pete-whiteToday’s guest blog is brought to you by Peter White. Peter writes for Mullen & Mullen where he creates great articles on improving your style.

This article was originally published by TechVibes


success stories began with failure

I’m a failed crowd-funder. It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong. We deflect, ignore and run until we’re right again. Yet, Walt Disney, Stephen Spielberg and Henry Ford all failed before finding greatness.

Imagine you manage a Unilever detergent factory. Your job is to convert liquid detergent into a convenient boxed powder. You spray the liquid into the air at high pressure. It dries into powder, falls to the floor and then is put into cardboard boxes.

A simple process for making a lot of money. But there’s a problem, making your new job stressful. The nozzles keep blocking, stopping production. At the end of the day management calls and you just aren’t hitting your targets.

What do you do?

Unilever hired physicists, engineers and mathematicians to try and fix the problem. However, liquid to powder physics is difficult and despite a considerable research effort, they failed to make an effective nozzle.

Here the story usually ends. You’ve left your career as a detergent factory manager and gone to find a new, more achievable challenge.

Yet, Unilever solved the problem. They embraced failure by modelling the natural selection process. By making 10 variants of the nozzles, some bigger, some smaller, some with grooves, some without, 1 performed better. 9 failed. They then took that improved nozzle and made 10 different variations. After 45 generations and countless ‘failures’, they produced a much improved nozzle.

What happened?

Where the mathematicians, physicists and engineers had failed, repetition and iteration succeeded. By embracing failure and improving with each attempt, an efficient nozzle was created, nothing like the original.

Lessons from Crowd-funding

2 months ago, I launched a crowd-funded event to raise money for Amnesty International with my local business society. It failed to reach its target. What went wrong?

We thought we did everything right. We got extensive local PR, an excellent Picatic funding page and hundreds of people joining our Facebook event. But we only raised 35% of what was required.

I panicked. Our event was all over local media. We were getting emails and tweets from sponsors and attendees. I felt ashamed of my failure, as, just like the nozzle mathematicians, I had an overwhelming belief our solution was correct, first time.

The secret of success? Repetition.

However, I realized I had an opportunity to build a better nozzle.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

If you’ve just failed to reach your funding target, or are considering launching your own, I encourage you to fail again.

With each attempt you’ll gain: A bigger audience. With each attempt, you’ll gain more interest and followers. In the process of promoting your event, you’ll meet new people in the press, media and your community.

You’ll also gain experience and confidence. You’ll know what works and what doesn’t. I wish we’d filmed a video to promote our event – but I can do that next time.

History doesn’t remember failure. Several of Walt Disney’s businesses failed. Steven Spielberg was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times. Henry Ford went bankrupt with several car companies before finding his success. We forget the process of finding greatness, leaving only the success. Love your failures, learn from them, move forward and host something great.


tatiana-check-in-blog

Today’s guest blog is brought to you by Tatiana – a psychology and design student at Simon Fraser University. She is also  currently volunteering at Picatic headquarters in Vancouver.


Last week I volunteered to help at an event to greet and check-in guests at the gateway. I was given a clipboard with a list of guests names (not in alphabetical order) and a pen… that was it. As volunteers we’ve all seen this scenario play out. We receive instructions minutes before an event and are tasked with pushing guests through the gateway as quickly as possible.

At first it was alright, I asked guests for their name and flipped through the pages to find it on the list, and I even showed some of them around. However, later in the evening, when more guests started arriving, it got hectic. I had to ask them to wait and form a line, while I tried to find their name and flip through the pages on my clipboard. The guests were not very happy to wait. It was difficult and stressful.

However, if my event organizer used the Picatic Check-in App, the gateway check-in experience would have been very different. This free app allows users to scan tickets and to look up names to quickly check-in and check-out guests.

Here’s some advice I’d offer to any event organizer looking to make the ticket gateway a better experience for everyone.

Before your event:

If you want the gateway experience to be a good one for you and your ticket holders, you’ll want to make sure your volunteers know exactly what will be happening … trust me.

Make a plan

battleplan-check-in-app

]Image Source]

The first time you speak to your volunteers shouldn’t be the day of your event. So have a plan and make sure everyone understands what will be taking place well in advance.

