Event Marketing: News Updates on Your Event Web Site

One thing almost every event web site encounters is a varying percentage of users who are return visitors. Users want the latest and greatest information regarding your event and return over time. As your event draws closer, the number of updates you make on your web site will most likely increase.  Have you considered dedicating a section of your home page to news and event updates?

Consider News Web Sites
If you’re looking to emulate information update ideas look no further than your favorite news service.  It can be CNN.com, Reuters.com, Yahoo.com, etc.  Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. It is important to remember news companies have invested a lot of money into the functionality of their web sites.  How they deliver time sensitive information is critical to their business models, especially the latest news.  Ask yourself, “Are there any ideas I can borrow from some of the top news web sites?”

Some Basics

If you update a number of pages on your web site include the date and time of the most recent update.  Consider sectioning out an area of your home page specifically for news updates. In the update area included links to pages that contain new information. One idea that you can borrow from news web sites is the “one-liner” link. An example of a one-liner, “Girl Scout Saves the Day.” You can then link the text to the related page or article.

News Archives
Unlike other news sites, I don’t really think an archive of updates is necessary for event web sites. You might want to keep your own records, but I can’t imagine people would take interest. Plus, your return on investment for time and expenditures might not be a good return on investment. Ultimately you need to determine what is most important to your group of users.

Having an easy to understand and navigate “News Section” on your web site home page will save your user time and effort.  Keep your focus on making the information easy to access for the user.

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Event Promotion: Building Excitement for Your Event with Great Stories

Shackleton_advertisement If you ask event organizers and patrons why someone might show up to an event, you’ll probably get two very different answers.  One crucially simple thing you can do is to tap into the interests of your perspective customer. It’s imperative to get people excited about your event. Ask yourself the question almost every perspective buyer subconsciously asks about your event “Why should I care?”

Having a worthy charitable cause is no longer enough to drive event attendance. You have to give people a very good reason to open up their wallet and spend their hard earned cash. There are so many events vying for the attention of your prospect. One way to beat the competition is by leveraging story in your event marketing and promotion. What does your prospect really want in relation to your event and how can you present it to them in the most effect way possible? You want to craft the answer into a powerful story that engages your prospect from start to finish.

Tell Them A Great Story
I’m a big history buff.  The one thing that makes history really interesting is a great story.  It’s the “Did you know . . .“ line that can take something from being mundane to extraordinary. Let's take a plain old field some place in Canada. It's a plain old field until you tell a story about it.

  • Did you know that that empty field across the road was once used to train some of the best pilots in the world during World War II? If you walk over there you can see what's left from the old runways where Canada's best fighter pilots trained. If you go off into the woods you can actually touch the abandon fuselage of one of the training aircraft.

You should include story telling into various aspects of your event. Can you tell people a good story about some aspect of your event that will capture interest and attention? Get people to say "I wanna do that - it sounds like it would be fun!" Relevant stories can instantly add value and credibility to your event. The best part is that words are free. All you have to do is put on your thinking cap.

Audio and Video Storytelling
Another consideration is using audio and video to tell a story. Consider an exclusive audio interview with an event performer or event the event organizer. There are a plethora of interesting videos on YouTube that you can easily embed into you event marketing process. At the same time, don’t try let cool technology trump high quality content. A lousy irrelevant video is still lousy at the end of the day.

People love good stories. Even more than good stories they love to tell other people good stories. Use that simple process to your advantage when marketing and promoting your event. One of the greatest event promoters of all time (plus, used stories all the time) was P.T. Barnum. Below you will find a small collection P. T. Barnum posts that will help you with promoting and marketing your event with stories. Don't worry about getting too many ideas to start. Just focus on using one good idea and take action on it!


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Event Marketing: Stop Reducing Your Event Ticket Price

Have you ever considered a decrease in the price of your event ticket to increase attendance?

The Price Drop Example

Lately I find myself telling event marketing clients and colleagues about a particular volunteer event where ticket price was a concern. Over four years, the volunteer event had an associated dinner banquet. The first year the banquet ticket price was 25.00 USD per person and over three hundred fifty people showed up. As the years progressed the dinner ticket prices were reduced because event organizers thought the ticket price was too high. The logic used was decrease price and you’ll get more people to attend. The dinner banquet prices went from 25.00 USD per person down to 15.00 USD. When the tickets reached the lowest price the banquet had the lowest attendance.  The above example illustrates the counter intuitive of what most people would think in terms of ticket pricing.   

