Do I Need to Redesign My Event Web Site?

One comment I hear often is “we want to redesign our event web site.” Before you start of thinking of a redesign, ask yourself, “Do I really need to redesign my event web site?” There seems to be this common belief that if you redesign a web site your fortune will instantly improve. Unfortunately that simply isn’t the case. Companies have spent countless dollars on web site redesigns with little ROI. Let me share a few event web site redesign stories for your consideration . . .

Event_web_site_redesign

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How to Use Words on Your Event Web Site . . .

Event_web_site_copy_writing Your event web site is the one place where your writing needs to be at its’ most compelling. In the case of event marketing and promotion you’re using words (copy) to persuade people to purchase a ticket and/or attend your event. Best selling author Neil Strauss summed it up like this "The highest goal of writing is NOT to have good grammar; it's to have meaning and impact!" For today I’m going to give you some simple suggestions to improve the impact of the writing you use to promote and market your event.

It’s Not About You!
One colossal mistake made on most web sites is too much writing in the first person. Stay away from using  “I , We, & Our” too often.  To illustrate the point, I encourage you to take a look at a few business web sites. You'll see a whole bunch of first person narrative. Here's the problem with too much writing in first person  . . . People aren’t visiting your web site so you can pontificate about yourself.  They are their to satiate their personal wants and needs. Thus you should concentrate on writing in second person. In second person you’re going to use “You” and “Your” in your writing. Does this mean you should never write in first person? No! You can still write in first person, but do so sparingly. It's hard to go wrong when you write to the ego of the reader and their interest.

Think In Terms of Value & Use a Conversational Tone
It’s hard to go wrong if you write in terms of value for the reader. When it comes to online information it's often said that “content is king.” In this case your writing is your content. Your copy should be written in a way that is valuable to your reader.  Write your copy in a way that gets the reader to say, "Wow, I want to do that!"  Your writing tone also has effect on the reader. Try to write in a conversational manner. Don't try and stuff high end vocabulary into your writing. Writing in a corporate-slick manner makes you come off as a stiff board. Add a little spice to your writing that's appropriate to your audience.

Below is text from an air show ticketing page that exemplifies the two suggestions from above . . .
"Get VIP Tickets and Experience the Air Show in an Extraordinary Way!"

As a VIP Ticket Holder you get:
  • Access to the Exclusive VIP Guest Enclosure
  • The chance to meet, get your picture taken with, or get an autograph from some of the best pilots in the world
  • 4 solid hours of heart-stopping aviation excitement with two amazing jet teams!

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What to Do After You’ve Sold a Ticket to Your Event . . .

Many event organizers think of their attendee’s event experience occurring entirely at the event. An event attendee’s opinion of your event starts the moment they purchase a ticket from you.  They just gave you their hard earned money and have become your customer. What you do between the time someone purchases a ticket for your event and when they actually attend your event significantly impacts the opinion people have of your event. For today we'll focus on simple things you can do before your event to elevate the customer's overall experience.

Think About Them
Here is a simple question every event organizer or planner should ask . . . “What can we do to make our patron’s entire experience (from ticket purchase, until after the event) as enjoyable as possible?” Event attendee opinions are still in play after your event, but to a far lesser extent. Pretend you just purchased at ticket as an event attendee to your own event.  What are all the questions you’d have regarding the event?  Think in terms of being a helpful guide or great information resource to event attendees. Nobody is going to give you grief for providing them with great information.

Below are some simple examples you can easily integrate into delivering a tremendous event experience outside your actual event . . .

Leverage Your Customer Contact Information
Leverage your attendee (customer) list and their email addresses. Your customer list is one of your most powerful resources. Consider putting together a simple event guide (PDF) that event attendees can download and print from home before your event.  A few years ago I made the previous suggestion to a beer festival organizer. The event organizer quickly put together a simple downloadable map indicating where each brewery was located.  The downloadable map looked very unprofessional, but nobody cared! Attendees were hungry for the information. Anyone could download the map from the beer festival web site.  The map turned out to be not only an informational tool, but also a marketing piece. Anyone could download the map for free. As long as the information is relevant and timely, people will always give you a pass on how it looks . . . just look at Google's simplicity. It's all about the information.

