August 11, 2023
By Hope Salvatori

Virtual events play a critical role in event programs, from large virtual conferences to small internal meetings. In fact, the virtual events market is set to reach USD $657.64 billion by 2030.

One of the key advantages of staging a virtual event, as expressed by planners worldwide, is the ability to extend reach across time zones and attract new audiences.

As valuable as these events are, however, they come with their own unique challenges. When it comes to virtual event marketing, planners and marketers must employ relevant tactics that work for virtual audiences.

What Is Virtual Event Marketing?

Virtual event marketing involves using promotional tactics to attract attendees to a virtual event, such as a webinar, virtual conference, or online tradeshow. Virtual event promotion can include a wide range of tactics and tools to increase attendance and engagement, from leveraging social media and email to crafting more targeted content.

Promoting a virtual event is complex, as attendees reside in different locations and have unique organizational goals, pain points, and reasons for attending your event. As a start, utilizing an event marketing platform can help by keeping your event planning, promotion, and execution efforts in one place.

Attracting new and relevant audiences takes more than an investment in the right virtual event technology, though – it takes a solid virtual event promotion strategy to ensure loyal attendees return and that your event is discoverable to new audiences, wherever they may reside.

Virtual Event Attendee

Benefits of Virtual Event Marketing

Because of their ability to reach vast, widespread audiences, virtual events offer an enhanced return on investment (ROI) for organizations looking to increase engagement, strengthen communities, nurture brand/product loyalty, and attract new audiences.

Building reach and awareness via an extended event marketing strategy is key to achieving high attendance, registration conversions, sponsor value, and overall event ROI. If done right, your virtual event strategy can help you achieve all this and more.

Effective Virtual Event Marketing Strategies

Here are a few virtual event marketing ideas to help ensure your virtual event strategy is a success!

1. Identify Your Broader Audience

Historically, in-person events provide a straightforward understanding of your target audience, where they travel from, and what their motivations are for attending. For virtual events, the rules have changed, which means your event marketing needs to change.

To start building a broader, more effective marketing plan for virtual events, you still need that same disciplined approach regarding identifying your target persona, why you want them to log on, and why they may be compelled to attend.

The argument is the same for deciding whether to charge a fee for your virtual events. If, for instance, you decide not to charge attendees to access the virtual elements of a hybrid event, would the fact that it becomes accessible to all ultimately dilute the quality of your audience and leads?

By implementing a highly targeted virtual event marketing strategy, you can maintain the quality of your overall visitor data, which in turn can attract more paying sponsors and help you plan future content based on audience preferences.

Identifying who your extended online audience could be will inform the marketing channels you need to target, the messaging you need to adopt, and how you should deliver content in different locations.

Once you know your target audience, you should consider your desired outcome (i.e., what do you want your attendees to do before, during, and after attending your event?).

Create a target goal that will help you measure what success looks like, then ensure your event advertising content encourages your target audience toward that end goal.

2. Communicate the Value of Your Event with Your Event Website

The first stage of communicating a compelling value proposition is to have somewhere to host it. That means creating a landing page for your event that converts page views into registrations.

Your virtual event landing page will allow you to capture the details of anyone interested in registering so you can analyze their profile and determine if they fit the persona of your target audience.

If you’re charging for certain event experiences or features, offer unique registration types. Attendees will be more likely to attend if they can “choose their own adventure.”

The landing page is also your event’s ‘shop window,’ so it should be dressed with branded content and all the enticing reasons people should want to enter.

Event App User

Your event landing page should ideally feature:

  • A compelling headline
  • Date and timing for the event (including relevant time zones)
  • Event agenda
  • A brief overview so audiences know what to expect
  • Sponsor and partner details
  • Guest speaker information
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Brand imagery that supports your message
  • A short video to capture the excitement or highlights from past years
  • Customer/attendee testimonials

3. Pinpoint the Right Time to Start Promoting

The timing of your virtual event marketing plan is essential. If you promote your event too early, you risk losing the attention of potential registrants (or worse, annoying them with communication updates). If you do it late, you might not be able to generate enough reach with your campaign, as you’ll be competing with other priorities and scheduling conflicts.