How many gateway points are there at your venue? Who will be in charge of each gateway? Do your volunteers have an Apple device compatible with the Picatic Check-In App? Is there wi-fi at the event? Do you know the wi-fi login and password? Will you have multiple lines to check guests in or one line? Do you have a lead gateway volunteer?

These are questions you should think about, and plan for before your event. If you’re unfamiliar with your venue, make sure to do a walkthrough to get a feel for the layout. Assign your volunteers to their respective gateways and prepare for your event date.

Send your volunteers some instructions

Send an email to your volunteers with a meeting time and place at the venue. Be sure to let them know how guests will be checked in. If you are using the Picatic Check-In app include a link to the App Store and encourage your volunteers to download the app before your event. The team at Picatic has also created a Help Center article and volunteer instructions you can print and bring to your event.

Like many things, a little preparation goes a long way.

At your event:

Have a quick training session

Now that your volunteers have downloaded the Picatic Check-in app, have them meet you at the venue for a little training sesh. Be sure to leave yourself enough time that your volunteers are comfortable with how the gateway will be managed before guests start to arrive.

Assign a lead volunteer, who will be in charge of taking care of unexpected situations and to answer any unusual questions at the gateway.

Your volunteers are prepped, and the doors are opening – it’s time to get to work! As guests are checked in the app will update in real-time on all devices. This ensures that guests are not checked in more than once with the same ticket.

Don’t forget about your volunteers

Volunteers are essential to any event. Make sure they have breaks throughout the evening and have something to appreciate their help: anything from a little gift to a volunteer appreciation party would be amazing and show that you value your volunteers. Volunteers do notice if the event organizer cares about them and that inevitably effects their work, which in turn effects your event.

The gateway experience should be seamless for your ticket holders. It’s also an area that must not be overlooked as an event organizer. Make your first impression a good one at the gateway – prepare your volunteers and use the Picatic Check-in App.

Last year we announced our integration with MailChimp. This provided event organizers a more robust tool to send emails to their patrons. In January 2014, we announced our partnership with Stripe, giving event organizers access to their funds. We are excited to announce our latest partnership, and a new home for all future integrations with Picatic.

Picatic + EVENTup

picatic integrations eventup

We’ve partnered with EVENTup to help you find and book a venue for your event. EVENTup has thousands of event spaces across the US and Canada, making it easy to find the perfect location for your next concert, show, play, festival, or meet-up.

Learn more about our new integrations section and EVENTup.

Picatic Integrations

All of our integrations can now be found in the manage section. To find the integrations section, log in to your Picatic account. From your profile page mouse over any of your events and select “Manage”. In the manage section select “Existing Integrations” from the left menu.

Picatic Integrations

The integrations section lists the products and services we currently support. Simply click on an integration for more information.

We are continuously on the lookout for ways to offer better, simpler, and more seamless promotion tools for our event organizers.

Do you have any suggestions for future integrations with Picatic? Let us know in the comments.

This post was published on May 6th, 2014

Over the last two weeks we have experienced several extended periods of interrupted service. We understand our promoters need absolute confidence in our product to sell their tickets. Our goal has always been to provide exceptional service and reliability. Your events depend on it and so does our business.

What happened?

Last week, we did what we thought was a routine update for some of our services. A driver upgrade for our database was part of that update. Our usual process is to test on our staging servers and then pass the update to production. The latest driver turned out to have a connection pooling issue that did not come up while on staging. It comes up on persistent high demand, which occurs frequently on our production services. Once identified, we rolled back our update and restored service.

On April 28, 11:25 PST we encountered database corruption with our sessions table. This is one of our largest and most accessed tables on the site. It keeps track of who is logged in, what event you are buying tickets for and so on. It is critical that this table is accessible at all times. We have not determined the cause of the corruption to this table, but rebuilding a table from a backup can take a considerable amount of time. We attempted to switch to our hot backup, but it had replicated the corruption on the same table. Ultimately, we created a new blank table to get everyone rolling again, but scheduled some maintenance later that evening and into the next morning to restore the previous session data.

On April 30, 10:19 PST we experienced an incredibly high load on our database. Many page requests were being dropped and page load times were minutes long in some cases. Our first response to high load is to scale our services up, but in this case a specific user and set of queries was generating excessive load which scaling could not keep up with. We had to deploy a hotfix that morning and another more complete patch later in the day to address the root cause of the issue.

What will be different?

