When Do I Start Promoting My Event?

Have you ever thought to yourself, “When should I start marketing my event?” It’s one of the quintessential questions event organizers constantly ask.  In many cases the mere question causes great mental stress and agony to the person pondering. Event organizers try to think up of ideal time frames and ideal methods to get their message out. The best time frame to promote your event is as early as possible.

Event_announcement You Still Need to Advertise
Regardless of how reputable your event, don’t wait to advertise.  In 2005 I provided online ticketing service to a very big recurring event.  Their radio, television, and print advertising didn’t start until 10 days before the event. The organizer thought since the event was well known that “we didn’t need to advertise early or with as much volume.” The attendance and online ticketing numbers showed the outcome of the decision. Attendance was down significantly and online ticket sales dropped over 50% from the prior year’s event. Regardless of how big or reputable your event you need to advertise early.    

The Movie Industry
Take into consideration the movie industry. They release trailers for upcoming movies months in advance. In some cases potential blockbusters get trailers released almost a year in advance. There is tremendous benefit to creating an early buzz about your event. If you can get people talking about your event early you can enjoy the benefit of word of mouth advertising. If you have videos or other information, people might spread your event information around using social media.    

Recurring Events
If you have a recurring event, start advertising your next event at your current event. Consider selling tickets for your next event for your current event.  The people most likely to buy from you are those people who have already bought. Even if you offer a big discount, it’s still money in your bank account.  If you don’t know concrete details about your next event, don’t let them leave without knowing your web address. Encourage people to visit your web site for details about your next event.

As a general rule of thumb I recommend promoting your event at least 90-180 days in advance. You need to decide what’s most appropriate for your event. One important thing to do is build your advertising and event marketing campaign from the time of announcement. Don’t just announce your event and wait a few months until you release additional information or advertising. Don’t let people forget. What starts a trickle should turn into a steady stream of information and advertising about your event. Just like sales, the fortune is in the follow up.

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A Great Event Marketing & Promotion Idea

Event_Presentation_Idea Have you ever faced the dilemma of having too much content for your conference, seminar, or workshop? Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with a not for profit organization to try and build some anticipation for their upcoming annual conference. Each year the organization brings in a number of speakers for various educational sessions. This year the organization has too many speakers for their allotted program slots. The situation is frustrating because all of the speakers have valuable information to share. What if you could feature a great speaker for your event without taking up a valuable time slots at your event?

Feature Your Speakers Before Your Event
If you can’t support speakers at your event, consider featuring them before your event. You could take your extra speakers and have them prepare materials to present before your event. This can be done through a virtual presentation. It’s never been easier to create virtual presentations.  A program that I recommend is Camtasia Studio.  It allows anyone to take a PowerPoint presentation and turn it into an easy to access computer file, complete with audio and video.  You could also use a program like GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar to present a live teleseminar before the event. Maybe you want to consider doing a series of teleseminars. The ‘GoTo’ family of products allow you to do audio and video presentations live.  The participants just need a telephone and high speed internet connection. The above idea falls into the concept of front loading event value.

Do the Simple Stuff
Don’t want to do something as involved as the above suggestions? Ask your prospective speakers to prepare an audio program or downloadable PDF report. Focus on getting people excited before they even show up to your event. The best way to do this is by sharing information that's valuable to your target market. Just make sure that the information you share beforehand isn’t better than what you’re going to have at your event. Don’t get too caught up in the ‘cool’ technology. Useful is always better than cool.

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The Danger of Too Much Event Marketing Technology

Event_promotion_choices Last month I attended the International Council of Air Show’s annual convention in Las Vegas.  During the convention attendees had the option of participating in numerous educational sessions. This year, one of the convention’s educational sessions focused on cutting edge event marketing trends.  All of the presenters had a number of really great event marketing ideas. After the presentation, I spoke with a few of the session attendees. Their consensus was that the information being presented was highly informative, but the myriad of technological suggestions was mind numbing. The presenters suggested using Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, online video, etc.  Have you ever had so many great options you didn’t know where to start?

The Danger of Having Too Many Choices
In today’s technology rich business environment, we tend to get caught up with too many choices. Every day the growth of high tech marketing options increases exponentially. I think event organizers get lost trying to find the latest and greatest technology to promote their events. Most people get distracted by shiny things (technology). You spread yourself thin if you try to integrate too much technology. You’re better off adopting one or two simple technologies into your event marketing.  Get good at leveraging the one or two technologies before adopting something else.

