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« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

Collecting Real Time Feedback on Your Event

During a brief stroll of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport I found an interesting feedback idea for events. There were some signs posted around the airport terminal encouraging people to text message their comments.  I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something to the extent of “text us on how we’re doing.” I believe the same concept could be used to collect live feedback on an event.

Text Messaging
Today almost everyone has a cell phone. Text messaging is all the rage, especially with young people. It’s hard to go anywhere and not see someone text messaging. Even my parents are text messaging.

Quick & Easy Feedback
The ability to for patrons to comment easily and quickly is a big positive. In most cases patrons make a quick observation about your event and do little about it. Patrons leave your event and then get back to their personal life. In my experience, you get a feedback rate of around .001 for most events. Text messaging can potentially bridge the gap in getting quick feedback.  When you ask people for feedback, then give them a quickly and easy way to comment, I believe you’ll get significantly more feedback. Yes, you will receive some feedback that is going to be over the top and in some cases very negative.  Some people just love to complain. But, I believe that the virtues outweigh the vices. Any feedback on your event is good feedback. There might be something very important you can learn and greatly improve your event.

Basic Idea
Text messaging feedback would probably be most applicable to larger events with at least a few thousands people. You would have to find a company that could collect text message feedback. An event organizer could post signs in the exit areas encouraging people to “text us what you thought of the event.”

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A Friendly Event Promotion Reminder

A few days ago I had a brief discussion with a client hosting an upcoming conference. We talked about some ideas to generate additional attendee sign ups before their sign up deadline. When you mention the word deadline to someone, thoughts of pressure usually follow. It is very easy to think “I don’t want to pressure my list to take action before a deadline. If they want to attend they’ll buy or sign up on their own.” There are ways to get people to act before a deadline without pressure. In today’s crazy world of distractions every other second, a friendly reminder usually doesn’t hurt. In a few cases I’ve seen simple reminders make a big difference in promoting an event. 

Don’t Sales Pitch Them to Death
I’m not a big fan of sales pitching people to death or pressuring someone to buy. Some people use the “OMG! Buy Now before the World Ends!” rant. The previous approach tends to be a turn off.  There is a better way, it's called the friendly reminder.  Instead of using pressure, try something like this: “Hello this is to reminder you (insert something interesting or a good story) . . .” You'll be surprised by the response.

Real World Example
Here is an example of the friendly reminder. Last month I was involved in an event promotion campaign with an air show client. Part of the campaign included promoting discounted tickets to be purchased by a certain date. The first time around only a few people bought tickets before the deadline.  It was clearly stated on the web site when the promotion ended.  An email was sent a week before reminding people on the list.  The client then decided to extend the deadline to encourage additional ticket sales. The second time around we decided to send a 48 and 24 hour reminder email. There was a significant increase in ticket sales between the first and second deadlines. 

Next time a deadline for your event approaches try to think of creative ways to get people to act before a deadline. An extra push, or two, maybe three, does more good than bad. The important part is in your approach and messaging. Keep it interesting for them.

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Keeping Your Event Promotion Emails Interesting

In “Don’t Be Afraid to Engage Your Prospect Repeatedly” I wrote about the importance of engaging your list more frequently as your event approaches.  In order to be really successful with your email event promotion you must combine frequency with a high level of interest.  The best way to keep things interesting is to send the reader relevant information that’s compelling and in a style of writing that is easy to understand.

Open Rates Decrease when You Send More Email
One trend that I notice with my own clients is that when you send more emails your email open rates go down.  A 40%+ open rate was typical when sending promotional emails every few weeks for event clients.  As the frequency of emails increase to every few days, in some cases once a day, the open rates on emails decreased to around 30%.

How to Get Response and Email Open Rates to Go Up

A simple way to getting both response and email open rates to go up is by keeping your information relevant and interesting to the reader.  It was Joe Vitale that said “Get out of your ego and into their ego.” Give them what they really want! The best response rates were the emails that the client provided their target market exactly what they wanted.  In the case of an air show client, it’s was schedule of the flying acts. For another client it was a map of where Brewfest attendees could fine their favorite breweries.

