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Marketing Basics for Event Planners

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What is Marketing?

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that offer value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. In other words, it’s the business of promoting and selling a product or service. The types of activities that could be defined as marketing include relationship marketing, influencer marketing, viral marketing, promotional marketing and guerilla marketing as well as traditional and digital advertising. Regardless of the strategies deployed, the goal is to raise awareness and drive conversion of a product or service.

Why Event Marketing?

The age old question about a tree falling in a forest comes to mind when we think about promoting our events. If we host an event but no one is there to witness it, did it even happen? Let’s make sure we never have to answer that question!

The key to a successful event is not just flawless execution. It’s also in how the event is marketed and promoted. Strategic event marketing starts at the concepting stage of event planning and continues all the way through and after event day. Think of it as a cycle. It’s a circular process that never really ends, it just keeps moving.

The best way to keep up with the cycle is to develop a very deliberate and strategic marketing plan for each event. A strategic plan helps you set your event marketing on the right track to make your business goals a reality. Think of it as a pathway that guides the direction of both the planning and marketing teams. And, if you build and execute a plan that is targeted and timed to strategic event goals, the workload will seem less daunting and the results will drive future planning. Before you develop your first marketing plan, let’s review some of the basics of marketing. This overview will help you put the pieces of your marketing plan together.

Value Proposition

A value proposition is your promise of value to be delivered to your customer. It is also a belief from your customer that your company will deliver that promise of value to them. Your value proposition sets your event apart from competition. It should not only persuade people to attend your event, it should also outline how your event will make a difference in their lives or bring them an opportunity or benefit that they won’t find elsewhere. That is the value they gain from your product, i.e. your event.

Write your value proposition from the perspective of your attendees. Here’s an example for a conference: “The infrastructure for your customer data is the backbone of your business. Receive detailed advice from engineering and product experts on how they built their stack for optimal scale, efficiency, and accuracy.”


Branding is integral to any event’s success, because your brand is your reputation. A brand lives in your event DNA. It is distinguishable as only yours. When a strategic brand strategy is evident in the marketing, an event becomes more than an occasion. It becomes a living, breathing thing, an experience capable of building meaningful relationships with attendees.

Your event brand is more than a logo and a name. It is a feeling or emotion held in the hearts and minds of all those engaged with your event. Think of your favorite events and how they make you feel. That is their brand. Just as Coachella has become the music festival of choice for many music lovers, your event can be the choice in your industry if your brand is engaging in a way that makes attendees want to invest their time, talent and treasure into the experience.

Spend some time discovering your brand and find ways to reflect that brand in your marketing as you move forward. Learn More

Marketing Mix

At the core, the principles of marketing revolve around four elements: product, price, promotion, and place. These are called the 4 P’s. The 4 P’s are the options you can leverage to deliver value to your customers. While marketing tactics and channels may change over time, your marketing mix does not. Here is a deeper dive into the marketing mix and some questions to ask yourself as you build your marketing plan.

Product is defined as a bundle of features, functions, benefits, and uses packaged to be sold or consumed. This product may be an idea, a physical good, a service, or any combination of the three. Your event is your product. This is a critical part of your marketing mix. Think about this:

  • How should you package your product to make it irresistible to prospective customers?
  • Which features and benefits of your event are most valuable to prospective attendees?

Price is the dollar amount a customer must pay to purchase your product. Consider this:

  • What is that sweet spot for your ticket price that pays your expenses and builds your bottom line but is also attractive to attendees?
  • What extra features and benefits could be value adds to build revenue?

Promotionincludes tactics that build awareness, encouragepurchase, and ismeasurable in volume, share and profit. This could include coupons,contests, affiliate marketing, bundling, cause-related marketing,and licensing.Think through these questions:

  • Whichincentiveswould be the most effective to promote your event?
  • What message would drive the most ticket sales?

Place refers to the act of delivering your productto consumers. It is also used to describe the extent of market coverage for a given productincluding location(both physical and virtual)anddistribution. Consider these questions:

  • Will prospects travel to your event?How will they get there?
  • Where will prospects purchasetickets to your event?

In all cases, the choices you make with your marketing mix should reflect your brand and your value proposition.

Marketing Personas

Good marketers know who their target audience is. When you do, you can better communicate your value proposition to people who will receive the information best. It’s the difference between threading a needle and throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks. It’s also the difference between making a positive return on your marketing dollar and throwing that dollar away. It’s helpful to actually create audience personas. A persona is basically a profile of a potential customer, similar to a dating profile. A persona includes demographic information, the customer’s personal needs and wants that are applicable to the content of your event, the problem your event is solving for them, and the marketing channels and messaging they would respond to. You may have more than one potential attendee personas. By spending time writing these profiles, you are identifying what motivates each persona to attend your event. That is powerful information.

