3 mistakes made when marketing events


In our role as tutors here at Sheffield Hallam University, we support and assist students running their own events. What is often the cause of poor attendance at those events is down to how the event has been promoted and marketed.

I spent over ten years working in the cut-throat world of music event promotion. I know only too well how important it is to ensure your marketing is out early and through the correct channels. I thought it might be useful to examine some of the mistakes I’ve seen (and probably made myself from time to time) in marketing events.


1   Failure to understand the target market (or pick one)

In order to successfully market your event you need to first define the target market of the event. This allows you to then consider a strategy for how to reach those people. Very often the easiest way to do this is to write a simple profile of your average customer.

Ask yourself questions like; which social networks are they most likely to be on, how do the like to receive marketing information (online or offline?) or what motivates them to attend your type of event. The list goes on and there is perhaps an entire blog article just on this subject, something we should probably explore in the future. For now, it should be your first consideration before any marketing strategy can be considered.

2   Getting the promotional materials out late

Having experience this one on a couple of occasions I know how badly it can affect attendance at events. Not all events are the same, many large events (like exhibitions) will require promoting up to a year in advance. If you’re in the business of organsing pub quizzes then your promotional time will much shorter. If the event is local then I’d use a rule of thumb that you need four to six weeks of promotion time.

3   Promoting in the wrong channels, or in an inappropriate way

This one links to point number one in that without a define target market you could be wasting valuable resources by not understanding the most efficient marketing channels for your audience. For example, different demographics have different social networking habits. Do you know which networks your audience uses?

The other point, which is worth mentioning here, is around how and when you promote your event on social networks. Below is diagram showing the best times to post on social media (Source, fundivo)

Source: Fundivo
Source: Fundivo

When you post on social media, what content are you using? Research shows that video and images are far more likely to attract engagement from any audience than text updates alone. I would always advocate asking yourself ‘how will this post add value to my audience’. It is important to remember that not every post needs to promote your event. You’re building your brand and reputation with a audience that you want to trust you. Build that trust by posting or sharing content that is important to them.

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Mark Norman
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Senior Lecturer in Events Management

I lead on the administration for the Event Management Hub website alongside teaching modules including; Festivals and Outdoor Events, Event Law and Risk Management and The Live Tourism Event