When it comes to promoting events, our friends at Eventbrite are the best in the game. So we teamed up with them to create an in-depth webinar full of helpful tips for using email marketing to fill seats faster than ever. We learned a lot - and we think you will too!
Mike: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining Beyond the Basics, Email Marketing for Events. My name is Mike Schiff, and I work on the product marketing team at Eventbrite. I help our organizers learn how to use our platform to host and promote their events, especially when using integrations such as the one with Emma.
Today, joining myself is Cynthia Price, Director of Marketing at Emma, provider of email marketing software and services that help organizations of all sizes get more from their marketing. Hi, Cynthia. Thanks so much for being here today. We’re super excited for you to share your expertise in email marketing with this community.
Cynthia: Thanks for having us. We are excited to be here. We’ve got a lot of good stuff in store for today. So we’ll try and make our way through it quickly.
Mike: Great. Thanks, Cynthia. I’ll give you a quick rundown on what we plan to cover today, so you know you’re in the right place. Today is all about how you can use email marketing to booster ticket sales or registrations and further engage with your attendees.
We’re gonna first talk about the life cycle of an event ticket sale. This is a trend we see across industries and event types, and while it’s very normal, it can cause a lot of stress on event marketers. Then we’ll talk about why email marketing is one of your most effective tools to come back low ticket sales and to connect with your audience. Speaking of your audience, we’ll then discuss how you can grow your potential attendees and expand the reach of your events through email.
After we’ve talked about why using email marketing is smart for events and how to maintain healthy email lists, we’ll go over some best practices for creating event emails. And then in order to back these best practices up, Cynthia will show you a case study of how Emma used email marketing to sell out their annual conference Marketing United.
And then finally we’ll show you a few more examples of other events that are doing email marketing really well. And at the very end we’ll break at the end for questions so you can feel free to ask questions over the chat, online chat as they come up and we may be able to answer them as we go or we can just talk about that at the end.
Many of you probably signed up for this session because you’re looking for better or new ways to increase attendance. Maybe you’re in the middle of planning an event right now and your ticket sales haven’t really taken off. Well, you’re not alone. We recently looked at a segment of some of our most successful events over time and these were events of all shapes and sizes in different categories. And what we discovered was that a majority of events actually see about half or 50% of their sales happen in the last week leading up to the event. For many of you, this probably isn’t a surprise and you’ve seen it happen to your own event.
So this is a chart of some of the analysis that we did on ticket sales by week for the three months leading up to the event, so we analyzed. This is an average and every event has ticket sales open at different times. But no matter when your ticket sales start, it actually follows the same pattern and you’ll see why in a second. And the chart always looks the same. Human behavior, when it comes to ticket sales, is actually incredibly predictable.
And the reason for that is there’s always the leaders, there’s always those people that will be first in line to purchase your tickets. Depending on your event, these can be your super fans, your early adopters, your most loyal customers. These buyers tend to be people who take charge and bring out their groups of friends, colleagues or peers to their events, and they enjoy bringing people together to live experiences. And they tend to be very connected and know about the events they want to attend early.
But then there is the trough of death. It’s a depressing name and that’s because this is the time when you as an organizer have the most stress. You’re probably staying up late, not able to sleep as you’re worrying about your ticket sales because you want your event to be really successful. But then without fail, most of the time in the last week before the event, the procrastinators arrive and your ticket sales finally pick up.
But that’s not an ideal situation for you as an event organizer, you may need access to cash earlier on in the planning process, you wanna build momentum for your event earlier to get people excited, and you just wanna simply be able to sleep at night with confidence knowing that your event is going to do well.
So the challenge that is presented here is how do you smooth out that curve, how do you get the procrastinators to buy earlier and so that way you’re feeling confident about your event? And that’s where the art comes in. How do you take down some of those barriers to drive action? How do you reach more of your audience earlier on in the sale cycle with compelling reasons to register for your event? How do you create urgency to buy now rather than later?
And then how do you continue to engage with your confirmed attendees leading up to the event and get them excited about potentially inviting others to come. For this, we’ll look to the main subject of today’s session, email. Cynthia, you guys had Emma are obviously big fans of email. What is it exactly about email that it makes such a good channel and marketing strategy when promoting events and communicating with the attendees to drive sales?
Cynthia: Thanks, Mike. I love the trough of death language, and I have to say that when you introduced that to me a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been using it a lot around here. You know, I think email is an incredibly impactful tool when you think about the opportunity to… Let’s see. Hold on. I’m trying to take control here. There we go. Yeah. When you think about the opportunity to sort of smooth out that curve or avoid that trough of death, there are definitely some things you can do throughout that timeframe to try and sort of give yourself a little peace of mind earlier on in the event process, but also get more people engaged.
So why email? This is something that we talk about all the time. And the number…and I like to level set a little bit about just the basics on why email is so impactful here. The number one reason is that it is the number one activity on the internet. It is literally the first thing users report doing when we open our computers or when we look at our phones. That’s ahead of social media, before search engines, before anything else.
It is where we’re spending our time. And this number is suggesting that it’s not only a priority, it might even be a compulsion, and a ton of people are engaging with lots of different things here and this is the place that you absolutely want to be.
And then you see this stat. The direct marketing association puts these numbers out every year and what they’re doing here is estimating the ROI, the return on investment for every dollar spent and these specific direct marketing channels. And for as long as I can remember when these numbers come out, email is roughly double that of the next leading contender. It’s incredibly powerful and it just works. And marketers have known this for a while and I think event marketers are no different. This is a huge and very cost effective way to generate ticket sales.