Be as specific as possible when identifying potential audiences. Think about pertinent demographic information including location, income levels, age and gender (if appropriate). Identify appropriate business experience or rank, potential industry interests and/or trade or networking association membership. Choose what is important to your event brand when developing the ideal participant profiles. For more information on identifying and creating marketing personas, please read our recent blog post - How to Create Attendee Personas for your Next Event.

Positioning Statement

Now that you have created your marketing personas, think about what it is these potential customers need to hear from you in order to make the decision to attend your event. To convince them, start with a positioning statement. A positioning statement describes why each event attendee persona should attend your event, highlighting the benefits outlined in your value proposition. Each positioning statement should include your persona’s wants, needs, pain points, and most importantly how your event will address those pain points.

For example, a positioning statement for a music festival attendee could be: “XYZ Country Music Festival attendees will discover new country music artists and enjoy music from more established country music artists on two consecutive stages over a 24 hour period for one low ticket price.”

A good positioning statement is a short sentence that states just one event benefit and addresses that target market’s most prevalent problem. It should be unique, believable, and adaptable enough to be useful in any marketing strategy.

Messaging Strategies

A messaging strategy is the foundation of your marketing efforts. It’s your official event story. A complete marketing message should include your positioning statement and three or four supporting points to back it up. These supporting points give prospects a reason to believe in your product. If you are marketing your event to more than one persona and corresponding positioning statement, you may have more than one messaging strategy.

You should also write the following elements for each messaging strategy:

  • Eye-catching headlines
  • Impactful supporting points that highlight your differentiators and benefits
  • Strong CTAs for each action that you want a persona to take

Keep your personas in mind as you write. Think about what message would be influential them. What kind of language do they use, informal, business, slang? What words would get their attention? What problem can you solve for them? As always, make sure your messaging mandatories will also help you achieve a marketing goal, whether it be to build awareness, make a ticket sale or something else.

As you finalize these elements for each persona, make lists so that when creating marketing for your event you can mix and match the content to fit the channel, audience, and intent. This is also your chance to solidify your messaging style and tone. No matter which persona you are promoting your event to, your style and tone should be consistent with your brand and align with your objectives. It should be accessible and impactful to your target audiences. Make a list of words you never use and words you always use. Create a communication style guide so that every member of your marketing and sales teams has a framework for messaging.

Here’s a simple messaging strategy example for a persona named Susie Music Lover to attend a music festival:


  • Two Stages, One Day, One Low Ticket Price
  • A Country Music Lovers Paradise Awaits
  • Alden and McGraw Together At Last
  • Supporting Bullets:
  • Discover emerging country music talent at XXX Music Festival
  • More bang for your buck when you score XXX Music Festival tickets
  • One packed day of country music on two stages
  • 10,000 country music fans will be there. Will you?


  • Early bird tickets are going fast. Click here now
  • Buy your tickets now and receive a discount on partner hotels
  • Download a new song by XXX and enter to win XXX Music Festival tickets.
  • For more information and examples, please review our recent blog post How to Use Messaging Strategy to Increase Event Registration.

Visual Identity

A visual identity is the aspect of branding that a marketing team creates in order to visually communicate the DNA of a brand. This guide includes the rules and usage guidelines for logos, approved fonts and when they should be used, specific brand colors, and all image or photo guidelines. More importantly, it also includes samples of how not to use visual elements. This should be backed up with a content library so that only approved images, graphics and logos are available to be used.

Marketing Funnel

Each customer experiences a kind of personal journey with a brand, from awareness to purchase. This is called the marketing funnel. The journey starts with becoming aware of a certain brand and hopefully (but not always) ends with a purchase. Once you identify each stage of the journey your customers take, you can then set up marketing touchpoints to communicate your strategic messaging to each target audience. The goal is to move as many prospective attendees as possible through the funnel from awareness to ticket purchase.

A sample funnel and touchpoints for a conference could be:

  • Awareness – SEM, digital advertising, LinkedIn posts, Twitter posts, YouTube posts
  • Interest – Drip email campaign, direct mailing, digital advertising, brand ambassadors
  • Consideration – website, gated content, blog, industry leaders endorsement
  • Evaluation – referral and review site, industry publications and blogs
  • Purchase – ticket sales site, sales team

Your customers will tell you how and where they want their journey to start. It’s important to meet then were they are at the beginning. This could be online or in person. Once you’ve fostered awareness and interest, let the customer lead your sales actions. Listen to their feedback, watch their actions, and act accordingly.

Marketing Channels

Where do you find customers? There are an infinite number of channels that could be used to promote an event. It’s not feasible or ideal to use all of them. Be strategic about the channels you choose. Don’t just do what your competitors are doing or what’s hot at the moment. Make choices that are applicable for your event. Choose channels that your target audience uses and that make sense for the tone and content of the current event. Constantly review and analyze results. Use channels that deliver a strong ROI and stop using channels that do not.