Technology versus Systems
Too many event organizers and marketers start with technology and try to figure out a marketing system later. When you try to integrate the latest technology you tend to get bogged down in the minutia. This has happened to me on numerous occasions and it’s extremely time consuming. In the end you’re usually left stress out and with far less money in your pocket. You’re much better off finding a proven marketing system that easily integrates with the technology. The best technology option is the one that is easy to implement, brings you the greatest return on investment, all at the lowest cost. Remember to only adopt one or two pieces of marketing technology at a time. You might want to consider hiring outside help or getting a responsible college intern to integrate technology into your event marketing. Focus on the big picture!

When it comes to leveraging technology like social media, you’re better off taking a macro focus. A marketing system is macro. Technology is macro. Adopt a good system and then add the technological trinkets later. Master the technology trinkets one at a time.

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A Guitar and Event Marketing

During my previous magazine adventure I purchased the current issue of Guitar World. The February 2009 issue of Guitar World features Eddie Van Halen. Eddie is one of my all time favorite rock guitarists. He bridges the gap between music and emotion. The article and DVD feature are about Eddie’s new guitar. As Eddie puts it, “This is the culmination of my 35 years with Guitars!” On the surface the article and video are pretty straight forward. Below the surface the feature is another great example of positioning and psychological influence. It’s like an infomercial no over sales pitch. If you’re a guitar enthusiast or aficionado, it’s hard not to get through the feature without saying “That’s pretty cool, I’d like one of those guitars.” And that’s the point. I’ve included a YouTube link to the featured video below:

Eddie's New Guitar Video


Connecting the Dots
You might be asking, “What do guitars have to do with marketing and promoting events?” In my humble opinion, a great deal.  The feature on Eddie Van Halen is a superb example of building psychological value around a product or service. You should be doing the same with your event. In the video, pay attention to how it’s not just Eddie talking about the guitar. The people in the video have nothing but good things to say about the guitar. They might be getting paid to say that, but they people come off fairly authentic and genuine. The video is a great example of social proof. If you think something is great, that’s one thing. If other people think what you have is great, that’s far more powerful. The article and video make you want to buy the guitar.

Use the Idea for Your Event
The same overall process can be used to promote your event. You have something (an event) that will bring people value or joy. Do an interview and get a few people involved with your event to give insight. Recording the interview session and turn it into an article or video. Use the event article and video for your own event promotion and marketing. 

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Event Marketing from the Magazine Rack

Event_Marketing_Magazine_Rack


Next time you’re in your favorite book store or grocery store, take a closer look at the magazine rack. There are more than a few good event marketing and promotion ideas waiting for you in the magazine section.  Pay specific attention to the cover of your favorite magazine. Notice all the various headlines on the front cover of magazines?  The purpose of a good headline is to attract your attention and get you to want more information.  In the case of magazines, it’s to get you to open up the magazine and hopefully buy it. You can use the same headline methodology to get people to read your various pieces of event promotion.

Reverse Engineering a Great Headline
Every event should have a compelling headline that draws in their target market. Are there any magazines in the same market as your event?  Could you take one of the headlines from an industry magazine and reword it (be careful not plagiarize)? 

Keep a Swap File
You might want to consider keeping a swap file of various headlines that could be used to advertise your event. A swap file is a physical or digital collect of great headlines that can be reworded for your own marketing purposes. One piece of advice, don’t just swap out words. Your new headline needs to make perfect sense to your target market. Too many people make the mistake of just rewording classic headlines. Make sure that the context of your new wording makes sense.

Test Your Event Headlines

If you really want to go the distance, test your headline with some people from the event’s target market.  If a test subject reads your headline and gives you good feedback, you’re reasonably assured that you have a good headline. Never assume that just because you think it’s great that your target market will agree with you. Always test your marketing!

Multiple Uses for Your Event Headlines
You could probably use your re-engineered headline for a number of various marketing materials for you event including: billboards, posters, online marketing, newspaper ads, etc. For all the cool technology we have in this world, words still sell. Having a great headline or two can really boost your event marketing and promotion efforts. If you don’t believe that headlines are that powerful, I invite you to Google something.  Google makes billions of dollars on its’ Adwords advertising engine. Google’s ads are predominately simple text ads.

