an Event Around Your Event to Draw a Crowd

A social media event around your event could take on the form of a flash mob or some other way to get noticed. This is best done when your event has a wide appeal. If you serve a small niche, getting everyone’s attention is not that valuable to you.

Follow Attendees to Make an Impression

Follow everyone who registers for the event. You can ask for social media profiles during registration. Create a list on Twitter and share their content periodically. Show them you are a valuable follower and they’ll likely return the favor.

Use a Memorable Hashtag for Increased Use

If you want people to use your hashtag, they have to be able to remember it. That means make it very clever so it stands out or make it obvious so if they guessed it, they’d be right. Make sure everyone knows your event hashtag. Also, don’t forget to add your event info and hashtag to each of your event’s social media bios.

Use hashtags early and often. Tag photos, posts, and create table tents at your event with the hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to find event content. Plus, a well-used hashtag makes non-attendees curious about your event. They may choose to follow the action or learn more about it based on the social media shares and content. You could even become a trending hashtag!

But before you select your event hashtag, double check that there are no hidden meanings behind it or that it’s already being used by a group you don’t want to be affiliated with. Here’s some info on best practices.

View this post on Instagram

Ah Mr Deeks… @mark_deeks at the launch party of We Are Sparkle with @nicolajsparkles

A post shared by Emma Bunting (@emmabuntinguk) on Jun 27, 2016 at 1:09am PDT

Build Community to Improve Social Outcomes

Create an online community where people can connect before and after the event. Offer the community special perks like discounted tickets or referral incentives. Seed the community with good content by asking speakers to participate by adding content and commenting on it.Keep the community going afterward to help with marketing of next year’s event.

Use Twitter Advanced Search to Find People

Twitter advanced search can help you find people interested in your niche or industry as mentioned in their bio. Find them and then connect with them.

Use Your Prime Social Media Real Estate so People Know Who You Are

Create a solid event description for social media bios. Think about your ideal attendee and what would appeal to them.

Personalize Your Approach to Persuade People That You Understand Them

If you have a few different demographics you appeal to, create different marketing materials that you will use on specific social media places where that demographic resides.

Use Affinity Data to Discover Unexpected Ways to Reach Your Audience

Affinity data analyzes commonalities in relationships, interests, and passions. Knowing what your audience likes based on their divulged affinities can help you create an event more aligned with those interests. For example, you may find that you have an audience with an unusually high affinity for Jerry Garcia and all things Grateful Dead. With that information you could decide to turn your activity into a themed event, targeting those interested people in your database.

Scan Your Stars’, Performers’, and Speakers’ Social Media Pages to Find a New Audience

With the rise of social media and personal brands, whether it’s a conference speaker, a guitarist in a band, or an actor in a play, you likely have past attendees that follow these people on Facebook, but don’t follow your page. Of course, these stars are probably promoting the events on their own social channels, but you can take this a step further if you have access to in-depth, first-party data.

Creating a segment of fans following high-indexing stars and then targeting them with ticket sales, signed merchandise or a chance for a meet and greet, allows you to engage your audience, increase your depth of data and drive conversion (i.e. revenue).

Draw Digital Super Fans for a Quick Boost in Registrations

Fans today aren’t only liking official social pages for stars, but they’re active on fan-generated/unofficial pages as well. Knowing who these fans are, you can target them with campaigns including artist trivia, a green room sweepstakes, personality quizzes, etc. These campaigns can be focused on collecting leads, selling tickets or whatever else your goal is, but either way, they’ll increase your revenue and your reachable database for your sales team.

Levy Your Total Social Media Resources for Larger Crowds

Maybe you have Twitter followers, your speakers and entertainment probably have many more. What about your staff, vendors, and sponsors? Between your many contacts and social media profiles, you likely have thousands of connections. Get the word out to them all. Don’t forget LinkedIn connections and email contacts. If you have a Meetup page or other profiles, don’t forget those as well.

Get More Connections With Snapchat

While they used to be favorites of the pre-teen set, Snapchat and Snapchat geo filters are now frequently being used at events.

