Email and Social Media: Event Marketing — Before, During, and After
Every successful marketer can recall that lightning bolt moment when they realized that email marketing really does work better than virtually everything else they do to promote their business. For me, it was when I was promoting the annual sales conference for a technology company in London. I had a big room to fill, and all the online banner ads, press releases, and trade magazine inserts were doing very little to sell seats.
I had previously viewed email as something I did once a month (primarily because my predecessor did it) with a tired old newsletter. I was so disinterested by this approach, I never even bothered to check the analytics after hitting the send button.
My First Campaign Success
So my first-ever “proper” email campaign was a rather desperate attempt to sell something that I was beginning to think that nobody was interested in. I took the time to create an offer — a limited 20% discount if booked before a specific date — making sure the offer was clearly explained in the subject line.
I then asked our designer to build a simple HTML campaign, highlighting the benefits of attending the event and with a clear call-to-action in the shape of a big “buy now” button.
Bringing all the elements together in my Email Service Provider (ESP), I hit send with shallow expectations. I’ll be honest; the campaign went out to everyone on my tired old email list (segmentation was something I discovered later). Then something completely unexpected happened.
Within minutes of sending the campaign, sales started coming in. At first, just one or two, but then they just seemed to flow in, and they didn’t stop for the next 48 hours.
I was utterly blown away and decided to take another look at this email marketing thing the following week.
I dove into my analytics and segmented my list into three separate lists:
- People who booked tickets
- People who opened the email but didn’t book
- People who didn’t open the email
Initially, I put the people who booked tickets to one side. I then sent a reminder email to the other segments — virtually the same email with a slightly different subject line. Again, within minutes, the sales started to come in.
I repeated this process over the next few weeks and continued to sell tickets. As the event drew close, I eventually sent another offer to a carefully selected list of people who had bought tickets, offering a 50% discount on any additional tickets they booked. Again, this generated sales.
Email Marketing Works
Based on this initial send, my opinion of email marketing changed, and it became my primary method of promoting virtually everything I’ve been tasked with marketing.
Note: I was an iContact client long before I became an employee. It was my love of email marketing along with iContact’s fantastic customer service that made it incredibly easy for me to decide to work with the company.
Every campaign I have sent over the 15+ years since that first successful campaign has been influenced by that initial send, and the process still works. That’s not to say I haven’t made changes to the way I operate.
Folding Social Media into the Mix
I mentioned how tired my old list had become — in fact, it was surprising such a fatigued list delivered such positive results. I now use social media for breathing new life into my lists.
I do this by building brand awareness and pointing people toward useful, engaging, and timely content. Primarily, this is thought-leadership content delivered via blog posts, live videos, and gated content such as ebooks, white papers, and webinars. There is absolutely no sales message included — this is all about building relationships. I leave the selling to my emails.
I also use social media to document various aspects of my business. This comes into its own when I’m running an event. If you are struggling with the concept of documenting everything, I’ve written about the process here.
Folding People into the Mix
Because people buy from people they like and are inspired to buy by people they identify with, it’s vitally important to fold people into the mix.
There is no better place to do this than at an event when you actually get the opportunity to meet your customers and prospects. Take every opportunity to take photos of your event delegates engaging with your organization. If at all possible, get them on video and broadcast it live via social media before editing the content for YouTube.
The more you share via social media during an event, the more you will inspire people to attend your next event if they haven’t joined you this time around.
Empower Your Social Media Army
Of course, if you are running the event, it can be difficult to find the time to document everything. It’s therefore really important to task all of your employees and event staff to capture images and video. They all carry a smartphone with them at all times, so remind them to put it to good use. Enable your most trusted colleagues to post directly to your social channels, and be sure to collect everything else for publishing at a later date. You might wish to incentivize your staff with a competition, rewarding those who curate the best content during an event.
And don’t stop with your colleagues. When you assign a hashtag to an event and make sure all of your attendees know about it, they’ll do a lot of the legwork in getting the message out there for you.
All of this great, people-focused content will come in handy when you send those event follow-up emails.
You should follow up with everyone on your lists about your events regardless of whether they attended or not. Think: here’s a reminder of our great event, or here’s what you missed.
The days after your event, when you are also flooding social media with your event pics, is a great time to secure ticket sales for your next event. Why not offer a discounted ticket for those who attended your previous event and an ultra-early bird offer for any first-time visitors? Selling tickets in advance will almost certainly help take the pressure off marketing your event at the last minute — helping you better plan and execute your show.
How do you use email and social media to promote your events?
This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.