PPC in virtual event marketing – how well does it work? From our experience, PPC is a worthwhile investment for virtual events. But only when used in the right way. When used to generate direct registrations, convert registrants to attendees or encourage form completions for lead generation and database building (or all of the above) – PPC can be a powerful and cost-effective channel within your digital event marketing mix. In this post, we outline the six key steps you should take to maximise the effectiveness of your PPC for virtual events. Step #1: Understand what you need PPC to achieve PPC can be used to achieve a number of different things for virtual events, including: Generating direct registrants for your virtual event – with PPC campaigns pushing your target audience to your virtual event website and online registration form Encouraging conversions from registrant to attendee Generating leads via web form completions, so that you can then email individuals to nurture and convert leads to registrants Increasing awareness and influencing consideration in your target audience, thus supporting the performance of your other channels Depending on your virtual event targets, marketing budget and overall objectives – you may use PPC to achieve some, or all of the above. The important thing is to know what you’re aiming to achieve and what success looks like when it comes to PPC for your virtual event. If your PPC approach is not informed by well thought through objectives, it can be very easy to spend a large portion of your budget ineffectively. Step #2: Create a solid strategy Once you know your objectives, you need to formalise a high-level PPC strategy. The aim of this strategy is to provide direction for the more detailed campaign plans that will come next. In this PPC strategy, include: The objectives: it’s important to detail these in your strategy to ensure the decisions you make on specific campaigns are directed by your overall goals. The channels and campaign types: based on what you want to achieve and your target audience, be clear what channels and campaign types are likely to work best. In the below table we’ve listed the most common channels, campaign types and targeting methods based on level of engagement of audience groups. But every event is different, so consider this a starting point: Reaching new contacts Reaching website visitors Reaching existing data Google Ads Paid Search (keywords) Google Display LinkedIn LinkedIn (professional attributes/groups) LinkedIn Facebook Facebook (lookalike audiences) Facebook Twitter Twitter (follower lookalikes) Twitter Google The budget: split your budget by channel and campaign type based on your priorities and where you are in the campaign timeline. PPC is very scalable when it comes to budgeting, so you can commit a small amount at first (£100-200 per channel) to test the waters. The timeline: map out when your campaigns will start and finish. Due to a sense of urgency and FOMO, virtual event PPC campaigns tend to be at their most effective in the final 2 weeks before the event – so allocating more of your budget to this period is a sensible move. It is also important to hold some budget back for after the event to encourage people to engage with the content on demand, especially if the number of people who watch the replays are important for your event model. The campaigns: briefly outline the role each campaign needs to play in your timeline. Consider your whole marketing funnel and targeting of contacts at various stages of engagement with your event. Step #3: Create detailed campaign plans Using your PPC strategy from step #2 as a guide, lay out specific campaign plans by channel. This is where you get more tactical and detailed with your planning. These plans should include – in detail: Campaign objective(s) Targeting Campaign budget Ad content (text and images/videos) Any ad modifiers/extensions When creating these campaigns, your primary consideration should be relevancy. To achieve relevancy, ask yourself these three questions, in this order: Are we targeting people who are very relevant to our virtual event, or is there a risk we include too many irrelevant or ‘not relevant enough’ people with our targeting options? Are the ads we’re running relevant to challenges and/or opportunities this audience is facing right now? Are the ads considerate of where the audience is in our marketing funnel? Is this the first time they’re seeing our virtual event information? Or are they likely to already know about our event (e.g. if they have already visited the event website) It’s best to complete these detailed plans just before setting up each campaign so they are as current and relevant as possible. You’ll then want to factor in and apply any learnings from your results as you go (more on this in step #5). Step #4: Set up and set live campaigns This step seems the most straightforward, but there are two important things to consider. There are numerous settings to get right when setting up every campaign. The potential issues an error in setup can cause range from a campaign running for more days than you have planned or budgeted, to an ad group targeting completely the wrong people. It’s vital to get a second pair of eyes on your campaign setups to ensure your campaigns are pushing the right people to the right places at the right time (MPG has this baked into our internal process checklists so that a campaign one of our team sets up cannot go live without someone else checking every detail of the setup first). Every PPC channel offers varying levels of automation. These can be simple start and end date triggers and budget caps, but can also include more complex elements like auto-populating audiences that exclude registrants and smart bidding strategies that maximise conversion rates. Make use of these systems to free up marketing resource and reduce the possibility of human error in campaign changes. Step #5: Monitor and optimise your campaigns – every day! While the strategy and planning elements of PPC are vital, do not be afraid to adjust your approach as you go. You’re very unlikely to formulate the perfect plan and set up the best performing campaign first time. For PPC, assuming you’ll need to improve on what you initially set up is part of the process. In practical terms, this means re-allocating budgets to the channels and campaigns that are performing best, adding and updating ads to campaigns that are performing well, as well as the myriad of other tweaking options that PPC platforms provide around locations, devices, demographics and bidding strategies. It’s often easier to further improve winning campaigns than it is to fix underperforming ones. While you shouldn’t abandon your struggling campaigns immediately, the real ROI growth often lies in maximising your star performers. Paying close attention to what is and isn’t working will allow you to uncover the optimal formula for your PPC. The importance of this step cannot be understated. Step #6: Measure and analyse results – feed this intelligence into your marketing strategies Right from the first campaign going live, PPC should be included in your marketing performance reporting and analysis. Key metrics to track are: Cost-per-conversion (CPC): the amount you pay for each conversion (registrant, form completion) per channel. This should trend down as a result of your ongoing optimisations. Conversion rate (CR): the percentage of people who click on your ad and then convert to a registrant, attendee or lead. This should trend upward. Click-through-rate (CTR): the percentage of people who click on your ad after seeing it. Higher CTR indicates high relevance. It’s not enough to just report on the raw data. A layer of analysis needs to be applied to pull out insights that enable intelligent, data-led decision making and create actionable steps to further improve the campaign ROI. A winning formula This article shares MPG’s winning approach to PPC campaigns for virtual events. Follow these 6 steps with consistency and rigour and we’re confident you’ll see a good return on your PPC investment! Interested in learning more about how PPC can work for events? Join our next Digital Marketing Intensive open course for B2B event organisers for a full rundown on PPC for events. Or you can commission an in-house, tailored PPC training programme for your team where our PPC experts will create and deliver a bespoke course that meets your exact requirements, and exclusively for your in-house team. Download the MPG Academy Prospectus here. Enquire about MPG Academy’s in-house and open courses here. Or…do you need to outsource PPC for your events? MPG can create the strategy and detailed plan for your event PPC, and we can manage and measure it for you too. If you want direct support from our team of PPC specialists, please get in touch about your requirements.