Informal Events Improve Attendee Experience

Today’s attendees take it upon themselves to share responsibilities with the event planners through creating guest-generated pop-up events within the event, things like Twitter meetups, flash mobs, and using Snapchat geolocation filters to meet.  Delina Alwanger, Managing Director of Call of The Wild Safaris believes “events will become more interactive and social.” Interaction will include less formal networking as attendees expect to engage at many levels. Encouraging this type of interaction improves the guest experience.

Try Attendee Service for Complete Transparency

Social media offers a lot of opportunities for connecting including constant, real-time feedback during sessions. While placing those requests on social media may feel unnerving, that type of transparency is appreciated and gets noticed.

Repost in Original Ways to Get More Opens

Repost your content multiple times on Twitter and Facebook at different times and days with different lead-ins and questions asked. Pay attention to what gets the most clicks from times to type of content.

Employ Images to Get Attention

Post your articles with images. On Twitter, this may mean uploading them manually but according to research, articles with images get 94% more views than those without.

Invite People Through Social Media as it’s a Place They Go to for Fun

There are two ways to do this: broadcast your message with a URL to your event (or microsite) or invite people directly through the Facebook events feature. You can also set up an event page for your event.

Market During the Event to Fill It

If your event is a multi-day event that hasn’t sold out, or if walk-ins are welcome, continue to market it on social media even after it starts. If registration is closed, it’s still important to share content from the event. Get a head start on next year’s attendees.

Use the Velvet Rope to Create Interest in Your Event

Show everyone (a little). The velvet rope tactic is used by nightclubs everywhere. They show people a glimpse of a VIP area, but keep the general population at bay. Ever wonder why they do that? It would be so much easier to move the VIPs somewhere no one knew existed. But where’s the enticement for people to upgrade to VIP tickets then? Out of sight, out of mind.

By allowing everyone a glimpse into what they could have, more people upgrade. Show non-attendees the fun everyone is having at your event. Show regular guests the fun they could be having at pop-ups within the event or Tweetups. Create the desire for more through imagery and you’ll sell more upgrades or tickets next year.

Listen and Retweet to Make Attendees Feel Loved

Retweet and share what others are saying about your event. Set up “as it happens” alerts on Google or use listening software like Hootsuite. Create a “sharing is caring” leaderboard at your event for your top social media sharers or set up a big screen that showcases live tweets. These activities encourage and motivate people to share. When they do, they’re not doing it in a vacuum. People who aren’t there are seeing it too, and boy does it look like fun.

Cool Promotional Event Ideas: Video

According to YouTube, their audience watches over 5 billion videos daily on the channel. Facebook claims 100 million hours of daily video watching. That’s a lot of eyes on content. Use video to:

Create a “movie trailer” about your event.

Showcase last year’s footage and testimonials.

 Go Live on Facebook from your site walkthrough. This will excite potential attendees and they’ll look forward to the venue.

Go Live from the host city or area.

Share clips from a past event on Instagram (if your audience is there). Just keep it under 15 seconds.

Express your sense of humor. This not only entertains people, but they’ll also often watch it more than once and share it.

Interview speakers live when registration opens.

Create teasers about topics your speakers will cover.

Create interactive event invitations.

Share training ideas. These can be made available afterward for a fee or shared with your audience as a preview to what types of learning they can expect at your events.

Link to your event landing page or ‘more information’ page from YouTube, Vimeo, and the other places you post it.

How to Market an Event with Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing is some of the most effective event marketing around but it’s also harder to get because you have little control over it. There is no magic formula the way there is for many other kinds of marketing. Still, there are a few tactics you can use to improve your word of mouth and referral marketing.

Use the Phone to Work Your Network

Social media is great but don’t forget in some in cases, the phone works well. Sometimes you may even have friends who are interested in attending. So consider your network and approach those who you think might be interested. Making a phone call to friends is free these days.

Finding the first few attendees is always the hardest part; nobody wants to be the first to throw their hat into the ring. So always make sure your first calls are to friends, family, or those you have a close working relationship with.

Ask industry influencers to share your event info with their network

But for the love of all things event-related, please, please, please establish relationships with these people before you ask for their help.

Create badges for attendees to add to their sites once they’ve registered.

Offer “tell a friend” discounts or specials.

