Silverpop - Guest Blog: etouches on Using Nurture Campaigns to Drive Event Attendance
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Guest Blog: etouches on Using Nurture Campaigns to Drive Event Attendance

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
11 October 2011

This month, I’m pleased to have Suzanne Carawan, vice president of global marketing at Silverpop partner etouches, contribute a blog post about using nurture campaigns to drive event attendance. We’re always looking to pass along lead-nurturing tips for more strongly engaging prospects, and in this post Suzanne shares several excellent ideas for creating nurture emails that help ratchet up event registrations:

[caption id="attachment_2430" align="alignright" width="83" caption="Suzanne Carawan, VP global marketing, etouches"][/caption]

No marketer wants to publicly admit our true intent: to create such a compelling message that it will jolt prospects into paying attention. “I have offers, people! I have special activities! Great prices! Time is of the essence, so stop playing hard to get, Mr. Email Recipient, and pay attention!” (Sheesh! They ignore me as if I didn’t take the time to personalize their email with their own name, variable content and special URLs.)

I call myself a reality marketer. We’re dealing with humans here. They’re unpredictably predictable, fickle, finicky and fractured in focus, finances and facts. They buy on impulse. They open or don’t open email largely on a subconscious basis, sleepwalking through their overstuffed email inboxes. Nurture campaigns are critical, then, to see if we can cut through the daze and get them engaged.

So what do we marketers typically do? We send discounts and freebies and giveaways. We try to entice, cajole, bribe and beg. This is hard enough with actual, tangible products, but it’s a whole other challenge when the center of your marketing push is increasing event registrations. I believe that nurture campaigns are an absolutely critical component of your event marketing plan for several reasons—the biggest being that we can be honest about our intentions.

Event marketing is hard. We’re pushing something that’s finite, typically only available to certain people at a certain price and geographically bound to a particular location. Unfortunately, marketers make it harder for themselves because they focus on these aspects of the event, and often their email campaigns are built around expiring prices, scarcity of space and fear of being left out. Using nurture campaigns the right way—to actually provide that extra-tender, loving care in a gentle, non-intrusive way—can ratchet up your event attendance as well as the level of engagement that attendees feel during and post-event.

“So, Ms. Reality Marketer,” you say, “What’s this so-called “right way” to do nurture campaigns with events? While this is a broader topic than can be covered in just one blog post, here are my key takeaways for creating successful nurture campaigns that result in event registrations:

1) Year-Long Effort with Skip Periodicity Cycles: Forget the part of “campaign” that has a defined time period and just think of this as a continuous stakeholder update on an event that will take place at a future time and place. Send out emails throughout the year, but don’t put them into a regular newsletter-like cycle. Once-a-month might be too aggressive. Mix it up and make it unexpected. Send one email and then wait seven weeks. Send another and then wait three. Watch your stats and adjust, aligning email delivery with seasons, holidays, world events, etc.

2) Real News, Right Timing: Reality marketing, remember? Don’t fake news about the event or mask the fact that you’re really trying to push an early bird discount rate or show sponsors that their logo was in the email. Instead, send messages when you have something meaningful to say. Everybody sends a ton of email, so even the snappiest of headlines, the reddest of reds and the free iPads quickly turn monotonous without content of real value.

Events are brimming with content. From speaker backgrounds and the topics that will be covered to the history of the location and the people that are attending, events have all the sociological and anthropological makings of a great National Geographic article. Unfortunately, few event marketers delve into these topics and put what I call eventoids into their emails. Nurture campaigns should absolutely be built around this type of interesting, “Who knew?” content that leaves the reader saying “hmm ... interesting.”

Don’t get greedy and slap all your discounts and promos right next to the interesting eventoid, though, or you’ll undermine your whole campaign and lose Mr. Email Recipient’s attention. Leave them musing. Next time they see an email, they’ll be more likely to open it because they remember there was something bemusing or enlightening inside last time.

3) Links’R’Us: If I get Mr. Email Recipient to open my nurture email, my all-about-me marketing instinct is probably to open fire with all of my promos and features at once: “Take that, Mr. Email Recipient! I got you! You will now succumb to my awesome email marketing skills and engage in all of my calls-to-action!”

Don’t do it. Fight the power within, and step back and breathe. What you want to do is provide a lot of links—helpful links, NOT necessarily call-to-action links—that again are of interest and possibly add value to Mr. Email Recipient’s day.

Don’t make recipients work. If you want to share interesting info, provide links to other sites or use social-sharing tools to allow them to take their own action (not yours). Let them browse. Let them click. Use your reports to watch for not just their response rates to your promos and offers, but what’s of interest to Mr. Email Recipient. Maybe your event is located near the city aquarium and you provided content on the featured exhibit on dolphins. Include photos and stories (and links!) to dolphins and see what Mr. Email Recipient does.

4) Attitude of Gratitude: Instead of pushing discounts, why not tell Mr. Email Recipient how thankful you are to be noticed? Why not thank him for his previous interactions, purchases, etc.? Why not provide a discount to the recipients that open your emails instead of constantly lowering the price or upping the sweet incentives for those that ignore you?

Build a loyal following by recognizing those that are loyal. This works great in events because you can see a clear link between who opens your emails and who goes on to register, add optional activities, visit the event website and participate in networking directories. Praise these people because they’ll tell their friends via word of mouth or, even better, the all powerful “Share” button.  In subsequent emails, include shout-outs to particular registrants or the one special Mr. Email Recipient who was the top sharer of the dolphin story link. Send the free aquarium guest pass to him and then publish this in your event email to showcase how much fun he’s going to have if (and when) he attends the event.

So that’s it. Four takeaways. You were expecting five, right? Of course, isn’t that so marketing? Top 5, Top 10, #1, etc. but I gave you four because those are the ones that I think really count and make the difference. Four takeaways when you expected five—no fluff, filler or fakery.

Try nurture campaigns in this way for your event marketing and fight the urge to bombard your email recipients with, “It’s not too late” and “Don’t miss” emails. I promise you a whole new email marketing reality will emerge!

Thanks to Suzanne and etouches for sharing their expertise on using nurture campaigns to drive event attendance. For more tips from etouches on better engaging prospects, check out its Slideshare presentation, The Engagement Valley: How to Minimize Post-Event Dips in Engagement.”


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