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Event Advertising - 10 Page Summary of Best Practices and Ideas
By Louis Marquette  -  a CraftLister.com Craft Expert    about page  personal website
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Advertising is Critical to Event and Merchant Success

Few are the events that do not have a fixed or limited advertising budget. More effective use of the available advertising dollars and available people hours is therefor the only path to improvement that is not a form of 'throw more money at the problem'.

Most promoters do to take advantage of any free and low-effort ad methods that come to their attention, but always only to a certain point - until they feel they have 'done enough', an opinion only events over fire-code should ever even consider of resigning themselves to. For example, the majority of promoters probably already post some flyers, be it in the few supermarkets still with boards, etc.; few though are the events that have a team of folks plaster hundreds of flyers around the county in every store window that they successfully ask for permission from and fewer are they that also give even 1 flyer or handout via confirmation or acceptance packets to the exhibitors for them to copy and post and distribute themselves where they can. You may not be friends with the town yarn store or valley pizza parlor owner, but one of your exhibitors may be.... You may not be at 2 shows every weekend from now till you show date, but each of your 200 exhibitors likely are....

More effective and more successful advertising is a matter of smarts, not money, unless you have tried every method listed herein and also continue to refined and reevaluated your advertising methods each year.



Most Effective Methods

This is the cumulative list of the reported most effective advertising methods for events:

1. Word of Mouth – Customer telling other customers or bringing other customer with them.
2. Reputation – Customers remembering and attending yearly
3. Handouts – Exhibitors can distribute collectively material at hundreds of other events.
4. Exhibitors sending Press Releases to all area Papers – SOME free articles are bound to result.
5. Community Organizations' Involvement - ... details below ...
6. Mailing List Usage ( Promoter's and all Exhibitors' )- Snail mail Postcard with coupons and emails with same to ALL past attendees and all vendors list's – let vendors earn $, credits, or prizes for each attendee brought.
7. Street Signs - Street signs, Posters, Street Banners, etc. plastered around town.
8. Then, order depending on $ spent, coverage, ad size, frequency, etc.: TV / Newspaper / Radio




Event Promotion Requires a Large Budget and an Even Larger EFFORT; Much More Than Novices Ever Imagine!

I have had many want-to-be promoters call me over the years telling me about how they just held their first show and had no attendance despite doing this and that and SO much else. It is a sad fact for us merchants that new wish-to-be promoters have no idea the efforts that are required to put on a successful show from scratch.

Longtime crafters see shows that they think did little to be successful and they think they can do the same, make lots of money without any effort, certainly not the manufacturing effort they engage in now. They may be right or they may have not seen the vast efforts undertaken by the promoter in the years past to build the show to what it is and to what each year just seems to come together as a fantastic, well organized and attended show. Even established, successful shows take enormous time and resources to promote. I know of one promoter that holds about 15 very good shows per year, mainly in schools, parks, and as street fairs. Towns that know of them are even approaching them to take up some new events, but they are turning such offers down as they do not have the time or strength, given what their other 'great shows' require to stay Grrrrrreat!.

Events many years running with a reputation for quality and predictability and guaranteed-good-time are likely to be sought after year in, year out by customers – advertising for them is mainly to get the date out and remind folks. Advertising is still critical for the 23 rd Annual Arts on the Square, but it is does not fill the same role for it as does advertising for the 1 st Annual Crafters Inside Some Building Off-Main St. Show...

Many new promoters what I'll call the standard 'below-minimum level of advertising' – small ads in a newspaper or two for a week or two, a few unseen flyers, small, unledgeable, white paper signs, and a hope & a prayer – probably costing them $300-$1,000 and a few hours of actual hands-busy, butt-up work – and they then attract hardly any customers.

The next level up do what I'd call an 'acceptable minimum level of advertising', for what is expected to be only a small (sparsely attended 100-500 people) show – hundreds spent in multiple newspapers, flyers all over, dozens of street signs the week before, handouts at other shows, and even more. ( I even tried to promote a show of abt this types in 2001 or so and spent around $3,000 in advertising, all of the booth fees plus more. It included 30 large, colorful signs and even some radio on top of the other standards; however, only a few hundred customers showed. ) Almost every similar attempt I hear of ends the same.