Yes, this eats into your profit a smidge but if you figure people are more likely to attend when they have friends going, and you rationalize that reduced entry fee is better than none it all, it works out. If your event is a conference or something with additional materials for sale, know that you’re likely to make additional money with the additional headcount.

Brand Speakers Slides to Tie Expertise to Your Event

Make sure the speakers’ slides are branded with your event hashtag and logo. After the event, ask your presenters to post their materials to slide deck to build interest among non-attendees for next year.

 Utilize Speakers’ Reputations to Build an Audience

Ask speakers to talk up your event and share it with their audience early enough that people could make travel arrangements, if desired. Some speakers, like professional athletes or celebrities, have very serious followers and knowing that they will be the keynote at your event may encourage fans to attend even if they know little about it. Write the level of expected audience engagement into your speaker agreement.

“Pay” for Tickets Using Word of Mouth

Create brand ambassadors from loyal past attendees. Allow them to “pay” for their tickets by performing required activities like referrals, etc. Make sure you have a system in place to track that they are doing what you’ve requested. If any of them blog in your industry, it’s advisable to encourage that they disclose that their tickets were comped for sharing their experience.

Leverage Local Groups to Build Local Attendance

Look for local organizations that may be willing to make announcements to their members, congregation, or customers about your event. Depending on the size of the event, the Convention and Visitors Bureau may also agree to circulate info for you.

Use Fun Searches to Excite Attendees

Get your authors to sign books with your event info. This idea came from Neil Gaiman who covertly signed all copies of his American Gods book at JFK airport and then told his Facebook audience what he had done. This caused all sorts of fans to run for the Delta terminal and the bookstore. If you have authors presenting at your event, consider doing something like this. Use social media to promote it.

Allow Enough Lead Time to Build Momentum

Lead time is crucial! Make sure you have speaker bios, valuable content, social share buttons, registration details, and all other critical elements of the event page in enough time to build momentum. Word of mouth more often than not is a marathon, not a sprint.

Create a Star Attraction for More Social Shares

One great speaker or performer can be enough to provide your event with star-power. It may be worth splurging a significant portion of your budget to get that one person or one act that everyone wants to see. However, make sure that if you do this you use all your other free event marketing tools to get the word out.

Be Enthusiastic to Draw a Crowd

The biggest marketing asset you have is you and your team. If you are excited and enthusiastic about your event then other people will be too. Your job is to inspire the people around you, let them know why this event is important and what you are out to accomplish. The more you can reach through and share with people from your heart, the more compelling you will be.

Repost your content on secondary sites like LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, or industry groups. Add a line that it was originally posted on your site and add your URL.

 Listen to Find Interested People

Spend a few minutes a day at the beginning and end to “listen” to what people are saying about you on social media. Respond accordingly. Listen for direct mentions about you and mentions of your event as well as your cause or industry.

Case Study

The Del Mar Race Track’s social media team increased their attendance by 4.2% based on social media alone. One tactic they used was listening for mentions of people visiting San Diego during their open season and inviting them to visit. They also use the scarcity and fear of missing out tactics by posting amusing GIFS accompanied by the number of tickets left.

If you hear someone in your event’s industry or ideal attendee base talking, invite them to learn more about your event. Keep in mind when reaching out you want to be helpful, not salesy.

Ways to Publicize an Event with Email

In addition to social media and word of mouth marketing, email is also an effective way to build the kind of know, like, and trust that sells event tickets. Here are a few tips for using email to market an event for no money.

Start Building Your List Now to Establish an Effective Relationship Down the Line

Asking a complete stranger to do something is not nearly as effective as asking someone you know and trust who has provided you with many valuable resources. Build your email list now and start providing value long before you require anything from anyone. Build up relational credit and they’ll be more apt to do as you ask when you unveil early-bird pricing.

Seriously, if you don’t have an email capture form up on the homepage of your site, stop reading now and get it sorted. If someone’s managed to come along to your website, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to get more information about your event.

As soon as you decide to host an event, get up a holding page with an email capture form to start collecting the details of people interested in the event. Some event companies take this to its logical conclusion, putting up email capture forms for “events coming soon” not having any venue booked or any other prep carried out. They use the rate of email sign-ups to decide whether to host the event in the first place.