Or to put that another way 66% of us as consumers have made a report that we’ve made a purchase directly as a result of an email. It just works. Our inboxes are full of offers and opportunities and we’re actually acting on them. So then we sort of dig in a little bit at Emma on why is that, what’s actually happening here and what can we learn from it to make us more effective. The most obvious reason is that your email audience is likely your most engaged. They have actually raised their hands and ask3e to hear from you. And a lot of times they’re giving you really valuable information about who they are in that process.
But it certainly isn’t magic. Not a magic bullet. And our collective challenge as marketers is to figure out how to use email to send the right message at the right time to the right people. But to do that consistently, again, through that trough of that death to figure out what the right message is throughout that death.
The challenge is to remember that they all raised their hands at different times and for different reasons. And it’s our job to really speak to them with that in mind. And that really starts with identifying, you know, speaking of your leaders, identifying who it is you wanna engage in this channel, those hand raisers, or rather you’re known audience.
Mike: Yeah, identifying your audience is definitely vital to smart email marketing for events and this audience can be comprised of a lot of different folks. It could be your current customers, it could be your prospects, your past event attendees, it could even be your partners and your sponsors. And depending on your relationships with your partners, then they’re known audiences can be your known audiences. Your known audience is where email is extremely effective because as Cynthia mentioned earlier, email remains to be the most widely used activity online. If you wanna get in front of your known audience, than be sure to you email.
But you got to ask yourself the question, who is your known audience and then how do you segment that audience because the message you send to your past event attendees should be different from people that didn’t attend. And then if you can even sub segment your audience a further. Are there certain characteristics of your audience that differentiates one group from the other?
For example, if you run events at a university, the message you send to the underclassmen is probably going to be different from what you send to the upperclassmen. The more you can segment your audience, the more you can personalize the content and messaging in the emails. Now, what about your unknown audience?
Sometimes people think email marketing might not be the best strategy when you’re trying to find new people to connect with, but there are ways to use email to expand your reach to new places. And Cynthia, what are some of those things that people can do if they wanna grow their audience for email, it ultimately driving new ticket sales?
Cynthia: Yeah, you know, just like you talked about it’s really important from the get go to recognize who you have in your arsenal upfront before you promote an event and to build them into the core of your strategy. But you can’t stop there and there’s a couple reasons for that. You know, attracting that unknown audience and drawing them to you is incredibly important for a couple of reasons.
The first is that the average email list, and this is across all industries and all marketers, the average email list is churning by about 30% every year so that the attrition of that list is something that you’ve got to just build into your process to make up for that. So it’s not only about bringing new people into the fold and selling more tickets to new audiences, but you actually have to set up some programs that allow you to proactively get new subscribers to your overall, you know, event experience.
And one of those tools is called a lightbox or a pop-up form. We’ve all seen them and you would, if you came to Emma’s website today, you would encounter them on lots of different pages and they’re not just trendy or I guess they are actually trendy, but they’re trendy because they work. You know, some studies are showing that adding a lightbox form increases conversions by over 46%. So gone are the days that you just have to hope that someone gets curious enough about what you might have to say to fill out the static form on your website. You can actually more deliberately and directly invite them to join your community, which is essentially inviting them to let you reach out later and more directly and deliberately ask them to buy a ticket.
Let’s look at a couple of examples there. This is one offering a simple discount on a future purchase for signing up. This is a retail example, but I like it because it demonstrates how compelling that message can be or how simple it can be. Fun fact, these guys actually tripled their email by adding this form on their site over the course of the year. And when you think about this…
Mike: What I like about the lightbox form, you don’t have to have every detail setup for your event either. You know, like there’s a lot of detail you wanna add to your event listing page. But by putting up a lightbox form on one of your pages on your website, you can easily get their email really fast and then you can figure out those details about your event later on.
Cynthia: That’s a great point. And we’ll look at that when we dig into our case study a little bit later. We had to do that because we didn’t have a lot of details worked out, but we certainly wanted people to stay tuned for more.
You know, and when you think about, that’s the exact thing, when they maybe heard about your event and they’re at least mildly interested because they’re on the website because you’re doing a lot of things to drive traffic there, you know, you wanna make sure you capture that. Otherwise that’s just traffic that bounces. And they definitely at this point might not be ready to buy, but giving them an opportunity to convert in a softer way makes tons of sense.
This next one, this is the lightbox form that greets you just literally a half a second after you land on the Madison Square Garden’s website. These guys obviously know events, which makes me think that this strategy really works, and they’re doing it really well. And I really love the language here.
There’s no discount, but you notice they’re offering something just as valuable or something that seems just as valuable, although it probably is no trouble for them to create this experience. If you join, you’re suddenly, what they’re calling a Garden Insider, or you were in a club or you’ll find out first and it feels really exclusive and valuable that I would venture to guess that you’re not finding out that much ahead of anybody else in the MSG world.
And the cool thing about this process too, if you don’t have to set them to deploy automatically, you actually have some control. You can put them on a timer if you’re looking for a more engaged user who’s been on your site for a few seconds. You can add them to certain pages and not others for both who’ve found their way into the depth of certain parts of your site. There’s tons of ways you can test this strategy and get more out of it. And this is one from, we’ll dig into this event a little bit later, but this is the one Mike talks about.
