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August 2008
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October 2008

Virtual Events versus Live Events

I recently returned from Eben Pagan’s Conversion Summit in Los Angeles.  During the summit Eben talked about a statistic that indicated most people have an average of 0.75 very close friends.  It is a little bit scary if you think about it. Thanks to the Internet humanity has never been so connected and ‘unconnected’ at the same time.  Today it’s far easier to write an email than it is to pick up the telephone or meet someone in person.  Yes there are advantages to doing things online, but there are also disadvantages.  Have you ever written an email that someone took the wrong way? You probably had to call that person up and explain what you meant over the phone or even in person.  Eben’s “close friends” statistic got me thinking about the increase use of virtual events and their role in the future.

Online Events
Admittedly, I have little experience with promoting or managing online events.  The concept of an online event is fascinating and definitely has a number of advantages over traditional live events.  Yet, one place where live events will always prevail is at the human level. There are just some experiences that you can never replicate online.

Watching the Space Shuttle Live versus Online
In “Do You Have an Awe Inspiring Event?” I talk a little about watching a space shuttle launch.  I’m a big space shuttle buff.  I probably have watched at least 40 launches live on television and seen various HD clips with surround sound. Absolutely nothing I’ve seen online or on television can compare with actually being at a live space shuttle launch.  Live events engage more parts of your brain.

Your Senses and Emotions
Live events offer something for all five senses.  There is also an emotional and tactile part that you can’t replicate with virtual events.  If you are a member of Eben’s Guru Mastermind you can access all his live training online at your convenience. But Eben’s event was made even more extraordinary by virtue of all the people you could talk to and interact with in person.  The human experience was as important as the training.  You can’t replicate the personal human interaction experience with online events. That interaction is what makes live events so great.

There are times when it is far easier and cost effect to have an event online. But online events will never be able to replace the experience of actually “being there.” If you’re headed in the direction of more online events throw in a live event every once in a while for good measure.  Meeting great people is far better in person than online.

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Max Out Your Event Promotion Budget

Have you ever asked yourself, “How much should I spent on advertising my event?” It’s a question that plagues almost every event organizer.  Ironically the question of how much to spend on advertising might be the most important question of all in determining the success of your event.

“This is the most we’ve ever spent on advertising”

Recently one of my clients spent the most they’ve ever spent on advertising their event.  Their advertising budget was almost double what they spent the previous year their event was held.  The event was outdoors and weather is a huge factor in a patron’s decision to attend. The weather forecast didn’t look promising for at least one day of the two day event. To further complicate matters the client didn’t have their “ace in the hole” performer. It was a very stressful situation for my client. Yet, in spite of all the potential downsides, the client had the largest attendance in the history of their event.  I firmly believe that their decision to spend (responsibly) as much as they did on advertising was the biggest factor in the event’s success.

Looking Back
I can’t think of one single example, over the last ten years, where someone has spent “too much” to market or promote their event.  Yes, there have been people who irresponsibly spent too much money advertising their event, but that’s another story. There are too many examples where people didn’t spend enough money on advertising great events.

If someone asks me “How much should I spent on advertising my event?” My reply is “the most money you can afford to spend.”  I understand that many events have humble marketing budgets.  In that case you need to ensure that you’re getting the maximum effectiveness from your marketing. I honestly don’t think you can spend enough money advertising a great event.  If you can deliver value, you owe it to yourself and to your patron to hype up your event as much as possible.

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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.

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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