Monetizing Free Events - There is Money Everywhere

Monetize_free_event There is no such thing as a free event. Events without any type of admission still cost event organizers money to produce.  Organizers almost always need to rent equipment or have a dedicated facility to hold their event. These things cost money. In addition to the previously mentioned costs, there are typically numerous ancillary expenses that cannot be traded out. If the economy is bad, people and businesses are less apt to help out free events and not for profit organizations. With sponsorship dollars becoming much more difficult to come by event organizers need to look at other avenues for funding. As an event organizer you need to focus on other areas of financial opportunity.  Is there some aspect of your event that you can monetize?

Offering a Premium Event Experience
Here is an idea.  If you have a free event, can you charge people for a premium experience?  People are willing to pay money at free events if you can deliver extra value.  Things like reserve seating or a VIP experience are just some of the things you can offer as premiums.  Some patrons are willing to pay you money if it means not having to wait in line for 45 minutes. Look at ideas that are of minimal cost to you as an event organizer, yet generate maximum revenue.  You would be surprised what patrons are willing to pay for a premium experience. It’s important that you offer a premium that your event patron finds valuable. There is often a discrepancy of perceived value between patrons and event organizers. You can overcome the “What’s a premium” hurdle by asking or testing offers with your event patrons.  Keep the focus on what patrons find appealing, not what you think they might find appealing. Something as simple as an email survey to your target demographic can give you answers to the premium experience question.

Monetizing Your Event Afterward
A less desirable place to monetize your event is after the event takes place. The disadvantage is what you can’t put money into your coffers before your event occurs. Patrons typically look for nostalgia items after an event takes place.  Do you have anything that people might be interested in purchasing after you event? The easiest way to generate revenue, post event, is from a dedicated event web site. Make nostalgic items available for purchase online.  Just remember to focus on your patron’s desire.

As an event organizer of a free event (or any event) you need to think of additional ways to monetize your event. People will pay, regardless of the economic conditions, for a premium experience. A little brain power can go far in generating extra revenue for your event.

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Recession = Opportunities For Your Event

Are you as an event organizer making the most of the economic downturn?  It isn’t all doom and gloom in the world. There are events and industries that are actually thriving in spite of current economic conditions. Check out some of the random press clippings pulled from the last few days.

Recession_economy_events I’m not going to deny that people are struggling. But it’s important to remember that people still want to do things.  Go take a look at your local shopping mall during any given weekend.  There might not be as many people shopping, but people are still shopping.  Opportunities are all over the place for smart and savvy event organizers. One huge opportunity that you can take advantage of is discounted advertising rates. 

Discounted Event Advertising
Advertising outlets are so desperate to get advertisers they are offering advertising at a discount. Everyone is discounting their services: television, print, radio, online, etc. It’s far less expensive to buy advertising to promote your event. Even with discounted advertising, focus on negotiating your advertising packages even lower. You should never pay rate card for advertising.  A trusted media buyer told me that 80% of online advertising goes unsold. Be vigilant in how you negotiate your advertising agreements. Never say yes to the initial price you're quoted.

Less Advertisers
Advertising advantages go beyond discounted rates. The current economic state has also prompts many businesses to reduce advertising efforts.  It’s a psychological effect. Business owners think “other businesses are spending less, we should follow suit.” As a result you have less advertising competing for the consumer’s attention. Make sure you don’t follow the rest of the flock. A down economy is an excellent time to gain market share on the competition. Take advantage of less clutter in the market place to position your event with the public.

If you’re thinking of holding an event, the current economy offers you certain advantages. People still want to be entertained, have fun, and learn new things. It’s up to you to provide them something unique and of high perceived value.

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Exquisitely Describing Your Event

The words you use to describe your event can make a world of difference in how many people show up to your event.  For all the technology we have at our fingertips words are still your most powerful marketing tool.  When you describe your event, especially in your marketing, make your event description extraordinary.  It doesn’t matter if you’re using traditional media (television, print, radio) or new media. You want the person reading or seeing your advertisements to automatically think, “I want to do that!”

As a quick example, which of the following would more likely peak your interest to attend the event captured in the video above?

“Come see our amazing fireworks and laser light show.”

