The Events Industry Council has determined that roughly 205 million people attend the over 1.8 million conventions that are hosted in the United States each year. But in order to snag even a fraction of these attendees and events, your convention center needs to come up with a killer marketing strategy to stand out amongst your competition. These top marketing tips for convention centers will stretch your imagination and inspire others to book their events with your venue for years to come.
Explore marketing ideas for convention centers
1. Get the basics right.
You know how to do these things already, but it’s probably been awhile since you did a holistic review of your marketing plan. Dust it off and make sure to review each of the following:
- Define your competition. What other major convention centers nearby are stealing your thunder? Brainstorm ways to stand out from them.
- Review your positioning. Maybe you’re not the only conveniently located and accessible convention facility in town anymore. Use your differences to guide your marketing efforts.
- Evaluate your target audience. Consider what’s going on in your immediate area. Are there tech start up campuses sprouting up left and right? Pivot some of your messaging towards event planners in that field.
2. Add your location to your SEO strategy.
Use your location in a few of your long tail keywords and aim for phrases you know event planners typically Google. You should also make sure you’ve added your location to your website meta titles, key web page headers, and rich snippets. It’ll help prospects organically find you online. Learn all about improving your venue’s local SEO strategy here.
3. Start a blog.
Blogging does require a considerable amount of time and effort but it is worth it. Not many other convention centers will take the time to do it. The latest digital marketing trends suggest creating posts longer than 1,200 words. Publish content you know event planners will love (like floor plan ideas and decor inspiration) on a regular basis.
4. Create a unique hashtag.
Use your conference center name and location in as few characters as possible. Make sure you add it to every social media post, webpage, and staff email signature. When you choose one, be sure to double check no one else is using it so they don’t distract from your great marketing. You can find even more tips for creating a strong social media presence for your venue here.
5. Build a community.
Forming relationships adds value to life in general but especially business. You’re in luck – event planners enjoy attending events just as much as they do organizing them. Whether it’s online or in-person, find a creative way to gather your group daily or weekly to hang out and talk about things you’re all interested in. Live streaming is a wonderful tool for finding prospects because the medium has a built-in sense of community anyways regardless of which platform you use.
6. Use your local chamber of commerce.
Attend their events, register your conference center with them, and meet local event planners. That’s a whole lot of value just from one marketing tactic.
7. Seek out venue partners.
Ask the local chamber of commerce you just joined or any other convention or visitor bureaus in your town. There are lots of ways they can support you. Whether it’s through advertising, sponsorships, or word of mouth referrals, seeking out venue partners in related fields is an effective way to market your business.
8. Co-host events at your location.
Once you find venue partners or any other interested community group you can offer to cohost their next event at your convention center. You can show off your facilities, schmooze local leaders, and help people discover what your venue has to offer firsthand.
9. Submit to directories.
Claim your business or add yourself to each of the following convention center and venue directories:
- Google My Business
- Cvent’s Convention Center Directory
- The Tradeshow Handbook
- Business Travel News: Supplier Directory
- State specific tourist directories
There are plenty of other options not included here but this is a good place to start!
10. Optimize your conference center photos.
Event planners love photos – they just can’t get enough of them! Improve SEO by adding keywords to ALT Image details. Label every image with a detailed caption. And make sure your gallery is easy to find no matter what page your website visitors are on.
Include photos of your venue and rooms from every angle. And don’t forget to have some people hanging out in there. It might not seem like a big deal but most convention centers feature completely empty rooms so this tip could really help you stand out. Bonus points if you set your models up with funny backgrounds while enjoying made up conventions.
11. Create a video tour for event planners.
Use narration, subtitles, and quality audio/visual tools to take planners on a walking tour of your convention center. When you post it online, remember to share it via social media and use SEO best practices.
12. Develop a personality.
Even if your conference center primarily caters to B2B clientele, make sure that your marketing reflects its own distinct personality. Professional doesn’t have to mean bland. By using a distinctly entertaining or authoritative voice in your copy, content, and advertising, you’ll help separate your venue from the dozens like it nearby.
You can also revamp your branding, try new forms of marketing like webinars or live streaming, or something else just outside the norm. Anything that helps people get a sense of your venue’s overall vibe and what their experience would be like if they worked with you helps them make a decision.
13. Start a Pinterest board.
Similar to a blog, a Pinterest board helps event planners find content you know they’ll love. They’re already hanging out there anyways, so why not pin your venue tour video or share tips on how to book convention centers in your city?
14. Emphasize in-person networking.
The best way to get new business in the door is to play to your strengths. Which, for convention centers, means emphasizing the in-person networking aspect of every live event hosted at their venue. Despite our impressive ability and access to connect with one another online, humans still crave face time with one another.