Driving and Parking at Your Event
Another issue that challenges many events, especially big events, is parking. Are there parking or traffic conditions that event attendee’s should be aware of regarding your event? Last year a client received a few nasty-grams from unhappy event patrons that didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get to their event. Is it the responsibility of the event organizer to event attendees to plan for traffic? Some people might say yes, others might say no. Your focus should be on making it as easy as possible for people to get to your event.

Remember, the customer has just spent their hard earned money to buy a ticket for your event. You can’t afford to rest on your laurels. You need to expand your customer service experience. Use your event web site and other resources to further enhance the experience of ticket holders. It’s never been easier and so inexpensive to deliver information digitally. Focus on getting people information that will help them to really enjoy your event.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

 

An Event VIP Experience Done Right – Red Bull Style

If you want a killer model on how to run super successful outdoor events, you need not look any further than Red Bull.  Red Bull events attract millions of people across the globe.  They do everything from the winter Butter Cup (snowboarding) events to adrenaline packed heart-skipping air races.  In 2008, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Detroit Red Bull Air Races. It was an eye opening lesson in selling event exclusivity to the public. Red Bull events run the gamut from FREE admission to a super pricey experience. Today I’m going to dive into Red Bull’s high end model . . .

The Ultimate VIP Experience
Red Bull offers something called the High Flyer’s Lounge at their air races.  It is a high end experience that gets you up close to the action and pampers participants all day long. In the high flyer’s lounge you get to eat scrumptious food prepared by European chefs and access to a top self open bar. It’s also a great chance to mingle with the occasional celebrity who might be in attendance. My purpose for telling your all of this isn’t to sell you anything. It’s all about the idea of offering high end exclusivity at your next event. The High Flyer’s Lounge is a great model for anyone thinking of creating a VIP experience at their event.

The Red Bull High Flyer's Lounge (Video)

Watch the short video above to get an overview of the Red Bull’s High Flyer’s Lounge. There are plenty of ideas for almost any event planner or organizer to borrow.  Pay particular attention to third party endorsements (testimonials) in from people in the High Flyer’s Lounge. Red Bull is leveraging their customers to sell people on the exclusive experience.  

Collecting Big Bucks for a FREE Event
Keep in mind that Red Bull is selling premium exclusivity to an event that people can attendee for FREE! They don’t let the economy slow them down.  There are always going to be event attendees looking for the ultimate experience. You need to offer exclusivity at your event. Check this out . . . To purchase a two day High Flyer’s Lounge pass for the 2010 Air Race in Detroit, Saturday and Sunday, will cost you $1547.00 USD. In contrast a one day High Flyer’s Lounge pass (Sunday Only) costs $1158.00 USD. The High Flyer’s Lounge can accommodate a couple hundred people per day . . . 200 people a day (times) $1158.00 USD = $231,600. Even if it costs $100K a day to support, you’re still up $130K per day.

And Here's the Real Kicker
As part of my 2008 Air Race experience, I witness the most amazing thing . . .  A business man from Detroit paid big bucks to get into the High Flyer’s lounge. Because of high winds on Saturday the Air Race was canceled. In spite of no air races the business man was elated by his experience.  Here is what he told me . . . “It doesn’t matter that they didn’t race today. This total worth every dollar I paid. I was treated like a King and made a few great contacts that are going to be worth a mint to my company.” Any event organizer who can have their event cancelled and pull off a comment like that is a rock star in my book.

Take a careful look at how Red Bull Sells a high end experience.  There are plethora of ideas that you can borrow for your event.

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Your Outdoor Event and the Weather

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Potentially bad weather combined with an outdoor event can take any cool/confident event organizer and turn them into a nervous wreck. All it takes is one bad weather forecast to completely ruin an outdoor event.  Months of planning and massive amounts of money can come down to a weather forecast (accurate or not). Below are a few simple suggestions that you can use into dealing with weather and your outdoor event.

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How Big Should My Event Web Site Be?

Event_web_site_orgOne question that always comes up when building or redesigning an event web site is, “How many pages should I make my event web site?” I’ve seen event planners and organizers agonize over the previous question far too many times. Honestly, it's rarely an easy answer.

