As 2019 is rolling in full speed, we’re all so absorbed into the latest and most sophisticated marketing strategies. We devise master plans when it comes to targeting, ads, reach, click-through rates. We craft the attendee experience with utmost care, and we invent on-site activities for guests, that are close to sci-fi. But when it comes to bringing them in, we often forget about the power of the good-old email invitation. And this is a mistake, because email marketing still is an extremely powerful tool for events! In this article we’re showing you some event invitation best practices for 2019, to make sure your email marketing strategy is on point and actually works!
The importance of email marketing for events
According to this report from MailChimp, in the events category, over 20% of emails get open, and the click rate is 2.19%. Quite good if you think that the average click through rate for Google ads is 2%. Add to this the fact that an email marketing campaign can cost you significantly less than a Google campaign, and you got one good reason to set up a strong email invitation strategy for your next event. Because, of course, the email invitation strategy only works if you do it right!
Event invitation best practice no. 1 – the mailing list
Invest time and resources into creating a mailing list of potential attendees way before you actually start planning the event. Depending on the field of your event (entertainment, educational, business, professional etc.), this first goal will be achievable with various degrees of ease or difficulty. Your strategy will vary. One way is to gain potential contacts through your website and a newsletter subscription. Remember that people don’t give away their email addresses that easily. So make sure you offer something of significant value in return. It may be a free ebook, a free course, access to free instructional videos, or the chance to win a competition.
Also, make sure the email subscription option is visible enough on your website, but not in an excessively aggressive way. You can use a popup banner (although many proclaim it to be the evil of web marketing, it actually does work!), but just don’t throw it in the users’ face as soon as they enter the website. Rather than doing that, have the banner appear after a few dozens of seconds.
The other way to get a mailing list is to purchase one, but before doing this, make sure the contacts are in target. Also, do some research on the agency selling you the list. Does it have a good reputation? How were the contacts in the mailing list obtained? The most important part here is making sure they expressed their consent to receive marketing emails, otherwise it’s all not only useless (your email invitations are very likely to end up in their spam folders) but also potentially illegal.
Event invitation best practice no. 2 – the timing
There are two aspects to be discussed here. First, you need to determine how much in advance before the event should you send the first email. The second aspect is how many emails to send your potential guests to maximize the chance of them purchasing a ticket.
The answer to both questions will again depend on your type of event and ticket price. If your event is a concert of a major artist, or a conference with big industry names as keynote speakers, you’ll want to send out the first email announcing the event, 6 months to a year in advance. This is especially if you target people outside of the immediate geographical area of the event, because guests will have to plan for additional expenses like travel and accommodation. If you have an early bird ticketing strategy, make sure you mention this in the first email invitation you sent out.
If it’s a smaller event, or it’s only targeted to your local community, city or region, you can send out the first email invitation later. We would say at least 2 months before the event (so you can give guests enough time to plan, and be able to send them reminders without stressing them out).
How many times should I send an email invite?
As for the number of emails sent to each contact in your list, you surely cut your possibilities for a sold out event if you limit yourself to sending just one round of email invitations. But you don’t want to annoy your contacts either. We would say 3 is the magic number: send the first email as a save the date or an ultra-early bird opportunity. Then send a second email half way through the time left until the event. And send the last email just days before the event, for those who wait till last minute.
Event invitation best practice no. 3 – targeting and personalizing
We have already said that your entire mailing list should reflect your target audience. But this doesn’t mean you should send the absolute same email to everyone. You can split your list into segments based on various criteria and send slightly different emails to each segment. The email text could be differentiated by region, or by the different benefits that the various sub-segments of your audience could draw from the event. This of course depends on how much you know already about each of your contacts. When you collect data in the email subscription phase, you want to ask enough information to be able to do some segmentation, but not be intrusive because asking for too much information from your subscribers would simply scare them away. Their full names, email address, profession, and main reason of interest in your business or field, should be enough at this stage.
Also, personalizing your email invitations is a must. You should include the guest’s name in your opening formula (nothing sounds more spammy than “Dear Guest”, or “Dear Friend”). This is the first step to creating an emotional connection to your receivers, and not make them feel like you sent the same generic email to a bunch of random people.
Event invitation best practice no. 4 – email design and content
Now that we’ve nailed down the fundamentals, the when, the who, and the how, it’s time to talk about what really sells: the email itself. There are some elements that you need to get right in order to have an effective email invitation, and we’ll discuss them below.
