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Your Outdoor Event and the Weather

Outdoor_event_weather

Potentially bad weather combined with an outdoor event can take any cool/confident event organizer and turn them into a nervous wreck. All it takes is one bad weather forecast to completely ruin an outdoor event.  Months of planning and massive amounts of money can come down to a weather forecast (accurate or not). Below are a few simple suggestions that you can use into dealing with weather and your outdoor event.

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How Big Should My Event Web Site Be?

Event_web_site_orgOne question that always comes up when building or redesigning an event web site is, “How many pages should I make my event web site?” I’ve seen event planners and organizers agonize over the previous question far too many times. Honestly, it's rarely an easy answer.

Think User Attention Span
When laying out your event web site, always keep in mind user attention span . . . People want to get information about your event and get out. Hence, I strongly recommend building an event web page of only 5-10 pages, 15 pages max. Five to ten pages might seem small, but it isn’t - consider the web stats below.

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Where to Advertise Your Event

Today’s advice is pretty straightforward – don’t advertise your event in places that don’t get good attention from your target market. You can create the most amazing event advertisement on planet Earth – but if you’re not using a good marketing channel, you’re doomed from the start. To some people the advice above might seem really elementary, but you’d be surprised how many event organizers burn tons of cash on poorly placed advertising.  Below are a set of simple questions I ask every event organizer who has a recurring event. Feel free to answer the questions as they pertain to your event advertising.
  1. How much money do you spend on advertising your event?

  2. Where do you advertise your event (television, print, radio, Internet, etc.)?

  3. What was your most effective advertising channel for getting people to your event?
What’s really shocking is that not one event organizer I’ve asked over the years can quantifiably answer question #3. There are events out there that have a $250,000 advertising budget, yet have no idea which advertising actually gets people to their event. But wait, it gets better!!! Next question . . .“If you don’t know your most effective advertising channel, why are you still spending so much money to advertise?” The answer . . . “because that’s what we’ve always done.” Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re spending $250,000 to advertise an event, wouldn’t you want to know your most effective advertising channels? Advertising for your event should be an investment, not a “just because we've always done it that way” expense.

Track Advertising Effectiveness
If you want a brutally simple way to track advertising effectiveness, get a Google Analytics account. Analytics now allows you to annotate your data with notes. Make annotations for when and where you’re advertising started and stopped. Analytics isn’t the end all be all for tracking advertising effectiveness, but you’d be pleasantly surprised by the information you do get.

Do Your Homework
Before you do any advertising, do a little homework. Get demographic and psychographic information on the channels where you plan to advertise. Do the advertising channel profiles match up with your event target market profile? Also take the time to call or email some of the other advertisers where you are thinking of advertising and ask them, "Are you seeing a good return by advertising here?" A little homework on your part can save you a pretty penny down the road.

Look at Your Advertising Competition
If you’re looking at an advertising channel for your event, be conscious of how many other advertisers you’re competing against. Recently, a friend paid over $350 for a single run Sunday ad in the local paper. My friend’s ad was tightly grouped into one section of the paper with over 150 other ads. In the end he received two visits to his web site, zero telephone calls, and no business. Make sure that when you choose an advertising medium your marketing message isn’t getting drown out by other advertisers.

Beware of the "Awesome" Advertising Deal
As a side note - Be wary of the “awesome deal” advertising trap. Many advertisers just want to sell ad space.  Business is business, but I’m staunchly against taking someone’s money for services with zero chance of any return. In all my years I’ve NEVER come across anyone selling advertising who said “I don’t think advertising with us is going to do you any good.” It seems like people are more interested in making the sale as opposed to what's best for you.

Before you spend dollars on advertising your event, make sure you're advertising in the right place.

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Leveraging Huge Ticket Discounts to Drive Advance Tickets Sales

Last weekend a colleague of mine was telling me about a simple ticket strategy that sells a lot of advance sale tickets. The crux of the strategy revolves around discount tickets for their event. Their advance sale tickets are discounted up to 50%. Year after year my colleague successfully leverages the same discount ticket strategy to drive advance ticket sales through the roof.

Advance_event_tickets_discount


Currently it's late February and the event mentioned above doesn't take place until early August. They've already sold over $30,000 worth of advance sale tickets and the event is still six months away! As the event date approaches the ticket discount is gradually reduced until all tickets are full price. The discount ticket strategy works really well for the event organizer because most people wait until the days leading up to the event to buy tickets.

Don't Be Afraid to Discount Your Ticket
Too many event organizers are constantly giving excuses as to why they can't discount their ticket prices. Some of the excuses include “If we discount, we're giving up potential revenue.” or “That might work for some other event, but it's not going to work for us.” Yes, you're giving up potential revenue when you discount your ticket price. But if done properly - you can put boatloads of cash into your coffers before your event begins. Ticket discounts should be used early in your event sales process. Discount tickets should NOT be used anywhere near your event. If you're using discount ticket prices right before your event just to get people to show up - you've done something very wrong with promoting your event.

