This transcript is from Episode 19 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/19
This transcript consists of the interview only
Tom: Folks, I'm on the line with Bethany Smith. Bethany, you are an event planner, a copywriter, a fairy blog mother.
Tom: And a froyo junkie. Talk to me about this.
Bethany: Yes. I, first and foremost I love froyo. That is the truth. But I also really really enjoy event planning and copywriting because I consider myself first and foremost to be a writer and copywriting is a way for you to begin telling your story authentically online and then event planning is a way for you to take that story and make it come to life so I feel as though the two aspects of what I do work so harmoniously together and it's so fun. It's what I love to do.
Tom: So tell us a little bit about how you got involved in writing and how that evolved into the event industry.
Bethany: Actually, as soon as I graduated from high school, I was 18 years old, and I signed up for an AmeriCorps organization called City Year New York. And it was our task to help alleviate the dropout crisis in inner city schools. So we were sent to be mentors and help students with literacy in the schools. And I was chosen on my team arbitrarily to be the event coordinator for the team. And we had to put on, myself and my partner, we had to implement 10 different events targeted towards the students, the school and the surrounding community. And since we were a nonprofit organization our budget with a whopping zero dollars all of the time. And so you had to be really inventive because the events that you were putting on were very important. They served a social justice element as well.
So I got really hooked into it. I had no idea that event planning was a career until I was placed into this position and I loved it. And after that, after I graduated from AmeriCorps and I went on to college, I studied public relations and advertising in college and I minored in sociology just because I'm a crazy person. And my first real job was working and teaching college students who didn't speak English as their first language how to write on a college level, so that they could write in English on a college level.
And it was just sort of like, each of the aspects of the things that I knew how to do began just knitting themselves together to make this really perfect story. And I got my first ever client when I decided to really put things together. I worked with a woman a Mallorie Carrington who is a fashion designer and the owner of her own Body-Positive clothing design.
And we worked together to…she asked, she approached me and asked me to see if there was something that I could do, write a social media campaign that would really engage her audience. And so I took that a step further and took her social media campaign, Measure Me Beautiful, and we turned that into a Pop Up event, and it drove great traffic to her blog, it drove great traffic to her sales, it really engaged her audience on both social media, meaning Instagram and Facebook, and it really brought some visibility to her brand. I was like, hey, this is really cool. This is what I want to do and I want to teach other people how to use these techniques to make their businesses grow and expand.
Tom: Okay. I'm going to ask you a question just in case somebody out there listening doesn't know. What is a Pop Up event?
Bethany: A Pop Up event is an event that doesn't require in terms of the venue physical walls. It's a really easy type of event to plan because you usually don't have to deal with anything like zoning permits or licenses or things of that nature. It's sort of like you show up at a destination that usually feeds into your social media campaign and you show up and you give a free just interaction.
What we did for the Measure me Beautiful event was we made t-shirts that we would measure…we would have women come up to us and they would get their measurement done. And we would write their body measurements on the back of the t-shirts and talk to them about how to properly measure yourself, what arbitrary things, sizes are, and things of that nature, and then we'll give them the shirt and if they took a picture with us and tagged us on their social media, they got access to her free newsletter, Mary Carrington's free newsletter.
So it was just an event that didn't require too much in the way of pre-planning, and it was just you sort of show up somewhere and engage.
Tom: So let's time travel here little bit because you mentioned earlier when you worked with AmeriCorps, you had to plan 10 events, but you had no budget to work with. So what type of events were you planning and how did you do that?
Bethany: We called it–the process–we called it was in-kinding. So in-kinding is basically just a process by which you go to surrounding areas in the community and you pitch to them, you treat it sort of like a sponsorship relationship. You pitch to them what the event is going to be. You explain to them what role you would like them to play in your event so we would in-kind our decoration, our food and beverage, anything that we couldn't make ourselves, we would go out into the different communities and say, “Hey we're in the need for, say, 20 pizzas for our movie night” or things of that nature.
The first event that we planned, our most successful event, was a canned food drive. It was after the earthquake in Haiti. And so we collaborated with the students and the community and the school at large to put together a fair on the school grounds. And we did the quintessential dunk the teacher. We threw pies at our team members. We raised cans, we had bunches of games. And all the prizes for the games were food, were canned food prizes.
And so for that, we would go into the community and we needed many things in order to put our fair together. We needed burlap sacks for our sack race. We needed food to serve the students. We needed snacks, we needed a decor and decorations and room dividers to help set things up. And so you basically sit down and you make a list of what do I need that I don't have, what do I need that I can't make, and then you find out who around you would be able to provide those things. And then it's a matter of really pitching that to the businesses.
Tom: What a great training ground. And my hat off to you because that's got that element of giving back to the community, and it helps so many people, so thanks for doing that.
