How to Market Events: Email Marketing

Picture this: It’s the 26th May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has come into force the day before. Inboxes are empty of marketing emails and consumers rejoice as they one-by-one, delete ‘Please re-subscribe’ messages. So, does this mean email marketing is dead now?

GDPR doesn’t mean the end of email marketing. Yes, it signals the end of spammy, impersonal content and the receivers feeling trapped by their inbox of unending nonsense. The new regulations provide all marketers with the opportunity to reassess their email marketing strategy and mailing lists. Gone are the days of large, untrackable, random email lists and now we welcome in an era of personalised, optimised email campaigns that provide value to both businesses and their customers, equalling higher engagement rates and lists that have genuine interest in your events.

What is email marketing and why use it?

Simply put, email marketing is sending communications to a list of past, potential or current customers. It’s a marketing channel that is utilised cross-industry, with both B2C and B2B marketers including it in their marketing mix. Traditional campaign styles range from regular weekly or monthly newsletters to one-off promotional communications. Email marketing is a great opportunity to engage customers.

Despite the reach of social media, email marketing remains a cost-effective strategy to gain and nurture leads. In 2017, for every £1 spent on email marketing, the return was £32.38 (Marketing Week, 2018). Plus, with complete control over ‘who, what and when’, the communications between you and your customers will provide invaluable data, so you can constantly optimise your campaigns to best reach your goals.

 

But how can email marketing boost your ticket sales?

As with many businesses, many events are successful because of repeat customers, which comes from the nurturing of the business to attendee relationship. Whether you organise training courses and rely on companies to enrol their staff regularly or you organise a local open mic night and hope you depend on the regulars show support and will spread the word. Keeping an open communication channel from the start of the ‘customer’ (attendee) journey, will encourage positive sentiment and a familiarity with your event. 

You can utilise email marketing in every stage of your attendee’s experience. Once you’ve sold tickets, send out regular updates and reminders about the event. Once you’ve got your mailing lists compiled from previous events you’ve run, contact potential ticket buyers the second you announce a new event, offering early birds and previous-attendee discounts and keep them up to date with any new announcements about the event.

And as we know the events industry is a tough one, should the worst happen, you’ll already have a line of communication open with your guests to provide last-minute updates about postponements, cancellations and even travel news.

 

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Growing your list

Before looking at email automation platforms, you need to grow an email list. If you’ve previously received consent from existing attendees to send them marketing materials, go ahead and add them to your list. Ensure you have a record of where and when your list gave consent, this is an imperative part of abiding by the GDPR.

Sometimes, marketers can be tempted to purchase email lists online. Don’t do this. You don’t have their consent, you have no idea who’s actually on the list (or if they are interested in your business) and by emailing random leads as if they’re a genuine lead, you could be putting off people who may be interested in the future plus, you risk being flagged as spam.

There are many ways to grow your email list and but the changes are, you’ll already be doing some of these as part of your overall marketing strategy – for example, you may already be syncing your attendees to your Mailchimp account! Publishing a blog? Include an email list sign up form. Using Mailchimp or Hubspot? Create mailing list pop-ups for your home page. Running PPC ad campaigns or promoting your content? Create landing pages that encourage clickers to sign up to your list. Once your email marketing campaigns are up and running, make sure you’re creating high-quality, shareable content and encourage your readers to do some of the work for you by forwarding your emails to their colleagues, friends or sharing them through social media.

Mailchimp or others

Email marketing automation platforms come in all shapes and sizes but there are some front-runners you’ll already know about it. Mailchimp is the go-to for many businesses, it’s well known, has a wide range of functionality and most importantly for some, it’s free to use up to a certain number of contacts. Mailchimp’s ‘Forever Free’ package is $0 per month and includes up to 2,000 contacts and up to 12,000 emails per month. On Forever Free, you can create and automate your emails and segment your lists (more on that later!). Despite the apparent limits, you can A/B test campaigns and extract data reports. Many businesses just getting into email marketing are unlikely to have large lists or the need to send several emails a month to their contacts, therefore Mailchimp can often be the most cost-effective platform for small and growing businesses. 

Mailchimp’s mascot, Freddie

The downside of Mailchimp is that once you have more contacts than the free plan allows, the costs quickly add up. The ‘Growing Business’ plan allows unlimited contacts and emails but is priced $10 per month and up, depending on your use of the platform. As of July 2018, Mailchimp’s pricing calculator indicates that if you grow your list to 2,500 subscribers, that’ll set you back over $30 per month, whilst 5,000 subscribers will cost you over $50 per month.

There are loads of  slightly lesser known marketing automation platforms, like Sendinblue, and therefore, it’s worth doing some research into pricing, functionality and which platforms best suit your business’ needs.

Optimising your lists

Segmenting your mailing lists allow you to record what your subscribers are interested in upon signing up, then you can ensure all content you send them is relevant to them! If you’re using an opt-in form, you can use hidden or public groups to decide how to segment a new subscriber. You can also segment by where you got the lead (a specific trade show? A specific event you ran?). Plus, you can keep track of how many subscribers are past/current customers and how many are leads.

