As pc/nametag’s digital marketing guru, Brooke is passionate about creating content that connects and converts. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games and ghost hunting in haunted locations around Wisconsin.
It’s no secret that planning and executing a successful event takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, and budget. With all the moving pieces involved in planning, it's overwhelming to think that you also have to put together an event promotion strategy.
There are plenty of ways to promote your event these days, from social media marketing, to affiliate marketing, to paid digital advertising and more. But one tried and true marketing tactic, while not being the most cutting edge, remains one of the most reliable ways to promote your event and communicate important information to your attendees: email marketing!
As a self-described email marketing enthusiast, today I hope to give you all the tools you need to put together an amazing email marketing campaign to promote your events. Whether you’re an event marketer, event promoter, or a planner who’s somehow managing to do it all, read on to find tips, tricks, examples, and a timeline for your event email marketing strategy.
Navigate This Post:
- Choosing an email marketing software
- Event email marketing timeline
- 8 steps to amazing marketing emails
- Conclusion and further reading
How to choose the best email marketing software
The best email marketing software will allow you to automate your email sends, add personalization based on contact data, perform A/B testing, and more. Some platforms I’ve used and loved in the past include HubSpot, MailChimp and Klaviyo, all of which allow you to create a scheduled email marketing campaign that will get people registering for your event in droves.
If you don’t already have a tool like this in place, try to find one that includes some, if not all, of these features:
- Email automation
- Email personalization
- Drag and drop editor
- Free, editable templates
- A/B testing
- Analytics and reporting
- Dynamic send times
- Mobile optimization
An example of certain email metrics provided by HubSpot.
Why should I use email automation?
Organizing your email strategy as an automated workflow will make it easier for you to visualize your entire campaign as a whole. It will also allow you to create multiple paths based on how prospects interact with your emails and other marketing content.
For instance, if someone registers for your event right away, you likely don’t want them to receive future emails about discounted ticket pricing. Similarly, if it’s a month before your event and someone still hasn’t registered, you don’t want to send them specific details about your event, like the WiFi password or parking information.
It’s best to create at least two paths for your contacts to take: one for those who have registered, and one for those who have not, with an easy way for contacts to move from one path to the other once they complete their registration. This way, your contacts will get the most relevant information at all points of your event promotion cycle.
Who should I be emailing?
This isn’t a blog about list building (but if you want us to write one, reach out to me on LinkedIn 😉), so I’ll keep this short and to-the-point.
If you’re wondering who to include in your email marketing strategy, here are a few ideas:
- Attendee lists from past events
- Customers and prospects of the organization hosting the event
- Contacts who have requested information via a form fill
- Contacts who have downloaded content in the past (I.e., ebooks, webinars, etc.)
- Contacts who have explicitly opted in to receive emails from you
Your email list can include contacts from many sources. While it may be tempting to purchase or rent a list, I would not recommend it. The data in these lists is often obtained via not-so-ethical means (I.e., data leaks, data mining, etc.), and sending to these contacts can do everything from harming your deliverability to putting you at odds with international data protection acts.
Your event email marketing campaign timeline (with examples)
Now that you have the tools you need to get started, how do you decide what to send and when to send it? I analyzed the email strategies of some of the largest conferences in the U.S. to come up with some best practices for building your email timeline.
Keep in mind that each event is different, and it’s completely fine to adjust this schedule to make it work better for your specific meeting, conference or convention. In fact, personalizing your emails to suit your target audience is one of the easiest ways to improve your long-term success.
Pre-event Emails to Send
8-12 Months Out
- Event Announcement Email
Introduce the conference and highlight key benefits of attending. Include dates, location, early-bird pricing information, and social media links.
- Social Proof Email
Detail the value of attending your event with social proof. Build excitement by including testimonials, success stories, imagery and video from previous events.
An "event announcement" email from UserTesting for their Human Insight Summit.
An "event announcement and benefits" email from SparkToro for their SparkTogether event.
5-8 Months Out
- "Convince Your Boss” Email
Offer a “convince your boss” or conference justification letter template to help potential attendees get approval from their management to attend your event.
- Giveaway or Contest Email
Run a simple giveaway or contest that potential attendees can easily enter to win free admission to your event. Provide terms and conditions.
