5 ways to make extra money from your event

money_wallet 8.23.11

In these belt-tightened times, it behooves the savvy event holder to look for ways to add to the topline.  Selling tickets to your event is only the beginning.  Here are five proven ways to bring in additional income from your event.

1. Sell sponsorships

Selling sponsorships is the most popular method eventholders rely on to generate additional income from their events.  Sponsorship deals are also the most mis-executed.  Where eventholders generally go wrong with sponsorships is they fail to provide prospective sponsors with the level of detail and specificity in advance of the event that they are going to need to properly evaluate results after the event.  While it may be difficult for an event sponsor to pin down their ROI, whatever means the eventholder gives them to measure results will be greatly appreciated.  This can make the difference between engaging a sponsor and not, or between having a sponsor who’ll come back next year and one who won’t.  While the ways in which eventholders give visibility to sponsors will vary from event to event, it’s important to describe the benefits of sponsorship in terms of cost for the visibility they will receive, in other words, CPM.  If you expect that a banner placed in a venue will be seen by forty-thousand people, then say that.  If you will be sending an email invitation with a sponsor logo to ten-thousand people, then say that.  Those kinds of details empower the prospective sponsor to justify the expense within a marketing mix that includes other initiatives whose ROI may be more readily measured.

2. Facilitate commerce between parties

Business events bring people together who have at least some expectation of doing business with each other.  In that context, it’s not inappropriate for the eventholder to take a more “active” role in referring customers to businesses who want them and who are willing to pay a bounty to get them.  You’d be surprised how well received this kind of activity can be, since it may save people the trouble of having to find each other by chance through networking during the event.  As the event organizer, you are in a position to know not only who’s attending your event but also what business goals they may have.  Use the Eventbrite custom survey tool to collect additional information from your attendees when they register.  Then use the Eventbrite post-event attendee messaging tool to deliver targeted offers to the people who’ll be most interested in receiving them.  The messaging tool allows for full HTML, so it’s easy to add banners and links with your affiliate referral codes, etc.

3. Put ads on your event website

Because so much of your event promotion happens online these days, events can generate considerable online traffic.  There are all kinds of good reasons to put up a website for your event.  Among them, the ability to monetize the traffic your event site may receive before, during and after the event should be top of mind.  Of course the primary “job” of the event website is to support the event, to provide all the information prospective attendees may need to make a decision, to describe the event program in full detail, to publish speaker bios, etc.  But, with little interference to that primary goal, you can easily turn your event website into a source of revenue with a few well-placed and thoughtfully-chosen ads.  Work with companies who have products or services to offer that are relevant to your event and likely to be of interest to those attending.  “Online-only” sponsorship packages that are put together like ad buys also allow you to engage companies as advertisers who might not have been as interested in being sponsors.  If you don’t have the time or energy to sell ad space on your event site, you should consider contextual advertising options, like Google Adsense, that make it easy to display and monetize relevant ads.

4. Sell premium attendee experiences

Most eventholders who create “premium” or “VIP” options for attendees do so by bundling and discounting.  For example, in a multi-day conference that has multiple workshops, they may offer a package of 3 workshops for something less than the combined cost of the three workshops if purchased separately.  While this may boost overall attendance, it generally does not lift event revenue.  At least this approach does not create incremental event revenue, which is the goal here.  Try, instead, to create special experiences during your event for which some of your general attendees will be willing to pay extra.  To apply an airline metaphor, think “first class”, versus two-for-one coach.  An obvious example is the event ticket that also includes admission to the after-party.  While bundling food and booze may drive sales of these premium tickets, you have to be careful of the costs incurred by providing these extras, as they can rapidly erode (or even completely eliminate) your profit.  Better ideas are experiences that don’t cost you (the eventholder) anything, but have clear value to the attendee.  An example would be offering a limited capacity workshop with one of the featured speakers from your event, with lots of additional 1-on-1 time and a more exhaustive program than was presented during the general event.  You can also work with sponsors to offer special event attendee experiences like a tour of their facilities.  Most event sponsors would be delighted to welcome a limited number of VIP attendees and provide refreshments, in exchange for the opportunity to engage with them on their own turf.  Win-win.

5. Sell merchandise

As the bloated bags of schwag after many events can attest, people like to come home from events with stuff.  For the most part, these giveaway items wind up in the trash a few days later (along with the promotional hopes of the schwag sponsors).  A better way to capitalize on this desire is to sell merchandise before and during the event.  This approach works especially well if your event supports a business that already sells things.  You can use the event as an opportunity to better familiarize prospective customers with your offerings and incent them to buy on the spot with discounts or special deals available only at the event.  Another idea is to use Eventbrite ticket types to create attendance options that include merchandise.  This method works very well, as it allows you to sell merchandise to your attendees at the moment they are deciding to attend the event.  Authors and Eventbrite customers, Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin have used this tactic to sell books and create revenue from an otherwise free-to-attend event.

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Vice President of Marketing at Eventbrite. Interested in all things social media, especially the social part.

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