Where to Advertise Your Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leveraging Huge Ticket Discounts to Drive Advance Tickets Sales

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

Advance_event_tickets_discount


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

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

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

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

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

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Constantly Go Back to Your Ticketing Well

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

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

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

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

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How to Sell Even More Tickets to Your Event

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting Email Marketing Delivered for Your Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Promoting Your Event with Too Much Email

A few weeks ago I sat down with a client to discuss their email marketing efforts. One question that constantly gets brought up when talking about email marketing is, “How often should I email my list?” My response is always the same to everyone . . . “Email your list as often as possible – provided you can provide them with high quality content.” The client’s response was “But I don’t want to SPAM people.” I completely agreed with his concern, but it’s important to understand the context of spamming. You run the risk of SPAMMING people when you distribute lousy content. It's no mystery - we hate to be spammed.

Event_email_marketing_spam

The Typical Email Marketing Sequence
Lousy content usually takes the form of sales pitching people right from the start of an email campaign. Most email sequences usually go like this . . . “Buy Now, Hurry up, Last chance, etc.” When people look at your opt-in box, they’re already thinking “I’m probably going to get spammed if I put my information in here.”  You need to break their preconceived notion by giving a subscriber great reasons to sign up to your mailing list and delivering high quality. Your success with email marketing with increase tremendously when you start by building trust and credibility.

Start with Your Opt-in Box
Your email campaign starts with a great opt-in box. Have a prominent opt-in box above the fold with lots of subscriber benefits. Don’t put up one of those lame first name and email address boxes (with no other incentives). Last year, a client cringed with horror when I insisted they put up massive an opt-in box on their home page. The huge sign up area contained a bunch of prospect focused benefits that their target market actually cared about and took up half the home page. The oversized opt-in box with lots of prospect focused benefits generated over 7,500 email sign ups in less than 60 days.

Think in terms of Insider Info
If you’re setting up an email marketing campaign for your event, think in terms of insider info.  Get your subscribers content that’s “not available to the public.” People have an insatiable curiosity that can only be fed by getting the inside scoop - use that to your advantage. Just make sure that you’re getting people information that’s important to them.   Many event organizers make the mistake of providing people with information they think is important, not what their target market actually wants.  Think about it this way - If your emails are full of great content are people going to say . . .“I hope I don’t get another great email from them again.” Heck no!

Not everyone is opening your Email
Realize that regardless of the size of your email list, most people aren’t going to open your emails. Typical open rates for a double opt-in event email lists ranges from 20-50%. Don't be discouraged by the previous numbers. The more often you email the lower your opt-in rate is going to be - it's the reality of the situation. Think about how difficult it is for your to get through your own email on a daily basis. The easiest way to counter low open rates for your email is by having quality content.

Build Their Interest First!
How many emails should I send out for my event?  For the campaigns I’ve managed the typical sequence was 10 to 15 emails. Unless it was an existing email list, I never sent a sales email until the very end of the campaign.  IMPORTANT TIP: It’s significantly easier to sell a ton of advance sale tickets when you have people really excited for your event. How long your tickets are for sale rarely translates into bigger advance ticket sales. If your haven't build up enough demand for your event, people won't buy early. Focus on building rapport and excitement with your list before you try selling to them. People aren't going to buy from you if they feel hustled.

If you marketing for your event try to deliver great content and insider information before hounding people to buy.  You want to tickle people’s interest in your event and amp up ticket demand. If you try and sales pitch people from the get go, without establishing trust and rapport, you’ll scare them off.  Your email list is your single best event market conduit, don’t blow it by sending crappy email.

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Did You Buy a Snickers Bar Yet?

Are you looking for advertising ideas for your business or event? Do yourself a favor and DON’T follow Super Bowl commercials as an advertising template. It’s my opinion that most companies advertising during the Super Bowl are wasting a tremendous amount of money.  Ask yourself the following question - Can you actually remember what the most entertaining ads were selling? If you ask most people the previous question - they’ll go all fuzzy on you.  The most entertaining Super Bowl ads are usually total flops for getting people to buy.

Event-marketing-super-bowl


Focus on Selling – Not Entertaining
When it comes to advertising it’s important not to confuse advertising that entertains with advertising that actually sells.  This belief comes from spending way too much time (in a good way) with some of the best direct response marketers on planet Earth.  If you look, most Super Bowl ads are almost entirely judged on entertainment value. Yeah there were entertaining ads that made me laugh.  Honestly, did Abe Bogota and Betty White actually get you to buy a Snickers bar? Probably not. The reason that huge companies like Coke and Anheuser-Busch can get away with funny commercials is because they have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on advertising.  Most event organizers don’t enjoy such a luxury.