Shows that start to reach acceptable attendance numbers almost inevitable rely on many additional methods, including:

     Reputation - This more than anything, it seems! Great shows are rarely born overnight.
     Multiple Community Organizations' Involvement
     Street signs, Posters, Street Banners, etc. plastered around town. This means in yards of organization members, volunteers, or anyone with a house on a main street that says: 'YES! - to local hand-made crafts.'
     Snail mail Postcard with coupons and emails with same to ALL past attendees, vendors list's, any events you can get to trade with you, any craft store that will rent their list or trade for mention, etc. If you want a few thousand customers, this means Tens of Thousands of mailed postcards. No Joke Here. Mailing lists are the top performing method for established, successful events. They always continue to build upon their list, maintain it's cleanliness, and then can use it when the time comes for it's need.


Example of ACTUAL Testimony Received:

      I just promoted my first event, and the turnout wasn't what I was hoping for. Here are some of the things I tried:

1.Signs around the community and outside the event
2.The site is lucky enough to have a large marquis outside, so we posted on that.
3.Press releases in the paper
4.Paid ads in the paper
5.Community bulletin boards online and on local news stations
6.Interviews on local news stations
7.We handed out flyers at other craft shows.
8.We gave vendors flyers with their applications so that they could post them as well.
9.We contacted local churches and asked that it be announced during their bulletin readings.
10.We asked local restaurants to post them in the stores and place them in any deliveries.
11.Websites such as your wonderful one!!!
12.Some fast food restaurants will even use them as tray-liners, if you give them a stack.
13.Local billboards (small ones as our budget did not support commercial ones.)


Another promoter says she uses ALL of the booth fees for even established & successful shows, about $15,000 for the last one, and applies it to advertising.





Most Effective Methods

This is the cumulative list of the reported most effective advertising methods for events:

1. Word of Mouth – Customer telling other customers or bringing other customer with them.
2. Reputation – Customers remembering and attending yearly
3. Handouts – Exhibitors can distribute collectively material at hundreds of other events.
4. Exhibitors sending Press Releases to all area Papers – SOME free articles are bound to result.
5. Community Organizations' Involvement - ... details below ...
6. Mailing List Usage ( Promoter's and all Exhibitors' )- Snail mail Postcard with coupons and emails with same to ALL past attendees and all vendors list's – let vendors earn $, credits, or prizes for each attendee brought.
7. Street Signs - Street signs, Posters, Street Banners, etc. plastered around town.
8. Then, order depending on $ spent, coverage, ad size, frequency, etc.: TV / Newspaper / Radio



signs -> Signs. Signs. Signs. -> SIGNS! SIGNS! ==>> S I G N S !!

THE MOST EFFECTIVE ADVERTISING OPTION PER $ SPENT IS: STREET SIGNS!
Time and time again, promoters tell me that the highest reported place that customers say they heard about a show is STREET SIGNS! This is fantastic since signs are also relatively cheap and affordable by ANY event. The keys to success with signs are:

LARGE, CLEAR, EASY TO READ SIGNS! - The signs need to be LARGE and have REALLY BIG PRINT and SIMPLE INFO on a BRIGHT, COLORFUL BACKGROUND.

NOTICIBLE SIGNS! - Use larger signs that have some bright neon color on them. Improve upon signs the day before a show, or the actual day of, with balloons or streamers or ribbons, colored paint splotches, etc.,, to help to catch the eye of people passing by who have tuned them out and become accustomed to seeing them, and ignoring them.

EARLY & COMPREHENSIVE SIGN COVERAGE - They have to be put out weeks before the shows. No day of putting up signs. As many street signs as possible on the busy corners. Plan on locations early to prepare the proper number of each arrow type. Hit all major roads!

