Email marketing for events, specifically for conferences and meetings has been around for a long time, and there are some marketers out there that do an amazing job. Their emails are first on my read list when they come in, and you should strive to be this good.
Your attendees should want to open your emails because they are good; attendees should not get them and cringe.
For many conferences and events, they still treat email marketing like a redheaded stepchild, and just like that little kid of old, neglecting email marketing is a bad thing to do because it might just be the best thing in your marketing arsenal. Think about it, the little red-headed girl might go on to be a fantastic scientist who cures the common cold, and email marketing might be the tool that puts your attendance levels at a new record. Don’t ignore either of them.
Email Marketing Done Correctly:
First, you do not want to be the asshat that gets a business card from some poor unsuspecting schmuck and adds it immediately to your database, where you proceed to slam the poor dude with marketing emails every day until, in exasperation, he unsubscribes from your list and reports you to the CIA, the FBI, and Interpol in hopes that they will string you up from the nearest pole and beat you with a piñata stick.
We know that hotels and CVBs are notorious for this, and although it does not actually run afoul of CANSPAM laws, it is freaking annoying.
Briefly, this is what the FTC website has to say:
Do you use email in your business? The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.
Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.
To learn more, you can skate over to the FTC website and read on, but follow basic etiquette and you are good.
Getting Started with Email Marketing
Now, I am going to assume that most people reading this post are event professionals who have had some interaction with email marketing and at least understand the premise. Hell, if you have been getting emails anytime in the last decade or so, you have received an email marketing piece, wanted or unwanted.
Collecting Emails from Attendees and Prospects
You must collect emails correctly, and this means collecting your emails in a respectful way that will be appreciated by the end user. This means, asking people if they would like to join your list. You do not add anyone to your list that did not ask… specifically… to be on the list.
On your website:
Put up a subscribe box like the one that I have here (top of page, to the right). People who fill out this form get an email that asks them to click a link to confirm their subscription. This is called “double opt-in” and the surest way of getting people that want to join your list. When they have to do two things to get on your list, you know that they really want to be on there.
At a Tradeshow or Other Event
When at a tradeshow or networking event, ask people to join your list and have them fill out a little card where they check a box that says “add me to your list.” This covers you and lets you know that the person wants to join. Another option is to have a couple of laptops set up where people can fill out your online form.
From Your Members or Attendees:
This is where many organizations get it wrong, so let’s clear this up. When new members sign up for your event or join your association, they are not asking to get your email newsletter, they are asking to join or to attend, nothing more. You must ask them if they want your marketing email… GOT IT.
You can build the “ask” right into your online signup form; it is that easy. Have a little box that says “Would you like to receive our newsletter” and then follow the “double opt-in” rule and have them click a link that comes into their inbox.
Remember, just because I joined your association, attended your event, or stopped by your booth, it does not mean that I want your newsletter and just slapping me on some list is going to make me hate you.
Email Marketing Content
So what do you put into your email marketing pieces or your event or conference newsletter?
I would love to be able to spell everything out and make it easy, but this is where your creativity comes into play. You must put in information that your target market would like to receive, it is that simple. Talk about new speakers, sponsors or the content that they will be getting when they attend your event, you have the power to do anything.
How Often Should Your Newsletter Go Out?
Again, this is a reflection of your event or association and how often you have news to share. I will say that any more than once a week is really overkill and sure to piss people off. For associations, I like to receive information about once a month because really, is there anything so pressing that it needs to go out weekly? This will also offer you the in-between times for really important communications like the appointing of a new executive director.
The RSS to Newsletter Option
One option that is particularly helpful, especially for event blogs, is the RSS to newsletter option that many services offer. You design a template, and then once a week, the service automatically sends your week’s posts as a newsletter. Simple and very effective. This also eliminates the need for a formal “newsletter” since all of your website’s new content is being delivered on a schedule.
