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How to Use Content to Increase Event Ticket Sales

By Cathy Key
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Increasing ticket sales is the number one issue for many events. In this article, we take a data-driven approach to discovering the weak-link in your event promotion and marketing and look at ways to use content to improve your performance.

Selling event tickets with content marketing

Field of Dreams has a lot to answer for. The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality can lead a false optimism when it comes to ticket sales for an event. As event professionals know all too well, just because you have created an amazing event it doesn’t mean that registrations automatically follow.

If your ticket sales are low then it is likely to be due to one or more of the following problems: -

  • Low volume of website traffic (a marketing issue)
  • Your audience doesn’t get the value or relevance of the event (a message issue)
  • There is some obstacle to registration, e.g. time or money (a registration issue)

Analytics for Ticket Sales

Your job is to find out which of these three possible issues is killing your ticket sales. For this you will need data. Data is your best friend: it allows you not only to find out what is currently happening on your event website, but it will also help you determine what to do next.

You need to find out everything you can about your website traffic, including number of visitors, referrers and page views. You want to find out how many people get as far as the registration page and how many of those complete registration. If you have a video on your home page, find out how many times the video has been watched. You need to know how many people are coming to the site, how they are finding you and what they are reading or watching.

It is surprising how many people do no know or have access to basic analytics. If you don’t have this information at your finger tips, your first priority is to get access to it.

The Deserted Website

In this article we’re going to focus on the first possible issue: website traffic. If you are not getting visitors to your website you have a marketing problem. Even if you have decent website traffic, it is worth exploring what you can do to improve it.

Ian Lurie from internet marketing company Portent describes three ‘channels’ which drive traffic to your website. These channels are:

Owned: This is content that you own and control, such as your website, blog posts, email blasts and tweets.

Paid: This is content that you buy, such as advertising, mail-outs, posters or pay-per-click.

Earned: This is exposure and marketing attention that you can’t buy. You have to earn it, and you do that by providing value in some way. Included in this channel is social media mentions and blog posts by other people and articles in newspapers and magazines.

Your marketing strategy must include at least one of these channels and preferably all three. Some people will need to see your event mentioned many times in different outlets before they are moved to respond.

Owned Content: Broadcasting your Message

Your owned content is everything you control, including your website, blog posts, email blasts and social media. This is a broad range of activities and it’s worth noting it is almost impossible for one person to cover it all. When you start adding in press releases, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube there is a seemingly never ending stream of possible ways to broadcast your message.

The point is, marketing is a team sport. While you may hold one person accountable they are going to need support and input for a range of people to be effective. Everyone on the event team should be briefed on your marketing and social media strategy so that they can pitch in and support it by providing Facebook and Youtube likes, favouriting posts, re-tweeting and sharing on their own networks.

If you are working with a client, they are a goldmine of content you can use in your marketing. Whether you are planning a sporting event, festival, trade show or academic conference, your client is the expert. They have a wealth of knowledge about the event and why it matters. However, while your client may be the world expert in their subject they may know nothing about social media or marketing.

Part of your job is to extract all the brilliant information that is sitting in your client’s head about their event and to broadcast that out to the world. This will require frequent communication. If you are organizing an academic conference, there will often be research student volunteers working behind the scenes. These people are often both knowledgeable and social media savvy and you can actively engage them in creating and sharing content.

Paid Content: Dollars for Attention

Paid advertising in the newspapers, magazines, websites as well as pay-per-click advertising is an effective way of grabbing attention and generating interest. Pay-per-view adversing allows you to control costs by setting a maximum daily budget. How much it will cost depends on how much competition there is in your market segment.

One way of offsetting costs of paid advertising is through sponsorship. Sponsors are keen to get their logo and message out and will often jump on board with an event so that they can be included in the paid advertising opportunities.

Earned Content: Creating Value for Your Supporters

This is the content, blog posts and social media created by other people and is highly valuable. No amount of paid advertising can beat an endorsement from a friend all colleague on their Facebook page or blog.

You want other people talking about your event as much as possible. How you get that kind of attention is by providing value. This might be by creating valuable ‘owned’ content that other people want to share or it could be by adding value to a relationship.

You can actively seek out earned content by nurturing relationships with your event allies. These are the people who either already have an interest in your event or industry leaders who are active on social media.

Your allies include your attendees, volunteers, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and subject matter experts. For the most part these people have a vested interest in your success. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to share about the event.

The key here is to deliberately nurture and support these relationships. Call your top sponsors and exhibitors and ask them how you can make it easy for them to get the word out. Provide them with a social media kit, weekly tweets and other content that they can easily share. Where appropriate request that they send an email blast to their network. Make requests that your allies ‘like’ your posts and share your content.

Your attendees are your champions. There have been lots of articles written on how to get your attendees tweeting before, during and after your event and there are lots of tools to help you do that. See for example Kelvin Newman's recent post on Power user Methods for Twitter.

Don't forget about your volunteers, they may be your secret marketing weapon. The chances are you have a few social social media gurus hidden in your team. Scout them out or recruit them.

Create a Calendar

We have only skimmed the surface of what you can do with each of these three marketing channels. Books have been written on each of these areas and the sheer volume of marketing options can be overwhelming. It’s unlikely that you will have either the time or the money to do it all, so give up right now the notion that you need to do everything. Instead, look at which approaches are going to give you the most bang for your buck.

Create a marketing calendar for the entire lifecycle of the event and share it with your whole team. A steady flow of content that crescendos at the event itself is better than bursts of activity followed by long periods of silence.

Someone said to me this week: “What you are asking us to do seems so obvious, but without this structure we wouldn’t be doing it”. A calendar makes it easy for everyone to do their bit to forward the marketing action.

Wrapping Up

If you only remember one thing from this article then make it this: measure everything! You need to know how many people are visiting your website, where they are coming from and what they are clicking on. Without that information, any thoughts about your marketing performance are pure guess work.

If your weak link is traffic to your website, then you need to work on improving at least one of your marketing channels: owned, paid or earned content. Create a marketing plan and review your analytics regularly so that you can tweak and refine it. Think like a scientist and write like an artist! Your ticket sales will soon increase.

about the author

Cathy Key
Dr Cathy Key has been working in the event technology industry since 2002. During this time she worked side-by-side with meeting planners and built her own successful conference software platform. She is now an independent consultant and writer for Online Registration Review.
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