The 2022 Guide to Marketing for Events Without a Big Budget
Marketing for Events
by Lu, OTL City Guides & Seat Fillers
Unless you’ve got the hottest act to hit the stage this year (and sometimes even then), marketing for events can be difficult. So, it’s essential to have a good strategy in place. And, a plan doesn’t have to go hand in hand with a generous budget.
Smaller theatres, show venues, and newer events might be operating on a shoestring. But that’s ok, as marketing for events doesn’t have to be challenging or expensive. Some simple strategies can yield excellent results with minimal work, and no budget is too small. Plus, the process can stretch your creativity and be a lot of fun!
So, I will share five ideas for fun and engaging marketing that’ll position you for a full house!
A Plan Within a Plan
I’ll get to the five ideas in just a moment. However, I want to start by introducing an approach that some of the best marketing experts recommend when marketing for events.
The key to marketing an event is thinking of it as a marketing campaign rather than a standalone activity. Even if it’s a one-night-only performance or a limited run that’s a part of the season, shine the spotlight on it with a customized plan.
Keep that tactic in mind as I share these five tips for marketing your next event. You might have an entire marketing plan in place for your venue or organization that includes this and all events. That’s great, and you should draw upon that information. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all plan and tweak it a bit here and there for every new show or event.
Five Ideas You Can Implement Now When Marketing for Events
These days, most event marketing blogs tend to focus on an online strategy, including social media, SEO, and Google or Microsoft ads. But I'm taking a different approach. Yes, you should incorporate as much social media and online exposure as possible, but they're just part of the picture.
1. Create a Themed Microsite For the Upcoming Event
A microsite is a standalone one-page website or a dedicated landing page on your primary site. The name of the site or page corresponds to what you’re promoting. So, if Sleeping Beauty is coming up, your landing page will be /sleeping-beauty.
The microsite provides plenty of space to go Sleeping Beauty crazy. You can immerse visitors in the play through your choice of colors, imagery, and fonts. Performance dates and times are front and center, so ticket buyers don’t need to sift and sort through other pages. And a one-click purchase link would also help to close the deal.
That landing page or microsite could also include official marketing assets, such as images, social media channels, press releases, and contact information.
2. Go Old School and Unexpected
Develop marketing assets such as posters or flyers. Posters can be distributed around town or campus before the marketing campaign officially launches, and leaflets can be handed out during marketing campaigns.
This type of old-school marketing for events is more advantageous now that most promotion is online. It’ll be unexpected to see a big poster hanging in the coffee shop or Sleeping Beauty handing out flyers on the corner.
You could even take things to the next level with something truly out of the ordinary. As you can see, I’m sticking with Sleeping Beauty as my go-to event. So, set up an apple stand or a photo booth for pictures with Prince Charming.
3. A Fun Contest
You don’t need to spend money to run a successful contest. After all, you’ve got the prizes already built-in when you’re marketing for events – the tickets!
Focus on YOUR Event
Combine your online and offline efforts for a fun ticket giveaway. Be creative, though. There are plenty of Amazon card giveaways. You’ve got the beauty of something special to promote – the subject of your show, event, or activity!
I’m going all-in on Sleeping Beauty. So how about a kids' coloring contest? Or submit an unusual “sleeping” picture or video. Maybe open up a video audition so the winner will be on stage in costume on opening night? You could get quite a bit of traction on your site or YouTube channel with the submissions.
In addition to posting on social media and your website, don’t forget a press release, as local media outlets might share the love.
4. Take Advantage of Freebies
When tasked with marketing for events, we tend to default to a standard formula – post on social media, add the show to our site’s performance list, and email our patron list. That’s all great and should be the starting point for any event marketing campaign.
But there are other promotional resources at your fingertips and ways to shake up your standard social media posts.
Post to Event Calendars
I’m not just talking about the one event calendar you might update with every new performance. Go crazy putting your event everywhere.
Local newspapers have community calendars, as do other media outlets in your city. Patch.com is an excellent resource across the US with calendars and additional advertising and promotion opportunities. At OTL, we partner with Evvnt on national and local event calendars that you can add to anytime.
Arts and Entertainment Writers
If you’re consistently marketing for events, it’s wise to develop a relationship with your community’s arts and entertainment reporters. Keep them posted on new shows and your promotional efforts like contests.
If you’re in the arts and entertainment field, video is a great fit. Not only can you post clips from actual performances, but what about the fun bloopers during rehearsals?
You can have a lot of fun being creative with your videos. They can help promote your shows, contests, and your venue in general. Unless you’ve got an A/V technician in place who’s taking care of YouTube content, I highly recommend Lumen5. It’s the ideal platform for beginners.