Expensive = Good
Last week, I started reading a book by Robert Cialdini from his Influence series.  In the chapter titled, Weapons of Influence, Cialdini illustrates that if something is expensive that the consumer will perceive it as being good. One example he used was a jewelry shop owner clearing their inventory of a certain item by doubling the price of an item that nobody would buy. Cialdini infers from additional examples that consumers believe that “Expensive = Good.”  I believe the same methodology can be applied from ticket prices for an event to your products or services.

Doing the Counter-Intuitive

Instead of trying to reduce your ticket prices to compete with a given market consider increasing your price to redefine your position in a given market.   As a caveat, I don’t think you can raise ticket prices if you can’t deliver perceived value at your event. Take the time to think through the scenario and potential virtues or vices. I don't believe in raising prices and skimping on quality. The quality of the experience needs to exceed the actual ticket price in order for a price increase to work.

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Who Else is Visiting Your Event Web Site?

Your event patrons aren’t the only users that visit you web site. Your event web site is as much a resource for patrons as it is for other potential event participants. Other participants can include potential vendors or other partners legitimately interested in helping to improve your event. My longest tenured event web site is an air show web site. Year after year, even when there isn’t an air show scheduled, we’re inundated with requests from potential sponsors, vendors, and volunteers. 

Proactive Thinking
Is your web site setup to handle various requests beyond just your potential patrons? Make sure your focus is on making it as easy as possible for those who want to support your event to contact you. If you are looking for additional event sponsorship do you have a section of your web site that is dedicated to that purpose?  Think in the same frame of mind for your potential volunteers or vendors.

Call Them to Action
Sometimes all it takes is a few words to get people to engage. Make sure you call people to action. If you are offering corporate chalets at the event tell your prospective target marketing what is available, why they should care, and what to do in order to get involved. Never assume that someone will know any information about your event.

Are You Easy to Find?
A well established web presence, especially in search engines can be tremendously helpful in facilitating participation in your event. If people can’t readily remember your domain name they’ll turn to search engines in order to find additional information. In search engines people usually search for the name of the event, if it’s been well branded, or the type of event with an associated location. Use that information to better position your event in search engines. Have a family member or friend try to search for your event in the major search engines. What search phrases are they using? Web statistics are particularly helpful finding the search terms people are using.

Use your web site as a tool for generating additional event leads. It can be as simple as setting up an additional email address to collect requests. Some people will be proactive about involvement in your event.

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Learn From the Past Before Spending On the Future

When it comes to web usability testing you can never start testing too early. Starting early helps you identify positive and negative aspects of your web site before spending the time and money on redesigning or creating a new web site. I recently ran across a case study of a company that decided to forgo any early testing of their current web site and only test the newly programmed web site. The caution flag was immediately raised because they decided to spend months of time redesigning their site without considering if there were issues on their current site. Did they miss something vitally important that now might be carried over from their existing web site?

Always Test Your Previous Site
Some of the most valuable information you can collect during a web site redesign can be derived form your current web site. Every company should seriously consider what can be learned from their current web site before even considering a new web site. A redesign might be a waste of time and money if you just carry over unresolved user issues.

The Numbers Don’t Lie
One place to start is by carefully considering your web statistics.  Web statistics give you a good picture of what parts of your web site attract the most and least user attention.  Such information can prove tremendously helpful for streamlining your web site. On one particular project a careful analysis of the web stats allowed the client to reduce a 150 page web site to a 15-20 page web site.  The statistical data indicated that users spent a majority of their time on just 10 of the 150 pages. A 15-20 page site is far easier for a company to manage and for users to get around.  Their decision was ultimately justified by a significant increase in user traffic.  Analyzing stats will also allow you to gather great information for search engine optimization purposes. Perhaps you’re not considering valuable keywords that drive traffic to your web site?

Likes and Dislikes
In regards to the actual use of your web site, how the user interacts, it is important to also identify your target user’s likes and dislikes.  By taking stock of user likes and dislikes you will ensure the next version of your site operates more efficiently. Let the users decide what works best for them. Don't be lured by the mindset of "We Know What's Best for the User." Ego is the quickest was to kill any business web site.