- OR -

"Witness a thrilling nighttime kaleidoscope as the sky erupts with over 1,100 pyrotechnic bursts and the extraordinary Earth Globe floats across the lagoon, revealing wonders of the seven continents on its curved LED screens — the first ever of their kind. Revel in rousing original music as lasers turn the very sky into a work of art."

Both descriptions are for the same event. The longer description comes from the Disney Corporation. It's for their Reflections of Earth fireworks and laser light show at EPCOT.

You're description can be as long as you want. (Provided you hold your readers attention.) The marketing of your event needs to rival the quality of your event.  Most event organizers create great events that nobody attends. Make sure you’re not making the same mistake. If you have something really great to share with people, don’t under hype your event.

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Sponsorship Page Reality

Sponsors are an important part of any event.  There are numerous event that wouldn’t take place without the support of their sponsors.  Over the last nine years I’ve carefully looked at web statistics for various events. There is a glaring statistic that comes to light as it relates to featuring your sponsors.  When people visit an event web site they aren’t interested in who’s sponsoring your event. Sponsorship is the one of the last things the average visitor deems important.  The graph below shows pageviews statistics from an event web site. The sponsorship page accounted for less than 2% of total pageviews over a 12 month period. The statistics below are from an event web site with 9 pages.


Beyond Sponsorship Logos on Your Event Site
You need to go beyond just featuring sponsors on your event web site.  The process starts with trying to find sponsors that your target market actually cares about. Look at the demographics and psychographics of your target market. Can you find a good link between potential sponsors and your target market?  Instead of just featuring your sponsors include them as part of your marketing.  Include sponsor coupons that your target market can redeem before or after your event.  Make sure that sponsors track coupon use. It won’t be difficult for you to find sponsors for your event if you’re providing your sponsors a definitive return on investment. Using a coupon is one of the easiest ways to show a direct return on investment.

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Simple Long Copy Advice

The other day I was speaking with my friend Ray Justice regarding long copy. For those that don’t know, copy is any words and text used in written material. When it comes to copy there always seems to be a raging debate about the length of copy. In my conversation with Ray we debated the pluses and minuses of long copy.

Continue reading "Simple Long Copy Advice" »

Creating an Extraordinary Experience with Words

Words_and_story My dad emailed me the story (link) below a few years ago. It's an 800 word half-page personal narrative describing the extraordinary experience of flight. Even after a quick read, it’s a story that is difficult to forget.  There is no audio or video.  Yet the story (published in 1999) has no problem holding its weight in today’s overly saturated world of multimedia.

In the end, it’s an excellent example of the power of words.  I’m still a firm believer that words, especially written words, are the most powerful marketing tool on the internet. It's well worth 120 seconds of your time.

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An Important Event Web Site Statistic for Promoters and Event Planners


Over the weekend I spent some time digging into event web site statistics. Some intriguing information came to light when doing a comparative analysis of web stats from three very different events. The events compared include an air show, a brew fest, and an aviation safety event. Each event had a distinct demographic profile.  In spite of demographic differences, there were some very intriguing correlations in web statistics. Even when accounting for dynamic IP addresses, some specific statistics were within a percentage point or two for all the web sites.

Some Event Web Site Statistics
One interesting statistic was the number of times a user visited a web site (visitor loyalty).  Across all three sites, only 10% of visitors came to an event web site more than three times.  For the same three sites, approximately 70% of the visitors only visited each event web site once.  See the graphic above from an actual event web site. If visitors are only coming to your site once, you need to make sure the information you have on your web site is doing a great job of selling your event.  Are you trying to capture people’s name and email with an opt-in box?  For all the sites 60-75% of all visitors came to each site within 30 days leading up to each event. The more an event organizer spent on advertising their event, the greater the traffic to the site within 30 days of the event. 

Diligently Look at Your Statistics
If you have a recurring event, properly analyzing your web stats is an invaluable resource. Not enough event organizers look into their web stats. Digging into the data goes well beyond just the total number of visitors. Carefully look at what visitors on your site are doing. At the same time, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out when looking at your web stats. Knowing your stats can save you a ton of money on marketing.

If you haven’t already, be sure that you have a good analytics suite installed on your event web site. My personal favorite is Google Analytics.  Analytics is free and you can get some pretty amazing information. Pay careful attention to your statistics, it could be costing you dearly.

