First, sometimes a little break goes a long way…
We went on a family adventure this weekend. It was a 3-day camping trip with some good friends. Outside. In tents. At a state park. Lots of hiking.
And Halloween activities, to boot! There was a pumpkin roll, down a hill, past obstacles, for distance or accuracy. Our 5-year-old daughter won the distance in her age class! And then there was a carving contest for the pumpkins that survived the roll. She carved hers — was one of the only kids in her age class who clearly did most of the work herself — and won again!
It was a great way to spend the kids fall break. And there’s definitely something to going out in nature, and getting away from it all. I feel totally refreshed and clear-headed. (Definitely helped to turn in a big client project the night before we left!)
Let’s talk marketing — and driving attendance for live events…
I’ll note this question is about in-person, local live events. But this applies equally to online webinars and other live training.
It’s one thing to get someone to sign up. It’s another thing entirely to get them to actually put it on their calendar, and then be there when the excitement that got them to sign up wears off but the event is there.
Remember, this is a Mailbox Monday issue…
That’s the weekly article dedicated to answering YOUR questions. If you have a question about marketing, copywriting, business-building, personal development, success, or any other related topic — and you’d like me to answer it — click here to submit it.
Here’s today’s question…
What are some of the best ways you know of to get people out to a live event?
The event is free and we collect their info at the door. So it’s kind of like a real life opt-in page with the event itself being the lead magnet. Most people find the event through websites like meetup.com or social media. We mainly track RSVPs on Meetup.com right now.
What would you do? Content marketing to drive free traffic? JV with people who have local audiences? Or focus on paid traffic? Something completely different?
Make sure your offer is as powerful as possible…
Here are two major obstacles…
— Time is our most valuable resource.
— It’s easier to NOT do something that it is to do something.
This suggests that you have to show them that making sure they attend the event is a priority over every other way they could spend the time (including relaxation, video games, family time, recreation, sex, being lazy, whatever). Plus you have make it so compelling that when the time comes to attend, the appeal is strong enough that it will move them from inaction to action.
Many live events — even free events — supplement their offers with all kinds of freebies. I know someone who got tech executives to attend events (about work) by emphasizing the free beer at the end of the day. Often business opportunity or real estate pitches will give away free tech gadgets to attendees.
I know it’s a free event. But the reason you can do a free event — economically — is because you’re selling something. Consider what a sale is worth, and then consider your close ratio to determine what an attendee is worth. From that, consider what portion of that you can afford to invest in ethical bribes to get people to attend.
Then, start testing what is compelling enough to get butts in seats. A set of steak knives? Free pizza? An mp3 player preloaded with valuable content? A Kindle Fire or other low-priced tablet? A reception at the end of the event with 2 free drinks?
I don’t know what will work best for you, or what’s in your budget. But these seemingly trivial and unrelated things often work surprisingly well. And often having something will get way more people there than not having anything like this.
BONUS NOTE #1: A surprise gift can often be as or more effective than something they know they’re getting. It’s worth testing.
BONUS NOTE #2: People LOVE stuff. Even just making sure they know they’re getting a lot of stuff (stress balls, pens, worksheets, tote bag, etc.) can help drive attendance and make sure they feel like they got a lot more value, which may increase conversions on-site as well.
Assuming you make the core content plus any bonus gifts as good as possible, you’re just getting started.
Get people to commit through registration…
This is based on a couple really simple yet powerful principles, which you may recognize from Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (a must-read for anyone involved with persuasion in any form).
The principles are COMMITMENT and CONSISTENCY.
Once you get someone to affirm, in some way, they are committed to something, they’re far more likely to take further action based on that stated commitment.
And that’s because people like to be consistent with what they’ve previously said.
So, applying this to live events, getting people to actually come to a site and register will tend to make them more likely to attend.
This will also help you, because you’ll have a better idea of how many people are coming, versus collecting their info at the door.
It won’t mean everyone will register. But over time, you’ll get a good idea of what to expect as far as how many attendees you’ll get from how many pre-registrations.
You can also use this to add urgency and scarcity.
For example, you can offer extra free bonuses to the first 10 registrants, attendance required to claim the prize. You can limit the number of attendees, and make it feel like there are fewer spots than interested people.
You can also create registration deadlines leading up to the event.
There’s a lot you can do with this, but the idea is to get them to clearly register (preferably through YOUR site, not a third-party) to increase their likelihood of actually coming.
But we’re not done yet.
Get them to put it on their calendar…
This is a really simple action you can encourage right after the registration, to increase the likelihood of attendance.
Simply get them to put it on their calendar, on the spot.
I’d recommend giving them a confirmation message that includes these instructions in written format, if they have a paper calendar or want to add it manually.
I’d ALSO recommend a digital link (there are many tools you can use) that will let them automatically add it to their Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, Outlook, or whatever digital calendaring tool they use. My webinar tool has one built in. Meetup might also. I just used the Event Time Announcer on TimeandDate.com to create a fake Trick or Treating on Halloween event and there’s an Add to Calendar link there.
However you do it, this will make it way more likely that they’ll at least have to make a decision on the day of the event to NOT COME, because it will be there on their calendar as an appointment.
Now, you’re still not done.
Make sure you’re making the ATTENDANCE sale after you’ve made the REGISTRATION sale…
Here’s where I think a lot of people fall down. And this applies to getting webinar attendees as much as it does for any other kind of live event, such as a local seminar.
Just because someone signed up and put it on their calendar doesn’t mean they’re fully committed to coming.
You have to keep selling them on coming. Again and again. Until their butt is planted firmly in the seat, at the event.
For this I’d include a “Thanks for registering” email that reminds them to put it on their calendar. Plus I’d drip out a few additional emails in the days after their registration, to reinforce the reasons why they registered in the first place.
Then, leading up to the event, I’d run a separate series of emails that do the same thing, counting down toward the event. Make a big deal about the content. Make a big deal about the take-home stuff. Make a big deal about any extra perks. Maybe even announce a surprise (that you reveal or don’t) that makes the event that much more exciting.
Leading up to the event, you want at least one email the day before, and two on the day of. Depending on the time between registration and the event itself, maybe another a day or two earlier.
This second sale is perhaps more important to nail than the first. Because once you have at least some commitment, you know you have a reasonable prospect. So the more you can do to make sure the people who’ve raised their hand and expressed interest follow through and show up, the higher your per-registration value becomes, and the easier it becomes to get registrations.
There’s more, but no more time…
It’s time for me to wrap up the email. So I’ll agree that JVs are a great idea. Also any other way you can get the event in front of qualified prospects. I’ve gotten both YouTube ads and direct mail pieces in the last few days, trying to get me to free local events. Content marketing is okay but more of a long-term strategy. But all of those are just ways to put more people in the top of the funnel.
It’s absolutely critical that you have the rest of the funnel as tight as possible, before you worry too much about all of that.
Oh, and check your close rate and value-per-buyer at the live events. The more you sell at the event, the more you can afford to spend to bring people in.
The thing is, it’s not just one thing. It’s 100 little things that combine to get really big breakthroughs. In this and nearly every other marketing/selling/business challenge.
I hope this is helpful.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,