When it comes to determining a time frame for testing make sure you test early and often. It is very easy to reach a point when redesigning a web site that you can’t do anything about the problem. If the web site is already redesigned and programmed who wants to go back and correct problems?  Make sure you start testing early to avoid such a costly scenario.

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Easily Discover Proven Event Marketing Secrets

Today I’m going to reveal where I get some of my best event marketing ideas. It all comes down to one simple technique. My big secret for getting extraordinary event marketing ideas is by picking up the phone and talking with other event marketers and organizers. Some people might be disappointed by that piece of information, but I encourage you to try it! I’m always impressed at how many people are willing to share powerful proven marketing information. During the course of the conversations people have passed along information worth thousands of dollars in time, savings, and revenue.

Where To Start
The best people to interview are those who have a proven track record with successful events. Try to make direct contact with event marketers or actual organizers. Those are the people that have a top-down perspective on any given event.

Make a Great First Impression
All my interviews start with me telling the person I’m interviewing who I am and why I’m calling. If they’re in front of a computer, I send them directly to my web site.  It is the quickest way to show others you’re not some telemarketer. People tend to open up after they see what you look like and what you do. This would probably work tremendously well in the sales world.

Go Make Some Calls
If you get a chance, pick up the phone and call people who’ve run successful events. If you get the right person on the phone, ask the right questions and apply the knowledge, it’s practically guaranteed to help your event.

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Get Event Volunteers Via Your Event Web Site

Have you ever struggled to get volunteer help at your event? Next time you have an event consider using your web site as a tool for finding the best volunteers.

A few years ago I was working on a project that involved finding hundreds of event volunteers. Over 90% of the volunteers who signed up did so through the event’s official web site.  The volunteers essentially told the event organizers “I want to help and here is where my skills are best utilized.” Countless hours were saved by virtue of potential volunteers selecting various capacities through an online form.  The most difficult part of the project was determining the variables for the online form. I encourage anyone who’s looking to sign up volunteers online to carefully consider all the variables. Up front it is a time consuming process, but delivers great return.

Prequalified Volunteers
Your web site automatically acts as a filter of interest. People who aren’t interested in your event aren’t going to spend time on your web site.  Those that do stay on your web site and return on a regular basis most likely have an affinity for your event. Those with an affinity for your event are far better volunteer candidates than the people who are coerced into volunteering or just not interested in supporting a cause.

Online Volunteer Signups
One of the first places to start is by creating a volunteer section or page on your event web site. Your method of capturing volunteer leads can be as simple as an email address or a little more involved such as utilizing an online form.  A simple form to collect volunteer information on your web site can be tremendously helpful. Try to keep the form as simple as possible. As stated above, if you’re going to use a form carefully think through all the options. It is very easy to give people too many options and confuse potential volunteers. Always consider the various consequences of the variables.

After They Sign Up
Make sure you keep volunteers informed with pertinent information.  This can be accomplished via email or a password protected section of your web site. One of the biggest frustrations for volunteers is not having timely and accurate information.

Better volunteers will most likely translate to a better event. Think of ways various ways that you can use your event web site to sign up passionate volunteers. It will save you time, money, and prevent needless frustration.

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Event Marketing System Notes From NECAS

Over the weekend I gave a presentation at the North East Council of Air Shows conference. The presentation outlined some very important points found in the Event Marketing System.

A link is included below for the Adobe PDF version of my notes. There are additional article links included in the PDF for additional reference, just point and click.

You're about to learn:

  • The single most powerful event marketing technique you can use to get great customers year to and still spent less on Print, Radio, or Television advertising. This concept is what almost every online multi-millionaire leverages to the hilt and it only costs $40 USD a month.
  • Get more out of your Traditional advertising. Use the web to leverage and track your print, radio, and television advertising. The technology can be found for free and it’s pretty simple to install. It takes about 15 minutes to setup and doesn’t require a Computer Science degree.

Presentation Notes:
2008 NECAS - Event Marketing System Presentation - PDF Notes

Feel free to save a copy to your computer.

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Event Promotion & Counter-Intuitive Results

Have you ever not done something because of an unjustified fear? We all have examples of deciding not to do something because it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. By the same token how many times have you done something completely counterintuitive with great results?

Online Ticket Sales and Senior Surfers

One of my recent case studies involves advance online ticket sales. It is in almost every marketer’s best interest to sell as many advance sale tickets as possible for their event. With the Internet it has never been easier to buy tickets online. Most people would assume trying to sell advanced sale tickets online in one of the oldest median aged communities in the United States would turn out to be a disaster.

