No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic packing out a conference hall or in-person event is no longer an option. That is why so many brands are leveraging digital events—and email—to create digital experiences to bring people together.
Whether you are dabbling with webinars or you jumped on the virtual event bandwagon early, in today’s digital landscape, you’ll need to get more creative with your efforts to capture your customer’s attention.
In this installment of No-Bullshit Advice From Email Experts, we asked experts from Benchmark Email, eFocus Marketing, emailmonday, Email on Acid, AWeber, iContact, Email Uplers, Customers Who Click and InboxArmy to help you gain more attendees and make lasting connections with your audience using email.
Here’s what they had to say…
Successful Digital Events Include: Partnerships, Planning & Promotion
Digital events are a great way to network and share insights while working remotely, and so many brands have found a way to embrace them.
Instead of putting things on pause during the pandemic, business professionals have learned to hone their Zoom skills so they can bring people together from all over the world in the name of marketing, sales, technology, and other industry-related initiatives.
And while digital events can do wonders for brand awareness, collaboration, and lead generation, they’re only successful if planned well and given an adequate amount of promotion.
When planning a digital event or webinar, it’s always helpful to partner with at least one other brand or influencer in your space with a similar audience as yours.
A partnership means splitting deliverables which will ensure the content you’re offering to registrants is unique, insightful, and thorough. Brand partnership also means sharing the promotion, which allows both parties to tap into the other’s network and lead pool.
Make sure you use automation tools throughout the process. Create an email campaign using email marketing software that highlights the event and includes bullet points outlining specific talking points, so people know what to expect.
Pair that promotion with adequate social media posts and paid promo, using eye-catching, event-branded imagery and a hashtag created specifically for the event.
Don’t forget to create unique URLs for each promotion channel so you can see which was the most successful at driving registrations.
You can use tools like Zapier to send registrations from your webinar software into your email marketing software to help you automate your pre, during, and post-show campaigns for additional touchpoints with registrants.
When it comes to comparing digital or networking events to in-person events, there are a lot of benefits to consider.
Digital events tend to cost much less, as there is no space or equipment to rent, and you don’t have to worry about food, drink, and other accommodations for guests. So instead of spending your marketing dollars on those items, you can put it behind paid promotion or getting the best talent to help you host.
Also, with digital events, brands can have access to registrants’ contact information, allowing them to provide one-on-one and personalized nurture long after the event ends.
Key Considerations For Planning Your Virtual Event
The key difference I’ve seen with virtual vs. in-person events is the lead time for ticket sales; offline events see ticket sales starting much earlier, whilst virtual events often see a flurry of sales in the last few weeks before an event starts, and particularly the week before.
Here are my key considerations when planning these types of communications:
- Consider your pre-during and post-event communications.
Each of these different stages (as well as the different types of customer within your audience) will require different information to lead them through to the next stage.
Before the event, think about not only selling tickets but also what happens for those purchasers after that point, before the event starts. How can you enhance their experience during this time?
During the event, consider how you can help them make the most of their experience; if it’s an in-person event over a few days, why not recommend local restaurants, or organize evening events to invite them to?
Or follow up at the end of the day with key learnings and what to expect from the next day. Post-conference, you want to ensure you support your customers to get the most out of the information they learned, recap highlights and direct them to more information.
- Build up your sales messaging.
What do they need to know/overcome in order to buy a ticket and how can you help them with that? For example, if your audience may need to seek approval from managers within their organization to purchase a ticket, consider providing a pack of information to help them make their pitch.
- How can you personalize your messaging to their needs?
This could be using dynamic content or even a different email journey entirely depending on their behavior along the way or other data you have about them, such as their location or interests.
Amplify the After Value of Your Event
Want a power-tip for your online events and trainings? Best realize that “getting people to attend your event” usually ISN’T the final goal.
Sometimes it’s even better that people don’t attend but rather think they missed something big. 😀
So I’d like to emphasize after value – yes, you can influence the perception of what happened AFTER the event. Highlight memorable moments and capture the entertaining, educational and helpful parts to feature in later communications. It is “distorting” or rather “upgrading” the memories people have for the events.
Now contrast that with the very often, very clunky follow-up you’ll greet in your mailbox.
“You went to our event, want to talk/buy stuff?”
