Few things would sting like throwing a party and having no-one show up, says Mahlab editor James Chalmers. Thankfully, a few tried and true content marketing techniques can ensure your event efforts pack the sort of propulsive power that gets people off the couch and into the front row.
Let’s be honest. There’s never been a better time to be a shut-in. Each new day brings news of the launch of a new online service or app that promises to make it even easier to live your whole life from the comfort of your home. Or, to be even more honest, snuggled in bed, illuminated solely by the glow of your smartphone.
But that is exactly what makes events such a powerful tool for brands. In a world in which endless digital experiences are no further than a mouse-click away, physical experiences have a special currency. They offer richer, more memorable experiences than a screen can, fostering a much more potent sense of community. And that sense of community is one of the most valuable tools around for turning customers into loyals champions of your brand.
So how exactly does one go about turning an event into a sell-out success? Funny you should ask…
Tell, don’t sell
If you want people to forsake the comfort of their doonas for your event, they’re going to have to believe it offers some value for them. This, of course, is where good content marketing shines.
Few people are going through their day looking for events to attend; they are looking for ways to solve their own challenges and meet their own goals.
The key then, is creating content that delivers that value to your target audience, while whetting the appetite for the event itself. This is the approach we took when one of our clients, the Australian Water Association, was keen to boost attendance at its biggest event of the year – the Ozwater convention.
The largest gathering of water professionals in the southern hemisphere, Ozwater is already well established but the breadth and size of the water industry meant there was plenty of untapped potential.
In order to tap this well, we drew upon the event’s greatest strength – the incredible conglomeration of the industry’s leading thinkers. Our main publishing platforms for the Australian Water Association – a print magazine, a news website and an email newsletter – focus heavily on the topical issues and news within the industry, calling upon the expertise and insights of the industry’s thought leaders.
Happily, this made it easy to weave the Ozwater thread through the general fabric of our coverage. For instance, we might feature an interview with a leading thinker discussing the latest development on a big issue in the industry, making it an easy opportunity to highlight to readers that said thinker would be unleashing even more wisdom at Ozwater and, wouldn’t you know it, you can register by simply clicking here.
As Ozwater is aimed at professionals in an enormous range of fields – from technicians, to researchers, to policy-makers – this also allowed us to finely target different sections of our audience, with content tailored to their specific interests and challenges, thus ensuring they felt the event had something to offer them, specifically.
Keen to reach as broad an audience as possible, we also repurposed interviews from the highest profile and most compelling speakers into press releases that we deployed into the mainstream media, garnering Ozwater national coverage on the ABC and commercial media.
Don’t let them forget about it
We’ve all done it: heard about an event, thought to yourself ‘that sounds interesting/I’ll bet they’ll have great canapes there’, resolved to book a ticket and then not thought about the event again until you realise it already happened, last week.
As much as you would like every person who reads about your event to sign up there and then, and set a reminder on their smartphone, that’s not going to happen.
That’s why you need to keep subtly prodding your target audience with reminders of the event. But of course, you need to do it without them ever feeling hassled.
This is where a content plan is a vital tool. The benefits? Planning with a long-view allows you to tie your event promotion in with other newsworthy events, boosting your readership. It also gives you the ability to plot the timing of different pieces of content so no one theme is over-exposed, keeping everything fresh, and your audience from switching off.
Harness the power of FOMO
Good ol’ predictable human nature – always there to make us feel a pang about missing out on something we didn’t even know we wanted to attend.
For this year’s Ozwater, we introduced a daily enewsletter, sending out a bulletin for each day of the three-day convention, as well as a preview and a wrap-up at the end. Though the bulletin had plenty to offer for those professionals who were actually at the event – with guides to speaker highlights and must-see events – the broader purpose was to illuminate to the entirety of the Australian Water Association’s mailing list exactly what they were missing out on by not being there. We wanted to prompt as many of them as possible to promise to themselves that they would get along to Ozwater next year, in order to avoid the mild pangs of regret they were feeling.
To this end, we loaded the enewsletter with highlights from the most insightful and influential speakers, as well as huge amounts of social photos. The latter are a particularly powerful tool for stoking engagement. Attendees are often powerless to resist the allure of checking to see if their photo was taken and that they had nothing in their teeth, while social galleries and videos are perfect ways to give others a memorable idea of what they missed out on, and put the fear of missing out again to work.
Pulling it all together
Attendance at this year’s Ozwater blew past previous year’s, with the Australian Water Association declaring it the best result ever. Tracking the links from our calls to action showed that our content sent more than 500 people directly to the event registration page.
And the daily Ozwater bulletins we sent out set new records for email engagement with the Association’s publications, with the open rate hitting almost 44% and a click-through rate above 45%, shattering industry benchmarks. While these enewsletters helped boost the number of attendees making last-minute visits to Ozwater in the final days of the convention, the real benefit is likely to be felt next year, as greater awareness of all the attractions it offers translates to even greater attendance.
Lessons for later
Promoting your event via the tried and true tools of content marketing is not just about writing articles or editing videos about your event. The same content marketing principles about focusing on delivering valuable information to your audience stay as strong as ever. The key is subtly weaving the advantages offered by your event through content that is valuable in its own right – and doing it regularly. You don’t want give your target audience the opportunity to forget to clear their calendar and book a ticket to come see you, but you also don’t want to bash them over the head with it either, which is what makes a proper content plan such a valuable tool.
But the event promotion doesn’t end when the event starts. Find ways to stoke a feeling of missing out for all of those who didn’t get along to the event, too, and make that feeling sharp enough to not be forgotten the next time one of your events rolls around.