It was 2011 and Rochester, New York had some of the first digital billboards.
For the billboard companies digital was great! Instead of one ad every 30-60 days, plus production costs … they could run several ads in 6-8 second rotations. Based on placements and total display time, I believe the digital billboard pricing, at that time, was around $7,500 for a 30 or 60-day run. (FYI – My figures might be off a little – it was 8 years ago.)
In 2011, a client decided to use the new fancy digital billboards to promote their upcoming event. The client had called me to tell me that the digital billboard had been up for a few days. That was a surprise to me - because I hadn’t seen anything.
Since it’s me, I drove back and forth on the interstate until the client’s ad displayed! Finally, “there it is!!” New and exciting! Then, after a second or two, my marketing brain kicked in.
It was 2011 and Rochester, New York had some of the first digital billboards.
"Yeah, that won't work for us." That is what I was told by an event operations manager. Those words were in response to a new offer for an ultra-exclusive VIP ticket. For this story, let’s refer to them as “Event A.” At the same time, another event organizer at “Event B” attempted to implement the very same VIP ticket and event promotion plan at their upcoming event.
In this instance, we are talking about a ticket and marketing process that had been tested and proven across North America and Europe. Both events “A & B” are in the same vertical marketplace. They also share the same customer demographic and psychographic profile.
All told, over one million dollars of the same kind of ultra-exclusive VIP tickets, using a similar marketing strategy, had previously been sold at other events. After a million dollars of sales, one could argue: tested & proven.
(In case you’re wondering … I'm somewhat vague here on details. My goal isn’t to trash events or event organizers. It is to convey an important take away.)
Over the past several years, clients have increasingly asked me to help them negotiate and review potential advertising buys. With a little knowledge, it’s relatively easy to identify multiple places to cut out ineffective advertising.
Unfortunately, most advertising account executives (a.k.a. advertising salespeople) despise me. Why? Because I refuse to allow clients to pay for anything LESS THAN positive return on ad spend. It’s not personal, just business. In one case … a client did some simple marketing math and discovered that they’d be paying $420 in advertising to generate a $52.81 ticket sale. No thank you!
Most events can reduce their advertising budgets by 50% or more and still sell the same amount of tickets. How is that possible?
You’re probably asking yourself - what the heck is going on with that TITLE?!?! The answer: A very accurate description that carries a valuable event marketing lesson.
Years ago, my fantastic girlfriend convinced me to go to a cat show. To be honest, not my first choice. But, it’s an event field trip and chance to learn something new. I said, “yes, let’s go!” Little did I know what was about to transpire! As we walked into the building hosting the cat show, the stench of cat urine hit me like a ton of bricks.
My first thought, “I’m going to need a gas mask to survive this!” After regaining consciousness, I noticed something interesting … People are gladly paying $10 to go into a room that smells like cat pee! To be fair, the show featured cats that are supermodels of the feline kingdom. They were absolutely stunning!
My second observation track was that of astonishment and pride …
One of the most common questions I receive is … “Eugene, how do I SELL OUT my event?”
The answer is complex. So, let’s start with some easy to implement suggestions. I’ll break the simple suggestions into two parts.
Full disclosure, I’m a huge Marvel (Disney) fan for several reasons. One of my biggest "fan boy" reasons is their marketing style. Just in case you’re thinking, “I’m NOT a comic book fan, this isn’t for me!” Today’s suggestion has nothing to do with comic books. It has everything to do with how you market your event. And movies are events.
The "we have to tell everyone everything at once" approach = BAD!
Far too many event organizers want to tell everyone everything about their event. They insist on doing so, all at once. This marketing approach is prevalent in the air show world. You hear things like, “we want everyone to know all our great acts, right from the get-go!” On the surface, this seems perfectly logical. But it works against marketing your event.
What?!?!? Why? Because once you release the best information out about your event, you lose your audience’s attention. If your best stuff is already out in public, then there isn’t much more to say. What can I do differently? Tease them!
Shiny object or shiny object syndrome distract even the best event organizers. In some cases, it has led to events being killed off.
To keep things easy to digest, lets group most shiny objects into two basic categories. New marketing/advertising technology and fresh (never tried before) event ideas. There are actually numerous additional distractions. Today, we'll do a little marketing detective work.
Of all the shiny objects clients have insisted on using (and it’s entirely their call - because it’s THEIR event) … I can’t recall one shiny object that produced a significant result. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen - I'm NOT omnipotent (far from it).
When it comes to advertising and event marketing, we need to spin the old broken record, yet again … “If you can’t track it, don’t do it!”
Most events waste mountains of money on ineffective advertising and marketing. How is this possible? The answer is that most events fail to track the effectiveness of their advertising and marketing at the most basic level.
If you are selling your event tickets offline (i.e., at a sponsor’s place of business, a local grocery store, a local business, etc.), you are most likely giving up your SINGLE MOST VALUABLE promotion resource—the customer’s contact information!
This mistake is an extension of "Ouch! Wasting Your Money on Something That You’ve Already Paid For ..." In that article the solution was to build and cultivate your customer database. The easiest, most powerful way to build your customer database is by selling tickets online. In most cases with online ticket sales, you will be able to collect your customers’ names, email addresses, mailing addresses, and telephone numbers, at the very minimum. That makes for a very powerful dataset.
Are you or your Board of Directors thrusting personal pricing opinions onto the consumer?
Over the years, I’ve seen this done time and time again by well-meaning committees and boards. As a result, thousands (or, in some cases, hundreds of thousands) of dollars are never realized!
Too many boards and committees make marketing as well as event ticket pricing decisions based on personal bias. Bias is a human condition that we all share. What this means is that even the best of intentions can result in lost revenue. In some cases, a significant loss of income.
