Designing a virtual event experience is like shaping your corporate website. You need an effective marriage of content and messaging to motivate visitors to perform favourable actions – whether it’s filling a form as a prospect, applying for a job or downloading some collateral. However, even if you manage to put on a stellar site but haven’t figured out how to attract relevant audiences, then what you just have is a digital decoration piece – that’s not serving any meaningful purpose for your business metrics.
The same goes for virtual events. Choosing the right vendor to ensure a memorable experience is equivalent to winning half the battle. The other half is tied to your promotional activities and bringing in a significant and relevant audience.
Building awareness via a marketing strategy that has an irresistible appeal is the key to achieving high attendees numbers, conversions, applicants and leads for your business.
Here’s how you can build a marketing plan for an event that’s taking place online.
Identify your Audience
Be clear about who you’re targeting and why.
To start building an effective marketing plan, you need to first understand your audience. The better you can lock down the target persona you plan to serve, the better your marketing campaign will perform.
What do you need to know about them?
- their demographics (age, location, profession, etc)
- where they spend time online
- their motivations and goals
For example, if you’re hosting a virtual tradeshow, then visualize what an ideal buyer would be like and why they would buy from you.
This information is critical as it will inform both the channels you need to target and the messaging you need to adopt. For example, if you’re hosting an event for fresh graduates, you would select Facebook & Instagram in your promotional channels. Similarly, if you’re targeting business professionals, LinkedIn & Email Marketing might act as better avenues.
Once you know whom you are targeting, you have to then figure out the desired outcome you require from them. Create a target goal that will help you measure what success looks like and then ensure your marketing messaging encourages your target audience towards your end goal.
Create a Landing Page
Communicate a compelling value proposition.
After you’ve identified your audience and the goals you wish to achieve, you need to work on the focal point of your marketing campaign – your landing page.
The landing page of the event serves two purposes:
- It helps you freely communicate why people should care about this virtual event (think of it as an elevator pitch)
- It helps you capture details of interested visitors so you can pull them in on the day of the event
Ideally, your virtual event provider should help you implement the page and spruce it up with an interesting design. However, you need to partner with them and ensure you own the message and guide them on the content points that need to be included. It’s your event at the end of the day, and nobody understands your business better than you. Make sure your voice is reflected on the page.
Apart from “wearing” your brand, the virtual event’s landing page should ideally have the following components:
- A compelling headline
- Date & time of the event
- Event agenda (e.g. schedule of webinars, etc.)
- A brief overview of the virtual event so audiences know what to expect
- Who is exhibiting at the event and who the sponsors are
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Content & imagery that supports your message
- An engaging video to attract and convert traffic to registrations (72% of customers prefer learning about a product or service through a video)
Market at the Right Time
Not too early, not too late.
Okay, now you’re all set and excited to announce your virtual event. You’re ready to start driving traffic to the landing page and build registration numbers – but let’s hold that thought for a minute.
Timing your marketing is essential. If you do it too early, you risk losing the audience’s attention, especially with the number of distractions that surrounds your remote audience presently. If you do it late, you might not be able to generate enough reach with your campaign.
As a rule of thumb, we recommend setting up your event’s landing page 2-3 weeks prior to the date it goes live to secure a safe space on your potential participants’ radars.
Remember, even if the virtual environment of your event isn’t set up, it doesn’t matter because all you care about is to sign them up using your optimized landing page. That’s why the landing page plays a key role in building excitement, expectations and hype to eventually generate a sign-up.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. If you’re targeting a very small niche that requires time and effort to nurture and convert, you might have to start a bit earlier. For example, a virtual networking event for C-level executives in the trucking industry will require time and more laser-focused marketing compared to an open-for-all virtual career fair for a well-recognized company.
Promote on your Site
Leverage your existing web presence to get the word out.
Using your website to market your upcoming virtual event is an effective way to engage visitors. We recommend adding a prominent section on the homepage of your website that links directly to your virtual event’s landing page.
You could also opt for fancier implementations like interstitials, banner ad placements and message panels that stick to the bottom/top of the page. Of course, you don’t want to become too intrusive such that your site visitors get annoyed though.
