Event Management
March 15, 2017  •  by Sean Burke

2 Huge Reasons Why Events Fail

Some events just fail. As an event planner, you know that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Or, in this case, no marketing or meeting plan ever survives contact with your potential customers and attendees. Despite the gloomy subject, you can learn from those who have made mistakes before you and ensure that your event is successful. This might also give you a good chance to look over what you’re doing for your event right now and optimize it.

Personally, I want every event to be successful because events are supposed to be enjoyable. Nobody ever makes an event hoping that everyone is going to have an awful time! Unfortunately, some event planners and organizers get so caught up in the details of the event that they stop to think about some important topics, such as: what kind of people do I want to go to my event? Have I talked with these people to actually see if they want to go, rather than just thinking they will? Have I created precautions for within the event itself so that if anything goes wrong, I can fix it?

Needless to say, there is no one reason why an event might fail, or might lose attendance in later years. However, these topics I’ve brought up will help you realize the two most common pitfalls,  how to avoid them, and finally how to use them to your advantage. I’ll discuss them more here: the value proposition, and re-marketing.

1. The Value Proposition

The concept known as the Value Proposition (capitalized because of how important it is) is the Holy Grail of marketing. It doesn’t matter what product you’re selling or buying – it rears its head. What it all comes down to is this: what is the value that someone gains from going to this event? For the more mathematically oriented people, the equation for the VP is as follows:

Benefit – Cost = Value Capture

Let’s walk through this really quick, and then you’ll understand why events can and do fail. You’ll also realize why some events are wildly successful.

Benefits are exactly that – what does the attendee gain by going to an event? Do they get to see awesome speakers, listen to bands they enjoy, learn important material related to their career or hobbies, and so on? There needs to be a proper benefit.

Costs are all costs associated with going to the event. Travel, opportunity cost, monetary cost, mental costs are all part of the costs. Some costs cannot be avoided, as nothing is free in this world.

Value Capture. If the total benefit is greater than the total cost of the event, then there is value in the person going. You want this to be positive. Events with a negative value capture are going to be events that fail, ones with high amount of value capture will succeed.

Now, there are a lot of reasons why an event might not do well. 1. The benefit is weak. People aren’t going to want to go to a chili cook off where there’s only 2 or 3 kinds to try, or to a conference on events done by someone who hasn’t made a name for themselves, or where the itinerary is weak. 2. The costs (real and imagined) are too high. Having an event during the weekend of Halloween when your target audience has children is going to be an abject failure. Having an outside event when it’s below freezing is going to be bad for everyone involved unless that’s the point of the event. Charging $200 to go to a concert with two average or has-been bands will be a failure.

When it comes to crafting a strong benefit and value capture, it helps to know all about your target audience. As you can likely intuit, benefits that appeal to one audience are not likely to appeal to another. By making sure you have the best benefits available relative to your target audience, you’re sure to hit the bullseye! You can also measure your event marketing success too, if you want. So, now you know – develop a strategy to make sure that there is a positive benefit to going to your event, even despite the costs associated. It will not only prevent your event from failing, it will make it succeed.

2. Remarketing

Although events might sell out the first year, there are events that begin to hemorrhage attendees and money. Finally, they have to close because they lose a lot of money and are no longer profitable. Part of the reason as to why this happens is because the event does not do a good job of remarketing to its attendees.

Simply put, remarketing is the process through which you reach out to previous customers to encourage them to purchase again from you. A lot of people think that once you’ve sold something to someone, you don’t need to ever worry about them again. How far fro the truth this is! There is the simple maxim in marketing that it costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current customer. This is where you get the concept of Lifetime Customer Value (LTV). If your tickets cost $60 and an average customer goes 2 years, they’re worth $120, plus maybe they also purchase merchandise and/or donate. It’s worth so much more to spend a little extra on retaining that customer, so maybe they might go for 3 years instead – an easy extra $60.

I cannot stress enough how events need to remarket to their attendees if they want to succeed and be profitable for future years. By getting an email list, you can alert people a month before the next event. You can also email them after the event ends to thank them for coming. You might try offering them a discount on next year, or some other additional benefit to make them want to come again. A lot of huge festivals offer different pricing structures – ACL, for example, has a lower price at the start when you don’t know the artists playing. As they get revealed, price goes up! Same goes for South By Southwest, another Austin event. They do timed purchases, so the earlier you buy in, the cheaper.

Failing to reach out to previous customers is another huge reason why events can fail. Not building hype from year to year can be disastrous. Turn it instead into advantage, and you will reap additional revenue you wouldn’t have otherwise.

As an aside, I wanted to mention Attendee Experience. There are so many things to think about when it comes to attendee experience, because it truly makes or breaks any event. It’s worth an article in and of itself! Some ways you can improve your Attendee Experience are by providing super customer service for events, as well as engaging attendees after the event ends. You can also take action by getting surveys during the event.

In conclusion, there are two big reasons why an event can fail – they fail to have a relevant benefit versus the cost for their target audience, and they also fail to remarket their event for future years. However, by instead employing both of these techniques, you can instead ensure your event’s success.

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