Great Advice From an Advertising Master
David Ogilvy, The Pope of Modern Advertising, is famous for saying "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.” The purpose of advertising is to sell. Ogilvy believed that “Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn't sell much of anything."  With Ogilvy, advertising was tied to bottom line results. The thing that constantly cracks me up is all the advertising agencies that revere David Ogilvy, yet completely ignore his most basic tenants.

Halfway Decent Ads
Looking back, the best ads were from Denny’s and Google. In my opinion, the previously mentioned companies created ads with a result in mind. Denny’s gives away free food as a loss leader. Last year, Denny’s Grand Slam Giveaway packed their restaurants. Do you think all those people are going to Denny’s and ONLY getting a FREE?  Consider this . . . “Every $2 coffee translates into something like $1.70 profit. If 1.5 million of the freeloaders spring for coffee, the revenues will hover around $2.5 million. Experts estimate that 2009’s giveaway generated roughly $50 million through free advertising.” (Source: “Denny's Free Grand Slam Breakfasts, and the Cost of Free Publicity by Bruce Watson - Daily Finance.com)  Google slyly featured all the neat little things their search engine can do for you. The Google commercial was clean and brutally simple – type something in, hit search, and get results.  Search results come up with advertising worth billions of dollars to Google.

Here is a quick update of Denny's Free Grand Slam giveaway as of 02/10/2010 from a Denny's Press Release:
  • Denny's served approximately 2 million Grand Slams across the U.S. Some restaurants served more than 200 breakfasts an hour, however, this increase from last year was offset by bad weather across the country.
  • There were approximately 49 million hits on Denny's website since the Super Bowl giveaway was announced; almost 24 million hits since Sunday's Super Bowl commercials.
  • Average wait time for Grand Slams was approximately fifteen to thirty minutes.
  • Tables were turned approximately every fifteen minutes.
  • Denny's was a top ten trending topic on Twitter for Grand Slam Day and during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
  • Close to 300,000 have already registered for the new Denny's Rewards program. The first 500,000 people who sign up will receive a Free Burger and Fries.
Bottom Line Results
When advertising your event, regardless of medium, focus on selling your event.  Don’t make entertainment a goal of your advertising. Tie every ad for your event into bottom line result. Make your event advertising and investment, not an entertainment expense.


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“There's a Sucker Born Every Minute”

Barnum_sucker_event_marketing


Do you know who said, “There's a sucker born every minute”?
Most people respond with, “It was P.T. Barnum” Yet if you do some historical digging, you’ll find out that Barnum NEVER said the infamous quote most attributed to him. It wasn’t until I read “There’s a Customer Born Every Minute: P.T. Barnum's Secrets to Business Success” by Joe Vitale that I was set straight.  Vitale points out that nobody has been able to directly attribute the “sucker” quote to Barnum. You won’t find the quote in any of Barnum’s writing or speeches.  It was also pointed out that the “sucker” quote was out of character with Barnum’s personal and business beliefs.

So where did the quote come from? The quote most likely came from one of Barnum’s competitors. Read more about the “There's a sucker born every minute” misquote over at HistoryBuff.com. I tripled checked the misquote over the telephone with Kathleen Maher, Executive Director, of The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She empathatically insisted there is no evidence to support the supposed "Sucker" quote.

Staged Fights
Yes, Barnum did believe in hyping the heck out of his events. He even went so far as to stage fights during live performances. But Barnum also realized that the customer was always in charge.  If the customer felt that Barnum wasn’t able to deliver on his fantastic promises, they wouldn’t pay up or find something else to do. No event can afford to treat their attendees like suckers.

150 Years Later – You Have Just One Shot

Over one hundred and fifty years later, not much has changed in terms of the fundamentals of marketing and promoting events. Today you have just one shot to impress your customer with your event.  Delivering an extraordinary experience is especially crucial to recurring events.  If you don’t deliver a great event experience, people will find other things to do.  Don't forget the competition! Talented people are creating new events to compete with your event all the time. Don’t count on the competition slowing down (even during times of economic hardship).  Certain segments of the event industry have actually flourished during economic crisis. It is in your best interest to focus intently on creating events that leave your attendees satiated beyond belief.  You want your attendees leaving your event saying “That was amazing – I want to do it again.”

Focus on the Customer, Not the Sucker
The title of Joe Vitale's book "There’s a Customer Born Every Minute" sums up the mindset of the most successful event promoters and marketers. There are new customers coming into your marketplace all the time. In order for your event to thrive, you must find more effective ways to market and promote your even, plus execute a truly great event.