EASY TO FOLLOW SIGNS - Road signs are great if large enough and LEAD people to event. There MUST be multiple signs, if the show is 2 or more turns off a major street and the location is not immediately visible!!!!

SIGNS CAN BE LEGALY PLACED IN ALMOST ANY TOWN, JUST NOT ALWAYS ON PUBLIC LAND – Check with your local city governments, as you should be posting them in a large coverage radius transversing multiple municipalities, some places will require a bond that is refundable once you remove your signs and/or a permit that is not, other locals do not allow any signs on public property under any conditions – for these places, PRIVATE PROPERTY IS A GREAT PLACE FOR SIGNS, just approach property owners for permission to place a sign, treat them to free tickets, free pancake breakfast, movie tickets, crafts, etc. – Remove signs promptly for good relations next year. The majority of folks just say yes when asked... but you must ask. Do not neglect this inexpensive, proven success strategy!

A HUGE SIGN ON PREMISIS 1-2 MONTHS BEFORE
If your location is visable from any sizable road, construct a large plywood sign that is viewable from both directions announcing the upcoming event happening there. As folks see other ads and signs, they will also see WHERE it will be. No single impression usually generates a customer or sale, it always takes a multitude!

MULTIPLE CAR AND LAWN SIGN BLITZ - Every organization volunteer has a car that can be turned into mobile advertising and a yard that can hold a sign or two, these should be utilized! Give each church member, club member, historical society participant, school student, volunteer wanna-be, etc. a sign to put in their yard, as this will be helping their group with their fund-raiser.





Street Banners & Billboards

Street banners are a great way to advertise, the banner itself can be bought for a few hundred, for a quality one, and the city will often charge a hundred or half that to have their maintenace crew put it up and take it down for you. Another road-side possibility, if you have land you can place it on, is a large, digitially programed sign, like construction ones, but intended for business usage and rental. This last week I even heard for the first time of an event, a PA strawberry fest, getting placed on actual interstate highway digital signs; this is worth a try since if they say yes it will likely give a large boost. When doing billboards, keep it simple. The event name, dates, and times have to be big enough to read FAST!!!



Reputation

Regardless of the actual advertising, there are some shows that customers just know as good shows and they will seek out each year's date themselves to attend! There are shows that do lot of advertising and barely anyone shows. Then, there ARE some shows that do little advertising and yet you must still line up and wait to get in and can then barely walk around the isles due to the crow. Reputation.

Reputation.... Reputation.... Reputation.... Start Building Some Today:

     Turn craft shows into events. Name them. Pick a theme! e.g. Annual Gold Rush Days & Vendor Fair, Annual Renaissance Weekend and Period Hand-Made Artisan Show, Annual Hawaii in the Desert, Annual Pirate Booty Days, Annual Christmas in July Craft Show, Annual Fall Foliage Craft Fest, Annual Artist Show in So-n-So Park, Annual Pre-Christmas Stocking Stuffer Blow-Out, Annual January Crafter Clearance Clear-out, etc.

     Hold them on the same weekend yearly. e.g. The last full weekend in September. The weekend before Mothers Day. The first Saturday in December.

     Decide to only accept quality artisans and craftsmen, then make the effort to follow-through without any slip-ups, of slip-in's. There are customers who frequent the same shows every year looking for the "dog biscuit lady" or the "wood carver guy", etc. Loosing these quality artisans and their following would be a shame, especially if due to the craftsman's anger and frustration with the event allowing in China-made retail to compete with them at a claimed-Juried Event.



Give Promotional Material Packet to Vendors

Send every vendor postcards or some kind of printed handout containing your show info and possibly a coupon for them to distribute with sales and on their tables during weeks prior. At a minimum, the acceptance package should include a flyer for the crafters to copy, cut and distribute. Remind them that handing these out helps them as much as you. Remember, the most likely show-goer, is a previous show-goer at your show or another!


When you send your vendor packets out, send each vendor:

     Handouts - to pass out at the events they attend leading up to your event.
     
     Flyers – for bulletin boards, store windows, and any other areas viewed by potential customers.

