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Targeting Your Event Marketing Emails
by Mike May, Director of Insights

Think about two things: your favorite hobby, and a new car. Now imagine you’re watching TV and a car commercial appears. If your hobby of choice is fly fishing, and the people on TV are unloading their rods and reels from the back of the shiny new car, the ad has your attention. Maybe you love to dance, and the commercial depicts a mother driving her young daughter to a ballet recital. Is chess your thing? I’ve never actually seen a chess tie-in for a car commercial but if you have, you surely noticed it.

When we think of email targeting, usually we start with the list – what segment of my audience can I send this message to? But many organizations forego targeting for event marketing emails since the audience they are mailing to is by design as vast as possible. Most don’t just want to tell some of their subscribers about the big annual meeting; they want to tell everybody.

But in the context of the television ads we just looked at, there are ways to target based on creative, that still allow you to send to your full list. Like the car company above, you can see the response to your emails increase by putting the right message in front of different audience segments. Here are some ways to target your event emails with messaging tailored to specific groups in your database:

1. Past Attendees: In many cases, this is the audience most likely to attend again this year, and to register early. In the first few messages you send in support of your event (which commonly include early registration discounts), break out your past attendees into their own segment. Instead of sending them the same “Register by Friday and save $100” message, tailor it slightly to reflect last year’s event so the message speaks more clearly to them. “All the networking, education and inspiration you remember from last year, at $100 less this year if you register by Friday.” By invoking the strengths of your previous event, you are creating an environment conducive to re-registration. Perhaps as importantly, singling this group out with specific offers early on is the best way to front load your registration process. And the responsiveness of this audience will be a useful barometer for how your event is perceived overall this year. If many of your last year’s attendees register early this year, you have a clear indication that your show hits the mark. If last year’s audience doesn’t jump right back in, you have some further work to do on your programming and/or messaging.

2. Regional Attendees: Many shows draw a national audience, but don’t forget that some of those people from across the country are only across town. Travel is a barrier to event attendance for many companies, so whenever it is removed by hosting a show right in some prospective attendees’ back yard, be sure to call attention to it with some messages targeted by city, state, zip code, or by domain name if you know that the company is based in the same region as the venue. Team pricing resonates with local audiences and helps build word-of-mouth among local companies since recipients of these messages tend to pass them along to the rest of the team. A free EXPO hall pass is another powerful audience for local companies, as less senior employees without T&E budgets can still participate.

3. New Subscribers: People who are new to your list might not yet know the role the event plays at your organization. For this audience, break out some messages to focus on the overall event experience, particularly the networking and community aspects. It is easier to sell a $1K – $2K event if it is merchandised in the context of the larger relationship with your company. People who have been in the fold for years already have that context in place, but new subscribers would benefit from some additional explanation of the intangible benefits of community.

4. Most Engaged Subscribers: Run a report in MagnetMail that identifies the subscribers who open or click on the highest percentage of messages. One Real Magnet client recently found that about 15% of its audience was highly engaged, and opened at least 10 messages in the past year. This is the population most likely to serve as advocates for your company. Instead of the general event messages you send to most of your list, break them out and send messages asking not just for their own registration, but for some other action that benefits the show: forwarding the message onto colleagues, building a team to take advantage of team pricing, posting the event to a department calendar, or sharing a link to the show’s website via social media. Getting this group to register won’t be difficult and shouldn’t be the ultimate objective. They are ready to work on your behalf, so give them the tools.

With all of these examples, the targeting supplements your existing email program for the event, not replaces it. For example, when you send to your Regional Attendees, you might mail on the same day you are sending a general message to your entire list. De-dupe your regional folks so that they only get the targeted message instead of both. This way, you’re sending the same amount of email and not overburdening anyone’s inbox, but many of your messages are crafted with more precision and will enjoy a nice lift in results.