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Don’t Neglect Your Email List

What follows is a important email marketing lesson. In just over two years a friend of mine was able to build a home grown email list to about 5000 subscribers.  He drove web traffic to a landing page via a pay per click campaign.  On his web page, visitors were asked to sign up to receive additional information via email. For the first two years of his campaign my friend sent an email to his list once every 10 days.  The list generated tens of millions of dollars in sales leads.  Eventually the 10 day interval of emails slowed down. The last time my friend emailed his list was over six months ago.


Going Back to The List
Recently my friend tried to transfer his existing email list to a new email system.  The new email system requires all 5000 of his email subscribers to click on a verification link sent by email.  If the subscribers don’t click on the verification link their data won’t be imported into the new email system.  My friend prepped an email with the included verification link and sent it to his subscribers.  Of the 5000 subscriber on his list only 50 clicked on the verification link after his first email.  As one can imagine, my friend was floored that so few people clicked on the verification link. He didn’t have the expectation that a large number of people would click the verification link, but he did expect to get more than 1%.

The Lesson
When you build your email list, it is imperative to stay in constant contact.  The point above expounds on the importance of engaging your list on a regular basis. My recommendation is to engage your list at least once a week. Setup an email autoresponder to automate your marketing. When engaging your list, focus on the list’s desires and on delivering valuable information. Regardless of your efforts not everyone is going to stay on your email list. People come and people go. Your objective is to try and keep as many people on your list as possible.  As of yesterday - my friend said that about 150 people, of his list of 5000, had be verified and added to the new system.

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The Most Important Line in Email Marketing

Email_subject_line Yesterday I had a great strategy meeting with my friend Doug Doebler. Our discussion was about email marketing. A few years ago Doug accomplished some pretty amazing things with real estate and email marketing.  If you’re interested in the World’s best beach towns, be sure to check out Doug’s web site. Having said that . . . Some people swear by the usefulness of email marketing and others consider it a complete waste of time.  During our discussion Doug and I talked about the small nuances that can make a big difference in any email marketing campaign.  One of the topics we discussed was getting people to open email.  The truth is that most marketing emails don’t get opened - ever.  My average email open rate over hundreds of emails is between 40-50%. Those open rates are from double opt-in home grown email lists, not list brokers. There are a lot of marketers that espouse that the email subject line is the most important factor in open rates.  I disagree.

There is one element more important than any subject line for getting your email opened . . .    

The Most Important Email Element
I’ll admit that there are rare times when a clever subject line will get someone to open an unsolicited email.  But more often than not, people look at who the email is from before looking at the subject line. Think about the last time you received an email from a friend . . . In most cases, regardless of the subject line, you opened the email. Getting people to open your email is about trust and credibility. Your name carries more weight than a fancy subject line. Therefore your first priority should be to establish trust and credibility with the people on your email list.

It’s About Trust
One way to establish trust and credibility is by delivering valuable information up front. If someone signs up to your email list, don’t try to sales pitch them right away. Start by giving them information that is valuable to them.(Not what YOU think might be valuable.) By delivering value up front you become a trusted adviser. You become like a friend to the recipient. It’s by far the best way to get more people to open your email.

Building Trust
Can you think of ways to build trust and credibility with your email list? Find out what interests your target market and give it to them. Intently focus on what’s important to the people you’re emailing.  It’s up to you to find information that your target market finds valuable. Save the sales pitch for after you’ve established some trust and credibility. If you follow the above advice, you’ll do far better with your email marketing campaigns.

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Interactive Event Marketing

Interactive_event_marketing It has never been so easy and inexpensive to interact with your target market. In, “Leading People to Provide Feedback,” I wrote about the importance of collecting feedback from your target market.  Your target market represents the people most likely to attend your event. Today I’d like to take the feedback process one step further. This step involves integrating target market opinion when you’re planning and marketing your event.  Instead of getting into specific techniques for collecting feedback, I’d like to approach the concept from a strategic level. Think of it as food for thought.

