With the hubbub over digital assets, integrated content marketing strategies, organic reach, responsive design, local search and yadda, yadda, yadda we tend to overlook traditional marketing techniques.
That’s a mistake.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
We are going to focus on promoting local history tours and programs, but the suggestions could apply to all sorts of events. How many of these simple and inexpensive ideas could you adapt?
Traditional media includes newspapers, magazines, direct mail, print newsletters, radio, television, posters, billboards, rack cards and brochures. Traditional media exposure is usually something you pay for, but it can be free. You might be invited to talk about your upcoming tour or event on a local radio show, for example.
If you work for a nonprofit or a community group will benefit from the program, media outlets may give you some coverage as a public service. In this case, you generally get the ball rolling by submitting information about your event via a press release or an online form.
The smaller your media market, the more likely it is you’ll get free exposure. If you live in a major metropolitan area, the odds of getting your event covered on TV or in the paper are slim. However, many media outlets are more lenient about the kind of material that appears online. Make sure you’re checking all the angles. And don’t overlook weekly neighborhood newspapers or free local entertainment guides. They are often hungry for material.
Flyers and Posters
Flyers can be surprisingly effective and they work whether you’re offering the program once or on an ongoing basis. Having a short and catchy title really helps. A good image - a drawing, a photograph you took yourself or a vintage one you know is copyright free - is all you need.
You do not need to hire a graphic designer to make a basic flyer. Simple and obviously homemade sometimes attracts more attention than something that is slick and commercially produced. Even if you’ve never made a flyer before, just get some colored paper and go for it. Make sure the flyer includes all of the following.
- Name of tour or event
- When – date, day of week and time
- How much
- Tell people how to sign up or tell them reservations are NOT required
- Who do they contact for more info – phone and web address
- Who is sponsoring this or putting it on
Once you have the flyers, take them around town. Ask permission to place them in shops, salons, restaurants, bars and other businesses that have lots of foot traffic. Use the opportunity to tell everyone about your event, answer questions and invite people to attend. Start building buzz!
If businesses in your target neighborhood put posters in their windows for upcoming events, contact a print shop and find out how much it would cost to get a few made up. Generally speaking, they are inexpensive.
My local tour company got a lot of mileage out of a vinyl sandwich board. One side advertised Ghost Trek, a tour that ran twice a week for five months. The other side was a chalk board we could use for one time tours or anything we liked. It cost approximately $150.
Even though we had a well-trafficked website, a huge Facebook following, and a responsive and engaged email list, the sign was one of the most effective elements of our marketing strategy. We put it out early in the morning on tour days and picked it up at the end of each evening. On the few occasions the sign was not put out, we experienced a significant drop in attendance.
Since the sign was temporary, we didn’t need a permit or any other kind of clearance to use it. Check with the powers-that-be regarding signage in your jurisdiction before you follow this route.
Public speaking is a great way to promote your event. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate presentation in front of a huge crowd. There are many small groups that meet on a regular basis, some as often as weekly. Think Lions, Rotary and other community and service organizations. There are garden clubs, alumni associations and church groups. You can probably find out who meets when by checking the community calendar in the newspaper or online. The folks responsible for putting together programs for meetings are always looking for speakers. The presentations are usually short, 20 - 30 minutes, and the audiences are friendly and attentive. Sometimes you even get lunch!
Pull out a few interesting tidbits that are going to be covered in the tour or program, the weirder and quirkier, the better. Share background information on the neighborhood or area you’re going to be visiting or talk about the time period you’ll be focusing on. Make sure you bring plenty of flyers.
It’s easy to get lost in the thicket of contemporary marketing options. Shake things up and try a few of these old school techniques. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by your results. Remember it doesn’t have to be complicated; it doesn’t have to be expensive; and it doesn’t have to be digital.