If you’re marketing a conference, I can tell you from experience that you’ll have to take on multiple roles and be in a number of places at the same time.
Sounds impossible? Thanks to technology, it really isn’t.
I’ve constructed the ultimate guide on conference marketing that will ease the planning process and boost your Return on Investment:
#1. Invite relevant people
This is a rule of thumb for anything and everything that you do in the business world: the first step is to conduct research.
Research creates a base for everything that you conduct in your strategy later: segmentation, targeting and positioning.
That means your strategy will only work if your research is right. Here’s what you need to do:
- Create a theme for your event
What type of conference are you holding? What topics will be discussed?
Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll automatically know who to invite.
So, for example, there’s an upcoming social media conference in March that’s really trending:
The event aims to deliver the best social media AI marketing techniques from the world’s most renowned experts such as Paul Roetzer.
The event will not only consist of social media marketing experts that can offer advice but will also target entrepreneurs, business managers, marketing heads, freelancers and all other individuals/organisations that want to learn more about AI marketing.
- Specify psychographics and demographics
When conference marketing, you’ll have to segment your target audience into the above categories that are used normally for businesses.
The most effective way to make use out of these is to make as many sub-segments as possible.
Taking the example of the social media conference, there are two obvious segments: the experts who will teach and the businesses and individuals that will learn.
However, within these segments, you will also have to create sub-segments in order to ensure a high turnout at the event.
The globally recognised experts will require more than just an email and amenities if they are to attend the conference.
Similarly, the event managers need to target startups and freelancers differently as compared to established business organisations, which is something that I’ll be getting into in the next step.
To aid you in inviting the right people, check out these 10 great tools for market research.
#2. Implement the right strategy
For effective conference marketing, you’ll need to rely a lot on social media, automation and technology.
There are two strategies you can go for when marketing your conference: exclusiveness or discounts.
The first is the case if you’re hosting a very high profile conference and you have a guaranteed turnout of a maximum number of attendees.
It’s very similar to the strategy that Apple uses i.e. producing fewer phones than the actual demand in order to make the purchasers feel exclusive.
The second strategy is what works for most conferences: offering discounts and promotions to attract attendees, something that Apple’s rival Samsung does to generate sales.
The first option is simple: you host an event in accordance with the expected turnout of attendees.
To ensure a high turnout, you’ll have to invest highly in the conference – invite the best industry experts, hire the best photographers, journalists, event decorators and caterers and most importantly, create the impression of exclusivity through your marketing efforts:
Exclusivity does not work for everybody in conference marketing and you should only go for it if you have an established brand name.
Check out this guide on the advantages, disadvantages and examples of exclusive marketing and whether it’s right for your conference or not.
Moving on to incentives, you’ll need to use the right tactics to ensure that they pay off:
- Use web cookies
By using cookies on your conference website, you can save User ID information and track user history on the website which will enable you to target them based on this information.
So, for example, a user has visited your site multiple times in the past few days but has not purchased a ticket to your conference.
Since your cookies are tracking this information, you can program your software to automatically target an ad towards this user which offers a discount on the original ticket.
Be sure to make it sound urgent, for example, ‘Offer ends in 24 hours!’ so that the user is tempted to avail it before it expires.
Using the colour red is also a great way to create urgency.
- Targeted ads
Using cookies will also enable you to target ads towards users on social media and websites.
The concept of ‘retargeting’ applies here, which occurs when a user visits your website but does not purchase a ticket or complete their sign in.
Your software will automatically retarget these customers by displaying ads on social media and other online platforms in an attempt to get them to convert:
If you ask me, this is something you should definitely invest in because 70% of consumers are likely to convert after being retargeted.
To ensure that this strategy is successful, run your ads on the platforms that your visitors are most active on.
SMS is a very cost-effective way to get the word out about your conference. You can contact thousands of invitees via SMS even in under a hundred dollars!
Plus, it’s effective because if you sign up with a good platform like ExpressText, you can integrate it with other apps so that users can easily sign up.