These issues have forced us to evaluate our current setup and better plan how we can work towards greater reliability.

First and foremost, last week our customers knew our site was down before we did. Our existing monitoring tool, Zabbix, failed to detect and notify us at the first signs that something was wrong. We have since moved to a more reliable and well known service, NewRelic. We have already integrated NewRelic into our existing infrastructure and tested its ability to detect and notify us of errors. As a matter of fact, it notified us on Monday when the site was not responding to requests.

Doing major updates is always risky, and our ability to rollback worked flawlessly. We will likely continue to use this system moving forward, but will be looking at how we can improve the amount of time it takes for a rollback to complete. We are looking to make this ~15 minute operation to less than 5 minutes.

Database corruption is not something entirely in our control, but we can mitigate the damage it can do. We have a long term plan to migrate from MySQL to PostgreSQL in the next year, but in the mean time we are looking at a few solutions that will mitigate a similar situation from happening again. These may potentially involve:

  • Using a specialized service like Redis to store our sessions. Recovery from snapshots can be substantially quicker than our MySQL InnoDB recovery process if corruption does occur.

  • We believe moving to PostgreSQL will solve the replicated corruption issue we experienced, but will be looking at how we can mitigate this sort of issue in the future.

  • More frequent snapshots of our database, so data loss is minimal in the event of corruption.

We are also looking into a log aggregation service that will bring logged errors from our services to one place. It should allow us to detect, understand and correct errors faster than what we have been doing so far. With this service working alongside the NewRelic tools, our operations team should be able to pinpoint issues even quicker.

We are launching a static status page where you can see the status of our web and API services. We will also use this as a communication tool for when we are experiencing issues with the site. 

As always, we are striving to provide the best experience out of any event platform you have used. Sometimes we stumble, but we get back up and keep running. If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know in the comments below.

Read on for full description of  the Picatic Checklist to help you successfully promote and sell out your event. The tips will help you stay on top from the set up of your event website to fostering the excitement about your event after ticket sale starts.

1. Content Quality Check

event-marketing-content

I cannot stress this point enough; before I start marketing my events I get an outside perspective on the aesthetics and content of my page. One of the biggest mistakes I see is a lack of consideration for curb appeal. Curb appeal greatly increases the chances of selling a home and the same principle can be applied to your event page. The disadvantage for event pages is that there are no sales agents available to answer questions or help guide prospective buyers to the sale.

I always ask the outsider what my event is about, do they understand the concept and why someone would want to buy a ticket for it? If the feedback I get is positive then my vision has been validated. However, if the feedback I receive is mixed, then I need to make some changes until I get the response I am looking for.

Going back to the base line rule – assume that prospective buyers have never heard of me or my event.  Therefore my event page is the only thing that is going to sell them when they’re home in their PJ’s contemplating buying tickets for my event.

Invest the time and effort in sourcing beautiful images, and include videos if you can. Add information that is helpful and easy to read so the prospective buyer is never left wondering or in need of more information. I’ve seen events that lack content, have pixilated images or in some cases no images. Other event pages lack essential information that visitors need in order to make a purchase. If a visitor feels confused chances are this will be a lost opportunity.

After I am done creating my event on Picatic I am provided with a customizable and unique URL. It will look something like: www.picatic.com/youreventname

When prospective buyers click on my event URL, I want them to be excited about their potential purchase. Therefore, it is imperative my event page is well done, informative and has curb appeal – earning my visitors trust and converting them into attendees.

Prospective buyers need to trust me before they consider buying from me. So, why should I take the time to invest in quality assurance? Because my page is doing the selling for me! My page is up and running 24/7 and if it looks shit people are going to bounce and I’ll have lost an opportunity.

Quick recap: My event page looks good. It has been approved by an outsider. It has curb appeal and is ready to be unveiled (check)! Time to move onto pre-marketing your event.

2. Prepare advertising channels and campaigns

Now that your page is set up and not public yet it is the best time to decide the advertising action plan. This is the time to decide on the date when your event will go live and when the public will be able to buy tickets.

Plan and create your social media campaigns. Social media is one the most powerful tools to tell the world about your event. Make sure that your ads are consistent and contain the necessary information to attract potential buyers. Along with your ad campaigns, remember to be social on social media. Be available to answer questions and engage with your community.

Reach out to bloggers and people who will able to tell others about your event to their social circles.