 Personalize your Emails for More Clicks

Don’t send the same email to someone who’s attended faithfully for a decade and to those who have never attended.

Create a special email for people who have attended in the past but missed last year. Let them know they were missed and you want to see them return. Consider a discount late in the registration calendar.

Sort Your Data to Avoid Embarrassment or Confusion

Always use technology to sort those who have registered and those who haven’t yet. You do not want to send a notification to register about an event they’ve already paid for. This will not only make them feel unimportant, but they will also worry their registration got lost, and then they’ll call.

Add info and a URL about your event to your email signature.

Use powerful subject lines in all of your emails and make them as personalized as possible in your messaging.

Write to an Actual Person for Improved Response Rates

Which emails do you read and reply to? Those from an actual person or generic newsletters? There’s a place for a well-designed valuable email newsletter but try to make emails seem as much like a ‘normal’ email (not a salesy one) as possible; mainly because they draw a better response rate.

Focus for a Clearer Call to Action

Make one email about one thing, not a dozen. Too many topics distract the audience. They won’t know what it is you want them to do. In an event email, you want them to register. Don’t waste your time and their attention on catching them up on everything else.

Got too many things to talk about? Split the topics into several smaller emails; what was a monthly email could now be weekly, It’ll be punchier, have more detailed subject lines, and drive the type of interaction you want.

Simplify Your Template Design for Skimming

Most event planners could simplify their email designs dramatically. A simple design will save you time testing across different email clients. It’ll work better on mobile, where a lot of your opens will come from and it’s more likely to appear the same as you designed it.

The more complex your design is, the more likely its elements will be removed by overzealous spam filters. It will also take longer to load, which will turn many people off.

If it doesn’t work in plain text, then it doesn’t work!

Emails like this are the norm:

Test Different Subject Lines to Increase Opens

Most email marketing technologies will allow to test a number of different elements of an email on small segments of your list, and send the best performing to the rest of your lists. One of the things you must test is the subject line. The subject line is essential as it, along with the sender address, are the main reason people to choose to open an email or trash it. You don’t want an otherwise awesome email to miss the mark because of a subject line that doesn’t resonate with the audience. Try out two or three variations and use the one that has the best open rate.

Personalize the Emails Past the Name to Influence Action

Chances are you know quite a bit about your list. You can use that insight to personalize the emails you send. The data behind personalization is striking and it’s difficult to deny its relevance to open rates.

Effective personalization could include using the subscriber’s first name or company in the subject line or tailoring the description of the event based upon the interests of the audience. If you know they’re interested in a particular topic or theme, set up your email so those areas of interest can be automatically included in the copy.

Don’t Create Email Fatigue or You’ll Lose the Efficacy of Email

You can normally judge which events are struggling to make their numbers based on how frequently you receive emails from them in the last couple of weeks before the event. Often you’ll get multiple emails from an event per day. Those events might not be coming back next year.

In many cases this email overload might not even be deliberate; you might have lots of different autoresponders all running concurrently, One that sends an email five days before the event, one sent out on behalf of a sponsor, another that goes out the 30th of the month etc. You’ve got to look at how many other emails are going out to your list, especially in larger teams.

Use Your Email Data to Do More

It’s easy to create a script that adds anyone who subscribes to your mailing list to your CRM. This on its own simply builds a list but don’t stop there. Add something valuable like automatically pulling in LinkedIn job titles. Now you can search the CRM to find potential speakers and sponsors easily. Best of all, you know they’re already interested in your event!

Protect Your List to Increase Trust

Every event’s got to make money. Often that means sharing your attendee list with sponsors. But be really careful who you share your data with. Even ignoring the legal implications, it can have a real effect on the way potential attendees view your event. People are becoming more in tune with how their information is being shared. Hacks and inappropriate use have caused many people to boycott organizations.

Publicize Your Event Through Your Website, Data, and Technology

Technology has allowed event planners to do things more efficiently, with greater reach, in a quicker time frame. Mastering tech and data can help you market your event with no new money spent.

Build an Awesome Website to Excite 24/7

An awesome event website is an expectation these days and a reflection of what your event is offering. There are lots of resources available that allow you to build a professional website on a tiny budget or none at all, if you’re willing to do the work yourself.

