The Danger of “Free Event” & “Great Event” Thinking

There is one very dangerous mindset common amongst event organizers with free events.  That mindset is thinking people are going to show up to your event just because it’s a free event. The same mindset also propagates amongst event organizers who have “inexpensive events.” In “What is the Perceived Value?” I give a brief example of two air shows illustrating the point. You should check out the article. In the article I give the example of a free air show and a paid air show. Logic dictates that people would choose the free air show. Yet, people rarely use logic in most of their decision making.  Decisions are made at a much deeper level.  As one marketer puts it “We buy with our emotions, and then justify with logic.” That’s how the human brain seems to work.  A free mindset can work as an incentive for some things, but not everything. It takes a lot more than price to win the hearts and minds of your audience. 

“We Have a Great Event”
There is also a danger in thinking “we have a great event” therefore people will automatically show up. That simply isn’t the case. There are plenty of people I know who have truly great events. They spend a tremendous amount of time planning and executing their events.  The end result is usually an under performing event.  The dangers above illustrate why you must sell your event on value, not price or your own personal beliefs. You might see something one way, but does your target market see it the same way?

Delivering Value at Your Event
I believe that people are willing to pay for something they perceive to be of high personal value, even when faced with a free option. Apply that thinking to your event.  The best way to deliver value is with highly effective marketing.  People will flock to your event if they see the value.  You can deliver that value in how you market and promote your event.

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Getting Them to Buy Tickets Early

There are times when it can be difficult to get people to purchase tickets to your event.
Unless there is some big incentive to buy early, most people tend to wait in purchasing something. Last minute ticket purchases can create havoc for event organizers. On occasion we all need a little extra motivation to take action. There is one technique you can use to help motivate people to purchase tickets for your event early. 

The Scarcity Principle
In the marketing work there is one very simple and effective technique to getting people to buy, it is know as the scarcity principle. In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about how scarcity can be used as a motivating factor to get people to take action. The scarcity principle can also be used to get people to purchase tickets to your event early.

How You Can Use Scarcity

The foundation of scarcity principle is to let people know that there is a limited amount of availability. If you are the consumer and the item in question is something of interest, you need to get it before someone else does. Look at all the Christmas shopping havoc for hot items.

In the case of your event, scarcity can be applied to your ticket sales. By limiting the number of tickets you’re going to get more people to act sooner.  Be upfront and let people know how many tickets are available for your event. As your event approaches update the number of tickets available. You can use your web site or email marketing to encourage people to act sooner rather than later.

One of my clients used the scarcity principle effectively to sell out all their reserve seat tickets for their event. They keep people informed of reserve seat availability on their web site and via email. Another client used the “Limited Number of Tickets Available” to sell out their event before a single person walked into their event. There are events I know that have gotten so good at using scarcity they sell out their event 30 days in advance.

Use Scarcity Responsibly

I’m not a big fan of the “Oh my God the world is going to end if you don’t buy now.” You should encourage people to act promptly, but you don’t need to sales pitch people to death.

The whole limited quantity aspect works. You can use it across all your advertising channels at no additional cost. The next time you have an upcoming event think of ways to use scarcity and get people to buy early.

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A Different Way to Promote Outdoor Events

If you have an outdoor or weather dependent event you are most likely familiar with the associated anxiety of the weather forecast.  Months of planning and hard work for your event can be devastated by an unfavorable weather forecast. It could be as simple as, “chance of rain this weekend.” Those words spoken by a local weather forecaster can cost organizers thousands of dollars in potentially lost revenue.  The worst part is that the weather forecaster doesn’t even need to be correct. It could be a perfectly sunny day and yet the mere implication of bad weather can keep people away.

They’re Thinking About Weather
If you have an outdoor event; you can bet that weather is either at the top in terms of reason why someone might not attend. How many times have you asked yourself “what if it rains or the weather is bad – are we still going to go?”

The Damaging Admission
There is something you can do about the weather.  In the direct response marketing there is something called a damaging admission. You are admitting to your target market that there is an inherent flaw with your product or service.  In the case of outdoor event organizers, you’re admitting that your event might potentially be impacted by the weather. For some people making such an admission can be completely counter intuitive.

