Guest Post provided by:
Carl Diesing, Managing Director and co-founder DNL OmniMedia.
Organizations, whether they’re nonprofits, businesses, community groups, or churches, host events for all kinds of reasons. Reaching new audiences, raising money for your mission, or just giving your community a good time are all great goals for your organization’s events.
Regardless of why you’re planning an event, though, one thing remains constant – the need to promote it. If you’re unable to attract guests to your event, all of your team’s planning efforts may go to waste. For nonprofits that rely on events to raise funds that support their operations, it’s absolutely crucial that their events provide a return on investment.
Using web-integrated registration software will start your event off on the right foot, but what other steps can you take to generate more interest and maximize attendance?
Look to technology. Thankfully, there are more ways than ever to reach audiences online, and it’s becoming easier to get started every day. Even the least tech-oriented organizations can implement a few smart strategies to help market their events in new ways. Let’s walk through some key tips and concepts you can use to build out a strategy:
- Develop a multi-channel marketing strategy.
- Focus on web design early on.
- Make the most of software integrations.
- Have an organized approach from the start.
- Take full advantage of registration tools.
- Determine specific ways to measure impact.
- Rely on what makes your event unique.
- Take your merchandise online.
- Offer value before the event.
- Solicit plenty of feedback.
These 10 tips aren’t an exhaustive dive into all the different event marketing strategies out there, but they will give you a good sense of everything that should go into an effective event marketing strategy.
At DNL OmniMedia, we focus on helping nonprofit organizations make the most of their technology by developing custom solutions and strategies. When it comes to event marketing strategies, there are a lot of moving pieces to event marketing, so it’s always a good idea to get started early and think carefully about how best to promote your particular event. Let’s get started.
1. Develop a multi-channel marketing strategy.
The basic idea here is that all of your marketing outlets should work to support one another. There are two main components to this idea:
- Each marketing outlet, like your website, print advertisements, social media posts, and email campaigns, should serve a distinct purpose in promoting the event.
- Your online registration page should serve as the central location to which your marketing outlets direct readers.
Multi-channel marketing strategies are the new norm for all types of organizations. They can be focused around a specific project, like an event, or more general. Here’s a visualization of a more general multi-channel strategy:
This type of strategy allows you to better target your message on each outlet to specific audiences and to generate more traffic overall by directing readers across multiple outlets. For instance, your emails or social media posts could invite readers to check out a blog post about your upcoming event, and the blog post then directs readers to register for the event.
A lot can go into one of these strategies, but don’t get overwhelmed. Study up with the DNL OmniMedia guide to digital strategy for more details.
2. Focus on web design early on.
Your website is an invaluable asset for marketing your event. Making sure your site looks great and (most importantly) works great should be early in your list of event planning steps.
Building off the previous tip, it’s important to remember that your website will need to serve as the anchor or central location for your wider multi-channel marketing campaign. Make sure it functions well and that it offers a streamlined user experience. Pay particular attention to your event’s page and registration tool, since these are what will be converting and securing new attendees.
If you’re hosting a major event in the future, one that requires a significant investment of your time and resources, think about conducting a thorough check-up of your website.
Even for smaller events that will drive extra traffic to your website, design touch-ups are a good idea. If you’re using a popular CMS platform like WordPress, it’s easy to upgrade your theme for new functions and design features and to customize your event pages to integrate with your brand.
3. Make the most of software integrations.
Whenever possible, use tools that integrate with one another. Registration software that plugs right into your website is a great example.
Integrations give you the benefit of centralizing your data. This makes it infinitely easier to plan and manage your event because it gives you a clearer image of how things are going. For event marketing strategies, integrated tools are particularly useful. You’ll need to track engagement across all of your different marketing outlets in order to determine where to focus attention.
For instance, if your nonprofit uses Blackbaud software, Luminate Online would be the best way to keep your marketing efforts organized. Integrating it with your CRM, like Raiser’s Edge or Salesforce, ensures that you can easily analyze your marketing, registration, and supporter data all in one place. This will help your team develop more up-to-date and adaptable promotional strategies leading up to your event.
4. Have an organized approach from the start.
This tip applies to any event, but it’s especially important to keep in mind when planning smaller events. Not needing to invest quite as much time and resources into an event can sometimes trick planners into overlooking other important aspects.
Save yourself the trouble of dealing with issues later and take a deliberate, organized approach to event planning from the very beginning of the process.
