Checklist: Cheap event promotion (even if you’re running short on time)

From Jade McAuley, Rebel Marketing
You have an event coming up and you have, of course, set aside a good amount of time and money to make sure you do a great job without stressing yourself. Or, you’re like the vast majority of us who have left it all to the last minute and are now not-so-quietly panicking.
Deep breath, let’s make this happen.

First up, one of my golden rules of marketing is that if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, then you need to spend time to make your marketing effective. If you’ve also left yourself short on time to set up your event promotion, that’s ok – here are some cheap, quick, effective ideas that you can do yourself.

First things first – get your foundations right

  • Make sure you have the basics clearly nutted out BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE – time, date, venue, purpose, topic, speakers, rough run sheet/timeline, ticket price, RSVP date etc.

  • Write down what goals you are trying to achieve with this event – is it for brand awareness, are you trying to attract new clients from a particular demographic, do you want to show off a new product, are you hoping to get media coverage etc. WRITE IT DOWN I SAID!

  • Give yourself a target amount of attendees that would make you happy/make it a viable event for your business. For a client night you may want about 20, for a seminar about 50 – think of how big your venue is, how many staff you’ll have there to talk to people and how much money and time you’re putting into the event for it to be worthwhile.

  • Setting up an online ticket booking page is super easy and affordable, and can save you the hassle of keeping track of who’s coming, who’s paid, where they are from etc etc. Trybooking is one of the cheapest ticket booking sites – we use it for Rocket, it’s fairly basic but it does the job.

Become a digital master

  • Create a home page banner or some other type of “ad” on your website’s home page to promote the event. Link this to your event’s landing page – a separate page on your site with more info about the event and the ticket booking link.

  • Now’s the time to try Facebook advertising! Make a ticket booking ad: create an event on your Facebook brand page > click Boost Event > click Promote ticket link (or something like that, my memory fails me) and link it to the landing page on your website. Why not the ticket site direct? Because driving traffic to your website is probably one of the main reasons your business is on Facebook, so don’t miss the opportunity. Run it for 2 weeks prior to the event, and ensure it includes a strong value proposition.

  • Add promotion of the event to your email signature – and make sure it’s hyperlinked to the landing page as well. If you have staff, put it on all of theirs as well. Ahhh consistency.

  • Get it out there on LinkedIn too! Post it on your company LinkedIn page, and ask all staff to share or post their own status about the event. It’s best to stagger these out (if they all go out on the one day, then it will be forgotten the next) and, once again, link it to the landing page.

  • Promote your event across any other social networks you may have, and ask staff to share, like and comment on those posts to help spread your reach. Where possible, tag the venue, the guest speaker etc but don’t just tag random names – that’s bad form, and kind of desperate looking.

  • There are a buttload of free event advertising sites that are location-specific (ie set up just for your region). Depending on the type of event, it may be worth it to spend time making free accounts and listings on these sites for your event. Corporate events are probably not well-suited to this type of promotion, but that’s up to you.

Become email savvy

  • Create a VIP or targeted list of attendees – the people you really want to come. If this list isn’t too long, send out personalised emails to them – maybe offering complimentary or discounted tickets if they RSVP by a certain date. If the list is a bit long, or you’re a bit lazy, create a VIP style invite and send it out to the group.

  • Then send out a generic invite to the rest of your email database, including that ever-present landing page link. If you’ve been cluey enough to set up segmentation in your database, you may want to send one email style to business owners (bring your whole team!) and one type for employees (get a group together!).

  • For corporate events, make use of any partnerships/associations you have by doing up a spiel (with the link of course!!) and sending it to your partners asking them to spread the news throughout their networks too. If you ask nicely enough, they may add it to their social media pages, share your Facebook event, include it in their newsletter or even ask for some complimentary tickets for their own VIP clients. In Mackay, if you’re a member/associated with these groups – they are generally pretty nice about including others’ promotion in their stuff:

> Rocket Network: super awesome business ladies group headed up by Amy Sherlock and myself -
> Chamber of Commerce: Mackay’s own business advocacy group, the dynamic duo are the ones you want here, Dale Cramer and Danielle Cahill - or
> Mackay Tourism: for all your tourism and tourism-associated needs, Lyn Wingrave is always happy to help -
> Resource Industry Network: catering directly to Mackay and Isaac region’s resource sector, reach the whole team here -
> AIM: Australian Institute of Management, the Mackay chapter’s liaison is the lovely Zenta -
> Startup Mackay: Mackay’s own nurturer of all things startup, I believe it's either Dennis Murphy or Joel Cox for this type of stuff - or
> Split Spaces: a "coming soon" Mackay business hub, Jarryd Townson’s your man -

  • Send reminders to everyone closer to the RSVP as well – your VIPs, your database and your partners.

Become media hungry

  • Send a news release out to your local media outlets, including quotes from two sources if possible – preferably notable peeps (eg business owner hosting event, special guest speaker). Make sure you include at least one active/interesting photo with your main source in it. Even better if you think of a quirky pic that is relevant to the event and not just a headshot. Photo quality is important here too – no blurred, low res image is getting you into the paper.

  • Send out a media invite a few days before your event, basically letting the media know very clearly the purpose, time, date and location of your event – and what’s in it for them. What visual and interview opportunities can they expect if they make the effort to turn up and get coverage of your event? Their tickets are comp obviously!

  • Send a reminder invite the morning of the event – don’t change the details, just resend as a reminder.

  • If you have some sort of super special media opportunity, such as the chance to interview Michael Jordan, then consider offering this as an exclusive to just one media outlet. Say, for example, you really want to get into the paper’s business section or you’d like to get your business on the local TV news or you think your audience is best reached on a particular radio station – contact the appropriate journalist direct (phone or email is ok) and present them with your exclusive opportunity. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

  • Have a media release ready to send out after the event too, for anyone who couldn’t make it. At the event, make sure to get 3-4 GOOD photos (once again – clear, interesting, active etc) and send them with the release THAT AFTERNOON. Don’t wait – get it out there ASAP.

  • Don’t forget to pop your media releases onto your website and social media networks as well. It’s good content and, if the media pick up the story, even better!

Don’t lose those leads
I could write a whole other post on this but basically, make sure that you download the spreadsheet of people who attended from your ticket booking site and follow up everyone who attended. Maybe send them a special offer that’s on for a limited time for event attendees only. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Add them to your email database, and so on. Get as much value from that one event as you possibly can!!

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s not too bad of a list to start on from just off the top of my head. Next time though, give yourself some time and a reasonable budget for promotion. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. Now if only I would listen to my own advice…