Marketers are spoilt for choice these days with an ever-increasing array of media channels, tools and technology at their fingertips to reach target audiences. The good news for the events industry is that 41% consider live events to be the most critical marketing channel in achieving business outcomes (out of nine possible channels), according to a survey of over 1,000 marketers by event software company Bizzabo.
But what’s the best channel for marketing live events? Websites, emails, PR, SEO, Google Ads, social media, mobile apps and attendee advocates can all be used to get the message out to potential attendees. Of these, email marketing is considered the best (40%), followed by personal relationships (15%) and earned social media (11%), according to Bizzabo’s research.
Alon Waks, Bizzabo’s VP of marketing, believes email is “absolutely critical” for marketers. Email marketing has many advantages – it’s cheap, requires relatively little resources and can have a wide reach. According to Radicati Group, more than 3.7 billion people worldwide use email – almost 54% of the world’s population.
“With its accessibility, it is an obvious channel for a greater personalised digital experience that brings with it a direct one-to-one relationship between a brand or event and its customers or attendees,” says Joycelyn Hoh, director, event solutions and design at BCD Meetings & Events Singapore.
But not all marketers are fans of email. Kestrel Lee, executive creative director at Freeman China, argues that “email is not relevant in its current format as it was designed for PC-reading driven by intrusive CRM or lead generation direct marketing tactics”, adding that most email formats are not design-responsive, making them hard to read on other devices.
Sandeep Nagpal, VP of marketing at Cvent, agrees that emails must be mobile-friendly. He says: “By 2021, the number of Asia-Pacific mobile users will approach 1.81 billion – so take a mobile-first approach for your email template design.”
Email marketing’s biggest advantages are also its biggest challenges. The fact that it’s cheap and easy means it is often overused and done badly. Our inboxes are inundated daily with event invites and marketing messages that we delete without reading.
“Emails are creating a lot of noise in event follow-up. Attendees inboxes are flooded with emails immediately after events, but they may not all be relevant to the recipient and it gets overwhelming,” says Bizzabo’s Waks.
Relevance and personalisation are both key to cutting through the noise and ensuring emails generate results. “Personalisation can increase email marketing engagement and response by 50% – a worthwhile reason to invest the time and effort,” says Nagpal. “True personalisation goes beyond starting the email with the recipient’s first name (that should be a given), but by offering content that addresses the recipient’s unique needs based on their industry or role.”
Hoh agrees: “Having the right measures and analytics combined with the right marketing software or tool helps bring the right content to the right audience.”
Data, data, data
Data-driven technology can help to personalise messages and send unique content by grouping contacts based on demographics like location, age or specific interests. Waks adds that aesthetically impressive emails are just as important.
Anna Patterson, VP and managing director at George P. Johnson Singapore, believes a playful interface is also important. “A couple of our clients are incorporating voice-user interfaces into emails. You can also use video, AI or AR to make emails more engaging for younger audiences. The email promoting the event should be as engaging an experience as the live event itself,” she says.
Another ongoing challenge for marketers is data privacy, which has come to the forefront since the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. “From the Equifax breach that affected 143 million consumers to the Uber hack that exposed the personal data of 57 million users, it seems that no company is completely safe from the perils of mass information theft,” says Waks. “Despite these risks, event marketers should not be deterred from embracing data-driven solutions as there are too many benefits.”
Nagpal agrees, describing data-driven marketing as a “game-changer”. However, it’s vital to ensure your event management technology has a built-in functionality to alleviate the risks associated with managing that data in a post-GDPR world.
While email remains an effective channel, it should be used as part of a multi-channel strategy for maximum returns. “Email continues to be a solid touchpoint and I don’t think that is going to change,” says Patterson. “But email on its own would have a very low return. It has to be part of a holistic approach.”