SELL THE AUDIENCE ON ATTENDING THE EVENT
Will they come? Even if this is the 100th annual conference, your attendees have to be sold on attending. Even if this is the biggest awards banquet in the history of your company, the employees have to be motivated to come. As the planner, you are in charge of making sure your event is marketed to the right audience. They need to know where, what, when, and how to sign up!
You have many tools available to you, and if your kit has a variety of options, you'll have the most success. Some obvious options include: direct mail, in-house newsletters, press releases, paid advertising, billboards, bus sides, and word of mouth. Don't rely on what has worked before--things change, people change. Good programs and reasons to attend will always be your best tools.
THE MANY CHOICES OF ADVERTISING VEHICLES
There are hundreds of choices of where to spend your advertising dollars: radio, direct mail, newsprint, magazines, television, billboards, the web, etc. There may be a proven medium that has always been used by your company, or you may be faced with making the confusing decision yourself. Advertising agencies and consultants can be helpful in exploring the many options available to achieve the desired results.
CREATE THE MARKETING PLAN AND SET THE GOALS
- Critique last year's promotion by reviewing the invitations, brochures, press releases, etc.
- Determine your target market in a brainstorming session.
- Gather examples of outstanding ideas and printed pieces you have seen that grab the reader's attention. Always keep an ongoing library of ideas.
PICK A THEME AND CREATE A CAMPAIGN
- Search for a relevant theme.
- Decide the key components to your campaign: posters, mailers, teasers, promotional gifts, giveaways, invitations, paid advertising, media contacts or press releases, etc.
PLAN YOUR ACTIVITY SCHEDULE OVER A SIX-MONTH PERIOD OF TIME
- Order ad specialties/giveaways, invitations and teasers no later than six weeks before the event.
- Mail teasers four to six weeks prior to event (some meeting planners mail immediately following an annual event, so attendees will save the date for next year).
- Mail invitations three to four weeks prior to event.
- Write a press release at least two weeks prior to the event, and target media alerts for two days prior (after sending a press release, a follow-up phone call to answer any questions can be effective).
CHECK THE DESIGN OF ANY MAIL PIECES AT THE POST OFFICE BEFORE PRINTING
Make sure your design is within postal requirements before completing the project. Rules are always changing, and it is important to keep up to date.
Bulk mail can save dollars when mailing high volume campaigns or invitations. You will need a bulk mail permit, or you can buy bulk mail stamps, or the mail house can inkjet the information on your piece. Remember, with bulk mail you are not guaranteed a quick delivery. Mail that is addressed incorrectly will not be returned to you, unless you type "address correction requested" on the piece. If you plan on sorting your own bulk mail it can be a long process. The post office offers seminars on bulk mail. A mail house may be the best investment in this case; mailing can cost you more in your own time than if you hired a professional.
Postcards can save you dollars: If printing a postcard to save postage dollars, make sure it does not exceed 6" x 4" or it will not qualify for the postcard rate. Check the post card rates at the post office.
Check into banner ads or a listing for your event on websites that are used by your attendees.
TRACKING YOUR RESULTS
The best way to know if advertising is working or not for your company is to track results. It can be as simple as asking "how did you hear about this event?" Keep a list at the phone specifying all the ways you received your RSVPs or sales. This list should include all forms of advertising: yellow pages, newspaper, direct mail, publications, word-of-mouth, etc.