Avoid having empty seats

Ensuring attendance at events is always a challenge. If you follow basic event planning guidelines, you’ll be on your way to attaining your goals, but there are other considerations to take into account.  

Understand your customer touch points

Look at your timeline and budget, then think about all your business’s customer touch points to help you develop the most efficient way to reach your target audience and encourage them to attend.  Using a combination of different outreach methods – direct mailemail or e-announcements, telemarketing, social media, or advertising and PR – will likely be your best bet.

Understand how the customer funnel works

At the top of the funnel, you need to pour in all your leads; this means making sure your event is visible to prospects. There are a variety of ways to reach prospects so understanding who your target customer profile is and what your customer touch points are will help determine the best options.

Now that prospects are aware of your event, the lead enters the middle of the funnel and it’s time to determine how interested they are in coming.  Some will register immediately, others will need to think about it.  Those who are still thinking about it need to be cajoled with another reminder.  Try a different method of contact, changing the message to give it more urgency, or providing an special incentive to help make the decision to attend easier.

Those who register fall deeper into the funnel.  At this point, you need to focus on reminding them to come to your event.  Contact them via email or phone a week before the event and again within 2 or 3 days of the event to remind them to attend.  Remember: a prospect who registers for an event is not the same as an attendee so reminders are key to confirming attendance.  Be sure to keep the registrant’s contact information in case they do not attend the event.  If they don’t, their absence may have been due to illness or another priority taking precedence, but they could still be interested in your offering.

Those who fall out of funnel are your event attendees.  These are prospects your sales team should follow up with first.  Be ready with a sales strategy to approach them.

Expect a drop-off

At each stage, expect only a small percentage to continue, ultimately attending your event. To increase the probability that your event attracts the right people and enough to make it a worthwhile investment, you will likely need to start with – relatively speaking – a large target audience size.  Visit db-marketing.com’s calculator to get an idea of your required sample size to hit the mark on those attending your event.

Once your outreach efforts are defined, develop a flow chart defining conversion or event confirmation as prospects move from awareness, to interest, to agreement to attend your event, through to attendance.  Think of your event as something that’s similar to the customer buying cycle.  Your event is being “purchased” or bought into as an activity that the prospect wants to attend so at different stages, your event may be declined for another activity (i.e. a better offer) or other personal reason.

When the event is over, be sure to thank those who attended and send a ‘sorry we missed you’ email or letter to those who were unable to attend the event.  You may want to go a step further and add an event recap to your website and announce it via social media.

Remember!

Different communication channels – email, letters, direct mail, advertisingsocial media, newsletters, e-announcements – have different response rates, as do vendors. Marketing is not an exact science.  Some factors that can impact response rates include:

  • Target audience
  • Quality and list size used for direct mail, email, or telemarketing purposes
  • Messaging used to entice prospect to attend
  • The event’s purpose, timing, or location
  • Spiff used
  • Method used to reach the prospect
  • Attendee admission cost


The trick is finding the best communication channels to reach your target audience with the least amount of costs to maximize your budget.

Preparing for outbound marketing efforts

Depending upon the type of outbound marketing efforts you undertake to raise awareness about your event, there are likely to be some behind the scenes tasks to address.  Typical tasks may include:

  • 800# for registration or confirmation
  • Registration webpage with supporting or background event information
  • Prize – what it is, how it will be obtained, process for winning and providing winner with it
  • Direct mail piece – design, messaging, and target customer list obtained – needs to be printed and mailed
  • Telemarketer or sales person ready to take calls and make calls to confirm a registrant’s attendance.
  • Email reminders, their messaging (text and design), and when they will be sent
  • Post-event emails and letters, the messaging to be used (text, design and printing) and when they will be sent
  • Create a webpage with the event information and recap information (design and messaging)
  • Leverage social media to encourage people to share your invite and reward them with a discount or give-away item at the event
  • Address messaging (text, images, and links) to be posted to selected social media sites regarding the event, and information for a blog or summary article

 Guidelines for outreach activities

Keep in mind…

Response rates for outreach activities impact the success of reaching the target customer and have different abilities to persuade prospects to attend. For instance, a person who confirms their attendance via the phone with a representative may be more likely to come than if simply sent an email reminder.

Make sure messaging is consistent and compelling across communication channels. Using a mix of communication channels to reach your audience helps increase the probability of attendance.  Like any form of outbound marketing, put your best foot forward…ensure brand consistency and inspire trust.

Execution Considerations Costs
Short Time Frame:
(1- 4 Weeks)
Email campaign/e-announcements, letters (business stationary), 1 page print flyers, social media, and online advertising have short turnaround time frames to prepare and send out. $–$$
Long Time Frame:
(3 Weeks to 6 Months)
Direct mail, telemarketing, and print advertising can take much longer to prepare and send out depending upon whether lists need to be obtained for direct mail or telemarketing purposes and the frequency of publication for advertising purposes. Leveraging articles and blogs with affiliates and your social network may be less expensive to implement, but there’s less control over final placement and messaging. $$–$$$$

Discover more…

  1. Bennett, JJ. “Three Proven Ways Organizers Can Improve Event Registration Rates.”  The Bizzabo Blog. Last modified March 28, 2016.  https://blog.bizzabo.com/proven-ways-organizers-can-improve-event-registration-rates.
  2. Budimir, David. “10 Event Coordinator Tips They Never Taught You in School.” Social Tables (blog). Accessed July 30, 2019. https://www.socialtables.com/blog/event-planning/event-coordinator-tips/.
  3. Crestodina, Andy.  “How to Market an Event:  50 Event Marketing Tips.”  Orbit Media Studios (blog). Accessed July 30, 2019. https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/how-to-market-an-event/.
  4. “How to Engage Attendees Before Your Event.” Marketo, Inc. Accessed September 13, 2018. http://www.marketo.com/articles/how-to-engage-attendees-before-your-event.
  5. Lozano, Dhariana. “Why No One is Sharing Your Brand, Venue or Event Online (and How to Fix It).” SocialMediaToday.comLast modified July 29, 2016. http://http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/why-no-one-sharing-your-brand-venue-or-event-online-and-how-fix-it/.
  6. Milbrath, Sam. “How a Small Startup Increased Event Attendance by 690% (And You Can Too).” HootSuite Media Inc. (blog). Accessed July 30, 2019. http://blog.hootsuite.com/ticketleap-increased-event-attendance-hootsuite-success-story/.
  7. Molina, Ricardo. “4 Funnel Stages for Killer Event Sales.”  Social Coup LLC. Last modified September 1, 2015. https://smallbiztrends.com/2013/06/small-business-event-planning-tips.html.
  8. Shane, Dakota. “Want to Increase Attendance at Your Next Event?  Use These 8 Social Media Strategies.”  Manuseto Ventures.  Last modified February 12, 2018. https://www.inc.com/dakota-shane/want-to-increase-attendance-at-your-next-event-use-these-8-social-media-strategies.html.
  9. Steimle, Josh. “9 Tactics for Promoting Your Next Event.”  Entrepreneur Media, Inc. Last modified November 17, 2017. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/303944.
  10. Warner, Jamillah. “42 Tips for Producing a Memorable Small Business Event.”  Small Business Trends. Last modified January 20, 2016. https://smallbiztrends.com/2013/06/small-business-event-planning-tips.html.

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