Choosing an Email Marketing Service
There are four services that I recommend for email marketing, and only four. I have used them all and can recommend them all equally, they each have pluses and minuses, but all are excellent products.
They all offer the basics:
- All allow you to send email marketing pieces
- All have online sign up forms that can be integrated into your website
- All allow you to manage your email subscribers and segment your lists (really helpful if you have different audiences in one larger group)
- All have a template system to get started fast and allow you to customize your marketing pieces
- All have an RSS to email option
- All show tracking information like who opened the email, forwarded the email and more
- All offer excellent delivery rates
Beyond the above, many of the following excellent services do even more. One offers auto-responder follow-ups, while yet another offers full-blown social media monitoring, direct mail, and even some event-related items. They do a lot, but today, we are only looking at the email deliverables, and they all excel at this, so let’s get to the good stuff before you feel the need to go have a peanut butter sandwich or, worse, a cocktail…I know that I can drone on and on.
For the Beginning Email Marketer
There are two choices that I think work well for meeting and event professionals who are just jumping into the world of email marketing services. In fact, MailChimp is the service that I use for PlannerWire. Just because I think that they are good for newbies does not mean that they are not very powerful tools.
MailChimp kicks ass, it is as simple as that. The basic plan is free, yes, free. You can pick your jaw up off the keyboard now. Even though the basic service costs no money, it does offer a lot of bang for very little dough. MailChimp makes putting together email marketing pieces a snap and for those that get stuck, all of their tutorials are video and easy to understand. They offer RSS to newsletter functions and more.
Here is what the MailChimp Website has to say:
MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. It’s like your own personal publishing platform.
To Learn More Visit the MailChimp Website
I have to tell you, MadMimi is such a good choice that we use it for the Site Chicago Website. Adding images, content and segmenting lists is a breeze, and they have so many features that I cannot even begin to list them. But know that they are recommended by Mashable, Virgin Mobile, and AGA Digital. Over 89,000 businesses make them the service of choice.
Here is What the MadMimi Website has to Say
Mad Mimi is a simple, intelligent and powerful email marketing utility that anyone can use. Mad Mimi makes email marketing easy for the creator, and easier on the eyes for the receiver. With ground-breaking technology, Mad Mimi is the simplest way to create branded, well-designed newsletters and promotions. Sign up free today and get started with simple, lovely email marketing.
To Learn More Visit the MadMimi Website
For the More Advanced Email Marketer
There are some marketers that are going to need to beef up what they are using, and this could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your event is huge, you have more than a bunch, or you want every bell and whistle ever made. For the more advanced email marketer or for someone who is looking to get more tools than just emails out of their service, I am going to recommend the following two services.
AWeber is a massive tool and the choice for many of the world’s A-List Bloggers. That should tell you something because A-List bloggers live and die by their email list, and they cannot afford screw-ups. They need a tool that will get the job done well. Let me tell you, if you sell digital products with your event or conference, then AWeber should be one of the tools you look to first. If you are selling digital products with your conference, you also do not need me to walk through a feature set; you can check them out for yourself.
Here is What the AWeber Website has to Say
Create profitable customer relationships for your business! AWeber’s email marketing tools like professional email signup forms & autoresponder services make it easy for you to build your email list and stay in touch with prospects.
To Learn More Visit the AWeber Website
Vertical Response is also a wicked tool for serious email marketers that does more than send 12 monthly newsletters. VR has just acquired Roost and is now in the full-blown social media monitoring business. They also have integrated event marketing, direct mail integration (yes, postcards and other mailers), surveys, and more. They are a powerhouse.
Here is What the Vertical Response Website has to Say
Whether you’re new to email marketing or are a seasoned pro, we have email creation options to suit your style. Our tools take the work out of email creation and guide you through, step-by-step.
Learn More at the Vertical Response Website
You must market your event, conference, trade show, or meeting and you must market using email. The tools you use are up to you and your team, but it pays to use the best one for the job, or you will end up hurting more than helping.