By Nicole Bojic, Group Executive, Strategic Solutions Group
Acquiring the right audience for your event may be one of the most important elements to achieving event success. But it’s not as easy as it used to be, especially with a flood of new events entering the market each year. In fact, between 2017 and 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17%.[i] That means prospective attendees now have more events than ever to choose from, often without the benefit of bigger spending budgets. So, it’s critical that your audience acquisition strategy stands out from the competition to give your event the edge that will attract and convert the high-value attendees you desire.
This article is designed to help you pinpoint the latest skills and services you need to be successful when planning and implementing a comprehensive audience acquisition strategy. Whether you’re looking for an outside agency, a freelancer, or help from another internal team, here are 10 questions you can use to help find the right partner(s) for success.
What roles will be involved in the audience acquisition strategy and implementation effort?
A successful audience acquisition campaign will likely require more than a registration website and a few emails. That means you’ll need a cross-functional team that includes:
- Strategist(s)—to identify and characterize the right target audiences, map relevant messages to each audience segment, determine the best mix of media channels and tactics, and plan the right cadence for your outreach
- Copywriters—who have the experience and unique skills writing copy for each of the channels in your mix—from web copy and online ads to email marketing and direct mail, and more
- Graphic Designers/Art Directors—who can create engaging designs that work online and offline
- Developers—who can code everything from HTML emails and websites to online ads, and provide support in capturing data for analysis and optimization; you may even need someone who can provide API support between marketing automation and registration platforms
- Project Managers—that oversee all of the moving parts and ensure each of the elements are completed and deployed on time
What discovery information and data do you require prior to beginning strategy work?
If your potential partners are not asking for discovery data, you might want to keep looking for another partner. Your audience acquisition strategy will have the best chance of success when built on a solid foundation of knowledge and insights. The following discovery sources can provide a wealth of useful information from which to build an audience acquisition strategy.
From previous events:
– Attendee survey and poll data
– Registration data, including YOY, registration cadence, registration to attendance rate
– Email opens, click-through rates (CTR)
– A/B testing data
– Mobile app analytics data
– Social engagement and sentiment analytics
– Google Analytics reports
– Ad performance data
Support for current event:
– Event brief (including background, purpose, goals)
– Audience segmentation
– Event personas
– Copy and brand style guide(s)
– Theme and messaging guidelines (if applicable)
– Overall marketing plan (to understand how this event fits within the larger marketing effort)
How will you reach our target audience(s)?
A good partner will be able to clearly articulate how they will segment, identify and reach your target audiences. They will also outline how they will use messaging and the attendee journey to create an engaging experience that goes beyond event registration to create attendee value during and after the event. You’ll want to listen for the inclusion of helpful tools like a messaging matrix or a messaging map, which are instrumental in developing copy that resonates with your target audiences.
What KPIs do you recommend tracking for audience acquisition?
This might seem like a simple question, but you should actually be looking for a partner who understands the importance of ROA (return on attendee). Yes, it’s important to hit registration and attendance goals, but it’s even more important to attract and engage attendees who take action as a result of your event. That’s where your investment really starts to pay off. Whether attendees are seeking more information or placing an order (or something similar), these actions work to actually move prospects along the funnel, giving you a higher ROA. Partnering with someone who can help identify and track meaningful KPIs will help ensure that you’re focusing your efforts wisely.
What media channels and tactics do you typically employ?
Although research shows that 46% of B2B organizations believe email marketing is the most effective channel to promote an event[ii], it should not be your only channel. Depending on the size, budget and goals of the event as well as the target audience profile, you’ll likely want to explore and consider a combination of the following channels to create a rich outreach campaign:
– Owned websites (e.g. corporate site, event site, blog, etc.)
– Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
– Social Media
– PPC and display advertising, including social
– Direct mail
– Out of home (e.g. billboards, transportation ads)
– Public relations (e.g. online event listings, press coverage, etc.)
– Internal communications
– Sales team outreach
– Partner outreach
How will you work with our marketing automation team?
At some point you’re going to need to send out some emails, and most likely, you own the contact database. That means either your partners will need to provide you with content that you can send (either “content pieces” that can be used in a template or a finished piece) or they’ll send the emails on your behalf using their own email platform or an API into yours. Understanding these capabilities upfront—and how experienced your partner is in delivering on this—will save you a lot of heartache when you’re working against the clock to get communications out on time. It will also enable you to proactively plan for regular reporting that is critical to optimizing your campaigns.
What special skills does your team bring to the table?
This is a pretty open-ended question, but it can be a good way to tease out who has that little something extra that will help you be successful. For example, an agency partner with specialized skills in messaging may have just what you need to reach a target audience segment that has been elusive at past events. Or you might find someone who has deep experience in search engine optimization (which is actually the primary driver for many event websites). You might even find that the partner you’ve been leaning on to produce your general session can offer some unique insights into how to engage and follow up with your audience.
Who will manage tracking and optimization throughout the acquisition effort?
It’s important to understand who can and will be tracking the data against your key performance indicators. If there are multiple players involved, it’s good to establish who will be responsible for tracking what and when, as well as determine how that reporting will be shared. If no one is on the hook for tracking and optimization, then it won’t get done.
How do you connect audience acquisition to audience engagement?
With so much money being invested in live events, it’s not enough just to get people to the door of your event. For one, if your event doesn’t deliver a highly engaging experience, that attendee is not likely to return again, which means you’ll have to work that much harder to find a new attendee to fill the slot next year. Additionally, the goal of most events is not to just get people there, but rather to drive sales or increase brand/product awareness (or something similar). Your audience acquisition effort should be viewed as the beginning of this overall engagement effort, creating a cohesive attendee journey that builds on itself. If that connection is not being made, you’re only getting half of what you need.
How do you close the audience acquisition loop?
You might argue that it’s not the responsibility of the audience acquisition team to also follow-up with attendees after the event, but we would ask, why not? Creating this closed loop with up-front planning ensures attendees get the right messages at the right time. All too often, this final step can fall through the cracks because the focus is on getting a complex event done on time and on budget. Once the event is over, there’s little energy left to plan creative ways of following up with attendees, so it’s helpful to create that strategy up front.
Hopefully, you will find these questions helpful in your search for the right audience acquisition partner. Want to learn more about audience acquisition services at InVision? Read our press release or contact us to learn all about our audience acquisition offering.
[i] Source: https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/survey-finds-consumers-crave-authenticity-and-user-generated-content-deli/511360/
[ii] Source: https://blog.bizzabo.com/event-marketing-2018-benchmarks-and-trends