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Email Event Marketing and SPAM

Event_Marketing_SPAM Whenever I mention email marketing people tend to roll their eyes. More often than not the simple suggestion of email marketing garners the almost immediate response of, “I don’t want to SPAM people.” I believe that the rapid decline in email marketing effectiveness is directly linked to businesses inundating their prospects with sale pitch emails.  The essence of the email is "buy this, NOW!" Such practices become quiet annoying to the people receiving the email.  You can still use email to effectively market your event. People are still responsive to email marketing if it’s done the right way. Here is the blatantly obvious secret to effectively marketing your event via email; focus on delivering value with each email you send, not sales pitch.

Real World Example
Last year, I created a 15 piece email campaign for one of my event marketing clients. The emails were ridiculously simple, plain text with a few HTML links. The none of the 15 emails asked the recipient to buy anything until the very end of the campaign. Focus on building trust and credibility with your target market first. People were so excited for the event that they were sending emails complaining about not being able to buy tickets online weeks before the event. (The online ticketing system wasn’t setup yet.) You can also create the same kind of anticipation for your event. If you delay asking people to buy first, they're likely to buy in hordes later.

Get Them Excited About Your Event
Can you think of anything you can send your target market to get them excited about your event?  Make the recipient want to open each email they receive from you. Your subject lines isn't nearly as important as the from line. It helps to know the wants and desires of your target market. Concentrate on what your target market wants, not what you think they want.

Everyone loves to know a secret. You can arouse your target market's curiosity. Consider sharing special insider information about the event not available to the public. With all the technology out there the possibilities to share information in interesting ways is almost endless.

Value Translates Into Success
People still read emails that capture their attention. Always try to build trust, credibility and rapport with your prospect first. If you focus on delivering valuable content first you can do some pretty amazing things. Two of my clients achieved over a 30% conversion rate on their home grown email lists. I strongly believe their high response rates were a direct result of delivering value before asking for the sale.

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Event Marketing with an Autoresponder

Event_autoresponder_marketing In the previous post, “Reason Why Event Promotion,” I wrote about giving your target market a very compelling reason to attend your event. It’s important to remember that people aren’t interested in the details of your event if you don’t give them a good reason to attend. I can’t stress how important it is that your “reason to attend” messaging resonates with your target market.

Too many event organizers come up with lots of reasons that they think people should attend their event, yet their reasons are a complete disconnect from their target market.

After you have a few good reasons, you can take your event marketing one step further.  Take each of your reasons and craft them into a short compelling email. Your emails can include links to videos, photos, or just plain text. Ideally the emails should get someone excited to attend your event. You’re going to take those emails and send them out sequentially in advance of your event.

Leveraging an Autoresponder
There are very affordable web services that allow you to send emails automatically to a set of email addresses. The services also allow you to collect emails from prospective leads and store them in custom databases. These services are known as autoresponders.  Two popular autoresponders are AWeber and 1ShoppingCart.  Autresponders can automate your event marketing and promotion.  By using the Autoresponder you build the value of your event before it ever takes place.  I call this front loading the value of your event.

Collecting Email Addresses
The entire process starts with collecting email addresses. You should have an opt-in box, above the fold, that allows people to voluntarily enter their first name and email address. I recommend a double opt-in when collecting email addresses. Make sure all your email collection is in compliance with CAN-SPAM legislation. After you have email addresses for people in your target market, use the Autoresponder to send emails. Remember, you’re trying to build value for your event so people attend.

I would consider the above topic one of the best kept secrets in event marketing and promotion.  As fair warning, the overall topic of autoresponders and email marketing is pretty complex. What’s above is an excruciating simplistic overview of a very powerful and detailed process.  

Event organizers who have implemented the outlined concept generate unbelievable results. Results include 30% conversion rate on home grown email lists and $55,000 in advance event ticket sales. If you're not leveraging email marketing to promote your event, you're leaving gobs of money on the table.

Email Marketing & Autoresponder Resources:

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“Reason Why” Event Promotion

Reason_why You need to build perceived value for your event before it happens. I cannot emphasize this point enough.  A crucial component that most event promotion and marketing lacks is a good reason why.  Telling someone to do something versus giving them a good reason to do something (“Reason Why”) are two very different things. We love to tell people that we’re having an event, “Hey, you! Come and do this!” Promoters and Marketers give details that include dates, times, performers, ticket prices, etc. At the same time, promoters completely miss giving their target audience a truly good reason why to attend their event. I’d argue that you want to focus on the “reason why” more than anything else.  Event dates, times, and ticket prices become irrelevant if people aren’t interested in what you have to offer them.

