Throwing an event is hard. You need sponsors, partners and vendors to give you things for free or at least at a killer cost. You need guests. You need these said guests to pay money to come. You need to create a memorable experience to bring these guests back next year. The best part is often you need to do all this on a nickel and dime budget. You have to put money into the operations of the event, so often the marketing budget gets squeezed to pennies. Sure, some can hire an event planner, an agency to design their stuff and a PR firm to spread their word and call it a day. But if you’re doing all your own work on your own budget, the good news is, you can get 100’s of people to come to your event with a little money and a lot of hustle.
Before we get into how to do it, let’s start with the budget. A good rule of thumb for setting an event marketing budget is to spend about $1 a person to get them there.
But how do you do it? Here are 5 steps:
STEP 1: START WITH THE BASICS
Do your homework. Start with the basics of who, what, when, where and why. Think through your value proposition and your story. Write them down. Understand your events purpose, value and what makes yours unique.
Get a website up. It doesn’t have to be much but it needs at minimum tell your basics and manage ticket sales. Squarespace is my favorite website platform and Ticket Spice is my favorite ticket vendor.
Get on Social Media. Your event needs to be on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter and YouTube are also something to consider but don’t over complicate your marketing plan to start. You need a logo for your profile picture and a cover photo for Facebook. Make sure you’ve filled out all the information sections on Instagram and Facebook. Canva is a great place to create social media images. Don’t forget to include your website. Create an event on your Facebook page for the event that you’re hosting.
STEP 2: PLAN OUT A SOCIAL MEDIA CALENDAR
A simple strategy is the best strategy. You can always layer on later. Plan on launching your website and social media platforms 6 weeks before your event.
Plot your content calendar. Here are some example post topics: Your cause/your why, event details, partnerships, sponsors, press, event news or reminders. Try and use as much event imagery as possible. Also, leave room in your content calendar to share posts from your sponsors and partners about your events, press mentions, etc. to help build the credibility.
Invest. At minimum run a $20 ad promoting your page both when you launch your event and the week of the event. Boost each individual post. Even $5 makes a huge difference.
Use consistent hashtags. People go nuts with hashtags. #dontdotoomany Pick 1 or 2 so when people post about your event they’ll know which ones to use. You want people to click on your hashtag and see lots of great user generated content all in on magical hashtag driven place.
STEP 3: CREATE A NEWSLETTER (AND A DATABASE)
Establish a database. If you have a database of emails already then FABULOUS. Not sure? Did you have an event before and people had to enter their email address? Then you’re good to go. If not, start with you and your team’s personal networks. Then make sure your ticket vendor collects email addresses when people register so you have them for next year.
Plan on sending 4 emails: 1. Announce the event 2. Remind them to register 3. Can’t wait to see you 4. Thank you for coming with event pictures and how much money you raised. You can manage your email database and create free emails through many email providers. My personal favorite is MailChimp.
STEP 4: MAXIMIZE YOUR NETWORK
Start an ambassador program. Pick related but different groups of people in your life that fit your target. Ask them to personally invite people (pro tip: pre write their email for them). The goal is 10 people per influencer. Also, make sure they engage with all your social media content. Like, comment and share away! This will massively help spread the word.
Leverage those involved. Ask your sponsors, vendors and partners to, at minimum, do a social media post about the event. If they want to put up a flyer in their business or even send an email to their database about your event, even better! They should get credit for their participation. Don’t be shy. It’s mutually beneficial to ask them to help spread the word.
STEP 5: PR
Get scrappy. Don’t have a super savvy PR friend? That’s ok. You can do the DIY version in hopes that you make some connections. Contact local news stations, magazines, etc. via social media. Do some homework and reach out to relevant bloggers and influencers. Ask them to write a piece on your event in exchange for free tickets. No one has ever died from asking. Just give it a shot.
So there you have it. Yes, this is a lot of work, but you can’t beat the ROI you’ll get at $1 a head to bring 100’s of people to your event. I plan to do a follow up series diving into more detail on each of the 5 steps. If you have any questions in the meantime, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help.
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