More importantly, however, the copy that you write on your advertisement plays a great role. Use a catchy headline that explains what’s in it for participates and try to create urgency in order to compel them to act right away.
For example, instead of saying, “Come sign up for our Virtual Career Fair next weekend,” go with something like “Get to meet our Recruiters & Staff next week to get a taste of what it’s like to work here. Join us at the Virtual Career Fair, apply for jobs and get fast-tracked for interviews! Limited slots available.”
Moreover, if you already support live chat on your existing website, then you can use the pop-up message there to promote your event as well as field questions in case there are any.
Lastly, featuring a short video on the homepage promoting your event can go a long way to dial up registrations.
Use Email Marketing
Send a sequence of emails to your existing subscribers.
Email marketing is a core component of any event marketing strategy. In fact, 40% of marketers believe it to be the most effective channel for event promotion. If you have a subscription base, lead list in a CRM or any database of potential participants, then you already have a low-hanging fruit to focus on.
Having said that, you need to craft your email campaign carefully. Think about:
- Target recipients
- Number of emails to send and delays between each
- A compelling subject line
- The body text
- The call-to-action
Ideally, you should focus your campaign on recipients that you are interested in inviting to the event, so if you have extra data points on your list per subscriber, filter your lists down for better targeting. Plan out 2-3 emails prior to the event to invite, inform and remind your audiences (make sure you don’t overdo it).
Your subject line needs to be carefully thought out. If you’re in a dilemma between multiple candidates, use an email marketing tool like Mailchimp to A/B test multiple subject lines and see what works best.
Influence registered visitors to share their participation with others.
Once you have a visitor convinced and signed up for your event, you need to see how you can motivate them to spread the word for you. This approach has two benefits:
- People resonate far better to recommendations posted by their social contacts as opposed to commercial entities
- There is little to no cost that is incurred on this kind of promotion
The best time to make that ask is right when the a visitor has signed up. For example, after they sign up on your landing page, display a thank you page with social buttons that they can click to announce their participation at your virtual event.
Alternatively, you can issue an email to confirm their submission and embed a call-to-action to share the event with their contacts.
Apart from that, designing visually appealing posts or short video previews with a call-to-action asking audiences to share the message far and wide also helps garner likes/comments and increased reach.
Leverage Your Sponsors
Ask your sponsors to help spread the word.
If you managed to get sponsors to promote the virtual event then you should explore how you can collaborate with them to accelerate your marketing efforts. After all, it’s also in their best interest that the virtual event attracts relevant audiences so that their sponsorship goals are met.
- Encourage your sponsors to promote the virtual event on their website, social media channels and any other web content that they are contributing to
- Send emails to their subscribers list or write a guest post on their blog provided they grant permission
Again, you need to make sure that you work closely with them to get the messaging right. The better the copy of the marketing material that they promote, the greater the results will be.
Involve your Speakers
Use speakers at your virtual event as event ambassadors.
The secret to successful marketing is getting your virtual event mentioned every chance you get regardless of it being online, through word of mouth, or any print media channels.
This is why integrating your special guest speakers into your marketing plan is also necessary. Ambassadors and spokespersons are sometimes the core attractions of your virtual event that audiences would love to hear, connect with, and learn from. Thus, it makes absolute sense for them to add to the dialogue being built around your virtual event.
Write articles and guest blogs but remember to “educate first” and “ask later”.
“Content is king” – we’ve all heard this and have witnessed the influence of content serving as a promotional powerhouse. Known to be one of the core pillars of a strong inbound marketing strategy, attracting visitors to your virtual event’s landing page can be done by making use of guest posts on reputable and authoritative blogs.
Begin by scouting blogs in your industry that resonate well with you target audience and also pull in healthy traffic. Next, check out their guest posting guidelines and write an article that provides genuine value to their audience base. Work out a win-win deal with the web editor of the blog where you share a valuable content piece in exchange for a line or two about your upcoming event.
Using the right keywords in your article and linking back to it from your own website and partner properties, you could quickly start ranking for certain keywords and generate organic traffic for the piece. This proves to be a cost-effective mechanism to generate conversion on your landing page.