WordPress is one of the cheapest and most convenient ways to build your site and you can create a fabulous website using an event-specific template.

It is also essential that you take the time to do your Search Engine Optimization and install Google Analytics. These two elements are free and are critical if you are going to be found online and track the success of your marketing.

Don’t Ignore Feedback or Your Attendees Will Stop Telling You

Read the feedback and use it. If this is a repeat event for you, use the feedback you received from last year’s event in the marketing email you send out. Use phrases like “We heard you! This year we’ll have more X…”

Use Pop-Ups on Your Website

People may hate them but adding an event registration pop-up to your website can help you sell more tickets. According to Sumo, the average pop-up rate conversion is just over 3%, which sounds really low but that 3% took action because of the pop-ups. Without them, that 3% might’ve been lost. But you must be careful of the kind you use as Google is penalizing some of the sites that use them. The ones that are taking a hit are the pop-ups that are difficult to close and use other spammy tactics.

Give your event a prominent spot on your website. Don’t make people hunt for it.

Use a WiFi sign-in page at your event.

If you require an email to sign in, you can use it as an opt-in for future email opportunities as well, just be clear how you’re using it.

Create a chatbot on your site to answer questions.

You can perform a simple install using Facebook Messenger or build one through this advice. People often talk about their experiences with AI. The more they talk, the more marketing juice you get.

Create a speaker’s page that features professional pictures and credentials. You’ve given much thought to your speaker selection, make sure your share it.

Provide materials to justify the expense of attending to a boss

Check out what the Questionmark Users Conference did on this page. They include a table of reasons people might want to attend and how their conference hits those marks. They also include a “customizable letter to your boss,” a letter detailing a past attendee’s experience, and best of all, a report template for stakeholders detailing what you learned at the conference.

Set up and create a list of cost-saving ideas for attendees to help justify the trip.

Make Your Event Website Simple to Make the Call to Action Clear

One of the most effective ways to influence people to attend your events is to get them to know, like, and trust you. This generally takes time and positive exchanges. One way to get people to trust you takes a little less time.

Case Study

According to research at Southampton University in 2011, commissioned by Yell, how website visitors find one site more trustworthy than another is quite simple. Literally. Ease of use and site functionality tended to help a site be perceived as trustworthy. Not the words or the images, just the idea of a user finding what they want, easily.

Use Social Authentication to Understand Your Attendee Better

With the advent of social authentication, you can gather an average of 40 data points in a single tap. While it might not be immediately obvious why you should care about someone’s Facebook likes, each of those increases your depth of data (along with ticket purchasing history, concessions, email opens, app engagement, etc.). Increased data depth gives you a clearer picture of attendees (and potential attendees) as a whole, as well as the groups within to bring back week after week and year after year.

Use Data to Find Who Has Attended in the Past and When

Non-Prime Dates. There are always going to be events that are a harder sell than others, whether it’s on a weekday, competing with the latest Game of Thrones, or on a holiday. Your event or venue has the past purchase ticket data at hand, but are you leveraging it? If someone’s been available for a weekday in the past, they should be your first place to look to sell another weekday event. Because of the secondary market and group purchases, however, you won’t always know who’s attended a past event.

A solution to this is by using a WiFi gate to collect names and emails (or using social authentication to collect more data at once). By creating a segment of all weekday ticket purchasers and adding in people who signed onto your WiFi at previous weekday events—attendees possibly not in your ticket purchase data—you’ll get higher conversions on the hard-to-sell events. This segment of “all weekday” gives your marketing and sales teams more people to target, streamlines their outreach and gives them higher conversion.

Organize Your Database to Maximize Marketing Efficiency

If you haven’t done so already, get your database organized and hooked up to an email marketing system. The goal is to make it really easy to send out email blasts to groups of people and track their responses. While there are some big fancy solutions out there which are awesome, there are also some free options for smaller sends.

Use Scheduling Software So Your Posts Go Out Consistently

This ensures consistent postings even when you’re busy. There are many schedulers that even allow you to post the same content multiple times over days, weeks, or months with a couple of quick clicks. You can schedule out the entire month’s content in a few minutes.

Keep a folder, spreadsheet, or swipe file for valuable content as you come across it.

Then when you have time to schedule, you won’t be looking for content to market your event.