This is what we did for our Marketing United site. We had very few details about our event posted and we had just started selling tickets, but we knew that the audience wasn’t necessarily convinced that they were ready to buy and this might be their first time to experience it. So we actually created a valuable experience where we did a giveaway for a free ticket and made the Lightbox form be an entrance to win, which not only incentivize them to give us their email address, they gave us the opportunity to nurture them with every other offer that you’ll see when we get into our event lifecycle a little bit later.
And data shows that the number one reason people are signing up for a list is because they want a discount or a special offer. And as you can see, the special offer can take a ton of different forms and what’s valuable to your audience might not be valuable to someone else’s. And it can be a subtle value that can make a compelling pitch right there on the Lightbox. And so, I mean, the key there is just identify what levers you have to play with. So it might be a promo code, it might be a ticket giveaway, and it might just be early access to more information. There’s tons of ways you can play it.
Another way to fight the trough or to really drive traffic towards that form, that lightbox and be able to generate more subscribers is to keep them updated as new details emerge. You might be wondering why I have this YouTube page on the site. It might be out of nowhere. One of our keynote speakers last year at our event was Jay Baer, and he’s a marketing expert.
He has a really big following and when he agreed to join us, he made this great video about why you wouldn’t wanna miss our events. He put it all over his social networks and in emails and we housed it on the Marketing United site and we even promoted it in ads on social media. And again, when they hit the site, they didn’t quite know us yet and they might not have been ready to buy. But our list of new prospects through the lightbox form group pretty significantly as a result.
So if you have people involved in your event with strong networks and they don’t have to be famous or Twitter influencers or anything, they just have to be important to your audience or known by your audience, whether they’re speakers or artists, even board members or other sponsors, it’s really important to get them involved. And then to leverage that attention that they’re bringing to you to make sure you can follow up on it later.
This is just another example of that same concept. Ann Handley was a speaker. And she, we love her. She has a really highly engaged audience of marketers, which is a great audience for us. And so she tweeted about the event and when they came to the site, you know, they had that same experience. There was also, you know, the goal is obviously we wanna sell tickets, but this early on, especially with a first time event, more or we were trying to build some buzz and make sure that once we got at least at the middle of that trough or the procrastinator stays at the last point that these guys had every chance to buy a ticket from us.
So now you’ve got a plan in place to attract new people and it’s actually time to start doing something with them. Let’s take a really quick look at the basics on email through the lens of the event lifecycle. This is our friends at Litmus puts on a terrific conference every year and it is all about email. And this is their first announcement from this past year. It’s a save the date email, which is a little bit clever because they were announcing a multi-city event. And they do a lot of things really well here. But something specific I love about it is that it’s not short.
Remember, the first email is likely speaking to the leaders from the Eventbrite graphs we saw earlier, they’re likely engaged listening, they’re glad to be the first to know and they’re not afraid to scroll. And other important thing to always remember with any email effort, and I can’t not say is that more than 53% of your audience is reading your email on a mobile device.
So you have to not only design for email, but kind of build that into your strategy and people are more likely and willing to scroll on a mobile device than they necessarily would on a desktop. So kind of creating an experience where there is more value if you keep scrolling down and you’ll see they’re using social media at the bottom of this email, which again, gets more engaging and more interesting as you move on.
Of course, saving the date is one thing, but then the most basic and exciting role that email gets to play in the event lifecycle when you think about it, is to spread the good news that tickets are now on sale. And of course the call to action here is getting people to click and that’s… I don’t know if you guys are seeing the gif animating, I’m not seeing it on my screen, but this is actually a really nice animated gif that’s behind that header. That’s actually just drawing your attention further down the page and creating an experience that makes you want to engage and learn more.
And then of course, once you get engaged in the email, you’ve gotta make sure that I’m landing in a place that really creates that, or completes that entire experience. Sixty-four percent of consumers have said that the experience they’re having with a brand actually trumps price in their purchasing decisions.
And I think that that’s no more clear anywhere other than events because the experience that you’re offering them ahead of the event is very indicative of the experience they can expect an event. And as long as you’re sort of creating something that feels complete and it feels cohesive, it feels like I’ve landed in the right place in this case, which is they want you to buy a ticket on this great looking Eventbrite page. You’re more likely to get me to convert that way.
And of course, you know, to think about the procrastinators, there has to be a message for the procrastinators. As a procrastinator, I completely follow this approach and I wait for the final moment, but as a marketer they drive me crazy. The procrastinators will procrastinate whether your tickets are on sale for two months or two weeks.
So it’s important to build that behavior into your overall cycle. Sending out that final push to get them in the door is a super easy way to use email for events and it is scarcity and urgency at its finest when we talk about human psychology. And it just works, but we wanna talk through how to smooth out that curve and how to avoid that trough of death and making it so that at this point you’re not relying too heavily on this one email to work a miracle.
So let’s think about what happens in between with email in general, you should always be asking yourself this next question, which is, how do you get the right message to the right people at the right time? And that’s, you know, that’s sort of the thing that we say in email all the time, but it could be no more true here when we think about the trough of death and the event lifecycle, identifying what that message is, is somewhat of a mystery sometimes and it requires you to know your audience and learn from them as you go.
But the real way that email is going to carry you through these spells out, there’s a couple of key things that need to happen. One is that you get serious about segmentation and you use all the great tools you have available through your Eventbrite platform and your email marketing platform and you really put them to work for you. Things like automation or dynamic content where you can dynamically serve the right content to the right audiences. These things are powerful, not only because they make your life easier, but more because they’re creating a better experience for your audience.
