How To Use Email Marketing To Explode Event Attendance
Are you running events? It's a great way to promote your business or nonprofit.
No matter what type of event that you run, you need a cost effective way to get your attendees to come.
The great news is the more often you have events, the easier it will be to get attendees at future events.
In this guide, we will explore ways to utilize email marketing to get more people to attend your events.
If you have not had a chance to look around this site or get to know me, I've hosted a LOT of events.
For several years, when I was an Authorized Local Expert for Constant Contact, I ran events weekly. Sometimes several times a week.
I've also hosted several events for Toastmasters. In 2013, when I was Public Relations Director for Toastmasters District 40, I actually promoted and hosted an event that broke a 20 year old attendance record!
So, yeah, I may know a thing or two about this topic. 🙂
There are 2 keys you need to understand when promoting an event with email marketing. Those keys are: relevance of your emails to your audience and frequency of your email promotion.
It doesn't matter if this is a paid gig, nonprofit fundraiser, or a free church meet and greet. These rules all apply. Let's examine each one in depth.
Because there are a lot of lessons to be learned about promoting events with email marketing, this post has been broken down into two seperate parts.
If you are promoting events through email marketing, relevance is incredibly important. If your subscriber doesn't see value in your emails, they will unsubscribe. They will not find out about later events that actually ARE relevant to their interests. Even worse, if it's really irrelevant, they may share a bad word on social media or one of the various review websites.
There are two types of relevance to be aware of and the solution is the same: segmentation.
The first type of relevance is audience relevance.
For example, say you are running events for the YMCA. Your audience is every member of the YMCA and all potential members. All ages are represented.
Should you tell everybody about every single event?
No, you shouldn't.
Here's the problem.
The senior citizens will tune you out for things that aren't relevant to them.
The teens will tune you out for the senior events.
Pretty soon, both will get annoyed and tune you out for everything.
So, the way to fix it is simple: segment your list.
In other words, only send the senior citizen activity promotion to the senior citizens.
Only send the teen promotion to the teens.
How To Segment Your Email List
There are a few ways to segment like this.
For example, you can segment by leveraging your attendee list. If they came to the event before, they will come again.
You could also segment your email list through your sign up process. Simply ASK your subscriber what types of events they want to hear about and only tell them about those.
If the methods listed above don't work, here's another way to do it.
Send an email to everyone, but tag the contact using an automation based on how they interact with the email. This can be done automatically with an ActiveCampaign automation.
By clicking on the links, they showed interest and will hopefully attend the event being promoted.
As you send more emails, you will quickly find out who's interested and who isn't.
With the tag in place, you will begin sending relevant email only to people that have the tag and nobody else. In other words, the message will only go out to the people that actually WANT to read it.
This will increase your deliverability and make things work much better. It's well worth it to take this extra step.
Need help setting this up? Click here to sign up for one of my done for you email marketing and consulting packages.
Next, let's look at location relevance.
What is location relevance anyway?
Location relevance is sending event emails where there's a probability of the user being close enough physically to attend the event.
People don't get upset when being invited to an event. People get upset when they are invited to an irrelevant event.
For example, one time one of my LinkedIn connections sent me an email invite to a networking event.
Sounds good, right?
Except the event was that night and in London!
I'm in Dayton, Ohio.
Needless to say, I was very annoyed, especially after this happened multiple times.
I ended up unsubscribing from this person's email list and blocking the connection on LinkedIn.
Not the response he was after.
However, I've gotten invites to an event in Fiji before and was ok with it. Hey, it's Fiji. I'm going to open the email to see the photos. 🙂
The Fiji invite was for a weeklong retreat with world class speakers. Even though I didn't have the budget for the event at that time, there was a possibility that I would be interested in attending.
That's location relevance in action.
Here's the key. Split up your list. Tag by location. Only invite people who are close enough to reasonably be able to go.
If not, you will have a lot of upset readers.
How To Segment Your List By Location
There are a few ways to do this.
Like I mentioned above, one way to segment your list by location is to leverage your past attendee list. If they attended before, they will most likely attend again.
Just like with audience relevance, you can ask the subscriber during the sign up process what event locations they want to know about.
You can also segment by location by using phone numbers. Create a field in your Excel spreadsheet for phone numbers and upload the your contact list again.
