Marketing Your Fundraising Campaign

Marketing Your Fundraising Campaign

1.Marketing 101 – Why Bother?

Along with creating a set of products and goals that your community will love, marketing is an essential component of a successful shop. Fortunately, it’s easy to get started! You likely already have most of the resources you need and in this section we’ll cover everything from the basics, like free advertising on Twitter, to developing more strategic promotional plans that can help turn your event into a brand that customers rally behind.

“If you build it, they will come.”

That idea may work in the movies, but when it comes to running an online store it’s a recipe for disaster. As a shop owner, you can’t wait for customers to find you; you must go out and bring them to you. Online shoppers have unlimited options and if you want to succeed, you have to stand out.

That doesn’t mean you need to hire an advertising agency, or even need a marketing budget at all in fact, most smash.gg shop owners spend absolutely nothing on promotion. It also doesn’t mean you need to be a marketing genius, social media spammer, or possess Wendy’s wit. Our team has worked with hundreds of tournament organizers, artists, vendors, and service providers supporting communities of all types, and we’ve found that anyone can succeed with a bit of common sense and hustle. Likewise, some of the biggest, most well-known organizers can crash and burn when it comes to monetizing their events if they overlook the basics.

To make things easy, we start with the essentials. We’ll cover the must-do’s that will set you up for success and explain why they’re so important. We’re talking basics like:

  • Marketing with your customers in mind – who should you talk to and what should you say?
  • Choosing the right marketing channels – where should you say it?
  • Getting the messaging right how should you say it?
  • Measuring results and keeping momentum – when should you post and how do you know if it’s working?

2.Getting Started

Effective marketing means knowing your customers and offering content that will appeal to them. If you’re an experienced event organizer, or are otherwise already knowledgeable about your community, start with what you know. What’s going in within your community that you can use to capture interest? A new or updated version of a game? A rivalry between popular players? What are people talking about, what can you get them interested in, and how can you tie it in to your shop’s marketing?

If you’re new to a community or need help, just ask!  People want to be heard and are generally eager to share their complaints, wishes, and ideas for improving their community. Talking to attendees at events like yours can be a great start. If you have attendee email lists, surveying customers to better understand them can bring in valuable data. Online discussions can help too; we see suggestions all the time on Reddit and the smash.gg Discord is full of event organizers willing to share what’s worked and what hasn’t.

To effectively market, you need to know what your attendees and viewers like and dislike. If you’re marketing products, which ones are people going to be most interested in? What haven’t they seen before that will capture their interest and bring them to your shop? If you’re focusing on fundraising, what goals will get your supporters excited? If you’re doing both (you’ll see better results if you are), how can you balance your marketing so that it generates the interest you want without being annoying or overwhelming? Answering those questions, and deciding how you should act on those answers can become easier if you break your audience down into customer segments.

3.Customer Segments

Not all customers are alike, and what works with one group may not succeed with another. By understanding and tailoring your marketing (as well as your products and goals) to the different segments within your community, you can be strategic with your efforts and focus your time where you’ll get the best results.

3.1.Attendees

Whether your event is live or online, your current and expected attendees are your strongest customers because they’re already invested. They have already deemed your event worthy of their time, money, or attention. These customers are strongly considering registering, or have already said “yes,” to you once, meaning you’ve already succeeded at marketing your event to them. If you’re running an invitational type tournament where you’re primary audience will be stream viewers, this section also applies to them.

Connecting with attendees is one of the most effective ways to market your events and drive sales

Attendees are the best place to start because you’ll get immediate feedback that can help guide your larger decisions. If your attendees absolutely love an idea, it may play well with a larger audience. Conversely, if you find that something flops with your attendees, it’s unlikely to work outside that group and you can avoid committing time and energy on an ineffective approach.

If you involved your attendees while developing products and goals, that group can be the best place to start. You’ll want to recognize those who helped and let them see their efforts in action in your shop.

Marketing to your attendees doesn’t need to be as polished (and can be pretty informal, especially for collaborators who helped with products or goals) as it does for a wider audience, but should be authentic. You’ll benefit by focusing on the impact that contributors can have, by both directly improving an event they’re interested in and by helping your event grow along with your community.

Where should that conversation take place?

Wherever your attendees are already talking! Use the existing resources in place, whether that’s on Reddit, a Facebook event page, a Discord server, a message board, or something else. If there are multiple channels, don’t limit yourself to one.

