Recently, several people have been in touch needing emergency marketing. One client had an overseas health retreat, another had a yoga teacher training, both were weeks away from running and would be running at a loss if nothing changed. Drastic measures were in order.

Of course, marketing well in advance is always preferable to emergency marketing. But if you find that bookings have been far less than you budgeted for and your event looks to run at a loss, here are some effective emergency marketing techniques to take you from red to black.

Revisit your bookings

Those who have already booked and paid have the best chance of bringing others.

Send this group (not your entire list) a friendly, personal, upbeat email (avoid sounding desperate!). Highlight how much fun they’re bound to have, remind them that experiences are always best when shared and include testimonials from past events. Then offer them a discount to bring others – this should be a bonus for them and a discount and/or bonus for people they bring along. They are your best chance.

Look for referral partners

Look for partners who can refer people to you at the last minute, and offer them an incentive to do so – this may be cash or other incentive for them, plus a discounted price to extend to their networks. If you resent this, think about what it would cost you to advertise to a similar-sized group and remember that this isn’t an advertisement but an endorsement from a trusted source – worth far, far more.

Tips to avoid emergency marketing

1. Give yourself enough time to market

Learn the art of the pre-sell and announce upcoming events well before you do anything about seeking quotes, booking venues, and the thousand other things necessary when running such an event. Remember, you only need to include a few details to gauge interest – if this is lacklustre, you can rethink your venture before investing further.

2. Give a generous early bird price

People who take up your early bird price make your event viable, so be as generous as possible to encourage people to book and pay early.

3. Plan a buffer

If the venue requires a non-refundable deposit or up-front payment, then ensure that your early bird price ends a few days before this so that you have a buffer to breathe in.

4. Tighten your terms and conditions

Ensure your event is viable with robust terms and conditions that include payment terms, and conditions for refunds, transfers and credits.

5. Know your break-even point

Don’t pick a price based on what your competition charges, plus today’s date, minus the year you were born, influenced by today’s weather. Know your costs (ALL your costs), your break-even point and how many you need to make the event viable. Keep these numbers handy and wear out your calculator.

6. Be unique, be creative

When you copy others’ business ideas, it’s too easy for prospects to compare your business on price and convenience. When you’ve created something truly unique, you are incomparable.

7. Sell in pairs

When planning a retreat or event, consider selling only to pairs. This overcomes several problems – one of the biggest concerns for people looking to get away on retreat is the thought of sharing a room with a stranger.

As the retreat organiser, you are sometimes in the awkward position of having to negotiate between two opposing personalities who are bunking down together. Retreat accommodation normally sells in pairs and charges premium for single rooms which you must to pass on to your clients. Selling in pairs motivates people to bring others. My partner would never come to a yoga retreat with me, but having to bring a someone else would be a great excuse for me to call one of my long-neglected friends and invite them to a great weekend away together.