Marketing is such a huge subject they've created entire fields of study about it. It can be easy or a real challenge so the best way to start is by breaking it all down. Marketing, Advertising & Promotions seem to be a by-product of my life, so here is a simple run down to get you started on marketing your event.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
What sort of event do you have? What would transpire during your event for you to consider it a success? Attendees, revenue, just a smooth few hours or days? You need to know more than what it takes to have an event (lighting, linens, food, etc.) but also what the objective is. Then you can build your marketing plan.
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
If you're a non-profit, donations tend to be a goal. If it's a social event like an after-party, then the sort of people who show is important. For trade shows, a prime spot and good turn out is key. Networking can always be a goal too. Once you've got the objective constant in the background amidst your planning, then you can start to focus on who should be there and why. Just because people show up, well that's great but were they interactive? What did they get out of your event? Will they come back next year? Will they tell their friends and share it on social media sites?
It's also important to consider who your audience is even within a company. Is it for your high-level executives? A standard company picnic? You may not have the high rollers of your company at an event but if we're being honest, everyone is important in a company. Otherwise their job wouldn't exist. I once worked at a place where everyone tried to get out of going to the annual Holiday Party because of the feared staunchiness of the afternoon's "festivities." Some people would rather have had a ham sandwich at their desk than an expensive lunch. This attitude was also contagious. You want employees to feel excited about their job and in essence be excited about all the work you're putting into it.
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
If you're lucky, you have the kind of event that everyone wants to be a part of and you don't really need to market it-- in fact you may have to turn people away. But some of us have to work for it. If you have a marketing/pr/advertising firm your company works with you should try to connect with them to brainstorm, even for smaller events that you may not think needs it. The same is true for an in-house department. If you don't have access to that, then network. Who do you know in promotions? Come back to your objective and think about what would make this event a success. What would blow your fellow employees away? One of my favorite things to do is read about successful people. How did they do that? They were creative. They thought about stuff. They did it. But rarely do they do it alone. Networking is a powerful tool and you can never know if someone is not interested until they tell you no.
The best way to get people to show up is to actually put the information out there. Use what's relevant for you whether it's online or newspaers. Take advantage of the fact that lots of media outlets have community calendars like these (you can google "chicago community calendars" to find them like I did with these):
Please remember not to make the stupid mistake of not providing all the information. I can't tell you how many places do a great job of telling me about certain aspects of an event, I say "cool" and then "uh, where is it?" Time (specify AM or PM even if it seems obvious because we all know common sense isn't common), the Date (include the year in case someone is researching and thinks they found something old or just isn't sure based on your flyer), and the Location (include the zipcode so it's easy for people to find on a GPS system or Google Maps). Put a cross section of the street if you're in a busy area so people can easily take a cab. MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO GET TO YOU. The more they have to work, the less likely they are to show up.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
Including marketing with any event will surprise you. It will add to the success when you break everything down and focus on what you need. Inviting the right people may improve the atmosphere, add to your donations or just be a good time.
Want to know more? Post your question to my facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/TheChicagoEventPlanner