Discovering Relevancy - What Are They Interested In?

You can find out what your target market is looking for by asking them what’s important to them. Consider writing your target market an email asking “what do you want form this event?” or conducting a quick survey.  People are most responsive when you ask them relevant and meaningful questions.
In many cases your target market will automatically tell you what information they seek.  Take a look at your email inbox. My air show client received countless emails requesting a schedule of flying acts. For years the client didn’t want to release the schedule to the general public.  Fortunately a middle ground was found and the target market was elated when the schedule was released a few days before the event. 

Write Using the Target Market’s Language
When writing email try to write in your target market’s native language.  Simple writing is the best writing style to use.  Don’t try to use big stuffy words and write in simple sentences.  Write so that the average reader doesn’t have to get a thesaurus to decode an email. Appealing to the target market’s emotions and desires is also of significant benefit.  You want your readers to think “this person gets me.” If you can achieve that connection, you’re response rates and open rates are going to go up.

Additional Info:

Tell a Story
If you can craft your emails into a story your target market will take notice. Why would you want to tell a story to your target market?  Because people love to hear interesting stories that are meaningful to them. 

Hopefully the information above gives you some ideas for better connecting with your target market via email.  You can’t afford to send boring emails to your target market before your event.  If you make them anticipate your next email, you can't go wrong.

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Online Comments About Your Event

Yesterday evening, I had a great discussion about event feedback on the Internet with one of my good friends.  In today’s world almost anyone has the power to post information online.  Look at the latest Bigfoot hoax.  Two guys went out and posted a YouTube video that turned into a media frenzy. How many hours were lost to a rubber Bigfoot costume in a freezer? If you are an event organizer you should be aware that people will comment online about your event.  These comments could be positive or negative. There are steps you can take to mitigate the risk.  One angry Internet comment justified or not, can turn into a public relations disaster for almost any event.

Stand By Your Critique
This part is a bit of a personal editorial. I have no issues with people who want to criticize an event. I believe that feedback, good or bad, is beneficial to every event.  Event organizers should recognize that any feedback is a good feedback. But event feedback should be done responsibly. I’ve seen a disproportionately high number of ‘Anonymous’ comment criticizing events. If someone is going to criticize an event for any reason, be man or woman enough to sign your real name to the comment. In some cases the comment posted was a complete fabrication.  What’s more dangerous is that you don’t even need to attend an event to make comment. Almost anyone can post a comment on a blog or forum about your event.  Because of this, event organizer must become increasing more vigilant of their event’s online reputation.

Become the Information Authority on Your Event
Event organizers are going to need better situational awareness in the Internet 2.0 world. A way to deal with ‘Anonymous’ comments is by becoming the online authority for your event. Having your own web site is crucial in this process. If you’re aware of unsettling comments about your event, use your own web site to your advantage. People are more likely to believe an authority web site than some random forum post.  If there is a critique of your event and is significant enough to warrant a response, use you’re official event web site to respond.

Use Google Alerts
You can use free technology to monitor the Internet for comments about your event.  Go to alerts.google.com to find out additional information on setting up a Google Alert. You can setup an alert for your event. Google’s search engine will automatically send an email sent to you when the phrase you entered is detected on their search network.  The email sent to you will contain a link to the information posted and brief excerpt.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than scouring the Internet manually.

Find an Online Champion
In another post I wrote about utilizing online champions to support your event.  You can utilize the same people to keep a watchful eye for any potentially troublesome comments.  If you have enough trust in these people, have them take the lead responding to critiques.

As the Internet becomes more popular and technology evolves, event organizers are going to have to become increasingly more mindful of information about their event online.

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Keep Your Event Promotion Emails Relevant and Understandable

The biggest delineator in a successful event marketing or promotional email campaign isn’t the graphics, but the content. The content in almost every instance takes the form of words, either spoken or typically written. People crave information that’s relevant to them and written in terms that they can understand.

