With the average consumer now exposed to about 4,000 ads a day, people are getting better and better at tuning out advertising. Event brands need new ways to get the attention of potential ticket-buyers — both brand-new audiences and people who’ve already heard of your event.
Thanks to the rise of social media and other new technology tools, one of the oldest types of marketing is more powerful than ever before: word of mouth. Our friends are experts on what we like, and we trust their advice implicitly. Liam Negus-Fancey is co-founder of Verve, a word-of-mouth sales tool specifically for events. He puts it this way: “When you recommend something to a friend, it’s typically going to add value to their life.”
As an event creator, of course, you’re not just trying to get the word out. Your goal is to sell more tickets. So how to turn trustworthy peer recommendations into real ticket sales?
Today, word of mouth looks like this: Find the passionate advocates within your existing customer base, and give them the tools and motivation to help sell tickets. Here’s how to convert them into brand ambassadors armed to sell.
1. Recruit the right fans
The first step to taking advantage of peer-to-peer endorsements? Find the fans likely to do a knockout job of spreading the word about your event.
First, set up a dedicated recruitment page (Verve can help you do this). This page is a tool that your “brand ambassadors” can send their friends to when they’re ready to buy tickets. You can track the ticket sales that come in through each page to measure how well each brand ambassador is performing.
To attract everyday influencers from your existing fan base to this page, use social media and email. You could also take a tactical approach with tools that help you actively search out influencers. SocialRank and Scrunch, for instance, identify the most persuasive advocates from among your existing fans. Then, contact them directly.
2. Entice them with relevant rewards
Your newfound brand ambassadors are excited to share an event they love. But how to motivate them to help you actually sell tickets? Create a customized rewards programs to motivate your fans with things they really care about.
At Verve, they use personas to figure out just what those things are. For instance:
- The Apprentice: A brand ambassador who wants to break into the industry your event represents— be it music, or business, or the arts. They love access to things like focus groups and the ability to get backstage.
- The Enthusiast: These people are coming to your hip-hop festival because they love hip-hop. They’re motivated by their appreciation of the industry and want to share what they find out with like-minded friends. Give them an insider hip-hop workshop at your festival, for instance.
- The Socializer: These fun folks sign up for events to have a good time with friends. Give them rewards that supply them with even more opportunities to do so — like after-party access.
Sure, you could motivate with money, but that tactic can backfire with word-of-mouth marketing. Think about which recommendation you’d trust more: a friend who gets cash when you buy a ticket, or one who gets an elevated event experience. With the latter, you know that your friend really loves that event, so you can trust the recommendation.
3. Make it highly personal
At its essence, Negus-Fancey sees event marketing as an opportunity to tell a story: “People go to events and come out with so much personal content. When they talk to a friend who’s never been before, it makes the conversation so much more authentic and real.”
It’s the personal experience that makes the recommendation of peers so valuable. Capitalize on that with a rewards program that encourages your brand ambassadors to share with friends individually. Instead of simply giving them a promo code to blast across their social media channels, give them the tools to have one-on-one conversations with friends.
One way to do this is to set up multiple options on the recruitment page so that your brand ambassadors can recommend specific experiences to specific friends: a full-festival pass to one enthusiast, a one-day VIP pass to another.
Negus-Fancey calls this a “consultative approach.” Your brand ambassadors become trusted event consultants for their friends.
4. Give them the resources they need to succeed
The personal approach should extend to the relationships you cultivate with your brand ambassadors, as well. Verve, for instance, assigns every event a dedicated community manager who on-boards and motivates brand ambassadors. These liaisons conduct initial training and answer any questions that come up along the way.
This type of hyper-personalized, human-enabled service is refreshing in our increasingly automated world. But it’s also necessary for an effective peer-to-peer marketing campaign. The personal touch, says Negus-Fauncey, “allows brands to access people in a way they never have before, in a way that’s truly authentic to their core.”
Negus-Fancey has seen technology enabled word of mouth work well for reaching new fans and converting those on the fence. One client, the UK’s We Are FSTVL, has used Verve to grow from selling around 800 tickets a year to selling over 9,000. Verve itself has helped sell more than 500,000 event tickets to date.
Word-of-mouth marketing is a symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone: you, the advocate, and the friend who gets turned on to an awesome new experience. For more information about how to use tools to take advantage of influencer marketing for events, download our free ebook.