How To Fill A Venue In 24 Hours
We received a phone call from a client the day before their event. There was a slight problem. Only 8 tickets had been sold, and the event organizer was threatening to cancel the event.
24 hours later, 200 people enjoyed a sold out event.
What did we do in 24 hours to promote our event online and sell tickets?
1) We created a discount code for tickets. Discount codes raise dopamine levels, convert traffic while that dopamine is high, and lock people in for the event. There’s no way we could have pushed these tickets this late in the game without a discount code.
2) We were given a budget of $500. In other words, when you’re in a bind, be prepared to invest a little money into advertising.
3) Approached online platforms with it’s own unique strategy. Let’s take it platform by platform…
We’re convinced Craigslist is one of the most useful promotional websites that exist. If you’re not using Craigslist to sell tickets, you’re missing a big opportunity. The minute we found out that we had to move 200 tickets in 24 hours, we went to Craigslist and posted our opportunity in three sections: tickets, discussion, and free.
The problem with the free section is that tickets get flagged and removed. Real, tangible items have to be included here. But, this section of craigslist gets a lot of traffic, which makes it worthwhile to post when you’re in a bind.
The ticket section usually has a lot of activity, so here’s your chance to flex your copywriting skills. Depending on activity, you’ll want to post to this section with different headlines and different copy multiple times. Post your first ticket ad, and a few hours later, go back to Craigslist and see if your ad is still near the top. If it’s not, post your ad again with a different headline and different copy.
The discussion section isn’t to advertise for events, tickets, etc. And, based on the activity there, it seems like discussions don’t get used as often as the other areas of the site. But, we still posted discussions there about the event, but talked about the event in the first person. We used titles like “Who wants to go see this event tonight w/ me?” to bypass Craigslist terms, but still plug the event.
There’s no faster way to move tickets than Craigslist using the tickets, free and discussion sections.
Google (CITY NAME) Events. You’ll get a list of the most popular websites in that city for events. Visit each site and see if there’s an opportunity to post your event for free.
Since we needed to move tickets fast, we paid a print fulfillment company to print out flyers and send them to our team to post around the city. This amounted to some exposure around the venue, which isn’t that large in the grand scheme, but these impressions all add up in the aggregate.
We had 24 people living in Atlanta on our email list. We emailed them with a discounted ticket offer, 17 people opened it, 7 people clicked. Again, the clicks add up.
We believe Twitter is best used for influencer outreach. We reached out to influencers in Atlanta, along with our favorite strategy: companies in Atlanta. Mailchimp is headquartered there. Yelp has a presence. When you can offer companies discount codes for their employees, they’re more likely to share the event with their employees. We did have one company bring a good base of their employees.
We also used the event #hashtags to insert ourselves into the conversation. Since this event was part of a film festival, tagging our promotional tweets with a discount code and the #hashtag gives people something to retweet. The more people who retweet your promo tweet, the more it appears in Twitter search. And that’s how you can get better mileage with 140 characters. It’s not about getting your tweet out to your followers. It’s about using your followers to get your tweet out to their networks and the #hashtag network.
Facebook ads work really well for events. We ran about $77 worth of ads on impressions (CPM) and generated 144 clicks. We had targeted about 44,000 people and reached 22,000 within 24 hours. Our landing page was the ticketing page. The click through rate was 0.045%. Not bad for linking to an external site.
Beyond ads, here are some organic ways we used Facebook.
1) Posted to a couple of our fan pages.
2) Posted to a few of our own personal profiles.
3) Created a Facebook event and linked to the ticketing page. We also included a video showing what people could expect at the event, along with photos from past events.
4) We identified all of our friends who live in Atlanta and invited them to the Facebook event.
5) We posted on the walls of everyone involved with the event – the venue, the film festival, and the artists performing at the event.
6) We actually picked up the phone and called the venue, asking if they could plug our Facebook event on their page. We also offered free tickets to their employees. They dug it, and posted about it.
7) Commented on status updates from the film festival to promote our event.
8) Found relevant Facebook groups and shared the event information there.
Linkedin no longer has an event application where you can post events, so now we’re resorted to joining relevant groups and posting the event information as a “discussion” and “promotion.”
We joined about five relevant groups, including Atlanta based music, film, and young professional groups (aka, our demographic) and shared the event info. This is big because many members in these groups receive email notifications on the group’s activity. So really, when you’re posting to Linkedin, you have the advantage of also tapping into their email.
Use all the online and offline resources available to you. Be prepared to spend a little money. Use discount codes to lock people in and feel special. (Everyone wants to be a VIP at an event.) Move quick and don’t look back.