Tara Marotta

Ask MarketingSherpa: Should I use geo-targeting for event emails?

December 19th, 2017

We frequently receive questions about marketing advice from our email subscribers. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we publish some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog since they may be able to help many other readers. And if you have any questions, let us know.

This question was submitted by Email Marketing Manager Korbin in reference to emails about his organization’s events.

Korbin: I’m trying to find the average decrease in conversion when we send an event email to a 30-mile radius around the event, versus something larger like 70 miles. It’s caused some heated disagreements between field and HQ staff.

Do you have any research on something like this? For example, if an event is in Denver, and we send an email invitation to 30 miles around Denver (~1 hr drive radius), how does that conversion/unsubscribe rate compare to an invitation sent to something like a 50 or 70-mile radius (~2-3 hrs.)? Is it worth expanding the send?

Dear Korbin: I asked around the lab and while we don’t have the precise data to support the decision you are looking to make, my colleagues were happy to review and provide their perspectives on your challenge.

Here are the insights I was able to gather:

Insights based on experience

From running our own events, our hypothesis is that the specific time or mileage would most likely vary by location. For example, here in Jacksonville, we’re pretty spread out, and people are used to going a long way to get places. The same is true in Los Angeles.

The Boston market seems way different. Someone isn’t going to come in from Cambridge to get into the city or go from the city out to the suburbs. New York is the same.

But that’s just a hypothesis. Would love to see your test. In the meantime, here’s some content you might find helpful:

In addition to the distance to the event, the messaging and title of the event are important, of course. Here’s an experiment we ran for one of our own events:

Email Testing: More Specific Subject Line Improves Open Rate By More Than 35%

Insights based on testing

Leads from our data sciences and research teams shared the results of a campaign they worked on for a large event with satellite host locations.

They ran a geo-targeted email test based on the registration addresses of previous attendees/alumni:

  Message CTA Clickthrough Registrations
Control General event messaging Register Now for a Location Near You 2.0% 34
Treatment This year, the closest host site to you appears to be: Host site name, City, State Reserve Your Seat Here Now 3.7% 162

Based on the success of the geo-targeting, this organization then sent the same treatment email to their entire list of subscribers based on IP address, securing an additional 87 registrations.

Some technical issues with their email platform caused errors in some of the sites shown, so an apology note was sent for the potential mix-up with messaging: “Oops! The suggested host site in our previous email might not be the closest available location to you. If this was your experience, try using our Interactive Summit Map to find a Host Site near you.”

The image in the email was an interactive map and search bar that clicked through to their interactive map page — this email drove an additional 52 registrations.

The unsubscribe rate was not a key metric that our team tracked for this particular campaign, so I can’t share that with you — and even though you are already geo-targeting, I thought it might give you some ideas for campaign and tactic messaging.

Insights based on principles of messaging and incentive

And finally, while I was asking around, several analysts recommended testing as you expand your radius, and segment your messaging for new groups. So those outside your usual 30-mile radius might need a little extra incentive to come. How can you offset the perceived cost of driving the extra distance with perceived value? Free parking/breakfast/cocktails? An extra percent-off discount with ‘”to make it easier for you to join us” messaging? Or maybe bonus learning materials/after-event online course benefits — whatever your audience would find worth the extra effort to come.

Your goal is to encourage additional registrations but also minimize unsubscribes. The hypothesis is that people will opt out because “they’re sending me irrelevant messages/this isn’t for me.” So how can we overcorrect for that perception?

Perhaps by acknowledging that it’s a little further and by making a human connection — maybe a personal-style email from one of your well-known team members or the speaker they are coming to see with messaging along the lines of “It might be a little bit outside your usual route/I wouldn’t normally ask you to come this far, but because of the <special reason or appeal of the event> … ” and/or “Because you are particularly a passionate/engaged/valuable member of our community <give x reason>, I didn’t want you to miss the opportunity to join us. It would be great to see you if you can make it.”

And while I wasn’t able to answer your question directly, I hope this has provided some value and given you some directions to think about. Either way, it’s a great question and very worthy of testing with your audience. And if you do run a test and are willing to share it with our audience, let us know.

Thanks again for sharing your challenge, Korbin. And best of luck with your campaign and event!

Korbin: This is great.

Thanks to you and your team for taking the time to compile this info.


We’re looking forward to a follow-up from Korbin to see if he and his team did any testing on their emails. We’ll be sure to share when we get updates!

In the meantime, hopefully this provided some insight to those of you who are also wondering if you should experiment with geo-targeted campaigns.

Our job is to help you do your job better, so if you have a question we may be able to help answer, let us know.

You might also like …

Email Marketing: How focus on value proposition in testing led to a 66% increase in event registrations from email

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

Tara Marotta

About Tara Marotta

As the Event Content Manager for MarketingSherpa and MECLABS, Tara is responsible for all of the content for both internal and external events. This includes selecting featured speakers and working with brand-side marketers to create compelling presentations for MarketingSherpa’s annual Summit. Tara started her career at MECLABS in the AV department as a Multimedia Production Manager where she was responsible for producing promotional videos, online training and video case studies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication-Media Production from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

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