HubSpot listed “30 Ways to Slice Your Email Database” and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re looking for some creative ways to learn about your audience and optimise your campaigns. Automation platforms like Mailchimp provide pre-built segmentation functionality, so you can send campaigns to different groups based on what Mailchimp knows about them, e.g. subscribers who haven’t opened any of your last 5 campaigns, those who have opened at least one of them or those who only subscribed in the last 7 days. Using the latter, you can kick start your relationship with a lead by sending them welcome content and avoiding sending them information long term subscribers would receive.

Segmentation enables you to increase engagement and improve your open rate (by only sending specific content to those interested), both of which help to lower the chance of you being reported as spam.

Personalising  your emails can also improve your statistics and increase positive sentiment with your subscribers. If you record first names when generating leads, use the automatic merging functionality on your marketing automation platform to address each email directly to the recipient.

Double opt-ins are another way to improve your open rate and qualify your leads. Opt-ins require any subscriber to confirm their subscription in an automated email, sent to them upon entry of their email address to your lead generation form. Although it may seem like you’re creating another step to get subscribers, mailing lists are about quality not quantity and double opt-ins mean only those genuinely interested in your services will subscribe. It ensures potential leads’ emails aren’t being added without their knowledge and if they can’t open the confirmation email, are they likely to read your campaign emails?

Constructing a campaign

Despite there being no firm rules or guidelines about email content, there are some simple steps you can take to break down your content and ensure you’re providing value to your mailing list. First off, consider the goal of your campaign.

First impressions
The subject line of an email is the equivalent of an article headline. A short, succinct and relevant title will grab the attention of readers and encourage open rates. Bear in mind that mobile is the most popular way to read emails, therefore subject lines and preview texts should be small-screen optimised – hopefully, gaining attention immediately.

Content
If you’re not too confident in your abilities to create a campaign from scratch or simply want to to speed up the process, most platforms will have pre-made templates that you can edit to suit your brand, content and campaign goals. If you’d prefer to have a totally custom campaign, this is usually pretty simple to do. Platforms like Mailchimp, Sendinblue and Sendgrid all include a drag-and-drop email designer. Usually, you can quite swiftly create an aesthetically pleasing email with photos, buttons, products, media and all of your contact information, in no time. Be sure to use Call to Actions in your emails, encouraging readers to click-through to your website, product or promotion!

If you’re stuck for design ideas, Mailchimp have a whole database of great campaign examples for you to browse, alongside their pre-made templates!

An on-brand campaign for Austin City Limits Festival from Mailchimp’s Inspiration hub.

Utilising Data

Your campaigns
Your email marketing platform should provide a wealth of information about the success of your campaigns and your subscribers. Through open rates, click-through rates and your most clicked links, you should be able to get a clear idea of what your audience sees value in, whether they find a ‘One Week to Go’ reminder helpful or enjoy receiving . lineup announcements in the run up. You’ll also be able to analyse which Call to Actions work best, helping to optimise your future campaigns. Plus, looking at your bounce and unsubscribe rates will guide you in making sure your email list is up-to-date and hasn’t gotten stale.

Everyone’s campaigns
Many platforms release yearly statistics about their userbase and subscribers. These benchmarks provide guidelines to compare your own campaign results to, as well as giving a full picture of email marketing overall and its trends. Even better, Mailchimp release their benchmarks overall and split by industry, meaning you can compare your content to your peers and competitors, then analyse whether you’re meeting those industry benchmarks and in-turn, figure out what’s going right and what’s going wrong in your strategy.

Other useful benchmarks include industry bounce rates and unsubscribe rates. Compare your stats to the benchmarks to see if you’re hitting the mark or if your email list has become out-of-date. By emailing your list regularly, you should be able to stay on top of which email addresses have expired and which subscribers are no longer interested in your business.

2018 Email Marketing Benchmarks

Mailchimp’s March 2018 Benchmark Report shows a clear picture of email marketing as a whole. For example, smaller teams should not be discouraged as company size currently makes little difference regarding engagement, with open rates and click rates all in the same region for both small, medium and large businesses. Whereas, the data does show that abuse reports and unsubscribe rates are slightly higher for smaller companies – how can you combat this and make your small company the exception?

Company Size Open Rate Click Rate Soft Bounce Hard Bounce Abuse Rate Unsubscribe Rate
1-10 20.30% 2.60% 0.50% 0.30% 0.011% 0.27%
11-25 19.74% 2.25% 0.54% 0.35% 0.010% 0.23%
26-50 20.68% 2.56% 0.42% 0.28% 0.007% 0.17%
50+ 22.10% 2.66% 0.50% 0.38% 0.008% 0.18%

Mailchimp’s Statistics based on Company Size.

Go forth and email!

Email marketing not only provides the opportunity to boost ticket sales and promote your event, but also helps nurture attendee relationships. Plus, with many platforms having free packages up to a certain number of contacts, why wouldn’t you utilise a service that for most, is 100% free?

Email Marketing, Mailchimp, Integrations

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