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Developing a Successful Event Marketing Campaign
By Michael Cruz

Although there may be some uncertainty in defining specific marketing terms, it doesn't necessarily mean it should be done by the seat-of-the-pants either. Marketing is not an exact science, however there are still some proven aspects of this mysterious side of business. For example, someone who takes the time to actually write a marketing plan containing specific strategies to implement will typically be more successful in their efforts than someone without a plan. It's not the plan itself that counts but the effort expended to analyze and document your intentions.

However, before developing any marketing campaign, you must first establish a management philosophy of recognizing that your event's total existence is based on your clientele's perspective. Marketing should not be viewed as a separate function or "something you have to do" but rather, an integral part of any undertaking, which can have a serious financial impact.

To capitalize on this concept, is to understand that your attraction can become more successful if management decisions and actions are taken from a marketing perspective! What I'm saying is not just a bunch of fancy marketing double-talk, but a bonafide formula for success. While marketers should not necessarily have the final say in major business decisions, an experienced marketer's input should always be taken into consideration.

As an event marketer, it is important for you to understand the operations, management and production aspects of your attraction. For example, becoming familiar with general operating procedures gives you a well-rounded perspective of the operation's characteristics. Production is equally important to understand because of the need to know key elements of the attraction and to familiarize yourself with other areas of the show. This will give you a broader perspective in your marketing efforts. And even though it may not be necessary to know every detail about production or operations, it is important to have an understanding of each area's purpose, goal and objective.

7 Steps to a successful marketing campaign
To maximize your marketing efforts, you must first take steps in a specific direction
that will lead you to your destination. The seven steps below are a map that can guide you on the most efficient course. These steps could make the difference between a hit and a flop for your event marketing campaign, so use these steps that can lead to new and successful journeys.

Step 1. Analyze your event's current situation
Step 2. Define and focus on your clientele
Step 3. Analyze your competition
Step 4. Create a budget
Step 5. Analyze your media
Step 6. Establish value-added features
Step 7. Develop a marketing plan based on your goals and objectives from any research conducted

With these seven steps, you can establish a basis for developing a successful MarketScream campaign. Let's take a closer look at each one:

Step 1. Analyze your event's current situation
The first step is taking a long hard look at your current situation. For a complete assessment of your attraction, you need to ask yourself, "where do we stand right now?" While I recognize that honesty may be difficult because you're an integral part of your event&emdash;it must be done. Never put yourself in the position as many events do, fooling yourself into thinking that your attraction has only strengths, and no weaknesses.

Below are questions to ask regarding your attraction. In fact, these same questions can also be directed towards the competition, giving better insight into their current marketing situation as well.

1. How is your event defined?
2. Similarity with other events?
3. Do you offer something different compared to other attractions?
4. What strengths or weaknesses does your event have?
5. How is your event perceived by the public?

1. What is your pricing structure?
2. Are you implementing sales promotional strategies?


1. Where is your event located?
2. Strengths and weaknesses of the competition's location and yours.
3. Do you have additional physical space to increase the size of your event?
4. Accessibility to event site including: availability of parking, and public transportation?

1. Do you have established publicity coverage?
2. Will you have a local or celebrity spokesperson?
3. What types of coverage will you utilize?

1. What promotional partners have worked with you in the past?
2. Have any of the promotional partners worked with your event previously?

Step 2. Define and focus on your clientele
Think about it: Why waste your marketing efforts on people who will never buy? One of the keys to unlocking a marketing program is knowing your prospects are and their motivation. As an event marketer, you have two distinct clientele groups, (1) the audience for whom your attraction is designed and (2) companies, such as sponsors or promotional partners who share the same or similar audience. At this point, let's focus our efforts on the paying customer/participant.

Your main attraction defines who your audience really is&emdash;this will help you determine your key group(s), which are referred to as segments. For example, a haunted attraction with intense scares and a large amount of gore may not necessarily be appealing for small children, however, it may be very tantalizing to teenagers and young adults.

Segmenting customers by age groups is an example of one of the decisions you have to make. In addition to age, markets may be segmented by income, gender, lifestyle&emdash;all of these are used to create a profile of your customer. There are a few terms with which you'll need to become familiar. These are used throughout the book, when discussing who will attend and support your attraction.

Demographics. Statistical information about specific characteristics including sex, age, marital status, etc.

Psychographics. Identifies personality characteristics and attitudes that affect a person's lifestyle or purchasing behavior.

Geographics. Information about type of location&emdash;urban, suburban, rural&emdash;and the defined area your marketing message will encompass.

The marketplace can be segmented into distinct target markets by age, occupation, lifestyle, community or any other characteristics which distinguish the buying habits and patterns of your audience. The following will assist you selecting the most likely audiences for your attraction.

