event email marketingIn the era of social media networking, it may feel like email marketing has gone the way of the dinosaur, just like snail mail. This is absolutely untrue. Savvy event and meeting professionals rely upon email marketing to build awareness about an event, bump up registration numbers, and most of all, engage attendees.

If you don’t believe in the effectiveness of email marketing, it may be time to scrutinize your email methods to determine if they could use an overhaul. The power of the PC has moved beyond desktops to perpetually-connected handheld devices, so email continues to be a solid and crucial method of event communication and promotion. Here are six surefire ways to boost attendance at your event, measurably improve ROI, and gather marketing intelligence through email marketing.

1. Email Early, and Often

You wouldn’t tell people about your wedding just a month before the event. Make good use of the “Save the Date” function in your marketing arsenal by sending an email announcement to your potential event attendees. You’re dealing with busy people, so don’t hesitate to spread the word six months in advance of your event so participants will reserve time on their calendars. And don’t neglect to poke the people who overlook that initial Save the Date. Send out multiple invitations to laggards to make sure your message is being received.

2. Segment Lists Wisely and Use Strategic Messaging

People are more likely to respond to email marketing when it’s a well-targeted pitch. Once you’ve collected information from your attendees, it’s time to segment them – lumping everyone together is a surefire way to missed opportunities. Enhance your email communications by separating participants by company relationship (client, customer, sponsor, partner, etc.), geographical area, even gender, if it applies and is appropriate for your event. Even better, filter your list by level of engagement, separating out those who have registered, those who have abandoned your registration page, and those who have yet to take action — craft messages and offers specific to each audience.

Be creative! You can develop a great rapport with your attendees by employing strategic messaging: Highlight event sessions that match an attendee’s indicated areas of interest; offer early registration incentives to past participants; and organize post-event networking opportunities among participants who are local to each other.

3. Test, Test, Test!

Email provides an unprecedented ability to test, measure, and compare the effectiveness of variables such as subject lines, offers, timing, and more. A/B split testing, commonly used by email marketers, can help you determine which of two different email variations will be most effective. It involves sending two versions of an email – differing in one variable such as subject line, design, offer, or “from name” – to a small sample of your list and determining which version performs better.  The higher-performer is sent to all remaining subscribers. Testing can help you uncover sometimes surprising differences in response rates which can even filter down to specific demographic, geographic, and industry profiles.  

4. Optimize for Devices

An easily overlooked element of email marketing is neglecting to optimize your communications for every possible mobile device and computer. Tablet, laptop, iPhone… each screen is different in dimension and you want to make sure your screen doesn’t get skipped over in one glance. There are simple techniques that you can implement in your emails – such as offering a “view with mobile device” link or sizing your call-to-action buttons appropriately – to give your on-the-go attendees an opportunity to view your event information without scrolling, squishing, or distortion.

5. Integrate Social Media

Email marketing and social media go hand-in-hand. Make sure every email communication includes links to your social networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and the like. Highlight the most popular 140 characters of late, or encourage your email recipients to interact with you. Real-time engagement with attendees is half of your event-planning battle – it opens up a quick and easy supply of information beyond what you offer in your emails. Post reviews from last year’s event on Facebook. Have a featured speaker Tweet about an exclusive, must-attend session at your event. Event success is all about proliferating information in a multitude of places – and it starts with emails.

6. Solicit Post-Event Feedback

Purchase an item at your favorite store and a few weeks later they’ll email you to get your review. Do exactly the same following your event and keep the connection alive with attendees even after your event has ended. Follow-up via email shortly after your meeting or conference and simply ask for feedback. You’ll learn what they loved and didn’t like, while also gathering intelligence about respondents and their preferences so you can use that to inform your next event.

As you communicate with your audience via email, pay attention to when you’re getting the most positive results, the biggest response, and the highest number of sign-ups – and when you’re not. Take note of the tactics you used so you can determine what marketing methods are effective and which are underperforming.