Below is a collection of articles outlining some of Barnum's event promotion strategies that you can integrate into the marketing of your event.


The Media and Making Your Web Address Count

Is getting your company or event featured in an article enough to drive traffic to your web site? Probably not. Too many business people jump up and down with unbridled enthusiasm because they were featured in their local media. I call it the “Hey, look at us!” syndrome. Don’t get me wrong, publicity is great – especially free publicity. But you need to leverage publicity the right way. Let me put it to you this way . . . The end result of publicity is more important than the actual publicity itself.  You should constantly ask yourself, "What is this publicity going to do for us?"

Getting Featured Online and Off
Free_Event_PublicityLast week a client was featured in both the online and offline versions of our local newspaper. The feature article was very positive and included the client’s web address (but not as an active link online). According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations the local newspaper has a daily circulation of 124,987. Online the paper’s web site has an estimated 230,000 visitors per month according to Quantcast.com. With the previous numbers one would think having your web address included in a positive article would generate a decent web traffic burst. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. According to Google Analytics the client’s web site received just 10 extra visitors per day when the article was featured. Getting your name in the paper these days simply isn’t enough. You need to think about how your publicity is going to benefit you.

Realty – Most Web Users are Getting Lazier
It’s important to remember that the online attention span of the typical web users is getting shorter and shorter. If a web site doesn’t load in a few second or it isn’t easy to understand and navigate, the user usually bolts to a competitor’s web site. It's important to always keep in mind the User Attention Span. Just because your web address is included in an article, online or off, doesn’t mean people will visit your site. Remember that your consumers are bombarded with way too much advertising, yet still want instant gratification. You can't expect them to do something like copy and paste a web address from an article into the address bar. Focus on leading the user down a given path.

Make It Easy to Click on Your Address
There are two simple things you can do to get more way more leverage from your web address in the media. First, make sure any online reference to your web address includes an actual HTML link to your site. If you find an article online about your event or company that doesn’t include an actual link, get in contact with the publication immediately. A friendly telephone call can go a long way. For sake of immediacy, don't try to rely on email. Correcting media references offline is a little more difficult. Print is near impossible to change after the ink dries. Be proactive with print publications. Your best bet is to ask the publication to finish the article with “For more information about XYZ, please visit the XYZ web site: XYZ.com.” That one sentence can go a long way to driving tons of free traffic to your web site. In order to get publicity to work, you need to make it easy and compelling for people to find out more about you. A well positioned web address helps tremendously.

Check out the articles below for additional information on getting the most from free publicity.
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Event Marketing: Your Email List - Quality versus Quantity

Event_marketing_email_list It’s slightly aggravating when I hear people bragging about email their email list size. You've probably heard the same from some local advertising or marketing firm. Here in Rochester, NY, we have a local advertising company that tries to impress everyone with their ridiculously large email list. Don’t be fooled by big email lists! The size of an email list is rarely related to your return on investment from that list. In many cases email lists are haphazardly thrown together. Internet marketing dude Frank Kern said it best, “It's not about the size of the list. It's about the quality of the relationship you build with the list.” You should strongly consider Frank's advice, he made over $150,000 in 20 minutes with an email list of less than 800 people.

If you’re using an email list to market your event, focus on building a high quality list that you can engage in meaningful conversion. The relationship you have with your list is huge factor in determining how many people actually buy. It’s also imperative that you vet any partner lists that you might use to market or promote your event. Below are a few ideas you need to consider . . .

Lessons from the Battlefield
My own client projects have helped to drive home the quality versus quantity ideology. Recently, one client sold $61,450 worth of event tickets in 6 just days with a house list of 3,100 people. Their list of 3,100 people was grown from zero, all online, in less than 2 months with organic traffic. Another client who focuses on establishing an online relationship with his list is doing amazing at quickly converting new list prospects into buyers. He’s able to convert over 40% of new subscribers to his list into buying customers in less than 30 days. The previous examples are not meant to brag, but merely to impress what one can accomplish.

  • Ask yourself, “What can I start doing today to have a better relationship with my list?”

Joint Ventures/Cross promoting
If you’re considering a joint venture or cross promotion for your event, check some of the most basic metrics of your partner’s email list. Here are some simple questions you need to ask when marketing your event to another list:

  • How was the list built? (Purchasers, Opt-ins, Co-ops, or What kind of offer)
  • What's the recency and frequency of communication with the list?
  • Where the names and email address collected online or offline?
  • Is the list segmented? (leads versus customers) 
  • Is the list single or double opt-in? (double opt-ins are better)
  • What is the average open rate? (look for a minimum of 20%)
  • What are the click through rate?
  • How often is the list emailed?
  • What are the average subscribe and unsubscribe rates?
  • When an offer is made what are the conversion rates?

