Hint: They better know they’re special. Direct marketing and sales are obviously crucial to the success of any event. It is also probably one of the biggest budget suckers that organizers have to deal with. So it’s never surprising when I hear the accursed “We’re mostly relying on word of mouth” as being their mantra for marketing. There are so many reasons to not follow this advice; I could likely spend the whole time just chronicling them, so it’s easier to offer a simple story.
A friend in a great but niche band was offered an opportunity play at a big festival in Europe. The festival offered multiple locations and appeared to be a big opportunity for them to reach their audience. The organizers were professional and everyone in the bands up in hotels and paid for travel and some expenses. They get there, excited to play, but there was no audience. The promoters just assumed that the named band’s recognition would drive their specific audience to them. But without putting it out there themselves for the audience to find, who knew to come. It was a disaster and a disappointment. Of course this cautionary tale has to be taken in context. Most events may not require the full court press version of marketing, but don’t leave it to the fates to make sure it’s a success.
Depending on the size of the event this can be a multi-layered effort, so it is important to work closely with the organizer to streamline process as much as possible (see Make it Modular) and also be ready with a tool kit of inexpensive solutions for very short run invitations and promotions designed to woe a much smaller and more intimate audience. This smaller audience generally can consist of different types of special guests, potential sponsors, the press, etc. Whoever the organizers feel are important enough to make sure they knew about the event and got the white glove treatment.
Some examples of marketing structures that could be part of your events requirements:
- EventBrite or Cvent style sites – Depending on size and need for additional public-facing information, these sites can be very helpful for offering a good one-stop shop for digital promotion. They can be skinned with your brand and used for sending out E-invites to offering online ticket sales. And since you know anyone coming there will at least very curious right up to a true believer, it’s also a good place to offer a more intimate view for your audience.
- Online ad placement for social media – Let’s face it, in the here and now, if your event is public facing, and your audience includes people in their 40s or younger, plan on anything from paid ad placements to news feeds. Timing is crucial with this audience.
- Online sub-sites within social media – Event sites and subpages attached to the primary organizers are common a click-thru. They may be weigh stations to bigger repositories of information elsewhere, or could even be the main hub of activity. And if you are one with adding the right key words, it’s a very SEO friendly solution.
- Direct link banners on select targeted websites and hubs – Sponsors and the primary organizers websites often promote better and more directly to their audience from these click-thru points. Many events are not meant to be public facing, so this may be your best opportunity to get your audience attention.
- Physical flyers and posters – A must for any public facing event. Don’t just assume your audience will only be looking online. Events are in the physical world and your marketing should be tethered to it as well. But a lot does depend on the audience you are trying to reach, so target location closely. Also keep the read of your promotion almost as quick as an online ad. Though make sure you designate where you have lots of support information online.
- Invitation with mail back – This effort is often the polar extreme from the rest of the marketing structure. Where the general promotion tends to bring the bling to cast a wide net, this seeks a personal connection, so tends towards being simple and direct. By design it addresses the audience on a more one-on-one level. So unless your event brand is already designed with this type of engagement, you are often designing differently from everything else and that means increased design time and a more critical eye. This also tends to require short run printing and a mail back component. That’s 2 documents and 2 envelopes along with mailing and mail back cost. Despite that cost and effort, it can also be the best measure of success once they respond, appear and elevate your event.
If the event is particularly large you may even include other media buys like radio, television, billboards and other real world advertising. It’s a great opportunity to stretch your brand, but production costs are high.