- Key Announcements Email
This is a great time to announce early confirmed speakers, highlight your host city, put a spotlight on event sponsors, and continue to promote your ongoing early bird pricing.
For those already registered, highlight best nearby hotels and restaurants. Encourage them to book early for the best experience.
A "convince your boss" email from HubSpot for their annual INBOUND conference.
An "early bird pricing announcement" and "host city feature" from reallygoodemails.com for the UNSPAM email marketing conference.
3-5 Months Out
- Last Chance for Early Bird Pricing Email
Now is the time to bring early bird pricing to an end. Be clear that admission rates will go up on a specific date to add a sense of urgency.
- Keynote Speaker Announcement Email
Once your keynote speaker is confirmed, drive excitement with a well-designed announcement email. Include the speaker’s credentials, headshot, and hype them up. For those not yet registered, create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) in the copy.
- More Speaker Announcement Emails
Keep announcing high-profile speakers as they are confirmed. Continue creating a sense of FOMO for those who haven’t registered. They don’t want to miss these amazing sessions!
A "last chance for early bird pricing" email for the Adobe Summit conference.
A "keynote speaker announcement" email for the Guru 2023 email marketing virtual conference.
2-3 Months Out
- Finalized Session Schedule Email
Release the full session schedule once it’s available. Encourage non-registrants to browse and “see for themselves” what they’d be missing. For registered attendees, encourage them to build their personal schedule.
- Bonus Event and Meet-up Email
Highlight any after-hours events, networking opportunities, parties and meet-ups that will be happening before, during and after your event hours. For those who have registered, include information on how to sign up for these events ahead of time.
A "bonus event" email promoting an after hours comedy event at the INBOUND conference.
A "finalized agenda" email for the INBOUND conference.
1-2 Months Out
- Last-minute Flash Sale Email
If many tickets are still available, consider offering a discounted rate for last-minute registrations. Include terms and be specific about the date and time the sale will end.
A "flash sale" email promoting special pricing for the Digital Summit marketing events.
A Black Friday "flash sale" email promoting special pricing for the DMO Advanced event hosted by the Digital Marketers Organization.
1 Week Out
- Last-minute Details Email
For attendees, provide information on how to check in, how to download the event app, and who to reach out to with questions. For those who have not registered, let them know that they can still register on site, or that on-demand sessions will be available after the conclusion of the event.
Emails to Send During Your Event
The Day Before
- Day-of Details Email
Provide key day-of event details, including where to park, how to navigate the venue, the WiFi password, hashtags and other social sharing information, and anything else that needs to be reiterated from previous emails.
A "day-of details" email to virtual attendees of the INBOUND conference.
Day 1 Through the End of the Event
- Daily Event Highlight Email
Create excitement around the day’s sessions. If possible, show the best moments from the previous day, social media highlights from attendees, and so on. Encourage hashtag usage and social sharing. Highlight exhibition floor hours.
- Schedule Change Emails
Be sure to have an email template ready to go in case of last-minute schedule changes or session cancelations so you can push this information to attendees in a timely manner.
A "daily event highlight" email promoting high-profile sessions taking place on Day 3 of the INBOUND conference.
A "schedule change" email announcing a speaker cancellation and replacement during the INBOUND conference.
Post-event Emails to Send
1 Week After
- Post-event Survey Email
Thank attendees for coming and ask them to fill out a post-event survey to get feedback that will help you create an even better event next year.
A "post-event survey" email sent to attendees of the INBOUND conference.
2 Weeks After
- Event Recap Email
Provide a recap of the most memorable highlights from your event. Include quotes from speakers, social media highlights, event photography, or a compilation video set to fun music. End by announcing early bird pricing for next year.
An "event recap" email sent to attendees of the INBOUND conference.
3 Weeks After
- On-demand Access Email
Provide access to on-demand session recordings, downloadable resources and presentation slides from the event. For those who couldn’t attend the event, offer limited-time access to these resources for a fee.
An "on-demand access" email promoting on-demand sessions from the Collaborate event hosted by Wrike.