There are other important questions you should ask, but most people neglect to find out the basics. If you find out the answers to the above questions, you’ll be well ahead of the pack.

You Need Your Own List!
At the end of the day a high quality house list is the single best list for promoting and marketing your event.  I’ve seen a house email list of 3,100 people completely crush a partner list of 23,000. Both lists had very similar demographics and psychographic profiles. Another client promoted their event using a partner list almost twice the size of their house list. The client’s own house list generated 98% of total revenue. If you haven’t started your list for marketing and promoting your event, start one today! Check out the helpful resources below to get you started.

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A Simple Formula to Pack Your Event

Over the last few years I've looked long and hard at killer tactics that sell out events. As an event planner or organizer, it's in your best interest to methodically look around your own industry and outside your industry for successful event marketing strategies that you can adopt. A casual look will show you that the simple things usually work better than the complex. Some of my best event marketing strategies (ideas that have made clients hundreds of thousands of dollars) have come from unrelated marketplaces. Through all my observations and experiences I've formulated a very simple formula that any event organizer can use to pack their event. Here is the formula:

 Hype + Massive Value = Monstrous Demand

The formula above might seem overly simplistic, but it works when you put into practice.

Hype
Event_marketing_formulaYes, it's extremely important to hype up your event!  Hype is a strategy right out of P.T. Barnum's playbook. Barnum was a master at using the right amount of hype to pack his events. Unfortunately, most event organizers, planners, and marketers completely screw up how they leverage hype. In most cases events are under hyped. Don't be afraid to be loud and proud trumpeting the benefits of your event! Let people know what's in it for them. This next part is really important . . . if you're going to hype your event, you damn well better make sure you exceed your patron's expectations. Yes, it is possible to over hype, but only if you don't deliver on the promises you make to the consumer in your advertising.

+ Massive Value
Your hype needs to be followed up with massive value. If you hype your event and then fall short of the consumers expectations, your dooming your event. Focus on delivering massive value with your event by exceeding your customer's expectations. You know you've nailed it when most of your customers leave your event saying "That was amazing!" Don't forget that you can also create value for your event before it even begins. Can you think of ways to let people experience your event before they've even attended? For more info on delivering value beforehand, check out "Front Loading Value for Your Next Event." The Internet has made "front loading value" easy and inexpensive. Value is such a powerful factor in your event marketing and promotion that it can create its' own demand. If you do nothing more than focus on providing massive value for your event, it's hard to go wrong.

= Monstrous Demand
Here is formula's payoff . . . When you couple hype for your event with massive value, you create monstrous demand. My favorite example of monstrous demand is the World's Largest Disco in Buffalo New York. In 2009, the "Disco" sold out over three months before the event takes place.  That's 7000+ tickets selling between $50-$150 that nobody can purchase anymore. You know you've hit it when people are lining up to attend your event like a pack of ravenously hungry wolves. Do everything you ethically can to stoke demand. Ridiculously high demand is the key doing really well with advance ticket sales.

Recurring Events
A big key to seeing success with the formula above is having a recurring event. I understand for some people having a recurring event isn't possible. If you aren't going to have a recurring event, it's even more important to deliver value on the front end. If you have a recurring event, make sure you're collecting feedback from attendees. Here is a counter intuitive way to collect feedback, World's Largest Disco style. Give it a shot and let me know how it turns out.

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How to Sell Out Your Event

If you want to sell out your event, you need to set the demand level for your event higher than your supply of tickets. The previous suggestion might seem like it’s straight out of the book “Thank You Very Much, Dr. Obvious!" But, very few event organizers and planners ever focus on creating a high level of demand for their event. When it comes time to sell tickets for their event, the ticket sales fall miserably sort of expectations. You need to find ways to set the demand level for your event as high as ethically possible.

The P.T. Barnum Way
Sell_Out_EventOne of the easiest ways to set the demand level for your event higher is by hyping your event.  The suggestion is straight from the playbook of P.T. Barnum. You’re event marketing should never be humdrum. You need to inject excitement and intrigue into all your event marketing and promotion. Get the target market so excited for your event that they're running to get their wallets and buy from you.

Let me give you a quick example from the air show industry. Which of the following event headlines is more likely to catch an air show prospect’s attention?

Example #1: “Come Out and Enjoy the 2009 XYZ International Air Show.”

- OR -

Example #2:Experience Flight in a Way That Will Leave You in Awe! Come out and Enjoy 4 Hours of Aerial Spectacle & Heart Pounding Excitement, featuring the Best Pilots in the World.”