Never Assume What They Want
A huge mistake made by several event organizers is assuming their target market’s wants and needs.  This happens frequently. Especially when events that are organized by committee.  Event organizers plan events around their wants and needs, not the wants and needs of their target market.  The problem is what event organizers want from their event and what their patrons want are usually completely different.  One might argue, “I’m organizing my event and paying for it, so I can do whatever I want!” I’m not going to argue with the previous statement.  But I will ask the following question: Would you rather have a very successful event, or have 100% control over your event?  (You can only choose one.) The most successful event organizers let patrons help plan their events via patron feedback.  Feedback can come in many different forms. Feedback includes email, blogs, surveys, and everything in between.   

You Can't Integrate Everything
You’re obviously not going to be able to accommodate every suggestion or request. I understand that patron requests can go beyond the budget and scope of your event. But it's in your own best interest to give patron feedback serious consideration. The cliche of "It's the thought that counts," actually applies in this situation. People are much more likely to get passionate and excited about things where they have input, even if it’s only perceived input. You want to involve your target market throughout your marketing cycle. Make patrons feel like their part of your event before it event begins.

Are you involving your target market enough in the planning and marketing of your event?  It’s not always an easy question to answer, but it’s an important one to ask. If you make an effort to involve your target market, the likelihood of having a successful event goes up dramatically. It can be as simple as sending an email and asking someone, "Hey, what do you think of this?"

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Leading People to Provide Event Feedback

Last week I had an interesting experience with a client. It centered on a new online marketing campaign to the client’s house email list.  We decided to start the campaign by identifying the target market’s interests. The first email sent to their list was an informal survey.  Within a few hours of being sent, over a hundred people had replied with their feedback.  The deluge of feedback was ironic because nothing was stopping people from previously sending feedback on their own. Anyone could have gone to my client’s web site, clicked on the email link, and sent their own feedback.  Yet that never happened.


People Need to Be Led
Here is a little secret of human psychology . . .  People are silently begging to be led. Just because someone can write you a suggestion regarding your event, product, or service doesn’t mean they will. Today’s web sites are cluttered with so many options that people don’t know where to start. You need to lead people on a path to action.  If you want feedback on your event, lead them in that direction. Something as simple as an email can evoke that response.

Here is an excerpt from the informal survey sent to my client’s email list:

“To ensure that we are giving you the information you really want to know I am asking for your help. Please reply to this email with any interesting questions or ideas you might have to include in the series. Feel free to ask me anything and I'll try to incorporate as many answers possible.
If you don't have a question, maybe you have a suggestion? All you have to do is hit reply to this email.”

I’m working from the assumption that you already have an email list.  If you’re looking to build a list, check out “List Building & Your Event Marketing.”  Feel free to take the verbiage above, modify it accordingly, and use it to get feedback from your own target market.  It’s one of the simplest and most cost effective ways of getting valuable feedback on your event.  If you integrate patron feedback you will create a better event that more people will want to attend.

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Ride a Winning Ad

Winning_ad_event_promotion Do you ever reuse advertising for your event? As humans we have this drive to constantly create something new. This happens frequently when it comes to advertising for events. We often try so hard to create something new that we forget to step back and to figure out what actually works.

Rerun Successful Advertising
I would argue that event organizers are better off rerunning an ad (or a web site) that gets a decent response than trying to create something new for creativity’s sake.  The cost of creativity is usually your time and money. A great success model to emulate is classic direct response advertising. The magic of direct response ads are rooted in great headlines and compelling body copy. Some of the most successful advertisements in history have been run for years without any changes.

How to Find a Winning Ad
Finding a winning ad has never been easier. You can track advertising effectiveness with Google Analytics. Let’s use print advertising as an example. Make sure that all your print ads include a strong call to action that includes your web address. You might want to consider running different domain names for various ads. Specific domain names make it a little easier to test your ads. After the ads have run, go back to Analytics and see which ad drove the most people to your web site. The ad that drove the most people to your web site is the winner. The above example lacks specific details, but should give you some ideas to start.

When advertising and marketing for your event you a far better off going with something that you know works. Why mess with something that is going to help put “butts in seats”? Find the ad that works and don't be afraid to use it over and over. You can create a new ad when your winner stops paying you dividends.

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Dealing with Harsh Event Feedback

Have you ever received a really nasty email regarding your event? Customer service over the Internet can be a bit tricky at times. Today most of the feedback event organizers receive is going to be over email. Most people give very gracious feedback. Yet there are always a few people that are a little harsh with their feedback. The truth is a small number of people complain, just because they’re given the opportunity.  You are best served trying to address every piece of feedback, even from unreasonable people. Here are a few quick tips for delivering customer service over email.