An "on-demand access" email promoting an online recording of the Employee Communications & Culture Conference hosted by Ragan.
|Tip: Make life easier for yourself by tying in your email marketing timeline with your event’s social media marketing timeline. Posting similar announcements across your marketing channels at the same time will help ensure key deadlines and information stay top of mind for potential attendees.|
Now that you have a better idea of when and what to email your attendees and prospects, it’s time to start creating your emails. If you’re not a seasoned email marketing expert, this may sound overwhelming, but don’t worry! If you follow our step-by-step process, your emails will be the stars of your contacts’ inboxes in no time.
How to create amazing marketing emails in 8 steps
1. Decide which email KPIs are important
KPIs (key performance indicators) are metrics you track to determine the success of your marketing efforts. While KPIs are an important facet of any marketing strategy, not every metric is as important as the next.
Typically, we look at open rate and CTR (click-through rate) when assessing the success of an email, but these metrics tend to be inversely related. As your open rate increases, your CTR is likely to decrease, and vice versa.
So, which KPI matters more to you? If the main goal of your email is to drive sign-ups, you might decide that the most important KPIs for that email are CTR and form fills on your landing page. However, if the contact has already registered for your event and you’ve moved on to building excitement, open rate and read time might be better indicators of success.
Assess each email in your strategy and figure out what KPIs make the most sense for what you’re trying to accomplish. Most email marketing software platforms will help you track these metrics.
2. Write a catchy subject line
Every email needs a great subject line. You may have designed the most gorgeous, engaging email of all time, but if your subject line doesn’t convince your contacts to open that beauty up, no one will ever see it.
Here are my best tips for writing a click-worthy subject line:
- Keep it short: Try to stay under 10 words and 60 characters. You want as much of the subject line visible in your contact’s inbox as possible.
- Build a sense of urgency: Phrases like “Don’t miss out”, “Hurry”, or “Today only” perform well in subject lines.
- Generate intrigue: Using “What If” phrases (“What if I told you...”) or “secretive” phrases (“Don’t tell anyone”, “For your eyes only”) will leave readers wanting to open your email and learn more.
- Use emojis: A well-placed emoji can make your email stand out in someone’s inbox. Emojis that convey a sense of urgency perform well (Try one of these: ⏰ 📅 ⏳), but you can use more unique or topical emojis to get their attention too.
- Make it personal: Using a contact’s first name in the subject line is okay but try thinking outside the box. Can you personalize based on job role (“For marketing managers only”)? Location (“Need a break from the cold?”)? Something else?
- Keep it conversational: Make sure your subject line doesn’t feel too stuffy. Generally, capitalizing only the first word performs best. And don’t be afraid to use an exclamation point!
- Seek validation: Use a free tool like subjectline.com to get quick feedback and advice on your subject line.
|Writer's Block Hack: Struggling to come up with catchy subject lines? ChatGPT is a great tool for event marketers that can help kickstart your creativity and get the ideas flowing.|
An example of how you can use ChatGPT to brainstorm email subject lines.
3. Personalize your emails to increase engagement
You may think to yourself, “I’m already personalizing my emails! Their first name is right there in the subject line!” but hold on! While it’s great to include someone’s first name in the email to make it feel a bit more personal, there are much better ways you can cater an email to your audience.
For instance, let’s say you’re hosting a business conference with different tracks for marketing, sales, and customer service professionals. If you have information on the job titles or roles of your contacts, you can personalize your emails with this information by highlighting speakers and sessions that are most relevant to them.
Consider adding multiple variations of the same email that trigger based on the contact’s job role to make your emails even more relevant to your potential attendees, and in turn drive more sign-ups for your event.
Here are some other ways you can try personalizing your emails:
- Location: Change copy based on where your contacts are located. For instance, if your event is in Las Vegas in February, encourage your Midwestern contacts to get out of the cold for a few days to attend your event (as a Wisconsinite, this would work on me)
- Seniority: Consider whether your contact is an entry level employee, manager, or executive level. Does your event include sessions that would appeal more to someone at an executive level within the company, or a networking event that might be great for people just getting started in their careers?
- Browsing History: Do you have insight into which pages of your event website someone is visiting? If so, use this data to your advantage by showing your potential attendees what they are already looking for.
4. Keep your branding consistent and attractive
Branding is a huge part of any effective email marketing strategy. Ideally, when one of your contacts opens an email you send, they will know immediately that the email is from your brand or associated with your event.