A Real World Example
A few months ago a client put a damaging admission into some of their online promotional material. They admitted on their web site and in their email campaign that there might be bad weather at their outdoor event. Initially, they were apprehensive about admitting that their event might be impacted by bad weather. Multiple weather forecasts called for rain during their event. The client was fortunate because part of their event was protected from the weather. They couldn’t ensure 100% protection from the weather, but they at least had a contingency and told people about it. In the end the rain never came and the client had the biggest crowd ever for their event.

Your Damaging Admission

Can you make a damaging admission about your event and spin it in a positive manner?  A damaging admission for an event can be integrated into your event promotion.  If you’re going to use a damaging admission as it pertains to your outdoor event and potentially bad weather, you need to have something to alleviate people’s fears. It isn’t enough to admit to a flaw and then do nothing about it.

If you have an outdoor event, think of ways to integrate a damaging weather admission into your marketing and promotion. Though it seems completely counter intuitive, I’ve seen it work very well.

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Web 2.0, Social Media, and Event Promotion

Recently, I received a comment on Web 2.0 technologies as they pertain to event promotion. The comment questioned the need for a traditional web site in the Web 2.0 world.  It’s a pretty important question savvy event organizers need to examine. The first place to start is with a definition of Web 2.0.

What is Web 2.0?
The definition of web 2.0 is fairly enigmatic. If you ask a dozen different IT people for their definition, you’re probably going to get a dozen different answers. I like Tim O’Reilly’s simplified definition of Web 2.0:

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.

I think Web 2.0 technology offers a better way to deliver information to your target market. This includes technology like RSS feeds, blogs, and socialized media, just to name a few.
Both Yahoo and Google are leveraging various Web 2.0 and social media technologies. Yet, they don’t seem too quick to abandon their top tier web sites. They’re leveraging their market share with new technology.

Socialized Media
Socialized media includes technology and services like Blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Most people would classify social media as Web 2.0 technology. I believe social media is great and it has its’ purpose. But I don’t think social media can replace the benefit of having you own web site. Your own web site gives you a certain level of credibility and authority online.  It’s the one stop shop for people trying to find out more information about your event.

Find Your Balance
I advocate being balanced in approaching your marketing with technology. Web 2.0 technologies are beneficial to promoting and marketing one’s event. I think it’s fair more beneficial to leverage your traditional web site with web 2.0 technologies. You want to make your information easily available to those who are most interested, your target market. Different events will have different target markets.
Too many people focus on the bells and whistles of technology.  Focus on what’s useful to your target market, not what’s cool.

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Let Other People Sell Your Event for You

How many times have you tried something on the recommendation of a friend or someone you know? In the marketing field someone making a recommendation of another product or service is known as endorsed marketing.  In many cases endorsed marketing takes the form of a testimonial. Testimonials involved someone else, either a customer or associate, endorsing your product or service. A testimonial usually doesn’t cost anything collect, yet is an extremely effective way to promote products or services.  Have you ever considered using testimonials to promote your event?

People Say
Dan Kennedy, one of the world’s top direct marketing consultants, sums up testimonials as follows:

What others say about you and your product, service, or business is at least 1,000 times more convincing than what you say, even if you are 2,000 times more eloquent.

An Example
Recently one of my clients had their largest event of the year. Their event takes place on an annual basis. Each year a few thousand people attend the event. This year the client decided to hire a local video production crew to gather video testimonials while the event took place. I think it was an ingenious idea. They plan on using the collected video testimonials to promote their event next year.

Credibility
Video testimonials are extremely credible because you get to see people in real life using their own words. One question people frequently ask about video testimonials is "should they be scripted?" I wouldn’t recommend trying to script video testimonials. Unscripted testimonials allow people to be genuine about endorsing your event. You are far better off allowing people to talk about your event in their own words.

Next Time You Have An Event
During your next event ask your attendees if they would be good enough to give a video testimonial during a break or other appropriate time. The best testimonials are results oriented. In the case of an event it can be something as simple as “I attended Joe’s event and was able to do … “or “I attended the XYZ event and had an unbelievable time. Let me tell you why you should attend . . .”

Home video production has never been so inexpensive.  All you need is a basic video recorder that hooks up to your computer and some simple video editing software. Most computers already come with the software installed. The time invested in getting video testimonials is well worth the  effort. There are few other forms of advertising or promotion that can compete with a genuine third party testimonial.