And, you know, there’s numbers to back me up here. Relevant emails, which typically means emails that are segmented with different messaging for different audiences. They drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast email. Then if you consider your own inbox and your willingness to respond to certain messages, you can kind of realize why that’s true.
If they’re, you know, if they know what products you like and they send those to you, you’re more likely to respond to that than you are to a massive broadcast email that offers you every product under the sun. It’s super compelling. I’ll buy things from you if you can get the right message to me. But of course email can’t do its job unless it gets an open.
So that relevancy really start not with the content and the body is mailing, but it starts right there before they open it with that from name and subject line, you know, who’s it from and why should I care of email marketing. And these get overlooked all the time, but we can’t over emphasize their impact. And you’ll see some of that when we dig into the case study later that, you know, the subject lines can make or break a campaign. It can make or break your ticket sales for that campaign.
So the who the email is from actually influences the open rate before the subject line. And so if this is a first time event, make sure you don’t forget to put your company. If you’re a venue, make sure you have a consistent from name. So if I find out to learn about Madison Square Garden’s email and then I got an email from a singular artist, I would get really confused.
And this is so important because 80% of people are only scanning your actual inbox, so they’re looking at the sea of emails they have available to them to open and they’re just scanning that list. And we’re getting around 100 emails a day on average and I think that’s why, but your event is competing with the things that already mattered to me. It’s where I’m interacting with my work and my family and my friends. It’s where I’m getting offers from lots of other brands who I’m also interested in.
The standing out here, the challenge, it’s your first challenge really, is the subject line, how do you get them to open this email? You also just need to set it up to stand out in this environment. How do you do that? It’s probably a no-brainer, but there’s subject lines that perform the best are those that promote urgency or exclusivity. That’s probably no surprise to anyone.
But this stat is really supporting what Mike said earlier about the best ways to combat that trough of death, is to really think about human psychology and how the perception of scarcity can incite action and that is no more true than an email. We want to feel special, we wanna feel exclusive and we’ve all heard that, you know, of FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out. Those are some of the most powerful weapons for kind of avoiding that inbox oblivion.
And when it comes to relevancy, personalized subject line, I’m sure you guys are seeing this quite often these days, but because they were, they have a 22% higher open rate on average. Again, make me feel special and make me feel like you know me and the message feels like it’s just for me and you’ve got a better shot at my attention. So you have your known audience nicely broken into segments. You’re pulling in new people with your Lightbox form but, you need to start selling tickets and you need to do that fast. And ultimately you need to lift this sagging line a little or get out in front of it.
So to give you the full picture, I’m gonna walk you through a case study of the email and event lifecycle from our own event and show you where we saw success and show you some of where we learned a lot about what we could have done a lot better. So just real quick, our event was called Marketing United. It was here in Nashville in April this year. And like I said, it was a first time thing. So while we had a loyal base of Emma customers and fans and followers and community members, we didn’t have a loyal following yet for Marketing United. In fact, none of them knew what that was. So we knew we needed to sell 500 tickets to do everything you wanted to do for this experience and when we knew that email would be a huge part of that ticket sale. So we kind of put our best practices to work for us.
We had to start somewhere. So you already saw the lightbox and a snapshot of the site that went up in early December and then on December 18th we sent the first email announcement and this is just a view of how it looks on mobile. We sent this to everyone, our customers, our pipeline of prospects, the marketing community that has followed us for a while and it’s in our database. Essentially every contact that we had in our CRM or our known audiences.
At this point in the game we really wanted to cast the widest net possible. This wasn’t the time that we wanted to really start hyper segmented and getting clever with multiple messages. We wanted to make a big announcements, we treated it that way. We had no idea exactly what kind of response we might get. Here’s a closeup of how this looks in one of those crowded inboxes. And when we talk about people are scanning, this is what I mean by that. People are scanning all of those from names and subject lines all at once. And your ability to stand out there becomes a lot more challenging.
But a couple of things I like about this, the from name, if you look, it’s clear that it’s from Emma, that we’re using the mailing itself to introduce Marketing United. So nobody on that list got an email from Marketing United, which could have been confusing. They got the first touch from Emma because they know us. Subject line, it’s really straight and to the point.
With people opening their email and mobile devices. this is not the time to get wordy. You’re way better off with a super clear, direct, concise subject line. And you wanna make sure you don’t bury that value proposition. Your iPhone is going to cut off the subject line between 32 and 36 characters. And so if you save your value proposition for the end of that message, you might lose your opportunity there.
There’s also some preheader text. It’s that text that sits below the subject line in that preview. And we use that well. And I think that’s really important, especially with shorter subject lines that need to be more to the point. This gives you an opportunity to expand on what you said there and not repeat yourself, but adds more value with that space and use that real estate wisely.
So how did we do? We sold six tickets from that email. Not too bad, we only had 494 to go. But after that massive rush, things quieted down and it quieted down pretty immediately and we knew that we had our work in front of us because this is not gonna be a steady stream without us doing a lot of work to promote it.
We saw another really brief spike that you’ll see there on Christmas Eve of all days, which we think they might’ve been gifts, but we never quite understood where those came from, but then it goes back down and stays pretty steady. And so let’s dig into when we actually did sell tickets. And this is how and how that actually related to a specific campaign.
What you’re looking at here is the graph over time and from December through the actual event itself. And you’ll see on the graph we plotted where the emails went and where the ticket sales came from. And you’ll see some really clear correlations in most spots there. You’ll see a spike that happened at the very beginning of January and we think that’s about the new year and new budget and this was really the only spike in this whole setup that didn’t directly follow an email campaign.
