How to evaluate event email software and event email marketing tools
Email is an utterly indispensable tool when it comes to the planning, management and marketing of events. Often it is the main mode of communication between team members, staff, vendors, contractors, suppliers, exhibitors, speakers, entertainers and volunteers who are all organizing and/or involved in the production of the event. And just as often it is the main mode of communication between event organizers and attendees as well as people who you are inviting to attend your events.
With that said, there are many ways to use and implement event email communications, and equally there are many event email software programs that you can use to perform one, some or all of your event emailing needs.
A scarce few event email programs are all-in-one solutions, but you will find that most are built to facilitate either event management communications (that is, sending messages between people who are planning or coordinating the event) or event email marketing communications (that is, communicating with prospective attendees or attendees).
A few things to look for in any event email software application include:
- Ability to handle any kind of event - Whatever event email program you choose, it should be flexible enough to handle communications for any kind of event, including meetings, conferences, workshops, classes, seminars, galas, fundraisers, networking groups, festivals, parties and weddings.
- Secure and comprehensive data management - Check to make sure that the tools you use are equipped with proper data security measures and have adequate equipment and protocols in place to ensure your data is not lost.
- Integrations with other applications and platforms - We live in an era where most businesses use 5-20 different software applications, so your event email app should be able to share data with other platforms, such as Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, Apple, Outlook, Wordpress, Quickbooks, Xero, Zoho and other CRM and accounting programs.
- Demo or free trial - Always try out any event email communications software before you pay for it … this is the best way to assess if it will properly meet your needs.
Now let’s take a look at how email software for events breaks down into two different use cases: event management communications vs. event email marketing.
Event Management Communications
This type of event communications involves email and text messaging between people who are actually planning, managing and producing the event. This could include internal collaboration between event planners and managers, conference and meeting planners, staff members, marketers and volunteers. And it could also include their external communications with event vendors and contractors of all sorts. Sometimes this type of tool is included in event management software applications.
As such, whatever event email software tool you use needs to seamlessly allow event organizers to connect with these parties as well as collectively see all relevant communications connected to the event to ensure nothing has been overlooked (hence the need for a centralized inbox for all such emails).
Here is a sampling of the types of event email communications a solid email program should enable you to manage.
1. Agenda and Schedule Communications
If there’s one thing that involves a lot of back-and-forth while planning an event, it’s negotiating and establishing the event’s agenda or timeline. Because so many communications go into building an event schedule - from arranging with vendors, speakers, entertainers and content providers to setting up tracks and sessions to establishing the desired flow and cadence of your event - it’s important to have a reliable tool to manage and categorize all these schedule-planning emails.
2. Project and Task Management Communications
Another source of many email messages during the planning phase is via event project and task management. Event planners serve many roles, one of which is as head project manager. As such, they hold the reins to the master task list and oversee all the details, due dates and assignments divvied out to team members, vendors and volunteers.
Email serves a central role for managing these tasks with regard to sending out reminders, confirmations, follow-ups and notifications regarding completed, incomplete, updated or new tasks. You can also use it to send out internal meeting invitations and scheduling calls with team members.
3. Vendor and Venue Communications
It’s vital to maintain a record of communications with all your event vendors - including caterers, production companies, videographers, photographers, AV companies, security providers, transportation companies and even speakers and entertainers - in case a misunderstanding or disagreement arises. It’s also important to keep these communications centralized and easily accessible so all your team members can access them.
Also, an email history of communications with your event venue(s) is similarly important, enabling you to track messages regarding event venue booking management (including room blocks), pricing, deadlines, minimums, headcounts, venue transportation, parking, and more.
4. Billing and Sales Communications
Many public-facing events - including meetings, conventions, trade shows and festivals - often derive substantial revenues from more than just ticket sales, and a reliable event email software program lets you easily conduct communications and transactions regarding sponsorships, exhibit booth sales, fundraising, donations and large group ticket sales.
As such, being able to email event proposals and invoices to sponsors, exhibitors and donors as well as collect their contractual signatures and collect event payments electronically can simplify how you do business with them. Note: This is one instance where event email templates come in handy, as you may be sending out a slightly modified email for many of these transactional emails.
5. Floorplans and Design Communications
Finally, email serves a central purpose in planning the design and physical setup of events. From sharing event floorplans and room layout designs to staging designs and event decor, organizers can use email to keep track of all the vital decisions regarding these items and come to a consensus on the overall design and appearance of the event.
Event Email Marketing
A critical tactic of event marketing is email marketing. In fact, it may be the most important way to attract attendees and correspond with registered guests for the simple fact that practically everyone uses and regularly checks their email (as opposed to all social media platforms and apps).