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Buried Treasure and Event Promotion

Buried_treasure_event_promotion My latest adventure has landed me next to one of the greatest supposed buried treasure locations in the world. It’s Oak Island, Nova Scotia. People say that there could be any number of things hidden within the island’s flooded underground caverns. Treasure hunters have been digging since 1795 for the mythical treasure. Some have speculated that the possibilities include Marie Antoinette's jewels, Blackbeard or Captain Kidd's plunder, and possibly the Holy Grail itself. A number of people have died in the search for Oak Island's buried treasure.

The cruel and somewhat ironic part is that there might not be anything at all to be found. The Oak Island Treasure has been dubbed “The World’s Costliest Treasure Hunt.” There has never been any concrete evidence found of treasure, just speculation and myth. It’s all a story, but a story that has become a legend. What does buried treasure and promoting an event have to do with one another? It’s all about a great story. And a great story is an extremely powerful way to promote your event.

A Great Story
One of the world’s greatest marketers, Seth Godin, is a trumpeter of great stories. In his book, All Marketers are Liars, he writes about how people love to tell themselves stories. Stories are an extremely powerful marketing and promotion tool. Story telling is also a form of word of mouth advertising. If a person is telling other people great stories about your event, it’s the best free advertising in the world. 

Creating an Experience
You can use the concept of a great story to promote your event. Great stories come from great experiences. Like the famous P.T. Barnum, I don’t think you should hype up something you can’t deliver value on. But, if you can deliver value and exceed the patron’s expectations with your event, you owe it to yourself and your patron’s to hype things up. Check out the “Turn Your Event into an Experience” article for some ideas on turning your event into an experience.

A great story or experience can be summed up in several ways.  With the internet, it’s never been easier to tell those stories. You can use text, audio, and video. The cost for content delivery has never been so low.  If you can tell a great story to enough people in your target market, you shouldn’t have any problem packing your event.

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Saving Money on Your Event Promotion

The next time you want to promote your event, try to think of ways to influence your target market instead of buying their interest. Today the average consumer is so inundated with advertising that they are much more apt to ignore it. Even if that advertising is something that might hold some interest, people might ignore your advertising just because of all the other advertising. You want to start by focusing on ways to get the attention of your target market. It starts with the type of advertising you are using to promote your event.

Know Your Most Effective Form of Advertising
A favorite question to ask event organizers is “what’s the most effective form of advertising for your event?” Surprisingly most event organizers cannot answer the previous question.  What’s even more ironic is that they’re willing to spend thousands of dollars on advertising, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet they can’t tell you their most effective form of advertising. Too many event organizers finally justify their ineffective advertising expenditures with “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

The Different Types of Advertising
You should ask yourself is your target market for predisposed to giving more attention to a certain type of advertising medium?  An older demographic might be more likely to use a newspaper to find their information. College aged consumers tend to react better to social media advertising like Facebook and MySpace.  Some markets react to both traditional and new media.

Buying Their Attention versus Changing Their Minds
The best form of advertising is just one piece of the puzzle. You’ll want to consider looking at your advertising as a way to influence and attract the attention of your target market, not as a way to change people’s minds. There are few advertisers who have the marketing budget to change consumer’s minds.  Their marketing budgets tend to be in the millions of dollars range. There aren’t any event organizers I know that have that kind of marketing budget. If someone isn’t predisposed to having at least some interest in your event, you likely don’t have enough money in your budget to change their mind. 

Have an Impact with Them
Your advertising message must resonate with your target market regardless of budgets and mediums.  It isn’t enough to say you have an event and tell your target market why you think it’s going to be great. Your advertising needs to pull at the emotional heartstrings of your target market. Use words and imaging that will get your target market to take action.

The next time you have to put together a marketing campaign for your event take some time to think about the most effective way to reach your target market.

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Your Web Site as a Traffic Filter

If someone were to tell you to limit the amount of traffic coming to your web site, how would you react? A typical first reaction might be, “the more traffic to my web site the better, right?” Ironically that is rarely the case. The topic of “the right traffic” is one of those counter intuitive strategies for web sites.

Here is an example. One of the most popular articles on this site, “Beach Running Tips,” doesn’t have anything to do with internet or event marketing. I get a decent amount of daily traffic because of the article. Yet over 99% of the users just read the article and leave. The traffic is of little or no use to my business.