Below are a series of article links for building a compelling “reason why” people should attend your event. Browse a few of the articles below and see if there is something you can integrate into your event promotion.

When creating any type of promotional material for your event focus on the “reason why” before getting into the details of your event.  If people aren't interested in what you have to offer, they surely won't be interested in dates and times. In the next post we'll look at how you can take the above process and automate your event promotion for your target market.

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The Holidays & Advance Ticket Sales

Holiday_Advance_Tickets Do you have an event that is still months or weeks away?  It’s never too early to start selling tickets for your event. Always look for opportunities to sell advance sale tickets.  The holiday season is an excellent opportunity.  Below I’ve included some simple ideas that you easily integrate into a holiday ticket campaign.

Offer a Deep Discount
Most event organizers don’t want to discount their tickets. Based on experience, you need to discount your ticket price to about 50% to get people to buy months or weeks in advance. Such a discount isn’t feasible if don’t have a decent profit margin built into your ticket price. If there is little or no margin in your ticket price you’re leaving yourself in a bad financial position.  No margins leave you with zero room for discounts. When you have a large yet fair profit margin, you can offer deep discounts without worry.  Always make sure you have a decent profit margin build into every single ticket you sell.

Discount by Raising Your Ticket Price
If you’re considering raising ticket prices from one year to the next, offer your target market an opportunity to pay the previous year’s price. “Our ticket prices are going up in 2009, but you can still buy at 2008 prices. This special offer is only good until the end of this year.” It’s a limited time offer that gives your target market the opportunity buy early.

Partner with Sponsors
It isn’t enough to let your target market know it’s a holiday special.  Is there something else you can do to add value to people buying a ticket early? Could you cross promote with one of your sponsors and have the sponsor include holiday coupon? Always look for unique opportunities.  The cross promotion needs to resonate with your target market. See if you can get one of your sponsors to market your tickets to their list. You can’t just add something because you think your target market will enjoy it. Look for cross promotions that will get your target market to act promptly.

Engage Them Over Email
Do you have an email list of previous buyers? Provided you met or exceeded their expectations, your list is the single best resource for future ticket sales.  Send a specific email to all the people who previously purchased tickets for your event and make them a great offer.  Integrate some of the ideas above into your offer.

You can combine holiday offers so many different ways. Try a few and see what works.

Your Ideas
Do you have ideas for advance sale tickets during the holidays?
Leave a comment and share your ideas below.

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Your Event & Video Testimonials

In “Let Other People Sell Your Event for You,” I wrote about the importance of letting others sell your event for you. In the post I featured a powerful quote by Dan Kennedy:

“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.”

The best video you could ever capture about your event is patron video testimonials.  Having a patron talk into the camera about how great you event is while using the actual event as a backdrop is priceless. Today I’d like to share with you what one can do with a decent video camera and decent video editing. The video below was filmed by a third-party which gives it even more credibility.

Flour City Brewers' Fest 2008


Don't Forget This Important Point
Regardless of who is shooting video for your event, make sure they get some video testimonials of event patrons during your event.  You can use the testimonials as promotion and marketing piece next time you have an event.  If you look at most events little attention is paid to event patrons. Make sure you’re not making that same mistake.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Red Bull Air Race - Exciting Viral Video

Last week I attended the International Council of Air Shows’ Annual (ICAS) convention in Las Vegas.  During the convention representatives from the Red Bull Air Race made a convention appearance. You can think of the Red Bull air races like NASCAR in the sky. During a break from their air racing they frequently use air show performers as intermission acts, hence their attendance at the ICAS convention. Red Bull really caught my attention after I participated in one of their air races.  As an organization they excel at both promoting and producing events. Red Bull’s presence at the convention prompted me to check out their web site and find a really cool video.

Video Highlights of Your Event
Below you will find a short highlight video from Red Bull’s 2008 Air Race season.  The music might not be for everyone, but the video footage is astonishing.  If you’re looking for an exciting event video you want to emulate, don’t look any further than Red Bull. You know you have a winning video to promote your event when people say out loud “That looks awesome, I want to attend one of those.”

