Three years ago we started a music festival with no budget and no experience. With not much more than a small team and a few MacBooks, we made a splash in a market with behemoths like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Governors Ball.
We just launched Plugged
It's our cool new gadget site.
Approaching our third year, we’ve seen a lot of early success, and caught the attention of national media publications like Complex, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post. We owe this mostly to technology and methods common amongst tech startups.
In the tech industry, it’s easy to find potential leads since your target audience is already familiar with tech resources and is constantly keeping up with the Web. With non-tech events, we had to get creative. While managing to amass a following and achieving 100 percent growth in just one year, we learned quite a bit.
These are the methods we took to grow our festival, but you can apply similar tactics to promote your own non-tech event.
1. Email user acquisition
One of the most cost-effective ways to communicate with your consumer is email marketing. This certainly isn’t a new concept, but it’s tried and true.
Successfully growing an email subscription can be a huge factor in building momentum. Acquire new users by creating giveaways for partners to offer through a clean landing page. People love free stuff, and if the offer is sweet enough, they’ll pretty much do anything for a chance to win.
Increase engagement by including product from other partners in the giveaway or creating unique experiences. This approach is perfect for a festival. Ticket giveaways raise awareness and can lead to sales conversions. Segmenting emails captured from each group will allow for targeted messaging in the future.
2. Leverage your followers and their fans, too!
Most startups have very limited marketing budgets, so advertising spend is out of the question. An alternative approach is empowering users to to help share the message.
Generate organic reach by attaching social-ready graphics to email blasts. In our second year, we saw a huge increase in social engagement by using Thunderclap. It leverages Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr APIs to make simultaneous social media posts for anyone who signs up through the Thunderclap campaign.
We encouraged our followers and artists to help announce the lineup through their social media accounts and were able to reach over 5 million users. This year, our Thunderclap campaign not only pushed the festival to trend nationally on Twitter, but also helped break our record for single day ticket sales.
3. Automate and optimize
Effective messaging is a quick way to move the growth needle. A/B testing is a helpful way to gauge how well you’re grabbing the attention of your audience.
The ability to automate testing with variable images or subject lines on a sample is powerful. Conducting these tests and optimizing based off the results is a form of growth hacking which is one of the hottest trends in the marketing industry.
Continuously track what is performing well, and incorporate it in messaging efforts going forward. Solutions like MailChimp and GetResponse offer simple and affordable ways to achieve this, that can even be free depending on the size of your list. If you don’t mind getting a little more technical, services like Zapier offer more sophisticated options for automation.
4. Repurpose other’s success
Lucky for us, a lot of really smart people already figured out ways to achieve growth. Uber turned the entire transportation industry upside down with dual-sided referrals. The Obama campaign raised massive amounts of money through email marketing using casual tones in its subjects (“Hey” was the most effective subject line.)
A popular content marketing approach is to add value by leveraging Spotify or SoundCloud playlists featuring artists featured in the festival lineup. Larger brands have set up shop on Reddit by creating communities of their own or hosting official AMAs. Research successful growth strategies and repurpose them for your audience for an inexpensive way to expand.
5. Incentivize and track
Two major aspects of successful user acquisition is generating exposure and creating value. Groupon and LivingSocial built an entire model around this. A popular ticket deal offered on either site can produce huge results and help fill out your venue. Figure out a sweet spot of where you can offer a discount, but not give away the house.
In addition, identify several outlets to whom you can offer discounts. Find groups with a unique audience that could enjoy the experience you provide. You may not have the resources for sophisticated referral tracking, but a helpful trick is to offer custom discount codes to specific groups. This way, you track the sales of each campaign and make adjustments, and help identify which partners are worth investing more resource towards.
Technology has completely changed the way we do marketing and public relations, so hopefully these quick tips can help you grow your businesses and events, whether or not they are directly within the tech industry.