Here are some case study statistics for the Florida event:

  • Total event attendance approximately 55,000 people.
  • Advance online ticket sales approximately 10,000.
  • Average Median Age of the county where the event is held 54 years old (US Census Data).

The event sold almost 20% of their total ticket sales, as advance sale tickets, online. I’m positive many marketing experts would agree that trying to sell online tickets in a community with a median age of 54 to be extremely difficult. Yet event organizers decided to take chance on something completely counterintuitive and found extraordinary results.

Doing the Counter-intuitive
Have you tried something counter intuitive for your event? If you have an opportunity to try something different with the marketing of your event and it costs you little or nothing, give it a shot. In many instances you might learn something new. I’ve found some of “the least likely to succeed” ideas did the best and those that were “sure to succeed” did the worst.

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Do You have an Awe Inspiring Event?

Shuttle Imagine this, you’re driving down the interstate and numerous cars start pulling off to the side of the road in unison. Upon parking their cars, people get out and start staring into the distance.  At this point your curiosity starts to take over. Finally in an attempt to figure out what’s happening, you pull over. After parking your car, you approach the first person you find and ask “What’s going on? Was there an accident or something?” And then you get the answer, “the Space Shuttle is blasting off in about 60 seconds.”

Spine Tingling
The story above was told to me by some people I recently met from Boston. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to witness the Space Shuttle Atlantis blast off into space. It was literally one of those spine tingling events. Everyone around you is cheering and clamping enthusiastically. In all honesty watching a launch on television versus being there in person are two completely different things. If you’re in Florida during a scheduled launch try to make it to Space View Park in Titusville. It is worth driving for a few hours.

Are You Creating a Buzz?
There are some events that are so extraordinary that they don’t require any advertising. A space shuttle launch is one of those spectacle events. I understand most people don’t have a space shuttle at their beckon call. Yet there are things almost every event organizer can do to create a buzz about their event. Ask yourself “Is there some way to make your event so extraordinary that you don’t need to advertise to get people to show up?” Think beyond money or advertising. Focus on getting good publicity, which costs you almost nothing versus advertising. If you can create such a buzz for your event that people can't help but attend, it's going to be very difficult not to be successful.

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Event Marketing: Do You have an Online Champion for Your Event?

Most organizations don’t have the resources or time to patrol cyberspace and see what comments people are posting. A simple forum or blog post with inaccurate information or disparaging comments can have a negative impact on your event. By the same token you might be able to find positive or useful information to improve your event. Check out “Your Event Web Site as a Customer Service Portal” for additional ideas on dealing with event marketing and social media.

Have you considered using an online champion for your event?
The idea for an online champion is to be your front line of customer service. The person should be someone who’s Internet savvy. Your online champion could be part of your organization or even a volunteer. The most important factor is finding someone you can trust.

Establish Your Champion's ROE (Rules of Engagement)

The easiest way to work with your online champion is to have them follow very specific rules of engagement.  My recommendation is find someone to simply report what people are posting about your event in forums or blogs. Have them report to you by email or phone both positive and negative comments. Ultimately you can decide if you want to address an online comment directly or do nothing.

Become the Credible Source for Information on Your Event
When some news worthy event happens, most people go directly to their favorite news web site. You should position your event web site as the official place for news regarding your event. If people are posting inaccurate information or negative comments, address their concern on your event web site. If you can reply to a negative forum or blog post on another site, reply with something along these lines, “This issue has been addressed on the official web site, YourEventSite.com.” Just make sure you have something on your web site that directly addresses the comment or concern.

It is important to be aware what people are saying about your event online. But be careful not to become over inundated with every comment. The focus of having an online champion is to ensure you have time to focus your energy on high priority tasks.

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Event Promotion: Are You Interacting with Your Target Market?

The ability to interact with your target market is one aspect of your web site that makes it truly unique. Almost every form of traditional advertising is a one way interaction. Your prospect might hear, read, or see a piece of traditional advertising for your next event, but it is a passive experience.

