You already know your organization’s events really well. If you’re responsible for the email marketing designed to fill the room, you’re probably more familiar with the venue, speaker line-up, agenda, room rates, registration deadlines and dietary restriction options than anyone else at your organization. These are the points you’ve included in your emails to sell the event – the sizzle to your event’s steak (or its pasta primavera, if you’ve chosen the vegetarian meal).
But put yourself in the shoes of the people who don’t know as much about your event as you do. How do they get to know your event? What reasons do they have to want to get to know your event? What will compel them to go past mere acquaintance and actually attend?
There are two ways to convince prospects to attend your event:
1. Persuade them with cogent emails containing all the details relevant to their decision-making
2. Rely on your event’s brand, which relieves your prospects of the burden of decision-making since they already know what your show represents without all the detail
When it comes to the persuading (#1 above), most event marketers find that no tool is better than email. You send and people open, read, click, register, all within about a day – and you immediately know who they are. But email may well be the singular most powerful tool when building your event’s brand (#2 above) as well. How can direct response emails do double duty in branding?
We pay a lot of attention to the people who respond to our event marketing emails, but our focus here is on the ones who don’t. The people who don’t yet know your event, or aren’t yet convinced that it is for them remain on the sidelines, yet unmoved by your e-appeals. In a sense, this is the audience your emails are for, more than the people who are pre-disposed to register and who are showing up in your click-through reporting. This group of attractive strangers represents the growth of your event, or at least the span between your current registration numbers and where you want to end up. To these unresponders, the emails you send are not direct response at all. Whether you mean them to or not, your emails also convey a brand impression, and position your event in a very specific way to your audience. So while this audience may not be registering, they are still getting to know your event. Your emails are building your event’s personality.
Your event’s brand is hugely important. Rather than leaving it to chance in your emails, here are some suggestions for optimizing the branding impact of the messages you send:
Segment out your past attendees: If these are the people most likely to attend this time around, send them a separate message focused expressly on driving that repeat registration. On the one hand, this lets you speak to this targeted group specifically, but perhaps as important it allows you to start building your event brand with your larger audience of prospects, which you do with a separate message. Someone who has never attended your event is highly unlikely to respond to a message that reads “Registration is now open – click here,” though you would be tempted to include it in a message that went to your entire list. Instead, use your early event marketing messages to your prospect list (omitting past attendees) not to ask for the registration, but to introduce and position to the event to these uninitiated. Focus on what you want them to think about your event, instead of trying to get them to register today, immediately, now.
Educate, not merely inform: Most event marketing emails aim to inform an audience about certain show details. When you are emailing to an audience that does not yet know the show well, however, treat the emails more as content than calls-to-action. Instead of “Dr. Steven D. Smartman will reveal his latest research on smargassian synthesis rates,” try instead “Dr. Steven D. Smartman will present his new research. He has found that smargassian synthesis rates are on the rise, and can reach as high as 38% depending on smactonion adoption. Attendees will hear the full report in his keynote.” Even if your email does not drive action, it does provide value – and helps position your show as useful and necessary as well.
Promote the next email (in addition to the show): Naturally, the prize you need to keep your eye on is the registration. But recognize that for most of your subscribers you won’t get it with this email. For that reason, your Plan B is to make sure they anticipate and read the next message, which gives you another chance. In addition to keeping the emails useful (above), telegraph the content of the next message in a PS or elsewhere in the message. For example, closing with “Next time – why panelist Pamela Pendergrass (PP&P, LLP) thinks the industry’s disruptive technology is not the Smargassian Synthesizer, but is actually the adoption of 4G mobile networks” baits the hook for your next message, and suggests that – like this one – it will also be worth reading, regardless of intention to attend the show.