     Postcards – for merchants to mail to their self-maintained mailing list.

     Info Stickers – many artists have their own postcards. For them print the show info on stickers that the artists can add to their own postcards.

     Entrance Coupons or Free Passes' – for merchants to send/give to their TOP clients.

     Encourage vendor self-promotion of event - Send each vendor handouts, coupons, postcards, etc. with a unique number embedded in it. For every one turned in with their number, the vendor can receive a $1.00 refund on their booth rent or a point towards a prize to the vendor who brings in the most visitors, etc.

     Instruction on how to write a press releasePromoters should encourage and instruct all artists and crafters to write press releases to all their local and all event local media. If just a few of these potential hundreds or thousands of press releases are used, you will get additional, free, and top-quality advertising! Many events have reported PHENOMENAL success with this FREE advertising method.

     A request to use the exhibitors' mailing lists - Ask the size, then send them material to mail to their list, some may even send you mailing labels to use yourself.

     Handouts, Flyers, Postcards, etc. can be sent to vendors as a single 'concept' one that they can modify and duplicate. Most vendors do NOT appreciate having to do this work and rather receive sufficient material to distribute. Send as early as possible so more events are blanketed. ASK how many each vendor thinks they could distribute as the number will vary wildly and they are costly to ship.



Vendor Actions

Many vendors will not agree that vendors are responsible to make an effort to advertise an event, I would have argued against this on past occasions too. The more I see how many poor promoters are out there, the more I feel that vendors should make some effort too to help guarantee their OWN SUCCESS. In life, it’s rare that someone comes running to save us. Each of us is pretty much responsible for our own situation, if you want to change the situation you are in, you are pretty much the only person who can do so. Choosing shows carefully is a start, but almost no matter how carefull you are, some promoters are going to do inadequate advertising. What can you, as a vendor, do to prevent a bad show for yourself in these situations? Obviously afterwards, you can leave bad comments abt their show online and not do it again, but the damage is done. Somehow we as a community need to help every show to be a success. The customers are out there, we just need to get the word out!

ARTIST & CRAFTER BIOs & PRESS RELEASES TO LOCAL MEDIA
One of the most successful methods that I have heard of from numerous folks is: Artists and Crafters creating a press release talking about the themselves, their work, their awards, and their doing some specific event. This press release can then either be sent by the artists themselves directly to local media: papers AND radio & TV, or they can be sent to the promoter with the application for the promoter to mail them many at once to each outlet.

VENDOR's CUSTOMER MAILING LIST
Build your list by putting out a sign that directs customers to your mailing list sign-up book. Announce on it or near your signup that you will send them coupons and event listings that you will be attending. You can even send these 'special, loyal customers' special offers, or coupons only usable at specific shows. Artists report they get more repeat customers that follow them and MORE SALES.

VENDOR SELF PROMOTION / IMAGE MAINTENANCE
Artists and Crafters should have a large sign at their booth stating that they hand make their products, everyone that has tried it reported positive results and even much unexpected surprise from many customers. A photo album of your craftsmanship in progress near your sign would be icing but sadly is critically essential these days. You should have handouts of your upcoming show list available on your table next to your photo album.
* Have customers pick up preorders at shows, they may decide they want something else of yours to go with it, and you get to see them face to face.

UPCOMING EVENTS LIST
* Hand out listings of your upcoming shows to all customers and place on table near the isle. Include a website URL on it, at minimum your CraftLister.com personal page one since it has your Upcoming Show List.
* Have a list of upcoming shows on your website updated live based on your CraftLister.com account and online applications here. See: http://www.craftlister.com/help/link_to_us.php




Posters & Flyers.

Posters in many locations really do work, if put in right places. They MUST pick places for the right people, such as high end clothes stores for cultured craft shows. POSTERS for Events in High-Volume Areas WORK - because they just do!!!! Spend for some quality printing, but not top end. Be clear and specific with wording. Posters Work!

Ask businesses around town if you can put a poster or flyer if you promise to take it down the same day of the show, immediately after the show ends. Record where you post them for removal and to record friendly, likely repeats for subsequent years!