And the first thing you notice is that this looks different from the graph earlier in the presentation. There is no real discernible sustained dip in ticket sales. There’s no visible giant trough of death, although you could argue that there are many of them throughout. And, you know, there are definitely a lot more peaks and valleys than we’d like to see, mostly the valleys. So we spent some time as we’re planning for 2016 studying what worked about this, what campaigns we’re effective and which ones weren’t and how should we tweak our overall plan to set ourselves up for success for next year. So we’re hoping that you guys can learn from some of that too.
Okay. So this first spike was in mid-January. In fact, this is our largest spike. This is our best performing campaign and I think you’ll very quickly see why. What did we do in that email? Well, check out that subject line. It is urgent. It’s basically saying, “Early bird pricing ends Friday.” That’s all it says. And it’s giving a strict deadline. This was also the first mailing we had sent after our initial invitation.
We waited until [inaudible 00:30:21] the holidays had passed and the deadlines on ticket sales are huge urgency levers. So identifying those early on and knowing when you can play those and how you wanna go big with them is really important. That’s something we definitely learned. So just being strategic about what they are, what your opportunities are to create potentially more of them but not too many, is really effective.
But then getting them to open it, it’s obviously only half the battle and there’s some other things going on in email that we think really worked too. That above the fold area is consistent. It’s consistent with the last mailing they received. And again, this new branding, this is somewhat of a new concept for this audience. So by no means should you have the same header every time, or is that some kind of rule. But since it had been a minute since they’ve seen anything about Marketing United, when I’m scanning, I kind of know what this is about. I remember it very distinct and clear.
Also, the call to action lets you know what we’re all about too. It’s really actionable using first person language, and the button itself is surrounded by a whole bunch of white space and that is something that we really recommend with our customers that we make sure you give the buttons some room to breathe. It makes it much more clickable. And it beats a text link by leaps and bounds for sure.
Another fun fact about this mailing is that we included a numbered list and it turns out that the human brain, talking about psychology, loves a numbered list. Studies have shown that they get people’s attention way better than a paragraph of text. And people are scanning, like we said before, they’re scanning all over the place and it’s much more easy or easier for them to just drill down and get the value out of each one of these topics without having to dig into a paragraph.
You’ll see down below too, this mailing has another button. That secondary CTA simply looks different from the one above it, but it’s still a button. Interestingly, it’s red and we sort of obsessed about color psychology around here too. And red as a button color can signal urgency or alarm. Essentially, we’re alerting people to the end of something. And there are studies that have shown is that that actually works. We were pulling out all the stuff on this one.
Also, what you can’t see is how we segmented this audience between customers and noncustomers. And then we did something that we found to be really effective. We resent the email the next day to the people who didn’t open it the first time. You don’t want to use that tactic with every mailing, but when you have a deadline this important and that you know can work so well, you don’t wanna be afraid to resend to the people who may have missed it the first time.
So this one works and we were on a roll and we figured we’d cracked the code on the ticket sales thing and then our next campaign came up, and you’ll see here it does not perform nearly as well. So we decided to dig in on that one. What was going on there?
At first glance, these mailings really might not be that bad. When I mentioned content relevancy earlier, these emails represent our attempt at getting really aggressive with segmentation. As a business, we have some key industries that represent significant numbers in our community.
And so for this mailing, we wanted to target creative agencies, universities, and marketers that were highly engaged with us based on how they interact with the brand. And bonus, we gave them each a unique promo code through the Eventbrite system that made them feel sort of the [inaudible 00:33:47] of their peers are probably in this environment if there’s a promo code for them.
And after seeing all of that success with the last mailing, and resending to the non-opens, we have to try that again. And we learned that this is definitely not a silver bullet. So what happened? Well there are a couple things going on here. One, the subject, and I think the most important thing, is the subject line was sort of passive. There was no reward, there was no incentive, there was no urgency there. And I think that’s one of the most compelling things that you’ll see throughout this entire case study is that how important those things are.
They certainly weren’t urgent and we didn’t really use… And then once you get into the email itself, the CTA is a little bit buried. The reader had to wade through a lot of information, expected to read a little bit to get to the point of the message.
And the last thing, when you think about sort of color psychology and how our brains interact with content, there’s no contrast. They’re all one kind of blue, gray color and things aren’t really standing out. So we kind of went against what we know to be true and it really showed. And so you see that that’s the lack of a spike on the left-hand side of this graph.
Then we came back a couple of weeks later and tried it again. We took… And this is the beauty of email, you can try again and you can learn from your mistakes and give something else a shot and see what works. And we did much better this go-around.
First of all, these mailings went to the exact same segments of our audience as the previous emails. We didn’t move that around at all. And part of the success here is that we found a new way. We were really leaning in on this create emergency opportunity. And we found a new way to do that with the subject line, which was basically we were offering free preconference to certain attendees or to all attendees, if you signed up by the end of that day. And we put that into the subject line. It was very simple, “Free preconference ends tonight.” And then there’s something else even more intriguing, which definitely got it a better open rate.
And then you get into the email and that header is a whole lot more engaging. It features some of our speakers and brands including Eventbrite and Warby Parker and all of those are attention grabbing. But I’ll say all of these photos are closeup photos of human faces. It turns out the human brain is really wired to recognize and respond to that. There’s many studies that show that the impact of actually including humans in your messages, humans, I guess people, in your messaging can be really compelling.
