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Virtual event marketing is getting more and more difficult by the day. With so many virtual events happening across industries, interests, etc., it can be hard to create messaging that will cut through the noise and attract attendees to your event. It seems that everyone uses the same promotional channels, too. What’s a marketer to do?
If you find your palms getting clammy at the thought of promoting your virtual event, you’re in the right place. Lucky for you, we’ve helped set up and promote a ton of events in 2021, and we have some takeaways for you to bring into the new year.
Here’s how you can build a marketing plan for an event that’s taking place online.
But hey, it depends a lot on the kind of virtual event you’re marketing.
You might be using a Virtual Conference Platform, a Hybrid Event Platform, or any other.
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 virtual event marketing campaign will perform.
What do you need to know about them?
For example, if you’re hosting a virtual trade show, then visualize what an ideal buyer would be like and why they would buy from you. You likely already have some idea about who your buyers are. Use your CRM tool to understand things like their job titles, what products and services of yours they’re most interested in, and what source brought them to you in the first place. Did they click on a paid ad? Did they find you organically?
Take this one step further by reviewing tools like Google Analytics and Search Console. This will help you get a good understanding of search terms people are using to look for you in the first place. Once you have an idea about what your audience talks about, their roles, etc. use a tool like Sparktoro to understand what channels those exact people are using, what hashtags they engage with, and more!
This information is critical as it will inform both the channels you need to target and the messaging you need to adopt.
Once you know whom you are targeting, you have to then figure out the desired outcome you require from them. Create an objective you want your audience to hit, such as filling out a registration form. This will help you measure what success looks like and then ensure your marketing messaging encourages your target audience towards your end goal.
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:
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:
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 surround 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.
Publish on your website 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 or 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 in your advertisement plays a great role. Use a catchy headline that explains what’s in it for participants 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 “Meet recruiters & staff who are ready to hire!”
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.
Send a sequence of emails to your existing subscribers.
Email marketing is a core component of any event marketing strategy. In fact, one study shows businesses make $44 on every dollar spent on email marketing. 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.
However, you still need to craft your email campaign carefully. Think about:
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. While tools like vFairs offer a native email tool, an email marketing tool like Mailchimp could work too.
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:
The best time to make that ask is right when the 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 more reach.
Ask your sponsors to help spread the word.
If you managed to get sponsors on board, 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.
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.
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 event plan is helpful. 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 your 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.
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.
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, Facebook, and Instagram 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.
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 the highest traffic to your event’s registration page.
Remember those audience research tools we mentioned before, like Sparktoro? This is where they come in handy. Each of the strategies above can be enhanced and made easier when you know exactly what blogs, social media hashtags, and other channels your audience is actually watching.
There are so many ways for you to promote a virtual event to your target audiences. While leveraging your existing audience is the easiest option with the highest reward, it’s important to find ways to engage new audiences, too! Though it may feel overwhelming, there is good news: you don’t have to use every single tactic we’ve listed. Pick what’s best for your team and your audience to start, then build on your activities for future events.
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