How to spend less on marketing your event & still maintain bragging rights
So you’ve been told all your life that you have to spend money to make money, but you’ve received nothing but vacuous silence when you’ve asked, yeah - but how much should I spend when it comes to marketing this amazing event of mine? And where? And when?
Figuring out how best to allocate your limited budget can be an exhausting, even daunting task. We’re here to help you optimise this process.
A survey of trade show organizers that we did recently found that, for 36% of the respondents, not having enough resources was their biggest marketing challenge.
This isn’t surprising; what is surprising is how ineffectively this challenge gets handled. I've seen the literal sweat dripping from client's brows as they ask me for advice on how best to spend their limited marketing budget.
Here are some helpful ways in which you can optimise your marketing budget to help you get to the overused and oft-misunderstood goal of ROI.
Get intimate with your historical data
Assuming this isn’t your first event, data from previous campaigns will be the oracle you consult before setting off on this new campaign. If this is your first campaign, you’ll still want to carry on reading - why wouldn’t you want to be equipped to become the top dog in your marketing department?
Take a look back at everything that did and didn’t work. This is often as simple as looking at a report (any report - you choose. The point is about analysing that data).
From this report, you’d gather many facts. Let’s single out one, like:
"Free posts on social media resulted in an increase in traffic to your event registration landing page."
It’s always great to see news like that, but you’ll have to analyse (i.e. get intimate with) this fact if you truly want those event marketing bragging rights.
There are all sorts of further questions you should ask (such as “why did this happen?” and “how do I replicate this? Is replicating this even possible, or was this a result of a unique situation?”), and this will usually lead to more reports.
After becoming a marketing spider, weaving a web between all these reports and the data they contain, at the centre of your web will be actionable insight.
Continuing with the example above, let’s say that free posts drove traffic, but the percentage of registrations didn’t improve proportionately.
If you then compare them to the paid campaigns you ran on social media (if you’re not yet allocating a portion of your marketing budget to paid social media campaigns - why aren’t you?), and you see that, though the amount of traffic social media drove didn’t improve by much, the number of registrations rose dramatically.
What could all of this mean for your future campaigns?
The issue could be targeting.
Your organic posts aren’t being targeted to the audience that would want to register for your event.
It could be that your landing page needs work, but that wouldn’t account for the increase in registrations from paid campaigns. What about the copy?
Perhaps you put more time into crafting the paid campaigns because there was an explicit cost involved, but the free posts were given almost no thought. What about…?
And so on, and so on. You get the idea.
Make your website user-friendly (and pretty)
There’s an ancient tale of a man called Sisyphus. It involves him, a boulder and a really steep hill, and Albert Camus famously used it to illustrate the absurdity of existence (and just absurdity in general).
We, however, have a slightly less depressing allegory which highlights how self-destructively absurd a poorly-optimised website is for your event marketing.
Imagine you have a big, beautiful pool, and your goal is to get people to swim in it. The pool has a lot of holes ranging in size, but you’re confident that pumping enough water will render those holes insignificant.
This, of course, is absurd.
You waste tons of cash on pumping water into the pool, but it never gets filled. Before you can even say optimisation, you’ll have blown your entire budget on water - only to be left with an empty pool.
If it wasn’t clear: the pool is your event website, filling the pool with water is your traffic-driving marketing budget, and those holes are the barriers to registration that cause your traffic to bounce.
Throwing all your money at driving traffic to an unoptimised website is some real Sisyphean s**t. You should be plugging the holes in your pool first before filling it with water.
Optimising your website first could see your event drowning in attendees.
Exploit free digital channels - free ≠ inefficient
Cognitive biases might have you believing that a tool that’s expensive is (or should be) better than a free one, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Most paid tools do have free plans that could be all you need to meet your marketing KPIs. Once you’re intimate with your historical data and have plugged the holes in your pool website, the rest of your marketing budget might be giving off strong end-of-the-month, Ramen-for-lunch-and-dinner energy...
So what now?
Exploit some of the free features that most popular platforms and tools offer.
Digital platforms like LinkedIn have some amazing free features that could allow you to meet your event marketing KPIs. If you want more insight into specifically using LinkedIn, you’ll find it here.
Be agile - or hire someone who is
This blog may look like a list, but the entire marketing process we’re talking about is less scheduled and structured than that.
The hallmark of agility is having a finger on the pulse of all aspects of your event marketing campaign, and the readiness to adapt what needs to be adapted.
If you want the most out of your marketing budget, you’ll be agile.
Getting intimate with your historical data isn’t a once-off thing. Looking at data from previous campaigns will give you a great starting point, but it's not as valuable as the data being generated during your campaign.
This means that 2 months into a campaign (or whatever time frame makes sense for your campaign), in order to work out a marketing budget plan for the next month, your “historical data” will be whatever was generated in that period.
This constant evaluation will help you decide which channels are performing swimmingly.
If you’re seeing fewer positive results from Facebook (or worse, no positive results), but LinkedIn is proving to be useful, this is actionable insight.
One way of acting on this insight is by diverting the resources from your Facebook campaign into the LinkedIn one. “Switch off” the ads that aren’t performing, and perhaps create ads that closely mimic the top performing ones.
Admittedly, being agile is incredibly time-consuming.
As either an events organiser or as an events marketer, you might not have the time to be as fully agile with all of your campaigns as you’d like. This is where you bring in your mercenary marketers - hire a team of professionals with a proven track record of being agile across digital marketing platforms.
Closing remarks - optimising your marketing budget plan
Developing yourself as a professional event marketer - whether for bragging rights, a pat on the back from that distant father figure director you’re always trying to impress, or scoring a keynote spot at a top marketing conference - requires a hands-on approach.
Throwing money blindly at different social media channels and passively waiting for some valuable return is not going to work. Developing an optimised event marketing budget plan requires marketing campaigns that live, breathe and grow.
Get intimate with your data.
Bedazzle your website.
Exploit free marketing channels.
Do these (or hire someone who will) and tag us in your next trade show that’s absolutely packed with attendees. We love a happy ending.