Use your marketing to remind event planners that convention centers are vital for facilitating personal connections and building stronger businesses. Convention centers are some of the few physical locations left where professionals can meet new people and improve themselves.
15. Make venue details easy to find and understand.
Include each of the following facts for your convention center as a whole and each individual space:
- Equipment & Other Tech Specs
- And any other pertinent information you can think of
Remember to put a direct link to your booking site at the bottom of each description so planners can get started right away.
16. Bond with convention organizers.
Again, word of mouth and relationship building is so important for convention centers looking to drive trade show business. Taking that extra step and reaching out to convention organizers for things other than business is a great way to bond with them. Connect on Facebook, attend convention organizer cocktail hours, and just put yourself in the same room as them on a regular basis. Most other convention centers aren’t going the extra mile to do this so it’ll give you a leg up!
17. Show off testimonials.
Happy clients bring in more happy clients. Have event planners who have worked with or attended events at your convention center submit a professional headshot and a 2-4 sentence review. Display those on the homepage of your website.
18. Provide incentives.
Whether you’re running a paid Instagram or direct mail campaign, you have to provide incentive to your audience. Incentives can have monetary value like a discount if booking during a certain time period or complimentary food and beverage upgrade to the next five customers who book.
Incentives can also provide value in other ways, such as a coupon book featuring your favorite local suppliers or a link to an eBook about event planning. Either way, give convention organizers a reason to engage with you that directly benefits them.
19. Check in with past customers.
While you’re out getting referrals, why not see if past customers are interested in booking with your venue again? If they had a great time before it will be a no brainer! Sometimes all event planners need is a friendly reminder that you’re around to help them if they need a convention center soon.
20. Build your list of industry suppliers.
Slow periods create a prime opportunity to dust off that contact list and network with top industry suppliers. Meet award-winning florists, caterers, rental companies and others in your area. Partnering with high quality suppliers makes your convention center look great. And it could mean more opportunities since those businesses will likely refer you to their clients too.
21. Take advantage of trends.
Convention organizers are already tuned into the latest event industry trends and are likely keeping them in the back of their minds while searching for their next venue. Make sure you apply at least one of the latest and greatest convention venue trends to your facility so clients know you’re on top of your game.
For example, here are some select trends corporate event planners might be looking out for when they check out your venue in 2019:
- Festivalization. Transforming boring business events into fully immersive and exciting experiences like at regular consumer festivals.
- Augmented and Virtual Reality. Event experts predict that AR and VR will be a major factor in attendee engagement before, during, and after events this year.
- Mindfulness. Although it’s strange to see this wellness buzzword following an advanced technology trend, mindfulness elements added to event design, furniture, and floor plans are going to be a large consideration for event planners this year.
22. Try Pay Per Click ads.
Laser target local audiences with paid ads on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Use your primary keywords, location, and target audience demographics when making your ads. Also be sure to play up your positioning so when new people start to hear about your venue they’ll remember it.
23. Host an Open House.
Team up with associations, suppliers, you name it! Have your vendors showcase their goods inside your amazing convention center then invite event planners to the party. They’ll get a sneak peek of what your venue has to offer while also connecting with other businesses in the industry. It’s a win-win-win.
24. Automate social media marketing.
Social media marketing requires multiple posts per day on each platform which equals a lot of time and effort. Instagram alone now has posts, Stories, Live, and IGTV, which is like four different social media sites in one.
So even if you’re a social media whiz, it makes sense to automate at least some of your marketing. Consistency, as you know, is key to keeping your audience engaged and staying top of mind. Find a free or paid social media marketing solution that fits your needs and get those posts going sooner than later.
25. Consider upgrading your equipment or furniture.
Do your competitors offer the latest and greatest mic systems? Maybe it’s time to reinvest in technology. Or perhaps a fresh coat of paint! Even if it’s something small, giving your convention center a mini makeover shows event planners that you care about the venue and are dedicated to making continuous improvements. Then, after the changes are complete, make sure you advertise them so people know!
You’re on your way to jumpstarting your conference center’s marketing
There are lots of imaginative ways to connect with convention organizers online and in person. Even adding one or two of these suggestions to your marketing tool box could help improve your booking numbers for the year, so why not give them a try!
As always, it’s important to keep your marketing goals in mind when cherry picking from this (and other) tips lists. If you’re looking for more high ROI ways to market your convention center, try Social Tables Event Sales Solution. It will help you increase your overall number of qualified leads and drive direct revenue in ways everyday marketing tactics simply can’t!
Maria is a freelance writer specializing in B2B SaaS, technology, and events.