Here’s a real-life example.
Here’s an all-too-common event organizer phrase: “We have to get tickets on sale as quickly as possible so that people can buy early!” This “logic” gets applied constantly to event marketing campaigns. There is one major flaw with this thinking: it’s completely wrong!
I’ve seen seasoned event organizers flounder for months in the hope of generating advance ticket sales. Remember, just because your tickets are on sale doesn’t mean that people are interested in buying them. The biggest factor in poor ticket sales is the lack of a compelling reason for your consumers to buy right now! Specifically, this ...
One of the most expensive event advertising mistake is paying to reacquire previous customers. Over the last 20+ years, I’ve seen countless events waste millions of dollars to reengage previous customers.
A few years ago, I helped one client discover information on over 14,000 former customers hiding in a neglected database file. These customers were the result of an initial advertising expenditure of $100,000+ that took place over three years. On average, those 14,000 “lost” customers purchased about $30 per transaction.
If you haven't already, please start here: How to Generate Leads & Sell Advance Tickets with Your Event Web Site - Part I
Getting Them to Opt-in
Lead generation on your event web site should take the form of a well-thought-out opt-in box. Put your opt-in box on the home page, above the fold. Your opt-in box needs to give visitors a convincing reason to give you their personal information. Consider offering exclusive ticket discounts, a downloadable event guide, or "Insider" information to entice sign-ups. Go beyond an opt-in box that just says, “Join our newsletter.” Offer a benefit with enough value for a visitor to give you their name and e-mail address. Use feedback you’ve collected from your target market as a key indicator as to what is important to them. A client of mine shared a previously unreleased event performer schedule with their e-mail list. This was a highly-effective incentive that drove opt-ins.
There is a big difference between an event web site and an event web site that lives up to its potential. A dedicated event web site is one of the best lead-generation tools in your event marketing arsenal. Heck, in many cases it’s better than any social media platform. Frank Kern, a top Internet marketing guru, summed up online lead generation like this: “Absolutely nothing can replace the significance, importance, and long-term profitability of having a good targeted list with which you have an excellent relationship.” Your web site is critical in lead generation.
Over the past ten years, I’ve witnessed the amazing results of well-executed online lead generation campaigns. In 2008, a client used their event web site to generate 4,000 brand-new leads. They were able to convert 31% of those online leads into over $100,000 of advance ticket sales. What follows is a brief outline of their simple strategy. You can use the same strategy to generate high-quality leads online, and then convert those leads into advance ticket sales.
If you haven't already and to get the most from this post, please be sure to start with reading these two post:
To truly leverage The 3% or LESS Rule, you must couple targeting with tracking. That means that every single advertising, PR, or marketing piece for your event can be tracked to a quantifiable result via hard data.
What are results? The result needs to be a click to your website, an online lead generated, or somebody purchasing a ticket to your event. Media impressions don’t count!
Any event can use tracking to eliminate wasteful ad spending. If you cannot track marketing or advertising spend to a certain result, don’t engage in that activity. This might seem like a harsh recommendation. It doesn’t matter if it’s an offline or online medium. Over the last 18 years, I’ve seen millions of dollars and countless hours wasted on ineffective event marketing. As an event producer, you need to answer the following with absolute certainty: “What’s our most effective form of advertising? And can we quantify it with hard data?”
The 3% or LESS Rule
Here’s the continuation of What Nobody Will Ever Tell You About Promoting Your Event . . .
Ready for a mental event promotion challenge? Accepting that only 3% or LESS of your local population is predisposed to attend your event is a good thing. How so? If you and your event team focus on those most interested, you will significantly boost the effectiveness of all your advertising. Think of the 3% rule as a precision targeting method.
A critical component of targeting is channel selection. You need to identify which marketing channels provide you maximum impact for delivering your advertisements. Clients have run the same ad on two different channels with massive differences in response rates. Make sure you select only the best marketing channels.
What if there is a way to increase the effectiveness of ALL your event promotion and marketing overnight? That means record advance revenue and attendance, while saving huge amounts of time and money. You're probably thinking, "This sounds like one of those bad late-night infomercials!" Bear with me because you're about to discover a powerful marketing strategy used by some of the most successful businesses in the world. Most event organizers and producers aren't even aware of its existence.
Years ago, I discovered the world of Chet Holmes. He has been referred to as "America's greatest business growth expert." This title was earned through Chet's groundbreaking work with Fortune 500 companies like American Express, Warner Brothers, Citibank, Estee Lauder, and several others. He even managed nine business divisions for Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet's business partner at Berkshire Hathaway).1 Over the span of his career, Chet conducted a twenty-year study of consumer buying behavior. His findings concluded that only 3 percent of consumers are willing to "buy now, right now." This buying propensity is universal regardless of industry. It could be a piece of furniture, professional service or even office equipment. After digging into the study, I asked the question, "Are Chet’s findings applicable to the event industry?"
The best part about social media is that it is free. The worst part about social media is that it is free. You can post as much content as you want to your Facebook page at no charge. The challenge is that most people and businesses on Facebook are also posting free content. All this free content results in mountains of content for Facebook to distribute to users. So how does Facebook deal with all that content?
Here’s a very common question regarding promoting one’s event and social media … "Which social media platform should I focus on: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter?" The previous question is made even more complicated by new platforms constantly launching. Allow me to make a strong and straightforward recommendation. Want to know what the single greatest social media platform is for your event? Facebook! Yes, even in spite of Facebook's recent criticism and issues regarding Cambridge Analytica. I'm a firm believer that user privacy is paramount!
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