3 Marketing Hacks #EventProfs Should Learn From Startups

3 Marketing Hacks #EventProfs Should Learn From Startups

What keeps event planners up at night? In most cases it’s the fear of not bringing in enough attendees to their event.

Letting people know about your events via traditional marketing channels is however getting more and more difficult. And therefore many event planners are looking for alternative marketing means or hacks for increasing attendance at their events.

And that’s where growth-hacking comes in… the buzzword with the capital B in the startup community.  

As the NextWeb article explains, growth-hacking is a marketing technique that focuses on innovative alternatives to traditional marketing. It’s particularly important for startups that focus on “growth first, budget second.”

Let’s be honest, there are a very few event planners that can enjoy the luxury of unlimited budgets to market their events. And that’s where these low cost growth-hacking tips can come in handy.

No matter if you organise a local tech meet-up or a two-day conference.

Here are 3 growth-hacks that you can learn from fighting startups.

1. Do event evangelism

Evangelism marketing is basically an advanced form of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) in which companies turn their customers and employees into enthusiasts who spread a word about the product that they believe in.

While many marketers may turn up their nose against WOMM as something outdated and impossible to measure, it is the most trust worthy marketing channel out there.

According to Nielsen research, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends and family members above all other forms of advertising.

So how can you recruit your own group of evangelists?

Turn your attendees into evangelists

Event planning is by default all about bringing people together. This is an incredible asset that most of planners unfortunately ignore as a marketing channel. In fact, a happy attendee is your best evangelist.

And now imagine, you organise a conference of 200 people where each one of the delegates can be turned into an evangelist.
If you think about it, many participants actually become evangelists on their own…

They live-tweet, share their pictures on Facebook and talk about their live experiences with their friends.

There are however steps to increase chances of turning your attendees into evangelists:

– Research your delegates and make the event about them
– Focus on creating memorable experiences
– Make sure to provide them with communication channels so they can spread a word
– Encourage live-tweeting and WOMM with giving out incentives
– Offer a 1+1 tickets with lower price so they can bring their friends

When it comes to live events, there is this social phenomenon  – FOMO, the fear of missing out – that naturally helps evangelising your events.

The recent Evenbrite research indicates that 7 out of 10 people suffer from FOMO when they see social posts of their friends from the live event. This phobia propels them to show up, engage and share with their circles.

To learn more about leveraging FOMO and integrating social media into your events, take a look at this article.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 14.29.02

Source: Fueling the Experience Economy by Eventbrite

Become an evangelist yourself

There is a joke. Do you know when a startuper pitches his product? Every time he opens his mouth. Alright you don’t have to laugh, it was not that funny. But I believe you got my point..

That’s a great beginning but to become a successful evangelist, you need to give some extra push. You need to build your personal brand and work on forming relationships within the industry.

Ok, how do I do it? Well, the best way is to:

– start your own blog so you can share your thoughts,
– create connections with other bloggers and influencers in your niche,
– and eventually promote your event.

Neil Patel, content marketing genius, put together an incredible guide to building your personal brand. Make sure to take a look.

Get your colleagues on board too

The same goes for your partners with whom you work on the event. By encouraging them to develop their own personal brands on social media and start blogging, you can multiply the evangelising effect multiple folds.

2. Start a brand community around your event

Brand communities have been popular and highly researched among academics for last two decades. Not only are they an appealing research subject, they are an incredibly effective business strategy that among many other brands saved Harley Davidson from extinction.

Brand community is a community formed on the basis of an emotional attachment to the product or a brand. It’s specific for creating the connection between individuals, brand and its culture.

Practically every major super-brand succeeded in creating a massive cult-like following that has helped them grow their business:

– Apple
– Harley Davidson
– Star Wars
– Starbucks
– Vespa
– Jeep

There are lots of different guides and tips for building brand communities but I find the article Getting Brand Communities Right by Susan Fournier and Lara Lee most comprehensive. Take a look at the excellent summary of the article by Julie Lemonde here.

1- A brand community is not just a marketing initiative, it’s also a corporate strategy.

2- Companies serve their communities, not vice-versa!

3- A strong community is the prerequisite to a strong brand.

4- It’s not all peace and love between online communities.

5- Strong communities don’t just rely on opinion leaders, there’s room for everyone.

6- The right strategy for your brand’s interests.

7- Successful communities don’t necessarily need to be controlled. The power is in the hands of members.

Successful event communities 

In the context of events and meetings, TED is a shining example of getting the event brand community right. They give their enthusiasts the TEDx platform so they can organise local events, bring in local speakers and inspire the local community.

Not only do these TED’s activities support their overall vision to share the ideas worth spreading, they also form a strong cult-following around their global brand. It’s not necessary to say that when the official TED comes, the tickets are instantly sold out.


Another fantastic example is the Pioneers festival that strategically unites startups and entrepreneurs. Similar to TED, they work with their multi-national community throughout the year by organising Pioneers pitching competitions with local tech startups across European countries.

3. Write, share, repeat

And finally, I cannot omit indispensable content marketing! It’s essential for nourishing and extending the forming brand community.

While this marketing technique is getting more mainstream and many might not consider it growth-hacking any longer, it’s still the most effective way to raise brand awareness, create a group of loyal readers/viewers/followers and ultimately convert them into buying customers.

Event marketers can implement content marketing throughout the entire life cycle. However, I dare to say that it’s most effective prior and after the event. The onsite event marketing is dominated by live-tweeting.

Source: Via Bizbash by Freeman XP

Here is the list of content ideas that’ll help you market your event efficiently and increase attendees’ ROI at the same time:

– write a pre-event blog about the host city/ country to whet your attendees’ appetite
– conduct email interviews with your speakers and post them as blog posts
– invite presenters and partners to guest blog to give them some extra visibility
– encourage speakers to shoot video teasers
– share content from previous events

For more ideas for content creation check out this article.

In summary

Evangelism and brand communities don’t belong to the traditional promotional toolkit of event professionals. These activities are time-consuming and they bring results only in the long term.

However when put in motion and endorsed by strategic content marketing, they can help you gain unbeatable competitive advantage over your competitors for years to come.

So get inspired by startups and:

– Start evangelising your event
– Build a loyal event community
– Nourish and expand your community via content marketing


What are your thoughts on these marketing hacks? Do you have an experience with any of them? As always, please share your experience with us.





Juraj Holub

Marketing Manager & Meeting Designer at sli.do/ Writing sli.do blog / Speaker and #EventProf Follow me on Twitter @Juraj_Holub