Overall, make sure that you have the dates decided and that your ad campaign will cover all the possible channels and reach out to as many people as possible. When the ticket sales starts activate all the ads!

3. Pre-marketing Awareness Campaigns

The biggest mistake organizers can make is to ‘go live’ with their event without any pre-marketing; this is an epic fail! I get it, not all organizers can afford the time, but this concept is essential to selling out your event.

So what is pre-marketing and how does it work? Pre-marketing: announcing to the public that tickets will be going on sale at a future date. Yes! That, in a nutshell, is pre-marketing! This is done strategically of course, as it creates awareness, conversations and buzz.  It also provides potential buyers time to look over schedules, chat with friends, partners,  co-workers, contemplate the event and get excited about it.

Prospective buyers are not going to buy from me on the first day. It may take many touch points and nurturing before I gain the trust of my potential buyer. Through pre-marketing, I have started to create frequency in awareness. For many of you, this may not be your first time planning an event or you may be an experienced planner. Either way, pre-marketing is valuable to you as you can leverage your past buyers and contact list. My past event attendees can become brand and event advocates.  I offer them a discount and allow them to feel like they are receiving a VIP service (because they are).

4. Privileged Pricing

During the pre-marketing awareness campaign my event is kept private, which means all social integrations have been turned off and the event page can only be accessed via its unique URL . This is when I create ticket types and special offers for past and loyal buyers and exclusive distribution lists.

Sending an exclusive offer to past buyers, who already know me, trust me and are aware of the quality of my events are hot prospects and often my best brand and event advocates.  These are my special peeps and I take care of them with a direct email to let them know tickets are going on sale and will be open to the public on a specific date and time. However, at this time, I am offering them an exclusive 48-hour opportunity to purchase tickets at a discounted price before I go live to the masses. This creates an appealing value proposition, urgency to act, and a feeling of exclusivity that many people love (don’t pretend you don’t love feeling special, you know you do!)

What’s great about this small but effective strategy is that when it works well, I can capitalize on the social proofing.  So when the date and time does roll around, I can opt to show how many tickets have been purchased. For anyone new that arrives to my page they’ll see that it’s the first day sales have gone live and there is already a sizeable amount of tickets that have sold. This adds credibility to my event which makes it safe for a new prospective buyer to purchase, while creating a sense of urgency for fear that tickets may sell out.

Now that I have done all this work it’s actually time to push the event out to the public.

5. Open to the Public with a 24/48 Hour Pricing Promotion

The time has come. It’s time to share your event with the masses.

If you followed the steps above you’ll know that my event page was set to private. Once you’re ready to share your event page publicly, make sure to make this switch and ensure your social integrations are also turned on.

Now the public will be able to search for your event on Google and Picatic.  Simultaneously, I jump start any media buys that I have to ensure I am creating frequency and being pushed to the top of my potential buyers mind.  I have to build hype through social proofing by leveraging early sales from pre-marketing.

Now is not the time to sit back and enjoy a cold one. In fact now is the time to kick it into high gear! I want to capture as many early buyers as I can and convert them into advocates.  Upon going live, I love to offer a 24 or 48 hour sale and a set amount of tickets (whichever comes first) right off the hop. I always want to be creating urgency to increase purchases and secure early buyers before they are propositioned with other opportunities.

You have the link, you pre-marketed, now it’s time to start working a new angle to get more people buying – enter the widget!

6. Post the ticket widget on your site

Now is the time to post the widget to your site.

The ticket widget “buy button” can be embedded on a website, for free, and is another source of ticket sales. The widget helps display tickets for my event, allowing attendees to begin purchasing on my website before confirming their order on Picatic.

The widget is a great tool that allows me to capitalize on ticket sales, minimize bounce rates and provides a professional looking sale structure to promote my event.

I always customize the ticket widget, buy button size & color, and then simply copy and paste the html code into my blog and website. It’s that easy and it makes a huge difference.

With the widget capturing more sales I can shift my focus to building some free publicity.

7. Get free publicity with a simple comment

Marketing events by blasting the masses with one way messaging may work for some, but it can be expensive and events can be easily lost in the black hole of marketing outer space.

Differentiating my event and rising above the noise using minimal marketing funds takes creativity.

Here are some tips on how to provide prospective buyers the ability to have a voice, create buzz, build my brand, and increase attendance. The best part of this section is that it is free and requires just a little time.