On Long Copy
Have you ever seen a really long email and thought to yourself, “I’d never read that, there are too many words!” Plenty of my business associates have made similar comments on some of my event marketing emails. They say things like “there are too many words to read and it’s not visually appealing.” The irony is that the same people will sit down and diligently read 750+ pages of a Harry Potter novel. Keep in mind there are no graphics or fancy layout in a Harry Potter novel, just black text on a piece of paper. 

If the copy is compelling and relevant to the reader, people will take the time to read it, even if it’s 750+ pages. As one copywriter said, “get into their ego, not yours.” Constantly ask yourself, are you writing to the reader’s interest? If the information is irrelevant to the reader, it doesn’t matter how short or long the copy. Brad Antin says it best, “readers won’t let you bore them with print.”

The Words You Use

Aside from choosing a relevant topic of choice, the best way to engage the prospect is by writing to your reader in a very conversational manner.  Use the words that the reader can easily understand when you write, even if those words lack sophistication.

Go and take a look at almost any business web site on the Internet. Businesses love to use words that are sophisticated and make THEM look good. People don’t care about that. That is a big reason why so many businesses struggle online. Your target market wants to know what you’re going to do for them in words they easily understand.  I don’t want to get out a thesaurus to understand a company’s marketing message. When producing any form of marketing or promotional copy for your event, write in simple words that your target market can understand.

Your promotional and marketing emails are going to be far more effective if you write to your target market’s interests and in words they understand.

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Late Event Promotion - Big List Growth

Here is the scenario; you’re event is about a week away and someone suggests the idea of growing a promotional email subscriber list.  Most event organizers would say to themselves, “it’s too late to build a list for my event; we’re only about a week away. Let’s save the idea until next year when we have more time.Ironically some of the best event list growth happens during the weeks preceding your event. A big reason for this is that your event advertising and promotions are typically at their peak.  The awareness prompted by all the advertising and marketing drive people to find out more information about your event.  As a result, you get a significant increase in traffic to your web site. More traffic is usually followed by more list subscriber sign ups.

Real World List Growth Examples
One of my clients grew their event promotion list by 40% during the week leading up to their event. That’s 1250 people who signed up to receive additional information right before the eventIn regards to time frame, the client started collecting emails 7 months earlier.  Another client grew their list by 25% in the week leading up to their event.

List Quality versus Quantity
The question of quality versus quantity usually comes up when seeing significant list growth in a short period of time.  It’s all about having the right offer to your target market. The people who are signing up to your event subscriber list are the people who have a vested interest in your event.  Your web site actually acts as a filter of interest. Someone who’s not interested in an air show probably isn’t going to be on an air show web site in the first place.

Promotions versus Feedback

You might not be able to run a promotional campaign for those people subscribing in days before your event, but those subscribers are still a tremendous resource.  There is a good chance that if people are signing up to your event subscriber list that they’re really interested in your event.  Those same people are probably the most likely to show up to your event. If you can’t run promotional material to your list, you can probably collect great feedback after the event.  Consider sending everyone on your list an online survey after your event.  Post event feedback is tremendously useful to any event organizer.

Hopefully the information above shows you that it isn’t too late to start building a list for your event. Building a dedicated event list is one of the most powerful promotion techniques that any event promoter or organizer could undertake. It’s almost never too late to start.

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Event Marketing: Updating Your Event Web Site

As an event approaches so do the number of updates typically made on your event web site.  There is something important to keep in mind when you make content updates on your event web site. Just because you’re making updates to your web site doesn’t mean that your users are cognizant of those updates. I’ve seen event organizers work diligently to keep their event web sites as up to date as possible. Many times those updates go completely unnoticed by their users.  You don’t want that happening if you have some really important information to get out to your prospective event patrons regarding your event.

Remember Your Return Visitors
It’s important to keep in mind that a portion of your web site visitors come in the form of return visitors. My event marketing clients noticed a consistent return visitor rate of about 30% regardless of their specific event niches.