Why Get Interactive?
Many event organizers, just like business, often try to present their consumer with what they think is the best solution. It is important to recognize the tremendous value in asking someone what they think, especially if that someone is from your target market. The interaction can be as simple as asking your prospective customer whether they prefer X, Y, or Z at your next event. The results might surprise you. At the same time, you won’t be able to fulfill every request that your customer has, but your customer will recognize any attempt you make to integrate their opinion. The process is analogous with asking a friend “What do you think of . . . ?” and by doing so you’re building intrinsic trust and credibility.

Where to Start?
Start by using emails or conducting online surveys. Keep it simple. In many cases your prospective customer might illuminate an idea or concern about your event that you might not have considered. Take the feedback, and if practical, integrate the customer’s feedback.

Some Ways to Get Interactive
Below are some low cost or free ideas for interacting with your customer.

  • Online Surveys
  • Blogs
  • Online Feedback Forms
  • Comment Sections of Articles
  • Online Chat
  • Forums

Find Balance Between Gathering and Executing
It’s easy to get so caught up in the information process that you neglect to take any action. It is the dreaded "analysis paralysis conundrum." Endeavor to strike a balance between collecting feedback and doing something with feedback. The more you can offer your customer your event.

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The Second Worst Thing For Your List

A few years ago a clients had an email subscriber list of almost a 1000 people.  Recently, the client’s list was migrated to a new database that featured tracking of email open rates and bounce backs.  The first newsletter I sent out for my client utilizing the new system returned horrifying results.  Over 60% of the emails were returned undeliverable. Of the 40% of emails that were delivered less than half actually opened their email.  The end result, of almost 1000 emails sent only about 200 people opened the email my client sent. Unfortunately the client hadn’t sent an email to their subscriber list in some time. 

The problem was further compounded by the fact that there was no tracking to determine email effectiveness. You can’t improve if you can’t measure and reapply knowledge.  In order for any email list to be effective you must be able to track open rates, click through, and bounce backs.  I recommend a third party application like 1ShoppingCart or Constant Contact.

Continue reading "The Second Worst Thing For Your List" »


Event Marketing: Multiple Ways to Engage Your List

This post is a bit of a review on previous concepts already outlined. My hope is that it helps open your mind to some of the possibilities that come with building a high quality list of prospects.

It is in your best interest to build your list over time even if your event doesn’t take place on an annual basis. Even if you start to build your list a week for your event, that list will become tremendously useful in the future. The process of maintaining and growing a high quality list does require a decent amount of work and effort, but the return on investment can be very significant.

One of the best parts of having a high quality list is that you have the opportunity to engage or sell to your target market on multiple occasions.  To make sure I thoroughly beat a dead horse, you need to consistently deliver value up front before asking your list for anything in return.

Below are some ideas to consider on various ways to engage your list of event patrons now and in the future.

Pre-Event Survey
I believe that pre-event surveys can be tremendously beneficial to generating interest in your event. I don’t know of anyone in the event production field that collects this data up front on a consistent basis.  The data can be used to build portions of your event around patron feedback.  How much more likely is someone to attend your event if you present your patrons something they are legitimately interested in?

Pre-Event Advertising & Selling Tickets to Your Event
A good list also allows you to build interest to your event well before it’s cost effective to start television, print, or radio advertising.  In some cases if you build a big enough list, you can reduce your reliance on traditional advertising channels.  High quality lists allow you to market directly to the consumer that has prequalified him/herself for what you have to offer.

The most obvious scenario for event marketers is using their customer list to sell a ticket to their event.  Focus on front loading value, before you ask for the sale.  Think of ways to deliver value and make it difficult for a prospect not to pull out their credit card and purchase a ticket for your event.  There are a number of events that don’t charge for admission. In this case, think of ways to ensure people attend your event. Regardless of an entrance fee, you need to build legitimate interest if you want anyone to attend your event. Using your list smartly can build interest.

The Follow up Survey
After your event is over is an ideal time to survey your patrons. I’ve witnessed some event organizers try to survey their patrons while an event is taking place, the results were lackluster at best.  People don’t want to come to an event to take a survey about that event. You have an opportunity to collect valuable feedback immediately after your event. Just make sure you don't wait too long.  I recommend doing a post event survey no more than a week after your event is held.

Selling Memorabilia or Souvenirs
Do you have a event branded baseball cap or polo shirt you could sell? Use your list to find out what your patrons are interested in purchasing and make them an offer. It allows you an additional revenue channel. Consider the Hess truck that gets sold in the United States every year around Christmas. There are consumers that go out of their way for something that’s a conversation piece or collectible. Is there something your event patron might be interested in buying after your event is over?