Here are some channels to consider:


  • Website
  • Event Management Software
  • SEO
  • Ticket sales sites
  • Email
  • Digital display advertising (banner ads, retargeting)
  • Digital search advertising (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
  • Paid influencers
  • Social media promoted posts and ads
  • Social media
  • Event calendar sites
  • Event and/or Industry blogs


  • Direct mail
  • Television advertising
  • Radio advertising
  • Print advertising
  • OOO advertising
  • Pop-up events
  • Public relations
  • Industry newsletters and print publications

Keep your budget and other resources in mind as you choose your marketing channels. Each channel will need customized content and that will take time, talent and possibly budget to create and implement. Once you’ve chosen the channels to use for this event, create a list of the channels and the content needed for each.


Promotions are any special marketing technique or incentive offered at different touchpoints along the marketing funnel. The purpose of event promotion is to build awareness of the event and to increase ticket sales. Promotional messaging is specifically used to inspire some sort of action. Strategize the number and types of promotion you are comfortable using along every point of the marketing funnel. Keep in mind you may have different promotions for different targeted audiences and that each promotion will affect your total revenue dollars. Also determine which marketing channel you will use to communicate the promotions.

Examples of event promotions to consider are:

  • Gated content
  • Early bird ticket sales
  • Returning attendee discount
  • Flash sales
  • Sponsorship

For more information and examples of event promotions, download our exclusive e-book The Ultimate Guide for Promoting Events.

Marketing Budgets

Marketing requires money and resources. Even so-called “free” marketing tools like social media requires resources such as your time or graphic design services. Discounts and promotions have a value that you are giving up in order to make a sale. That can be tracked as an expense or loss in order to assess whether or not your marketing was successful. And of course, advertising can be expensive. Obviously, you don’t want to spend more money than you make. Don’t leave anything to chance. Tracking your marketing budget is critical to ensure your event’s success. Use a resource like the Eventzilla Budget Worksheet to record all marketing transactions, not just actual transactions but budgeted and expected transactions as well. Often, these amounts end up being very different. If you know where the variances are, you can act accordingly. Again, make sure to track all resources spent such as time spent on specific marketing activities like public relations or graphic design. If you are using in-kind partnerships or sponsorships as revenue streams, these should be tracked as well. It’s important to track all of your outlays and revenue streams so that you can measure the results of your efforts.

Measurements/Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

So how do you measure marketing success? Your marketing and promotion KPIs will depend on your chosen marketing channels. In general, the simplest KPI is Return on Investment.

Return on Investment = (Revenue-Expenses)/Expenses

So, if you spend $1,000 on digital advertising and you can track 50 conversions from clicks on those ads, assuming your ticket prices are $100, your ROI = (5000-1000/1000) = 4. This is an excellent ROI, all other things being equal. What this calculation doesn’t take into consideration is the other resources that might have been used in order to create the ads or manage the measurement, nor does it track any brand awareness or interest generated by the ad. But it is still a solid way to measure digital marketing.

Here are other KPIs to consider:

total new leads based on marketing campaign or channel

  • website or landing page traffic from a marketing campaign or channel
  • social media likes, followers, or engagement
  • gated content downloads
  • email subscriptions
  • referrals from past attendees

Of course, every KPI should reflect a marketing goal outlined in your plan. No matter what your goals are, it’s important to measure the results of your marketing effort with consistent metrics. These metrics assist you in understanding what is working and what needs to be improved. This is not a static exercise. Measuring KPIs is an ongoing process and you should plan to do this throughout the event planning and marketing cycle. For more information, please read this recent blog post titled 5 Important Metrics to Measure the Success of Your Event.

Marketing Plan Outline

A strategic marketing plan is a comprehensive document or blueprint that outlines your marketing efforts for a certain period of time, usually a year. It outlines all activities involved in accomplishing specific marketing objectives. A marketing plan also includes a description of your current marketing position, your target marketing personas and a description of the marketing mix that a business you will use to achieve your goals.

No matter what kind of event you are planning, a thorough event marketing plan includes these elements:

  • Event Background
  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Value Proposition
  • Brand
  • Event Goals
  • Target Audiences
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Marketing Objectives
  • Marketing Tactics
    • a. Strategic Messaging
    • b. Visual Identity
    • c. Marketing Funnel
    • d. Marketing Channels
    • e. Promotions
  • Marketing Timeline
  • Marketing Resources/Budget
  • Measurements/KPIs

This may seem like a lot of work but it is important. Each element is a building block for a thorough and fully developed marketing and promotion plan based on strategic planning and long-term goals. It sets up any event for success because nothing is left to chance.

Putting it all together

Marketing is a crucial aspect of your event business and requires research, planning, and teamwork. So, now that you’ve gotten the basics of marketing down, it’s time to put your new-found knowledge to work. Gather your team, grab a cup of coffee and a fresh legal pad, and start brainstorming your specific company’s event marketing basics.

Start with your value proposition and work your way through until you have a complete and workable strategic marketing plan for your next event. Research our blog posts and checklists on the Eventzilla Resource Center for more insights. We guarantee that it’s worth your time. Strategic marketing will always lead to business success.

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