Flyers can be posted at:

     Local banks, markets, convenience stores, grocery stores, doctors offices, hair salons, anywhere I shop, coffee shops, any public bulletin board, college bulletin boards, state welcome center, tourism stops & offices, supermarkets, town halls, schools, churches or other religious organizations, libraries or other places where people congregate, liquor stores, drug stores

Do a flyer swap with another local craft show or two – you each post a flyer mentioning BOTH events. Even better when your mailed advertisements are swapped with other partnered events in this fashion.





Community & Charity Involvement

Send out letters to the area churches, synagogues, and community groups to post on their bulletin boards. If possible, encourage local churches and clubs to set up a fund-raiser booth. This helps their organization/causes and their attendance encourages people they know to attend, and, hopefully, buy.

Community & Charity involvement will get 'word of mouth' advertising flying through the local community. And what Parents, Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents wont stop in to support little Debbie's efforts?? Community or Charity involvement may even help events acquire free advertising on the News, Radio, and Paper!

Create some type of community involvement where there is none. For example, have kids do a car wash at your event for their club/organization/charity.... Get community organizations to run Food or Drink stands to raise funds, or host their own Group Crafts booth.
Sponsorship by a community organization is critical and the organizations don't want to support imports from China either.

Offer to collect for charities & organizations. With approval from the organizations or charities that are doing so, your show can be a drop off location for Can Food, Toys, Clothing, or Monies. Jars with the charity listed on each placed on a centrally located table can be used for money collection while larger buckets or new trash cans can collect larger donated items. Those organizations collecting may help put the word out there for you.

If event appropriate, offer free spots to religious organizations for bake sales, group craft sales, info booth, member hello-meet, etc. Same for: Scouts, local charities, animal shelters, local authors, Again, only if event appropriate, invite groups to perform as event activities. Try: dance schools, martial arts schools, music schools, school bands, scouts, local zoo,




Use Local Resources Geared towards Tourism / Travel / Activities

Many municipalities and even large apartment complexes & gated communities can and WILL add info about whats happening in the area and other notes to water bills, trash bills, electric bills, etc. IF ASKED Also contact local utilities for same with any directly billed customers.

Contacting and working with your local Chambers of Commerce and Tourism will reap benefits. Most have websites with upcoming event lists and some have Tourism Offices where material can be distribuited. All local to-do magazines, tourism booklets, etc. should be contacted.






Promoter Mailing List

Postcards to previous customers is essential. Collect attendees' info with a form or entry cards (complete with phone #s, addresses, and e-mails, where they heard of the event), and after the show compile a mail/e-mail/call list for future shows in that area.

Offer to swap mail/e-mail lists with your vendors. One vendor claims a big mailing list that they send cards to before a show and they swear that promoters try to get them into shows just because they are known for pulling clients into the show to shop.





Newspaper

Send 'Press Releases' to all the local papers. Send them all multiple copies, months in advance, weeks, then days. Be sure to include not only a synopsis and the where/when/what facts for a brief community calendar listing, but also include a full press release or article about your event. The more ‘ready to print’ it is, the better your luck will be! Feature writers are human too, they have never ending deadlines and always need new content, providing them with ready-to-print material is key to seeing your event’s name in print! Send them lots of interesting, detailed info, photos, and call them. They usually like to talk about a band, or a few vendors, rather than just about the whole show in general. Feed them a few unique or quality contacts of local artists that will be at your event!
Also, place ads with and send announcements for the ‘community events calendars’ to about 10-20 local papers!. For any sort of metro area, this is actually even too few! So, if you’re gawking at 10 papers being to many, you are NOT doing sufficient advertising or hitting a large enough area as you should! Some papers may require you to pay for a display ad to also get into their event calendars, but usually they will offer this for free to non-profit organizations if requested timely. Linking to a cause also increases the likelihood a newspaper will run an article.

