Why persona targeting is critical for virtual events


September, 2020

We regularly preach the importance of crafting enticing messaging for your different personas regularly because it’s a proven tactic to convert your target audience into attendees for your virtual event. However, a key element of success is actually getting your carefully crafted messages in front of the right personas.

In this blog, I run through the major challenges that accurate persona targeting helps you overcome and give you deeper insight into how you can use persona targeting to market your virtual event.

Challenge #1 - The hit & miss results from a spray and pray approach

In early 2020, there was very little competition among virtual events. As long as your benefits were clearly defined in your ads, people would register. Over the last few months, things have changed drastically and you are now competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of similar events. And unlike in-person events, virtual events have to compete against similar events from around the world. Geographic location is no longer a barrier for audiences, so while you can attract a wider audience, your competition is now international too.

The first step is to know which channel is best suited to targeting your audience. Here’s a very basic guide on some of the most popular digital marketing channels for virtual events to help you decide which ones will help you reach your audience best.

  • LinkedIn

As the world's largest B2B database, LinkedIn is where B2B virtual event marketers are likely to find a significant portion of their audience. LinkedIn advertising allows you to narrow down your audience with a large range of filters, including company size, industry, job title and seniority. The big con of LinkedIn advertising is that it’s expensive, so you really need to know what you’re doing to get real value out of it.

  • Facebook & Instagram

Facebook on the other hand is much more affordable and has a wider reach. If you’re targeting a broad audience with a particular interest, like business and industry or fitness and wellness, then you should be able to reach your personas. If your event is more B2C and business decision-making power isn’t important to you, then Facebook is likely a better option for you than LinkedIn.

As Instagram advertising is managed by Facebook, the pros and cons are pretty much the same although it should be noted that Instagram is the most visual platform, so consider your content carefully.

Facebook and Instagram are also excellent ways of retargeting the people who visited your website but didn’t register. A cost effective tactic is to use LinkedIn to drive good traffic to your website and then use Facebook to retarget these people.

Optimising LinkedIn for traffic is cheaper than optimising for conversion, and Facebook is more affordable than LinkedIn when optimising for conversions. This way you get to leverage LinkedIn’s excellent targeting capabilities and Facebook’s affordability.

  • Google Search

Google Search as a channel offers one of the best click to registration rates because its targeting is based on the intent of the user. Someone looking for an event like yours is likely to search for it in Google and be presented with your ads.

This means that while you may not get as much reach as with LinkedIn and Facebook, the people who see your Google ads are already in the registration mindset.

Another way to use Google Search is to target keywords commonly used by your prospects.

So, while they might not be looking for an event to attend, they will fall into one of your personas - an effective advert will entice them with the benefits of attending.

  • Email

Email is one of the most effective ways to generate registrations. The people in your database likely have a reasonably strong connection with your brand already and may even have attended one of your previous events. This makes them an ideal audience to market your virtual event to. The downside of email is that you can only target people whose email addresses you have. You can’t reach out to a new audience, so you’re limited to repeat attendees. Definitely leverage your email list, but don’t rely on it. Use the other channels to reach new attendees and grow your email list for next year.

  • Twitter

Twitter is the last channel on our list and is the best channel for on the ground engagement and generating interest in your event. It’s targeting, however, is elusive and indirect, which makes it difficult to know whether you’re reaching your target audience or not. Save Twitter for generating engagement during your event or during the awareness phase to get word out there, just don’t expect too many high quality registrations.

Challenge #2 - Getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time

Now that you know where and how to find your personas it’s time to look into how their behaviour leading up to your virtual event will affect your targeting.

One of the most stressful aspects of marketing an event, in-person or virtual, is the dreaded registration curve.

Blog Image - Targeting 1

The closer the event gets, the faster registrations come in.

Marketing a virtual event - we’re talking large scale here, not a webinar - should start about 3 months before the digital doors open to allow for enough traction to build up.

The reason why it’s stressful is because during the first month of marketing, you’re only likely to get about 10% of your overall registrations.

In month two before the event this increases to about 20%. This is when most virtual event planners start to panic, but if you’ve been targeting well over months one and two, then in the final month before your event your registrations should shoot up every day.

Now that you have a deeper understanding of typical registration behaviour let’s take a step back and show you how to put together a great targeting strategy for your virtual event.

Blog Image - Targeting 2

Here’s an overview of what a campaign strategy looks like, taking into account your personas’ level of interest leading up to your event. We call this a double funnel because it doesn't end at the point of registration like most event marketing funnels, it extends to keep attendees engaged to prevent them getting cold feet before your event. This final stage is more important for virtual events because it’s incredibly easy for them to flake out at the last minute.

As you can see, it’s broken down into 3 stages that coincide with the 3 months leading up to your event. While following the structure of the standard buyer’s journey with stages for Awareness, Consideration and Decision, there are a few key differences.

The content for each stage relates more to the information available at the time and the closeness to the event itself.

  • The Awareness Phase

In the Awareness phase there’s often limited information on who will be speaking, exactly what topics will be covered, what exhibitors will be in attendance etc. so information typically relates to the event in general. This early in the event funnel, registration is often not even open yet, so advertising is used primarily to build awareness out of necessity instead of driving registrations. If registrations are open, then this would be the time to push an early bird special.

  • The Consideration Phase

In the Consideration phase, you can typically start to feature more of the actual content that will be featured at the event. Announcing new speakers, sessions and exhibitors as they get confirmed. This is where your content can be tailored more closely to your personas. Choose which sessions and speakers are most relevant to each persona and create your ads with this in mind.

  • The Decision Phase

The Decision phase is when most of the registrations happen and is when you should be pushing hard to get undecided people to cross the line and register. Drive urgency by counting down the days or reminding people that space is limited for certain sessions (if that’s true of course). The Decision phase is when most of the registrations happen and is when you should be pushing hard to get undecided people to cross the line and register. Drive urgency by counting down the days or reminding people that space is limited for certain sessions (if that’s true of course).

  • The Engagement Phase

The biggest difference between the buyer’s journey and the event marketing double funnel is the inclusion of an Engagement phase, designed to keep registrants engaged in the lead up to the event. Virtual events have a notoriously high no-show rate.Because the only thing encouraging them to attend is the value they will receive out of it. Unfortunately, this is often forgotten well before the event.

The Engagement phase will keep your registrants informed about new speakers or sessions that may be of interest to them - remember to tailor this to your personas - remind them of the benefits of attending and counter any arguments they may have for not attending.

Maybe they don’t want to take a full day out of work - then remind them that they can attend only the sessions that interest them.

If they’re worried that the networking opportunities won’t be as valuable as an in-person event, highlight the options you have that encourage networking.

Persona Targeting: Making sure the right people find your virtual event

Our MOVE methodology is a tried and tested way to attract the right attendees to your virtual event - and the second quad, Target, is a critical element. For more information crafting the right messages for your target audience, check out our recent blog on how to crack your webinar positioning once and for all.

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Staff - Matt
Staff - Matt

Matthew Green

Head of Marketing


Matt's passion for people & data make him a savvy marketer. Never satisfied with opinion, he let's the data tell the real story behind our marketing.

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