2008 Red Bull Highlight Video


Going Viral

Red Bull leverages social media to get their videos distributed all over the world. All it takes is one really great video and rabid fans do the rest of the work for you. This is where a site like YouTube comes in handy. You can post one video and then have hundreds of other people post that same video to their web site. It’s like hiring an army of free promoters for your event. Are you taking advantage of a great promotional video for your event and viral marketing?

If you have a cool video of your event, post it to YouTube or any of the other online video resources. Use online champions to get your videos out to the masses. It’s one of the easiest and least expensive ways to promote your event.

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Using Scarcity with Free Events

Free_Event_Ticket Yesterday I had an interesting discussion regarding free events. For those that don’t know, I’m not a big fan of free events. There are too many event organizers who think just because their event is free that masses of people will automatically attend their event. Be sure you check out “the danger of free event thinking.” The discussion about free events gets even more tedious when the same event organizers proceed to tell me of their budget shortfalls. I’m not economic genius but if you want to have a free event, don’t complain to other people about not having enough money to put on your event.  Now that I have that out of my system . . . I’d like to focus on the positive. Yes, it is possible to be very successful with free events. Let me try to get you one idea that might help.

The Double Edged Sword
For today I’m going to focus what one can do to get more people to their free event. If you have a free event, inject a little scarcity. Free events are a double edged sword. A friend of mine who did event promotion for a local radio station told me about ticket giveaways for various concerts his station promoted. Here is an interesting statistic he shared.  Less than 15% of the people who the station gave free concert tickets to actually went to the concert. It’s psychology at work. If you don’t spent money on something you aren’t really vested in it. It’s as easy to say yes as it is to say no.

Using Scarcity
Let your target market know that because you are having a free event, you’re only allowing a certain number of people to attend. As soon as your event is full no one else will be admitted. This scarcity should be emphasized throughout all your marketing and event promotion. One of my mentors, Eben Pagen has a great line to sum up the idea above, “there is nothing more motivating than a rapidly diminishing supply of something you want.” You can use the concept of scarcity to change people's perception of you event.

If you’re going to have a free event, you need to make sure that you’re protecting your own interests. By using scarcity you can insure that some value is placed on the tickets to your event.

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Great Stories & Event Marketing

Greetings from Las Vegas. I’m in Vegas for the 2008 International Council of Airshows annual convention. This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Death Valley National Park in California. My adventures spanned everything from the old ghost towns, bottle houses and gold mines to a Con Man’s castle. My weekend journey reemphasized the importance of having great stories for anything you do.

Bottle_House
Picture to the right: Outside wall of Tom Kelly's Bottle House. It's composed of approximately 50,000 bottles. The bottles were used because of a lack of lumber in the area.

Stories and Event Marketing
The story telling process can be used to market almost any event, product, or service. People love a great story.  When people hear something really interesting, they probably tell someone else. When you really peak someone’s interest it becomes far easier to get them to buy. A compelling back story can also become the centerpiece of your event marketing.

Entertaining Information
People want their information to be as entertaining as it is informative. A great story can often trump the facts of what you have to offer. Below are links for turning your web site into a story and what makes a great story.

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Charging a Premium Event Ticket Price

Event_ticket_price A few months ago I ran across Yanik Silver’s 34 Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs.  If you’re at all entrepreneurially inclined his rules are well worth a read. There was one rule in particular caught my attention. Yanik’s Rule #3 states, “You must charge a premium price so you have a large margin to provide an extraordinary value & experience.” Even though his rules are geared toward entrepreneurs, Rule #3 is sage advice for anyone organizing or promoting an event.

Yanik illustrates Rule #3 as follows:

“When my wife Missy, and I were in Venice we had a bill for $45 for two cups of coffee in St. Mark’s Square. The reason they could get away with that is because it’s an experience, not only the entire atmosphere but they also have an entire band playing there.

Even Starbucks, which has crazy margins for a $5 cup of coffee, provides an experience of their own. Beyond that is $45 for two cups of coffee in St. Mark’s Square. That lets you do the things that you couldn’t do on a budget.

If I was charging $2 for that cup of coffee, I couldn’t hire the band, have them out there playing, and do all the things that you want to create an incredible experience.”
(Silver, 34 Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs, p.11)


Always strive to make your event an experience. Stop trying to figure out the minimum amount of money you need to charge a patron. Far too many event organizers don’t charge enough for their events. These organizers are usually the same people who are caught in the red at the end of the day.  The best way to increase your bottom line is by increasing your ticket price.