How to identify the right audiences

• Starting with who you already know. Obviously you must have an idea of your targeted population, otherwise you wouldn't have created your event.
• Search for similar but slightly different markets from the obvious ones. For example, if you're trying to reach college students, consider compatible organizations such as fraternities/sororities.
• Speak with members of the community who sell related products/services to the same targeted markets. Learn if they are adding new markets. This strategy alone is the basis for much of special events success. If possible, avoid speaking with people who are associated with your competitors.
• Check your competition. Monitor their marketing campaign. This will reveal their efforts in reaching a specific audience(s) and provide you the opportunity to determine if these are the same groups you want to reach, or conversely, avoid.
• Learn more about your prospects. For example, set-up a contest to create a mailing list. Do whatever it takes to learn anything of value about your customer.

Focusing on your target audiences
The term targeting refers to developing and implementing a unique marketing mix for groups who are most likely to attend. Targeting provides the most efficient use of all your marketing resources. You know you're in trouble when, if asked who's your audience, the answer is "everyone." This shotgun response will easily diffuse your efforts. "Targeting" for emphasis is similar to a marksman's focus on his target&emdash;it improves your marketing firepower.

7 strategies to target your message to a specific segment

• Identify your target audience in the headline. While you may need to create a variety of ads that have specific headlines, this will create a distinct and personal impact.
• Show pictures of people experiencing your attraction. Preferably interacting inside your attraction&emdash;photos can truly be worth a thousand words.
• Speak their language. Your copy should reflect the language of your audience.
• Include appealing information. Use facts and statistics which demonstrates a knowledge of your audience's interests.
• Discuss satisfying your audiences needs. Begin copy by discussing issue and concerns that are foremost in reader's minds.
• Provide testimonials. Be sure these come from your target audience.
• Demonstrate your experience. Cite facts of interest which may include attendance numbers, recognize the agency benefiting from your event if you're a charitable organization, etc.

The business community
Just like selecting a target audience, you want to employ specific strategies which will involve the business community with your haunted attraction. This can range from working with the media, coordinating with promotional partners or developing a sponsorships program. Recognizing how your attraction can appeal to businesses will be extremely valuable to your program. This involves much more than meets the eye, and I'll discuss many more applications later in the book, one of the most important aspects will be dealt with in Step 6, Establish event amenities.


Step 3. Investigate the competition
Your competitors' marketing strategies and philosophies are similar to body language&emdash;they often tell you more than what they're thinking. It is important that you assess each competitor's strengths and weaknesses, and learn to see them as customers do.

To get a closer look, go back to step one and ask the same questions about your competition. You will learn which media resources they utilize, the degree of targeting, estimated marketing investment, type of sales messages (i.e., image builder, sales appeal, etc.), their theme and other interesting facts which will give insight to their marketing strategy. By pinpointing your competitors weaknesses, you will be able to develop strategies which will work to your benefit.

Step 4. Create a budget
No book can tell you exactly the dollar amount which should be invested for marketing purposes and strategies. There are some basics which must be addressed. Just like other facets of marketing, this not a one-time assignment, but rather an evolution which allows you to document both income and expenses.

Having been there myself, I know this can be particularly difficult your first year. Trying to develop projections of unknown numbers can be frustrating, but it is still very important. To help simplify the process, here are four phases that can be used to assist you in determining your budget.

PHASE 1 Creating an initial budget of projected income and expenses to determine if your efforts will be profitable.

PHASE 2 Once you have determined that your efforts will be worthwhile, a more comprehensive analysis becomes imperative.

PHASE 3 A continuous monitoring of actual expenses in comparison to your projections.

PHASE 4 Upon conclusion of your event, an evaluation of your actual income and expenses becomes particularly important for next year's budget.

Budget-setting Considerations

• The greater your event's market share, the larger your expenditure.
• First year events will need to spend more on marketing than established attractions, as they already have an established audience.
• Marketing expenditures are greater when your event's assets are not fully capitalized.
• Higher-quality productions typically require greater marketing expenditures.
• Standard or conventional events require higher levels of marketing expenditures than customized events. Offering a unique environment or something out of the norm, makes your show attractive and more interesting.

Step 5. Analyze your media
Once your audience is defined, media impact for your event becomes imperative. It affects your attraction like no other industry, you need to investigate which media is most qualified to broadcast your marketing message. You must understand precisely which audience(s) each medium is attempting to reach, and analyze the compatibility with your own audience.

The media in this country is a tremendous force behind all areas of life. It is essential to understand the basic inner workings of the media which you intend to use. There are a variety of tasks which must first be accomplished before they are contacted.

For the event marketer, the media plays a critical role in your strategy. Each event marketing discipline uses the media to accomplish some part of its goal. The media effects your event like no other industry because it caries your advertising message, helps expose sales promotions, provides news coverage and can participate as a media sponsor.

Compiling your media list
To maximize the effectiveness of your marketing message, you must have a thorough knowledge of news/public affairs and advertising sources that affect your area. Most communities will have directories of media resources. (Check in the yellow pages for Mailing/Media Directories). Below are some points of information needed that will help get the most from the media.

• Highlight personally-known editors/reporters. Keep a star next to these key people, because you already have an established rapport, they should be more receptive to you.

• Update your list annually. Editors and reporters move and some publications may be out-of-business. Regular updates will help you maintain the maximum effectiveness from your marketing efforts while avoiding spending unnecessary expenses.

• Use a computer to establish a database file. Once the information is input, it will only need to be periodically updated. A computer database program will make information much easier to access and analyze.

