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Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. Questions remain around how long it will take to get the in-person event components up and running again, but one thing is for certain: digitally enabled events are no longer a temporary solution until in-person events return. A sizeable chunk of events in 2021 will surely remain virtual, potentially with some never returning to large scale in-person equivalents.
It is therefore time for marketers to confidently move forward with communicating the value of these events to their audience. We’ve observed a trend of event organisers viewing virtual events as ‘damage limitation’ – something to retain their audience and revenue until things return to normal. This mindset permeates the organisation, and can lead to marketing messages that are almost apologetic of the virtual format, ignoring the very real benefits digital offers.
In this blog we share how to create an effective messaging strategy for digital events. The fundamentals we outline aren’t exclusive to virtual events – they can be applied to hybrid, in-person and even subscription and membership offerings.
How to construct a messaging strategy
There are 6 key concepts involved in successful messaging. Use these as guiding principles when putting together your marketing strategy and you’ll be able to consistently push out comms that engage, excite and convert.
This is about hitting the right people, in the right place, at the right time and – crucially – with the right message. Missing the mark on any of these 4 ‘pillars of relevancy’ will hamper the effectiveness of your messaging. To understand how to create relevant comms, ask yourself: What is keeping my audience awake at night – right now? What important and current problem(s) of theirs does our event solve? What are we helping them achieve that is hugely valuable and important – now or in the near future?
Your audience will have a very particular perception of your brand and product. The position of your brand in their minds, when compared to other events and information sources competing for your attention, will have a huge impact on how they engage with your event. You need to ensure your USP (unique selling points) and benefits of attending your event very clearly position your event as ‘must attend’.
The objective of any piece of messaging is to communicate something. The faster and more concisely you communicate your message, the more effective it will be. In the digital world, attention spans are short and distractions are aplenty. In simple terms: construct messaging that gets to the point fast and leaves readers in no doubt of what you’re trying to say, and what action they should take.
No communication should ever be written in isolation. Your marketing efforts consist of various touchpoints – from a single social post to your website itself – where your audience will interact with your product and brand. Consider how your messaging at different touch points work together to tell the story of your event and create a consistent view of your brand/product and its benefits.
This doesn’t mean making all your comms identical. Instead, clearly define what your USPs and benefits are and agree a consistent way of presenting them. ‘The rule of 7’ dictates that people must see your message at least 7 times before they fully process and accept it, so bake in your core benefits messaging to all comms.
6. Keep it consistent and simple
Combine all of the above into a formalised messaging strategy captured in an accessible, centralised document. This will allow you and your team to agree on what your key benefits are, how they should be communicated and what tone of voice best fits the brand. A simple messaging strategy structure consists of 3 parts: who your audience is (what’s relevant), who your competitors are (what’s different) and what the messaging should contain (USPs and benefits).
Understanding these points will naturally improve your messaging. A simple, concise and specific message that ‘hits the mark’ with what matters most to your reader right now will beat a generic, verbose message that shows you don’t understand them.
Messaging for virtual events
The important first step in forming messaging for virtual events is to avoid seeing a digital event as temporary ‘damage limitation’ while you wait for live events to return. This mindset will be apparent in your messaging and compromise how effectively you’re able to communicate the unique benefits of a virtual event. Common examples are:
- Attend from anywhere – while still getting the same content/insight as a live event
- Join and network with a truly global audience – connect with your peers all over the world
- Catch sessions you missed on replay – any time, any place
- Interact directly with speakers – get your questions answered via easy, online chat
Depending on your event format and audience – there are likely to be many more! Consider what is specifically important and valuable to your audience and highlight how your virtual event will work to serve these needs.
For virtual events, two concepts are important to communicate – particularly if it’s your first online event:
- The value of the event
- How the event will look/feel
Potential attendees may have reservations about the value of a virtual event compared to an in-person offering, and/or they may be intimidated by the unfamiliar format and technology involved. It’s your job as a creator of event and messaging to clearly communicate the value of your event, and gently educate them on what to expect and how to get the most out of their digital event experience.
Remember: you are still presenting the same brand – a brand which has an established reputation and level of trust within your community. Leverage this to confidently speak about your digital event and turn your community members into advocates.
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