Create tags by the area code and only send the relevant events to people in that area code.
It's certainly not perfect because sometimes people will move and keep an old phone number but it's better than no segmentation at all.
Advanced Methods For Location Segmentation
If you are using ActiveCampaign, you can use IP address segmentation. In this form of segmentation, ActiveCampaign guesses where the person is based on where they logged in to check the email.
You can then create an automation based on that report and segment the list that way. Sometimes, there are problems with the person logging in while on vacation or things of that nature. but for the most part it's accurate.
What About Statewide Events?
Some things are pretty obvious when you are tagging by location. Some are not.
It's not always obvious how far people are willing to drive for your event.
I've seen this situation quite a bit with my event promotions with Toastmasters and other statewide nonprofit organizations.
If the event is a free lunch 3000 miles away, the people on the other side of the country probably won't come.
But what about events in nearby cities? You know that some people are willing to drive that hour or two for an event and most people aren't.
I've found that the best way to get around this is to start out the month listing the entire event list for the entire state. In other words, an email with a master calendar.
As each individual event draws closer, send reminder emails to people who are most likely to attend, the people in the city of the event.
When the travelers show up, add them to the list for that particular city. Now, you can market to them more aggressively the next time.
Frequency of Emails
When you are promoting events with email marketing, how often should you send reminders?
It depends on the type of event.
No matter what type of event you are promoting, you will need to understand that there are several types of people on your email list.
Some people are planners and want to know everything weeks in advance.
Some people are fine with a week or two notice
Some people don't decide anything at the last minute.
How do you appease all three personality types without annoying the other two?
The 3 Part Event Promotion Sequence
I use a 3 part event promotion email sequence that works pretty well for all 3 personalities.
It goes like this:
Email #1 is about 2-3 weeks out from the event, maybe a little longer if it's a conference or requires travel. It basically says: "Hey, heads up! Save the date for our event."
Email #2 is one week out and basically says "Hey just a quick reminder that we are one week from the event. Don't forget to register."
Email #3 is the day before and says: "Hey last chance to register for the event. If you already registered, we look forward to meeting you."
This type of sequence will get the best results. It's great if you are doing one event a month or an event every other month.
It gets tricky when you do a lot of events.
The Master Calendar Technique
When you host a lot of events, another method that you can use is the Master Calendar technique.
With this method, you send out a weekly email at a consistent date and time that says, "Events for the week of xxxx" and list all the events for the upcoming week.
Combination Of Techniques
The techniques above can be combined. For example, you can send the Master Calendar and then segment your audience as it gets closer to the event time.
Special Considerations For Conferences And Other Big Events
If you are promoting a big conference, I suggest that you use the following type of sequence. You may need to adjust it slightly to fit your needs, but this framework is a great way to get started.
Email #1 is the super early bird, "Save The Date" email. Send this as soon as you book your location, even before tickets go on sale.
Email #2 is the "Call For Speakers" email.
Email #3 is: "Oh wow, we just booked our keynote speaker. You will be amazed at who it is."
Email #4 is: "Early Bird Tickets now available."
Email #5 is: "Early Bird Deadline is tomorrow. Please sign up now."
Email #6 is: "Can you help us by sharing this on social media or volunteering?"
Email #7 is: "Tomorrow is the deadline to register or get food, special hotel deal etc." (sometimes this is more than one email depending on deadlines)
Email #8 is "We have limited space at the door. Here's how you can still get in."
Email #9 is to the registrants: "Thanks for registering. Where's what you can expect at the conference."
Email #10 is: "Here's how to watch the livestream of the event."
As you can see, it takes a lot of emails to promote a conference or big event effectively. There's no right or wrong with this schedule, but I've gone pretty close to the above outline when I've promoted conferences and it has worked pretty well.
Events Plus Conference
You can use a combination of the above techniques to promote events. For example, if you have a big conference and a lot of minor events, you could use the Master Calendar to promote all of the events and then send individual reminders for the conference registration.
As you can see, it takes a lot of work to effectively promote events with email marketing. But, if you apply the above techniques, you will do it effectively and will have a lot of attendees. Now go take some action!
Need help promoting your events with email marketing? Click here to see my done for you and consulting packages.