The subject line
This is the first thing your potential guests see when your email invite lands in their inbox. It needs to be short enough to be striking and catchy, and long enough to give a glimpse into what you’re talking about. The subject line is that one thing that makes a recipient click to open an email, so you only get one chance to attract their attention before the email sinks into a sea of other emails, or gets deleted. So here’s what you need to do to get it right:
- watch out for words to avoid. Some words used in your email subject not only sound spammy but they actually trigger spam filters. Which means that your email might end up in the recipient’s spam folder instead of their inbox! Such words sound as innocent as “weekend getaway” while others are more obvious such as “offer”. Check out this very detailed list compiled by Hubspot, and stay away from all those words and phrases in your subject line!
- personalize. Include a reference about your guests’ region or city, in connection to the event, or a reference about how the event would benefit them in particular.
- be creative. Avoid repeating the subject lines used for other stages of the email campaign or for other events you invited the same people to.
- short is better, but don’t be cryptic, make it clear what the email is all about: an invitation to an awesome event.
The email body
There are a million ways to design and compose the email body for an event invitation, but, creativity aside, it all boils down to a few essential elements:
- personalizing. We’ve said it before, and we repeat it, to stress the importance of it: do not start the email with “Dear Guest”. A serious emailing platform should allow you to customize the opening formula and draw the person’s first name from the contact list.
- inspiring trust. Often times events are connected to brands and companies, so use your brand colors, logos, even logos of partners and sponsors, to inspire trust that this is a legitimate invitation coming from a serious source and not some virus that will crash their device as soon as they click the “register now” button
- enchanting the eye. Use an image that is in line with your type of event, and feature your main speakers, artists, instructors, and/or venue, in your image. Make sure the aesthetic of this image is coordinated with the visual part on your event website.
- mentioning a benefit. Your invitation text should contain a strong reference to a concrete benefit that the guest will get by attending the event. Will it improve their careers, or give them the chance to network with big names in the industry? Or will it be the ultimate entertaining experience, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their idol performing live? Will they be able to take the outcome of the workshop home?
- instilling some urgency. A limited time early bird offer? Limited seats? Early purchasers automatically signed up for a raffle or competition? You name it, but give people a reason to act sooner rather than later. If they wait for too long, chances are they’re going to forget about the event altogether.
The indispensable information
Now with all this creative juices flowing around your beautifully crafted invitation, don’t forget to provide the crucial information! Make sure your invitation includes the date(s), time(s) of your event, the venue and how to get to it, and any requirements like dress codes or ticket sales ending on a certain date.
The call to action
Any event invite email has to include a call-to-action button, that links to the event website. All the efforts put into the other parts of the email content will be useless if guests don’t have the opportunity to register for the event, just one click away.
Event invitation best practice no. 5 – use an event management platform
Email marketing is a field that may seam hard to learn and master. Contact lists, email design, monitoring results, that’s a lot to take care of individually. The great news is that a good online event management platform will offer an integrated system for emailing invitations. For example, if you choose Metooo as your event management platform, you’ll have plenty of benefits attached to the email RSVP system that comes with it.
How Metooo can help you with your event emailing strategy
Metooo offers you many ways to simplify your work when it comes to inviting your guests by email, such as:
- the possibility to send your invitation to individual contacts or to entire mailing lists that you imported from Gmail or MailChimp. In this last case, all you need to do is connect your Gmail or MailChimp account to your Metooo account and the import is done in just a few clicks.
- being able to send up to 2500 emails per month and to ask for further quantities (for a fee) if you need to
- a clean and stylish design for the email body, coordinated with the event website visuals. You can keep the same image that is in the background of your event page, or add another image of your choice
- customized text in the email body
- the opening formula (“Dear…”) is automatically personalized with the first name of your guest
- customized subject line
- simplicity in setting it up. All you need to do is go to your event edit dashboard, and click the “invite by email” icon on the right side of the page. The email editor will open, and you will be able to do all the customization (image, text, subject) from there. Then you’ll just click “Send mail!” and your invitation will be sent to your contacts or list
- the possibility to send emails as many times as you want, for the same event. So if you want to apply the “3 emails” strategy that we talked about earlier, you can totally do it through Metooo.
Email may seem like stone-age old, but in event marketing it’s more powerful than ever, as long as you use it wisely. We hope that these event invitation best practices are of inspiration to you when you plan your next project, and that you will use them to take your event on its way to success!