If your attendees aren’t already conversing, consider making that happen yourself. Adding an official Discord or Facebook event page for your attendees is a great way to deliver updates and keep momentum on your side as your event date approaches. You can link these directly from your tournament’s details page.

What should you say?

You’ve already convinced your attendees that your event is worthy of their time, now you can capitalize on it. Focus on how these existing customers can enjoy your event even more.

If you have goals to promote, think through which will be most interesting to attendees at the various stages of your marketing campaign. Things like pot bonuses become more interesting as the event draws near, while goals like flying out players from other regions can widen the appeal of your event early on.

With products, marketing to your attendees is all about getting them to your shop. If you have a strong brand, promoting new and exclusive branded products may be as easy as posting some sneak peek photos on Twitter. Alternatively, if your brand alone isn’t enough to generate interest in merchandise, you may do better focusing on third party products, merch designed by artists you partner with, or even keeping the focus on goals.

Early Stages

In the initial stages of marketing, when your event is still weeks or months away, it’s generally best to focus on your fundraising ideas that need a lot of support or require early booking. At this stage you may still be promoting your event as well, and connecting your event and shop marketing will make both even stronger.

If you’ve included experience type goals in your shop, like keeping the venue open overnight, sell the story of how much fun that would be to your attendees. If you have player goals, get those players involved and support them as they rally their fans to help. Goals like these generally need to be funded and booked several weeks in advance of your event, so focus on these first.

Promoting these early also provides you with a much more exciting way to promote your event itself. People ignore ads for tournaments every day, but a post about how the community has come together to get a hometown hero flown out to your tournament is exciting and hard to ignore. By continuously posting about your goals and delivering updates, you renew interest in the shop and goal while keeping your event on people’s radar.

When promoting products early on, you won’t have the same momentum on your side that you do during and after your event. Official event shirts, whether at a gaming tournament or concert, sell best at the door for a reason. Unless you have a very strong brand or exclusive product line-up, early stage marketing for products should include some type of early-purchase incentive.

Ideas here include discounts for early bird purchasers, free merch included as a perk for attendees who register early, limited-time availability or limited-quantity items, etc.

If you don’t have strong products or are unable to come up with a good way to promote them early on, it’s not a bad idea to forego pushing products until your event date draws near. Keep the focus on the event and goals and then advertise merch once people are amped about your event.

Late Stage

As your event date draws near, you’ll want to shift the focus on your marketing efforts to better capitalize on the building hype. If you have any goals with fill-or-kill type deadlines, be sure to make a final push in the 2-3 days leading up and give your attendees a last opportunity to get them funded.

Your focus on goals during later stages should be a balance between celebrating what’s already been accomplished and what’s left that can further enhance your event. This can be a great time to add supplemental goals that can be fulfilled up to and during your event. Things like pot bonuses for side events and easy to produce bonus content or advance funding for future events can be great additions. If your existing goals are already funded or close to being complete, this becomes even more important. If your original goals are still struggling, focus on them and limit additions until you’re ready to scrap unfunded goals (in accordance with a clear funding policy) and replace them.

Products become much easier to market as your event date creeps up. If you’re selling merch at your event, focus on why it makes sense to order online. In addition to funding goals, customers ordering in advance guarantee that an item won’t be sold out or be unavailable in their size. They may get to skip a long merch line, get lower pricing, have access to exclusive online-only products, or just not have to worry about carrying around their merch all day. If your merch is available only online, you’ll want to stress that fact as many attendees expect to be able to buy at events.

During and Immediately After Your Event

Marketing during your event is the most straightforward, but often overlooked, pieces of a successful campaign. Your goals are most likely all closed at this point, so the focus is simple: give your customers a way to remember the great experience you deliver at your event.

While the scope of your efforts is greatly narrowed, your tactics should expand. During your event, you’ve got your attendees in the building. There’s no better way to reach them, so take advantage of it and make your products impossible to miss. Place your booth (if selling at the event) front and center, show off your products by displaying them in highly visible locations, make announcements, hand out flyers, show ad slides on stream, get your top players and TOs wearing your apparel, run giveaways, and do anything else you can think of to make sure everyone who walks through your doors knows what you’re offering. It’s easier to sell merch at an event than anywhere else, so make the opportunity count!

