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Matthew DiRoberto, December 5 2018

Marketing Events in 2019

I have been marketing and selling sponsorships to events for the last 18 years.  As a matter of fact, my very first sale ever was to Jaguar as a sponsor of the Newbury Street Stroll back in 2000.  For some reason I've always gravitated towards events.  I like the fact that you can create an outdoor or indoor experience where people are excited to come and spend the day with your event.  Coming from the media world we were always involved with events.  Whether it be partnering and selling sponsorships, helping them sell tickets through marketing, or creating our own events from scratch.  Events have become traditional experiences for people attending them and I feel like there are no shortage of events happening or popping up from year to year. 

I think hands down the marketing of events has changed over the last 5- 10 years and even in the last couple of years.  Traditional media was always a very strong part of an events success in the past.  I think it plays less of a role today than it ever has though.  It's still great to be able to have TV commercials, radio commercials and outdoor to help to build your brand.  If you want an event to have longevity and a brand all of those mediums play a key role.  But if you want to sell tickets, you have so many more digital resources at your fingertips.  When I am talking digital I am not talking about programatic digital or straight banner ads.  Other retargeting from your own website can be useful.   As an event owner you want to be thinking about a bunch of things as it relates to your digital strategy.  What's your reputation management strategy?  How are you going to leverage SEO for your particular event?  What type of partnerships make sense for you to extend your reach?  What does your event's online identity look like today?   What do you want it to look like?  How are you using social media?  What social media platforms are you using?  How are you curating content for it?  How are you tagging content etc. etc. etc.  There are so many things you can do now digitally that marketing events today looks very different than it used too.  

I hope to have posts or content around all of the aforementioned questions but I'd like to focus this post on one specific medium and that's Facebook advertising.  If you follow podcasts like Gary Vee, the Perpetual Traffic, The Marketing School, and others, you are hearing a lot about the successes on Facebook.  If you are not up to date on what's happening with Facebook advertising you are probably not aware of this very powerful asset.  I've been advertising on Facebook for about 8 years or so for businesses that I created or for clients that I work with.  It wasn't until this year that I finally felt like it is living up to its hype.  For my event last year I used Facebook and unfortunately my pixel was set up incorrectly so I wasn't taking advantage of Facebook's potential.  That being said I was able to return 3:1 on my Facebook spend which was tracked through Google analytics which I was very happy with.  This year I was determined to get it right and make sure I was harnessing the power of it.  If you have been in advertising for any amount of time the challenge with it is whats the ROI?  Clients would always ask this, right?  Because If they have a positive return on investment they will keep spending money with you.  Traditional media more now than ever has an issue with this question.  They will never be able to definitely say that if you spend $100,000 in radio advertising you will return $200,000 in sales.  That's not to say that it doesn't work, its just really hard to track.  There are ways you can track it though which I will talk about another time.  But I digress....  So answering what the return on investment is in a traditional media play, is not easy to do.  In comes digital and everything you do is trackable and accountable.  Imagine being able to understand exactly where your dollars are being spent, where they are working and where they are not.  It's really exciting seeing returns of 5:1, 6:1 and on one ad I had a 8.9:1 return.  If you had those returns you would keep upping the advertising budget right?  This is the reality with Facebook today.  It will probably not always be like this as today it is currently underpriced based.  Much like Google was 10 years ago.  

Take a look at the screen shot below.  In this particular ad set I was running 6 different pieces of creative.  You never know which one is going to resonate best with the audience so you have to keep trying different creative.   You can see in the bottom right hand side of the chart that my blended ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) was 6.91.  That means that for every dollar I was spending I was getting almost $7 in return.  Pretty awesome right?

So how do you get to this point?  Unfortunately Facebook advertising isn't so easy to use anymore.  It never actually was.  There is a learning curve to putting campaigns together and there are a ton of resources out there to help you.  I will try to keep what I did simple for you.  I started out planning the funnel of my campaign.  This is a good step to do because it puts you in the consumers shoe.  It helps you to think about what they are thinking about and gives you a better understanding of what could work.  What I have noticed a lot of advertisers doing is that they market a discount to cold traffic.  Basically the first ad people see is a discount.  Typically that does not convert very well because the consumer doesn't even know about your event.  Why would they buy a ticket if this is the first time they are hearing about it.  It is analogous to dating.  You wouldn't try to marry a person on the first date.  You would have many interactions before doing that.  Google and Amazon advertising platforms are intent based platforms.  People are using them because they are about to buy something (Amazon, "closest to the sale") or they are researching what they are interested in buying (Google).  Facebook is a more passive platform as people are not going there to buy something.  You need to leverage that attention to get them interested which takes a few steps.   I separated this funnel into 3 sections.

1.)   Branding

2.)   Retargeting

3.)  Conversions

Branding started a month before the event.  This event happens to be a very seasonal event so as it gets close to the season people become more interested in it.  My goal was to find as many people interested in the event beforehand so we could convert them when they were ready to buy.  

The power for me with Facebook is with custom audiences.  This is where you can really target your end consumer and serve the right ad to the right person at the right time.  I uploaded my 2016 and 2017 past sales email list into Facebook.  Then I created a look alike audience of 1% off of those people.  That means Facebook is looking at all the people that bought tickets in the past and will find the top 1% of people that look like those that bought tickets.  At this point all I wanted to do was serve up an ad to them to get "video views".  I knew from past experience that a video ad would work much better than static images.  So I showed a video ad and below were the results from that.

The important thing to see here is that we were able to get 24,599 people to view the ad for longer than :10.  These are the people we will retarget in the next phase of the campaign.  There are other major benefits to running an ad before your event starts as well.  You start to develop what I like to call "social proof".  People are sharing it commenting on it and engaging with it.  The ad becomes much more credible and so does your business.  You can see below that it received 1,800 shares and almost 1,000 comments.  

Also you start to see what people are saying about the event.  Take a look at the comment feed as well.

People are tagging their friends, talking about the event, making plans to go etc.  This is also where you can start to see if there is any negative feelings out there in the marketplace that you might need to fix.  This is all very validating on all fronts.  

The next step is to retarget these folks who viewed the ad :10 or longer with the custom audience of people who watched 50% or more of the video.  These people were obviously interested as they watched your ad.  So lets serve up another ad but this time I used a carousel ad to mix it up.  If I had more time I would have added in another video ad as well to compare the results.  I think that another video ad would be very effective.  The goal of this campaigns was to get traffic to our website.  Keep in mind that although both of these steps are not meant to convert, I was still getting people to buy tickets. The Branding campaign converted at a 1.2:1 and the retargeting campaign was converting at a .86:1.  These first two phases exist so I can lead them into the bottom of the funnel which is my conversion stage.

The carousel ad got 452 people to click through to the website.  These are people who viewed my video, viewed my ad and clicked on it.  We are getting them closer to the sale.  Lastly comes the conversion step.  This is where we optimize for "conversions".  I served up 6 different ads and set up my audience as you see below.

We were targeting people who have visited the website and people following our Facebook page and excluded purchasers so we could cut down on wasted impressions.  This conversion campaign is what generated a 6.9:1 return on ad spend and has changed the way I think about using Facebook for ecommerce.    

People go to Google and Amazon because they are interested in buying now.  People don't go to Facebook with the same intent.  So you need to familiarize the audience and move them down the funnel strategically.  It can generate great results and become your main advertising vehicle.  If you are not using Facebook to sell tickets to your events today you should be.  If you are and its not working you need to rethink your strategy.  

Good luck!


Written by

Matthew DiRoberto


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