So you have limited time once I open your email to capture my attention and if you have people that you can use and leverage in this environment, you definitely should. And like I said, we segment it by those verticals, but the general gist of the mailings was consistent and it was just about the value of the conference. There are great speakers here. You’re about to miss out on something important and there’s more than just what we’re teasing in this email.
You should definitely come check it out. That was sort of the gist of what we we’re saying here. You will actually miss out if you don’t engage with this mailing. That’s a really powerful sentiment and people respond to it. You can’t take advantage of it and you can’t lie to them when it’s not true. But when you have something like that to share you should definitely play it up.
It’s also really easy to glance at this mailing and determine exactly what to do. Again, the button stands out again. We’ve given it more white space. It’s yellow. There’s contrast. And the lesson we learned here was with this mailing, we need that last time we didn’t have a segmentation problem, we actually had a content and design problem and we definitely learned our lesson.
So getting to the end of the event lifecycle here is our…here’s our procrastinators email, because we knew that they would come in droves once we sent this and once this was true and it did, it worked. You know, this is the ultimate in scarcity. This is, you know, tickets are actually almost gone, which was true at the time.
We sent this mailing a couple of weeks before the event sold out and the event did in fact sell out as a result of it. Again, these work really well. We did sell all 500 tickets in the end, but it was really nice to not have to wait until two weeks out to know that and our budget appreciated that as well.
You know, it’s also important when you think about the opportunity to communicate beyond the sell. So communicating with people after they bought a ticket about new developments about the event or just even getting closer about what to expect, you know, where do they park, what is the detailed agenda look like, what is your hashtag, how do I follow you on Twitter?
All those things are just showing your audience that you’re invested in their attendance, one, especially if it’s a free event, because you don’t want drop-off, and two, that you’re creating an ultimate experience for them and you’re excited for them to be a part of it.
And then even once the event is on, you know, this was a two day event, we were emailing them in the mornings and then sharing pictures from the day before, sharing quick snippets of video content that we have on our site. We were able to be pretty agile there. And people loved this kind of real time communication. It was great.
So when it comes to email and your event from this case study, what we learned is that if they didn’t open that email the first time, there’s no harm in sending it a few days later or at least trying it, especially when you have something really valuable to share like a deadline or some kind of urgency that you think they actually might not wanna miss. And if you’re still not seeing returns just like or returns that you’d like, analyze the anatomy of that email from the segment to the send time, to the subject lines, to where your CTAs are, just try something new.
The email is really agile like that and that allows you to get a pretty instant feedback loop on what’s working and what’s not with your audience. And then the third thing is, just know your urgency levers, maybe even try to get creative and find a few more. These things really work. You just don’t wanna overdo it.
And then email and social. You know, we haven’t talked about this too much yet. We will in a couple of examples in a second. But make sure your email strategy is cohesive with your social strategy and don’t be shy to highlight the positive interactions and positive social interactions and email. Your social audience, you know, a lot of people are scared to repost or resubmit, or I said this on Twitter, so I shouldn’t say it in an email.
Your social audience and your email audience may have tons of crossover or they may not. So if you’re promoting free tickets on your main site or running an email promotion, using social as a means to get them to come in closer is never a bad thing. Even though social should definitely not be siloed and they can really play together really nicely.
And the most important thing here is just don’t panic. We know sometimes that’s easier said than done, but just resist the urge to hammer them daily with messages to try to combat the trough of death. The number one cause of opt outs that we see in general is often people fighting too many emails. The key is to remember, again, you’re talking to people, so think of how you can break your lists into smaller groups and send highly targeted messaging and offers and content to them to really get their attention and then take turns targeting different groups within the email and social ecosystem.
So if we head into this final stretch here because I do wanna leave some time for Q&A. I’m just gonna run through some examples of events out there that aren’t ours that we really love what they’re doing. We think they found some innovative ways to do some of what we’ve been talking about today. This is an example from ad directors Club Canada and what they’re doing is offering personalized promo codes to people that are already attending. And they have hopes that they’ll share it with their own networks.
Again, we trust people, you know, there’s so much out there about social proof and user-generated content. We trust people we already know way more than we ever trust a brand. So an endorsement or a referral from someone who’s already engaged with that event is a great way to draw more people in your audience and to engage those leaders into helping you with that.
This next one I love. This is the Dallas Symphony, and they’ve basically used our dynamic content feature to drop in different variations of the same header. And then tailor the message based on three things, whether they’re a level of engagement or are they students or have they already bought a ticket. So here you’ll see in the header that students are getting a discount.
The highly engaged segment gets a buy one, get one promo and then there is no special CTA in the header for the people who’ve already purchased because they’re already sort of connected to the event. Just a great way to keep those purchasers still involved.
Here’s a good example of an Eventbrite landing page that features great design. And if we haven’t hammered this home yet, if you have interesting people at your event who are influential to your audience in any way and you’re not putting their photos up or engaging them and helping you grow your audience and sell more tickets, you should definitely consider that because it’s definitely done well. It can really work.
Here’s a great example of creating a VIP kind of message when there really is very little VIP-ness about this. You know, Fandango put a time bot on an offer saying a VIP guest included, if you buy Mockingjay. It’s safe to assume that the people who got this email who are interested in the VIP Mockingjays are likely to have already seen Mockingjay or planning on seeing it anyway. They’re just creating urgency and they’re basically using this as a 24 hour time bot to sell tickets. And I’m sure that it worked.
Yeah, so this is the end of that Litmus email that we looked at earlier with the save the date. And more and more research that we’re seeing all over the place about user-generated content, especially among millennials that, you know, 50% of millennials say they trust user-generated content more than any other source. And what limits done here is they were just, as they announced the conference, they pulled in the social proof and the interaction and engagement from their social media audiences already using the hashtag to get excited about it. It’s really smart stuff.