Remember Dr. Robert Cialdini’s analogy from his book Influence, “Expensive = Good.” Some part of people’s expectations of your event are psychologically derived from the price you are charging to attend your event.

I’m not suggesting that anyone price gouge the consumer.
But if you can charge a premium price for your event and deliver the value of that event, then you ought to charge as much as people are willing to pay. 

One of most common things I heard recently about not charging a premium ticket price revolves around the economy. Things might not be the best economically at the moment, but don't let other people's gloom and doom stop you from delivering value. I know of multiple events in the last four months that have charged a premium price and sold out.

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Don’t Pollute Your Web Site with Advertising

Before I ruffle too many feathers, let me start with a brief disclaimer.  What follows is specifically directed to people with web sites that don’t generate their primary means of revenue from advertising.  News web sites are a prime example of web sites that use on page advertising as a primary revenue stream. They publish content to attract visitors and pay for expenses with their advertising revenue.

Advertising Pollution
Advertising_Pollution A few years ago I was introduced to a unique term: advertising pollution.  If you want to see or hear advertising pollution just turn on the radio, watch TV, open a newspaper, or get online.  We’re so inundated with advertising that it’s easy to get lost in the almost useless myriad of marketing.  When I was doing extensive usability testing on web sites one of the biggest user red flags was confusing on site advertising.  Test users would ask, “What does this (banner or ad) have to do with this web site/company?”  The test users were frustrated by the advertising. The consensus was, if it doesn’t specifically support the company don’t have advertising on an informational site. High quality information first, everything else should be a very distant second.

Don’t Pollute Your Site
Too many web sites run advertising just to run advertising.  I’m willing to bet if you look at their web stats they probably don’t get enough traffic to generate any decent advertising revenue.  If you have an event web site or a business web, don’t cloud the user’s search for information with advertising pollution.  Visitors come to your web site for information about your event or your business. It’s in your best interest to focus on your user’s needs.

Internal Advertising
There are some rare exceptions to the recommendation.  I am a proponent of internal advertising on web sites. If you have a product or service that can truly help someone, then you owe it to your potential customer and yourself to advertise on your web site. Wikipedia for all its faults is a pretty good example.  They have a donation banner on top to support their operation. To the best of my knowledge they haven’t sold out their page space to unrelated third parties to generate revenue. Ultimately the advertising has to truly help the user.

Make sure you put your information before any advertising on your web site.  You’ll have happier users and most likely make more money.

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The Stew Leonard’s & Wegmans Experience

Stew_Leonards Last Friday, I had an opportunity to visit Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, Connecticut.  My good friend Peter Buniak had been egging me on for weeks about Stew Leonard’s, “Eugene, Stew Leonard’s might be better than Wegmans!”

Unique grocery stores hold a special place in my heart. For those that don’t know, I’m a really big fan of WegmansWegmans is a grocery story headquartered in Rochester, New York.  Having grown up in Rochester, Wegmans was where my family did their grocery shopping. In my opinion Wegmans takes the grocery shopping experience to a whole new level, especially on the customer service front.  It’s a tourist stop for people with friends and family visiting Rochester. I was excited and intrigued about visiting Stew Leonard’s. Everything at Stew Leonard's and Wegmans is done specifically by design. Do you do the same with your event or business?

Selling Ice Cream During the Winter Time
As you’re walking into the Norwalk Stew Leonard’s there is an ice cream shop at the entrance.  I’m a bit of an ice cream and milkshake snob. My first job was scooping ice cream.  As most people would assume, selling ice cream during winter is a pretty difficult task. It was a cold winter day when I walked into Stew Leonard’s.  Ironically there was a big line up for ice cream.  The strategically placed Santa Claus (complete with real beard) was no doubt helpful in selling ice cream. Yet, in my 3 years of scooping ice cream I never witnessed anything like that during the winter time.  The ice cream store is setup for parents with children or the kid in all of us. When you get into the store there were a disproportionately high number of kids with ice cream.  The kids happily lapped up their ice cream as parents shopped. What does winter ice cream have to do with your business or event?  A lot . . .

