Putting together all of the parts of an event and getting it off the ground is pretty difficult on its own. That’s always been true, and that truth doesn’t go away when you take an event online. There’s a lot that goes into making sure a virtual event goes off without a hitch; planning beforehand, heavy lifting during the event itself, follow-up afterwards.
It’s easy to get obsessed with making sure the experience is as awesome as possible for your event’s attendees. And there’s nothing wrong with that part of it. But it doesn’t mean anything if nobody shows up.
Attracting attention to your virtual event is one of the most critical parts of building a successful event. So let’s talk about how you can make that happen, from building a plan to executing the tactics you’ll need to build the audience you want—and need.
Build a multichannel marketing plan
To bring in the right audience, you can’t simply rely on one tactic, tool, or channel. And you can’t only rely on your existing marketing assets and plan, shoehorning event ads into the things you’re already doing. You need to spread the wealth a bit. You need to build a multichannel marketing strategy around your event.
What does that mean? On the surface, it’s pretty simple—multichannel marketing is basically what it says on the label. It pulls in a number of different online and offline marketing channels in a cohesive strategy to tell a story that draws your audience from awareness to conversion. In this situation, your multichannel marketing strategy should be designed to tell people that you’re putting on an event, show them why they should be interested, and guide people to register to attend.
A lot goes into this. Your website, social media, email marketing, paid media, and more can all be parts of a well-executed multichannel marketing plan. But let’s get into some of what you’ll need to attract an audience for your virtual event specifically rather than multichannel marketing generally.
Create a landing page or microsite
Your event needs a home. Not a physical home, obviously, since we’re talking about a virtual event. But you can’t expect people to dig through your website looking for a bit of info here and a date and time there if you want them to be a part of your event. Honestly, it’s just too much work, and unless your event is already nationally known or has massive respect in your industry, people are just going to give up. Even worse, it looks sloppy, and that can lead to a lasting impact on your brand long after the event’s over.
You need to construct a home base for potential attendees to go in order to learn all they need to know about what you’re doing. Depending on the event’s size and stature (and on the capabilities and needs of your existing website) this can take on a number of forms. A massive event with tons of information to cover might require a microsite, particularly if, for example, there are multiple speaker tracks that an attendee can follow, or it’s a multi-day event with a particularly long speaker list. On the other hand, if your event is a couple hours long and it’s more like a conversation between a host and a guest, a landing page will likely suffice—speaker info and details on subject matter won’t need nearly as much space to thrive.
In addition to the hard info like speaker names and dates and times, make sure your event site also includes an appeal to the reasons why someone would want to attend. Show testimonials from past events, if this isn’t your first time. Talk about what attendees might get out of it. Don’t just expect the names and numbers to do the job—people don’t make decisions based on that.
Get the word out to your lists
If you’ve done any digital marketing at all in the past, you should have a stockpile of user data available to your team. If you’ve done display or retargeting ads, you’ll have information about who’s seeing and converting on those ads. If you’ve ever produced gated content, you’ll have lists of people who are already interested in what you have to say. And if you have an email newsletter or other opt-in content, you’ll know who your biggest fans are.
These people are a great potential audience for your event. Based on what you know about their interactions with your brand, you’ll already have a good idea of what parts of your smorgasbord of offerings they have interest in, and how interested they are. You can segment your approach based on their interest. And in the event that you have that list of die-hard brand fans, you definitely want to make sure they know you’re holding an event.
There are a number of ways you can do this. One of the simplest is an announcement email sent to the lists you have available. It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated, especially if your landing page or microsite is on point. You can go a little deeper if you have the budget, though—a workflow can nurture these leads through the funnel and will make it even more likely that they’ll end up attending your event.
At the very least, though, make sure you include a CTA within your opt-in content to make sure you’re giving those biggest fans a chance to jump on board. You know they want to hear from you already, so it’s critical to give them access to your event. It might even be smart to give them something a little extra as a reward for their brand loyalty, but don’t overdo it. You want new faces, not only the same people again and again.
Invest in social and paid media
In addition to the audience you already have on hand from previous digital advertising efforts, you can build a broader coalition by attracting more potentially interested people to your event’s brand. An investment in paid media and paid social advertising can attract people you don’t already have points of contact with and get them invested in what you’re doing.
The precision of the targeting available to you here is critical. Targeting the right audiences means you won’t waste time and money trying to convince people who aren’t interested in what you’re offering to attend your event, and it means the people who do attend will be the types of people you want to be talking to. It’s a lot easier to achieve your goals for the event—on the day and after—if you’re bringing in the right people.
How do you know who to target? That all depends on the goals you’ve set during the planning process for your event. What are you trying to do? Are you looking to attract people to become future customers? Are you trying to build thought leadership or prestige in your industry? Are you aiming to build relationships with other businesses in your market? Each of these goals requires an entirely different cast of attendees.
Build your audience
An event is nothing if nobody shows up. Past the disappointment of putting time and effort into something you think can really help people only to have it flop, it’s also obviously a massive hit to your ROI. Making sure you’re attracting the right eyes to your event is one of the most important ways to make sure your virtual event is a success. Plot out a multichannel marketing scheme and leverage both the contacts you already have as well as the new audiences you want to attract, and you’ll be in great shape.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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