Don’t Make Your Event Sound Boring
How excited would you be to attend a BORING event? Too many event organizers promote and market their events in a boring manner. Don’t make the same mistake. Whenever you market or advertise your event, make it sound intriguing and exciting to your target market. I can’t remember who said it, but “the greatest sin in advertising is being boring.” Get your prospect to say to themselves “I want to do that!” If you're event organizer or planner, focus on your target market's wants and desires.

Balancing Event Marketing Hype & Delivering on the Promise!
If you’re really going to hype your event, the level of hype can’t be greater than your patron’s expectations or the level of service you can deliver. Over hyping your event and under delivering is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. It is very important that you do everything possible to under promise and over deliver.

Hype & Exceeding the Patron’s Expectations
If you exceed your event attendee’s expectations, regardless of the level of hype, the demand level for your event can go through the roof.
  Just one happy event attendee will tell a number of other people about their great experience at your event. It's word of mouth advertising and it costs you nothing!


One Man = $17,500.00 in Advance Ticket Sales
Last weekend a Toronto businessman paid $175.00 to get access to an exclusive VIP Chalet at a FREE air show. The $175 dollars he and others paid got him access to a very nice chalet with open bar and all you can eat catered food. Before the air show finished the businessman was so satisfied with his experience that he inquired about purchasing 100 VIP tickets (at $175 each) for next year’s air show. That's $17,500 of advance ticket sales! The business man wasn't the only person to inquire about tickets for next year's air show. Since the show ended, more attendees have already offered to buy tickets for next year's air show and it's still a year away. If you can get people to your event and show them an amazing time, they'll line up in droves to come again. 

Below you will find a small collection P.T. Barnum posts that will help you with hyping your event. There is at least one good idea waiting for you to use with your event. Please take the time to read through a few posts:

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Getting Detailed Feedback To Improve Your Event

Event_feedback_survey If you want to truly improve your event, you need to identify what people disliked about your event. At first thought the previous suggestion might seem a bit counter intuitive, if not scary. Too many event organizers and planners are apt to only be interested in positive feedback. Don’t be lured into the same trap! A few months ago I wrote a post “A Negative Question to Create a Better Event.” The post suggested a counterintuitive way of getting feedback for one’s event. You should honestly consider the advice outlined in the post. It came from a guy who sells out his event of 7,000+ people more than 30 days in advance. Last month, I had an opportunity to put into practice the advice from “A Negative Question to Create a Better Event.” Below is a brief synopsis of the surprising results.

The Negative Feedback Case Study – Not Expected
During the last weekend of May a local client held their annual air show. Immediately after the event, people started sending in their unsolicited feedback.  About 35 people sent in email feedback over a three day span. For the most part, the patron feedback was very positive and general in nature.

Four days after the event, I sent out a thank you email with a survey link.  The email included a link that brought visitors to a page with one simple survey question . . . “What DIDN’T you like about the event?” Below the survey question was a simple text box form.  In a little over a week’s time 375 people sent in their feedback. The survey results identified very specific issues people had with the event. That wasn’t the case with the unsolicited feedback. Here is something really interesting . . .  Even though the survey asked people what they didn’t like about the event, people still sent in a ton of positive feedback.  Because the event is recurring, all of the collected feedback can now be used to improve the event.

You Must Ask for Feedback
Here is one of the most important lessons I learned over the years regarding event marketing and promotion . . . you have to actively engage your patrons to send event feedback.  Never expect patrons to just email you feedback.  It never works that way. After two months only about 40 people sent in their unsolicited feedback. Compare that with the almost 400 people who sent into detailed feedback when prompted. If you’re truly dedicated to creating a great event (especially if it’s a recurring event) don’t be afraid to collect negative feedback.

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Getting More Opt-ins & Making More Money Online

A few weeks ago I was listening to an audio interview with Tim Ash.  Tim wrote an excellent book on Landing Page Optimization.  He’s an expert on getting people to take specific actions after they get to a web site.  During the interview, Tim gave one piece of very simple (yet highly effective) advice. His advice was especially important from a list building perspective.  Here is Tim's advice - "When you’re collecting information online, collect the minimum amount of information to complete the transaction." It’s important to think of Tim’s advice from the user’s perspective . . .

Opt-in_form_event_marketing

Remember – Upfront - They Don’t Know or Trust You!
Would you give a complete stranger personal information about yourself?  I’m guessing probably not. The previous question is directly applicable to collecting information online. A big mistake made when trying to collect personal information online is asking for too much information on the first visit. In most cases you have zero rapport with a prospect that just arrived at your web site. The more information you ask from a first time web visitor, the more difficult it is to collect information.  I’ve seen web sites that ask from full mailing addresses, fax number, and cell phone (all as required fields) up front.  As a result, less people are going to sign up.

