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A Corporate Event Marketing Toolkit for Planners

I’m very excited to cover one of my favorite topics today: marketing! I’ve always found the power of marketing to spread awareness and fuel human connection compelling. Plus, there is so much crossover between our fields! Depending on the structure of your organization, the responsibility of marketing events may or may not fall on your shoulders.

But, educating yourself on how to inspire and engage your audience before, during, and after your program is always a good idea. Trust me, if you have marketing colleagues, they will be more than happy to collaborate with you and hear your ideas. When it comes to marketing and events, teamwork really does make the dream work. And, if you are responsible for spreading the word and building buzz around your event, I want you to have the tools you need to shine like the superstar you are. So, let’s dive into some tactics you can bring to the table and how a DMC partner can help!

Before: Generating Interest

What is the number one question that keeps event and conference planners up at night?: “What if no one shows up?” *Gulp!* Admittedly, this is one of the most complex parts of the job when promoting a public-facing event. But you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t ready to take on the challenge. Here are a few ideas on how to get started:

1. Get Social (Media, That Is)

For most of us, posting on social media has become second nature. Whether or not you’re responsible for event content on your corporate feeds, you should own and fuel the messaging presented to your audience. You are the event expert, after all! But I know this can feel overwhelming, especially for any non-marketers. Put yourself in your attendee’s shoes and think about their questions or what they find particularly engaging. Are you partnering with a unique or minority-owned vendor? Have them take over your accounts on social media to share their perspectives and culture. Give your audience a backstage pass by going live on Instagram during prep with your florist or decor teams to show the hard work behind the scenes (time-lapse videos are awesome, too!). You can even zoom in on an intriguing decor element and start a poll about what it could be. Create a fun quiz related to your business or event theme, like “What kind of Barbie are you?” if you’re a toy distributor or “Where will you retire?” if you’re a real estate company. Remember: social media isn’t a megaphone; it’s a two-way conversation. Keeping your content creative and allowing people to chime in are the keys to success here!

Your DMC partner should be able to provide these resources or recommend a local independent social media consultant. That way you have someone leading up to and during your event to document the magic and share it with the world.

2. Partner Up to Amplify Your Message

Remember when I said teamwork makes the dream work? It’s especially true when it comes to co-marketing an event. In addition to event sponsors, see if you (or your partner marketing team) can help you expand your promotion team and audience by joining forces with a complimentary organization. Partnering on an event is particularly helpful if you’re a one-person shop or don’t have a lot of marketing resources, as you’ll have the know-how of another company at your disposal! 

Another tactic to increase your reach is to engage an influencer to run a campaign promoting your event and then attend the event to bring everything full circle. Now, influencer marketing is a big market and can have a high price tag. However, there are plenty of thought leaders out there who have a compelling and unique perspective but just haven’t “made it” yet. Peruse similar conference speaking events and start with those who didn’t make it into the keynote. They have something compelling to say, and people are listening. Who knows, you may even have the perfect future influencer in your very own company. Your event could be their big break without needing to break the bank!

3. Going Next-Gen or Old School

Spoiler alert: You’ll need a DMC or marketing partner to effectively execute the following two tactics!

The first tool is digital marketing via targeted ads on social media and/or search engines. Find out your event promotion budget and see if you can put a percentage towards online advertising, creating the ads, and the work needed to run them. You may have someone on your marketing team who knows their way around ad networks — make them your best friend. Or, if you need to hire an external freelancer or agency to run things for you, ensure you have enough budget to pay them for their time and the advertising fees. Regardless of your chosen path, be transparent with the amount you have to spend and ask for reports showcasing engagement and success. If you spend some of your precious budget on this effort, you want to prove it was worth it.