Turn Your Event Into an Experience
I’m always big on encouraging event organizers to turn their events into an experience.  If you’re looking for two really great examples, you don’t have to go any further than Wegmans and Stew Leonard’s. Both companies are like the Disney World of grocery shopping.  Between both companies there are enough great business and event promotion examples from both stores to fill an entire book. If you’re ever in the Connecticut or Yonkers, New York area, be sure to make a trip to Stew Leonard’s. The same goes for Wegmans. When visiting look carefully at what is going on around you. There is at least one great idea for your business or event just waiting to be discovered.

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Why Buy Tickets For Your Own Event?

Here is a little story from my own personal experience of selling tickets at retail locations.  The scenario goes as follows. Event patrons had the option of buying tickets for an event either online or at two local retail outlets. The event promoter had a discount coupon available for those who purchased tickets at local retail outlets.  A 100,000 discount coupons were printed out and distributed locally.  For whatever reason, none of the retail locations received the message about the existence of discount coupons.  Hundreds of people had purchased tickets without being able to use the discount coupon.  If you purchased a ticket for an event and found out that you should have received a discount would you be upset?  There were a few upset people in this instance.

The Discount Coupon Didn’t Work!
I personally went to different retail locations where tickets were available for purchase four times.  Each time the retail ticket outlet didn’t recognize the coupon.  It took almost a week to correct the issue. In the mean time hundreds of people had already purchased tickets for the event at full price.  Regardless of how hard we try, there are things that occasionally slip through the cracks. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can create the biggest customer service debacles. 

Some Simple Advice
If you’re going to use retail outlets or coupons go the extra mile to make sure everything is setup properly. My strongest piece of advice is for you or someone from your team to go out and personally try to purchase tickets for your event. The same vigilance should be followed for online tickets. This is one of those scenarios where I don’t know if you can test enough. An hour of your time is a small investment compared to hours of complaining customers who complain about not getting their ticket discounts.

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Get Them to Your Event with Great Invitations

Event_invitationRecently I attended a fundraiser where invitations were sent through snail mail (traditional USPS mail). The invitation was enclosed in an expensive looking envelope and printed on a nice card stock.  At first glance one would think it is a decent looking invitation. The problem was that the envelope didn’t give anyone a good reason to immediately open it up. When you opened the envelope the actual invitation was as boring and mundane.  If you’re sending invitations through the mail for your event, you need to immediately grab people's attention and motivate them to action!

The Envelope (Packaging)
If you’re going to send paper invitations for your event, make sure it “WOWS” the recipient.  In this case start with the envelope. An envelope with nothing but a person’s name and return address doesn’t cut it. Most of us are well aware of all the junk mail that comes to us on a regular basis.  As consumers, we have taught ourselves to wade through all the obnoxious messages by ignoring them. Instead of trying to be louder than the other mail pieces, think of ways to be more unique.  Are there some words you can put on the outside of your envelope that would prompt someone to open it immediately?  Can the letter be hand addressed or addressed with a handwriting font? Is the envelope packaging truly unique? The envelope or packaging of your invitation can make a big difference in response rates. There are companies that actually specialize in creating unique envelopes and packaging. One company offers you a service to send someone a message in an actual bottle. I’m willing to bet someone would open a message in a bottle before an envelope. You can also send out mass mailings using personalized post cards with your handwriting digitally reproduced. Think of ways to make your envelope unique.

Personalized Post Cards
https://www.sendoutcards.com/

Message in a Bottle
http://www.invitationinabottle.com/

The Invitation (On the Inside)
When it comes to the invitation, focus on giving people a very good reason to act immediately.  I’m a firm believe that words are extremely powerful.  Are the words in your invitation crafted in a way that would get someone to act upon your offer right away?  Use ethical marketing techniques. Let your target market know there are a limited number of tickets available. You might want to consider using an early bird special and various pricing options.  Offer preferred or premium seating, first come first serve. The possibilities are endless. But you need to give it some thought and get people to act immediately on your offer.

Digital Hand Written Notes and Doodles
http://www.increaseresponse.com/

Test It
Before you ever send any mass invitations through the mail, test it! Find a few test prospects and send them prototype invitations. I’d recommend not using family and friends for testing. Find people who are going to be very honest with you. Send the prototype invitations and follow up a few days later. Find out if your test prospect found your invitations clear, concise, and actionable.  Ask them for their feedback.  A little testing can go a long way, especially with mass mailings.