Gain Some Trust
Your initial focus needs to be on establishing trust and credibility with your web site user. You can start to establish trust by offering your prospect something they perceive as valuable. It could be a free report, video, or audio.  You might offer some great articles for free or insider information. It is crucial to focus on the prospect’s wants and needs, NOT what you think is important to them.  The better you know your market, the better you can position information for them. The same advice rings true when planning an event . . . The best events are those built specifically for the target market – not for the event organizer’s ego.

Collecting Info Online - Where to Start
I suggest starting with the bare minimum for online data collection, first name and email address. Have any easy way for people to opt out of your list and have sound privacy policies in place. You can collect more information as you grow rapport with your prospect over time.  The best way to grow rapport over time is to give additional information that the prospect deems as valuable.

Seeing too many information can fields makes user apprehensive, regardless of those fields being required.  When collecting personal information online . . . Start with first name and email address, build trust, then go from there.

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Event Search Marketing and Your Description Tag

When it comes to search engine optimization and event promotion, simple things can have big impact. Search Engine Marketing is critical in your event marketing and promotion efforts. Check out "Leveraging Your Event Promotion with SEO." One easy SEO improvement, with a high level of impact, is crafting a compelling description tag. The description tag is used to tell an internet searcher what a particular page is all about. Each page on your event web site should have its’ own unique description tag. 

An Example
Below is a shameless self-promotion example. The section highlighted in Red is the description tag.

Event_Search_Marketing_Description

If They’re Searching - They’re at Least Curious About Your Event
Keep this in mind when writing a description tag . . . Most people searching for your event web site are at least curious about your event.  When is the last time you used a search engine to look up something of no interest to you?  If a searcher finds a search listing for your web site in the search engine you want them to click on your link, not the competitions. A strong description tags helps in getting people to click on your web site link.

Make Your Description Tags Compelling to Click
Description tags shouldn’t be boring or mundane.  Think of your description tag as a way to get people to click on your link on the search engine results page.  Does your description tag give someone a compelling reason to click? The best description tags give internet searchers a compelling reason to click.

A Bad Example
Here is an example of a bad or inaccurate description tag for an event or business. It gives the reader almost no incentive to click. Be sure you're not making the same mistake.

Event_Search_Description_Tag_Bad

Balance Click'ability and Search'ability
Some search marketing specialist might suggest that you try to include search relevant keywords in your description tag.  I would argue that the best tag for search relevant keywords is your title tag. Description tags don't carry as much importance as the title tags in search engine placement. Therefore keep your description tag focused on getting people to click on the link.  Think of your description tag as the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for individual web pages on your event site.

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Be Vigilant About Your Event Details and the Media

Do you have an upcoming event that could benefit from media coverage?  If you’re preparing to release information about your event publicly, you need to be extra vigilant right after information is released to the public.  All it takes is one little piece of inaccurate information to create a maelstrom of headaches.

Press_release_event_marketing Real World Example
Let me give you an example . . . A few months ago a client held a press conference to announce their upcoming air show.  In conjunction with the press conference, there was an official press release issued and great coverage by the media.  The press release contained one small inaccuracy (an event detail carried over from last year’s press release) that was no longer accurate. As a result, the media started reporting about the event with inaccurate information.  The local newspaper reported that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels were performing at the air show. In fact, the Blue Angels were not attending.  (When it comes to air shows, the Blue Angels attending an air show can make it or break it for event organizers.) The next day, local radio stations started to report the inaccurate information from the newspaper story. The radio station’s mindset was most likely . . . “If the newspaper is reporting it, it must be accurate.” One small piece of information created a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress for the event organizer.

Be Vigilant
When really important information about your event is released to the public (major performers, dates, times, ticket details, etc.) you must be extra vigilant. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, honest mistakes can be made and information can be reported inaccurately. In today’s world of social media one inaccurate piece of information can get to the other side of the world in a matter of seconds.  You don’t need to go overboard, but a little vigilance can prevent hours or days worth of necessary headache. 

Quick Suggestions
There are a few simple things you can do to prevent inaccurate information from spreading through media outlets. The first place to start is to triple check any press releases that go out to the media. Have other people you know review your press release.  If you’re really invested in a project your objectivity goes down the more you look at something. In the example above, it was one simple sentence that resulted in a bunch of unnecessary stress. Get more info on - Press Releases and Your Event Marketing.