If guest blogging isn’t your thing, then at the very least, ensure that you add a post to your company’s own blog to create awareness around it. This will help spread the word among audiences that are already tuned in with your content.
Issue a Press Release
Reach masses through a PR campaign.
For virtual events that are primarily B2B in nature, a timely press release can be an effective way to get the word out quickly.
When composing your press release, remember to work on effective messaging. Depict the value proposition of the event, cite who the intended audience is, mention the date & time of the event and highlight any sponsors/speakers worth mentioning. Of course, don’t forget to link the write up directly to your landing page so that you can drive referral traffic.
Beyond massive coverage, online press releases are also shared by readers and journalists on social media channels, allowing you to reap the benefits of that exposure as well.
Own a Twitter Hashtag
Use a unique hashtag & build momentum on Twitter.
Businesses have been using Twitter to highlight their events, products, campaigns and much more for years. This is why virtual event hosts need to become a part of the hashtag revolution to get noticed.
Hashtags are basically keywords or memorable short phrases used by hosts to build (and monitor) conversations around their events.
Once people see a tweet with your hashtag, that’s when the magic of extended promotional reach begins. Ensure to loop sponsors and speakers to join the party.
Don’t just fire bland tweets asking people to sign-up, though. Rather, share some nuggets of value and educate your audience motivating them to attend the virtual event to learn more. By creating buzz around your hashtag and often linking back to your landing page, you’re setting yourself up for a bump in conversions.
Social promotion is essential. Use organic or paid promotion and combine it with re-marketing.
The obvious way of using LinkedIn and Facebook to your advantage is to keep posting updates about your upcoming virtual event to your follower base.
If you want to go one notch up with your presence on social media, consider paid promotion. Furthermore, you can use these two channels to re-market to your existing audience. This allows you to trigger a promotion of your event to users who have visited your website before or are on your email marketing list, making a second attempt at influencing them to convert.
LinkedIn and Facebook re-marketing use web technology to track people that visited your event’s page but left without taking any steps to register. They work to display ads to these same people using insight tags that are placed on your website or your virtual event’s landing page, in addition to helping you only invest into a targeted user segment that is of value to your business.
Opt for Paid Search
Leverage Google Ads to quickly promote your event against valuable keywords.
If you’re really in a rush to see fast improvements in your virtual event registration volume, then paid ads to get more traffic is a fundamental step to take to attract your identified audiences online.
Creating targeted campaigns reaching out to the right audience, desired geographical locations, and demographics will help build awareness and event visibility.
Making actionable ads that stand out from competitors helps not only attract traffic and registrations, but also easily measure in order to assess their effectiveness at securing the intended clicks and conversions.
Moreover, analytics offer insights on ad performances based on various key metrics so you can keep improving your marketing strategy to only invest money into websites and ad formats that route highest traffic to your event’s registration page.
Create Video Previews
Invest in Video. It takes time and effort but it’s worth it.
This content format is all the rage today with audiences hooked onto exciting and creative videos to consume information quickly.
Promoting your virtual event with a short video can help deliver a lot of information in a much more compelling and engaging manner. Positioning your brand as a technology leader, visionary, and in a league unlike others with teaser clips on your company’s social media channels can give followers a taste of the experience in store.
Use SMS Marketing
Don’t underestimate the power of text campaigns. They beat email on open rates.
Considering all the time that we remain focused on our cellular devices, it’s no surprise that SMS marketing also surfaces as a viable pathway to achieve successful virtual event promotion. Carrying almost a whopping 98% open rate, this messaging platform easily surpasses other competitors in click through rates with its undeniable visibility and easy to read nature.
SMS marketing is simple, budget friendly, and directs the recipients focus to the most essential keywords due to its concise format.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to a Virtual Event
At vFairs.com, we strive to build a top-class online event platform that will help event organizers make memorable connections with their target audience. We’re obsessed with taking out the hassle normally associated with physical events and leaving organizers and exhibitors to focus on what’s most important: engagement with the audience.