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If there’s one key area of running a conference that’s crucial to success, it’s marketing. Yet all too often, I see this downgraded and left to the last minute.

All experience conference organisers will make marketing a priority, and at the Conference Collective we have years of experience to draw on.

We always start by going back to basics and asking our clients to identify exactly why they’re hosting the conference and who it’s for. Being absolutely clear about this is essential before beginning any marketing activities!

Then we’d suggest you start by looking at the resources you already have.

For example, do you have an existing database of potential delegates? Where are they based? In the UK only, or across Europe? Or further afield still? How you market to a predominantly UK audience may need to differ from how you reach a global audience.

If you do have a list, you can’t go wrong with using email marketing as one of your approaches, particularly if you’re already regularly staying in touch this way — via a newsletter, say — and if a good number of your target delegates are overseas.

You may, though, currently lack a database of any substance — especially if your organisation is relatively new and you’re still growing your membership — in which case buying data is worth exploring.

Make sure the list is relevant, reliable, and using it will not in any way damage your reputation as you will effectively be cold calling when you contact the people on it. Depending on the depth of the data, you can use email or the post to reach your prospective delegates.

Do you have a journal — printed, or digital, or both? This is the perfect platform for promoting your own event and raising awareness. However, don’t just rely on digital marketing. Sending a hard copy invitation/diary date or postcard in the post will help get the recipient’s attention, which is your goal. Using traditional print and post is a very valuable marketing tool that you should include in your budget.

All your marketing should point online. This can be to a dedicated event page on your existing site, or to a site you have specially built for your conference. Either way, you must make sure all the content is relevant and up to date and that it’s easy for visitors to find you and to register for the conference — and then pay for it!

And don’t forget to use social media — particularly LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — to keep both prospects and signed-up delegates in touch with what’s happening, always linking back to your website. You may feel that your audience is not active on social media, but this is unlikely nowadays. It is an important weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Using other people’s websites, publications, and events is also invaluable — especially if you can generate some publicity for free! Only approach media that exactly matches who you want to reach — scattergunning never works — and be prepared to pay for formal advertising if the outlet is the one that’s absolutely laser targeted on your audience.

During your conference, keep everyone up to speed via social media and consider creating a daily digital newsletter and maybe an event app. If you’re recording the proceedings and plan to make the videos available after the event, make sure your database knows as soon as they’ve been posted online.

Successful conference marketing involves juggling a lot of balls, and this is one area where the support of experienced professionals like the Conference Collective will prove invaluable. Just contact us to find out more.