Question: Does anyone have any suggestions on advertising a Renaissance Faire? This is our 7th year and the one thing that keeps coming up is we don’t do enough advertising. I would love to hear stories of unique ways to get people to our renaissance festival!

Answer: As with many fairs, marketing and promotion tend to be more enigmatic to festival producers. Many fair planners are great at pulling the event together, marvelously orchestrating all the coordination required to build up a great festival. However—when it comes to marketing—they typically fall back on the same old tired marketing tactics; you know—the stuff we barely notice anymore. Here are seven ideas you want to be using, whether you’re promoting a renaissance festival, pirate day celebration or Celtic festival.

Collect Email Addresses

Renaissance fairs must begin collecting email addresses at registration! Everyone has an email address these days. Why go through the cost of designing and planting flyers (which can be effective too, don’t get me wrong) when you have the power to reach directly into your customers’ inboxes—reaching them wherever they are—with save the date announcements, coupons, promotions and thank you messages!? Fairs cannot rely upon their vendors to do this (precious few vendors are collecting email addresses, I’m certain from experience as a regular fair-goer.)

You can’t get much more targeted than to focus on those who have already attended a renaissance festival.

A simple name-and-email sign-up form should be added to your faire website. Use a service like Aweber, so email addresses can be automatically placed into an exportable database. Aweber allows you to create your email reminders all at once and schedule them to go out on certain dates. Coach registration staff to ask each ticket-buyer if they would like to receive promos, coupons, etc., in exchange for their email address and/or include a space on your registration form (if you use one.)

Notice I’m spending a little time on this point? I cannot stress the importance of collecting festival attendees’ email addresses enough—largely because I see so few medieval fairs doing it!

It’s In the Mail

Not up to speed on email yet? Registration staff can also record everyone’s zip codes at the time of ticket purchase. Using these zip codes, you are then able to map them out and determine how many are driving what distance. This information is also good for approaching would-be advertisers and event sponsors.

Get Social

Use social media. Renaissance fairs are social events so you want to meet your audience where they’re at and—socially—they’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Your active social media channels should be prominently (though unobtrusively) displayed on your website.

Make the Media Your Partner

Press releases, local event calendars and public service announcements. Definitely. These are low-cost, high-exposure channels, when reprinted or announced by the local media. Oh, and “local” for a fair should be any town within a 50-mile radius, at least.

Run an ad in the local papers and on the local news websites. Give reporters free admittance so they can write favorable (hopefully) op-ed pieces on opening day. You can even include them in the setup process, so they can show how much work goes into setting up a renaissance festival.

Finally, use Medieval Faires, Guidezilla, Eventbrite, Festival Network Online for further publicizing your renaissance fair.

Guerrilla Marketing at the Movies

Is there a movie in the theaters that takes place during medieval times? Approach the local theater with the plan for helping them promote the movie. Be there, outside the theater to play with movie-goers as they walk into the theater. Of course, encourage them to see the renaissance movie available. As movie-watchers let out of the theater (or maybe you did this on their way in, depending upon theater management’s comfort level,) give them coupons or flyers for attending the incoming renaissance festival. This could also be applied to a local play or musical with a middle ages theme.

Bone Up Your Website

A website (with or without a blog) is a must-have. This is where you will archive your announcements, give links to your social media channels, establish your calendar, display your image galleries, collect email addresses and so much more. Aim for something eye-catching, fun and keyword-optimized. But wait.. you’re not done yet.. we’re just getting started..

Do you remember that Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams? Well, the whole notion of “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply to websites. (At last count, there were over 9 BILLION websites on the Internet.) Very few renaissance fairs understand they need to drive traffic to their websites once they put a website up. How do we do that, you ask? Here are 101 ideas for accomplishing that challenge: http://marketingideas101.com/marketing-ideas/101-ways-to-drive-traffic-to-your-website/

Afterglow

I hope this helps! As we’ve put together the Medieval Faires website, we ran across the occasional renaissance festival that had risen and fallen. It was always obvious when a fair had died as their website either 1) stopped being updated in 2011, 2) lamented the economy and apologized for canceling, or 3) had gone missing altogether.

Of course, you and I know a successful renaissance faire requires strong, active leadership with the grand vision and solid business sense to pull it off.

Oh, and a small army of dedicated volunteers..

And sponsorships and revenues for launch and promotion..

And willing entertainers and vendors to create the right atmosphere..

And..

Well, at least the vital effort in marketing your renaissance fair doesn’t need to be a mystery. Use these techniques above and make this year’s fair the most successful yet!

In support of your efforts,

Matt
Ye Old Renaissance Shop

P.S.- Have more ideas renaissance fairs can use to promote themselves? Leave them in the comments below!