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If your event budget is tight, don’t fret. There are many no-cost marketing solutions.
Market your event for free (or nearly so) with these ideas.
You can host a spectacular event with no money in your marketing budget but you can’t host an event with no marketing. Marketing is incredibly important to a successful event. Luckily there are many ways you can get attention for your event without spending any money. However, these suggestions are not free. They do cost time but that’s a price that won’t affect your budget, at least not directly.
If you’re currently sitting on an event that you have to market with zero money budgeted to do so, skip to the Event Lead-Up section below. The tips in this section are designed to help before you have an event of that kind scheduled. You’ll want to create a foundation for that type of instance by building your brand. If people see you as a creator/planner of amazing events, they’ll keep an eye out for your soirees. So start with these marketing tips before you need them:
Build your brand on social media. Consider adopting a niche or specialized segmentation so people in an industry or demographic check your calendar for events they know they’ll enjoy.
Get to know bloggers. Make friends with as many bloggers, influencers, and social media ambassadors as possible. They will help you get the word out if they know, like, and trust you.
Make journalist friends. If you throw events that are press worthy, it benefits you to get to know these folks too. Don’t forget writers for magazines, travel sites, or anything that fits the type of events you put on.
Don’t let lists go stale. Assuming your client loves you, and they’ll want you to plan next year’s event as well, work with your client’s marketing department to ensure the attendee list from last year doesn’t get stale. Engage the attendees throughout the year through email campaigns and they are more likely to attend next year. The Content Marketing Institute remains in contact with past attendees sending email alerts on early-bird pricing, deadlines, contests, award applications, and more throughout the year so the event stays top-of-mind.
Now that the event is almost upon you, you’re ready to transform your free marketing engine into a finely-tuned, high-performance machine.
Read the feedback and use it. If this is a repeat event for you, use the feedback you received from last year’s event in the marketing email you send out. Use phrases like “We heard you! This year we’ll have more X…”
Offer “tell a friend” discounts or specials. Yes, this eats into your profit a smidge but if you figure people are more likely to attend when they have friends going, and you rationalize that reduced entry fee is better than none it all, it works out. If your event is a conference or something with additional materials for sale, know that you’re likely to make additional money with the additional headcount.
Pixel the event website. Facebook pixels are a great way to build custom audiences from your website for retargeting purposes. Pixeling your website is free and you can use the data derived from visitors to present materials on Facebook to people who are most likely to attend or be interested in your event. You can make conversions for pennies on the dollar. Targeted advertising on Facebook isn’t free but it is cost-effective. You can limit spends and narrow down audiences to people you think are truly interested and a good fit for your event.
Invite people through social media. There are two ways to do this: broadcast your message with a URL to your event (or microsite) or invite people directly through Facebook events feature. You can also set up an event page for your event.
Use hashtags early and often. Assign your event a hashtag and make sure everyone is using it before, during, and after your event. Tag photos, posts, and create table tents at your event with the hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to find event content. Plus, a well-used hashtag makes non-attendees curious about your event. They may choose to follow the action or learn more about it based on the social media shares and content.
During the Event
If your event is a multi-day event that hasn’t sold out, or if walk-ins are welcome, continue to market it on social media even after it starts. If registration is closed, it’s still important to share content from the event. Get a head start on next year’s attendees.
Show everyone (a little). The velvet rope tactic is used by nightclubs everywhere. They show people a glimpse of a VIP area, but keep the general population at bay. Ever wonder why they do that? It would be so much easier to move the VIPs somewhere no one knew existed. But where’s the enticement for people to upgrade to VIP tickets then? Out of sight, out of mind.
By allowing everyone a glimpse into what they could have, more people upgrade. Show non-attendees the fun everyone is having at your event. Show regular guests the fun they could be having at pop-ups within the event or tweet-ups. Create the desire for more through imagery and you’ll sell more upgrades or tickets next year.
Encourage social shares. As mentioned earlier, using hashtags is a great way to organize content created about your event and build interest from outside. If you have slide deck presentations at your event, make sure the speakers’ slides are branded with your event hashtag. After the event, ask your presenters to post their materials to slide deck to build interest among non-attendees for next year.
Retweet and share what others are saying about your event. Set up “as it happens” alerts on Google or use listening software like Hootsuite. Create a “sharing is caring” leaderboard at your event for your top social media sharers or set up a big screen that showcases live tweets. These activities encourage and motivate people to share. When they do, they’re not doing it in a vacuum. People who aren’t there are seeing it too, and boy does it look like fun.
The way to make the most of a nonexistent marketing budget is through social media and word-of-mouth referrals. They cost you nothing other than time. Aim at creating conversations and interactions. If this is an event that happens every year, stay in touch with attendees. Engage them on social media throughout the year. If you handle mainly one-off events, build your personal brand so that people look to you to fill their calendars.