Step 6. Establish value-added features
Every event marketer wishes they had a larger budget and more resources for their program, but it is in the nature of many haunted attractions to operate under less than ideal financial conditions. However, there is also a solution to this problem inherent in all special events. Your haunted attraction has the built-in capability of offering unique opportunities and other fringe benefits to all of your clientele. Particularly important in this case are members of the business community. I'll show you how this actually allows you to significantly extend your budget while simultaneously increasing goodwill among your customers.

Offering a variety of "extras" called event amenities allows you to provide much more with your attraction&emdash;it's called value-added marketing. To make it work, you must convey to your clientele that you understand their needs, are familiar with their industry, know your competition, and are offering a worthwhile event. You need to determine price, quality, convenience, and customization before you make an offer to prospects.

The point I'm really trying to make here is this: You have the ability to increase the value of your attraction… Right Now! You don't need to spend extra money to offer amenities, simply taking advantage what you have and a desire to provide value to your entire clientele base is the key. The best type of amenities to offer will depend entirely on your event's abilities to use complimenting elements. You need to determine what is unique about your event, and what resources are available to produce the desired results.

Common event amenities may include..

Identification/Recognition. Your event's advertising can identify sponsor(s). This is commonly referred to as a "tag" or "tagging" your media. Usually this means placing a logo or name in your advertising and on printed materials like coupons or tickets.

Media Exposure. This is similar to the previous amenity, but is more closely associated with your publicity efforts. Remember that everytime your event appears in the media, it represents an opportunity for one or more of your business clients.

Tickets. This is the most common amenity used. You should learn to think of the tickets to your attraction as having cash value. Tickets can be exchanged, bartered, or distributed as "gift" items.

VIP Admissions. If you're inviting the media, think about creating a VIP party for your clientele as well. This will increase the value of your offer for obvious reasons&emdash;everyone wants to be a VIP!

Space. At the event location. This can be used for sampling, broadcasting, vendor booth, etc.

Bounce-backs. A bounce-back is a collateral item (coupon, discount offer, etc.) provided by a sponsor or promotional partner for distribution at your event location.

Customer List. If you've already developed a database of customers, you can rent or sell the list, or exchange the information for other considerations.

Step 7. Creating a plan of action
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, you must develop a written plan of action. Writing a plan provides the blueprint of your intentions and can save valuable time and wasted efforts. Even though specifics of your marketing plan may change, having a plan outlines your motives and keeps you focused on your goals and objectives.

The foundation for reaching your goals is this: You must have a full understanding of all the planning efforts that will be needed before you strive to implement any facet of marketing. To look at it another way, let's say you decided to visit an unfamiliar community. While the signs on the interstate may give some direction, they cannot provide you the specifics on how to arrive at your destination. You could wind up seriously lost or frustrated if you set out on your travels without the knowledge of where you were going.

To set a course for your business to follow, you need to define substantial, recognizable results you wish to obtain. The key is to be realistic. An important consideration in setting objectives is making them reasonable enough to perform, challenging without too much stress, and once completed, providing a positive sense of accomplishment for those involved.

Time Management
Over ninety percent of your marketing efforts will be conducted before your event ever takes place. It is important to establish a calendar indicating when such activities are exposed, implemented and analyzed. Putting together in a timeline indicating when you need specific things completed is also important. Establishing a solid plan within a realistic time frame can be an event marketer's biggest challenge. When creating a timeline, always consider unexpected delays. That way, if they do occur, the effect will be much less disastrous.

The sample below should provide a basic idea of a timeline. Remember that every event is different, and everything that makes your event different should be reflected in your timeline as well.

Importance of Contingency Planning
A contingency plan is just an extension of your existing plan. You are basically forecasting the unknown. These "what if. . ." scenarios can and do happen. "What if a celebrity shows up 2 hours late? What if tickets sales are not as brisk as expected?" These questions can be unnerving, but they need to be taken into consideration.

October can have unpredictable weather in some parts of the country. Most event properties experience rain at least once during the month, but if you happen to face a continuous onslaught of rainfall (or even snow), it can have a devastating impact on your event's financial condition. For this reason, you may want to consider rain insurance.

Contingency issues should be addressed in all of the steps above. When analyzing your event and your competition, you should pay attention to all of the unexpected occurrences in previous years. It may be helpful to trade "war stories" with operators of other attractions to find out some of the things that could happen to you.

Putting it all together
At the risk of being redundant, I'm going to emphasize the importance of your plan before ending this chapter. The task which you have undertaken is complex and the path is filled with possibilities both good and bad. You have to remain focused and be prepared for anything. The effort invested will be more than worth it.

When I was working for a touring attraction, I traveled to several cities every month. One of the first things the experience taught me was the importance of organization. You will need to deal with many different issues, and one way to stay focused is storing your work in a three ring binder. You should use a 3" or 4" three-ring binder with dividers for different sections. The slant ring binders with the inside pockets are best. Set up each section as follows:

• Plan and checklists
• Financials
• Advertising
• Publicity
• Sponsorship
• Promotions
• Evaluation

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