There’s no denying: putting on an event is stressful. Whether you’re hosting a conference to recruit new customers or a festival to spread awareness about your cause, you have a budget to balance, target numbers to hit, and people counting on you to succeed. 

Don’t get overwhelmed by your to-do list. As you’re laying the groundwork for your event, there are four steps that should be your top priority — everything else can wait.

Here are the first four steps you should take to chart the course of your event — before you start selling tickets.

1. Define what success looks like

Different marketing tactics drive different results. For instance, you may use social media to drive brand awareness but rely on an email newsletter to drive actual ticket sales.

Set a clear goal for each tactic you’re using so you can track the right results. A goal also keeps you and your staff focused on what’s most important — especially when things get crazy (as if things aren’t always crazy).

To make the most impact, your goal should be SMART:

  • Specific, so you can act on it
  • Measurable, so you can benchmark your performance against it
  • Achievable, so you stay motivated to hit it
  • Relevant, so it contributes to your business in a productive way
  • Time-bound, so you maximize your resources in the time allowed

A smart goal might look like increasing ticket sales by 10% year-over-year by leveraging new paid marketing channels, like Instagram and Google advertising.

Don’t assume you’ll get your marketing strategy right the first time to hit your goals. Instead, benchmark your progress toward a goal and adjust your plan as you go.

2. Outline your budget

As the saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money.” But that doesn’t mean you need a bottomless wallet to hit your goals.

To estimate your marketing budget for an event, you need to take into account the revenue you expect to make and the larger fixed costs that your revenue needs to cover.

You can estimate your revenue and larger fixed costs based on your:

  • Ticket and sponsorship revenue goals
  • Other major expenses, like your venue, entertainment, on-site rentals, and catering

Don’t know where to start? Ask yourself these five questions to estimate your marketing budget based on your goals and available resources. Keep in mind your answers to these questions are directional only and should be adjusted as you refine your strategy over time.

3. Visualize your sales lifecycle

Unless you’re hosting an event that’s famous nation-wide, you probably won’t sell out in one day. Instead, you’re going to experience peaks and lulls in your sales, and it’s important to know how to sell tickets during each.

Event creators using Eventbrite typically see a spike at on-sale and another immediately before their event. But the weeks in between don’t have to be silent. By understanding who’s buying when, you can offer the right incentives at each stage — to maintain momentum and sell out your event.

Every sales cycle is slightly different. To better understand your own, take a look at ticket sales for your past events. Do you see distinct peaks and lulls? When did your highest value attendees buy tickets, and did any redeem discounts?

Answers to these questions will help you develop a promotions strategy unique to each stage, so you maximize sales throughout your on-sale period.

4. Price to maximize your bottom line — and attendee excitement

Guessing the price of a dishwasher on “The Price is Right” is hard, but setting the right price for your event is even harder. Price too high, and you lose on-the-fence buyers. Price too low, and you lose out on potential revenue. Offering that perfect baseline price can drive ticket demand and leave attendees smiling. So how do you hit that “just right” sweet spot?

Many organizers price their event somewhere above their costs, while others look at similar events in the area and default to competitive prices. But these organizers aren’t considering the most critical element to a successful pricing strategy — their attendees.

The best way to get ticket buyers to put down their credit cards? Price your event at the level they’re willing to pay — a strategy called value-based pricing. If your attendees’ perceived value of your event is higher than your ticket price, then they’ll decide to purchase — and walk away feeling like they got a deal. If your cost per ticket is lower than that ticket price, you’ll make a profit, too.

Check out our ebook on value-based pricing for more on how to calculate the perceived value of your event and price your tickets with that in mind.

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