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Blog: Event marketing

13 event marketing mistakes that can come back to haunt you

31 October 2022 minute read

Ian Dickie
Managing Director
AttendZen

It’s that time of year when we all want to scare ourselves senseless while eating more sugar than is strictly wise.

We’re an event technology company so it’s not immediately clear why we’re jumping on the Halloween bandwagon. But wait! This year alone we’ve seen some howlers that still give us nightmares whenever there’s a full moon.

Welcome to our ghoulish top 13 of marketing missteps that can get you into more trouble than wandering into an abandoned house, opening a book of spells and sarcastically summoning a demon in a bid to impress some girl / boy you like from school.

Here we go.

1 Sending emails to people using BCC

Never send marketing emails or RSVP invitations from your own inbox.

Let me tell you a story about one of our clients. We’ll call her Sarah.

One Friday night, late for her sister’s birthday drinks, Sarah sent out an invitation to 140 people for a press launch, using her regular office email client (Outlook), secure in the belief that no one would see anyone else’s email address.

Sadly though, she pasted the list into the CC field instead of the BCC one by mistake, so every recipient got the whole list. Sarah works for a branch of the government, so she had to report herself to the Office of the Information Commissioner, who later slapped the department she works for with a formal sanction. An unwelcome talking point at her annual appraisal.

And even if she hadn’t screwed up that night, it would still be a terrible idea for Sarah to send out emails using BCC.

Spam filters do not like inbound mails that are copied using BCC to a large group. So there’s a fair chance your message is going to the junk folder and getting deleted without being read.

When you send using the BCC field, your recipients see the ‘To’ field empty. This looks (frankly) a bit suspect. Some people put their own or a colleague’s email address in the ‘To’ field, but now it looks a bit like you have been accidentally copied in for no obvious reason!

So, only ever send your marketing emails and invitations via a proper email marketing tool which lets you set the sender email address and return address, allows for personalisation and uses a sender IP with an excellent reputation to make sure your important message makes it to the inbox.

Image of screaming woman with email envelope icons cascading behind her

2 Having a horror show of an event website

Why, in 2022, do so many event websites suck the life out of you faster than a vampire coming off the back of Dry January?

We spend a huge amount of time looking at, and thinking about, event websites. Here are the mistakes we see most – and which make us want to reach for the chainsaw:

  • Sites that are all ME, ME, ME!
  • Sites that have not been conceived as a conversion tool
  • Sites with cumbersome, confusing registration pages
  • Sites that don’t have a blog or any valuable content
  • Sites that are not SEO friendly
  • Sites that just shout REGISTER! Or ATTEND! or BOOK! but that don't add any value
  • Sites with poor quality imagery
  • Sites where everything is packed in above-the-fold
  • Sites that are merely digital versions of the event brochure

We could go on and on and on (like Michael Myers). But you get the picture. Gruesome.

3 Not having responsive registration forms optimised for mobile

Over 54% of all traffic on the web now comes from mobile devices. So if your event registration flow doesn’t work beautifully on phones and tablets, essentially half your prospective attendees are going to want to kill you. And unless you’re selling Harry Styles tickets, most of those will simply give up.

The primary goal with every registration form is completion. It’s not enough to make sure the form basically fits on a smartphone (although you’d be amazed how many systems fail to do even that). You also need to think about a user experience that’s optimised for smaller, touch-based devices.

This means limiting the number of input fields, clearly indicating optional fields (as opposed to mandatory ones), using field length as an affordance, providing field-focus, using placeholders and masked inputs, providing field-matched keyboards and auto-filling known information wherever possible. Plus some other stuff too. Offer to buy us a pumpkin-spiced latte, we’ll tell you all about it.

4 Phantom email lists

How many of the contacts on your email list are warm, active recipients – and how many are just ghosts? (See what we did there?)

No one wants to lose subscribers, but unengaged recipients can hurt your email marketing. If lots of recipients delete your emails without opening them or – even worse, mark them as spam – this could signal to inbox providers that you’re sending unwanted content. And this, in turn, can impact your deliverability.

Sending a bunch of emails to ghost recipients could also be skewing your analytics and your understanding of how well your email marketing is performing. Better to have 100 engaged prospects who want to hear about your events, than 1,000 who ignore you.

