February 23, 2022   |   Molly Falco

5 Ways to Market to People Who Hate Marketing

Marketing is getting trickier by the second. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the days when you could throw up a banner ad and see actual conversions, you’re not alone.

Most “traditional” digital marketing tactics have tanked, even as recently as this year. As people become more marketing-averse, it’s becoming harder and harder to figure out how to reach them in a way that doesn’t make them a flight risk. 

Unfortunately, the craze for “authenticity in advertising” has done little but make our audiences more skeptical. Seemingly innocent posts are hyper-analyzed. Everything you do looks contrived.

So how in the world do you get people to come to your event?

The good news is, it’s not all doom and gloom. As the digital world becomes more and more suspicious, old-school marketing tactics are back on the rise. Plus, there are still ways to get your audience’s attention on the web. Here are five ways to market your event without turning your marketing-averse audience off on the first date. 

1     Lean on your network

And before you even get the idea in your head, we don’t mean asking your attendees to share your event on Twitter with a #cutesuperbranded hashtag.

Unless the people sharing your news have audiences super relevant to the one you’re trying to reach, asking every guest to share willy-nilly isn’t going to get you very far.

This is a classic case of quality over quantity. One “influencer” with a significant number of in-industry connections is worth a lot more than 50 random attendees whose only likes seem to come from their aunts.

On the plus side, it’s pretty easy to determine who is valuable to your marketing efforts— you just need to look at who they’re connected to— and person-to-person interaction is king in the digital world.

Make a list of the people you want at your event; usually industry influencers and relevant business leaders who have significant followings on a social platform, whichever it may be. Invite them to your event personally, and offer them a free ticket or a discount in exchange for some social sharing.

Don’t be afraid to hand over the reigns here. It’s tempting to craft their post to make sure they’re getting all the information exactly right and selling your event the way you want to sell it, but this is usually a bad move. Unless they specifically ask you to write the post for them, let them tell the story in their own voice, the same way they would normally communicate with their followers. This makes what they’re saying feel real, not forced or like a paid #ad, and in a time when people are constantly wary of advertising the more you let your influencers take the lead the better.

And don’t be afraid to lean on influencers in your own organization, too. If your CTO has a massive number of followers in your space, he’s the right guy to ask for a little help promoting your event. And remember, your personal networks aren’t out of bounds either— it’s likely that you have plenty of connections of your own who would be interested in attending. 

2     Try giving a handout

Did you know that handing out or posting flyers still has the highest marketing ROI of any established tactic? It’s pretty wild that in a time where we get most of our information by angrily shouting “Hey Siri” at our phones, paper can still be the way to go.

While we’re definitely not saying paper flyers are going to get thousands of people to your event, we are saying that thousands of flyers can cost like, $100 and get at least that many people through your door. And look, $1 is not a bad cost of acquisition considering the much, much higher number paid ads are putting up these days.

The key to this tactic is being really specific about where you do it. You know the guy who goes to events just to pass out flyers for his event? That guy sucks and everyone hates him. No offense, guy.

Instead, consider taking a peek at neighborhood demographics in your city (or the city the event is in) and posting some around where your most-likely audience lives. Leave them in coffee shops near there. Post them near expo halls. Near office buildings. Hand them out in front of a WeWork.

Even better— send them via snail mail. It’s crazy easy to grab business’s physical addresses off of the internet, and crazy easy to put your paper in an envelope and drop it in a mailbox. Unbelievably, snail mail really works (to the tune of a 3.7% conversion rate.)

This tactic follows the opposite rule of our previous one: quantity over quality. Just make sure to use recycled or biodegradable paper. We aren’t a particularly environmentally friendly industry to start with, you know.

3     Print is making a miraculous recovery

Marketers in 2021 hate print, and look, we totally get it. It ain’t easy to measure your ROI on a subway ad.

The good news is, it’s hard to measure brand awareness in general, and this is an awareness play at its core: so throw those numbers away and buy a billboard.

Ok ok, billboards are expensive. If your event budget is super healthy and your event location is super cheap, we would actually still vote in favor of snagging one—there’s no better way to catch eyeballs. 

Sure, out-of-home ads are tough to target, but it’s not like you’re paying a cost-per-drive-by rate. And look, it doesn’t have to be something huge. These can be poster ads on bus stations, headliner ads on public transportation, vinyls on the backs of busses—if every divorce lawyer in America can afford one, so can you.

Not only does this put your brand and event on the top of a lot of minds, but this type of advertising is also actually becoming endearing thanks to brands like Spotify, Casper, and Thinx, who have totally embraced out of home in recent years.

This is also a great place to let your graphic designer and copywriter go to town: the more creative and out of the box, the more likely people are to visit you back home on the web.

4     Make some changes to your content marketing

Look, we’re not going to sit here and tell you content marketing is dead. Especially because, well, we’re literally sitting here writing content hoping you’ll think we’re pretty smart and that our product might be too. But we will admit, its effectiveness and popularity are waning.

You can still catch plenty of good leads with great content, but what makes great content has changed—a lot. Now, please bear with us as we give you a lot of advice that we have in no way heeded in publishing this blog post.

First off, people like to connect with people—that means your author is important when you’re writing blogs and social media posts, and that your on-screen talent is important when choosing who will be in your videos.

Instead of taking the approach of your brand or even taking ownership of the content you’re putting out, make sure your author is placed in the spotlight. Make sure they have a bio up. Make sure their social profiles are connected. Give your audience a way to get to know them, and have the same authors post regularly. When readers feel like they connect with the person who’s writing, they’re more likely to trust them too.

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on format. While 2000+ word blog posts are deemed “best” for SEO, they’re also completely unreadable. Very few subjects require so many words, and if your subject does you should consider breaking it apart into 2 or 3 different ones. While SEO is great and all, clicks on your post don’t matter to anyone but your boss (and you should probably explain to them that this is a bad metric.)

You need people to spend time and read, and doing that means creating good, streamlined, snackable content, not SEO-friendly boring behemoths. Instead, try using the aforementioned networks to share organically. More likely than not, this was how most people were going to discover your blog anyway.

Lastly, consider video. This can be a little more of a pain to produce, but ultimately is a lot more interesting to the viewer and can result in a lot more conversions. Keep in mind, we’re definitely not advocating putting your CMO on screen and having them ramble about a blog-post-long topic. Instead, do a series of 10-second interviews with her to post on your social. They’re easy to watch from start to finish, and dripping your information and RTBs to your audience can actually be a more effective way to build anticipation.

5     Don’t sleep on your UGC

This can sometimes be the hardest tactic because you can’t just set it in gear a few weeks before your event and hope for the best. In fact, most of this has to happen a whole year in advance, at the previous iteration of your event. But if you’re diligent, you can prime a whole audience for this year’s fiesta 9 months before registration even opens.

UGC, or user-generated content, is the number one most trusted source on the Internet. Seriously. Just like J.Crew’s followers want to see their sweaters on a non-white, non-thin, non-20-year-old model, your event attendees want to see your event’s value through their peers’ eyes.

During your event, be active in sharing your attendees’ tweets and photos. Make blog posts out of them. Make your own social posts out of them.

And as this year’s date gets closer, definitely, absolutely, use them on your event website. Keep old tweets as testimonials. Regram content from last year.

It’s easy to feel like no one’s listening when you’re marketing on the Internet. So give them someone to listen to.