Festivals are a great way to entertain large crowds, but all festivals must be well promoted to be successful -- whether they feature local artists or world famous musicians or they’re focused around a hobby or common interest. I’m often asked how to promote a festival, and fortunately, there are some easy ways to do it both online and offline.
Before you start thinking about promoting a festival, you need to take a few steps back. Planning a festival takes many months if you want to get it right. Use the Event Planning Checklist so you know what to do and when and be sure to review the common problems in planning an outdoor event. Furthermore, you need to develop a realistic budget that includes all of the pieces of the planning puzzle, including promotion.
Once your timeline and budget are ready, you can develop a marketing plan that will boost ticket sales to your festival. To help you get started, below are some of the most effective ways to promote a festival.
Partner with Local Companies and Sponsors
Sponsors pay you to display their logo in various places before and during the festival, and many of them will want to spread the word to their own audiences that they’re sponsoring the event. Encourage this! It’s free advertising for your festival, so give sponsors the event logo file, a description of the event, photos, and other supporting materials that they can use in their own marketing.
It’s also likely that local companies in the community where the event will be held will want to be involved. Don’t be afraid to approach them and ask if they would be willing to display your signs or flyers in their locations to help spread the word. If necessary, you can barter for services. For example, you could offer to place a small ad for their company in the festival program in exchange for the company displaying the festival signs and other advertising materials around its business location.
Choose the Right Ticketing Company
Make sure you choose a ticketing company that offers a variety of tools in its software to promote the festival to prospective ticket buyers via email and text messages. You also need to be able to invite people who visit your ticket sales page but don’t buy immediately a way to opt-in to receive email reminders about the event. You can do this with AttendStar’s Remind Me feature. Most people don’t buy tickets the first time they visit your ticket sales page, so you need a way to keep them interested and convince them to buy!
Your ticketing company should also offer a way to keep ticket buyers engaged with you and encourage them to spread the word about the festival to the people they know. AttendStar offers this through its Ticket Buyer Buzz feature.
Get Active on Social Media
Social media marketing is critical to your festival’s success. If you don’t already have accounts for your festival on the most popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, create them immediately and start posting useful, meaningful content that your festival’s target audience is likely to be interested in.
Focus on sharing information about performers to get people excited. Also, publish helpful information such as schedules, parking tips, and so on, and don’t forget video content, which is so popular these days! Finally, be sure to create an event hashtag, use it, and encourage other people to use it, too. Here’s how to do it.
The trick to social media marketing success is twofold: 1) getting people to follow you so they have a chance to see your content and 2) generating engagement with them so they’re more likely to share your content with their own followers. This is a powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing! To help you start your social media efforts, be sure to check out the most helpful tips to get more Facebook likes and tips to increase Facebook engagement. And here are 10 killer Facebook marketing ideas to promote your festival.
Hold Contests and Give Promotional Items
Contests are a great way to get people excited about your event. Host a Facebook contest and give away free tickets, backstage passes, a performer meet and greet, or merchandise to the winner. Photo contests work particularly well for festival promotion. Ask people to share a photo of themselves with their favorite album by one of the performers to get an entry into the contest.
You can even ask your sponsors and partners to donate prizes for your contests. It’s a great way for them to get additional publicity while you promote the festival in a way that’s guaranteed to generate buzz that leads to more ticket sales.
Well in advance of the event, invest in a supply of promotional items with the festival logo, venue, and dates printed on them at a minimum. These items can include T-shirts, coolers, coffee mugs, water bottles, hats, and more. The more hands you can get these items into, the more people will see them and learn about your festival! You can also use promotional items as contest prizes.
You should advertise your festival both online and offline. Local advertising is essential, and depending on the performers at your event and how likely they are to draw crowds from further distances, you might want to invest in regional advertising, too.
For online advertising, the key places to start are Facebook and Google AdWords. Make sure your ticketing company makes it easy for you to do ad retargeting, which is far more likely to drive ticket sales than most other forms of advertising.
Invest in Quality Marketing Materials
Don’t try to cut corners when it’s time to create marketing materials, messages, and visuals for your festival. Instead, make sure you understand how to create awesome graphics for your website and all of your promotional materials. From the festival logo to signage, ads, the program, promotional items, publicity materials, and everything in between – quality matters.
People will equate the quality of your festival with the quality of their first impression of it, and that first impression usually comes from one of your marketing materials. If your promotional materials look cheap, fewer people will buy tickets because they’ll think your festival will be equally cheap. In other words, the value of the ticket price (which includes the actual ticket cost and the perceived cost of not doing something else during the hours of your festival) must be equal to or less than the experience people expect to have at your festival or they won’t buy.
Use Email Marketing
Email marketing is one of the most effective promotional tactics as long as you’re sending relevant content to a list of subscribers who have opted in to receive messages from you. Therefore, you should start building your email subscriber list as soon as possible.
Start your festival promotion by emailing people who attended the same festival in the past (if it’s a repeat event), but understand that the key to successful email marketing for events is list segmentation. Once you’ve segmented your list, use these 10 event marketing email messages to sell more tickets to your festival.
Reach out to Influencers and the Media
Who already has the eyes and ears of the target audience who is likely to be interested in your festival? You need to get your festival on their radar screens so they can talk about it with their followers. These people could be from media organizations or they could be bloggers, Youtubers, Instagrammers, and so on. Start by following them on social media, and then reach out with information about your festival asking if they’d like to cover it.
You can also email online influencers and members of the media if you can find their email addresses, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call key people you want to connect with. They might say no, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. If just one says yes, your festival ticket sales could skyrocket!
Your Next Steps
The most successful festivals are those that give visitors an experience they cannot get anywhere else. You can bring them into that experience long before the festival starts through your promotional efforts (here are even more festival promotional opportunities you don’t want to miss).
Marketing materials, social media conversations, and contests can boost excitement, bring the festival experience to the fans, and increase ticket sales, but you should start months in advance of the festival to ensure it’s as successful as possible.