Step 1. It all starts with leadership. It’s what I like to call leadership by initial comment. Create a community by making the first comment. That’s it, that’s all! Have fun, keep the comment open ended and about the topic, speaker, performer, venue, etc. Ask questions, spark engagement, be funny, keep this dialogue as neutral and natural as possible. One rule: The comment should never be a sell. I repeat, no ABC’s (always be closing)!

Step 2. Pre-arrange 4 – 7 friends or allies to comment on the question. This is the most strategic and important piece of the puzzle.  This simple step creates a safe environment to spark discourse and create a movement.

Step 3. Once you have created movement and the masses start joining the conversation, help curate and nurture it. There will be questions to answer – answer them all diligently. Yes it is work, but always remember feedback and comments are a gift.

Step 4. Pump up the value: Now that there is a growing community it is a great time to create buzz. Remember the rule of seven: For every seven comments it’s ok to add in one value update. Examples include: new speaker announcements, band playlist, menu items, etc. If speakers or talent are presenting or performing at your event this is when to encourage them to add themselves to the discussion. The key is introducing touch points that add value, enough value that those already on the thread will be appreciative, so much so that they may add additional comments.  This is also a great way to convert those who may be sitting on the fence about purchasing tickets for the event. This results in increased public validation and klout for your event. Remember, be helpful – service not sell.

Here are some examples of how others have done this exceptionally well. Imagine coming to these pages not knowing anything about the event. Now imagine there being no comments. Huge difference! When newcomers come to your page for the first time and see all the non-solicited posts it adds a ton of  gangster cred to your event.

sell more tickets by building an engaged community

Comments are super endorsements.  When you look a little deeper, what you are really doing is making it easier to be discovered, and giving people a reason to purchase tickets – they want to be a part of the community you have built.

The key takeaway is that the event is being marketed naturally into the workflow of how people like to discover content. Comments will broaden your event marketing reach naturally through Facebook news feeds.  What is the power behind a comments you may ask? Well, for every 200 Facebook friends, Facebook has a potential marketing reach of 17,000 people – and it all starts with one comment.

Comments made, pre-marketing is over and the widget is on my page, but now that new car smell is gone and you want to fire people up again and get tickets moving quickly, once again. What’s a person to do? Early bird pricing.

8. Create early bird pricing.

Always create early bird pricing! Now that the 24/48 hour pubic sale is over, let’s capture as many early buyers as we can. Now is time to set up an early-bird offering.

Early bird pricing works great because it provides greater value for the prospective buyer and in turn creates urgency for me, the promoter. This helps convert sales all the while creating more brand event advocates.

While early bird pricing is great to get ticket sales moving there is another way to get tickets moving and it includes promo codes.

9. Promo Codes

Discount or promo codes can be used in many ways to accelerate ticket sales by offering a certain quantity of tickets at a discounted price only accessible with a code. Ticket buyers who have access to the discount code will have extra incentive to buy tickets before the deal expires or sells out.

picatic_promo_codes_animation

The way I use promo codes to their full advantage is through distribution lists. This direct email marketing technique has the lowest cost of acquisition, impacts social influence and ensures trust as the brand or person who has emailed me is someone I already know. This is one more touch point for people hearing about my event.

Utilize your network by offering influential friends a promo code to market your event to their lists.The main reason they are willing to market exclusive promo codes to their network is because it provides a discounted rate and value to their network, which can provide me with a huge amount of reach, frequency, associated trust and clout.

When setting up an event the first thing I do is contact my channel partners and ask if they are interested in sending a promo code to my event in their next newsletter. They may ask me to reciprocate the favour.

I can go as far as setting up a deal with my channel partner and offer them a revenue share. Each time someone uses a set promo code it is registered and tracked so profits can be split.

Promo codes are also an excellent tool for evaluating which marketing campaigns are performing the best. From my event’s manage page I can view all of the promo codes I have created and see how many times each has been used. Analyzing this data gives me a good idea of which campaigns have been the most effective in generating ticket sales.

10. Event Management

The event is live, promo codes are sent out and early bird pricing is over – but the work is not over. Now is the time to constantly check on how your sales are going. If necessary adjust the prices or create more promo codes and deals. Continue to update your event page and social media channels with news and additions to your event.

Good luck!