Last, but not least, make sure your invitations are not boring! Add a little spice and excitement to the mix. To many people the information above might seem overly simplistic, and it is! But it’s usually the simple things that can make a big difference in your event.

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Why People Really Attend Fundraisers

Last weekend I attended a fundraiser for a great local charity. There were over 400 people in attendance.  When it comes to attending any sort of event I approach it as potential case study.  There is always a new idea to waiting to be discovered.  In several instances the lessons you learn at one event can be applied to other events. At this particular event, I was out to solidify my notion of why people really attend fundraisers.  As an added bonus was that I was able to put on the tux and accompanying sly grin (I think doing market research should be fun).

Fundraising_event_marketing

Why do people attend fundraisers?
If you're a not for profit organization, be sure you etch the next sentence permanently into your mind:

A minuscule number of people (hardly any) actually attend
fundraisers because the money goes to a good cause
.

Now please repeat the previous statement until it's permanently stored in your subconscious mind. Over the last 15 years I’ve attended well over 50 fund raisers of all kinds. In some instances people have flown in from across the globe just to attend a one night fundraiser. The event ticket price for one of these fundraisers of $150-$1,500 is pale in comparison to what people pay for airfare, lodging, food, etc. Why would someone do this? Because raising money for a good cause ISN'T really the motivating factor.

You’d be surprised at how few times someone says they’re at an event, because it supports a good cause. In all the times I’ve asked the question, only two or three people (out of hundreds) answered with conviction, “I’m here to support a good cause.”

Try the following next time you attend a fundraiser. Ask a few people at the fundraiser the following question, “What brings you to this event?” Chances are you’re going to get one of two very common answers.

  • The person is there because they know someone either organizing or associated with the event.

  • They’re there because they consider the event a “good time.”

I hope the information is carefully considered by those who organize fundraisers. Most event organizers falsely think people are attending their event because it supports a good cause. That type of false logic can doom a fundraising event. Always remember people attend your event because they want to have a good time or a experience something unique. People aren't going to give you their hard earned money so you can bore them.

Today the competition is fierce and people are far more protective of their dollar.  You have to go that extra mile. The best way to raise money for a good cause is by making sure the event is an amazing experience for those in attendance. If your event isn't a good time, regardless of the cause, people won't come back to support it.

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Creating an Early Buzz About Your Event

It’s never too early to create a buzz about your event. A big mistake many event organizers make is waiting until it’s too late to promote their event. A direct result of promoting your event too late is a negative impact on your bottom line. Waiting to promote also creates unnecessary stress amongst the people running the event.  You can avoid most of the stress and anxiety. Start building the buzz about your event early using both traditional and new media.

How Early is Too Early?
I honestly don’t know if it’s ever too early to promote any event.  My recommendation to clients is for them to start their traditional advertising (television, print, radio, billboards, etc.) at least 60 days out.  You can begin your traditional advertising as a trickle and then build the crescendo.  Aside from traditional advertising you can use other mediums to build anticipation for your event months in advance. Two examples are leveraging social media and online champions.

Try promoting your event a year out.  Post a blog and photo gallery of your previous event.  Ask people to post their suggestions for making your event better than the previous year.  The online possibilities are nearly endless and sometimes cost nothing.  Use the Internet’s interactivity to your advantage.  In many cases you can build a buzz for little or no cost.

The Star Trek Example
Over the weekend the Internet was set ablaze regarding the new bootlegged Star Trek trailer. The brand new trailer doesn’t come out online until today at 1300 EDT. If you saw the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, you might have caught a glimpse. The new bootlegged trailer has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times online over three days and the movie doesn’t come out for almost 6 months. To the best of my knowledge Paramount, the studio producing the movie, hasn’t been voraciously issuing cease and desist letters.  Paramount realizes that people are building a huge buzz for their own online trailer premiere. The buzz building has cost them nothing. Their fans are happily doing the work. Can you think of a similar idea to build anticipation for your event?  Have you ever consider creating a movie trailer for your event?  You can probably get it done for free.  Check with a local college or university and find yourself some capable interns. It doesn't have to be a video, it can be anything. Use your imagination!

Here is the bottom line:
The earlier you create a positive buzz about your event, the more money will flow into your pocket.

If you're interested in the new trailer:
New Star Trek Trailer (*Launches November 17, 2008 at 13:00 EDT)

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