Event Promotion Examples: Design and Content

What your event marketing looks like is almost as important as your message. Here are a few tips for free event marketing design and content:

Create a fun infographic about last year’s event or what you’re expecting for this year’s.

Avoid the use of stock photos

Instead, use real people from last year’s event but make sure you have permission. If you do, consider tagging them.

Create your own Bitmoji

Bitmojis are a cartoon-like characterization of a person. You can use them to personalize all communications.

Use handmade signage

This is not entirely free but can be if you use materials you already have.

View this post on Instagram

Ceremony > Reception >>> #yvfwedding

A post shared by YVF Weddings (@yvfweddings) on Mar 20, 2017 at 6:00pm PDT

Ensure your event branding is consistent

Share logos with those who will be marketing on your behalf, like industry influencers and affiliate relationships.

Use Guest Writers to Share Experiences

In addition to content from speakers and sponsors, approach a loyal past attendee and see if they would be willing to write a short blog post about their experience. If they don’t have time ask for a few sentences that you can then shape into a testimonial or a post featuring many attendees “stories.”

Create a Story to Get More PR

If you can get your event into the news, you have the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people for free. Newspapers, TV, and radio are constantly hunting for interesting stories, so to leverage the power of the media you need to make your event newsworthy.

Most media outlets are not going to be interested in your lineup of speakers, unless you have a well-known celebrity on your program. This means you will have to make them interesting. A human interest story is the most effective way of capturing media attention. A human interest story with a good picture attached is even better.

Provide More Value to Become an Internet Habit

Don’t stress yourself with a new piece of content each day. Instead, provide more in-depth, valuable pieces less often. Produce new content once a week or biweekly depending on your audience and event type. Stretch this content in all sorts of ways by repurposing it into things like pull quotes, image memes, and questions. The rest of the time you’ll…

Share others’ content

Your attendees and fans are a rich source of content. So are industry experts. You can share their content “as is” or…

Use stats

Pull interesting stats from your event or host city and slap them in one of the cool infographic templates out there. It takes minutes but looks like it took hours.

Answer questions as content

Are there questions people ask of your event all the time? Answer them as blog posts, social media posts, and/or on video. It takes minutes but can save you lots because people now have easy access to the things they’re most curious about.

Sidewalk chalk. Who said design is only for websites?

Use Current Searches to Boost Your Organic Reach

Type your event name followed by “is” and see what comes up in Google. Then use those search terms as titles of articles or blog posts. Do this even if it’s a negative (like your event is not worth the money). By writing an article and ranking for that long-tail search phrase, your content will be what people see when they type it in. Wouldn’t you rather rank higher for it than someone else?

 Vary Your Call to Action to Drive More Clicks

Some people click on links, others like buttons, while others prefer images. Use multiple types of calls to action in all of your content. Sometimes people need to see the option several times before they act on it. Make sure that while these calls to action may look very different, the message is the same. You don’t want to confuse visitors with multiple calls to action on the same page.

Fill out all of your social media profiles with pertinent information

Spend a few minutes each month updating these bios or listings as necessary.

Event Promotion Strategies: Neuromarketing and Psychology

Sometimes it’s not always the actions or activities you perform, but how you say things that affect attendee decisions. In this section, we’ll cover the tricks or neuromarketing and using psychology in your event marketing content to drive desired action.

Your marketing must speak to your ideal attendee

Entertain them, inspire them, and educate them. Solve their problem and let them know what they’ll get from attending your conference.

Understand the Conscious and Unconscious Mind to Get More Answers

There’s a part of the brain, the Limbic Cortex, that controls the fight or flight response. It is the basic, primitive component of our brains that functions on a reactive, not proactive basis. The Limbic System is often referred to as lizard or reptilian brain because that’s about all a lizard has upstairs. In addition to fight or flight, this area controls fear, the desire to reproduce, eat, and freeze (in fear). It is the home of all of our animal drives.

While our conscious mind may appear to rule our decision-making process, when you trigger that lizard brain to kick in, you influence the decisions in your favor quickly because this part of the brain operates in the moment. Here, instinct drives decision. Copywriters use this technique frequently. There is a debate in the industry as to whether you should use fear tactics to drive action or empowering concepts or persuasion to influence decisions.