Ideally, you should begin promoting virtual events 4-6 weeks before your event goes live. This provides enough time to create buzz and generate interest among your target audience without having to worry about scheduling conflicts.

Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Depending on the size and complexity of your event, you might need more or less time to promote it effectively. For larger and more complex events, it may be necessary to start promoting the event several months in advance, whereas for a webinar, you likely only need a few weeks to lock in attendees.

Even for small events, if you’re targeting a very niche audience that will require time and effort to nurture and convert, you may have to start advertising your event a bit earlier.

It's important to consider your event's format, goals, target audience, and marketing channels to determine the optimal timeline for promotion.

4. Keep Marketing Before, During, and After Your Event

Marketing doesn’t end when your event begins. From the moment you begin promoting your event, you’re engaging with potential attendees, and you should continue to engage throughout the life of your event – before, during, and after.

Before the Event

Before your event, the usual rules apply. You’ll be focused on getting as many attendees to your event as possible by leveraging various marketing channels and setting up your event website.

During the Event

Once your event begins, don’t waste momentum – let your event promote itself (with a little assistance on your end). During the event, you can continue marketing to boost attendee participation, create “FOMO,” and get everyone excited for your next event – including attendees and those who are not attending this time around.

Consider implementing these strategies to continue marketing during your event:

  • Create live social media posts to show what everyone not in attendance is missing
  • Send reminders to keep attendees engaged
  • Share downloadable or on-demand content as an added perk of attending
  • Answer attendee questions in real-time using an online chat
  • Build brand loyalty by creating branded experiences, activities, and swag. Think email signature images, digital scavenger hunts, image filters, and prizes!

After the Event

Once your event has wrapped, the fun doesn’t end! To keep attendees coming back for more and hook those who missed out on attending, keep your marketing efforts going strong with these tactics:

  • Reach out via email and/or social media to thank attendees and say “sorry we missed you” to no-shows
  • Update your event website so the content remains relevant after the event
  • Share event highlights on social media to generate interest in your next event
  • Start nurturing leads captured during the event
  • Share post-event surveys and feedback to demonstrate your event’s success and value to attendees
  • If you have another event coming up soon, start sending out invitations while the fire is hot
Virtual Event Marketing Recording

5. Leverage Existing Digital Channels

Using your company website and promoting your event on social media channels to market your upcoming virtual event is an effective way to engage visitors and attract attendees.

Add a prominent section on the homepage of your website that links directly to your virtual event’s landing page, and use shortened trackable URLs and visuals to drive organic traffic from social media.

Putting budget aside for paid search and promoted social posts will allow you to target your audience persona by age, job title, and geographical location. Be creative with promoted social posts to ensure they stand out from the crowd.

Analytics offer insights on ad and social post performances based on various key metrics, so you can keep improving marketing messaging and design, and only invest money into websites and ad formats that drive relevant traffic to your event’s registration page.

If you support live chat on your website, you can also use the pop-up message there to promote your event and field any questions about the event.

Lastly, featuring a short video promoting your event on your website’s homepage can go a long way toward dialing up registrations.

6. Get Your Sponsors and Speakers Involved

Collaborating with sponsors can be instrumental in accelerating your marketing efforts.

Discuss joint promotion ideas, email campaigns, social media takeovers, and other ideas to reach new online audiences. After all, it’s also in your sponsors’ best interest that your virtual event attracts relevant attendees so their sponsorship goals are met.

Work closely with your sponsors to ensure they get the messaging right, supplying them with visuals social media copy, logos, and other design assets. After all, the better the marketing material they promote, the greater the results.

Don’t forget to enlist the help of your speakers in promoting their involvement as well. Speakers will want to generate interest within their own networks and can help create buzz around the event or a particular session.

For speakers, you can supply event promotion materials just like sponsors as well as personalized session marketing content to share across their social media channels.

7. Use Email Marketing Strategically

The one we all saw coming – event email marketing. The trick to making your email marketing effective is ensuring you aren’t sending the same copy to everyone on your list.

If possible, personalize your messaging by segmenting your email marketing based on your different event registration types and target personas. Using this method, you can also see which segment requires additional promotion and tailor your pre-registration email marketing accordingly.