Think User Attention Span
When laying out your event web site, always keep in mind user attention span . . . People want to get information about your event and get out. Hence, I strongly recommend building an event web page of only 5-10 pages, 15 pages max. Five to ten pages might seem small, but it isn’t - consider the web stats below.

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Where to Advertise Your Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leveraging Huge Ticket Discounts to Drive Advance Tickets Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Constantly Go Back to Your Ticketing Well

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

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

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

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

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How to Sell Even More Tickets to Your Event

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting Email Marketing Delivered for Your Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Happens When Your Event Web Site CRASHES?

Here’s a real life story . . . “Event X” is less than 10 days away and their web site crashes.  Of all the bad things to happen to an event – a web site crash days before your event is pretty high on the worst case scenario list.  If your event is a few days away and people can’t access your event web site, you’re in a world of hurt.

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Your Event Promotion and Marketing Strategy - Start Point

Are you interested in knowing the ultimate event marketing strategy to pack your event every time? Of all the promotion strategies you could use - what follow wins hands down every time. Any guess on what it might be? It comes well before you should start to consider any promotional or marketing strategies for your event.

Event_promotion_strategies


Here’s the Simple Strategy
The ultimate event promotion strategy is to find “a starving crowd.” Some people might be disappointed by the answer, but I can tell you from experience no form of marketing or promotion strategy can trump “a starving crowd.” The starving crowd strategy comes from the late marketing genius Gary Halbert.  In a head to head business competition - Gary was willing to give a competitor any business advantage imaginable, as long as he could have the starving crowd. Think about it this way – How hard would it be to pack an event that already had a massive amount of demand? Check out Gary's "Starving Crowd" article for a closer look.

Selling Out Like a Rock Concert
Here is a real life example of using the starving crowd strategy. Consider how bands and musicians sell out their concerts.  Bands typically don’t start with trying to sell concert tickets, unless they’re well established. They usually start by producing an album and getting it to market. The album gets played on the radio and downloaded twenty gazillion times online. This process gets people excited about the band and their music. After a successful album has been out for a few months to a year - people are amped up about the music. When customer demand is high the band starts to talk about touring and concerts. It’s far easier to pack a concert with ravenous fans (a starving crowd), than without. Take a look at "When to Start Selling Tickets to Your Event" for additional details.

Your Event Promotion Will Flop, If . . .
If you don’t have a starving crowd your promotion and marketing strategy is largely irrelevant.  When planning an event start by making sure people are predisposed to attend.  You can have the greatest event idea in the world, but if nobody knows about it and worse - nobody cares about it . . . you are going nowhere fast! Far too many event organizer plan great events, only to have no one show up because there was no demand.

An Easy Way to Find a Starving Crowd
One place to quickly find a starving crowd is by carefully looking at other successful events. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with your event.  Look for events that people are already attending and are packed to the hilt. You can probably take the concept or exact model and use it for your event. With the Internet, it’s never been easier to do some quick research. You can quickly scan through newspaper archives or event use Google to do some quick research. If you find an event idea that seems to be working call the event organizer up and find out more. You would be surprised how open other event organizers are regarding their event.

There is an event here in Rochester, New York that was directly modeled after a successful event just 65 miles to the West in Buffalo. Rochester’s Ugly Disco was modeled on Buffalo’s World’s Largest Disco. For the last 16 years the World’s Largest Disco has been getting massive crowds. The World’s Largest Disco is so successful that the organizers sell out their event three months in advance!  Ask yourself - Are there successful events out that you can emulate?

Before you plan your next event start by asking yourself, “Are people going to come out in droves to attend my event?”  Trust me, I’ve made the mistake of thinking I had a great event idea. In end I was left with nobody showing up and money out of pocket. It's far easier when you have the deck stacked in your favor.

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How to Sell Tickets to Your Event

How_to_Sell_Tickets

Determining the best way to sell tickets to your event is a pretty broad topic area.  Today I’m going to focus on the ticket fulfillment process – how people actually purchase tickets for your event.  As a whole the trend for online event ticketing is definitely growing and becoming the norm. When you’re looking at ticketing solution it's important to let your target market determine which ticketing system is best. Plenty of event organizers have chosen one system (online or offline) only to have their target market do something completely unexpected.

