Event Marketing: Online Marketing for Your Offline Event

brick & mortar online marketing

Even though the focus of this blog is online marketing, few brands can survive with a strictly online marketing strategy. Often, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned "brick-and-mortar" event. Events may even be a key aspect of a brand’s existence, and marketing these events is a necessity.

This article, while not strictly a case study, aims to be something along those lines. It illustrates an effective online marketing strategy that was conducted to promote an event held by a career center.

The event was a large-scale job fair, being held in partnership with an AHL hockey team in the area. The online marketing strategy focused on promoting the event to job seekers within the county served by the career center.

Hub and Spoke Marketing Model

To market the event online, I adopted the popular "hub and spoke" model of marketing. Hub and spoke is so named because everything radiates out from and/or points in to a central focus:

generic hub and spoke graphic

In this case, the hub was a set of web pages presenting information about the event. The spokes were various other web properties and channels used to market the event, all linking back to that central hub of web pages.

The Hub: An Event Microsite

The hub was a very small microsite, consisting of these three pages:

  1. A main page marketing the event and giving the primary details, i.e., location, date, time cost, etc. The page had two prominent buttons, each linking to one of the two subpages of the microsite.
  2. The first subpage, showing a complete list of the 60 participating employers, with a prominent button linking back to the main page.
  3. The second subpage, showing a list of the seven workshops being presented at the job fair, giving times and descriptions for each workshop, and also with a prominent backlink to the main page.

It might have been possible to present all of this information on a single web page, but there were two compelling reasons not to:

  1. Logically separating the content onto different pages (arguably) provides a better user experience, especially on mobile since it avoids the "eternally" scrolling web page, and more importantly for this particular marketing strategy…
  2. Having more than one page provides a basis for producing more varied and engaging social media posts, as you’ll see below.

The microsite was hosted in a subfolder of the organization’s main website. Microsites may be hosted under a separate domain name, but this is generally not recommended for these reasons:

  • You want your main site/domain to accrue the marketing and SEO benefits of the traffic to the microsite pages.
  • Sites at different domains, all linking to each other, can appear to the search engines as a black hat SEO tactic, which tends to be frowned upon.
  • Because of the above reasons, a separate domain should be used only when there is a very clear and definite marketing benefit. Otherwise, it is best to host the microsite in a subdirectory of the main website/domain.

The Spokes: Social Media and Other Channels

Once the microsite "hub" was established, the next crucial step was to plan the "spokes" which would direct traffic back to the microsite.

Because there was no budget for marketing, all of the channels used as spokes needed to be free of charge. In this case, then, basically owned and social media. This diagram gives an overview of the final hub and spoke strategy used:

hub and spoke event marketing graphic

Owned Media

The owned channels utilized were:

  1. Several pages on the organization’s main website:
    • Home Page – On the home page an always-visible Call To Action (CTA) was created, which linked to the main page of the microsite. Additionally, an item was added to the home page’s news content rotator which also linked to the microsite main page.
    • Events Listing – A CTA was created on the Events page, linking through to the microsite main page.
    • Calendar – An item was added to the calendar of workshops and events, also linking through to the microsite main page.
  2. The organization’s newsletter was used to highlight the event, with a link pointing to the microsite main page.

Social Media and Other Free Online Resources

A press release, which included a link to the microsite main page, was issued and was picked up by writers at Patch.com for several local cities. Additionally, an Eventbrite page was created, urging prospects to pre-register and also urging them to click through to the microsite home page for more information.

For social media, the organization’s Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts were used as part of the marketing mix. Since maximum outreach and exposure was desired, I posted the event multiple times across all social channels.

However, I also wanted to avoid resorting to this oft-seen sequence of posts for an event:

Event on such-and-such date – don’t miss it!

Event on such-and-such date – it’s going to be great!

Don’t forget: event on such-and-such date!

Here is where having your content parsed onto separate microsite pages becomes a benefit to your social marketing strategy. This approach allows you to craft a greater variety of posts, highlighting the different content pages.

As indicated above, the content for the event microsite was separated onto 1) a main info page, 2) a listing of participating companies, and 3) a page detailing the free workshops being offered. This allowed a series of more varied and interesting posts to be crafted, linking variously to the main microsite page, the list of employers, or the list of workshops. Here are a few examples:

See the list of 60 local employers who will be hiring at the [team name] job fair on [date]. [link to employers]

Job Fair being hosted by the [team name] on [date]. Get details and learn how you can pre-register! [link to main page]

Get a Free Resume Tune-Up at the [team name] job fair on [date]. [link to workshops]

ABC Company, XYC Inc, and JKL Ltd. will be at the [team name] job fair on [date]. See who else will be hiring! [link to employers]

Have you heard of Behavioral Interviewing? A free workshop will teach you about this trend, and how you can successfully answer behavioral interview questions, at the [team name] job fair on [date]. [link to workshops]

Online Results / Outcomes

For the two-week period during which the job fair was marketed online, there was a 49% increase in overall traffic to the organization’s website (compared to the prior two-week period), as shown here:

graph of website traffic

During the same two-week marketing period, the three pages of the microsite accounted for 26% of all Unique Page Views on the organization’s website. Visits to the three pages of the microsite were as follows:

graph of visits to microsite

Given that the organization’s website is comprised of about 110 pages, this means that during the two-week marketing period, a mere 2.7% of the pages (the microsite) accounted for 26% of all Unique Page Views.

Clearly, it is possible to execute an effective and no-cost online marketing strategy to promote your next event.

You may be interested in reading my related post Content Marketing Strategy for a Non-Profit: A Case Study.