Many opt for lizard brain fear because it creates a need to act quickly. Fight or flight response is assessed immediately. People don’t stand around thinking about it. Using fear-based marketing often creates immediate decisions, but it’s not a good long-term strategy for building loyalty.

With neuromarketing, you can choose the path of “fear” or lizard brain marketing or persuasion. Persuasion generally takes longer to nurture but since the brain outside of the Limbic Cortex resides in something other than the “now” you’re more likely to influence future decisions by going that route. Still, appealing to the dark side of the reptilian brain is tempting…

Use Reciprocity to Get What You Want from Attendees

Reciprocity is the “indebtedness” people often feel when you do something for them. They then feel motivated to do something for you. Studies have shown it doesn’t even have to be a large thing. For instance, an inexpensive lunch has been shown to influence doctors when writing prescriptions. Giving potential attendees “a little something” could very well influence them to attend your event.

Spotlight Unity to Improve Connection

Unity is the latest persuasion technique from the guy who wrote the book on it (called “Influence”) – Robert Cialdini. In his book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, that came out in 2016, he wrote about the new seventh technique “unity.” Unity is creating a shared identity that you and your attendee have. Through the concept of unity, you are looking to evoke a “me too” moment. The attendee could come to that on his/her own based on the information you provided in your marketing or you could point it out to them by using language like, “If you’re like me, you…”

 Make Attendees Feel Like You Like Them to Improve Trust

“Liking” is another one of Cialdini’s persuasions but it’s more complicated than just being nice and getting an attendee to like you. It’s about them feeling you like them. For instance, getting people to know, like, and trust you will drive first-time and recurring attendance. While you may not have time to really get people to like you, if you show an interest in them, they are more likely to trust you.

Show Scarcity to Drive Impulse Purchases

This one does play on the lizard brain by using the “fear of missing out.” Most event planners use early bird pricing for conferences and they employ a deadline to drive a decision. Some use discounted pricing based on the number of tickets sold, as in selling 100 tickets for $200 off. When those tickets are gone, the discount is discontinued no matter how quickly that happens. This makes people worried that they’ll miss out on a good price. That fear drives the desire to buy and buy quickly.

Identify the Pain or Struggle to Create a Need You Can Fill

Fear is what drives the reptilian brain so finding that fear button and pushing it is a quick way to create an action. This can be fear of missing out, as illustrated above, or fear of falling behind if you don’t attend. With this tactic, you find a pain point and exploit it to drive action.

Ways of Marketing an Event with Pricing and Tiers

Finally, the way you price your event and individual tickets can have a huge effect on your marketing. It affects sales as well as how you are perceived. Here are a few quick tips on using pricing and tiers in your event marketing.

Offer industry influencers a discount or affiliate program.

Give vendors attendee passes so they can share them with their best clients or throw in a few tickets for high-value sponsorship packages.

Work with high-profile speakers to offer a private session or meet and greet with high-level sponsors or higher-level ticket purchasers.

Create a VIP Ticket to Upsell Existing Attendees Who Want the Best

VIP Event sales teams likely have high targets for VIP individual and season tickets. They also probably have a strong list of past VIP purchasers and corporations in the area. This is a great place to start when creating a VIP buyer segment, but sometimes a premium season ticket holder falls through and your waitlist falls short.

In those cases, having a segment that includes not only your past VIP buyers, but also high-income attendees, and attendees that have luxury brand affinities can make the difference between your sales team selling those high-value seats and not. So, even if a fan has purchased only standard tickets in the past, you can target them with promotions for VIP tickets if they have an income greater than $150K and they like brands such as Gucci, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, or Dior.

In Conclusion

The way to make the most of a nonexistent marketing budget is through social media and word-of-mouth referrals. They cost you nothing other than time. Aim at creating conversations and interactions. If this is an event that happens every year, stay in touch with attendees. Engage them on social media throughout the year. If you handle mainly one-off events, build your personal brand so that people look to you to fill their calendars.

Now onto you:

  • Do you have a tip to make this page better? Send an email to [email protected]
  • Do you have more tips to add? Comment below.
  • Do you have a colleague who may benefit from reading this page? Share it with them.