There are numerous ways to leverage a high quality list and sell to your prospects. Hopefully some of the above examples open your mind to new opportunities.

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Event Promotion: The Psychology of Ticket Prices

It has been said that consumers buy with their emotions and justify their purchases with logic. The previous ideology can also be applied to event ticket prices. I’ve seen ticket prices that range from a few dollars to hundreds and thousands of dollars. High ticket prices aren’t a barrier if the consumer convinces himself that the purchase price equals or exceeds the time value an event offers.  It’s critical for event marketers to convince their customers on the value of the event experience.

Consider the Following:

“Why do you think people buy the Mercedes Benz automobile in America? Is it because of the rack-and-pinion steering or the ABS braking system or the safety features? Other cars have the same features, so why spend a fortune to buy one when, for a fraction of the cost of a Mercedes, you can get an American- or Japanese-made car or even a Volvo that has many of the exact same features?

The answer: We buy on emotion and justify with logic. When I first bought a Mercedes and my friends saw it, I told them that the reason I bought it was because of a series of technical features that I found very impressive. The real reason I bought the car was not for the technical features at all. It was an emotional decision. I wanted to own a prestigious car and belong to the select group that drive Mercedes.”
(Triggers , Joseph Sugarman)

Where is Your Advertising Focus?
How many times have you been subject to event advertising all about the event date and location and not about the event itself? Yes you need to let people know when you event it happening.  At the same time, you need to focus on what type of experience you are delivering to the consumer before they enter your event. You need to convince the consumer that the ticket price is exceeded by the value you are delivering.

Consider Disney
Last year I travelled to Disney’s EPCOT Center. It was almost $70 USD for an admission ticket into EPCOT. That’s a pretty steep price for a day of entertainment. Yet, Disney delivered on the face value of the ticket price. Disney’s theme park advertising focuses as much on “Here we Are” as “Here is What You Get.” Think about ways you can integrate “Here is what you Get” into your event marketing.

Offer a Unique Experience
In some cases you can sell a ticket for ten fold what a regular consumer would pay.  Consider the possibilities for affluent marketing. There are consumers that are willing to pay a very high price for a truly unique experience. A unique experience might be a VIP package where patrons get to interact with event performers or other VIPs. You’re missing an opportunity if you don’t market to the affluent segment of your target market.

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Front Loading Value for Your Next Event

Yesterday, I asked someone  the following question, "If I was going to give you 10,000 emails from your target market what would you do?" Their quick reply was "I'd spam the crap out of them!" The previous reply represents why so many consumers are reluctant to give away their email address. How many times have you checked mail program only to find annoying emails. It is also the reason why few companies make money email marketing. Too many companies view an email address as another way to sales pitch people.

The most successful internet marketers deliver so much value up front that they make it difficult for a customer not to buy. The process starts with building trust, credibility, and delivering value up front.  You can use the process to get people to an event or purchase event tickets. The best part is that almost everything can be done with email. It requires you to think of ways to deliver value before ever asking someone to buy something. I like to call the process front loading value.

Using Email
The simplest suggestion for creating value is with a simple email sequence. Figure out what information is important to your event attendee and send it to them. Below is a sample email sequence for air shows. You can use the same concept for almost any event.

Front Loading Value for an Air Show

  • Announce your show to your list before the public finds out (builds credibility and trust)
  • Email a list of performers with their web site links
  • Feature some of the scheduled on site attractions
  • Conduct a short audio interview with a performer and post to your web site
  • Email your list a helpful article on taking pictures at air shows
  • Send pictures or videos of arrival aircraft or practice show

In the case of the air show sequence, you would want to send 10-15 emails before asking for your list to buy something. For some people this might seem extravagant, but building trust and credibility before asking someone to buy something is essential.

Front Loading with Your Sponsors

Here is another idea. Right now, it's January in New York State and that means snow. If one of my event sponsors is a car wash, I'd ask them to create a coupon that I can email to my list. The prospective attendee gets a discounted car wash and the sponsor generates revenue.

The core idea behind front loading value is to get your consumer so excited for your event that it's difficult for them not to purchase tickets.