In terms of marketing and promoting your event, thinking through your strategy early will result in a stronger, more effective plan. Your team needs time to weigh options, implement new tools, and make plans. Making smart use of an integrated event calendar on your website doubles as a handy tool for both you and your supporters.
5. Take full advantage of registration tools.
We’ve touched on this in other tips above, but it bears repeating. Using integrated registration software is probably the best investment you can make in your ability to effectively plan, manage, and market your events.
You’ll need up-to-date guest lists in order to prepare for the big day, but real-time registration data also serves to indicate the performance of your marketing campaigns. Most importantly, the registration tools you use can play a direct role in the size of your audience at the event itself.
A poorly-functioning registration page that’s hard to use and takes forever to complete will probably end up driving away potential guests. Always look for integrated options that let you customize the registrant experience.
Tools that plug into your website or are specifically designed for your type of event are the best choices. Charity auction planning and management tools are a good example of event-specific software that provides major benefits to the planning, marketing, and execution of the event itself.
6. Determine specific ways to measure impact.
You probably already have different ways to visualize and organize your event planning process, but do you have a concrete way to measure the impact of your events? Determining a KPI for your event will help to guide and focus your efforts, resulting in more effective events over the long run. Typical KPIs for events include:
- Total attendance
- Audience growth, or new attendee acquisition
- Post-event survey responses
- Total donations secured
This is a long-term strategy for boosting the effectiveness of your events. Determining KPIs for each event you plan and implementing ways to measure them, you’ll be able to look back at past successes and shortcomings, then identify the techniques that caused them.
7. Rely on what makes your event unique.
If you’re planning an event for a nonprofit, never forget your organization’s core mission. It should guide the event planning process.
Staying mission-focused will create a more engaging, passionate event more likely to catch the eyes of audiences. Take some time while planning and marketing your event to think through its core purpose. What is the goal of the event in both concrete terms (like the KPIs discussed above) and in terms of your mission?
For example, if you’re conducting an advocacy campaign, focus on energizing and mobilizing your event registrants! Create custom action alerts, peer-to-peer fundraising options, social sharing tools, and even a mobile app. These will keep your registrants highly engaged leading up to the event. This type of grassroots-style marketing works particularly well for advocacy campaigns and events. Learn more about these strategies here.
The main idea, though, is to keep your mission and higher goals in mind; you might get wrapped up in traditional event planning strategies and miss out on great opportunities to try something new or get your community involved in new ways online.
8. Take your merchandise online.
Merchandise has long been an extremely effective way to engage your supporters and raise some extra money. The internet has made this technique even more flexible than before.
Taking your merchandise online gives you the ability to use it as a marketing strategy before the event, not just as a fundraising source during the event. Designing the perfect, eye-catching t-shirt (check out Bonfire’s how-to guide here!) can do wonders for your event’s visibility.
Try offering discounted merchandise for early registrants. Encourage supporters to share pics of them wearing your event shirt with a specific hashtag. There are tons of ways you can incorporate custom merchandise into your promotional strategies prior to the event.
9. Offer value before the event.
Offering your supporters and prospective attendees valuable opportunities or resources before the event can be a highly effective way to encourage them to both attend and spread the word. Consider these techniques:
- For professional events, offer early access to special materials and updates.
- Create webinars, podcasts, or other high-value content in the lead-up to the event. Make them exclusive for registered attendees only, or just use them to help promote the event.
- Offer special networking or volunteering experiences for a behind-the-scenes look before the event.
- Conduct a social media contest and award free tickets or merchandise to the winner who shares your event page.
The main idea is to give your audience new opportunities to get involved or learn more about your mission in a way that incentivizes further engagement with your event.
10. Solicit plenty of feedback.
Finally, never forget to ask for feedback. This is the most direct way to learn from attendees themselves which strategies really work and which aren’t worth your time.
Using feedback loops from guests, staff, and volunteers is a highly effective way to grow your events, and there are several ways to solicit feedback. Surveys and feedback pages are the most efficient way to get direct feedback, but remember to take a close look at your registration data, too. Which ticket options or add-ons are the most or least popular? These insights can tell you a lot about guest preferences.
By developing strategies to gather feedback from participants during and after every event you host, you can continually improve your ability to plan and manage them going forward.
Try to take as comprehensive an approach as possible when marketing your event. By implementing these tech tips and best practices, you’ll strengthen your overall ability to engage audiences and reach new attendees in the long run.