The first time I launched my own, business-building event, I was floored with the response (it sold out in two days). And since then, I've launched events that have sold out in 24 hours and events that left seats at the table.
Which is why I'm qualified to talk about what strategies have worked in the past and which...well, didn't.
Marketing and launching an event can be nerve wracking because not only do you have to do all the things required to launch an event, but you also have to plan the dang thing. Which can be tough if you don't know your final numbers and are trying to suss out the variable costs like food and swag.
Below are the best strategies I've used to launch and sell out an event (and one that really, really doesn't work):
On average, I've launched my most successful, one-day/low commitments events about a month before they went live. For me, this made sense because it was close enough to the event date that people could schedule it in their calendars and far enough away to allow me to do the bulk of the planning without having to work on much marketing.
I've also launched events around the holidays, with not a huge marketing push. I don't recommend that because people's attention aren't on improving themselves, it's on making it through the dang holidays.
Takeaway: Think about when your own attention span is attuned to business/life building events. Spring? Summer? Fall? Holidays? Then, back yourself up about a month or six weeks for pre-launch buzz building. THAT'S when you should be launching your event.
Host a Free Event First
The way I got all 40 spots sold to my first event, was that I hosted a free event (cost me about $40 in food and beverage for 10 people) and specifically invited powerful influencers who I knew had a similar drive and mission to me.
This event was free and I delivered a TON of content around networking, which was eventually the basis for my first sold-out paid event.
Takeaway: Getting yourself in front of people to demonstrate your event model will help you decide a) if your product is really worth scaling up to a larger, paid event and b) if you even want to host a live event (you may hate it at the end...and that's okay!)
Specifically Invite People
When people are specifically invited to an event, they feel special. I know the times that I've been handpicked or chosen for something (like board membership), I always say yes, because it feels good to be identified as an influencer.
When you send your email or make your phone call, please don't do this with a mass email or an email that is clearly copied and pasted. People can sniff that out in a second.
Takeaway: Spend some time targeting 5 - 10 people that you REALLY love, then ask for their help either by attending OR by helping you promote the event. This way, even if they can't come, they feel invested in the mission and the overall vibe of the event.
Asking Your Community for Help
This is the most basic thing that first-time event planners/hosts don't do, which is a big mistake. Again, targeting some influencers, or people who REALLY want to attend your event (or even sponsors, if you have sponsors) is a really effective way to get the word out without you doing a ton of work (because if one friend invites one friend who invites one friend...).
Be sure that you give them some targeted prompts, whether it's an email script, a Twitter or Facebook post, or an Instagram image. That increases chances that they help, like, 5000% (rough estimate).
Takeaway: Don't do all the marketing yourself. Asking for help can be a way to network throughout your community and also let some other influencers take the burden of marketing off of you. Just make sure you meet them halfway and provide a script for them to use.
And the one thing you probably shouldn't do?
Only promote one time.
I got really lucky the first few events that I hosted in that the market and time were ripe and I only had to push out one email and social media blast.
However, that's really unrealistic for most events AND for most recurring events. Most first-time events have good buzz and momentum around them, so if you get stuck in the habit of only promoting your event one time, you'll set yourself up for failure/disappointment later.
Okay, your turn. What are some marketing tips around events that you've used and have been successful with? What hasn't work? Tell me in the comments below!