Because of this fact, many event planners use event email marketing software (along with an event website or webpage) as the centerpiece of their event marketing plan and campaigns. This includes building and scheduling email blasts for event invitations and event registration emails and well as promotional, reminder and update emails.
There are a wide variety of email marketing software tools to choose from. Some are free and some are paid. Some are specific bulk emailing tools like MailChimp, Constant Contact, ActiveCampaign, Drip, SendinBlue and GetResponse (many of which will work great for event marketing). Some are more broad marketing tools like Hubspot and Marketo, which include email marketing along with websites, blogs, in-depth marketing analytics, SEO, SEM and more. And there are event marketing software platforms like Cvent, Eventbrite, Splash and Bizzabo that include event email software with event registration and ticketing, event webpages and event apps.
The best way to choose which one fits your needs best is to determine your core needs first and then look for the tool that best aligns with those needs. However, here are some of the key capabilities many email marketing software solutions offer.
1. CRM / Contact List Management
The most important factor in email marketing is your list. You could have the best email content and design on earth, but if your list is crap, your event email campaign will still fall flat.
Considering this, you would be well served to choose an event email marketing system that also includes a solid event CRM contact manager or integrates with your CRM tool of choice. Many event email software solutions offer a contact list manager with custom data fields, multiple e-mailing lists, variable data merge fields and other contact data management tools.
An important but often overlooked aspect of CRM tools is CAN-SPAM compliance and the ability to sync an unsubscribe link in your event email messages with an unsubscribe/opt-out list in your CRM.
2. Email Design
Even though designed emails aren’t as popular or prevalent as they once were (due partially to more rigorous spam filters and partially to recipients habitually bypassing them as overly salesy), it’s still seen as professional to provide a clean, basic design for your event emails.
Thus an HTML email design tool would be a nice feature to have access to. This would at least enable you to customize your event email templates with your logo and event colors, but being able to create dynamic layouts with imagery and different font options would also be very useful, as would integrations with your event registration, ticketing and RSVP tool of choice. Here are some interesting event email examples to inspire you.
3. Automated Drips, Triggers and Attendee Outreach
When it comes to event marketing, sometimes you need to get in front of potential attendees three, four or even five times before they decide to pull the trigger and attend your event. For that, a tool for creating automated drip email campaigns for your events would be a huge timesaver.
In addition, once attendees sign up for your events, you will still want to stay in front of anyone on your guest list to notify them of new developments, upgrades, products and, well, to remind them to show up on event day.
You may also want to send registrants automated emails when they take noteworthy actions, like pick their preferred track or sessions, upgrade their registration or even check-in at the event (like a welcome email when they walk through the door). And if you are tracking them at the event with RFID technology, beacons or name badge scanning, you may want to trigger emails or text messages when they take actions on premise (like enter a specific area or an exhibitor’s booth).
4. Analytics and Testing
One great thing about email marketing is that practically everything is measurable - open rates, clickthrough rates, conversion rates, undeliverable rates, bounce rates, unsubscribes and emails marked as spam. This gives you amazing insights into what is happening to your emails after you hit “send” (i.e., their deliverability) and how receptive your message or event theme/topic is (tools that offer analytics reports and dashboards for these things get bonus points here).
Another great thing about email’s metric-friendliness is that many email marketing tools let you conduct A/B testing on items like subject lines, body content, pricing, designs and imagery. This way you can test your messaging, see what resonates with your audience and tweak future email efforts.
5. Event Website/Webpage Integration
As mentioned earlier, your event websites / event webpages need to work hand-in-hand with your event email marketing strategy because you will usually be pushing people from an email to somewhere on your website to take action, whether it’s sending them to an event registration form, RSVP webform, payment processing form or your event blog.
Some event email software platforms include link tracking to your website, but you might be well served to set up a Google Analytics account and use Google’s Campaign URL Builder tool to create tags for your links so you can track clicks from your event emails through your site to conversions.
As a corollary, if you are launching an event app for mobile devices, you may want your email to integrate with your mobile app so your attendees have a seamless experience.
6. Social Media Integration
Social sharing buttons in marketing emails are almost ubiquitous these days, but we would be remiss to forget mentioning them because of their value. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are valuable ways to connect with your attendees and guests, and giving them links and buttons to share your event with their followers and on their threads is a true no-brainer.
7. Post-Event Surveys
Just because your event is over doesn’t mean your event email marketing opportunities are over. Sending out event surveys to attendees a few weeks after the event not only shows them that you care about their opinions, but it gives you insights for your next event and is your first step in pre-marketing that event. (In fact, we have seen people offer a discount for future events for attendees who fill out the form.)