To be clear, I am focusing this around digital, and more specifically a social media-based campaign. I feel strongly that, if your target audience is the right demographic, social media should be at the forefront of your marketing campaigns. It has huge reach, is extremely cost effective and posts can include links to register interest/sign.
A few years ago, I was tasked with launching a new fundraising event. The event was part of a bigger campaign, so was given a platform that already had decent following. We had some great graphics and a good set up. I even filmed and edited a wonderful launch video. I had visions of it going viral – it was that good (in my opinion, of course)! We arrived at launch day and the event went “live” (we even paid for a promoted post on Facebook). We hoped to have around 500 participants at the event. We ended up with 12. Thankfully, the event was virtual, so none of the 12 people noticed it hadn’t quite gone to plan.
I thought long and hard as to why it had failed so colossally. The concept was great, the materials were all there and looked pretty good, and the steps were in place so that things would run smoothly behind the scenes. I realised that I made a few key errors in the marketing of the event:
1. No-one knew that we were about to launch the amazing event. So, no matter how great my video and graphics were, I was effectively playing it to a huge room with three people who happened to have stumbled upon it.
2. My event was good, but was it the best? These days there are lots of events (not just within our sector) that people can choose from – why was mine any better than those? That doesn’t mean that our events need to be high budget, all singing all dancing, but I didn’t think about what set it aside from everything else.
3. My audience didn’t have a reason to sign up and commit there and then. Your interest will always be peaked at the moment you see something and are enthused by it – this is when we need to make sure that people commit to taking part. I hadn’t given my audience any reason to do anything else than just “have a think” – by this point they had already moved onto the next thing that had interested them.
I decided to come up with a three-step plan in order to market my future events. I have so far used it for three, very different, types of events. Each of these resulted in sell outs, record participant levels, and a significantly higher volume of engagement. Alongside this, they all resulted in record income levels.
Whilst these steps have been developed using my experience and training in sales, fundraising and events, they aren’t something that have been taken from any official “how to” guide. They have been developed by understanding my event, what I want to achieve out of it (income, numbers etc) and by knowing my target audience (this usually includes regular supporters, but is rarely limited to them, especially when going for big increases). By having an understanding of the above, you can use the steps below to give yourself a very strong chance of a successful event launch.