How to Create an Event Marketing Strategy from Scratch 

Timing is everything when it comes to event marketing. And the best way to make the most of your time is to develop a strategy plan for your event earlier than later.

Whether you really are creating an event from a clean slate or you’ve just wrapped an event and are starting to plan for next year, the best course of action is to set goals and make sure all stakeholders are aligned.

This helps focus on the big picture of any event and can help keep the minutiae of all the moving parts and pieces organised and on track.

Let’s walk through why each section is important.

1. Your Audience

This decision has a direct impact on your promotional tactics, schedule, and budget.

  • Is the event for clients/customers or members only?
  • Is this an industry event that widens the scope of your usual audience?
  • Is the event open to the public?

If your event is limited to clients or customers, then chances are you’ll already have a good estimation of how many people will participate. If you’re planning an industry conference, on the other hand, a broader scope of attendee means a wider promotional net.

Neither approach makes promotion easier or harder, but knowing how each is different will directly affect how you set the promotional tone and cadence going forward.

2. Needs & Solutions

Here’s where you’ll identify what your audience is looking to solve — exactly why they are attending your event.

This is a key component of your plan, as it will heavily influence your overall theme, session content, and promotional messaging.

There are several reasons someone chooses to attend an event, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • solving for their specific problems
  • meeting and learning from others in their field
  • continuing education and certification
  • shopping for new technology and tools

Dig deep into each of these to determine if they apply to your audience and to what extent. If, for example, your crowd is looking to solve specific problems, note each of the problems they have. What are they trying to learn? What type of tools are they looking to buy?

From the list of audience needs, keep an eye out for commonalities: what can you offer your audience that will cause them to love your event?

Document the parts of your event that overlap with solving for your audience’s problems. The bigger the overlap, the better you’ll serve your audience and the more likely they’ll return for years to come.

3. Your Differentiator

Your next step is to define what your event does that no other can do. As the template calls it, this is your unfair advantage.

Maybe you’re the biggest or you offer a specific type of education. Perhaps you have a unique group of speakers or your audience is part of a specific niche.

Once you’ve pinpointed your differentiator, you can adapt it into your one-line value proposition. This will serve you well in promotional materials to let your prospects know how you’re different, what they’ll get out of the event, and why they need to sign up for your event over all other options.

Your value prop is now the keystone of your messaging strategy. You can expand this single sentence differentiator into your event’s website language, email promotions, and any other channel you’ll use to reach your people.

4. Channels

Now that you know your audience and what you want to tell them, it’s time to determine how and where you’ll communicate with them.

Among the channels to consider are:

  • website (your homepage and/or a dedicated event site)
  • email
  • social media
  • direct mail
  • chatbots
  • paid advertising

Documenting this in your strategy plan allows you to return to it with confidence when it’s time to build a promotional schedule.

5. Metrics

A team that knows its goals and has the ability to know when those goals have been hit (or when to course correct if the numbers aren’t being met) is a stronger, more actionable team.

Consider the following goals:

  • total registrations
  • total tickets sold (of course, excluding comped, staff, and speaker tickets)
  • total ticket revenue
  • number of sponsors
  • total sponsor revenue
  • brand awareness
  • lead generation
  • community engagement

Then, define exactly how you’ll measure each goal. That’s probably obvious for something like total registrations, but for more esoteric goals like brand awareness and community engagement, for example, you’ll need to measure with social engagement or post-event surveys.

6. The Budget

The work you’ve put into your event marketing strategy so far culminates in getting specific about your revenue and costs. For your one-page plan, you’ll need to keep this high-level, but it’s best to get as granular as possible when you’re building out a full budget.

As you weigh cost versus revenue, you should return to your overall goals. If your intention is to run the event as a fundraiser, then you’ll need to restrict your costs compared to revenue. If profit isn’t the ultimate goal, then your strategy document should outline what the acceptable loss from the event is.

There’s no right or wrong to monetary profitability, but there certainly will be if all stakeholders aren’t in agreement on the budget — and budgetary goals.

Putting the Plan to Action

The benefit of a one-page event marketing strategy is that, while it may take some serious time to develop, it doesn’t take up much space. Keep your document out in the open so you and your team can return to it over the weeks and months leading up to the big day.

Of course, you’ll be building out more detailed plans over time, but the effort you put into creating this strategy document will pay off as you use it to determine your full budget, messaging, promotional schedule, and success metrics. Your future self — the one celebrating as a successful event comes to an end — will thank you for it. Jen Barrell

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