This article is the fourth installment in the How to Start A Successful Event series.
Leverage large event sites
First and foremost, make sure you are getting the most out of your local event websites. According to Alexa.com the most visited website for local events is Meetup.com. In fact, at the time of this article, it is the 110th most visited site in the US and 295th most visited site in the world. To put that into perspective, The Great Ticketmaster is ranked 241st in the US and 979th in the world. This can make Meetup.com a very powerful tool if used correctly. In this article, we won’t go into all the ways to use this site to market your event, but understand that it’s a great way to get the word out to local people actively looking for things to do.
While Meetup is great, you should certainly not stop there. There are many other event listing websites out there such as Lanyrd.com, Zvents.com, Eventful.com, Yelp.com, and Eventyard.com to name a few. To help us build a more comprehensive list I encourage you to leave a comment below if you can think of any others. To figure out what other event websites you can leverage for your local area, just search Google for something like “events in your_city_name” and the first thirty results should be full of event directory websites. Many of those event websites will be user generated content sites, which means that you can post your events for free. I recommend you do as many as you can (including pay listings) because this will significantly help boost the ranking of your own webpage.
To get maximum exposure for your event listings on these sites, make sure your listing uses nice photos, has a catchy title, and has a clear and appealing description. Additionally, if you are able to afford it, some sites will allow you to feature your event for a small fee. It is usually not too expensive to get your events featured, and your event my benifit greatly from the extra exposure.
Note: One local site that is often overlooked is your local chamber of commerce’s event calendar. Contact your local COC for more details on how to get included on this calendar.
Grow your marketing lists
This is where those Facebook and Twitter pages you have been maintaining all year will pay off! The beauty of social media is you can not only get people to follow you, but they can also share your events with their friends. People like to attend events where other people they know will also be attending. When done correctly this can be one of your most valuable forms of promotion, especially when targeting a younger audience. So try to incentivize your fans to share your event and invite their friends to come with them.
One of the best times to suggest to people to invite their friends is when they just signed up themselves. At the moment of signing up for an event, a person is usually excited about the event, and because they are excited about the event, they are more likely to invite friends. During your event you should always have a way to collect people’s email addresses and/or social media contact information. You will be able to use this information when promoting future shows.
When it comes to paid advertisements for your event there is no shortage of people willing to take your money. It may be tempting to do everything from television commercials to advertisements in local publications, but we recommend you take a good hard look at your audience before you start shelling out dollars. For example, radio is an extremely effective and affordable medium effectively reaching a large group of people, but if you are on a limited budget and your target audience is high school students, Pandora or Spotify might be much more effective. Similarly a highway billboard advertisement might not draw many attendees if you're marketing an event to college students that mainly live on campus, but putting printed flyers on top of pizza boxes from the local pizza shop would.
It’s easy to lose your focus when you start talking to an aggressive sales rep, so know your audience before you contact them and be sure to ask for their demographics to ensure your budget is being spent correctly.
You should also always be on the lookout for how your business and your events can get free publicity from news channels, blogs, various niche websites, and radio. For more information on how to accomplish this check out our article on how to get publicity and media coverage for your event.
Posters, fliers, and other printed materials
There are few things that work better to spread your message around town than printed materials. They shouldn’t be your only means of promotion, but tangible impressions can seriously amplify your marketing efforts, if done correctly.
Poster printing is a highly effective way to catch peoples eye and notify them about upcoming events. They are inexpensive enough that you can post them in all kinds of high traffic areas. Busy restaurants and bars, telephone poles (check local laws), gas stations, grocery stores, etc. Posters get noticed!
Fliers and couponsx are another good promotional tool. Placing flyers on cars in parking lots has been a very effective marketing strategy with the club and concert scene, but make sure you have permission from the lot owner beforehand to avoid any potential conflicts. Another good use for fliers is to place a small stacks of them near the register at busy locations. This is a great way to get into national chain fast food restaurants. Many local franchises such as Subway, Wendy's and even McDonalds are privately owned. This means you can walk in and ask for the manager/owner’s permission and avoid having to jump through all the hoops of getting corporate approval. I’ve even seen some stores place event coupons in every drive through bag for free just because they liked the event. When you consider the volume that some of these stores do that could be 10’s of thousands worth of advertising that you get for the cost of printing coupons!
Brochures are great because they can be used as an in depth sales tool to help educate potential attendees of everything your event experience has to offer. Brochures tend to work best in relaxed locations where the reader has more than a few minutes to review all the information. Hotels and restaurants that focus on a more relaxed breakfast or lunch environment are some of the best candidates for distribution.