Step Back
It’s important not to take negative feedback about your event personally. When you organize an event you’re emotionally vested in that event. The initial response to a harsh email might be to respond with an equal tone. It’s not worth it. Take a step back and make sure you don’t respond defensively.  Give yourself time to cool down. I find that waiting 24 hours to respond to an email helps.  In that time, try to honestly consider where your patron is coming from.

The Magic Phrase
Use the following phrase to defuse any harsh feedback about your event, “Thank you for your email.” Then continue your email in an understanding and appreciative tone. Someone who just wrote you a very harsh email is probably not expecting a thank you response. I’ve used the “thank you for your email” all the time. It’s amazing how that simple phrase calms people down. Event patrons have written back apologizing for their initial email. 

Respond within 48 Hours
A timely response is huge in customer service.  Try to respond to people as quickly as possible. Within 48 hours is a good rule of thumb. The quicker you respond, the better your chances for resolving a patron complaint. I fully realize that quickly replying to an email might not be at the top of your priority list, especially right after an event. Utilize a trusted member of your team to field initial emails. When a team member responds to a patron’s email, make sure they CC you on the email. You can respond with a follow up email.

Taking the higher road is the best way to go in addressing feedback for your event via email. Initially it might pain you to “be the better person,” but it will pay off in patron loyalty and appreciation. Most people are reasonable when you genuinely try to help them. Read through “The Mystery of Online Customer Satisfaction” for some interesting insight on customer service.

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Injecting Personality into Your Event Promotion and Marketing

Today I’d like to share with you one of the greatest marketing resources on the Internet.  It’s a cornucopia of knowledge that can make you a very good copywriter or marketer. Why strive to become a great copywriter? Because great copywriting is a huge trump card in your event marketing and promotion. When you focus on creating compelling copy you can persuade people to take action. (Get people to your event, buy tickets, etc.) Compelling copy isn’t bound by any medium.  It works in both traditional advertising and new media. People that get good at copywriting have a massive advantage in the world of event marketing and promotion. You can write you ticket to success by being a decent copywriter. Would you like a great resource for making you into a good copywriter?

The Man the Myth the Legend . . .
GaryHalbertToday’s Kings and Queens of copywriting constantly reference the infamous Gary Halbert.  Gary knew how to tap into people’s inner most needs and desires. When you tap into people's inner emotional core, you can get them to take action. If you want to create killer marketing ideas for your event I urge you to look into Gary Halbert.  Unfortunately Gary is no longer with us. He passed away in 2007. In spite of his absence, he did leave an amazing marketing resource. His website,, is still being updated and maintained by Gary's sons. When you visit Gary's web site you will find hundreds of his achieved newsletters. It's a copywriting goldmine of marketing information.

Be sure you take the time to peruse a few of Gary's newsletters. FAIR WARNING: Gary had a propensity to get a little edgy in his writing. If you’re easily offended, I’d recommend staying away from Gary's stuff. Those with a good sense of humor and a strong desire to become great event marketers should visit his web site immediately. Gary makes reading his material fun and engaging. P.T. Barnum would be proud!

Injecting Personality
One area where Gary excelled was is injecting personality in his copy and marketing. A few clicks on the Internet will quickly introduce you to the doldrums of boring copy. I'm not a big fan of pompous corporate writing in any form of marketing. People don't want to read about how "We're great ... Our Widget is the Best Because, etc.) Write to your audience and what interests them. If you’re doing any marketing, I highly recommend injecting a little personality into your copy. I'll be the first to admit that getting personality in copy isn't easy. I struggled with it for years. Your objective should be making your marketing and event information fun to read. It doesn't matter if it's a quarter page ad or 20 pages of copy, you must keep your reader engaged. Gary's newsletters are an excellent place to learn how to inject personality into your copy.

If you don't want to read through Gary's newsletter achieve, feel free to click on the audio link below.