The Right Traffic
It isn’t about how much traffic you get to your web site, it’s about how much of the right traffic you get to your web site. Traffic to your web site is analogous with foot traffic into a retail store.  If you get enough people through the doors, some people will eventually buy something. Yet, if you get the right people through the door of your store, you’ll sell significantly more.

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Knowing Your Event Patron

Over the last three years I’ve spent an enormous amount of time researching marketing techniques for businesses and events.  Throughout all the books, courses, and seminars there is one dominate ideology for marketing success. That marketing technique can be broken down as follows:

  • Find a good niche market
  • Get to really know the customer in that niche market
  • Give them what they want (not what you think they want or need)

Knowing Your Event Patron
The idea of knowing your market and giving them what they want directly applies to event organization and promotion. If you can find out what your patrons want and deliver it to them, it’s hard not to have a successful event. In many cases the organizer’s mindset and that of their patron are very far apart.  Most event organizers put an event together, do some promotion, and then hope a lot of people show up.

Here is the irony, very few businesses engage in any market research. If you don’t know your market it’s going to be near impossible to provide for them. Knowing your market is also a constantly evolving process. You can’t just fire and forget.

The Market and Your Event Promotion
Intimately knowing your event patrons plays a huge role in your event advertising and promotion.  If you know what your patrons want, you can plug those wants directly into your event promotions.  Your target audience is much more likely to take action when you hit their emotional hot buttons.

What You Can Do
Before thinking of event planning or promoting your event, take the time to make sure you have an event that people want to attend. By doing a little market research you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and grief. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to do market research. Something like an online survey of your target marketing can have a huge impact on your event. But you have to listen to what your target market is telling you. I can’t think of a better marketing technique for event organizers and promoters.

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Promotional Headlines for Your Event Marketing

Over the years I’ve seen numerous advertisements, posters, and billboards promoting various events.  They've run the gamut from very simple, just a headline and a call to action, to overly detail oriented, trying to fit in every possible piece of information into a small space.

The first place people usually start reading advertisements is from the top down.  A strong relevant headline is one of the oldest advertising techniques to capture a reader’s attention. If you do manage to come up with a really great headline, you can use it across multiple forms of advertising.

What Your Headline Needs to Do
Knowing your target market will greatly assist you in writing powerful headlines. If you’re going to write a headline to promote your event, make sure it really resonates with your target market. It needs to be in a language that your target market understands and in a way that evokes an emotional response.

Recently, I found some information that can assist you in writing better headlines for your event.  In a copywriting course presented by Bob Bly, he outlines what he calls the 4 “U’s.” You ask yourself a series of four simple questions that pertain to your headline. Then rate each question on a 1 – 4 scale.  One being the worst, Four being the best. You want to strive to get 4s across the board. 

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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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Event Promotion: Information versus Graphics

In all my years of producing numerous promotional web sites for events I have never received a single email commenting on the visual appearance of a web site, either good or bad.  Yet, I have been inundated with emails regarding the information on various event web sites. The emails stated that a user didn’t understand something or there wasn’t enough information on a certain subject area.

The Preoccupation
I honestly believe too many businesses are overly preoccupied with the aesthetics of a web site.  My previous statement isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t have an aesthetically pleasing web site. If you look at most company web sites, more time and money is spent on “How can we make this look better to the consumer?” versus “How can we make sure this makes sense to the consumer?” One of the most important lessons I've learned about the web over the last 15 years is that information trumps graphics 9 times out of 10. The most successful web sites put more emphasis on the information than the graphics.

The Online Content King
Online information takes one predominate form and that form is text. The written word drives almost everything we do on the web. Someone once said “There is very little you can do online without words like click here, buy now, go, or search.” Consider Google for a moment.  They make the biggest proportion of their advertising revenue on text, not video or graphics. Their multimedia services like YouTube and Google Video are supplements to their search engine technology.

Next time you sit down to rethink your web site ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Do the words I have on my web page connect with my target market?”
  • “Do I have enough information on my site to prevent someone from writing
    a customer service email?”
  • “If I take away all the graphics on my site, does it still make sense with just the text?”

Any graphics you have on your web site should be there to enhance the words already on the page. This simple mindset will make a world of difference in your online endeavors.

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