If you’re selling at your event, make it easy for customers. Your booth should be easy to find and well-staffed. If you sell online-only, or have items not available at the venue (including items that sell out or run out in certain sizes) you’ll want to make sure everyone knows where they can order online and how long they have. Stream slides, signs, flyers, and announcements can get the message across with minimal effort. If you’ve got anything exclusive that’s just for your attendees, be sure to emphasize the exclusive nature. Not only will you help sales, you’ll increase the perceived value of your event and make attendees more likely to return.

Clear signage and prominent placing at the venue’s main entrance make it easy for customers to know where they can purchase or pickup merch.

Once your event has ended, you have a short window of time to follow it up with a final marketing push. If you had successful goals, now’s a great time to thank everyone who contributed to making them happen. As for products, be sure to focus on the deadline: your attendees have a very short window of time before your shop closes and their opportunity to get a souvenir from your event goes away forever. Emailing your attendees a recap of your event’s highlights, successful goals, and final opportunity to place an order can be a very effective marketing vehicle.

3.2.Prospective Attendees

Prospective attendees are the ones you need to convert in order to grow your event. They’re the best friends of your attendees who are interested but have never actually pulled the trigger, the people new to the community and considering attending for the first time, the previous attendees who missed your last event, and the people who would love your event if they only knew it existed. Marketing your event to this group is essential for long-term growth, but in this section we’re focusing specifically on marketing your shop.

The major difference between marketing to this group and to your actual attendees is that they’re not invested. Until you convert them to attendees, your event has a lot less significance to them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t market your shop to them, but you do need different tactics.

Where to Market

Communicating with prospective attendees generally needs to happen in their channels. This group isn’t as tuned in to what’s happening with your event and may not follow your social media accounts. To reach them, you’ll need to bring the message to them. That means making your shop visible in more public channels like forums and Reddit. Social media can be very strong with this audience, but is dependent on the success of messaging through accounts that the prospective attendees follow. No one likes spam, so it needs to be authentic. Getting your attendees, artists, event team, and others who genuinely care about your merch talking about it is the way to go.


Because you have less control over the messaging, it’s important to guide this type of marketing by setting things up in advance. If you’re working with artists, develop a marketing plan with them that focuses on the products most likely to succeed with non-attendees. Encourage your biggest supporters and event staff to participate by sharing their favorites on their own social media accounts. Most of all, make it easy.

Simple steps like designing a tournament banner that looks good in tweets can really help. Retweeting and sending thank you notes when others market on your behalf are easy, but often skipped steps, that will help encourage this type of marketing to continue. One of the easiest ways to encourage sharing on Twitter is by using smash.gg’s customizable post-purchase messaging. You supply a preset message
(e.g. “I just helped event XYZ by ordering some great merch!”) that customers can customize, and they’re prompted to post on their Twitter accounts after placing an order.

What should you say?

When thinking through your own marketing towards prospective attendees, the unfortunate fact is that they’re unlikely to care about your event’s merch. Focusing on commemorative t-shirts, posters, or other souvenirs that work well with attendees isn’t going to cut it. You may have some luck selling event merch to this group as gifts for actual attendees, but beyond that it’s a tough sell. When marketing products to this group, your event simply doesn’t carry as much weight. That means you’ll need to focus on products that are exciting outside of your event. If your audience is otherwise interested in your community or specific games you’re hosting, marketing products that build on that, even outside your event, can be very successful.

This is where having strong products really helps.  If your products are popular enough on their own, it’s just a matter of getting them visible and focusing on how they came to exist can be a great strategy. Interviews with artists, stories about design contests, raffles, and working with community celebrities are all ideas that can get your products in front of prospective customers without coming across as spam. This Summit 7 shop product (image on the right) appealed to a wide non-attendee audience by combining a game inspired concept with a strong design by a popular artist.

 

Prospective Attendees and Goals

When it comes to marketing goals, consider what prospective attendees would be interested in.  Will they care about overnight access to a venue they may never visit, or a pot bonus for an event they may not participate in? These generally won’t go over as well as they do with actual attendees.

Instead, keep the focus on goals that potential attendees would care about. If they’re on fence, they may tune in to an event stream even if you can’t convert them into attendees. Goals that improve this content will see the most success. And, even if they don’t attend the specific event you’re marketing, keep in mind that they may become attendees at your future events. That means that even though this specific event and shop aren’t as significant to them, the continued success of your tournaments and the overall community is.

