April 24, 2017

Top tips for marketing consumer events

As an event organiser, your top priority is getting people to your event. That means, first, getting the word out about your event.

But it also means getting the word to the right people, being convincing enough that they buy a ticket and, if they haven’t bought one, being able to find out why.

Here are three of the most important lessons we’ve learned from our years of working with consumer event organisers that will help you get the job done.


1. People decide to buy on emotion, and justify the purchase with logic.

For the best primer on this idea, we highly recommend you check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action,’ which details the importance of ‘starting with why,’ because people buy emotionally, not rationally.

It works like this: Deep in the subconscious, a decision is made to buy. That decision is then communicated to a less latent part of your consciousness, which goes to work justifying the initial, subconscious decision. You’re only aware of the conscious steps, making it seem like you’re more in control of the decision than you really are.

The takeaway is that if you’re pitching your event to potential attendees’ rational capacities, you might have some success — but not much and mostly by chance. You need to also be pitching to their subconscious.

That sounds harder than it really is. The key is to make the event feel real to them, to give them a sense of the experience of being there, to tell them a story, and not overwhelm with information. Logic deals in reasoning; intuition deals in experiencing and feeling.

Testimonials, videos, slideshows all can help the potential attendee feel themselves there, and, hopefully, feel they should be there. Include the rational reasons why they should be there in your emails, event page and social media — just don’t forget the more emotional appeals, too. You’re pitching to one person, but two separate decision-makers.


2. Targeted email segmentation works.

If you’re lucky enough to have an email list of people who might be interested in attending, emails are a great way to get your event directly in front them. But if you’re sending generic, mass emails, it’s only going to be in front of them for a split-second.

Targeted emails, on the other hand, rely on smart segmentation to divide up your potential audience by geography, interests, demographics, or other factors in order to hone in on what makes them tick — and click.

It means you’ll have to spend some time sorting your potential ticket buyers into different buckets. But it also means you’ll get more bang for your marketing buck by allowing you to garner more clicks with fewer emails.

Email marketing software can help you automatically personalise or localise your subject lines. But you can also segment your email lists into groups and then craft targeted copy yourself that discusses that group’s specific city, or passions, or pain points.

For example, let’s say you’re running a Bridal and Wedding Fair, you’ll have different target audiences. Some buyers will be the bride-to-be, but others will be the groom, the chief bridesmaid or the bride’s Mum, all of whom might be looking to buy the tickets as a nice treat. Clearly the messaging in this case is going to be different than addressing the bride herself.

And segmentation is proven to be worth the effort: by personalising a subject line with the recipient’s name or city, you can increase open rates by more than 20%.


3. You need to speak to influencers.

Not all potential attendees to your event are created equal. Reach out to the right people — in the right way — and one email or tweet could lead to a huge jump in attendance.

The key is finding and connecting with those influencers — people who have an outsized reach on social media and can drive traffic to (or away from) your event.

Once you find these influencers, you can give them special gifts or discounts — complimentary admission, VIP treatment, etc — but if you’re not identifying the right people, those favours are just money down the drain.

For example, if your event is a food and drink festival, the main social media influencers will probably be on Instagram, posting dramatic pics of sushi and cocktails. If it’s a business conference, the biggest names might be on LinkedIn, sharing articles on best practices and business trends.

Analytics tools like BuzzSumo, FollowerWonk, Social Rank, Sprout Social and Audiense can, for a fee, give you metrics and rankings of social media accounts based on their number of followers and engagement with those followers through stats like shares or likes per post. They’re the best place to start when trying to identify the relevant social influencers for your events.

Then once you’ve found them, there are essentially two forms of marketing via influencers — earned/organic and paid. Among the ones whose promotions you’ll have to earn, think about how you might be able to provide them something else — backstage access, sneak previews, exclusive interviews — to entice them to attend and promote your event, while expanding their own brand at the same time.

And where you agree to pay influencers, make sure you’re clear and honest about the relationship (and that they are); plus be clear on what results you expect to see, and have the right tracking in place to check they’re delivering.