Putting on an event is expensive. Whether it’s a traditional in-person conference, a virtual summit, a product launch event, or a fundraiser, it costs a lot to get an event up and running. And without butts in seats, an event can quickly become a massive financial loss. Here are 12 ROI options for promoting an event online.
The only way to ensure your event is successful is to generate buzz and get people to register.
But with so many different options, products, systems, and funnels, where do you start? And what do you do?
You will only be successful with your online event when you develop a strategic online promotional strategy.
We have a few proven ideas and concepts that you can leverage to promote your next event online and generate a high return rate. Let’s take a look together:
- Create a Centralized Promotional Folder
Before we dig into some of the specific promotional tactics, let’s make sure we’re laying a strong foundation for what comes next. Whether it’s landing pages, social media, email, or something else, you need consistency in your branding, phraseology, and event details. And the easiest way to do this is to create a centralized promotional folder in the cloud.
A centralized promotional folder will contain several subfolders for things like:
- Graphics and visuals (including .png event logos, partner logos, and any other graphic design elements you’re likely to need).
- A spreadsheet with all of the event details – including dates, times, locations, links, etc. (Anytime someone on the team has a question about logistics, direct them to this sheet.)
- An event one-pager with all of the details and highlights – including things like speakers and schedules.
- A list of promotional dos and don’ts. (For example, if there are words you don’t want to use when promoting the event, create a resource for this.)
The more information you’re able to compile in one centralized folder, the less time you’ll waste tracking down information and details when you need it. This keeps your workflow as efficient as it can possibly be.
- Develop an Event Landing Page
The next step is to develop an event landing page. If the centralized cloud folder is your resource for all information, the landing page is for your attendees (and anyone interested in attending).
Designing a landing page is an exercise in human psychology and data analytics. Put your best foot forward with the initial version, but don’t stress about getting it perfect. You’ll end up iterating over time as you gather data on what does and doesn’t work.
Key event landing page design principles to get you started.
- Simplicity. Visual simplicity that is. You’re not writing a dissertation or pulling out a centerspread ad in The New York Times. The goal is to deliver the necessary information and not a pixel more. Use plenty of negative space and emphasize the elements that you want visitors to focus on.
- Clarity. Don’t forsake clarity in the pursuit of simplicity. Clarity is equally as important. People should immediately know what your event is about and why they should attend. If this isn’t evident within three to five seconds of landing on your page, something is off. (And you’ll see massive bounce rate numbers.)
- Inverted pyramid style. We’re not encouraging you to use journalistic copywriting, per se, but the method old school newspaper writers use when crafting news stories is a good one for landing pages. They use what’s called an inverted pyramid style of writing. This means you lead with the most important information about the event (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?). Then you cover some of the supporting information and background details. Finally, all of the extra information and interesting (but non-essential) bits and crumbs are thrown in.
- Social proof. When asking someone to sign up for an event online, encourage them by leveraging social proof. Things like trust badges, “as featured in” logos, headshots of speakers, video testimonials, and quotes from past attendees, are all effective.
- Exit-intent popup. Never let someone leave your landing page without putting up a (gentle) fight. Exit-intent popups might be annoying, but they work. As soon as someone hovers their mouse outside of the main area of the landing page, a tile overlay emerges and asks the visitor if they’re sure they want to leave before registering (or something to that effect). Even if you only pick up 5 to 10 percent of people who try to leave, it’s worth the investment.
How do you know if your landing page is effective? Besides studying the basic metrics like conversion rate, bounce rate, and average time on page, you can also install heat maps and trackers, analyzing how far people scroll down the page before dropping off.
Based on the data, you can reorganize, truncate, or expand your landing page to respond to how visitors engage with the page in real-time.
- Craft Branded Content
Your event cannot and should not exist in a vacuum.
What does this mean?
Put simply: Your larger brand content marketing strategy should overlap with your event promotion strategy. Whether you have a weekly blog post, daily social media blasts, an email newsletter, or a podcast, all of your content efforts should be plugging your event.
Start with soft promos in the weeks leading up to the event, but you can be much more overt in the 72 hours leading up. This is the sweet spot when it comes to online events when you’ll see a huge uptick in registrations. (Start earlier for in-person events, as people need time to plan logistics.)
- Leverage Guest Blogging
I’ve discussed some of the benefits and opportunities for guest blogging previously. And while we typically encourage it to build backlinks, guest blogging can also be highly effective when implemented as part of an event promotion blitz.
Here’s what you do:
- Make a list of 15 to 20 websites that accept guest blog post contributions and have an audience that overlaps with your target attendees.
- Develop a list of content ideas that make your event relevant and interesting (from a third party publisher’s perspective).
- Reach out to the people in charge of each of these guest contributor programs and pitch them the content idea that best aligns with their niche.
- Include a backlink to your event landing page and (if permissible) an in-text call-to-action encouraging readers to sign up for the event.
Not only will guest blogging give you exposure and referral traffic, but it could also provide some SEO juice to your landing page. (If it’s a long-term landing page – meaning it will be active for several months – this could help you eventually attract organic search traffic.)