Online Champions
Another suggestion is to get members of your team to monitor the local media (television, radio, and print).  You might want to consider making use of an online championHave your online champion (trusted team member) monitor the local media. They can let you know if there are any discrepancies in information.

Setup a Google Alert
You should also consider setting up a Google Alert regarding your event. Google Alerts allow you to ability to automatically monitor what's going on with your event in cyberspace. Get more information about - Google Alerts and Your Event.

All it takes is one small piece of inaccurate information and you’ll be left with hours or days worth of headaches. By putting some simple controls in place and by being proactive in the process you can prevent a great deal of stress in your life.

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Leveraging Your Event Promotion with SEO

Search engine optimization is a critical part of your event marketing and promotion, especially if you have a recurring event. A properly optimized web site can drive tons of free traffic to your event web site. The more qualified people you have coming to your site the higher the user’s attention level.  Let’s face it . . . someone searching for “underwater basket weaving” isn’t going to show up to an air show event web site. A proper search engine strategy can also allow you to leverage your traditional marketing campaigns.  What’s more interesting is the interaction of search engine marketing with traditional advertising and promotion.

Here is a real life case study to consider. The event organizer spent in excess of $100,000 USD to advertise their local event. Their traditional advertising efforts included television, print, radio, and billboards. The brunt of their campaign started 30 days before the event date. For all of the money spent on traditional advertising, almost 50% of the traffic came as a result of search engine traffic. You can see a break down of the information below.

Seo_event_marketing_promotion

The graph above illustrates the importance that search engine optimization plays in your event marketing strategy. What’s even more interesting is that only about 28% of the traffic was a result of people directly typing in the domain name into the address bar. The event organizer put a tremendous amount of focus on driving people to the web site with their traditional advertising.  Additionally, the domain name for the event web site was very easy to remember. Yet, a majority of the people used the search engines to find the web site.

Below are some short articles to help you with search engine optimization ideas for your event web site.

Lost Opportunity - Seemingly Irrelevant Search Keywords . . .
Your event prospects aren’t always using obvious search terms to get to your web site. Check your web stats and see if you’re missing a search engine optimization opportunity.  One event planner that I recently started work with discovered that a large number of people were searching on a significant keyword that the event planner considered irrelevant. Seemingly irrelevant keywords are a huge opportunity cost. Make sure you optimize your web site for some of the valuable, yet obvious terms.

Your search engine optimization strategy is a crucial part of your overall event marketing and promotion strategy. If done properly, a well thought out search marketing strategy can significantly increase the effectiveness of all your traditional marketing.

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Automatically Generate Leads for Your Event Year Round

You need to think of your event marketing and promotion as a year long process. This is especially true if you have a recurring event.  Don't let the thought of year round event marketing scare you. There are simple things you can do to automate your event marketing. Let’s start by looking at the opportunity that most event planners are missing . . .

Visitor_graph_event_planning

The Graph Above
Take a look at the graph above. The graph is a 12 month web site visitor graph from the air show in Rochester, New York.  As you can see, most of the traffic comes to the web site in a time frame of 15 days before and after the event. The trend above is consistent with almost every web site I’ve ever seen. It’s important to note that 33% of total web site traffic comes in the 6 months before and after the event. Most event planners and organizers miss the opportunity to capitalize on the traffic coming to their web site. You need to look at any traffic to your web site as a year round event promotion opportunity.

Have a Simple Opt-in
One simple way to automate your event marketing is to setup a simple opt-in box on your home page.  Think of target market focused ways to get people to sign up for your event email list. Make an offer to give anyone who opts into your email list exclusive content about your event or discount ticket prices. In order to get people to opt-in, you’ll going to have to make them an offer that’s enticing to them. When you have a compelling offer, you can automatically collect email addresses from your target market year round. Have an autoresponder setup that automatically sends information about your event to the people on your email list.

Market Your Event Before and After
As your event approaches, use your email list to market your event.  A home grown list allows you to directly interact with your target market. If a person is signing up to your event email list, they’ve prequalified themselves as interested. Ask yourself, how many people are going to sign up to your event email list if they’re not at least curious about your event? After the event, follow up with your list to get feedback on ways to improve your event.  Recurring events can use the ideas above to grow their list year after year.   

Remember that most people only visit your web site once.
If you can collect someone’s email address – you have a pre-qualified list of people interested in your event.  Keep the focus of your marketing on delivering high quality content and establishing trust. Don’t sales pitch people as soon as you get their email address.

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Does Someone Else Own YOUR Web Address?