Let them Buy from Your Event Web Site
With the trend moving toward online buying for just about everything, the ability to purchase tickets directly from your event web site is practically a no-brainer.  Think about it for a moment – If someone is already on your event web site and wants to attend your event, why make them jump through extra hoops to buy a ticket? 

Even if there is a small service fee, most people will go with the convenience of buying online. Their alternative is to jump in a car, drive to a ticketing outlet, and potentially wait in line. I can’t speak for other nations, but in the United States, instant gratification seems to be the name of the game. People want it and they want it now! Use instant gratification to your benefit to drive online sales.

Should I Only Offer Tickets Online?
Without knowing specifics about you event, that’s a difficult question to answer. There has never been event, that I’m currently aware of, that suffered any sort of backlash from only having tickets for purchase online. Be sure to check out the Demographic Ticketing Irony paragraph below. People will argue that not everyone has a computer or an Internet connection and thus you need an offline option. Here’s what I’ve learned - if people really want to attend your event, they’ll jump through hoops to get a ticket. Almost everyone can access the Internet either at work or at your local library.

A Demographic Ticketing Irony
A few years ago there was an event down in South West Florida that started selling tickets directly from their web site.  Initially the event organizers were extremely apprehensive about selling any tickets online.  The event and their target market was in an area with one of most senior demographics in all of America (55+ years of age). The annual event had been taking place for decades with most people buying their tickets offline. The first year tickets became available for online purchase, organizers didn’t expect many people to buy online. Who would expect so many seniors to buy online, right? Here’s the ironic part - online ticket sales for the event crushed all of their offline ticketing efforts.  

Ticket Purchase Simplicity is Key
Regardless of the type of ticketing you are offering, make it as simple as possible to buy tickets. Just because you have multiple offline outlets where people can buy tickets, doesn’t mean that’s the best choice for your ticket buyer. A few years ago an event offered tickets through a local company with several brick and mortar locations. When I went to purchase tickets it was a 15 minute wait behind people conducting business at the companies branch location. It was frustrating and annoying.

If you use any local ticket outlet to sell tickets for your event, try to buy tickets on your own to test the process out. Selling ticket seems like it would be a simple process, but there are always snags that need to be worked out. The same applies for online ticket purchase. Test your ticket checkout process extensively before going live. Make sure the discount codes work. Check to see if your ticketing system gets wonky as ticket blocks start to sell out. Basically, go through as many possible ticketing scenarios and debug the process.

Ticketing Company Recommendations
If you want to sell event tickets online or off, I’d strongly recommend an established ticketing company. Crucial services include 24/7 telephone customer service, secure online purchasing, anti-fraud bar coded tickets, and a dedicated account manager always reachable by phone. To beat a dead horse - Whatever ticketing option you choose, be sure to thoroughly test the purchasing process on your own. Few things can taint an event experience like a difficult ticket buying experience. You don't want people showing up to your event annoyed about how difficult it was to by tickets. Keep the customer service of your buyer at the forefront of your priority list.

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Promoting Your Event with Too Much Email

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

Event_email_marketing_spam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Did You Buy a Snickers Bar Yet?

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

Event-marketing-super-bowl


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

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

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

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


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Using Twitter for Your Event Marketing . . .

Last month I attended the International Council of Air Show's annual convention in Las Vegas. The convention is the air show industry's annual get together to share ideas and plan for the upcoming air show season. During the convention's marketing seminars there was significant discussion regarding social media. Seminar participants and presenters were jumping up and down expounding the marketing virtues of using social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter_Event_Marketing

Here's my rub . . . when pressed, not one Twitter proponent in the could cite a bottom line result for all their efforts. Perhaps it's that I've been spending way too much time in the direct response world, or maybe I'm just getting jaded on all the social media hoopla . . .   But before you jump on the social media crazy train, take a moment to find out if social media is actually helping your event marketing efforts.

Continue reading "Using Twitter for Your Event Marketing . . . " »


“There's a Sucker Born Every Minute”

Barnum_sucker_event_marketing


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

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

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

150 Years Later – You Have Just One Shot

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

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

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


The Media and Making Your Web Address Count

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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