Marketing for events and associations is harder today than ever before. The internet has democratized information, education, networking, and purchasing. Attendees and members have more options, which makes it tough for you to stand out.
Sponsors, exhibitors, and other partners have more options, too. They no longer rely on the One Big Annual Event to collect the majority of their leads or to put new products in front of qualified buyers.
The increased competition is healthy for the industry as a whole, but it presents an enormous challenge to individual marketers who must rise above the din.
And that isn’t even the most challenging part! Association marketers have more options, too. Too many. Way too many. Take a look at the now-infamous Martec 5000 slide to see for yourself:
The number of tools, technologies, and channels available to marketers today has grown to a laughable level of complexity, and shows no sign of tapering off any time soon.
But despite the staggering number of choices, the basic tenet of marketing events and associations hasn’t changed: demonstrate the value of your service to qualified people, and make it easy for them to choose it.
Now, not every marketing tool will help event and association marketers do that, but the right tools in the right combination will. And after helping to grow more than 200 associations and over 1500 events, Feathr has learned what works and what doesn’t. They’re excited to share some actionable recommendations with Fonteva readers for a digital toolkit that every event and association marketer should use to meet (and exceed!) their marketing goals in 2019. Seven high-converting tools they recommend are:
- Paid Search
- Paid Social
- Partner Invites
- Attendee Invites
- Landing Pages
Let’s learn a little about each one.
Powered by GPS and RFID technologies, geofencing is a tool that enables targeted advertising to a pinpoint physical location, served to mobile devices within the virtual boundaries of that location. Geofencing can serve ads to locations as specific as an individual street address.
When qualified prospects are gathered together in one place, a geofencing campaign will ensure that your message gets seen on mobile devices in that location. It’s an extraordinarily efficient marketing tool, especially for top of funnel/brand awareness campaigns. Association and event marketers have been especially successful when geofencing competing events, aiming membership messaging at college campuses to boost student membership, and for sponsor/exhibitor prospecting, by geofencing the offices of prospective partners.
2. Paid Social Advertising
Paid social advertising operates on the same concept as traditional display advertising, except ads display exclusively on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Because social networks know a lot about their users, targeted social advertising can be incredibly precise.
Advertisers like yourselves get to learn the location, industry, job titles, and interests of their prospects. This enables hyper-targeted marketing messaging that ensures marketers are reaching the right people. Prospects aren’t bombarded with ads that don’t apply to their interests and advertisers aren’t wasting money showing impressions to unqualified people. Paid social advertising also has the added benefit of reaching prospects where they spend most of their online time.
Of course, paid social shouldn’t replace your association or event’s organic participation in social media, but when used strategically, it will significantly boost your online audience and expose more qualified people to your brand.
3. Paid Search
Paid search is a form of advertising triggered by prospects’ web search behavior, and like each marketing tool mentioned here, it precisely targets qualified prospects. Unlike programmatic advertising such as retargeting, prospects don’t need to have visited your website or interacted with your advertising before they can be targeted by a paid search campaign. They include themselves in the campaign by searching the web for phrases you identify as relevant to your organization’s goals.
When you run a paid search campaign, you choose a set of search terms, and when people search for those terms, they see your ads. Simple as that. All you have to do is choose which search terms are likely to be most relevant.
Paid search is especially useful for building new audiences, since it introduces people to your messaging for the first time. It ensures that ads and prospects are perfectly matched.
A good way to start with paid search is by using Google’s free keyword planner. Try it out!
4. Partner Invites
Word of mouth advertising is the only kind you can’t buy. But you can nurture it with the right incentives. For example, every one of your event partners has their own unique audience, and that audience can be yours too. Persuade event partners to promote their involvement with your event by offering custom collateral such as social sharing images, customized emails, and ad creatives they can use with little additional effort on their part. This is a reliable way to get them to promote for you, putting your message in front of your partners’ audience’s qualified eyes.
To further encourage participation, Feathr has seen great success from customers who offer special discounts or programs to event partners who register a certain number of attendees through their invite collateral. More tickets for their team, a sponsorship upgrade, a bigger booth…get imaginative. But make sure your invite supplier offers customizability at scale and analytics for partners to track their own referral campaigns. It makes your job easier and offers partners quantitative data about the success of their own campaigns.
5. Attendee Invites
Attendees are another powerful source of referrals. They are unlikely to have the reach of brand partners, but they have a critical advantage: the trust that comes from a personal recommendation.
As with partner invites, events have tried to generate attendee invites for some time – usually by including a request and maybe a special coupon code or registration link in the registration confirmation email to each registered attendee.
But new solutions make attendee invites more compelling and trackable than ever. With such a solution setup, each event registrant will be prompted to invite friends and colleagues that are part of their network right as they register online.
Then, as the organizer, you get to see how many attendees are actively advocating your event and how many new registrations those invitations have driven. Such attendee invite programs also improve the accuracy of your future marketing and help identify influencers in your audience.
6. Landing Pages
These are simple, custom webpages to which advertising clicks are directed. They are the modern alternative to the common practice of directing email, paid advertising, and referred traffic clicks to either your homepage or a registration page.
Homepages tend to bombard visitors with information. They have menus with links, contact info, membership services, a member portal login, event information and more. And all of that information is useful – for the right visitor.
The strategy behind custom landing pages is to give visitors all the information they need and none they don’t – based on the interest they’ve displayed through responding to a specific ad or email. In essence, a properly designed landing page will include just the information required to drive responders from a campaign through to a particular action.
That action could be to register for an event, sign up for membership, or even just request more information. The call to action is up to you, but the conversion rate will increase. When shopping for a landing page builder, look for one that offers attractive templates and easily scalable production.
Retargeting is a form of smart display advertising served to segments of your own web audience. Retargeting only shows advertising to individuals who have already visited your website, a strong indicator of interest in your association and its events. Retargeted ads can display on nearly any website, so your message catches your audience wherever they happen to be online. On average, it has a 10x higher conversion rate than standard display advertising.
Like all the targeted advertising tools in this article, it relies on the principle that marketing performs best when it aligns with the unique interests of those it is served to. It means you’re not wasting money on cold, unqualified prospects. They already know you. They already like you. And as a result, they are significantly more receptive to your advertising.
It’s simple, too: just choose your segments (examples of segments are people who visited your registration page, people who visited your “why exhibit” page, people who visited your “benefits of membership” page, etc.), design a message and creative that would resonate with that segment, and a campaign budget. Some Feathr customers run a dozen or more different targeted advertising campaigns in the months leading up to their events, and many see 100x ROI and higher, since display ad space is cheap and event tickets are valuable. Retargeting is effective, precise, and easily scalable.
Read about specific retargeting campaigns that boost event attendance right here.
These technologies represent what
There are plenty more tools, tips, and insights about how to grow membership and events in the digital age over on the
Chris Hillman is Director of Content at Feathr, the marketing toolkit for events and associations. Feathr is based in sunny (and swampy) Gainesville, Florida.