Modern-Day Event Marketing

Josie Leavitt -- August 22nd, 2013

When we opened the bookstore 17 years ago, most event marketing took place in the newspaper or on the occasional radio spot. Most customers did not have active email accounts yet, and no one had a smart phone. Oh, how things have changed.┬áToday’s event marketing looks more like an exercise in using every available form of social media and working to reach customers where they live: on their mobile device. As an aside, we’ve had more customers give their cell phone as their primary contact phone number for special order calls, and lately folk have been asking if we can text them about their book.

Promoting an event today is a much fluid thing than it was in 1996. Yes, papers still have deadlines, but the online world makes things easier. Here’s a sampling of what we do for an event.

- The first thing we do once an event is confirmed is put it on our store’s website. In doing this we get the following things from the publisher: author photo, book cover and a press release, if they have one. This is the cornerstone of the marketing as it really allows us to say as much as we’d like about the event. We put in reviews of the book, links to the author’s other books (all links lead right back to our website), and photos, etc. ┬áPlus, it allows for easy cutting and pasting into other marketing tools.

- The second thing we do is write a press release. If the publisher was able to provide one, then we’ll edit that to suit our needs. I will say that editing is so much easier than crafting from scratch, but I understand if publishers don’t have press releases. We then email all the local papers, TV stations and our public radio a copy of the press release, the book cover and the author photo. In a perfect world we’ll email these five to six weeks before the event.

- Thirdly, we do calendar listings with all the media outlets we sent press releases. It’s often the case that press releases never get sent on to the calendar listing folks, so it’s always a good idea to just fill out the calendar listing page on their website.

The following things we do, but in no particular order:

- Create a Facebook event page for the event. The timing of this can be tricky. Every time you add an event on Facebook, it let’s all the people who’ve “liked” your store know that you’ve just added an event. This is only a problem if you’re bulk-adding events because then each event listing dilutes the previous one. So, I try to add one event a day. Then, about a week before the event, I’ll invite folks to come to the event.

- Update the store’s Facebook status to reflect the confirmed event and then change status to remind folks about it. Never underestimate the power of the same-day status update to drive folks to the store. Spontaneous people are often able to respond to event listings on the same day of the event.

- Generate a QR code that leads to our event’s page on your website, or our Facebook event page, and put that on all in-store flyers and posters about the event. I never really thought people scanned those QR codes, but they do. I’ve seen folks do it every day at store. It’s just another way of leading customers back to your store with the event.

- Tweet about the event. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Twitter. I don’t really understand it and I wonder how people can see my tweet if their feed is constantly going. But some people swear by the power of Twitter, so we tweet. In a perfect world we’d do a teaser tweet when we booked the event and then maybe a weekly reminder tweet until the days before the event and then daily tweets. Tweet the day of the event, repeatedly. Just like Facebook updates, tweets can hit someone at just the right time to make them decide to come to the event.

- Creating and sending out an email blast is vital for any event. All the email programs now allow you to create something that looks good being read on a phone. The timing of this varies according to your store. We like to see the blast go out the week of an event. If it’s more than a week out, folks tend to forget about it, if it’s a day away, it’s too close. Five days from the event is a good time for the blast to land.

- Lastly, don’t forget the best advertising of all: word of mouth. Chat up any and all events at the bookstore. Have a display set up by the register with flyers customers can take home, and tell everyone on staff to talk about the event. I’ve had more customers come to an event because we were excited about it and made a big deal of it.

Event/promo readers, how do you use the internet to help you promote events?

4 thoughts on “Modern-Day Event Marketing

  1. David LaRochelle

    Great ideas, Josie! This may seem obvious, but be sure that the author/illustrator puts the event on his/her Facebook page as well. The Red Balloon Bookstore here in St. Paul makes an electronic invitation that they send to me, and then I can forward it to all my contacts whenever I am going to do a book signing at their story. It’s very effective.

  2. Carol Chittenden

    This is brilliant. Thank you! I’m always stupefied by the turnout for your events, and now I see a few secrets we hadn’t yet discovered. Question: do you use your customer tracking at all to target your event marketing?

    1. Josie Leavitt Post author

      Hi Carol,
      The extent of our customer tracking is just asking folks how they heard about the event. It’s fairly low tech, but it’s always surprising to hear what folks say.
      Josie

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