No, please, that’s terrible.
Make sure you have some hooks inside the event, so you can have a meaningful follow-up that doesn’t feel like a cold sell.
One great example I found very appealing was in a free webinar that used the function of the online course platform to embed the offer.
The trainer asked people if they wanted to hear the offer and structure of the full training. And made a poll out of it – only if there were more than X who wanted to hear it – he would.
Package that right, and you’ll have a relaxed environment with people paying attention to what you have to offer. Seems ideal to me.
Being Able to Standout is Crucial, Here’s How…
Over the past year, virtual events have become the norm since most people have been stuck at home. Putting on these events is even more challenging for email marketers since they need to fight against the “Zoom fatigue” that many are experiencing these days. Being able to stand out in the inbox is even more crucial during this time.
Some tips and best practices that I’ve learned include:
- Inserting calendar links in your automated registration emails. Zoom webinars has a setting that automatically does this for you. But if you want a more customizable/branded email, be sure to include iCal and Google Calendar links in your design.
- In your invitation emails, include something like “Can’t make it? Sign up anyway and we’ll send you the recording” to entice prospects to engage even if they’re unavailable for the virtual event.
- Test personalizing in the subject line. “First Name, join us at our event!” or “First Name, can you join us at our virtual summit?” Subscribers see a lot of “first name” personalization in their inboxes, but email invitations for events are a great way to reach out in a more personable way. Learn more about subject line personalization best practices on our blog.
- Include bullet points about the content and schedule. This is a visually appealing way to succinctly describe why your subscribers should sign up for the event. Salesforce has a great example of this for their Dreamforce event email invitation.
Segment by time zone. If you’re hosting a virtual event at 11:00 A.M. Eastern, it probably doesn’t make sense to invite your European contacts to that event. Another option is to change the email messaging to “Sign up for a recording” for these contacts.
Email is the Heart of Virtual Event Marketing
Email should be at the heart of your virtual event marketing strategy, and should be used at every stage of the event experience: before, during, and after.
First, share the event with your own email subscribers. If possible, identify a targeted segment of your subscribers who would be the most interested in the event.
While virtual events are a great way to engage your existing email subscribers, they also provide a great opportunity to grow your email list. Share your event on your website, blog, social media channels, podcast, YouTube channel, and more.
Invite other individuals and organizations to join your virtual event as sponsors or speakers. They can share the event with their audiences, which will help grow your email list.
Once people register for your virtual event, continue to engage them leading up to the event by sharing things like new speaker announcements, new sessions, pre-event parties, surveys and polls, giveaways, and more.
On the day(s) of the event, use email to promote each session or workshop. This can help drive live attendance. Be sure to highlight when specific speakers are taking the virtual stage, and engage with attendees afterwards to find out what they learned and what feedback they have about the sessions and speakers.
After the event, stay connected with registrants by putting them into an automated email nurture campaign. Use this campaign to get feedback on the event, invite them to post-event webinars, and present your products and services in a way that naturally ties in with the subject matter of the event.
Combat Virtual Fatigue With Planning & Participation
People want to socialize and the pandemic is showing how much people are yearning for a connection and conversation. The question is, as marketers, how do we get involved?
We keep hearing that voice is the next frontier. It was thought that digital assistants such as Alexa and Google Home were the platforms to watch, but what has been popular is podcasts and the newer ClubHouse App. But people still want to see other people. They want more webinars and conferences!
Images and videos are still as popular as ever when it comes to marketing because they help audiences focus, engage, and retain more content. We are all living in a mostly virtual world where we are Zooming along and attending virtual conferences rather than in-person meetings and conferences. But how do you promote your digital events effectively?
Virtual fatigue is a real thing and as a marketer, this is your biggest hurdle to success. You must get your audience excited about your events. It does not start with the marketing but the planning of the event. It is a must that you add in audience participation.
This can be as simple as asking your audience questions on a webinar or at a virtual event or adding polls, trivia, and networking to encourage participation. THIS is what you add to your marketing efforts. It is your job to get your potential registrants excited to attend your event! Give them what they want, which is more engagement.
Why is your event better or different? Sound familiar? It is just like marketing a product or service. If you have a great product or service, it is easy to market it. Think about the correlation!