2 Hour Audio Interview with Gary Halbert on Boosting Response:
Gary Halbert & Michael Fortin Interview

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Measuring Advertising Effectiveness

Advertising_testing Over the weekend I purchased The King of Madison Avenue. It is a biography on the late David Ogilvy.  David Ogilvy was considered one the greatest advertising minds in history. His U.S. firm of Ogilvy & Mather launched numerous successful advertising campaigns.  These campaigns include companies such as Schweppes, Dove, Rolls-Royce, and Shell just to name a few.  What made Ogilvy truly unique in the advertising field is his focus on results oriented advertising. Ogilvy’s advertising philosophy is rooted in direct response marketing. In its simplest form, direct response marketing correlates the money you spend on advertising with a direct return on investment. You should always be measuring advertising effectiveness. It’s fascinating to me that so many advertising agencies and graphic designers recognize Ogilvy’s greatness, yet ignore his most basic and powerful advertising philosophies.  If you’re an event organizer, marketer, or promoter, I suggest that you embrace David Ogilvy’s advertising philosophies.

Over the last few month’s I’ve looked into some of Ogilvy’s basic advertising philosophies. Below are some quick links to various articles. I strongly encourage you to look through some of the articles. If you really want to raise your advertising prowess visit your local library take out a book on Ogilvy. I highly recommend Ogilvy on Advertising.

The US economy is facing increasingly difficult times. Because of the economically symbiotic relationship that exists, other nations also feel the economic hardship faced in the United States. The current economic situation creates both virtues and vices in the marketing and promotion of events. The disadvantage to event organizers is that prospective patrons are less likely to open their wallets. A reluctance to open one's wallet can be overcome by learning to be more persuasive with your target market. Ask yourself, “How can I take advantage of the current situation?” One economic advantage event organizers can embrace is increased advertising spend power. It’s never been so inexpensive to purchase advertising. You can gain market share and get your message out at a far lower price with the current economic conditions.

If you’re considering any advertising for your event, traditional or new media, make sure you measure the return on your advertising investment. This advertising ROI expectation should be carried with any advertising agencies you might hire. Let a prospective firm know upfront that you’d like to track the effectiveness of your event advertising campaigns. The best firms will gladly oblige your request.

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List Building & Your Event Marketing

Event_marketing_list Who’s the best potential customer for your event? Your best customer is almost always the person who just attended your event. The previous phrase is borrowed from the sales and marketing world. If someone attended your event and had a great experience, they’ll probably attend your event again. It doesn’t matter if your event is free or you charge an admission. What you really need to focus on is collecting contact information from patrons of your event. At a minimum collect your patron’s first name and their email address. Always build your internal list (house list) of customers.

Events that sell out and do so early almost always have a dedicated house list. Two events that I recently case studied sold out more than 30 days in advance. The only reason these events advertised was for public relations purposes.  Since the events are recurring, event organizers go back to their house list year after year. One of the events sold out within 20 minutes of tickets going on sale to the public. How would you feel if you could sell out your event 30 days in advance?

Before Your Event – Leveraging Your Event Web Site
If you don’t have a list of previous purchasers or don’t have a recurring event you’re going to need to grow your own list. There should be a dedicated area on your event home page, and throughout your site, for people to leave their first name and email address.  Make sure your opt-in box is blatantly obvious and offers a compelling incentive to sign up.  After you have someone's contact information, engage your target market frequently and as early as possible.  During your interactions always try to front load the value of your event.

Online Ticket Sales
One of the biggest reasons I’m a fan of online ticket sales is that you have the opportunity to collect contact information from your event patron. If your patrons are buying tickets online you probably have access to a patron’s name and email address. This is your most valuable list if you have a recurring event. When it comes to any data mining, always make sure you’re collecting and using patron information ethically and legally. If patrons are OK with you sending them information, don’t squander the opportunity!

At Your Event
You can use customer feedback forms or contests to collect people’s contact information. Think in terms of the lifetime value of your customer.  If you have an event program, use a page to promote your list building efforts. In the program consider offering them a discount on your next event.

By building a dedicated list of event patrons you save yourself tremendous hassle and expense.  The bigger and better your house list, the less you have to spend on advertising to attract attendees.  If you SPAM people with useless email, you’re not going to keep patron trust.  Always focus on building rapport and relationships with people before trying to sell them anything. Building a dedicated house list for your event might be the single smartest event marketing technique in the world.

