How to use marketing to get new sponsors for your digital events
For all the opportunities virtual events offer, one of the biggest challenges vs an in-person event is ensuring registrants follow through to becoming engaged attendees.
This is where conversion marketing, the practice of converting registered delegates (especially those who registered for free) into attendees via targeted comms, plays such an important role.
Achieving a strong conversion rate is essential. Just like in the real world, events live or die on their attendance rate. Too low and sponsors and exhibitors become frustrated at lack of lead opportunities; speakers will in future seek larger audiences elsewhere; and delegates will tune out as they’ll think their peers don’t value the event enough to attend, and will also recognize that without their peers, attending the event loses its value around opportunities for discussion/Q&A and networking.
An inherent benefit of in-person events is that their very nature encourages participation. Attendees often need to make prior travel and accommodation commitments that further tie them to attending, they clear their calendars and shift deadlines to commit to attendance and often also schedule face-to-face meetings with current and potential clients and partners.
The virtual world requires far less commitment. Attendees can be very focused on something else up to 5 minutes before the ‘doors’ open; with notifications, emails, to-do lists and their immediate surroundings fighting for their attention.
We’ve been working hard at MPG on our clients’ conversion campaigns – i.e. the very important marketing you need to do leading up to the event and during a multi-session event – to get attendees to turn up, get fully engaged and stay engaged. And we’re very pleased to be able to share some of these learnings with you now.
Six essential ingredients for a high performance conversion campaign
#1 Evaluate your audience’s needs and consider your event format
Every event and event audience is different.
If your event takes places over several days or even weeks, you will need to construct a plan that keeps delegates engaged throughout. Do not think that just because they attended the first few sessions that they will stick around.
If your audience demographic means they’re less keen on or comfortable with the digital event format, you will need to carefully construct comms that educate them on the benefits and process of attending to make them feel more confident they’ll have a good experience engaging with your virtual event.
If you’re offering free tickets, your conversion campaign is even more vital. These delegates may think they will lose nothing by not attending, so you need to convince them the event will deliver value in return for time and attention.
#2 Start early
Your conversion efforts should start as soon as your first registration comes in. While it can be tempting to focus email, social and other comms on getting people to book, neglecting the people who have already registered will probably mean you lose them.
Consider also how you can leverage conversion marketing to generate additional registrations – encouraging registrants to share information about your event with their network not only increases your reach, but people are more likely to attend if they can see the event is being supported by someone in their peer network.
#3 Get to grips with and leverage the capabilities of your virtual event system (+ the rest of your tech stack)
Many virtual event platforms have features baked in that can support your conversion efforts.
For example, Bizzabo features both push notifications and session summary emails, which can be sent to registrants a set time before a session to remind them to attend.
When marketing teams are likely already strained with running an effective acquisition campaign, these automations can save precious resources. Often they come pre-set with useful integrations like ‘Add to calendar’ links too!
Other elements of your tech stack are also important. For example, email providers like Mailchimp offer easy segmentation of data and PPC platforms like Google Ads let you build intelligent multi-touch campaigns based on past behaviour.
#4 Build a dedicated conversion marketing communications plan
Once you understand your audience, the implications of your event format and the capabilities of your digital platforms, it’s time to formulate a detailed and robust plan to execute the required marketing.
Map out what your registered delegates will be receiving and when; including emails, targeted PPC campaigns and automated messages and notifications. Consider all touch points, e.g. do they need an automated message that reminds them to save sessions to their agenda? And what social media announcements are needed just before the event to create a sufficient buzz and fear of missing out?
Email is your most important channel here, mostly focused on targeted, automated campaigns. Social media is also important and can be used to create discussion between delegates about what they’re looking forward to. PPC also has a part to play in creating highly targeted ‘micro touchpoints’. Think about how you can use chat platforms (like Slack) to provide a space for delegates to interact both in group and private channels.
#5 Ensure you have the right skills and resources in place
A vital piece of the puzzle is ensuring you’ve got enough knowledgeable people to plan and execute your conversion comms well. Ensuring your plan is achievable from a workload perspective – when you also need to put a huge marketing effort into generating registrants in the first place – could mean the difference between success and failure. If the volume is not feasible:
- Identify what can be automated or pre-scheduled to avoid crunch periods.
- Remove less critical elements to lighten the load.
- Consider engaging additional support to add some much needed marketing muscle.
#6 Track results and adapt
Measuring ROI on conversion campaigns is a bit trickier than measuring the performance of acquiring registrants. While data on the channels that influenced a sale should be quite easy to access and analyse, understanding how effective your conversion marketing is in getting someone to sign in on the day is less straightforward.
Generally, there is a direct correlation between how a person engages with conversion marketing and how likely they are to turn up – so make sure you measure this and analyse after your virtual event what behaviors lead to the best outcomes, so that you can predict for future events what is most likely to be effective and what results are likely to come through in terms of event attendance.
Getting in people’s diaries/calendars is a simple and highly effective way of encouraging attendance. Not only will it prevent them making other commitments, but most calendar apps will do a lot of the work for you – providing automated reminders of the upcoming event.
The usual suspects of reporting (interaction rates, open rates) are still useful indicators of performance, and tracking clicks on important CTAs like ‘Add to Calendar’ can help you understand how effective your comms are in achieving your objectives.
When you know your most effective channels and techniques, focus your efforts (and money) on them. Don’t be afraid to cut a channel if its performance isn’t up to scratch.
The data you gather from your first conversion campaign will also contain vital lessons for your next one, so spend time examining the data to understand what was effective.
The key to success in conversion marketing is to apply the main principles of successful B2B community marketing in the current age:
- Be community-focused and ensure your creative approaches to messaging and visual branding hit the mark.
- Automate as much as you can to enhance the customer experience and achieve scale and essential efficiencies.
- Measure all you do and makes sure your decisions are data-led.
To receive MPG’s shared expertise straight to your inbox, subscribe to MPG Insights.