Live events aren’t cheap. They require a massive amount of time, manpower, and money to operate smoothly. That’s why we’ve put together a number of strategies to help smaller venues and festivals boost fan experiences and eventually improve their first-party database.
Positioning, Niches and Turning the Dial on Loyalty
We’re not here to tell you who to be. We are here to say, niches get riches.
If you’re a smaller venue or festival, you’re likely constrained on time, people-power and cashflow. To try and compete with big names like Lollapalooza or Tomorrowland is an uphill battle - they simply have resources that are unavailable to you. You, however, have something very powerful at your disposal; the ability to position yourself in a verified niche.
Let’s say you position your festival or venue as the number one place for “low-key” genres like vaporwave. You have more freedom when it comes to booking artists that are up and coming, and less expense than hard-to-get A-listers. You’re also not competing for the same audiences as major festivals. You’re competing to become the best alternative, low-key experience, full stop. There’s immense power in clearly defining what you are and what you are not.
Considering you’re reading this article, you likely already have a basis of identity. The key is to make this identity clear and compelling to the audiences that make you viable. Say no to activities that drain time and resources away from your main value. Research what networks to be on, then be fully present. Find those moments of fan delight and dissect what made them work well. Then do it again.
When you own your niche, you can build a loyal and resilient fan-base.
Dream in years, plan in months, execute daily. You’re unlikely to garner the kind of ‘secured’ attention you want by only making a splash around the time of your event.
In practice, this means having a strong presence on your social channel year-round, content that resonates with your key audience (if you’re a verified contributor to their community you build trust), and opportunities for engagements. These engagements don’t need to be splashy. They could be something simple like a sweepstakes with free tickets to your event, or something meaningful like setting a fan up with a 1-to-1 with a favourite artist or producer. Simple moments like these, paired with digital campaigns and data collection not only increase awareness, but they make it easier for you to target more wisely down the line.
Building Audiences Without a Database
If you’re starting at ground zero, it may be tempting to stick only to pre-segmented, third-party audiences for any marketing communication. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the ultimate goal should be driving towards your own zero & first-party database.
If this sounds daunting - it’s all about the baby steps. Start with building a mailing list. You can drive subscriptions through your website, through incentives (like a monthly discount code to affiliated sponsors/ other events you’re a part of, or exclusive information about your festival) or with a newsletter related to your festival or niche.
As your mailing list grows, look for ways to automate. While many companies charge add-ons for data-entry automation, you can start by playing around with free versions of softwares (like Zapier) to get used to building workflows. The long-term goal should be getting away from CSV files to seeing fan profiles in a form you can use without exporting elsewhere, but start with your audience.
Getting the Most out of Your Fan Database
Before your Festival/Event
If you already have a first-party fan database built, you’re one step ahead. From here, the focus is:
- Growing and enriching that audience in the most efficient way possible, and
- Maintaining control over how your audience is segmented.
Digital Activations are a great way to continue building your audience with almost zero mental load on your team. They also let you enrich every fan profile with zero-party data you can use to speak more authentically to your fanbase (i.e. I tell you I’m a cat person, you send me a “vaporwave playlist for to enjoy with your cat” email). Whether you opt for a simple RSVP form, a Personalized Playlist, or go all in with a Campy Memory Match/ Personality Quiz there are ample ways to get your fans digitally involved.
At your Festival/Event
Now that you have some data captured about your fans (who bought tickets, and who loves your brand), the next step is to try and gain more insights about their behaviour at your event.
Try setting up QR codes that link out to on-site deals or mini-surveys. You can even have fans enter an RSVP form to get access to a “Special Gated Experience” to see who is on the ground and interested in what you’re offering. The goal here is to define data that is valuable to making your festival better. And don’t just stop at your event itself. Follow up with surveys post-event, or offer free tickets to next year’s event if fans share their favourite photos or videos with you. These actions can help inform your planning for the next year!
- Start with a clear definition of who you are and who you are not. Then tie back to that identity in all the work you do.
- Research the channels your fans are likely to be on, and the playlists they're likely to listen to. Then focus your comms and advertisements on these channels.
- Plan long-term but execute daily. Content year-round is more table stakes for smaller festivals.
- Build a first-zero party database (in whatever form that might be)