published on Sep 19, '16
Event marketing is a challenging endeavor. Whether you’re a full-time marketer with dedicated staff; a one-person shop getting your theatre, band, venue, restaurant, or other experience off the ground; or a hobbyist who organizes events out of passion and fun…marketing events is complex, underappreciated, and conducted with tight budgets.
With this post, I’ll outline a blueprint for approaching event marketing – going deeper on individual points in future posts. From a broad perspective, there are really two facets to event marketing that can be balanced in hundreds of ways: 1) leverage an existing fan base (retention) and 2) grow your audience (lead-generation).
Existing fan bases are your safety net. They’re the staple of your attendees. They can be easily reached (relatively), have expressed interest and value in what you do, and are usually willing to give you cash, eyes, ears or smiles at your future events. If fostered and leveraged correctly, existing fans will bring their friends and spread word-of-mouth – the best kind of marketing there is. But word-of-mouth isn’t easy and does not guarantee profitability. Moreover, marketers must always be cognizant of list-fatigue. This virus can spread quickly and cause irreversible damage to your fanbase. Fundamentally, your fanbase must be managed and this takes time. Lists don’t grow themselves. People move. And interests change. Yet through careful experimentation and balanced execution of email, twitter, facebook (and pinterest, and instagram, and…) campaigns, you can achieve an avid fanbase that evangelizes your brand and provides a baseline of repeat attendees for your events. The best part of retention is the return-on-investment: retention strategies have high ROI but are of limited volume.
To counteract the limited volume of retention, you should focus on lead-generation and audience growth. Fanbases don’t grow themselves and we all start at zero. With effective audience growth, your organization or venue can evolve from survival -> to profitability -> to expansion. The key tenets are staying prevalent and relevant, and being in the right place at the right time.
Across event marketing, tactics generally consist of infinite flavors in a few different categories:
Offline and experiential: this ranges from handouts and stickers to flashmobs and viral stunts. Hit the streets in high-traffic areas where your potential attendee is likely to lurk. Some tactics are better for one-time gigs, while others have more impact with repeat experiences (i.e. theatre performances). Requires a lot of sweat equity.
Discounts and promotions: From Groupons to student rush to limited radio giveaways, these tactics can be powerful but dangerous…eating into your bottomline if you don’t set limitations. Be wary of turning your brand into a “Macy’s” where consumers start expecting discounts from you.
Advertising: Eyeballs matter but ads aren’t cheap. As simple as a banner on your local blog or as complex as event retargeting on ad platforms While ads can be very powerful, especially if you have a higher profit margin and a pricier event, it can be hard to identify the right advertising partner / publication. There are a number of tools and services we might eventually offer here at SceneSquid to help on this front (so stay involved and let us know what you need!).
Calendar listings and earned media: Whether it’s article coverage from a respected writer in your scene, a tweet from a nightlife guru, or a calendar listing on a popular blog…this stuff works because people consuming this content have intent Intent to experience. When reading a local events blog or arts section of a paper, people are approaching with an open mind, looking for something to do. They’re giving the publication (and you) the permission to market a unique, awesome experience and convince them to attend. Earned media – for the events industry – is powerful, implicit permission marketing Listings and articles get your event in front of relevant audiences, both niche and broad. The challenge is this marketing can be complex, opaque, and extremely monotonous. Which is why SceneSquid is working to make it better. Our service makes it easy to identify relevant publications in your area and submit your event to them with minimal effort. No more press releases lost in inboxes, or being unsure whether you’re wasting hours spamming addresses with your event. 20 minutes and done.
Put another way, imagine your marketing strategy is like constructing a skyscraper. To begin, you dig your foundation: your core value proposition to potential attendees, and marketing plans and experiments you want to try. To go up, you need pillars and pylons: this is your audience growth:
Pillars can be combined in various combinations to add height to your building (offline, ads, listings, etc). With every event you conduct, you create a floor – or a fanbase. The more floors, the bigger your fanbase. The more audience growth, the higher your building. Floors give you security, while pillars give you height. Particularly strong events create strong floors, which gives you security to grow bigger and taller. Over time, you can build bridges and tunnels to nearby buildings: these signify strategic partnerships, allowing you to leverage each others’ fanbases (floors) and growth strategies (pillars) to grow together.