If you’re running a big annual event like a conference, a festival or a tournament, we don’t need to tell you how important ticket sales are. If you don’t sell enough, you may not have enough money to keep your staff or to keep your organization alive. Those are high stakes. So every year, you push hard on marketing and cross all your fingers and toes that sales are strong.
Here’s an important question: when do you start your marketing? Is it when tickets go on sale? A few weeks before that? Maybe a couple months in advance? All of those answers are common, but we think it should start long before any of them. Marketing for next year’s event actually starts during the event (with a great experience) and should continue right after this year’s event ends.
Get Better Engagement From Your Audience by Taking Them on a Journey
Why so early? Well, we think the best event marketing is based on authentic audience engagement. If your audience is choosing to engage with your communications, they’re far more likely to receive and act on the messaging. The first step is to give them what they want, not what you want them to hear.
We make chatbots for events (EventBots), so we’ve worked with hundreds of event organizers and seen the inquiries of millions of guests before, during and after the events. What’s become clear is that guests are looking to organizers for different kinds of information at different times. What you do and say needs to align with their needs at a given moment.
Broadly speaking, events and guests go through three phases in what we call the Engagement Journey:
- The Registration phase is when you convince them to buy tickets.
- The Event phase is the active time immediately before, during and after the event when guests have tons of questions.
- The Marketing phase is the long, often ignored post event stretch up to the Registration phase.
The Marketing phase is where a lot of engagement magic can happen. It’s the perfect time to drip valuable content that keeps your guests thinking (and thinking positively) about your brand.
The Post Event Strategy That Grows Your Core Community of Evangelists
You might already be deploying audience engagement strategies year-round, especially if you’re a professional association. There’s a core group of highly engaged people who are following your social media channels and reading your newsletters. They always buy tickets.
But what if you need to influence a much larger group who don’t think about you all year, and may or may not come to your next event? How do you reach them?
There’s a secret weapon built into all of our EventBots that can help. These EventBots are text-based, which means most users access them via the text app on their cell phones. If you use an EventBot for this year’s event, guests will engage with the bot by asking things like “What’s next on the program?” or “Where’s the water?” and come to see the bot as a trustworthy concierge. Guests won’t unsubscribe or delete the texts. That means you can keep sending targeted push messages to them even after they’re gone.
Only Share Content That Your Audience Really Wants
The trick to maintaining engagement and trust is to avoid spamming your audience. In the weeks and months after the event, send content related to the event they attended: a recap video; copies of the speakers’ slide decks; follow-up interviews with the bands. Then send something valuable like a discount for leftover merch. You can even segment the content so it’s more targeted (for VIPs, sponsors, exhibitors, etc.).
As the planning for next year ramps up, you might share a save-the-date, then a thank you to a major sponsor who helped secure such-and-such keynote speaker.
Then, suddenly, tickets for next year are on sale. Your engaged community has grown, and they’re primed to buy! Reward their engagement with a special discount or offer – the ultimate test of this year-long strategy.
Get the Playbook for Every Phase of the Engagement Journey by Downloading this e-Book.