Domain_Name_Event

The other week I met with a new client over lunch.  During the client intake process we reviewed some information about the client's web site.  As part of the intake process I check up on web site ownership. When I did a registration look up on the client’s web site I noticed that the client didn’t own their domain name / web address. The client originally contracted with a local advertising agency when they first setup their web site. When I checked the domain registration for my client’s web site, it was registered with the sales rep for the advertising agency.  My client had no idea someone else owned their web address. This happens all the time. You need to ask yourself, right now, “is my business web site registered in my name?”

For those that don’t know . . . when registering a domain name (web address) you’re required to input a registrant or owner for the domain being registered.  I’m not an attorney . . . and this isn’t legal advice . . . but, if someone else is the domain registrant for your web site – they own your web address. Over the last few years I’ve had to tell several business owners that they didn’t own their own web address. In most instances the situation was easily remedied and the registration was corrected.  The whole situation can become a real pain if you need to change hosting providers or web development companies. It becomes worse if you've spent thousands of dollars on advertising that includes a web address that you think you own, but really don't . . . You can avoid the stress . . .

Quickly Check Domain Your Domain Ownership
The easiest way to determine if you own your domain is by doing a Whois look up.  A Whois lookup gives you ownership information about a given web address.  If you’re looking up your own web site, pay attention to the ‘registrant.’ If it’s your web site, you should be listed as the registrant. Go to the following link to do a Whois lookup . . . http://whois.domaintools.com/. Just input your domain name to get the registration information.

If Your Domain Isn’t Register to You
If you do a Whois lookup and notice that your domain isn’t registered in your name . . . don’t panic. The personal who initially setup your site probably automatically registered your domain using their information. This happens all the time and there is no fraudulent intent. If the person or business who setup your web site is the registrant, kindly ask them to transfer the registration into your name.  It takes 2 minutes to update the information. There are several businesses owners I know who took control of their domain without incident.

Avoid Domain Ownership Disputes for Less Than $10 Year
Be proactive about securing your online identity.  If you have an event or are considering holding an event, make sure you register a domain name. Less than ten dollars a year (the typical cost to register a domain name annually) is a small price to avoid a bunch of stress and frustration.

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Vicarious Event Marketing & Promotion - Be Edgy!

Has a friend ever tried to live vicariously through you? Being one of the unmarried guys - I find my friends (usually the men) telling me “I want to live vicariously through you!” It’s a bit ironic . . .  A large number of people I know what to settle down. But when they settle down (or for whatever reason) people tend to get incredibly bored.  Don’t get me wrong - There is nothing wrong with marriage and kids. But people still want some excitement in their life.

Stop_Be_Bored  

People are Bored Out of Their Gourd
Back in September I attended Eben Pagan’s GuruMastermind Conversion Summit in Los Angeles.  During one of the sessions Eben talked about how most people live incredibly boring lives. He illustrated the point with a simple example: People wake up bored, they go to work bored, come home – watch some T.V. and then go to bed bored. The next day the same boring process starts all over again. One could argue that Eben’s example is a pretty harsh assessment. Yet the more I think about it, the more he might be right. When I ask my friends “why do you want to live vicariously through me?” they usually respond with “because I’ve settled down and don’t get to have as much fun anymore.” You need to realize that most people are bored. If people are looking for a little excitement in their lives, give it to them!

Inject a Little Personality into Your Marketing
It’s never been so easy or inexpensive to capture the attention of your target market. The challenge is cutting through the all advertising people face. One simple way to overcome the standard advertising glut is by injecting a little personality into to your marketing. Eben recommends being “edgy authentic.” Being “Edgy Authentic” is a great way to capture the attention of someone who might be bored. By being edgy you cut through all the other pompous corporate style marketing.  Be authentic and genuine when you communicate with your target market. They’ll appreciate your candor.

Get Them Excited
Apathy, ambivalence, and indifference make the challenge of getting people to your event very difficult. The same goes for trying to sell a product or service.  You need to get your target market so excited that it’s difficult NOT to buy from you. As Jeffery Gitomer put it “people love to buy, but they hate to be sold.”

An Edgy Example
One of my friends, Chris McCombs, did the improbable. Chris’ blog KickBackLife.com became the number one fitness marketing blog in the world. He accomplished this feat by being edgy authentic. Chris knows his target market and how best to communicate with them. People write him all the time to compliment him on his open candor and marketing style.  If you’re looking for a super successful example of edgy authentic, check out Chris’ blog KickBackLife.com. When you look at the site, you need to go a little deeper. It might look like it's about scantly clad women and guns . . . but there is a lot more to it.

By applying an appropriate amount of edginess to your event marketing and promotion, you’ll stand out from the crowd. At first you’ll feel a bit uncomfortable . . . but with time you’ll see the benefits of not being like everyone else in marketing. Don’t be afraid to stand out!

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