Remember to create virtual attendee emails that are consistent with your virtual event landing page, including voice, verbiage, logos, and color schemes.

When building your event email marketing strategy, think about:

  • Target recipients
  • Number of emails to send and delays between each
  • A compelling subject line that’s unique to each email
  • Your call-to-action

8. Tap Into PR

For virtual events that are primarily B2B in nature, a timely press release sent to the right trade magazines and websites can be an effective way to get the word out quickly.

When composing your press release, remember to depict the value proposition of the event, cite who the intended audience is, mention the date and time of the event, highlight any sponsors/speakers worth mentioning, and include photos and quotes to help the story circulate.

Of course, don’t forget to link directly to your event landing page so you can drive referral traffic. Beyond extended coverage, online press releases are also shared by readers and journalists on social media channels, allowing you to reap the benefits of that exposure.

9. Offer Incentives for Attending

For some attendees, the event itself might not be a big enough draw to get them to commit, or they may forget it’s happening altogether. To capture their interest and keep them engaged, think about offering small incentives to sweeten the pot!

Some “bonuses” you could offer attendees might include:

  • Access to exclusive content for registering by a certain date, including eBooks, webinars, etc.
  • Prizes, content access, or experiences for sharing your event on social media
  • Reduced registration cost for referrals, first-time attendees, veteran attendees, etc.
  • 1:1 call with sponsor, speaker, or someone at your company
  • Swag for the first X number of attendees to register

10. Create an Online Community

The best thing about virtual events? The ability to bring together people from all over the world! To help attendees feel connected before, during, and after your event, give them a place to meet virtually and discuss their pain points, solutions, and insights.

This will help keep the conversation going and help attendees engage more with your brand and other like-minded professionals.

Events Online Community

How Can I Measure the Success of My Virtual Event Marketing Efforts?

The success of your marketing efforts is, in many ways, tied to the success of your event. To measure the success of your virtual event marketing efforts, consider these metrics:

  1. Registration and Attendance: The number of people who register for and attend your event is a clear indicator of the event’s success and should be a key metric in measuring your marketing efforts.
  2. Engagement: Measuring engagement includes metrics from before, during, and after your event. This can include the number of attendees in a session or breakout, how many questions were asked during Q&As, how many times a resource is downloaded, and more. This gives you an idea of how much people interact with your content and how well it resonates.
  3. Social Media Metrics: Tracking social media shares, likes, comments, and followers can paint a picture of how well your social media campaigns are driving awareness and engagement.
  4. Surveys and Feedback: Asking attendees directly for their feedback can help you understand what went well, how they found out about your event, why they chose to attend, and which of your marketing tactics was most effective.
  5. ROI: Meeting your ROI goals is a crucial part of running a successful event. By measuring your success here, you can make informed decisions about your future marketing strategies.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing Virtual Events

No virtual event marketing strategy is foolproof, but there are a few key elements that can go wrong. Watch out for these as you build your own strategy:

  1. Lack of Audience Targeting: Virtual events allow you to reach a huge audience. Be careful that you don’t reach too far, though. Neglecting your target audience can ensure you have no audience.
  2. Poor Production Value: A virtual event cannot be successful without high-quality production using a platform that’s built for virtual events. No matter how great your marketing, your event has to perform.
  3. Limited Engagement Opportunities: Virtual events can feel isolating and one-sided. To Make it a success from the beginning, ensure there’s ample opportunity for attendees to engage with your content, your brand, and each other.
  4. No Follow-Up: What’s the point of hosting an event if you don’t follow up? Make sure you have a solid post-event marketing strategy in place so you can continue building relationships and maintaining engagement beyond the event.

Looking for ways to boost your marketing efforts? Check out these event promotion ideas!

Hope Swedeen

Hope Salvatori

Hope is a Senior Content Marketing Associate who has been with Cvent for more than two years. She has 8 years of experience producing content for corporations, small businesses, associations, nonprofits, and universities. As a content professional, she has created content for a wide range of industries, including meetings and events, government and defense, education, health, and more.

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