Block Your Tickets
One way to mitigate the “we're going to lose revenue if we discount” fear is by blocking your tickets. When you block tickets you only offer a certain number of discounted tickets.  When the ticket block is sold out the discount is ended.  You can also use promotion expiration date as an extra safety net. Below is sample copy you can use for doing a discount block ticket promotion . . .

BUY NOW and get 50% OFF your ticket. Because of this HUGE discount there are only a limited number of tickets available. One last thing - The discount is only good through (Date) or until the limited number of tickets are sold out, so don't wait to buy your tickets and save BIG!

Every event planner and organizer should take a long hard look at discount ticketing as a way to boost advance ticket sales. It might seem like you're giving up a lot of revenue at first, but when you see how the numbers play out, it's hard to deny the results.

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Constantly Go Back to Your Ticketing Well

When planning for any event, it’s very beneficial to think in terms of repeatability.  Ask yourself - "Can I turn my event into a recurring event?" Some of the most successful events in the world started very small and grew over time. This isn’t to say one time events can’t be tremendously successful, but if you can create an event that delivers an amazing experience for people . . . why just do it once?  Plus, there a number of benefits to recurring events.  One of the big benefits with recurring events is the potential for repeat customers. Just like in the business world - Your best potential customer is the person who just bought from you. Recurring events can take advantage of repeat customers.  Hence, your event planning should include a strategy for creating a house customer list. Just remember to keep your customer list and your prospect list separate. You're going to want to market to your event prospects and customers differently. Below are a few quick suggestions for building your house customer list . . .

Online Ticket Sales
Repeat_event_ticket_sales When selling tickets online, it’s imperative that you collect and store as much customer data as possible. At a minimum get your customer’s name and email address. Thankfully most online ticket transactions require a customers email and mailing address to complete a purchase order. Be sure to make backups of your online customer list from year to year.

Offline Ticket Sales
If you’re selling tickets offline, come up with a way to get your customers to give their information to you. Try this . . . put a blurb on the physical ticket and drive people to your event web site.  On your web site, give people who already purchased tickets for your event some sort of incentive to “register online” and get additional event information. There are a tremendous amount of incentives you can give people in order to collect their information . . . best parking locations, a downloadable event guide in PDF format, an insider event schedule, etc. A simple opt-in form on your web site is the easiest way to collect ticket information.

If you want to sell a lot of advance tickets for your event, your customer list is your greatest resource. Advance ticket sales are made significantly easier by going back to your previous event attendees - especially if they were happy with your event. One important note on going back to your customer list - Don’t be afraid to offer your previous event attendees special incentives to buy for your next event. It could be anything from discount tickets to some type of value add. You can get a flood of advance ticket sales, by offering people incentives to buy early.

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How to Sell Even More Tickets to Your Event

Sell_More_Event_Tickets Most people think that you just need a buy link and ticket description on your event page to sell tickets online. But there is a tremendous amount of benefit in being as descriptive as possible on your ticket packages. You should have a dedicated ticket page on your event web site. The ticket pages should be built like a long sales letter. Selling event tickets online should be thought of as a selling process. With any selling process you're going to have to deal with buying questions and objections. The more buying questions and objections you can answer the more event tickets you'll sell.

The Ticket Page with a Ton of Text
Let me give you an example of one air show that turned their ticketing page into a long online sales letter. The event web site used 1,500+ words to describe TWO different tickets for their event. The two purchase choices for the event were: a Reserved Seat or a VIP Chalet Seat. To give you some perspective - 1,500 words is roughly the equivalent of 3 pages of text in Microsoft Word. Most people would agree that's a tremendous amount of verbiage just to sell two event tickets.

When 1,500+ word ticketing page was shown to a few other people involved with the event, their initial response was . . . “Nobody is going to read all that text!” Fast forward to after the event . . .  A look at Google Analytics showed 38,796 unique page views on the ticket page. The average time spent on the ticket page alone (not the entire web site) was 2:05 per visitor. Regardless of interesting statistics - it comes down to dollar signs. The ticketing page generated $64,645.00 of advance sale revenue for the event.

Answer Their Questions and Sell More
What follows is a simple yet effective method you can use to create a killer ticket page for your event. In the weeks prior the event the air show organizer attempted to identify the people's most common ticket questions. A rough draft of the ticketing page was setup and posted to the event web site. Then, an email was send to the event’s house list regarding the release of ticket details. Hundreds of people of people on the list responded to the rough draft ticket page with their questions and concerns. The questions and concerns were then grouped into a few common categories with answers. Lastly, the most common questions and objections were answered on the “New and Improved!” ticket page.

