5 Tips to Boost Attendance and to Maximize ROI

Events are switching from in-person to virtual. Many brands are being left wondering how to adjust their marketing strategies, especially when it comes to pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. For example, ask yourself, am I ready to plan a virtual event? These five tips will help you navigate this relatively new terrain.

Tip #1: Your Event = Lead Magnet

It’s possible to build-in a higher ticket cost with in person events. Attendees are deriving value from physically being at that event. But, with virtual events, the approach is different. Today, brands are hosting free virtual events, then capitalizing on specific revenue opportunities.

“In these virtual events, the initial ticket is now something of a lead magnet,” says Karl Boehm, Chief Strategist at Spiral Marketing. “As soon as somebody converts by raising their hand to say, ‘Yes, I’m interested,’ then you can say, ‘Great. Since you’re interested, here’s a very low-cost upsell, such as a recording of the event.’”

The quick change from attendee to actual lead gives you an opportunity to advertise a desirable event at little to no cost. You’ll see a return through upsell and cross-sell opportunities that will come up after you’ve gotten the attendee in the virtual room.

If you build in a second tier of event pricing, you can also offer VIP access to Q&As with the speakers, an exclusive Facebook group, a breakout session via Zoom, or some other limited opportunity not available to all attendees.

“A lot of these virtual events have pretty intense Slack and Discord channels,” says Boehm. “There are so many opportunities for the partners and other people involved to engage and to build the value so the event can be even bigger and more impactful.”

These kinds of exclusive features can also be enticing elements to promote within your PPC messaging.

Tip #2: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Similar to in-person events, the core ad messaging for your virtual events is still going to include the features, advantages, and benefits of the event. For example, ads will include:

  • Notable speakers, partners, or brands involved in the event.
  • Interesting topics covered.
  • Freebies provided to attendees (content, materials, swag, certifications, or other items of value).

Be direct and be clear about your target audience for the event. “PPC is as straightforward as your segmentation strategy,” says Boehm. “If you’re talking to a specific niche, get their attention immediately through your PPC messaging.”

Tip #3: Segmentation Is Everything

Segmentation is critical to a PPC campaign. If you don’t Get your ads in front of the right people. Virtual events, though, mean you can look beyond the standard demographics—age, gender, location, income level—to target more accurate, more personalized, hyper-segmented audiences.

“In this digital era, we have the opportunity to target based on lookalike audiences, and we can do that in more powerful and accessible ways than ever before,” says Boehm.

Competitors are an excellent place to start. Find a competitive event, and create a lookalike audience based on that. Some tactics and tools include:

  • Finding competitors on YouTube.
  • Determining competitors’ brand keywords through Google Ads.
  • Creating custom audiences in Facebook based on page preferences.

If your competitors are marketing to the exact same niche, creating a lookalike audience is an efficient, effective way to narrow down your targeting and enjoy better conversion rates.

“Once you’ve captured the exact niche you want to target from your competitors, then go deeper. Target those who are more or less affluent, more active, more engaged. Whatever the specific characteristics are that will resonate better with your brand or event,” says Boehm. “This will earn you not just customers but the most active, advocating, and championing customers.”

Tip #4: Give Yourself Enough Time to Plan

When promoting virtual events, many brands fall down in one area: not allowing themselves adequate time for planning. Because attendees don’t need to make travel arrangements, promotion times for virtual events do tend to be more short lived. That doesn’t mean the planning timeline should be cut short, though.

“For everything to work well with your PPC campaign, you need to give yourself more time on the planning side,” says Boehm. “The better planned out your campaigns, the more effective they will be. That means giving yourself time to come up with a really elegant way to execute.”

Starting the planning and promotion process six months out is a good benchmark for the average event. Three months can be workable if you’re in a rush, but anything less than that, brands start to see diminishing returns.

“We’ve found this time and time again over the last ten years. Customers come to us saying they have an event in a couple of weeks and they really want to turn up their marketing. It’s kind of too late for us to get involved at that point,” says Boehm. “We’ve learned that if we’re approached within less than seven weeks to the event, we’re doing a disservice by jumping on. It just doesn’t give enough time to develop the appropriate materials and understanding to execute.”

While working on your timeline, plan also for a higher frequency of outreach. People attending an in-person event are logistically committed. (Flights are booked. Hotels are reserved.) It’s easier to lose a virtual event attendee, so keeping the excitement level high through outreach is key.

Tip #5: Competitors Aren’t Your Enemies

When promoting a virtual event, don’t think of competitors as “you versus them.” Especially when your PPC ads are live on social media, you have a great opportunity to transform competitors into partners who are actively involved in your promotion efforts.

“Consider giving your competitors some budget and incentive to promote the event themselves on their social channels,” says Boehm. “If they act as your champions, it gives your event expert word-of-mouth, which only increases the impact.”