There’s an option to upload your own photos or video clips or draw from an extensive library in the dashboard. The really cool thing is that Lumen5 will take a blog post (like one promoting your show) and turn it into a video without you having to do anything but push a button. And, no, I don’t get anything for promoting the service – I just use it and like it!
Additional Ticket Sales Outlets
With so many options for social media and ticket sales these days, it’s best to spread yourself around as much as possible. Even if you have an in-house ticketing system, it never hurts to use other portals.
Not only do you get the benefit of more eyes on your event, but you might find some additional features that your in-house system is missing. For example, we’re OTL Seat Fillers and don’t sell tickets. But, we recognized that some of our partners could use a ticketing system as well as seat filling.
So, in addition to partnering with Evvnt on event calendars, we make their new ticketing portals available to event promoters on OTL City Guides Tickets. Our system isn’t part of a marketplace yet (like Eventbrite). But it gives you touchless ticketing tools that you might not be using, like on-site ticket scanning or tickets by text.
5. Seat Fillers for More Than Filling Seats
It’s always wise to have a plan B (and C, D, and E) when marketing for events. So, if you’re a week away and don’t see how a sell-out is possible, you can always turn to local seat filling provided by OTL Seat Fillers.
We’re a partner of the arts and entertainment communities in the US and UK and are standing by to “privately” post your event. You provide the number of comp tickets you’d like to issue, and we compile a reservation list. But we don’t publicize you because we don’t want to impact your regular ticket sales.
It’s kind of like a reverse event marketing approach, but it works for a few reasons.
- No cost
- It’s accurate – as you receive a Will Call list
- You decide how many seats you need to be filled and for what days
- As it’s private, your regular ticket sales aren’t impacted
- More audience members = more food, beverage, and merchandise sales
- You can ask seat fillers to sign in when picking up tickets to help build your marketing list
Free Event Marketing Tools
I’ve mentioned a few specific resources in my five marketing for event tips. But I thought I’d put together a list to give you a jump start on your new promotional plans.
Patch – online community news outlet for event postings, articles, etc.
Event Calendars by Evvnt – post your event on national and local online calendars
Wordtune – AI technology that’ll rewrite your promotional copy
Brown Paper Tickets – ticketing marketplace
OTL City Guides Tickets – touchless ticketing tools (sell, send, scan)
Eventbrite – ticketing marketplace
OTL Seat Fillers – seat filling for local events
Not Quite Free Event Marketing Tools
The following are a few additional resources that you might find handy when marketing for events. They’re not free but relatively affordable (in the $10-$20 range per month).
PicMonkey – create amazing ads, flyers, and other graphics, plus you get access to the Shutterstock library
RafflePress – an online tool to manage the entire raffle or contest process (super easy to use!)
Lumen5 – video creator and another easy to use tool (great for beginners)
More Marketing for Events Ideas
If you’re new to OTL, we’re a family-run membership club with OTL Seat Fillers and our sister site, OTL City Guides. We provide free seat filling services for local shows, events, and activities. In turn, our club members have the privilege of enjoying top-notch entertainment without the worry of ticket costs.
OTL City Guides is the place to go for “things to do” and “things to learn.” We share event calendars, dining ideas, and all kinds of tips and tricks like baking bread at home or 100 things to do when you’re bored. I guess you could call us an online resource for offline activities.
We also focus on information for event promoters and marketers, with an event marketing blog and promoter’s hub. I love to share resources and things that I learn along the way, as I started as a grassroots events marketer years ago (I won’t say how many). But I’ve had to pick up new skills along the way, like building websites and learning new online marketing techniques.
I don’t really gravitate to social media (yes, old school). However, there are plenty of resources for social media tips. So, I hope you’ll return to check out new ideas and services for marketing for events, like partnership marketing. And if you need seat filling at any time, head to the event submission form. Once we have your information, we’ll take care of the rest.
Our goal with OTL Seat Fillers is to get more people to unplug and enjoy live entertainment. So, we wish you massive success with your next show or event!
More Information and Resources Through OTL City Guides & Seat Fillers
Marketing for Events FAQs
It's not necessary to have a big budget for event marketing, and you don't need to default to social media either. Some of the newer event marketing trends include contests for tickets, video-based emails, and local seat filling through OTLSeatFillers.com.
When you turn to online marketing for shows and events, it's best to expand your presence. Instead of sticking to one or two social media channels, set up new accounts and strive for five or six. Other effective tactics include event calendar postings, posting promo videos or blooper reels, setting up a microsite, and providing content for community websites like Patch.com.
While most event marketers tend to stick to online tools, there are quite a few unique ideas you can turn to, so you sell more tickets. A few of the most successful tactics include taking it to the streets. For example, if you're promoting a play, set up a photo booth or giveaway with some of your main characters. You could set up contests for tickets, hold an open house, or try partnership marketing.