This one is a quick, don’t forget to say thank you email. This is one my friend received the day after she went to an off Broadway show. And what they’re doing here is while the event experience was still fresh, they’re finding ways to either we engage her with the show or give her a chance to offer feedback, which we know will then become user-generated content for them to promote the event moving forward if it’s positive. And they’ll learn something from it if it isn’t.
So all of these things are working together, but they’re not forgetting to follow-up with what might be impactful after the event. Same thing with your influencers and leaders, if they engaged with you ahead of the event to help you sell tickets, be sure that they’re engaging with your audience after the event so that you truly are creating kind of a sense of community. The more you can do that, you know, the better off you really are.
I’m gonna end here with a quick example, that this is an email that doesn’t necessarily follow all of our best practices, but I think it does one thing really, really well. And it’s one that Eventbrite and Emma sort of put together and I think, you know, I wanna hammer home with it.
So this is another new event. Basically, Eventbrite opened an office here in Nashville last year and we love having them here. And so the two companies together decided we needed to do a technology meetup for all the tech groups that meet in this community. We wanted to sort of create a big meetup for everybody. But those guys get a lot of invitations. Everybody in our developer engineered technology community, you know, building trust with them is important. You might see a ton of copy here, which we wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but that was geared to really build trust about what we’re trying to do. We needed to be clear with them about who this is, what this new entity is. They’ve never seen this Tech Tennessee logo before.
Again, the email came from Eventbrite and Emma, but Tech Tennessee was a new concept to them. And the CTA is still really clear at the bottom. And the Eventbrite plugin there that’s talking about the details of the event right there is super easy to read. So what we did with this was we started this event, we sent this mailing, but we had also been engaging those leaders, those early adopters, the folks that we knew were already leaders in the tech community early on. So simultaneously, they’re promoting it to their own networks and we sent this mailing out.
And what you see is, that we actually sold out the first 175 tickets way sooner than we expected. It was like five days later. And we had to release 200 more tickets. So the endorsement of the community leaders and influencers was definitely working alongside it. But here you can see the direct impact that that email had on tickets. It was a free event, but the Eventbrite, Emma integration is showing that this mailing directly led to 110 registrations, which is pretty solid for one email.
This is just one of the many ways that email and Eventbrite specifically play so well together when you can attribute real value from every send and dollar tickets sold, it’s even better. So we’re super excited to have that partnership and then it allows us to add that value for our customers. So that’s all I have for you guys. And I know it’s a lot. So we wanted to reserve a little time for Q&A. Mike, do we have a few minutes left for that?
Mike: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. We have a lot of good questions too. And one of the ones that came up a bunch which proves that the content was, must have been super engaging, and thank you so much, Cynthia, is will this be recorded and sent out after? And the answer is yes, you’ll get an email shortly after, within next few days with a recording of today’s presentation. So definitely look out for that. And then, yeah, a number of questions came in and I’ll start going through. Some of them were addressed to myself or some of them were on the Eventbrite side. Some of them were more on the Emma side.
The first one that was on the Eventbrite side was asking about the volume of attendees that we looked at in that analysis where we basically saw that trough of death. And so what we did was we looked at 300 events over the course of the year and tried to pick a wide range of the different sizes of capacity, so we’d get a good mix there. And overall it came to be about a 250,000 attendees across 300 different events, so we tried to get a good sample there.
And then the other question regarding the analysis was about the cycle of being the same case even for free events. So that analysis was done on all paid events and the reason for that was because we definitely see a difference in the type of events that are free versus paid, and there’s a lot more you can do in terms of urgency and price tiering on paid events.
And I would expect free events to see some of the same patterns, but it really can depend on what kind of free event it is, where we have a lot of like open street fair type festivals on Eventbrite where people definitely would just walk up and go into the event the day of and don’t really have to buy a ticket far in advance. So we wanted to mainly focus on the analysis on a paid event.
Cynthia: Makes Sense.
Mike: So yeah, looking through some of the other questions. One of the questions, if your event is customer only, then I’m guessing that lightboxes and other forms wouldn’t be so important. So I guess, you said you already have the relationship with this customer and then maybe not. Your conference was targeting current customers and prospects or was it all just current customers?
Cynthia: We decided early on to go way bigger than current customers. So that was part of the challenge here was to bring smart marketers from all over the place and so we were doing a lot to drive that traffic, again, through our influencers and everything else. So that was a lot of what we wanted to do was to make sure that the right people were seeing our lineup and engaging with the content.
Mike: And so the lightbox form is primarily used for non-customers.
Cynthia: Yes, it was in our case and I would say in terms of, if your event is customers only, lightboxes work in a lot of different scenarios. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be just about the event, like it’s a nice way to capture emails that you might use to become future customers or something else.
Mike: Definitely. And one of the questions is asking whether capturing an email address is conversion or not. And I think it depends on your business, your organization, and what you’re doing. I mean, and that’s kinda just how you want to determine or define conversion for you. Do you have anything to mention on that Cynthia?
Cynthia: Yeah. We have a couple of different layers of conversion that we talk about when we talk about our website over here. And in general terms, it’s like a hard conversion is someone who’s inquiring on our site. They’re actually wanting to learn more about becoming an Emma customer. And a soft conversion is someone who’s kind of signing up to learn more about best practices and email. And they’ll do that and we’ll send that to them and we’ll continue to offer them that value with obviously long-term hopes that they’re gonna wanna become a part of the Emma community as a result of that.
