Using e-mail to promote your event

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By Karen J. Bannan

Remember when event marketing happened exclusively in the print realm? Companies sent out invitations and brochures, a method that had several drawbacks and limitations. The cost of printing and mailing was only part of the problem. More important, marketers never knew if their invitations were opened or discarded, and sending reminders doubled their capital outlay.

E-mail event marketing eliminates many of those issues. Still, sending out successful e-invites requires more than just a guest list. Jim Berardone, president of the Pittsburgh Product Strategy Network, a professional organization of product management and marketing managers, and Vinay Bhagat, founder and chief strategy officer of software developer Convio Inc., give these tips for creating a successful event campaign.

  • Be direct. An event marketing message should stand out from other e-mails you’re sending out. Publicize what potential attendees are receiving, Berardone said. "We make it clear right up front. E-mails about events start with ‘Event Invitation,’ followed by the name of the event right in the subject line so [readers] can distinguish what it is right away."
  • Include the details. The more information you provide about an event, the more likely it is that it will appeal to potential attendees. Provide a short paragraph that includes the who, what, where, when, why and how much. Give readers what Berardone calls the "small take-away"—what they can expect to take away from the event. And consider offering early bird discounts, which can nudge people to sign up early.
  • Advertise elsewhere. If your event appeals to a specific group, consider buying sponsorships in industry-related newsletters. Look to industry associations, trade magazines and college alumni newsletters. "We send out our messages to our members but we also announce our event through a regional newsletter called ‘TechyVent’ that goes out to 18,000 people," Berardone said. "That helps us reach other people we might not get."
  • Send reminders. There’s a strong correlation between marketing and event attendance, Bhagat said. Your audience should determine the frequency and timing. You can advertise a local event about a month in advance. Anything that requires travel also requires more notice. Follow up with once-a-week reminder notices two to three weeks before your event. Berardone suggests the final e-mail go out a week before the event and be titled "Last chance to register."
  • Your task isn’t over once the event is. "Most events have a poor retention rate," Bhagat said. "If you do nothing after the fact, you can expect about 30% of your attendees to participate in another event." Follow up with attendees, asking them what they liked or didn’t like about an event, he said. "If you do active relationship management you can increase repeat participation by 10% to 15%."
  • Don’t forget your ultimate goal: Selling your product or service. "It’s all about building an effective e-mail marketing strategy. Events are a perfect way to build your list," he said. "Event follow-ups are a good way to sell your membership or service. You want to add value and reinforce that they had a good time at your event."
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