Whenever selling tickets to your event really get into a selling mindset. A simple buy link with a brief ticket description isn't enough. Think of your event ticketing page as an online sales letter or your virtual sales person. If you use the strategy outlined above, you'll sell more tickets to your event.

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Getting Email Marketing Delivered for Your Event

Event_Marketing_Email_Marketing Email marketing (done right) is a near silver bullet for event organizers and planners. Some of my biggest successes in promoting and marketing events come directly from email marketing.  If you can get a half way decent email list of qualified prospects, advance ticket sales come rolling in.

Unfortunately emailing marketing is getting increasingly more difficult these days. It doesn’t matter if you’ve double opt-in your list or the email is being sent from Whitelisted mail servers . . . Spam filters have become so voracious that they’re blocking even legitimate emails. In terms SPAM filters, they’re a good thing - but I can’t stand over zealous filtering of real email messages.

Try Text Based Emails & SPF Records
Here’s a simple strategy to get more emails through to your list – send text based email.  Typically when sending email you have the choice of sending the email as HTML, Plain Text, or both. I realize that text based emails don’t allow for any HTML formatting, templates, graphics, etc. You’re also at the disadvantage of not being able to track open rates for your email. But you can still track click through rates on text emails by using tracking links in each email. In my opinion open rates are highly overrated. If you’re doing email marketing for business dollars generated always trump open rates.

Why send plain text email?  Because plain text email is less likely to get tagged as SPAM. I know my text email suggestion might be a hard pill to swallow, so I have an additional suggestion . . . Do a limited test to your email list with just text emails. See if there is enough of a difference to justify all text emails.

Setting up a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record is another small thing you can do to ensure more emails make it through. SPF records give legitimacy to your email by legitimizing (non-technical description) your email server. The setup process is a little technical, so I suggest consulting with an IT person familiar with SPF record setup. You can do a Google search on SPF records for more information.  

Sobering Email Marketing Statistics from the Field
Regardless of you using HTML or plain text emails to market your event . . . A majority of people aren’t going to open your email, that’s the reality of email marketing. Of the hundreds of emails I’ve sent for clients over the last 5 years, including multiple events, it’s rare to see an open rate over 50% - even with a list of a few hundred people. If you send emails weekly or more often, you’re probably looking at a 20-30% open rate. I’m not trying to be negative here – but merely outlining realistic expectations for your email marketing.

Give plain text emails a try on your next email campaign and setup your SPF records. With spam filters stopping more emails, you're going to have to try different things to get the message to your prospects. Last, but not least, my thanks goes out to Bob Britton for bringing the topic of text email and SPF records back to my attention.

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What Happens When Your Event Web Site CRASHES?

Here’s a real life story . . . “Event X” is less than 10 days away and their web site crashes.  Of all the bad things to happen to an event – a web site crash days before your event is pretty high on the worst case scenario list.  If your event is a few days away and people can’t access your event web site, you’re in a world of hurt.

Event_web_site_crash

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Your Event Promotion and Marketing Strategy - Start Point

Are you interested in knowing the ultimate event marketing strategy to pack your event every time? Of all the promotion strategies you could use - what follow wins hands down every time. Any guess on what it might be? It comes well before you should start to consider any promotional or marketing strategies for your event.

Event_promotion_strategies


Here’s the Simple Strategy
The ultimate event promotion strategy is to find “a starving crowd.” Some people might be disappointed by the answer, but I can tell you from experience no form of marketing or promotion strategy can trump “a starving crowd.” The starving crowd strategy comes from the late marketing genius Gary Halbert.  In a head to head business competition - Gary was willing to give a competitor any business advantage imaginable, as long as he could have the starving crowd. Think about it this way – How hard would it be to pack an event that already had a massive amount of demand? Check out Gary's "Starving Crowd" article for a closer look.

Selling Out Like a Rock Concert
Here is a real life example of using the starving crowd strategy. Consider how bands and musicians sell out their concerts.  Bands typically don’t start with trying to sell concert tickets, unless they’re well established. They usually start by producing an album and getting it to market. The album gets played on the radio and downloaded twenty gazillion times online. This process gets people excited about the band and their music. After a successful album has been out for a few months to a year - people are amped up about the music. When customer demand is high the band starts to talk about touring and concerts. It’s far easier to pack a concert with ravenous fans (a starving crowd), than without. Take a look at "When to Start Selling Tickets to Your Event" for additional details.

Your Event Promotion Will Flop, If . . .
If you don’t have a starving crowd your promotion and marketing strategy is largely irrelevant.  When planning an event start by making sure people are predisposed to attend.  You can have the greatest event idea in the world, but if nobody knows about it and worse - nobody cares about it . . . you are going nowhere fast! Far too many event organizer plan great events, only to have no one show up because there was no demand.