For example, if you send out a text inviting potential attendees to the event, be sure to add a hyperlink directing them to your conference event’s app or webpage where they can register for it.
By bringing everything to them, you’ll increase the likelihood of a higher turnout.
Plus, your job doesn’t end once you get users to register.
You need to maintain their interest so that they actually attend and SMS is a great way to send updates like famous personalities that will show up, who will be covering the event and other relevant details that might interest your registrants.
Lastly, make sure to collect feedback from your attendees so that future events can be successful by avoiding past mistakes:
#3. Don’t forget SEO
Having a website for your event is essential, but if people don’t get a chance to view it, it’s just as good as not being there.
Almost 70% of search engine users will not scroll down past the first 5 search results, which means you need to create a top-notch website.
Here’s how to do it:
Hire a complete team of content writers that regularly post about different topics related to your event, for example, the best upcoming conferences in your industry:
Use tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs to locate the best keywords and place them strategically in your content (for example, place maximum keywords at the start of the article) in order to drive your website’s SEO higher.
Make sure you comply with Google and other search engines’ SEO regulations because one of the most common violations is keyword stuffing, a practice where content writers repeat keywords to the point where it seems unnatural or use irrelevant keywords in order to manipulate search engine rankings.
If Google detects this practice, your digital event management can be heavily penalised.
Also, don’t make the mistake of focusing on quantity rather than quality.
Most businesses make this mistake in an attempt to publish as much content online as possible.
However, if your content isn’t good enough, readers will never be convinced to attend your event so make sure you post good quality content that is educational or interesting, even if that means compromising on quantity.
Many times, event managers ask web designers to create fancy websites to attract the attention of visitors.
However, if you add too many elements within a webpage to the point where it becomes difficult for visitors to navigate through it, you’ll just be losing prospective attendees:
When most users leave your website too quickly or without taking a certain action (like a purchase or registration), it means you have a high bounce rate.
A good bounce rate depends a lot on your industry but your job should be to maximise the on-site time of visitors (check out CrazyEgg) and reduce your bounce rate.
The easiest way to see whether your website is easy to navigate is to test it on family and friends and see if they can easily access different webpages.
You can always conduct a focus group for more reliable feedback if you have the resources.
To ensure easy navigation, the best thing to do is to keep your web design simple and minimalistic. Only add elements that are relevant for your website.
- Loading time
The time it takes for your landing pages is an extremely crucial determinator of your website’s bounce rate.
So how do you ensure high loading speed?
Like I mentioned before, keeping your web design minimalistic is the key to effectiveness. This will ensure that there aren’t too many elements slowing down your website.
Secondly, you need to make sure that you use high-quality images that are compressed.
You can’t compromise on image quality, so compressing images will ensure that they take up less space. Check out CompressJpeg to get this done for free.
#4. Use videos to market your conference
Videos are one of the biggest marketing trends of 2020 and rightly so.
With all the marketing clutter that consumers are exposed to, they’ll only pay attention to the most engaging mediums.
Videos and live videos are currently the most engaging methods of marketing, even more than pictures and text combined.
Here are some ideas for you to market your conference through videos:
- Set up a Snapchat account and give your followers live updates on behind the scenes and preparations. Start months in advance to create a hype about your event
- Get industry experts and influencers attending your event to create a video and tell followers not to miss out on the conference
- Live stream the entire conference or certain important chunks so that those who could not attend it also feel included. This will create loyalty and, if your event is successful, ensure that they make it to the next one
Conference marketing is a challenging but doable task and if you’re taking it upon your shoulders, you need to believe that you can pull it off.
Surround yourself with a skilled team and the best marketing tools to ensure a seamless and stress-free process.
No matter how many times you’ve hosted a conference, there are some things that are bound to go wrong.
Vendors, participants and organisers always pull out at the last minute among so many other unpredicted things that won’t be in your hands which is why you need to have good managing skills to deal with the problem there and then.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to look at the bigger picture.
The success of future events relies on the success of your current event so make sure you collect feedback from attendees and use it to improve your conference marketing skills later on.