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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Whitten

Use Email Marketing to Promote Your Event Without Blowing Your Budget

Updated: Jan 26

You’ve worked hard to get all the details of your event in order. The agenda is laid out, the speakers are lined up, and the venue is booked. You’re on time and on budget. By this point, you’ve shown you have the patience of a saint and organizational skills on par with the Library of Congress.

But those are just the basics. To pull off a successful event, you need all those things, plus killer promotion.

Because if no one shows up, nothing else matters.

Empty conference room
What's an event professional's worst nightmare? Empty seats.

Event promotion can get expensive, but don’t worry about blowing your budget. Email marketing is cost-effective, and it’s perfect whether you’re promoting a small fundraiser for a local non-profit or a huge corporate conference.

When social media first began its meteoric rise in popularity, many short-sighted marketers declared email marketing dead. But social media didn’t kill email. It’s stronger than ever – especially for event promotion – with 85% of marketers choosing email marketing campaigns to promote their events (Bizzabo, 2016).

Create an email strategy

As with all types of marketing, it’s best to begin your email campaign with a solid strategy. It’s helpful to create a flow chart or marketing calendar that shows what email content should be delivered and at what point in the process it needs to go out. You can do this the old-school way with pen and paper, or you can use free online tools such as Whimsical or Canva to create professional-looking charts or content calendars that can be shared easily. These can be as simple or as complex as your event requires.

The content of your email campaign will depend on what type of event you’re promoting and your personal preferences. Of course, “it depends” answers aren’t helpful when you’re busy juggling every single aspect of organizing an event, so we’ve created an effective email sequence below. You can use it as is or modify it to fit your needs.

Sample email sequence

Save the date

This is the first email in your sequence. For a small-scale event, you can send this email out about 3 weeks before the event. If you’re promoting a large event, especially one that costs money, it’s best to send the announcement about 4-6 months in advance.

This email serves as a “save the date” notice and should also give potential attendees some of the highlights they can expect from your event. Start revving up interest!

Be sure to include a call to action to get people to RSVP.

You’re in!

This email should be automated to send as soon as someone RSVPs. This one is the easiest of the bunch. A brief “thanks – you’re in!” message is enough.

Don’t forget

People are forgetful, so be sure to send out a series of reminders. You can start about 4 days out from the event with the first reminder, and then send another 2 days out and a final one either the day before or (early) the day of the event.

The reminder emails should slowly build up anticipation for the event. You can do this by revealing more and more exciting details the closer you get to the event date.

Each reminder email should also contain the essential details of the event, such as the date and location.

Thank you

This email should be sent the day after your event. Thank people for attending and share something interesting, like a few candid party pictures or the total amount of funds raised during the event.

Once you’ve laid out your email sequence, get started on writing the messages. It’s important – for the quality of the message and for your sanity – to get this done early.

Get your message out there

When it comes to getting your event message to the masses, you have many free or low-cost options such as MailGet (9,000 emails/month free), MailChimp (12,000 emails/month free), or Constant Contact (free 60-day trial).

Another valuable perk of these email marketing tools? Templates!

Sample template from MailChimp. Just drag and drop elements to customize!

Your emails should be well written and must include all the important details like the event date and time, where to park, how to dress, etc., but it’s equally as important to make the email itself visually appealing. No one wants to open their email to see an overwhelming wall of text.

For those of us not skilled in graphic design, templates are a lifesaver. Use them to help you incorporate eye-catching design elements that break up the text to prevent information overload. They are generally mistake-proof and can save you hours of time and frustration.

In every email, be sure to include a way for recipients to easily share the event on social media. This passive “co-marketing” where attendees help promote the event is pure gold. It’s free and it doesn’t take any effort on your part. Most importantly, though, it’s extremely effective. 70% of millennials (aka the largest demographic of consumers) are influenced by peer recommendations (Shane Barker, 2019).

Everyone has an email address these days, so you can reach a vast audience by promoting your event with email marketing. It’s also free or inexpensive, and it works. Remember that statistic from earlier? 85% of marketers use email to promote their events. If more than half (much more!) of marketers insist on using email for event promotions, that’s a trend you want to jump on. Use these strategies and tips to help you take your event promotion to the next level without wrecking your budget or creating more stress.

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