These are just a few examples of how you can use print to promote your event. We will cover this topic more in depth in future articles, but I think it is important to also note printed materials are only as effective as their design. Remember, you are trying to convey an actionable and memorable message in the shortest time possible. To see how design can help attract more attendees please read this article.
I mention business cards in their own section because they are more than just a promotional piece, they are the ultimate networking tool. They give you and your event instant credibility and when given to a potential attendee it makes them feel as if they are part of the “in” crowd. Don’t underestimate the power of giving someone a business card. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed a friend to a club or concert because his buddy personally invited him. Inevitably “the buddy” rarely turns out to be much more than an acquaintance from the bank line that handed out his business card and said “Give me a call.”
Through the course of your day copious opportunities will present themselves for you to promote your business or event by handing out a business card and discussing what you do. As a promoter you need to always be in sell mode and carry business cards wherever you go. However a word of caution is that even though you should always be in sell mode, you need to be sincere about the conversation. Don’t turn a pleasant conversation into an obvious sales pitch. Here is a good article (http://glowingstart.com/marketing-business-cards-networking) about how you can effectively promote your business through the use of business cards and networking.
Extended content and viral marketing
This is similar to your social marketing efforts except it takes place during and after your event. When you are trying to build an audience for future events you want to engage your current attendees and “show them off” as much as possible. This can be done very effectively with sites like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
If you have an event which can be broadcasted live, do it! If not posting a recorded video is a great way to get your attendees to engage after the event and tell others about future ones. Don’t believe me? Next time you're filming the crowd at your event send someone to hand out cards to the most visible group that says “You made the video! Check it out here tomorrow” and watch how many people that video gets shared with!
For other events such as conferences or comedy shows audio recordings might be easier and just as effective. If possible transcribe or live-blog the event on your website. This may help future attendees who are on the fence make that decision to sign up now that they have a good idea of what to expect. In turn this additional content will strengthen any SEO efforts you have in place.
Hotels and motels
Hotels have access to lots of people with disposable income and ample time in your local area. Since we have covered this topic extensively in our leverage hotels to boost attendance article I won’t go into detail here, but I suggest you take a look at that article if you haven’t already.
We all know how powerful Google is and if you can rank in the top 10 for searches like “event_type in your_city_name” you can bet your last dollar you will pick up some new attendees. Whole business are built around SEO so we won’t go into huge detail, but here are a few key things you can easily implement that will have a significant impact.
First, write as much detail as you can about your event and your company. Make sure that your page has a clean layout and nice photos and videos, preferably from previous events if you have any. Then start sharing those pages full of content on sites like Twitter and Facebook. The social sharing will attract new viewers and increase your rank in Google searches. Additionally, have sponsors and supporters link to your event pages from their sites and don’t forget to update it often.
It typically takes time for your pages to rank well in Google. Make sure to schedule your events far enough in advance to give your page enough time to rank well. If you have multiple events or a regularly occurring series, you may want to have a singular dedicated website with individualized landing pages. This will allow your main site to rank higher and higher from the efforts you put into each show and in turn any new show pages you add will be ranked well also as a result.
If you do all of the above suggestions, and your event pages still don’t rank well, you will have to build links to your event pages from other websites. To build links, we recommend that you follow our suggestions on how to get publicity because some of the best links come from getting publicity.
Have fantastic events
While trying to promote the events, it can be easy to lose track of the importance of overall event quality. If your events are great, people will attend your future events. People will also be more likely to tell their friends about your events. In other words, your event quality is a large part of your promotion!
Additionally, having great events can get you publicity and more exposure from local media. Local writers and editors of websites, news outlets and other other publications are always looking for great content to present to their audience.
One of the best weapons in your event marketing arsenal is consistency. The first time you put on an event, everything about it will be new and experimental. Only over time will you figure out what marketing strategies are the most effective for the kind of event that you put on. Again with time you will become part of the attendees routine and hopefully the local culture. You will begin to create relationships with key people and businesses who will help spread the word and your events will become more solidified and anticipated.
This is in no way an all inclusive list. There are plenty of other things that can done to promote your event. Giving away branded t-shirts or printed stickers and onsite radio promotions are a couple examples. The main point you want to remember is always try to think like a marketer. Ask yourself where and how you can utilize products and services to maximize your exposure. Think about where your target audience frequents, how they can be reached, and what types of marketing tactics might best suit their taste in order to get their attention. Above all remember to have fun doing it!