So make sure you scrub your lists at least twice a year, removing inactive, bounced, and other unengaged email addresses. Your event marketing platform should make it easy to identify these. Be especially wary of purchasing email lists (basically, don’t) and avoid role accounts (email addresses that represent a group or alias – like: [email protected], [email protected] etc) as engagement from these will typically be low.

Image of a dog under a sheet looking like a ghost thinking Honestly, I do not open your emails

5 Not creating attendee personas

Of course, before we even send someone an email about our event, we should have a really clear idea of who they are and why they would benefit from registering.

Most of the clients we talk to want more (or higher quality) attendees. Nothing surprising there.

But when we see organisers with plenty of resources and great content, running events on topics which are obviously hot – but getting sub-par attendance – we always ask if they’re using attendee personas to inform their marketing. Invariably, they are not.

An attendee persona is the semi-fictional representation of your ideal event guest. How detailed you need to get depends on the type of events you run and the verticals they serve. But you might want to include attributes such as: age, job (inc. seniority), salary, communication preferences, attitudes to key market trends etc.

You’ll also want to zero in on their motivations for attending – and you might realise you have several attendee personas, not just the one.

Some of your guests will likely attend primarily for networking purposes. Others might be more focussed on content / professional development.

The point is that personas will inform your marketing efforts and give you the necessary framework and understanding you need to design a content strategy, a conversion funnel, follow up approaches and more.

6 Zombie messaging

Having created your attendee personas, it’s important not to waste them (and everyone’s time) by sending out Zombie emails. We’re calling them zombie emails because this is Halloween, but what we really mean here is ‘one-size-fits-all messaging.’

A bunch of different people attend your events for a bunch of different reasons. Fail to communicate with them as individuals and you will never achieve the conversion rate your event deserves.

Two words: Segment and personalise, witches!

It’s a little bit of extra effort in return for which you’ll get a lot more success. But again, you need the right tools for the job. Your event platform should make it easy to tag and segment your contacts and then to craft personalised emails to them based on the categories and criteria you’ve identified. However big your dataset, this should be taking you minutes to achieve in practice, not hours.

If you’re getting stuck with this, reach out and we’ll give you some free advice on creating workflows and automation that’ll make your event marketing sharper than Freddy Krueger’s glove.

Image of cartoon zombies emerging from a graveyard

7 Not creating a strong brand identity for your event

Building a strong brand for your event is as important as remembering to buy fun-sized Milky Way bars before the trick-or-treat kids come to your house with eggs. It helps prospective guests remember your event, instils a higher level of trust and credibility in prospects and it underpins ticket sales / turnout.

Amazingly though, plenty of very good, well-run events seem to have a blind spot when it comes to branding.

It’s no longer enough to just have a nice logo. Your event brand needs to articulate the essence of what you’re promising your attendees. To do this, you have to develop a creative theme that anchors everything together, creating a brand experience that is relevant, cohesive and memorable.

Think 360 degrees – from emails, websites and apps, to badging, staff outfits, on-site signage and collateral. The more tied together all the pieces are, the stronger your event will be.

Contrary to popular belief, strong event branding does not necessarily require huge budgets. It does require careful thought and creativity though. What can you brand? How can use what you already have to reinforce your event’s personality?

Your event management platform should let you customise every single digital touchpoint so that it underscores YOUR identity (not that of the platform). If it doesn’t, ask why not.

Illustration showing the elements of brand identity, logo, colour palette, typography, imagery, name, brand story, slogan, and voice

8 Using freemium event platforms that promote competing events to your customers

Halloween is a good time to remember the perils of being lured into something tempting, only for it turn out to be rather dangerous.

Once upon a time there was a freemium event platform. It was called Eventbrite and it was famous throughout the land. People used it to sell tickets for their business events because it appeared to be relatively cheap, or even free to use.

What those people didn’t realise, is that Eventbrite directly markets competing events to prospective attendees, on the same page where those prospective attendees are thinking about registering for YOUR event!

You see, with Eventbrite, it’s not really your event anymore. It’s Eventbrite’s event.

Your Eventbrite event page will be cluttered with Eventbrite logos, links, and promotions, including other people’s events that Eventbrite algorithm thinks your customer might be interested in.

Now, the other events being promoted may not conflict with yours… but… there’s every chance they might! Even if the promoted events don’t take place on the same day, it’s hard to argue those events aren’t bidding for your potential customer’s money and time, right there on your own event page.

If you’re running events to promote your brand, and / or to generate revenue from registration sales that, dear reader, is a potential horror story waiting to unfold. Tread carefully.

