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What is event marketing? 5 strategies for success

What is event marketing: entrepreneurs at an event

Key takeaways

  • Event marketing can build brand and product awareness, generate leads, and nurture your customers
  • Leveraging the right event marketing can draw potential customers into your digital marketing funnel
  • Clarify your business goals, target audience, and marketing budget to ensure event success

Think of any event you’ve ever attended—whether online or in person—and remember the brands or businesses you interacted with. They used event marketing to get you through the door, and if you gave them your contact details at any point in the process, or bought a product or service from them, then their event marketing was a success.

There are a lot of businesses trying to grab the attention of potential customers. One effective method to stand out from the pack is event marketing.

Read on to learn what qualifies as effective event marketing and how it can benefit your business. By the end of this article, you’ll also be familiar with different types of event marketing and how you can put an event marketing strategy into place.

What is event marketing?

Event marketing is the process of running an event that makes potential customers aware of your brand and draws them into your marketing funnel.

Here are some of the many ways event marketing can help your business:

Build brand awareness

Before potential customers can buy from you, they first need to know you exist. They’re also more likely to buy from you when they understand your brand personality, what your company does, and how you’re different from your competitors. Event marketing helps customers learn all of that information and more. Events also offer extra publicity to any brand partners or sponsors you might have.

Launch new products

When you’re launching a new product, promoting it at an event is an easy way to reach potential customers. You can explain how your product solves customers’ pain points and demonstrate how it works. An event also gives you an opportunity to upsell to current customers who are ready for an upgrade.

Generate leads

To build your business with new customers, you need to get potential customers into your digital marketing funnel—this is called lead generation. Once you have their attention, you can help them move through that funnel to finally close the sale

Events create multiple opportunities to capture both customer attention and, importantly, contact details. For example, you can ask people to provide their details when they register for the event, enter a competition, or join your email database.

Nurture current customer relationships

To retain customers, it’s important to engage with them regularly and meaningfully. Events can give you the ideal place to keep up with current customers without the pressure of selling something.

Greet them, get to know their needs on a deeper level, and listen to their feedback about your products or services. It might just spark an idea for a new product or how to tweak a current one.

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Different types of events

There are many different types of events to consider that boil down into two main categories: live events and virtual events. A bonus third category is hosting a hybrid of the two in which you’d live stream an in-person event.

Live events

In-person events are excellent for deeply engaging with customers, either individually or as a group. If you’re bringing a team, make sure they’re well trained on your business, comfortable interacting with people, and know your product or service inside out so they can answer any questions.

Event marketing ideas for live events include:

  • Running, hosting, or sponsoring a conference or small local meetup
  • Hosting a new product launch
  • Holding a cocktail party for loyal customers
  • Setting up a booth or table at a third-party event, fair, or trade show
  • Organizing a networking event where you can meet and greet existing and potential customers

Virtual events

Online events have become more popular over the last few years. They don’t require travel or physical interaction and can be much cheaper to run than in-person events

Event marketing ideas for virtual events include:

  • Running a real-time or recorded webinar that gives potential customers a taste of what you offer and tempts them to come back for more
  • Hosting a recorded podcast where you and/or invited guests share information, offer tips and tricks, or answer listener questions
  • Live streaming an event on social media—and recording it for those who can’t attend in real-time

Event marketing at either event

Some event marketing ideas have transitioned well from live to virtual and can now be used for either type of setting—or a mix of both.

These event marketing ideas are suited for in-person events, virtual events, or hybrid functions:

  • Delivering a presentation or keynote speech to demonstrate thought leadership
  • Organizing a seminar where various experts deliver useful content through lectures
  • Running a workshop where people can learn practical, hands-on skills
  • Sponsorship of any of the above events

5 event marketing strategies

Employees looking at documents posted on a wall

If you’re going to run an event, you’ll need to optimize your marketing efforts to get as many people there as possible. As such, the next question to answer is: What is an event marketing strategy?

An effective event marketing plan should include these steps:

  1. Identify your event goals
  2. Define your target audience
  3. Consider your marketing budget
  4. Gather event marketing ideas and put a plan in place
  5. Conduct a post-event review

You can conduct these steps yourself or hire a professional event planner. Let’s start by looking at each of those steps in more detail.

1. Identify your event goals

Your event goals should closely link to your business goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Use those to specify what you’re trying to achieve with this event.

