Q+A Friday: How Early is TOO Early to Launch an Event?
I loved your article on when to launch! Do you recommend launching even earlier than 3 months ahead of time for something big like a retreat? I've attended another conference twice and the first time I think I bought my ticket 9 months in advance, the second time it was 14 months in advance! 14 months! Is launching 5 to 6 months before a retreat enough time?
Good question. The launching of an event that you're charging money for is always a bit hectic. Launch TOO late and people are scrambling, or already have plans and can't commit. Launch too early, and people's attention is on other things that are more pressing and you could hear crickets.
Is there a TOO EARLY to launch an event? It depends on:
a) Whether or not you've launched this event before
b) When you're proposing to launch the event
If you've launched the event before, AWESOME! You hopefully will have some data that tells you whether or not your launch strategy was a good one (hopefully you sent out a survey post-event OR had people fill one out at the end of your event).
If you haven't launched the event before, but you want to test it out, make sure you're thinking about when people are buying (near the holidays is rarely a good time to launch an event because people's attention and $$ are going toward physical products).
My best advice? Launch your event 6 - 9 months in advance of your event's start date. And, for what it's worth, you should start planning and budgeting your event at least a year before you want to host it if you've never planned this event before.
Note: I'm never going to tell you there is one right way to do something, but based on the last 10 years of my event career, I'm going to give you my best advice, and then I REALLY encourage you to think about your audience. Is your audience 80% moms? They're going to want as much advance notice as possible. Is your audience college kids? Think about when they aren't buried in the books.
The Benefits of Launching Early
Launching early means that you have the ability to test the market, run some different sales strategies, and grab people's attention and build excitement. In fact, I recommend "teasing" your event up to 12 months or more in advance (which means, mentioning it to your audience, building excitement, showing some "Behind the Scenes" photos, etc. but not opening ticket sales or releasing specific information).
Events have a LONG planning cycle and sometimes a longer sales cycle because you have to give people time to research travel options, take vacation from their business or their jobs, and find childcare if they need it. However, if you launch the event nice and early, you don't run into the problem of people already being committed to other things.
The Negatives of Launching Early
Like wedding planning, if you launch too early, there's potential for YOU as the business owner to burn out in the sales cycle. If you open your launch 14 months before event day, you're excited, your audience is excited, but they aren't pressed to commit. Thus, lackluster sales, people's attention spans wane, and you're left with dismal ticket sales that drag on and on.
One way to combat this is to open Early Bird tickets at a lower price for a week or two, then open regular priced tickets for a month, then do a final push, then CLOSE ticket sales. Giving people a deadline, no matter how early you're selling tickets, is a really great way to combat that sales cycle fatigue for you AND for them.
Also, you can always open up a limited amount of spots closer to event day if you want. (This happened with Stratejoy Summer Camp and it was a GREAT way to sell out the last few spots that opened up.)