Grab your sunscreen and get ready for some marketing lessons from one of our favorite weekend activities, festivals.

Living in New Orleans, I’ve had the luck to attend a few festivals. Each year, people wait with anticipation for the announcement of the Jazz Fest cubes, the Voodoo Fest line up, the presentation of the Fill-In-The-Blank Festival Queen, and more. Festivals have many things in common. They are organized, planned and then adjusted based on hits and misses. If you’re looking for a fun way to glean some marketing know-how, I highly recommend you turn your attention to some of the area’s weekend happenings.

Have A Theme

Festivals need a hook, particularly in this area when the community is often faced with two or three options every weekend. One size does not fit all. Like brands, they must have a focus or risk losing the weekend. Deciding the strategically essential features and benefits will help you formulate communications that hit your targets along their way through your purchase funnel. Start by articulating your specific product and the unique advantage only you can deliver that is relevant to your target audience. It’s a significant thought process – one undertaken over an appropriate period rather than an hour-long meeting. Be truthful and honest. Customers can see right through smoke and mirrors.

Get the Word Out

Many of the area festivals can overlap and often directly compete against each other. The only way to ensure that someone will consider your event as a thing to do is to get the word out. Advertising has played a critical role in enabling marketers to get the attention of buyers as far back as Ancient Egypt and still plays an important role. When used correctly, it builds awareness as well as inviting comparisons among your competitive set. And, sometimes, it can be a boost to employee morale. In a dream world, your budgets would be limitless, but the reality is that they are not. To utilize your budgets in the best way, you must understand who is most likely to buy and where they are listening and watching – whether that is through PR, social, paid media or a skywriter.

Free Admission  

How hard do you make it for people to do business with you? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and walk through the experience you are delivering. What is the parking like? When you approach the door, is it well-lit? Clean? Are the employees greeting customers with a smile or do they barely look up? All of these things become the cost of doing business with you. Festivals that provide free admission are clearing those initial barriers away for customers. Open your eyes to the experience you are creating and understand the challenges or cost of entry to your customers. Then, fix them.  If your customers need to contact you, give them easy access and an easy way to find your phone number. If you don’t provide parking, provide suggestions on your website. Simple gestures can go a long way and can motivate customers to spread the good work.

Make It an Experience They’ll Want to Share

One of the biggest threats to retail is the experience. Consumers are choosing to spend less on stuff and more on experiences. Creating something that makes your customer feel something worth talking about can make a difference in your bottom line. Whether you’re attending a music festival, a food festival or just a celebration festival, you are guaranteed to create mini-experiences that you will want to tell your friends about (or share on social media). Put yourself in those shoes and now in your business. What is the experience worth talking about?

Remember that marketing campaign you so carefully crafted. It needs to match the experience. To paraphrase a great man of advertising, “Nothing kills a bad product like great marketing.” If you don’t believe it, I have two words in keeping with our festival theme: Fyre Festival.

The biggest marketing lesson from festivals that I can share with you is to have fun. Enjoy the music, the food and the sun or the social media, the television production and seeing your ads come to life.

This column originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Biz New Orleans.

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