That can be an especially powerful marketing tactic for grassroots events. Everyone loves to see an underdog prevail, and even permanent non-attendees will rally behind something that’s important to their friends. This isn’t something you can do alone; you must get your attendees, most passionate fans, and anyone else with an interest in your success to help!

GoldRushGG successfully used Reddit to market their shop to non-attendees on another continent by delivering great content through goals and products their community loved, raising more than $15,000 in the process.

Just as first-time event attendees are typically swayed to register by their friends, purchasers are influenced to support goals that are meaningful to those closest to them. Encouraging your attendees to help promote through their existing social media networks is much more effective than any ads you can come up with, paid or not. It’s the most natural form of marketing and the most likely to produce results.

When this is done well, the results are widespread and look well planned out. In reality, it’s one of the easiest tactics to execute on. Provided you’ve designed goals that are truly important to your community (and you should revisit them if that’s not the case), the messaging here is straightforward: talk about what’s important to you, why, and how those connected to you can help if they wish. Encourage your attendees and supporters to do the same. That’s it.


Over time you’ll learn to make improvements with better imagery, optimized post timing and tagging techniques, and more organized cross-platform approaches, but the gains taper off. The most important thing is to be authentic and get it done. Those who are inclined to support your cause will do so regardless of your degree of finesse.

3.3.Non-Attendees

The core focus of your shop marketing efforts should be on your attendees and prospective attendees, but you don’t have to limit yourself to those groups. Even people who aren’t interested in your event or community, and may never convert to attendees, can become customers. This audience is usually harder to reach and more difficult to sell to, but may be worth targeting if you have the right products or goals in place. Note that when marketing events like invitationals, with subscribers or stream viewers at the primary audience, you shouldn’t operate as if they’re all non-attendees. Those viewers are generally more invested and will be receptive to the tactics previously covered.

Those with weak or no ties to your event and community will rarely be interested in your goals. Unless you’ve got something really special lined up, your time will be better spent marketing products. If you are interested in fundraising to such a large audience, you’ll need a major draw that appeals to people outside your core community. Crossover events that bring players together with participants from conventions and other events that share attendee pools are one of the ways we’ve seen this work best. Examples here include bringing gaming attendees together with anime fans, or fighting game players and popular musicians. With the combined audience, you can choose goals like bringing out a DJ, food trucks, or celebrity of broad interest that will gain traction even outside your core audience.

Most goals in the Curleh Circuit Finale shop appeal to players and attendees, but the hurricane relief fund goal is of interest to the broader community.

When it comes to marketing products, keep the same ideas in mind. Are your products themed around your event or specific concepts that only people in your community will care about? That’s not a bad thing, but it means they’re unlikely to sell outside of that group. Investing time marketing to a larger customer pool may not produce results no matter your level of effort.

If you do have products that you think will work, getting them in front of the right people becomes your challenge. Non-attendees generally won’t follow your social media channels or keep up with community news, so reaching them takes some creativity. Testing the waters with paid ads can be a great approach here. You’ll have to take on expenses up front, but a small marketing budget can let you know very quickly whether or not your products are actually going to succeed with a wider audience. If you see results, invest more time. If not, cut your losses and refocus your energy on your core audience. We’ll cover advanced techniques for reaching larger audiences in future sections.

4.Measuring Results and Keeping it Going

How do you know if your marketing is working? Look at the results! This is an area that can get complicated, and we’ll dive into more advanced topics in future sections, but getting started is as simple as looking at the response to your efforts.

For social media, that means tracking likes, shares, clicks, and whatever other stats are available through your selected platforms. Are you seeing numbers that suggest people are seeing and engaging with your content? How do your numbers compare to events similar to your own? Are your influencers promoting your marketing content?

Checking the results is often as easy as visiting your shop page. Are you seeing sales boosts, donations, or other engagement during times that suggest your marketing is working? Do those numbers drop off when you stop? If you have a smash.gg shop specialist working with you, they can help you analyze and draw conclusions from the results – just ask!

Your marketing plan shouldn’t be static – change things up based on the results you see. Most of all, keep in mind that marketing is not a one-time effort. Even your best content will be missed by some percentage of your audience, and if you don’t follow it up with more then you’re missing out on potential interest. Many customers won’t jump at the first opportunity to contribute, or even visit your shop. If you don’t continue to reengage them throughout the life of your shop, you limit your own success. The more content and variety of formats you use to get the word out, the better your chances at exceeding your own expectations.

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