You may have noticed I've used a lot of email examples from INBOUND, HubSpot’s annual marketing conference. Part of this is because it's an event I've attended in the past, so I have a lot of examples in my inbox! But, I also think INBOUND does a great job of making sure each of their emails are cohesive in branding by using a specific color palette and geometric pattern as an accent in the design.
Make sure you use the same color palette and similar design elements across all the emails in your event email marketing campaign to increase brand recognition and give your event a more professional appearance. Our team loves using Canva to template-ize email graphics that also match our brand guidelines.
Not a graphic designer? Canva can help make brand consistency easy.
5. Use clear and actionable messaging with CTAs
While it’s great to give your potential attendees multiple ways to engage with your emails, it’s best practice to make sure each email has one primary purpose, or CTA (call to action).
For instance, you might send an email highlighting your event’s host city with links to best restaurants and hotels to stay at, historical information about the city, and so on, but most likely the main purpose of this email is still to drive more sign-ups for your event.
Make sure that any large buttons or images within the email are directing to whatever the primary purpose is (I.e., a sign-up page, your event schedule, etc.), but don’t be afraid to include additional in-line text links to web pages and other content that supports the primary message.
6. Send your email at the optimal time
A big factor in ensuring your emails perform as well as you want is to make sure you send them at the right time of day, on the right days of the week. The ideal send time may change depending on what type of event you’re planning.
If you’re hosting a convention that people will attend in their free time, sending on a weekend might be a great idea, as your potential attendees are less likely to be distracted with work. If you’re hosting a business conference that will be attended by professionals on behalf of their company, sending during the week is ideal.
Personally, I like to send pc/nametag emails out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Open rates go down on Mondays and Fridays since more people are likely to be out of office. I also like to send early in the morning (between 8 and 9 am) for the best click-through rates, and around lunchtime (between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm) for the best open rates.
Make sure your marketing automation tool supports dynamic send times so you’re able to schedule an email to send at a specific time in each person’s respective time zone. This can drastically improve your open rates.
|Tip: Reference OutcomeMedia’s Email Marketing Calendar to get a good idea of the best and worst days of the year to send out emails for both B2B and B2C organizations.|
7. Optimize your email content using A/B testing
I can give you all the best email marketing tips I know, but truthfully, every audience is different. The best way to learn what performs best with your potential event attendees is to test, test, test
A/B testing is a staple when it comes to email marketing. Depending on your marketing automation platform, you should be able to test two versions of an email to see which one performs better. Test your variants on a sample size of your contact list, and whichever version “wins” can be sent out to the rest of your list or added to your automated workflow to maximize engagement.
Make sure you only make one significant change at a time between your two email variants. If you change more than one thing, like button color and text, you won’t be able to tell which of your changes made a positive impact once your test is over and the winning email is selected.
An example of how an A/B test is set up in the HubSpot Marketing Hub.
8. Review and test your emails on multiple devices!
Every email in your campaign is drafted, personalized, designed beautifully, and has a killer subject line. You’re ready to launch, right? ...WRONG! Perhaps the most important step is to have multiple colleagues look over your emails.
Send your reviewers a test email and have them click every image and link to ensure everything is going to the right location, double check for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure the overall layout is appealing and easy to follow.
Remember that your emails should look good on any device, and on any email platform. I like to test every marketing email we send on Outlook and Gmail using both a laptop and my phone before scheduling them.
Remember though, mistakes do happen. There have been many times throughout my marketing career that I’ve sent an email and realized afterwards that a link was wrong, an image was broken, or that I included a promo code that I forgot to set up on the website. After the panic subsides, I remind myself that it’s not the end of the world.
However, doing your due diligence during the review process will minimize mistakes and put your mind at ease.
Don’t overthink your event email marketing strategy
The easiest way to put together a great email for your event? Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Hopefully I’ve given you some tips that will get you inspired to knock your email marketing strategy out of the park for your next event, but not every email will be a banger right away, and that’s okay.
Make sure you continue to test, analyze your metrics, edit, and re-test until you get the results you want. And don’t be like me - remember to set up a promo code on your website before you send out an email about it!
Looking for more tips on how to promote your upcoming event? Check out these posts:
- Event Marketing with ChatGPT: The AI Toolkit for Meeting Planners
- Social Media Event Marketing: Tips and a Timeline for Your Posts
- 11 Event Promotion Ideas to Market Your Meeting and Attract Attendees