Woo boy. Marketing a SF con. Let me start by saying, it’s hard. The first thing you have to do is to be able to interact with other people. Well, maybe it’s not the first thing, but it is kind of necessary. I’ll explain why when we get to face-to-face promotions. Unlike my previous posts, I’m going to break this topic up into smaller segments where I introduce various subtopics.
WebsiteOkay, this seems pretty simple, but you really need a website before creating just about anything other part of your advertising. The reason is simple enough, all printed materials need to have your web address on them.
When it comes to web design, one of the pitfalls I have seen far too often is webmasters spending more time on “bells and whistles” than functionality. For a website to be functional, it needs to be informational and easy to navigate. My suggestion is to let someone not familiar with your con take your website for a test run. Can they easily find what they want to know? If so, you’ve been successful.
For content, you need to put everything that you, and everyone you know, can come up with about your con on your website. Really, everything. I’m not kidding you. You would be surprised the questions I’ve gotten over the years about topics not covered on the website. To get you started, however, I’ll shorten the list a bit. Make sure that you answer the following questions: What, when, where, who and how much? Be careful, the “who” part is a bit tricky because it’s really “who are your guests and other program participants,” and “who is running this con? “ You need to answer both of those.
Side note: If you can find a copy of Roger Black’s Web Sites That Work, I recommend reading it. I have seen it on Amazon, so maybe you could start looking there.
FlyersFlyers are like small versions of your website. Their sole function is to be informational. Pursuant to that, they need to include the following items, at a minimum: convention name, dates, location, membership cost, hotel room cost, con website address and a contact phone number and email address. I also recommend you have a list of the types of events you plan to hold, a list of all guests of honor (GoH), and a list of any other guests you feel might be a draw.
This next part seems like it should be obvious, but for some reason I still see cons violating this rule: your flyer needs to be easy to read. Try to avoid creative details which might distract the reader. For example, one mistake (that has fortunately become less common) is watermarks. My suggestion is to avoid them, and anything else that makes the flyer hard to read.A final note on flyers, most people will only look at them for about 3 seconds before deciding if they are interested in knowing more about your con. You need to make sure your top selling point is the first thing they see.
Online AdvertisingYou cannot over publicize your convention. Make sure you have listings on all of the major social media sites. Also, make sure you hit every con listing website you can find. In the southeast, one place everyone seems to visit is the Southern Fandom Resource Guide. I believe there are similar listings for other parts of the country/world… find them.
Now that you’re listed, you need to learn the following phrase, “push advertising.” Place a link to some sort of email list (Google, Yahoo, whatever) on your website. Anyone who signs up is asking you to send them updates. Do so. You can also do the same thing with several of the social media sites. Try using their direct mail feature as well.
Face-to-Face AdvertisingNow we get into one of the older traditions in fandom, marketing your con at other conventions/events. Step one is to ask the host convention for a fan table. Once they agree to that, you will need flyers and a tri-fold board. The board is a static version of your website. It needs the same information on it you have on your flyers… plus pictures. In place of (or possibly in addition to) the tri-fold board, you can use a computer and a PowerPoint slide show. I personally prefer the board, however, as it doesn’t change slides when someone is in the middle of reading it.
Remember when I said you needed to be able to interact with people? Well, here’s the first point where that comes in. When manning your table, avoid this common mistake: sitting behind your table. Do not sit behind your table! I suggest getting out from behind your table and engaging people as they walk past. You want to be friendly and say, “Hi,” introduce yourself and your con, get a flyer in their hands, and ask if you can answer any questions. You might even suggest they attend the party.
PartyParty, you ask? What party? The answer is, your party. That’s right, you’re throwing a party. Preferably on Saturday night of each con you attend before your convention.
For the party you will need munchies, soft drinks and alcohol. Don’t drink? Find a friend who does, so that they can help you run the party. Speaking of friends helping, you will need 4-5 of them to pull off a good party. You will need one person at the door checking IDs/badges, one person tending the bar, one person keeping the food and soft drinks in stock and at least two people pushing your con. This last part is the entire reason you’re throwing the party, so use the time wisely.I have thrown my share of parties over the years and one suggestion I found very helpful (can’t remember who told me to do this) was to have our folks rotate jobs about every hour or so. This really helps keep everyone from getting bored or tired.
One last note on parties, assuming you have enough people to help run your party, I suggest each person take some time and visit the other parties at the con… it’s the polite thing to do. Besides, you might be able to advertise your con while you’re out “roaming the hallways.”
* * *Okay, that concludes Marketing Strategies for SF Cons. As always, I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of stuff, but I’m discovering that you just can’t get everything into a single blog. If you can think of something I’ve missed, ask me about it in the comments section.