An Easy Way to Find a Starving Crowd
One place to quickly find a starving crowd is by carefully looking at other successful events. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with your event.  Look for events that people are already attending and are packed to the hilt. You can probably take the concept or exact model and use it for your event. With the Internet, it’s never been easier to do some quick research. You can quickly scan through newspaper archives or event use Google to do some quick research. If you find an event idea that seems to be working call the event organizer up and find out more. You would be surprised how open other event organizers are regarding their event.

There is an event here in Rochester, New York that was directly modeled after a successful event just 65 miles to the West in Buffalo. Rochester’s Ugly Disco was modeled on Buffalo’s World’s Largest Disco. For the last 16 years the World’s Largest Disco has been getting massive crowds. The World’s Largest Disco is so successful that the organizers sell out their event three months in advance!  Ask yourself - Are there successful events out that you can emulate?

Before you plan your next event start by asking yourself, “Are people going to come out in droves to attend my event?”  Trust me, I’ve made the mistake of thinking I had a great event idea. In end I was left with nobody showing up and money out of pocket. It's far easier when you have the deck stacked in your favor.

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How to Sell Tickets to Your Event

How_to_Sell_Tickets

Determining the best way to sell tickets to your event is a pretty broad topic area.  Today I’m going to focus on the ticket fulfillment process – how people actually purchase tickets for your event.  As a whole the trend for online event ticketing is definitely growing and becoming the norm. When you’re looking at ticketing solution it's important to let your target market determine which ticketing system is best. Plenty of event organizers have chosen one system (online or offline) only to have their target market do something completely unexpected.

Let them Buy from Your Event Web Site
With the trend moving toward online buying for just about everything, the ability to purchase tickets directly from your event web site is practically a no-brainer.  Think about it for a moment – If someone is already on your event web site and wants to attend your event, why make them jump through extra hoops to buy a ticket? 

Even if there is a small service fee, most people will go with the convenience of buying online. Their alternative is to jump in a car, drive to a ticketing outlet, and potentially wait in line. I can’t speak for other nations, but in the United States, instant gratification seems to be the name of the game. People want it and they want it now! Use instant gratification to your benefit to drive online sales.

Should I Only Offer Tickets Online?
Without knowing specifics about you event, that’s a difficult question to answer. There has never been event, that I’m currently aware of, that suffered any sort of backlash from only having tickets for purchase online. Be sure to check out the Demographic Ticketing Irony paragraph below. People will argue that not everyone has a computer or an Internet connection and thus you need an offline option. Here’s what I’ve learned - if people really want to attend your event, they’ll jump through hoops to get a ticket. Almost everyone can access the Internet either at work or at your local library.

A Demographic Ticketing Irony
A few years ago there was an event down in South West Florida that started selling tickets directly from their web site.  Initially the event organizers were extremely apprehensive about selling any tickets online.  The event and their target market was in an area with one of most senior demographics in all of America (55+ years of age). The annual event had been taking place for decades with most people buying their tickets offline. The first year tickets became available for online purchase, organizers didn’t expect many people to buy online. Who would expect so many seniors to buy online, right? Here’s the ironic part - online ticket sales for the event crushed all of their offline ticketing efforts.  

Ticket Purchase Simplicity is Key
Regardless of the type of ticketing you are offering, make it as simple as possible to buy tickets. Just because you have multiple offline outlets where people can buy tickets, doesn’t mean that’s the best choice for your ticket buyer. A few years ago an event offered tickets through a local company with several brick and mortar locations. When I went to purchase tickets it was a 15 minute wait behind people conducting business at the companies branch location. It was frustrating and annoying.

If you use any local ticket outlet to sell tickets for your event, try to buy tickets on your own to test the process out. Selling ticket seems like it would be a simple process, but there are always snags that need to be worked out. The same applies for online ticket purchase. Test your ticket checkout process extensively before going live. Make sure the discount codes work. Check to see if your ticketing system gets wonky as ticket blocks start to sell out. Basically, go through as many possible ticketing scenarios and debug the process.

Ticketing Company Recommendations
If you want to sell event tickets online or off, I’d strongly recommend an established ticketing company. Crucial services include 24/7 telephone customer service, secure online purchasing, anti-fraud bar coded tickets, and a dedicated account manager always reachable by phone. To beat a dead horse - Whatever ticketing option you choose, be sure to thoroughly test the purchasing process on your own. Few things can taint an event experience like a difficult ticket buying experience. You don't want people showing up to your event annoyed about how difficult it was to by tickets. Keep the customer service of your buyer at the forefront of your priority list.

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