Niche Marketing Lesson Learned From an Event Disaster

Event planning has been on my mind for the past week.

A little backstory.  Eight years ago, a friend of mine called up, said she wanted to plan a community egg hunt and asked for my help.  I thought, “It’s Easter eggs, how hard can it be?”

Six years later, that event had grown into a festival with not only an egg hunt, but carnival games, entertainment, over 80 vendors and sponsors, and 4,000 people attending.

It was awesome and I loved the event, but it was an insane amount of work, all volunteer, and we decided the event had grown to a point where it needed to be turned over to an organization with more manpower.  

So we turned it over to another organization for the 2010 event.  It was successful for them, but over the summer they lost a few key volunteers and decided they just couldn’t handle the event for this year. 

It was offered to a second organization and they took it.  Let me just say that this group has a membership of over 400 and based on the demographics, experience, and resources of that membership and the nature of the organization, you would never think to question whether or not they could handle it.

Are you sensing some foreshadowing there?  If so, you would be right.

The way we built up the participation in and attendance to that event was a lot of hard work.  Since we didn’t have a lot of help, I started early.  It was always held the day before Easter, meaning the date usually fell sometime in April. 

I would usually take a month or so to recuperate after the event, but I would get all the marketing material put together for the following year in July.  I would start soliciting sponsors and vendors in August and drip feed a constant flow of information about the event so it was always on people’s mind to encourage businesses to participate.

Then in January I would start a full court press.  I submitted calendar listing to every place I could think of.  I would start lining out the publicity schedule and pounding the pavement to get the word out.

The group that did the event last year did some minimal publicity, but the event was so well established that they still had a really good turn out.

So on to 2011 . . . I’m still dumbfounded. 

I really don’t know what the whole story was, but I got a call at 2 pm last Wednesday from someone who had stepped in at the last minute and asked for my help. 

Almost nothing had been done to prepare and absolutely no promotion.

I could have given them a Plan B if I had known where they were at.  But it was so chaotic that I couldn’t even extract that information.  They ended up deciding to postpone the event.  

Which you would think would be the end of it right?  After all, other than an email to their own list they hadn’t promoted it. 

I cringe even thinking about what happened next.

They had been flooded with phone calls all week.  The same disorganization that characterized the “planning” continued in the cancellation.

They could not stop people from coming.

This event had been going for seven years.  This was a family tradition for many people and people just knew it was always the day before Easter at the same place. 

When I say tradition, I don’t mean just mom, dad, and the kids coming out.  No, it was mom, dad, the kids, grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins . . . they ALL came.  When people had family in from out of town for Easter weekend, they would bring them to this event.

I wasn’t even in town, but since I had done the event for so many years, I got phone calls all day long.  Not only on Saturday, the day the event was supposed to happen, but Easter Sunday as well.

All these people showed up for the egg hunt.  People were driving around the park trying to figure out what was going on.  Parents were wandering around the park confused with sobbing kids holding empty Easter baskets.

I’m still stunned.  Truly, I don’t even know how this group is going to answer for this.  I mean this is a small community and when you mess with a kid’s Easter, you are going to tick people off. 

I keep thinking that the whole scenario sounds like something from a Robert Fulghum essay.  You know, one of the really crazy ones like MOTB (mother of the bride) or the donkey and the Christmas pageant.  Epic.  That’s all I can say.

So what does this have to do with niche marketing?

Plan ahead!

It takes time to research.  It takes time to write.  It takes A LOT of time to promote your sites.

Don’t be like that organization and think you can pull something out at the last minute and be successful.

Holidays and seasonal events come the same time every year.  If you want to capitalize on one of them, don’t throw stuff up at the last minute and then be surprised that you aren’t seeing much reward from your efforts.

If you target these types of niches, you should be working six months out unless you have a team that can churn out content and sites as well as a pumper site network that you can use to push your sites up in the SERP’s more quickly. 

For example, this is the end of April.  Six months out is Halloween.  Your schedule might look something like this:

Week 1 would be  research, site creation and structuring.

Weeks two through three would focus on content creation and establishing the core of your backlink profile.

The next two months would focus on promotion and building backlinks.  And that would take you up to the beginning of August. 

This would give you a little time to adjust and laser in on the keywords that would be the most profitable for you.  But a lot of people start making Halloween plans in August and really start spending in September and through the middle of October. 

So you can see that 6 months isn’t as much lead time as it sounds like. 

Start Gathering Ideas Now

Let’s say you had some great ideas for a site centered on Easter or Cinco de Mayo, but you completely missed the boat getting something up and out there.  Those holidays will be there next year.  It’s not a complete loss.  Take the opportunity to do your niche research now. 

Create a folder on your hard drive for that niche.  Run some keyword reports and save the files in the folder.  Look around and see where the online conversations regarding the niche are being held.  Create a Word doc and take notes on ideas for articles, affiliate products, and anything else that will help you create a site down the road.  Pick up some post holiday clearance PLR.   And then plan it out in your marketing schedule.

Niche and online marketing takes time.  Just as with the event I mentioned, there are a lot of details that have to be handled and you need lead time to market and promote effectively.

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