- Update Your Email Signature
Think about how many emails you send per day. Is it 25, 100, or even 200-plus? Now think about all of the people who are on the receiving end of your emails. It could be thousands per month. So put this real estate to good use.
As part of your email signature, include a simple square tile graphic or hyperlinked CTA to encourage people to visit the event landing page. You won’t get a ton of clicks, but the ones that do click are going to be way more qualified than the average landing page visitor who stumbles on your page via another method. And if it nabs you even one more registration, it’s worth the five minutes it takes to change your signature.
This is sort of a low hanging fruit tactic, but it’s useful nonetheless. (Why waste any opportunity to give your event exposure?) It’s simple and subtle yet highly effective.
- Use Your Email List (The Right Way)
Speaking of email, you must use your brand’s email list appropriately. This does not mean spamming your subscribers with daily demands to register. However, it does mean implementing a strategic campaign that slowly drips on people in the weeks and days leading up to the event.
When you start your drip campaign depends on your larger goals. If it’s an in-person event – especially one that people have to travel to and get accommodations for – you’ll want to start at least a couple of months out. The drip is slow at first – going as long as a week between communications – and gets faster as the event gets closer. (For online events, such as virtual summits, you only need to start a couple of weeks out.)
The key to a good campaign is to keep it simple, personalized, and valuable. In other words, cut out the small talk and fluff and get very focused. Here are some tips:
- Keep paragraphs to just one or two sentences.
- Call people by their name (either in the subject line and/or the body copy).
- Use bullet points to share quick hits and important information.
- Always direct people back to the landing page (using tracking codes so that you can study the effectiveness of your campaign).
Not sure what to say? There are plenty of drip email campaign templates available online. Use them as inspiration – tailoring the details to your event and audience.
- Use Partner Email Lists
Are you running the event with other partners, organizations, or groups? As part of your partnership agreement, you should require each organization or individual to email their list a certain number of times. This amplifies your reach beyond your own email list. (And depending on the size of the organization, this could give you access to thousands of people you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to engage.)
- Run Paid Ad Traffic
If you’ve never used Facebook ads, you might be intimidated. However, once you learn a few basics, you’ll realize that there’s nothing to be scared of. In fact, you’ll discover that Facebook ads are one of your most powerful weapons in the pursuit of generating traffic and registrations.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when using paid ads for an event:
- Always use the landing page URL – not a home page or general website page. This reduces friction and removes any additional steps that could allow someone to bounce before registering.
- Be very specific with your targeting. Narrow in on your audience and include anything you know about them, such as geographic location, interests, hobbies, marital status, job title, etc.
- The image and headline are the two most important elements of a Facebook ad. Yours need to be clear, succinct, and visually pleasing.
- Choose the appropriate call to action button.
As with your landing page, you don’t have to get this perfect right from the start. Facebook has an advanced analytics engine built-in, and you’ll be able to optimize based on the results. As the data comes in, you can make changes to bolster your conversion rate.
- Write Press Releases
Press releases aren’t what they used to be, but they still have value. If you’re holding an event, you need to create at least one press release and distribute it via all major outlets and publications.
While it’s probably not going drive a ton of direct traffic or registrations, here’s what a press release does for you:
- A good press release makes media members aware of your event. They can run searches for different keywords and topics. If you have a relevant press release, they might see it and decide to do more research – ultimately writing a story or making a mention of your event in a larger story.
- Press releases have some SEO value, assuming you use the correct keywords. If you’re planning to leave your event page up for a while, or you’ll eventually use it to sell recordings and other products, this can give you some increased organic reach.
Don’t spend a ton of time developing press releases, but certainly do what you need to do. Like email signatures, this is low hanging fruit. You might as well grab it.
- Partner With Influencers
Love them or hate them, influencers have, well…influence. And if you can secure a partnership with the right influencer – someone who has an audience that intersects and overlaps your own – you could see a huge spike in registrations and attendees.
According to Social Media Today, influencer marketing generates 11x higher ROI than traditional forms of marketing. Plus, 94 percent of marketers who have used influencer marketing in the past found it to be a “very effective tactic.”
If you go this route, make sure you draft a detailed agreement that includes specific information regarding expectations and requirements. The worst thing you can do is hire an influencer, pay them a bunch of money, and then have them miss the mark.
- Use LinkedIn Events
LinkedIn has a feature that actually allows you to publish your event on the platform. This acts as an additional traffic source. The process is pretty simple:
- Create an event.
- Choose a header image. (Or create a new one using an app like Canva.)
- Choose an event image (could be your headshot, company logo, or event logo).
- Enter the event name (keeping keywords near the front to sidestep truncation).
- Choose your company
- Include a link to your landing page.
- Select the date and time.
- Develop a keyword-rich description.
- Tick the box to make it a “public event.”
Once you create an event, you can publish it to your newsfeed and invite all of your connections. Your event will also show up on LinkedIn when people search for keywords related to your event.
- Create a Referral Program
One final suggestion is to create a referral program where you give registered attendees the opportunity to invite other people using customized referral codes.
Incentives are the key to making this work. Consider creating some sort of reward structure where you give discounts, prizes, or recognition to the people who refer the most attendees.