9 Frankenstein event tech stack

What do you get when you stitch together a CRM from one vendor, an email tool from another, a homegrown database, a virtual meeting platform from somewhere else and a handful of other simple plug-ins?

You get a monster of event tech that is inefficient, inflexible and requires your team to compromise to work within the limitations of the technology. In other words, you get (and I can’t believe I’m making this pun, but I’m struggling with the Halloween theme) a Franken-Stack!

The Franken-Stack is a recipe for wasteful admin work, errors, duplicates, feature redundancy and inefficient workflows. And that’s before we get into the money that’s being wasted on all those overlapping tools.

But there is hope. Depending on who you are and the scale and number of events you run, the answer might be to rethink and re-engineer some of the tools you have now. Or you might be better advised to transition to a fully comprehensive platform that handles registrations, site building, marketing, virtual and everything else in one, unified system.

Either way, you could do worse than requesting one of our free event technology audits. Our tech team will run you through a detailed interview to understand what you use, and what you use now, and what you’d like to be able to do in an ideal world. Then we’ll give you a report setting out the possible actions you could take to achieve a more fully integrated and automated event tech stack that meets your team’s needs – and the expectations of today’s delegates. It costs nothing and there’s absolutely zero obligation on your side.

Remember: Frankenstein’s monster ultimately turned on its creator and they both paid the price.

10 Not starting early enough

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with event marketing is starting too late.

We used to labour under the mistaken belief that there was little point going to market with an event until pretty much all the speakers and programme were in place. Who’s going to register for a conference until they know the final line-up? We thought.

Turns out, this was a bigger mistake than opening a door that’s oozing red stuff onto the carpet.

People need to get used to the idea of your event (and to trust it) before they’re ready to commit time and money to attend. The longer the event itself, the more expensive, the further away it is – the more time people need to convert.

Plus, there are too many events in the world and people are busy. So as soon as you lock in your dates and venue, it’s time to start marketing.

You might not have speakers and an agenda in place, but you can start preparing the ground with teaser communications that grab interest and get your event on people’s radar.

Each subsequent promotion can give more detail about a facet of the event (whether content, exhibitors, sponsors or opinion pieces by members of your programme committee).

You can always find something interesting to say in advance, that will build a connection with your prospective attendees and keep you front-of-mind. But the key word here is interesting. Don’t just keep sending the same ‘hey! Why haven’t you registered yet?’ email again and again. That just looks desperate and it’ll scare your contacts faster than a hitchhiker in a hockey mask.

11 Ignoring your data

Simply put, events are expensive. Data can help you understand how your events are performing, how to optimise them, and how to arm yourself to justify future decisions.

So if you’re one of the 73% of event managers who’s conscious that they’re not getting enough intelligence from their event data, it’s time to slay that demon (see how the Halloween clichés are getting ever more forced now?)

Of course, knowing this is one thing. Doing it is quite another.

It’s difficult to wrangle event data when it lives in different systems, and especially when it’s on unclaimed paper name tags, business cards, slips of paper, Excel spreadsheets etc. You need the right tools and (even more importantly) you need those tools to be deeply integrated in ways which enable automated processes and real-time data tracking and measurement.

12 Not maintaining post-event relationships

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the most important stage in your event lifecycle is right after it happens. And plenty of event marketers don’t bother. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!

Post-event is the golden period when you capitalise on all the goodwill and positive feelings your attendees have towards your brand. You just gave them a good time, stimulating content, new connections, fresh inspiration. They love you right now. But they’ll forget.

So make sure you take the time to follow up with your attendees after the event. Nurture the group dynamic via your social media channels. Keep the vibe going. Send post-event surveys, follow-up emails, or even thank you cards – whatever works for your group.

But continue the engagement.

This is when you go from having a transactional relationship with your customers, to building a community based on trust, loyalty and reciprocity – the attributes most brands can only dream of.

Not following up with your attendees is like asking Chucky to help you chop the vegetables for dinner. It is unwise.

13 Not using AttendZen

That’s right! Believe it or not, legend speaks of a curse whereby those who use event management software other than ours are doomed to work with outdated, clunky interfaces and have ugly, warty websites that strike terror into the hearts of customers.

And that concludes our spooky look at event marketing mistakes to be avoided.

So crack open the toffee apples and stick another newt in the cauldron. And if you ever fear your event software isn’t cutting it, give us a call. Our platform is way better than our jokes.