Fundamental Strategies to Maximize your Event Marketing ROI
Hosting and marketing a successful event can require a significant investment of time and resources. As a result, your nonprofit’s financial health often depends on your ability to recoup that investment through a successful marketing strategy that brings in ticket sales and donations.
This guide will look at four transformational fundraising strategies for increasing your nonprofit’s ROI from its event marketing outreach. These recommendations include:
1. Prepare ahead of time.
2. Leverage free advertising opportunities.
3. Automate your marketing.
4. Offer a range of sponsorship opportunities.
For each of these recommendations, remember that while it’s essential to be decisive in your physical and digital marketing strategies, it’s just as important to consider your options, evaluate your existing plans, and be thoughtful about any changes in your approach. Let’s jump in!
Prepare ahead of time
Marketing your event to everyone who passes you on a random street corner wouldn’t be the best use of your resources. As important as your mission is, many of those passing by likely wouldn’t care enough to hear your pitch — much less attend your event. When you spend time and money marketing to people who are unlikely to attend your event, your ROI will inevitably take a hit.
Sending the same message to everyone in your nonprofit’s database works precisely the same way. From board members to newsletter subscribers to volunteers to former donors, your database contains a heterogeneous audience with different interests and needs. Not everyone will want to go for the same reasons.
Before you send that mass email, conduct marketing research, pre-work to determine the primary characteristics of your ideal audience, and create segments in your database according to these qualities.
As you build your segments, consider each supporter’s:
- Previous event attendance
- Donation history
- Communication preferences
You’ll quickly learn that you likely have more than one audience and must address their specific needs with targeted marketing that adjusts for both content and channel. For example, with segments in hand, you might decide to focus your digital marketing strategies on a younger, tech-savvy audience by combining targeted ads on Google with organic social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
Leverage free advertising opportunities
When you’re looking to increase your marketing return on investment, free advertising opportunities are your best friends. Because these don’t necessarily require any direct financial
investment, they can be an easy way to boost your reach without spending money. You should consider:
- Google Ad Grants. According to Getting Attention’s guide to Google Ad Grants, the program “gives eligible nonprofits $10,000 in free advertising credits every month. Organizations can use their grant money to bid on different keywords and promote specific pages on their website through text-based ads.” Paired with a compelling call-to-action and a clear target audience, Google Ads can quickly lead to better engagement and increased conversion rates.
- Social media. Not only is posting to social media platforms free, but your posts also have a huge potential audience. Millions of people in the U.S. use social media every day. But that doesn’t mean your posts will reach all of those users. For a social media strategy to succeed, you need to connect with followers who comprise your target audience, would be genuinely interested in your content, and will then share and comment on those posts.
- Word-of-mouth. People tend to trust the recommendations of their friends and colleagues. As one of the original forms of advertising, word-of-mouth can have a powerful impact on potential supporters and event attendees. Take full advantage of this form of marketing by turning your most committed supporters into event ambassadors who spread the word about the event, sell tickets, and recruit additional volunteers.
Since these forms of advertising will eventually direct supporters to the event page on your organization’s website, plan to design your site to make it easy for users to register for your event and share details with their network.
However, just because something doesn’t cost money doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost anything. Everything comes at a price. In this case, advertising is rarely successful with a set-it-and-forget-it approach. You or your team will have to invest time and energy to create advertising content and continue building virtual and in-person engagement. If you go this route, assign a team member to manage your social media and advertising channels, make engaging posts, moderate discussions, adjust keywords, and keep track of metrics.
Automate your event marketing
Luckily, you don’t have to do all of your marketing manually. With technology on your side, your nonprofit can reach the right people, with the right ads, whenever and wherever they are — all
with the click of a button.
Nonprofits have a bevy of available automation tools that can help them quickly target audiences and personalize outreach. These include:
- Retargeting ads. Retargeting allows you to target users who previously visited your organization’s website or specific pages with targeted advertisements. For example, if a user left your event page before completing their registration, this tool would then show them ads reminding them to return to your site to complete the form.
- Email streams. Email streams are a series of emails automatically based on a trigger activity performed by a supporter. These email streams come to a halt when the recipient completes the target action like completing a donation or registering for an event.
- Geofencing. Geofencing leverages GPS and RFID technology to send ads to devices located in a certain area during a set period of time. For example, you might use geofencing to target people who visit a particular business or attended previous events hosted by similar organizations.
By leveraging these automation tools, you attend to the people already interested in your event and reduce wasted resources on trying to convert uninterested parties. For each target audience, draft a separate appeal with content designed and distributed according to their stated preferences.
Additionally, rather than focusing all your efforts on one marketing channel, plan to vary your marketing between physical and digital outreach. In fact, according to Feathr’s resource on top nonprofit marketing ideas, a combination of direct mail and digital marketing leads to an 118 percent increase in responses compared to campaigns that use only direct mail.
Offer a range of sponsorship opportunities
Sponsorships can offer nonprofit events more than just direct financial support. They can also help with event publicity and increase attendance and donations from your supporters. By varying the types of sponsorships available, you make it easier for for-profit organizations to support you with the resources at their disposal. Major types of sponsorships you should plan to offer:
- Financial. Often, for-profit businesses will donate money to support your event or the programs your nonprofit offers. If you accept financial support, be clear about how the funds will be used.
- In-kind. Businesses won’t always have direct financial resources to offer, but they may be able to support your event in other ways. In-kind gifts can include items donated for an auction, a charismatic MC or performer, or a space to host your event.
- Media. While not the first thing that comes to mind when designing event sponsorships, media placements and publicity from sponsors can help directly save you money and boost your event marketing reach.
To attract new event sponsors, you should be clear about the benefits they’ll receive in return. Additionally, you can offer different tiers of sponsorships that correspond to various benefits. You
might offer your sponsors:
- Ad spots played during the live event.
- Logos placed on event materials and the event website.
- Booths to advertise their services or products.
- VIP event experiences.
- Goodie bags distributed to guests containing sponsor gifts.
When you pitch sponsors, include an estimate of the anticipated number of attendees their sponsorship will reach. If they’re publicly associating their brand with your event, your sponsors will also be invested in helping to increase the event attendance. As a result, they’ll carry some of the burden of event marketing for you, stretching your limited budget and increasing your impact.
Like all forms of marketing, the impact of a nonprofit marketing strategy is limited by its associated metrics. If you don’t have clear goals and a way to measure and assess them, your marketing strategy could be a wild success or a colossal failure, but you’d never know.
Instead, continuously track and collect marketing data, including click-through and open rates, and make changes accordingly to ensure you maximize your event marketing campaign’s ROI!