Promoters should also encourage all artists and crafters to send press releases to area papers. This will almost certainly guarantee some free coverage in some of the papers sent to! Each artist sends a press release to the paper about themselves and how they would be participating in the event. It is important that many artists send information to the paper and that it be in a ready to use form. The more ready to print exactly as is, the more likely they will use it…. Make sure you include wide appeal points, how does it tie in to the community, etc. Having a large number of people contacting the paper with high quality, pertinent information is key, it will automatically make the event seem more important since so many folks are writing/faxing them about it. Since they hear abt it more often, it will be on their mind more also. The contents of their head will be reflected in the paper…

Customers for many successful shows travel from hours around in all directions, some events even relying upon such travelers as their entire customer-base for their show in the middle of a beautiful nowhere. Signs may attract locals and remind locals, but only distant advertising will bring in the out-of-towner....

Coupons work! Time and time again, I'm told that coupons placed in newspapers almost always bring in more in entrance fees than the ads. If that is the case, they are a must! Varying the ad by publication or inserting a tracking code will later help you track ad effectiveness if each ad and ad dollar spent. Newspaper ads with admissions coupons or an extra raffle entry will also increase the chances of someone clipping it out of the paper and placing it on their refrigerator as a reminder.

Be sure to submit your show info to the Calendar Editor. Usually, papers will not take the initiative to put an event in the calendar (even if it's written up several times in the newspaper and advertised in the classifieds or as a display ad), but if submitted as a separate request to have it include in the Calendar, it is more likely to be included. Sometimes they will also follow up and send a reporter, depending on how big and unique the show is..

When advertising, ask for volume on each day of the week, it varies greatly.

Some promoters have said that they tried newspapers, and have found only certain small community papers, under a things to do section, actually bring in any new customers, others said that display ads in papers which cost quite a bit never paid in added customers through the door.




Radio & TV

Send out a press release to every radio and television station, and post on every free news site in the area. A live radio broadcast would be optimal, but that can not always be obtained free of charge. I have had promoters tell me they did get this for free, so be creative and try! Let them know that YOU know that they will enjoy exposure to your large, already expected attendance by their attending and broadcasting live. Get crafters to donate prizes that the station can give away?

Most local television stations have a public announcement spot or a "Public Service Bulletin Board" that they announce upcoming local events going on that week. Normally they just need the information on your event about three to four weeks in advance.

most radio stations' websites have a community events section, and they are usually very good about posting event listings (such as a craft show!).

Many local radio stations will also do "live remotes" from an event if they are asked to do so well in advance of an upcoming public event. Contact them and ask!





Other Ideas

Internet - There are countless free sites to post on, thousands nationally that are utilized highly. Find the sites for your town, county, region, state. Post on chamber of commerce sites, tourism sites, tourist destination (resorts, inns) sites with event lists online, etc. Google, Yahoo, Craig's List, U Tube, Friendster, City Search, AOL, etc.

Some say it's really important for the promoter to invest in listing their events in craft show directories. Publications such as: The Sunshine Artist, The Art & Craft Show Yellow Pages, Crafter's Guide, etc.

Many promoters visit every other local show that they can to promoter their own event.

Fabric and craft stores send quarterly publications, appreciate the ads, and you've made an ally who will help promote the event. Look in your phone book an contact all in your area.

Offer to partner with other local events in advertising - trade handouts, postcards, flyers, posters, even print or media ads. Place their show handouts on your info table at your show, in exchange for your flyer at theirs, etc.





Advertising Refinement

Track ALL ads, ALL monies, and source of EACH customer.

ASK EVERY ENTRANT where they heard of the event and how many are in their party. Record answers for refinement to advertising for future events.

Designate 2 or more greeters with clipboards that ask EVERY gate entrant where they heard about the event. They should stroll or be at main entrance points if there is no gate. It is priceless! If you sell tickets, have the question asked and recorded at that point. Under no circumstance should you neglect this valuable resource. Since you know the cost of each media ad, campaign, gimick, etc. you can brake down each ad source to how much each customer from it cost. In future years, drop the worst and improve upon the best!





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