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Event Marketing with Social Media and Email

For today I’m going to bring my friend Ben back into the spotlight.  If you haven’t already, please read over “A Great Email Marketing Example.” Ben runs a web site called He sells horror t-shirts on his web site. Along with his web site, he has a home grown email list of very passionate fans. In my last post, I featured one of Ben’s counter intuitive email marketing strategies. Ben’s online strategies go well beyond just email marketing.  He also engages his target market with social media. The process involves leveraging his email list in tandem with his blog.  Here is a quick example. If Ben has a question about a product or idea he’s working on he writes a related blog post. After the post is live, he emails a blog post link to all his email subscribers. Ben’s latest blog post received over 185 user responses in less than 48 hours.  By leveraging his email list and his blog in tandem he creates an interactive experience for his users.  As a result, Ben’s sales continue to grow. You can incorporate the same strategy Ben uses with blogging and email to ensure your event is even more successful.


Start with An Email List and Blog
I’m working from the assumption that you already have an email list and a blog.  If you need email list management software, I recommend AWeber or On the blog side of the spectrum you can start with services like Typepad (Paid), Blogger (Free), or Wordpress (Free). I use Typepad for this blog. Some people might be a little tech-shy, but I assure you . . . If you can use Microsoft Word, you can easily manage a blog. Both Typepad and Wordpress have a big following and excellent online support.

The Blog Post Email Marketing Strategy
Start by posting something that would be perceived as intriguing to your target market. The post should include a call to action for the reader. Are there any aspects of your event that can benefit from target market input? Maybe you’re trying to choose between two artist to perform at your event.  You can also create surveys and features on a number of different things that apply to your event. Your goal should be to prompt user feedback. By interacting with your target market you’re also building interest and trust about your event without spending money on traditional advertising.

Email Your List
After your blog post is up, send your email subscribers the link.  As part of your email, include a call to action. Ask your subscribers to read your blog post and encourage them to leave a comment. It isn’t enough to just post a blog entry and expect people to take action. Each step in this process needs to include a call to action. People need to be carefully led through a process and you’re the leader.

Their Opinion
I guarantee that when you ask your target market for input you’ll discover something to benefit your event. Always keep the emphasis on the target market’s wants and desires. By doing so, you'll have a very successful event.

Collect Target Market Feedback
The last step is to collect user feedback and incorporate it into your event. By virtue of asking your target market’s opinion you’ll gain trust and credibility. People love giving their opinions. When you create an interactive buying experience for your target market they’re more likely to buy from you.

I’ll end where I started.  Check out the Fright-Rags web site and blog. I've included the links below. Even though your target market might not be horror fans, there are more than a few ideas you can collect from Ben’s web sites. Just remember, ideas are no good unless you put them into action.

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A Great Email Marketing Example

Fright_Rags_Email_Marketing On Monday, I had an interesting meeting with my friend Ben from We met to review and discuss Ben’s ongoing marketing efforts for his business. Over the last four months Ben has really amped up his email marketing.  He’s gone from sending one email a month to sending special promotions emails once a day for an entire month. If you asked Ben six months ago to send one email a day his response would have been, “No way, absolutely not!” How did he go from one email a month to one email a day?  He eased into it. He had to prove to himself that he wasn’t going to annoy his list if he sent more email.  I encourage everyone reading this to email their list often. Ben proved to himself that the more often he sends emails the more he sells. Don’t be afraid to email your list often or push your sales process a little. This information is applicable to both your event and your business.

The Secret Santa Experiment
Here is a great example of guerrilla email marketing that works. At the end of November Ben decided to start a Secret Santa list for his current list subscribers. Everyone on Ben’s email list received an invitation to join his Secret Santa list. Each day in December list subscribers would receive a special discount offer on one of Ben’s t-shirts. I have to admit, when Ben first told me about his idea I was a bit apprehensive.  Sending a sales pitch email each day for 30 days didn’t seem like the smart thing to do.  I’m happy to admit that my apprehension was unjustified.

How Many People Opted Out?
Ben shared his Secret Santa statistics with me. From his primary list of email subscribers 439 people signed up to the Secret Santa list.  Ben then proceeded to send 31 emails, one email per day, during the month of December. Most people would logically assume that by sending one sales email a day the list would tire, get annoyed, and opt-out. To my surprise only 13 people of the total 452 opted out of his email sequence. That is less than a 3% opt out rate, which is simply amazing. More importantly the people on his Secret Santa list bought t-shirt from him.