Believe it or not, billboards are making a comeback! They are especially effective if you want to engage with attendees in a specific destination (something we know a lot about at 360DG!). Your DMC will know the lay of the land and can guide you through high-traffic areas where they feel an outdoor advertisement would reach the people you’re looking for. They can help you manage the entire process with any vendor from conception to design and execution. While it might seem like these kinds of efforts are hard to track, they don’t need to be. Work with your web team to develop a unique registration URL or QR code that you only use on these outdoor placements to get an idea of how impactful it was. More details on the type of data you should collect during registration and why in the final section!

4. Get Obsessed with UX

I know; I just dropped a marketing acronym there. You’ve probably seen UX mentioned, but you may not know what it means, and that’s ok! Let me shed some light: UX stands for user experience, and it all boils down to how easy (or hard) it is for people to complete a desired task or transaction. Think about it this way: if your attendees had to jump over three hurdles to get to the cocktail hour, how many would actually make it to the bar? Yeah, that’s an example of a bad user experience. Just like accessibility concerns around in-person events, there are plenty in the digital world as well. You need to ensure that attendees can easily register for your program and get the information they need with minimal clicks or fuss. What’s the best way to evaluate your user journey and experience? Try it yourself! Even better, find some non-tech-savvy people and see how the process is for them. If they encounter roadblocks or have trouble, you can bet your bottom dollar your attendees will, too. So, be proactive and save everyone the headache!

During: Fueling Engagement

Last year, 360DG Partner Shelly Archer wrote an article about the Zoombie apocalypse where she covered how to plan engaging events that don’t leave your attendees zoning out. Go give that a read if you haven’t yet — it has great foundational advice for making your next meeting as engaging as possible. Then, come back here for some ways to put those ideas into action!

1. Invest in the Right Tech

Event apps have been around for years, but they are essential in an increasingly digital world. There are too many vendors to list (DM me if you want the deets!), all with a range of price points and functionality. At a minimum, look for a solution enabling you to host all the info your attendees need before, during, and after the event. You’ll also want a way to push critical information to your attendees, so SMS capabilities and notification triggers are also crucial. To level up the possibilities, find an app that enables you to host live streams or integrate with interactive attendee wristbands or RFID technology. For ultimate attendee engagement and to banish Zoombies for good, look for a way to send polls and quizzes out to your audience and offer prizes for the highest scores or the most feedback received.

2. Sharing is Caring

Oh hey, it’s social media to the rescue once again! Depending on the size and scale of your program, you can create unique conference handles to post event-related info and live content (just talk to your marketing buddies first!). Otherwise, create a unique hashtag and encourage anyone interested to follow along with the conversation using that tag. Hashtags are used across social media platforms, so they’re a great way to bring everything together. Talk to your tech or AV partner about how you can display live feeds of social conversations or event-related content throughout the venue for your audience to enjoy without being glued to their personal screens!

After: Continuing the Conversation

1. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

One of the best parts of investing in digital tech is that your event can live long after the floors have been swept and everyone is back home kicking their shoes off. Remember that fantastic event app you invested in? Use it to send customized virtual departure notices to your attendees to thank them for coming. Better yet, use your event app to keep your audience up to date on the next great thing you have planned. Do the same with your custom social channels or hashtags and, as always, allow folks to chime in on their experience and excitement for what’s to come. 

Finally, remember when I said collecting attendee data was crucial? It comes into play when you’re planning thoughtful follow-up. When your attendees register, be sure you’re gathering as much information on them as possible to tailor your future messages. But beware! Asking for too much information can lead to an overwhelming registration process, which is what? You guessed it: bad UX! As a rule of thumb, you should only require registrants to give you the bare minimum information but include fields where they can offer up more helpful tidbits (like how they heard about your company or event) if they choose to. You’ll be surprised how many people will give you information and feedback if it’s an ask, not a demand. There are also options your DMC or marketing team can share for auto-fill forms and other high-tech solutions to make the experience seamless and simple.

Wow, we sure covered a lot! I hope you feel more prepared than ever to conquer event marketing. Do you think there’s something I missed? Want more information on some of the ideas or solutions here? Shoot us a message; I can’t wait to let my inner marketing nerd out to play!

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