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.

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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

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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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Event Planning: The Customer Avatar and Your Event

Event_planning_avatar I’m going to present a great marketing concept from two of my mentors, Eben Pagan and John Carlton.  A few years ago Eben Pagan came up with the concept of a customer Avatar.  An Avatar is the personification or manifestation of your ideal customer.  In the event marketing world your Avatar is the ideal prospect for your event.  You use your customer Avatar to better plan and market your event.

Your Ego = a Surefire Way to Sink Your Event
A cardinal sin committed by many event planners, organizers, and marketers is planning an event around their ego.  When planning your event keep in mind that people attend your event to satiate their wants, needs, and desires. I’ve seen far too many events fail miserably because an event planner or marketer thought they were smarter the people they were trying to serve. You can avoid the “ego” mistake by utilizing a customer Avatar.

Simple Questions to Build Your Event Avatar
Below are some quick questions that will help you in creating your customer Avatar for your event.  The questions below are derived from John Carlton’s Simple Writing System.

  • Who is your ideal customer? (Demographics & Psychographics)
  • What are your customer’s wants, needs, or desires regarding your event?
    (Do they have an irrational fear or desire?)
  • What message can you present to your prospect that drives them toward action?

By answering the questions above you will put yourself into a position to better understand what someone attending your event wants and how best to serve them.

Do a Survey
It has never been so easy to find out what your customer or prospect wants. The Internet gives you the ability to quickly collect information from your target market.  With a few hours of work you can quickly find out critical information about your customer and your event. Minus the details, here is what you can do . . . find online search phrases related to your event, start a PPC campaign, drive traffic to a landing/survey page, collect the data, and then compile the results.  If you have a recurring event, do a follow up survey before you start to plan your next event. 

An Already Done Avatar
If your market or industry has survey data on potential customers be sure to reference it.  You can build a very good Avatar from industry data. Most of the research might have already been done for you.

When you build your event around your customer’s wants, needs, and desires, you can’t go wrong. Having a customer Avatar to reference for your event planning and marketing is a huge step in the right direction.

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When to Start Selling Tickets for Your Event

Here is a classic question almost every event planner asks him or herself: “When should I start selling tickets for my event?” At first thought, one might think starting your ticket sales early is always better. In my experience longer ticket sale cycles almost never translate into bigger total ticket sales.  The biggest factor in determining when you should start selling tickets for your event is based on the level of ticket demand.

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Low Ticket Demand
If the ticket demand for your event is very low, it doesn’t matter how early you start ticket sales – people won’t buy.  In contrast, you can start selling tickets for your event (depending on the type of event) a few days before and sell the event out if the demand level is high enough. One good indicator for ticket demand is how many people contact your via telephone or email to inquire about tickets for your event.  If people are contacting you regarding tickets with the fervor of a hungry wolf pack that hasn’t eaten in a week, you’re in good shape.

Start Your Ticket Sales for Your Event When You Have High Demand
Ticket sales for your event should start when you’ve created enough sufficient demand to sell most of your tickets in a short period of time.  You might want to wait until you have created a sufficient level of demand before putting tickets for your event on sale.

As an example, one client recently ran a discounted advance ticket campaign that generated $15,890.00 of advance ticket revenue 58 days before their event.  The reason they were able to sell $15K+ of tickets almost two months before their event is because they made a great offer that was coupled with high ticket demand. Part of the offer included a limited number of premium level tickets to their event. The client’s total advance ticket sales paid for their event before a single person walked through the admission gate.

How would you feel if your entire event was paid for before a single person walked up to attend your event? When it comes to ticket sales, your focus needs to be on creating a high level of demand for your event.  Check out “How to Sell Out Your Event“ for a simple way to crank up to demand for almost any event.  If the demand is high enough for your ticket, then it doesn’t matter when you start to sell tickets.

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