Event Marketing In The Digital Age
Like most, my first event I remember having any sort of involvement in overseeing was my own birthday party. At the age of eight I recall selecting invitations, cake flavors, balloon colors, streamers, and yes even the pizza place that would be involved. I remember my mother sitting and hand lettering in Caligraphic style invites using Old World salutations such as Miss and Master on creamy colored invitations. Weeks later some of the guests would remark on those same salutations, the kids to giggle a bit, the parents to ooh and ahh. But I remember it was drilled into me at a young age that when you are hosting an event there are certain social parameters you set with your tone in the invitiation, the colors, the schedule of events, and yes even the food served.
To this day I couldn’t tell you if I ultimately selected Pizza Hut or Pizza Chef, it may have been Steve’s Una Pizza come to think of it, but the photos from the party still remain in the family photo album. Smiling kids, happy adults in the background, a picture perfect event that shows nothing of the month long effort in advance of planning every detail. Some might say this level of detail planning for a kid’s birthday party (even in the 80s when Showbiz Pizza Place ruled the party set) was a bit extreme. But considering my Mother created and sewed an entire Ninja Turtle costume from scratch just 3 years later for my little brother’s 4th birthday party, it’s safe to say this is fairly middling.
Which brings me to the subject at hand, event marketing now in our digital age. It’s no less a process, no less a detail driven machine. But ultimately instead of sitting and writing invitations until 1 a.m. you can simply create an event and invite simultaneously. There are however a few key elements you want to make sure you have completely lined out before hitting send.
1.) What, Where, When, Why, Who, and How: No matter the size of the event, you have to be able to answer these basic 5 questions. They are your core, your crossbeams from which everything else is built. What is your event about, what is it celebrating, what is it’s purpose? Where is fairly self explanatory, but say you are having several satellite events? This simple question then becomes complex. When, again self explanatory, but if you again have a schedule of events that you are rolling with it becomes a bit more complicated. Why? The perennial question for most anyone, why. Why should anyone attend? Why are we gathering? Why does the event exist? Then Who? Who is the target demo of people interested? If you are marketing a family event this changes not only your schedule of events, but food options, drinks served and entertainment as opposed to say a wine tasting. How is last, but it’s the action question, how can someone find out more? How can I get tickets? How can I be a part of this? Once you can answer all of these 5 questions, you are good to go.
2.) Cost To Attend: This is one of the elements you really should have a lid on before you invite anyone. Is it a free event? Great, simple. But if you have venue costs, food and drink, entertainment, other businesses that want to be involved you need to figure out your cost for inclusion and then from that generate your ticket cost. As well if you are seeking to benefit a local cause or non-profit it’s best to mark up by a percentage in the initial ticket cost and make those benefits from the ticket cost versus overall proceeds (more on that in a bit). This way if you have a set ticket price your beneficiary knows that a percentage of a specific amount will be donated and there is less figuring at the end of the event.
You also want to make sure the cost of the ticket isn’t priced out of your market. For a quick summation or experiment look at the events around you and note what they are going for, how long have the various events been in rotation, what are they offering? You can also vary the audiences levels of participation, say a $25 admission fee and then have an ala carte menu for the other scheduled events like say a conference would. The best way I have found personally is to keep it as simple as possible so that not only your attendees understand what they are getting for their admission, but those selling the tickets understand the packages/levels as well.
3.) Platform for Inviting and Communication: There are a host of sites out there that can help with marketing your event. Facebook, eVite, Email Marketing, Blogs, and of course via your established site. You need to decide given your demographics, established presence and options available which platform is going to work best for not only launching your event but maintaining communication with those invited. For example in Wyoming the best reach we have found for Event Marketing has been via Facebook. However as we build email lists for various clients we will probably switch out to an e-Mail marketing campaign in conjunction with a social campaign in order to grab more attention and provide further updates and excitement for the coming event.
4.) Building on the Event Marketing Launch: Once you launch the event it’s best to have as much of your marketing implements ready to go: Shareable content for Facebook, Tweets, Contests/Promotions, Print Materials where your guests can find out information physically etc. all lined out and ready to execute. As well making sure that those posts are maintained in a general build up to the date helps build overall excitement. Releasing details in a timely fashion not only helps with your pacing but also doesn’t overwhelm your invitees. Encourage the share of the event amongst your initial invites and yes promote the event in traditional ways via print, radio and other methods but be sure to always include the platform that your guests can find that real time information and follow along with the progress. You need to monitor and watch for any questions and answer them with just the same prowess as you would a post to page concerning the business you are representing.
**Tip: Throughout the marketing of the event and in the days leading up to the date we have found that posting updates on the schedule of events, last minute news, trivia, tips or ideas often helps the audience in their anticipation. We as well usually will run a promotion/contest in the week leading up to the event for free tickets a prize pack or something that the audience really wants that correlates overall with the theme of the event.
5.) During The Event: It’s not like your social engagement ends just as soon as the curtain rises on your event. Keep the online/digital portion of the party going by live posting from the event. We post live photos, group shots, schedule of event reminders, contest winners, and so on throughout the event. This builds the social impact of the event and as well alerts contacts who were unable to make it to what is happening so they can follow along virtually. Encourage your guests to post photos to the event page or tag the representative businesses on their own. This also has the added bonus of building a ready made audience for the next event that particular client decides to host when you have those real time shots of people enjoying themselves. This makes the next time easier to sell overall and builds that innate anticipation.
6.) Post Event: Have a meeting with all decision makers involved who helped make the event happen. What did they like, what did they think should be changed, and ultimately where do they want to go next? Also be sure to keep that event hanging around on the platform of your choice for reference. As well dependent on that platform you have made an audience to whom you can make your initial launch for your next event to and who is going to be a bit more interested in what you have going on.