Laws of Audience Attraction Series: Digital Marketing 101

September 7, 2017

Stacy O’Connell

As Vice President of Strategy at FreemanXP, Stacy O’Connell boasts an exceptional track record of developing and executing strategies that build brands and generate revenue beyond expectations. Her diverse professional background spans virtually every aspect of both digital and face-to-face marketing, including acquisition strategies, digital marketing, traditional marketing, social media and PR.

During a recent Thinking Thursday event, we gathered industry experts to discuss ideas for solving the elusive audience attraction mystery, which often feels like harnessing a unicorn. The concept sounds sparkly and amazing, but the process of corralling attendees – not just any attendees, but the RIGHT ones – and keep them coming back can feel unrealistic.

While it’s tempting to dust off tried-and-true marketing tactics during planning, especially with limited time, staff and budgets, you’ll reap better results with fresh approaches that go digital.

Between our experts’ astute advice and a lively audience discussion, we uncovered a heap of keen digital ideas to kick-start your efforts. In fact, we gained so much valuable insight that we’re posting the findings in a three-part series to arm you with ideas.

To start, we have a collection of digital primer tactics to set your program in motion. Learn from industry experts (and our Thinking Thursday panelists) Jenn Heinold, senior vice president of events for Access Intelligence, Meghan Jackson, events marketing manager of Infocomm, and Kevin J. McCourt, Sr., senior director of business development for the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).

Bounce back ads

According to eMarketer, increases in digital ad spends will continue to rise. In fact, digital ads surpassed TV advertising for the first time in 2016. With more budget against digital, the stakes get even higher for marketers seeking performance and results. If you’re hoping to stick with unpaid social posts and generic email blasts to drive audience engagement and conversion, think again. Aspire to become digital marketing experts to prime your event for the future and grab more attendees in the process.

Our panelists confirmed these projections, noting their digital budgets have all increased, with tactics including paid social media advertising, online ads, retargeting and other advanced digital methods (stay tuned for Digital 201!). In addition to standard online ads, retargeting (or re-marketing) is an online advertising method that gets your brand in front of bounced traffic following exits from your website. According to AdRoll, generally 2 percent of shoppers will convert on a first visit to an online store; retargeting brings back the other 98 percent.

Meghan Jackson of Infocomm uses this approach to target visitors who begin the registration process without finishing. Jenn Heinold of Access Intelligence also has used multiple tactics including audience segmenting, targeted exhibit messaging, and retargeting campaigns tailored for people who unsubscribe for an event by offering new content, webinar information and white papers to win them back.

“We’re applying old school tactics into new digital formats,” added Heinold. “And we’re seeing positive results with conversions.”

Social butterflies

Social media remains a solid digital foundation tactic, but putting paid support behind your posts will add heft and deliver results. ACRP uses paid Facebook ads and has increased campaigns on LinkedIn by creating sponsored posts as well as InMail messages targeted to attendee interest or industry position. Heinold has also increased Access Intelligence’s paid Facebook ads, which are showing conversions – previous unsponsored posts no longer worked alone. Currently, the team uses a mix of ads featuring static images and video, which netted conversions. They also tried Facebook Live for a recent keynote session with positive results.

You’ve (still) got mail

Email campaigns remain top of mind – but to get to the top of your audience’s inbox, craft messages with targeted, personalized and pertinent, benefit-driven information they crave. For example, ACRP creates role-based emails that speak directly to the receiver’s individual position and responsibilities. The ACRP email strategy no longer includes partner organization messages to reduce clutter for their recipients, which has improved click-through rates.

Our Thinking Thursday attendees discussed how getting creative with subject lines can drive results. One group tied the subject to a current news item (“ripped from the headlines”) that related to an upcoming education session, while another opted to ask questions such as “Have you seen this?” to drive content submissions for their event. Choosing to send messages from a human with a name versus the organization and customizing the pre-header text in lieu of a generic message also generated positive results. Jackson said Infocomm’s open rates have improved because of a personalized email approach.

Messages with heart

Another way to enhance email is to infuse heart into your messages – cause-marketing impacts email with purpose-driven concepts that can drive registrations. For example, Access Intelligence sent out a campaign highlighting Earth Day – for every registration made on that holiday, a tree was planted. Infocomm used event alumni registration data to send pre-populated, customized messages a week before event registration opened, which allowed recipients to update their information and helped the organization maintain a current database – both ideas worked well and increased registrations.

Parting thoughts on gathering tactics

When asked for advice on how to proceed down the attendee marketing road, our panelists offered these points:

  • Establish a great team who can offer varied insights and listen to them
  • Turn data into action: track, check, adjust as needed
  • Set aside money in the budget to try something new, then track the results
  • Personalize to your target audience – by delivering customized value, attendees will reward you with their support and loyalty

It’s time to say farewell to generic, one-size-fits-all messaging and say hello to the new attendees you’ll gain when you refine your existing digital tactics; master new, personalized opportunities and take chances that could just deliver herds of that elusive unicorn. Regardless of the tactics you embrace, keeping a fresh attendee marketing approach using the latest digital bells and whistles will elevate your event and help it grow happily ever after.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.