Mike: Yeah. We see something similar on our side too, you know, when someone buys a ticket on Eventbrite, they can actually buy a ticket as a guest and we consider that soft, you know, sign up or conversion versus when someone actually signs up to, you know, have an account on Eventbrite.
Cynthia: Yeah, that makes total sense.
Mike: Just going through the questions. I don’t know if we have any hard stats, but one of the questions on how many emails is too many to send, the example Laura gives us with retail. She received several a day from one retailer. You know, are there best practices on how many to send? It probably definitely depends on, you know, what it is, you know, what kind of business you have or what kind of, you know, events you’re trying to promote.
Cynthia: Yeah. It’s the answer that everyone loves, that one about it depends. But I think that we’re seeing people do some really interesting things. I mean some people, some retailers or some consumers actually want to hear from retailers on a daily basis. And what we’re seeing them do is actually offer a more comprehensive kind of manage your preference area so that when you go to unsubscribe you can then say, “Okay, actually I only want to hear from you once a week,” or “I only want to hear from you once a month.” And people are responding nicely to that. It’s actually saving some of the churn they might have seen otherwise by giving them better options
Mike: Yeah, and I think on our side, you know, we see people that host ongoing events or you know, recurring events. They’ll set up an email schedule, automatic email schedule, you know, to email out every week before their weekly event or every possibly months before their monthly event. It does depend. But think about, you know, what your schedule is for your events and how that kinda works out and to map out the scheduled emails ahead of time.
Cynthia: When we went through the Marketing United stuff, we realized early on that we had a couple of big levers, but we also wanted to say top of mind. It’s in between the emails that we thought were really going to drive sales.
So we made a really big effort to provide content and value and get our speakers involved in blog posts and videos and stuff like that that we weren’t necessarily expecting to sell tickets but at a cadence that we thought was respectful. We were staying at the top of mind. So it wasn’t that they were just hearing from us with like an urgent offer that things are about to run out every time we were planning to sell tickets.
Mike: And then as far as, you brought up how for Marketing United, you guys used a sense of urgency. You know, so many tickets are left. There was a question on, can you over message the urgency? We’re emailing, you know, twice a month that tickets are going fast. Like does that message ever get overused?
Cynthia: Definitely. And I think that’s the big challenge and so it’s tempting to use it, and it’s so tempting to come up with new creative ways to find urgency and things that might not on the surface be so urgent. You know, and I think that we actually saw that in that middle campaign that you saw. We thought we were being urgent and we weren’t. We just had nothing to share along those lines and we expected more out of that email.
But I think understanding when you can use them, not being afraid to resend to people who didn’t open or didn’t engage, maybe even doing two mailings that week. If something expires on Friday and I didn’t engage with that email the first time you sent it on Tuesday, I don’t mind getting another one on Thursday. It’s a good reminder for me and I actually might miss something if I don’t do it. But I think it’s more about they’re leveraging those urgent opportunities you do have, than it is on creating too many more of them.
Mike: And then as people were purchasing tickets, were you removing your actual ticket buyers from those lists that you were still sending the promotional email too?
Cynthia: Yeah. So they went into a different queue that was all about the people who’ve already engaged and we started, we spun up a whole new series for them. It was really just about engaging them with content. They were similar to the promotional ones, but again, more content heavy and didn’t have huge calls to action. We were just trying to get them excited about what they’d already committed to.
Mike: Yeah. And then there was a question on, is Eventbrite automatically integrated into Emma? And yeah, so we have a direct integration with Emma where you can actually populate an email invitation with your Eventbrite event and you can make one email on one event or you can promote multiple events on a single email from Emma. And you can also sync your audiences, your attendee lists between Eventbrite and Emma. So yeah, there is definitely a really easy and seamless integration between the two platforms.
Cynthia: My favorite part that you saw on that screen is a response data. So then you’re able to actually think and understand the value of any email. And then your response data at Emma is gonna show you all the great analytics on how that email performed, but we’re now able to add the Eventbrite tickets sold and revenue off of the tickets even into that interface, which is nice.
Mike: Yeah, I think we probably have time for one last question. As far as open rates, any factors related to the timing of the email? I can speak from the Eventbrite side. You know, we advise you to think about your audience and what kind of event it is, where you’ve seen that events, you know, more professional or business events, the emails perform better during business hours.
But if you’re emailing about, you know, more social events, maybe concerts, music, those performed better outside of the normal business hours. And think about what type of event you have, what audience you have. Do you have any final comment on that, Cynthia?
Cynthia: Yeah, and I think that that’s great insight on the event audience in particular. It probably mimics what happens in the general industries or you know, we see the same thing. Retail does really well on the weekends sometimes. I mean it’s not a total rule, but it’s sort of that same thing where if it’s sort of a consumer event than it might do better on the weekends, whereas a business focused event, it’s probably gonna do better during the day. That makes total sense.
Mike: Great. So I know we’re just up against the hour here, so I do wanna be respectful of everyone’s time and I wanna really thank you, Cynthia. This was excellent. A lot of great information. As I said, the presentation will be emailed out shortly within the week, so you’ll be able to go back and view it at your own time. Thanks, Cynthia, again.
Cynthia: Yeah, thank you, Mike. It’s been a pleasure to be here. It was really fun.
Mike: Great. Well, I hope everyone has a great rest of your Tuesday, and we look forward to talking to you again soon. Thanks. Bye.