By Melissa Morris, sales and marketing manager, One Wimpole Street

The colourful mix of channels available to marketers and event organisers has created explosive potential for concocting immersive campaigns that successfully push customers’ buttons. Email marketing is one of the most logical, cost-effective and high impact ways to get this started, allowing you to communicate a message to your valuable database of contacts with relative ease. Maximising your event’s immediate and long-term impact requires planning, publicity, slick execution and a well-oiled feedback strategy.

Results measuring is a high value aspect of an email marketing campaign. Measure open rates, undeliverables and click-throughs; view results for a campaign as a whole; view the actions of a specific recipient to understand what makes that person tick. Capturing this sort of information can prove a valuable lesson for improving future targeted campaigns, making your messages more reflective of that person’s behaviour, preferences and location.

When creating an email marketing campaign, what should you do and what should you avoid?

Plan, publicise, promote

You hold events to raise funds, close deals, nurture relationships and educate colleagues and prospects. First up, you need to let people know what you’ve planned, whether its a trade show, a launch party or a business workshop. If you’ve not yet got a list of invitees, get to work on creating a page on your company website that details your event. Invite interested parties to sign up with their email address to receive more information. You could even offer email subscribers a free entry voucher, or other promotional incentive, like a glass of wine on arrival. Allow plenty of time to execute this initial data grab.

If you’ve a ready-made list of dedicated clients, you’ve a captive audience primed to receive offers. Don’t get sucked into thinking you have to have thousands of people on your list — focus on quality rather than quantity. Then plan, plan, plan.

Avoid email overload and create a schedule. Map what you’ll communicate when, then if and how you’ll segregate your data into groups, e.g. event organisers versus booking agencies. Plan to send a ‘save the date’ announcement, then a detailed invitation, then a reminder. You need to tell guests what they will learn, who they will meet and if there are any free resources or prizes. They’ll want the date, the location, the cost and the link to register.

We buddied up with to share news of our Confex trade show promotions with its 70,000 subscribers. Our eDM to them featured an interactive iPhone-style fascia with graphic buttons representing click-through links to various pages of One Wimpole Street’s website, including HD virtual tours, facilities, location and late availability. Hits leapt to 531 on that day, accounting for the busiest in our company’s website history.

Consider sending a morning digest containing updates on presentation times, speakers and locations if the event spans more than one day. Finish up with a post-event email to thank your contacts for attending, whether that’s done hand-in-hand with a feedback survey, an event re-cap with a link to download presentations, or an invitation to connect on Facebook or LinkedIn — or a combination of all those things.

Customise, integrate, schedule

Email marketing tools can be integrated with databases or CRM systems allowing event managers to easily customise emails with details such as name, job title and address. Perceived lack of technical skill is no longer a hurdle to engaging with email marketing. Content management systems (CMS) require no knowledge of HTML — they mask all that jargon behind easy-to-use templates that can be customised to mirror your company branding. You can even automate email scheduling and send test emails before they go live to your database.

Content should be viral and sharable — increase the reach of your campaign by allowing recipients to ‘Forward to a Friend’. Tweet about the event and include a link to the sign-up page. This is something you can continue to do throughout the campaign. Create a hashtag too, or link to one that’s relevant. We took advantage of the #confex hashtag to market ‘a chance to win money every 30 minutes’ live from our Confex trade show stand. This put us in front of new Twitter followers and increased foot traffic to our stand by those keen to get in on the lottery ticket promotion we’d devised especially for the show.

If appropriate, bolster your efforts by creating a Facebook page. Mirror marketing messages, link to your website and consider creating interactive content like YouTube videos, podcasts and opinion polls. As consumers, we have control over who we ‘like’ on Facebook. By expressing affiliation with a brand, we are inviting and giving permission to that company to engage with us. It’s often worth our while, as we become part of a community that is given exclusive access to promotions, information and product previews we might not have otherwise been privvy to. Use that logic in your own campaign and reward your loyal Facebook fans with unique content. It’s a lot easier to sell to an existing customer than to sell to a new one.

Email often seems a less intrusive way to be contacted, but respect your customers and be explicit with permissions — ensure people are very clear about what they’re signing up for and what they can expect to receive from you. A user’s ability to control the lifespan of that relationship is theoretically just a click of an ‘unsubscribe’ link away. Be aware that it’s a legal requirement that all commercial emails offer readers a simple one- or two-click mechanism to opt-out.

There’s no cookie-cutter solution to event email marketing technique. Learn tactics from other businesses, but through testing and results monitoring, find what works best for your customers. Never be afraid to ask questions.