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Your Event Web Site as a Customer Service Portal

A few days ago I was conducting some search engine optimization research for an event marketing client. During the process I found a few first page indexed links that a typical web user might perceive as a negative customer feedback regarding a client's annual event. In the case of my client there were various blog posts and forum entries indexed into Google referring to their event. It is important to remember that Google and other search engines hold on to older relevant content. The search engine links which contain potentially negative feedback could show up for years in search engine results. Those indexed links could also impact someone's decision to buy tickets for a given event in the future.

The Continued Growth of Social Media
Social media is going to continue to grow. Today it's difficult not to find very specific niche markets without at least a blog, forum, or dedicated web.  People love information and flock to anything that could be perceived as new information for a given topic of interest. The user's need for information can be either a virtue or vice for event marketers. Search engines don't discriminate between negative or positive feedback they view it all as content to be crawled and indexed.

A Suggested Remedy

You'll never be able to stop people from posting information about your company, product, or service. Yet you can address the situation, in your own words, on your web site.  An official web site has some authority with your patrons. If your event web site has been up for some time you've probably build trust and credibility with your target market. Use your web site's authority to your advantage.

In the case of my client, they knew of most of the customer service issues raised by their patrons the day after their event. One of the best remedies would have been to acknowledge customer concerns almost immediately on their own web site. The negative feedback wasn't event my client's fault, unfortunately from the user's or patron's point of view it comes down to a matter of perception. People are still going to blog and post their opinions to forums. You can position your organization and event in a positive light by quickly acknowledging the concerns and allowing users to provide additional feedback on your web site.

Consider this except from The Mystery of Online Customer Satisfaction:

"There was one very important piece of actionable information that TARP provided.  95% of unhappy customers will do business again with you if their issue is resolved immediately. Your window of opportunity might be narrow and short, but you still have time to do sometime. Use the speed of technology to quickly recover from a customer service issue."

If something goes awry at your event use your event web site to address the issue immediately and let patrons know their concerns count.

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Teasing Users with Event Details on Your Web Site

A recent check of user statistics from various event web sites reminded me of an important point as it pertains to event web sites. It is important to remember that a portion of web site visitors to your event web site are return visitors. As an example an air show web site I'm currently in the process of updating receives 30% of it's visitors as return visitors. Overall the percentage of visitors, compared with total expected web site visitors, is fairly low. The air show date is still over seven months away. But the bottom line is users love new information. By providing new and return users with the newest information you help to establish trust and credibility well in advance of your event. Trust and credibility is crucial especially if you are looking to sell advance sale tickets.

Event Web Sites Provide News and therefore like News Web Sites

It helps to think of your event web site being analogous with a news web site. Going back to Jakob Nielsen's HOME RUN acronym it is critical to keep web sites "Often updated." Ask yourself, "How often would I return to a news web site that never gets updated?" In today's world news agencies play the game of "who can update first." Unfortunately the race to be first comes at the expense of getting accurate information to the public. Make sure that you are releasing the most up to date and accurate information possible. Don't forget to include the disclaimer of "Information Subject to Change without Notice" on relevant piece of information.

Release the Obvious First
If your event web site is the official web site for the event make sure it is positioned that way. In today's world of blogs and forums someone else might report the news first.  It is important not to let other  event sites become an information authority for your event. You need to think ahead on what information you release upfront and what can be released over time. You'll obviously want to release event dates and major acts early enough to build anticipation. If there is information on your event that others in the public can get quick access to, like press releases, you might want to preempt the release of information from other outlets or channels on the event web site.

Give Them a Reason to Return
If you have a few weeks or months of lead time before the actual event takes place use the opportunity to tease users. You might be able to combine each announcement with a feature on your event web site's home page. Think of what information might be most valuable to your event patron.  If you're unsure about what information is most important conduct an online survey or send out inquiry emails. Some of the responses you get are sure to surprise you.

Think of ways to use the release of information to your advantage.  The release of information can go beyond just posting to your web site.  Consider using a digital news letter to pass along insider information about your event. What's common knowledge to an event organizer might be big news for an event patron or web site user.

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Having a Separate Web Site for Your Event

In many cases companies use their home page to promote their own events. Depending on how much information is on the companies web site it might be difficult for your users to get details on your event. The primary purpose for a separate web site is making it easier for users to find event information without having to wade through unrelated information.

