FB Ads for Live Events: Yay or Nay?

Should you use facebook ads to market your live events? In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on why or why not!

Hey Lauren!

Wondering about Facebook ads! Do you use them for events? If so, how can I use them to sell out my next workshop or retreat?

Thanks!

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This is SUCH a good question and one that I get ALL the time (almost as much as “How Do I Get People to Come to My Event”), so I am going to disclaim immediately with this:

I have NEVER used Facebook Ads as a marketing strategy for events.

This is because I primarily focus on 50 - 250 person events and because my clients are mostly focused on their EXISTING communities and also, their budgets don’t prioritize high advertising spends, so we focus on the fruit that is their existing communities. This isn’t to say they don’t HAVE high-dollar budgets, but that they don’t PRIORITIZE advertising for their events. I digress.

For the sake of argument (and because I’m not 100% sure of your business model), I’m going to assume a few things:

  1. You currently work primarily with 1:1 clients or are highly specific with the type of work you do.

  2. You’re trying to create some scale and toying with the idea of offering a 1:many model without the intensive time that it takes to create a course.

  3. You’re hoping to host 20-50 people AT MOST. And you’re really hoping to go in-depth with each of them.

  4. You’re not trying to go for the post-event upsell…maybe you have an offer available for one or two attendees, but your goal is not to break even on this event in order to upsell them on a bigger service. Your goal is to have a profitable event that offers a group setting for some services you already sell 1:1.

Okay SO we’re making a LOT of assumptions, but the profile above is what describes MOST people who ask me about advertising and marketing for their event.

We know from being dedicated blog readers that there are two types of events: money-making and awareness-building events. Quick recap: awareness building events are someone’s first or second interaction with you. They’re a lower level price point or free and they are meant to get people in the room to build your fan base. Money-making events are those that have a dedicated community that already buffer it (with higher-priced ticket sales OR with a proven community that exists so that you can sell some sponsorships to some interested companies who want access to your audience). Awareness-building events can TURN INTO money-making events, but when you set out to plan an event, it is VERY, VERY, VERY rare that they are both.

(DISCLAIMER: This is not to say that you CANNOT make money AND build awareness with an event, but the focus during the pre-event planning process should be one or the other.)

So, back to advertising and Facebook Ads for marketing live events…

If you are trying to host a high-ticket retreat or workshop, you are likely ALREADY appealing to people who trust you. They either have worked with you in the past, follow you online, or have met you in person at some point. They know you and they know that you’re not going to run off with their hard-earned cash to Mexico and spend it all on tacos.

So when you advertise a high-ticket event with a Facebook ad, a possible attendee is taking a BIG chance on you. Not only do they have to spend the money, but they also have to wait for you to deliver the event. And if they don’t jive with how you host events or teach, not only have they spent money, but they’ve spent time and energy getting to your event, sitting through your content, and being profoundly disappointed.

To be fair, they also could ABSOLUTELY love your stuff and have a wonderful time and be a fan for life! However, it is a TON easier to get people who are ALREADY fans of yours to pay that price tag and you can approach them for free, since they already live on your newsletter list or on your Instagram page or somewhere else where you routinely interact with them.

But why not Facebook ads?

The reason for this is because usually, with small, high-level, mastermind-type events, you’re offering a higher level services, you're going to want to get the right mix of people (which definitely is not always the case with someone who opts in via a FB ad), because when you have ONE wrong person at an event? It is way harder to prevent them from bringing the collective energy down.

Also, Facebook ads usually try to get more leads INTO the funnel, which is awesome for someone attending your retreat in 6 months to a year...but that's a different strategy and likely a different spend than FB ads or advertising for retreats and in-person events.

The #1 complaint I get from clients who use FB ads to promote their events is that the person who converted from an ad wasn't their ideal client -- and therefore didn't have a great experience. It's not IMPOSSIBLE but I don't know anyone who is doing it well for small retreats or local workshops (that said, if you’re like “BUT I WANNA KNOW ABOUT ADS”, Claire Pelletreau is my favorite for FB ads in general). Also, if you ARE doing this well, PLEASE message me. I’d love to host you on this blog and hear all your secrets.

If I’m not using ads, what should I do instead?

Okay, so I’m assuming, if you’re starting with high-dollar events, you already have an existing relationship with your attendees in order to help them see the value of your expertise. The people who attend this event should ALREADY believe in your work. Skepticism can be a KILLER during in-person events, so not having to “convince” someone of your value at an event makes the experience WAY better.

So, that said, THESE PEOPLE ARE ALREADY IN YOUR COMMUNITY. Which means:

  1. You’ll do an extensive “pre-launch” period where you drop hints via social media, blog posts, webinars, and your email newsletter asking people to sign up. We are building tension and excitement and not just springing it on people. To get people to SHOW UP AND give you money, you need to give them time and space to consider the offer. So dropping hints = good strategy.

  2. You’ll make a list of the last 30 - 80 people who bought a course, called you for a 1:1, met you for coffee, or otherwise engage heavily in your community. And then you will slowly and surely email, message, and call (yes, I SAID CALL) each of them until you get a definitive YES or NO. This is called “recruiting” and THIS attention? This is how you show your high-level people that you will DEFINITELY treat them in a high-level way. If you’re approaching corporate companies? This is also your strategy. We are WOOING here, and WOOING usually comes with a higher price tag.

  3. You will send mass emails to your email list FREQUENTLY letting them know about your event. Asking them to share the event. Running a giveaway to the event. You will leverage your community to get the right people in the room and NOT just ANY people…only the people that you WANT to be there and ARE READY to do the work.

And why do we do this?

Because we don’t need ANY people in the room…we need the RIGHT people who are READY to do the work and WANT to make change.

Unlike any other product or service or event, high-touch events can be life changing and you need to heavily curate the people in there so that you can have the best results.

When should I try Facebook Ads?

Okay, okay, so you REALLY want to give the ads a go.

First, call Claire. Her website is above. All this insight is ONLY going to be worthwhile if you have a good person managing your ads, so nothing below is going to be helpful unless you understand HOW to do the ads. I digress.

  1. You can use ads if you’re going BROAD not DEEP. In this scenario, we are trying to sell a ticket so that people EVENTUALLY will buy something else at the event. We are trying to break even with this ticket sell and hoping that 20% - 40% buy your up-leveled service. This is the “Tony Robbins” model…they get ‘em in the room and then they pitch ‘em high. It can be totally effective, but it’s definitely more of a “lead magnet —> program sale” type of model. In this case, the event is the lead magnet. PS THIS USED TO BE VERY COMMON. It was like the “real life version of the webinar.” But now we have webinars, so there’s that.

  2. You are a big SaaS or software company and have LOTS of budget to host an event for current clients and prospects in the hope that they may buy your product and have a larger lifetime value if you get to meet them in-person.

  3. You are hoping for an inevitably profitable event, which means increased ticket sales over a few years and a strong sponsorship engagement strategy. Totally possible! But also, totally different than a high-touch workshop or retreat.

Now, a challenge:

I created a “5 Methods of Marketing Your Next Live Event” worksheet and I’d LOVE for you to download it, read it, and THEN take a screenshot of the last page and send it over to me on Instagram (tag me @lcasellievents).

Drop your info below to download my Event Marketing Cheat Sheet!