A Simple Solution
A quick and easy way to orient users with any updates you’ve made on your event web site is with an extremely simple news update section. If you have a moment, visit Yahoo.com. Not much has changed in how Yahoo displays news stories over the years. I’ve used the Yahoo news section as a model for displaying news stories on event web sites. You can dedicate a small section, above the fold, on your homepage for an updated news section.  Try to keep your news section as simple as possible.  I’ve included an example below that I’ve implemented on client web sites.

News Updated14:23 EDT on 08/31/2008

  • Short Headline #1 (Hyperlink)
  • Short Headline #2 (Hyperlink)
  • Short Headline #3 (Hyperlink)

There is nothing fancy about the example above. Try to keep things as simple as possible. A few simple lines of compelling text with links to additional information are all you really need.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Engage Your Prospect Repeatedly

Over the last few years I’ve encouraged my event marketing clients to build dedicated subscriber lists for their events. A crucial part of any list leveraging is to engage your list on a regular basis.  In the case of event promotion, you’ll want to engage your list more often as your event approaches.  Building anticipation for your event beforehand is crucial for event success.  One question that always comes up as more emails get sent is “are we sending too many emails?” The first place to look for an answer is by considering your ratio of opt outs to opt ins.

A Reference Point

To give you some perspective, one event marketing list I manage had a 3% opt out rate over six months.  The total list size was almost 3200 people.  Over 15 emails were sent to the list over 6 months. Ten of those emails were within 20 days of the event taking place.  Less than 100 people opted out through the course of the email campaign. There were 32 people signing up for every one person that opted out.  That’s a pretty good ratio.

If half your list removed themselves from getting more information about your event, you might need to reexamine your approach.  The ideal ratio is ultimately going to be up to you.  Look at the people who are staying on the list, are they responsive to your offers? The most important question to ask is "are people buying from you?" Lists are about quality and responsiveness, not quantity.

You’re Going to Get Opt Outs Regardless - Don’t Take It Personally
Keep in mind that anyone who signs up to your list has indicated that they are at least interested in finding out more about your event.  It’s in your best interest to keep their attention level as high as possible.  Don’t get discouraged if you see people opting out of your email list. I’ve always found that the more information you send in a short period of time the higher the list abandonment rate.  People are going to leave your list regardless of how good the information. You need to make sure that the abandonment rate is as low possible while consistently sending emails.  The best way to keep people on the list, and keep them opening email, is by giving them information that they deem valuable and relevant to their needs.

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Event Promotions and Shortening Your Domain Name

Drop the 'http://' and 'www' from Your Event Advertising
If you are directing your prospects to your event web site through print, radio, billboard, or television advertising consider truncating your web site address down to ‘yourevent.com’.  I recommend taking out the ‘www’ or ‘http://’ from all your event advertising pieces. Most consumers today know a web address and what to do with it when they see one. In addition, every web browser I'm familiar with automatically appends ‘http://’ to any web address that a person might enter into the address bar.

Cut the Extraneous Information & Save Time
If you have a radio ad and decide to include just the classic ‘www’ before mentioning your domain name that burns 2 seconds of your 15 or 30 second radio spot. If you get rid of ‘www’ and ‘http://’ in television and print advertising you can usually increase the font size of your domain name.  The bigger the font, the more prominent your web address.  You can also look at this recommendation as a way to cut down on the clutter of your event advertising. There are far too many ads that try to cram as much information as possible into a limited amount of time or space.  Consumers are already overwhelmed with too many advertising details. Getting rid of the ‘www’ and ‘http://’ from your event advertising is one small step in the right direction.

Triple Check for Domain Compatibility
There is one very important caveat to this suggestion. It’s crucial to check beforehand with your hosting provider and/or web master to make sure that your web site is configured properly. Some web sites won’t load if you don’t include ‘www.’ before the domain name.  It’s a very quick change that most internet developers can easily change. But don’t wait until your advertising campaigns start to check this important consideration.

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