The Price is Right
Today domain name registration and hosting prices are very reasonable. There is little reason not to have a dedicated web site for each of your events. Something as simple as a one page web site can suffice for promoting your event. If you have dozens of events it might be worth dedicating a single web site to your event marketing and promotion efforts. For clarification purposes I consider an event something where there are going to be a hundred or more people in attendance. Festivals, Concerts, Sporting Events, and Galas are just a few examples. You need to determine your threshold based on your organization's needs.

Event_marketing_traffic_noise

The graph above represents a company's web site that is promoting one of their events. Compare and contrast the above statistical data with the graph from User Traffic Trends to Your Event Web Site. Both graphs are from the same company promoting one of their annual events. Notice all of the additional traffic in the above graph before and after the event. The unrelated traffic is looking for information to the company and might be looking for the information on the company's event. Web users tend to be channelized in their search for information. Users traditionally look for one piece of information at a time.

Getting Event Information Lost in Company Information
A big challenge for many users is trying to locate information about a certain event on a parent company's web site. One of the biggest problems is that a company's event information can get lost within all the other information on their own web site.  I personally ran into this challenge myself. A local friend of mine runs a highly respected not for profit organization. I planned on attending their annual holiday gala. It took me over five minutes to find the proper link for additional information on the gala. The gala is one of the not for profits largest money making events, yet there wasn't an easy to find link on the not for profit's home page. Most users don't have a long attention span or high degree of vigilance when it comes to finding information online. If a user can't find information they're off to another web site or task.

Branding Your Own Event
Having a separate web site allows you to brand your event on it's own. The advantages far outweigh the time and cost involved.  Because you have a separate event web site doesn't mean that shouldn't co-brand both your company web site or any other online interest.

Event Marketing and Search Engines
If you choose to setup a separate web site for your company's event remember that it takes time for get established in the search engines. Using your existing web site to transition to your new web site. Create links from your existing web site to the dedicated event web site.  Keep in mind that It takes time for search engines to properly index your page. In some cases it can take 6-12 months to properly index a web site or web page. If you are only a few weeks away from your event, creating a separate event web site might not be the most prudent course of action.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on some of the ideas on concepts presented above. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Web User Traffic Trends to Your Event Web Site

User traffic data varies significantly from one type of web site or industry to another.  Over the last 8 years I've been collecting data from various event web sites. Some of the event web sites included air shows, festivals, sporting events, and not for profit fund raisers. Regardless of the type of event, almost every event web site showed distinctively similar online user trending. Each event had various forms and levels of traditional and online advertising, yet each event had very similar user trending. It is crucial for every web organizer or event promoter to collect web statistics on their event web site.  Knowing event web site user trends can prove tremendously beneficial for event marketing and event promotion both online and for traditional advertising.

The Assumed Curve
One of the most interesting aspects of event web sites is that the observed user traffic trends are a-typical. Without data most event organizers logically estimate web site traffic trends. The logical assumption is that there is a gradual and constant increase in traffic leading up to the event and then a significant drop off after the event. Almost every event organizer I present actual event web site data to responds with "that's interesting" or "I wasn't expecting that."

The Actual Curve
Below you'll find a graph detailing a snap shot for an event web site. Every event web site I've managed or have data on for the last 8 years has shown a very similar trend. Leading up to the event user traffic anemically increases, it does not the gradually increase as most people assume. Within a few days of an event the web traffic increases almost exponentially, to a spike, and then rapidly decreases to a trickle after the event. The biggest discrepancy between various event curves is in the user traffic spike. Events that are supported by various forms of traditional advertising tend to spike sharper and higher. In my experience, traditional Business to Business or Business to Consumer web sites rarely spike like an event web site. If there is a spike on a traditional web site it is rarely as disproportionate as on a event web site.

By The Numbers

Event_stat_graph

There is also some interesting data when you actually segment some of the statistical data. To the right is an graph depicting a six months in user traffic to a typical event web site.

Percentage of Total Web Site Users by Date Range
(6 Month Range)

  • 80% of Web Site Users visited 25 Days before the event and 5 Days after the event.
  • 54% of Web Site Users visited 5 Days before the event and 5 days after the event.
  • 6% of Web Site Users visited immediately after the event to 5 Months after the event.

Knowing the information above should help event organizers better plan for their event and. It is important to remember that specific user data trending can vary from one event to another. If you have a web site that supports your event make sure you are collecting accurate and timely statistical data.

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