I would encourage you to visit Ben’s site,, and try to gather some email marketing ideas from his home page. Pay particular attention to his email opt-in box. 

Additional Email Marketing Resources:

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Your Opt-in Offer and Using Specific Words


Getting people to subscribe or sign up to an email list can be a challenge. In “Form Placement and Growing Your List,” I examined the importance of opt-in box placement and prominence.  It is in your best interest to make your opt-in box as obvious as possible. Regardless of opt-in box size and placement, there is one very important factor to more subscribers.  That factor is the use of powerful words. Is your sign up verbiage enticing to your target market? Specific wording, for your target market, can be a catalyst for big list growth. The words you use should be crafted into a customer centric offer. When people sign up to your list they’re saying, “Yes, I’m interested in your event and please send me more information!” A highly targeted email list is your single best event marketing and promotion resource. If you get your list big enough, you might be able to avoid traditional marketing altogether.

What’s Your Offer?
Telling someone to subscribe to your email list isn’t reason enough for them to sign up. Always keep in mind how apprehensive users have become in giving up their personal information. You have to make sure your sign up offer addresses the benefits and desires of your target market. Shine the spotlight on your target market at all times.  It’s amazing to see the difference a few words can make in subscriber sign up rates.

Sample Opt-in Offer
Instead of getting too heavy on the theory side, I’ve decided to share with you a real world example. The example below was used on a client’s event web site. We were able to grow a list of subscribers, using a similar offer, from zero to 3200 people in less than eight months.  Feel free modify the verbiage to fit your event.  Most importantly, create a customer centric offer that gets people to sign up.  

Become (Your Event Name) - Insider!

Only Insider members get special ticket discounts and insider information before any details are released publicly on this web site. It cost you nothing to join. We firmly believe in providing our Insider members useful and valuable information. We’ll never SPAM you. You can unsubscribe from the list at any time with just one click.

First Name: [FORM]
Primary Email: [FORM]

Privacy Policy
Always include a privacy policy after your sign up box. Let people know you’re serious about keeping their information private. Never sell or rent your list to third parties.

Use the example above and see if you can’t get a few more people to opt into your list. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the offer and see if you can get a few more sign ups. Think of your list building process as evolutionary. You can always make changes and get better results.

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Usability Dilemma: Too Many Online Choices

In a previous post, “The Danger of Too Much Event Marketing Technology,” I briefly explored the challenges of choosing the best technology for one’s event web site. Today we’re faced with so many technological and marketing choices that we don’t even know where to start.  I’ve been caught in the technological choice trap on a number of occasions and it’s not fun. The same challenge of practically unlimited choices also plays out on the user’s side of the spectrum. When users come to a web site they’re frequently faced with so many choices they don’t know where to start or finish. The end result is that users frequently leave a web site without taking any action beneficial to the web site owner.

Analysis Paralysis and Dissatisfaction
Below is an interesting presentation by Dr. Barry Schwartz called “the Paradox of Choice.” He breaks down the virtues and vices of free choice.  Most people assume that freedom of choice can be nothing less than a virtue. Unfortunately, freedom of choice can also make all of us suffer analysis paralysis and create a dissatisfying purchasing experience. If you can’t dedicate 20 minutes to watching the entire video, just watch the first 8 minutes.  It will make you think a little about your own freedom of choice.

The Paradox of Choice

The scenario presented in the video above also plays out in regards to online choice. There are critical questions every web site owner should ask. Are you better off offering the widest variety of product or the best single product for the consumer on your web site?  A similar scenario plays out in the event marketing world. As an event organizer do you offer as many ticket options as possible or a limited number of options?

Goals and Well Defined Paths
One recommendation to web site owners is to consider having a clearly defined set of goals for your web site. In tandem with your web site goals you should also have a well defined path you expect web site users to follow.  If users fall off the path is your web site intuitive enough for them to self correct their course?

The challenges above aren’t always easy to solve. You can at least start with well defined goals for you web site. Most people never set goals for their web site and therefore never find success online. Where do you fall on the issue?

Here are some additional resources:

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