For example, say one of your KPIs is to sell $100,000 worth of a new product or service each month for the rest of this year. In that case, your event goal might be to get that product in front of as many people as possible and show how it can help them.

Or perhaps one of your KPIs is to increase your customer base by 500 people this quarter. This time, your event goal might be to get as many email addresses as possible to feed into your digital marketing funnel.

2. Define your target audience

A key aspect of event success is understanding who your target market is. Start with the demographics of your potential attendees. For example, what are their genders, ages, income levels, interests, and pain points? Also, who attended previous events?

Understanding this will help you determine marketing tactics for the upcoming event as well as the best marketing channels to reach them. What kind of social networks do they use (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn)? Do they read the news on traditional media sites? Would they respond better to an ad or to a social media competition? Then target your event promotion strategies to appeal specifically to them.

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3. Consider your marketing budget

Your marketing budget will dictate what investments are feasible in terms of event promotion. You’ll need to consider the cost of both marketing and running the event.

To help stretch your budget, you might also be able to persuade a sponsor to create a partnership with you, donate some of the funds or items you need, and even publicize your event on their own channels. Some lesser-known guest speakers might speak for free in exchange for publicity. 

Clever event organizers get creative and can save a fortune in marketing costs. Just make sure to deliver on any promises made to stakeholders.

4. Gather event marketing ideas and put a plan in place

There’s a multitude of ways to get the word out once you decide the format of your event. You could opt for paid advertising on any number of platforms or focus on low-cost event marketing ideas (more on this below).

Whatever you choose, your goal is to generate awareness, create excitement (and, if possible, FOMO, fear of missing out), and make it easy for anyone to find the information they need. That includes:

  • What the event is
  • Who it’s for
  • When it’s happening
  • Which VIPs, exhibitors, and businesses are taking part
  • What the schedule of events is
  • How to register or get tickets

Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) wherever possible will also help people searching the web for a product or service like yours find you more easily.

Consider these low-cost or free event promotion ideas:

Event website or landing page

Depending on your resources and the size of the event, you may want to create a new website for it, set up a dedicated event page on your current website, or simply use some space on your homepage to promote it.

Social media platforms 

Use social media channels and apps to publish social media posts regularly to keep your event top of mind. Share teasers of what’s happening behind the scenes before the event; run a contest related to the event; create event hashtags; and always encourage people to share with everyone they know. Referrals from trusted sources have immense power.

Influencer marketing can also be a powerful tool. Consider some giveaways of swag or free tickets to encourage influencers or the press to sing the praises of your product, your brand, and the event itself.

Content marketing

Content marketing includes blog posts and vlogs, event marketing blasts to your email list, press releases, and infographics that can be used to publicize your event.

Wherever you can, set up automation and email marketing templates to make things easier. As a bonus, you’ll be able to reuse them at your next event.

Early bird event registration

Consider offering an early-bird discount on tickets bought well in advance of the event. The more people you can encourage to buy tickets early, the better. Pre-event ticket sales provide a good idea of how many event attendees to expect, how successful your marketing efforts have been, and whether you need to fine-tune your marketing strategy. Always include a call to action in your marketing efforts to entice people to register or buy tickets as soon as possible.

5. Conduct a post-event review

Once the event is over, consult your metrics to assess your success. For example, check ticket sales versus how many people turned up on the day of the event. How many people attended presentations, and which were the most popular? How many new sales leads do you have? Make sure to follow up on these leads after your event.

Also, ask your event management team about what worked and what didn’t. If there were sponsors, exhibitors, or other stakeholders involved, ask them too. Send out post-event surveys to everyone in your database to gauge their event experience. Identify what you need to do differently next time, and make notes of what you learned before you forget.

Event marketing can boost your sales and customer relationships

Whether they’re in-person or virtual, events raise awareness of your service and products, help generate leads, nurture customer relationships, and generally give you a chance to make more sales—all things that are great for business.

Event marketing is what brings your event to the forefront of potential customers’ minds. Make sure you follow the steps of identifying your business goals and your target market, clarifying your budget, putting an event marketing strategy in place, and reviewing the results. Then, reap the financial rewards of all those new potential customers in your marketing funnel.

To boost your marketing efforts even further, check out these eight online marketing tactics for small business growth.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.