When it comes to your email campaigns, add video content, images of the event speakers, as well as key takeaways as bullet points. To make it even more powerful, add social proof, compelling verbiage and testimonials that makes me want to smash that sign up button!
Make sure to tell your audience about the great things you have planned for the event that make it a must-attend situation.
Oh yea, the voice thing, it is a reality. People are consuming voice content more than ever. You might want to look into that as well.
Persuasive, Highly-Targeted Invite Emails Drive More Registrations
With the advent of pandemic-driven digitalization, businesses have been forced to switch to virtual conferences rather than in-person or physical events. In a way, this has been a welcome change for marketers and customers alike.
Like in-person events, email has proved to be an effective channel for driving registrations to virtual events. Interestingly enough, 76% of marketers have agreed to this fact.
I believe that engaging the audience is quite a challenge for virtual events. Therefore, your email invitation needs to be highly targeted and a lot more persuasive.
Another thing to remember while promoting your virtual event is that you can expand your target audience to accommodate subscribers from remote locations too. This will, obviously, not be the case in in-person events.
If you have organized a paid virtual event, make sure you promote the most relevant and useful snippets with the email recipients. Emphasize the exclusiveness of the information that will be shared in the event.
According to me, enticing the recipients with bonuses to be shared at the end of the event or a chance to win something big goes a long way in getting people to pay for and attend your virtual event.
Bizzabo sets a nice example of an invitation for a webinar. See how they have tempted the subscribers to save their seat with an early bird bonus of the webinar recording. It will create a sense of urgency and get the people to register.
Tease the Event With Timely, Value-Packed Emails
Don’t just send out an email a few weeks before outlining all the content, speakers, timings, etc and hope that’ll do the job—it won’t.
You need to tease people.
Start promoting the event early by mentioning that you’ve got an event in the works.
Then move on to promoting individual speakers and their topics. Introduce a surprise guest or exclusive piece of content that only attendees will get.
Give your audience the information in bite-sized pieces so there’s a higher chance that 1 key piece of information to them will get the attention it deserves.
But once you’ve promoted the event and got the signups, the key thing with a virtual event, particularly a free one, is to keep following up.
Remind everyone with a month to go, then a week to go, then a day to go, and then on the day, reminding people of key topics, speakers and features along the way – remember to give value here. It’s possible they’ve forgotten about the event and so you need to almost re-sell it to them.
One huge mistake email marketers make, whether it’s reminding an audience of an event or sending abandoned cart emails, is that they forget to provide value. They just send a reminder email; ‘this product is still in your cart’ or ‘reminder, this event starts tomorrow at 5pm’.
If you do this, you’re missing a huge opportunity to remind the customer why they signed up in the first place.
Digital Events Expand Your Audience
I am glad that companies have switched to virtual conferences and webinars from in-person events. Now, it has become possible to attend events happening anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home. So, how does email marketing change while promoting a digital event?
Well, in-person events are more about sending marketing communications, including emails to specific segments of people. For example: If you are organizing an in-person event in Texas, you would avoid sending an invitation email to subscribers based in Asia.
Virtual conferences, on the other hand, allow you to expand your segments and the target audience. In-person events are like fishing in the lake with a smaller net. Virtual conferences present a sea of opportunities where you can cast a bigger net by sending emails to a larger audience, regardless of the location they are based in.
However, this does not eclipse the need to be relevant. The value proposition presented in your invitation emails should be relevant to the invitees. Also, you must make sure that your virtual event delivers what you promised. Avoid overselling or creating too many unnecessary expectations.
Since it is a virtual event, many of the attendees (like me) would love to have a recording. Mention it clearly in your email communications whether they will get the recording or not.
This becomes especially important if the attendee is facing network issues or any other problems and misses out on attending the event. The timezone barrier is another reason why people might register for the event but not be able to attend it. Mention the timezone clearly in the email so that there is no confusion.
Lastly, as virtual conferences do not facilitate any offline interaction, your emails must be as personalized and humane as possible.
More No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts Coming Soon
Stay tuned, we’ll be posting more No Bullshit Advice soon. Read our last expert round up about (My Subscriber)Loves Me, or Loves Me Not? When To Let Go Of Unengaged Contacts. or catch up on the entire series here: No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts.
And as always, feel free to share your thoughts with us on Twitter.
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