How successful an event is hinges on dozens of different decisions, many of which ostensibly have nothing to do with email. Operations, sponsorship programs, programming, pricing, and the show’s location all shape a show’s personality and appeal, and all commonly fall outside of the marketing department. But they shouldn’t. However masterfully a show is created, it is only successful if it attracts the right audience. That does end up being the responsibility of marketing, and shows often succeed or fail based on how effectively they are promoted. For many organizations, the lion’s share of that promotion is through email.
So if email is on the hook for promoting a show, some strategic wagging of the dog can go a long way towards ensuring a show’s success. As you plan your next conference, involve email in the decision-making process for these extra-marketing activities:
1. Programming: Within each industry, there are always companies that command attention. Sometimes they are industry leaders, but more often they are disruptive startups or companies with a polarizing business model. The presence of these companies’ names in email subject lines can have a profound impact on open rates and engagement. If you know who these companies are, let your programming team know. Signing even a mid-level executive from one of these companies can put a fine point on your marketing efforts and penetrate inbox clutter. For example, one of our clients noticed that subject lines containing Facebook and Twitter showed a lift in open rates. Marketing alerted the programming department, and executives from these companies were then recruited for an upcoming show’s agenda, enabling the show to trade on the proven popularity of their brands. Trickery? Not at all – the strong open rates demonstrated that the show’s prospective audience was genuinely interested in hearing what these companies had to say. Marketing was not only helping itself, but helping the programming department craft a show with even greater appeal to its audience.
2. Registration Deadlines: Many shows have Early Registration, Advance Registration, Pre-Registration and/or Standard Registration deadlines, each with different discount designed to spur registration. For these dates to have an impact, they need to be promoted aggressively, and email is typically the channel of choice. Since that’s the case, these dates should be scheduled during weeks where the email calendar is empty. If “Save $100 by Friday” is the only thing from your organization in your subscribers’ inboxes, it is more likely to grab their attention than it would be if you are also telling them to complete a research study, vote in the upcoming board elections, renew their membership, download this new whitepaper, and fan you on Facebook.
4. Venue: Often an organization chooses a location for its conference based on the desirability of a local audience. Sure people travel to shows, but placing one in an area where many prospective attendees already live and work can kick start a show’s success. But it is not to simply have target companies in the area. If you plan to reach them directly you also need to ensure you have actual contacts from these companies or from the region in the email database. Hosting a technology show in San Francisco, seems logical, but it isn’t strategic if only 2% of your house list is from bay area companies.
5. Session Descriptions: I’m a strong proponent of using email to promote narrow conference content, particularly to more engaged subscribers. One of my preferred conference emails focuses on a single session within the event, to demonstrate the level of expertise and granularity the show affords. Ideally this copy already exists in the session descriptions on the conference websites, but that isn’t always the case. Session descriptions should be written almost as if they are standalone marketing pieces – which they are the moment they appear by themselves in an email to your house list. Your email copywriter can work with the show programmer who writes the session descriptions to find the right balance of depth, detail and authenticity to improve the effectiveness of the description on the site and within an email.
6. Menu: You email marketers worked hard to put all those butts in seats. You should get to eat what you like.