Now, Bethany, I'm going to take us again on a time travel, and I apologize if I seem like I'm jumping around, but I recently read something on the Planners Process where you mentioned that event planning is the best way to humanize companies.
Tom: So if we can, let's talk about that.
Bethany: Yeah, no absolutely, and that's one of the things that I truly believe, especially as a person who considers themselves to be a storyteller. Today, one of the things I like to tell people is that you're noticing today with the advent of social media and things like that, these huge companies, huge companies like Wal-Mart and Groupon and Facebook and just these huge companies Pepsi Cola, they're all getting on social media so that they can have these minute interactions with their clients, with their potential audiences.
And it's because we are past the stage where clients want to be sold to. Your audience doesn't want you to sell anything to them. They want you to interact with them. And once they trust you, they will buy from you. So I feel as though event planning really is one of the best ways to initiate some of those interactions and begin building some of those really authentic relationships with the people in your niche, the people in your audience, especially as a small business because it'll be a way for you to really drive home that brand, and who you are and what you feel and what you stand for.
And it will give people, your audience, people that are relevant to your bottom line, it'll give them a feeling for who you are what it is that you want from them. And then once that relationship happens, once they trust you and they've engaged with you, and it feels like they've hung out with you, now they want to spend money with you also.
Tom: Now, when did you start The Planners Process?
Bethany: That is a great question. It feels like it's been 300 years. I started The Planners Process I think three years ago.
Tom: Well, there's a lot of incredible content over there will definitely include a link to that on the show notes for the episode. Now, recently, you also launched The Aspiration Station.
Tom: When did that actually officially launch?
Bethany: The Aspiration Station actually launched two months ago, but it went so well it was really originally just going to be a platform for my services, my copywriting and event planning services. But the reaction and the response was so strong that I'm actually in the process of not relaunching but sort of switching gears so that I can include more content to answer some of the questions that I'm getting from my readers.
Tom: So let me ask you, what kind of questions are you getting in regards to the copywriting?
Bethany: People have lots of questions. People have lots of questions because in order for you to start a business of any kind, there are so many different things that you physically have to write even as an event planner. You have an e-mail list. So I get lots of questions about how should I write the e-mail subjects for my e-mail list.
Most content marketing platform or plans include blog posts. So there's lots of questions about, “What's the best way for me to write a blog post? What's the best way for me to organize? What should I be blogging about?” Things like when you come for your sales page. “How should I set my sales page up? What makes a good lead page? What should I be talking about with regard to my trade show or my conference or my workshop? What should I be saying?”
There are lots of questions about, I don't know, something about writing really freaks people out and makes them want to take a step back like, “Oh, before I publish this, are these the right words I should be using?”
Tom: So what tips can you provide somebody when they're thinking about writing copy.
Bethany: I actually have five tips that I give out all of the time for writing event copy that converts no matter what it is that you're about to write.
So the first tip that I have is to remember the target. Okay. So I say this about everything, it doesn't matter almost what question you ask me in the event planning, my answer to you is, first and foremost, to think about your audience because the truth of the matter is, I read very recently, I'm going to botch this quote probably, but the gist of it was, “Who do you need in order to have a successful restaurant? And the only thing you need to have a successful restaurant is a starving crowd.”
And so in terms of your event, it doesn't matter what your event is or what it is that you're selling or what it is that you would like your clients to do, the truth of the matter is you need to have an audience, and they need to be starving for whatever it is that you're selling. So the first step is to really have a true grasp of who your audience is, what their pain point is because that will allow you to craft the perfect rebuttal to the question, “Why shouldn't they buy?” before they even ask you that. So that's my first tip is to really understand your audience.
My second tip is to always write to sell. So irrespective of what type of copywriting, every single word that you're writing serves the purpose of getting members of your target audience closer to buying a ticket to your event, more engaged in your brand. So, more than just landing pages and sales pages, everything you write is a sales page to a certain extent. You're doing a job with every word, every blog post, every e-mail newsletter, every social media campaign, every press release, all of those things are a part of the story that you're crafting. And you should write to sell everywhere. So that's my second tip.
Tom: Can I ask a question there? Let's just focus in on this for a second because if you go through some of the forums and you go through some of the…there's always these people out there that are the me toos. Or, me, me, me, trying to gain your attention, trying to sell you something. So how do you write to sell so that you don't come off as a pushy salesperson?
Bethany: That, my dear friend Tom, is my third tip. And that comes from describing features…I mean, excuse me, describe benefits rather than features. Okay, so I'm going to start by telling you the difference between the two. A feature is a descriptive fact of what your service, product or event, what it is, what it has, or what it does. Those are the features.
So if you're planning a conference, the features of your conference would be that it's at a beautiful location, and that there will be X,Y, and Z speakers that are speaking about this important topic. Those are your features. Now a benefit is how those features help the people you're talking to. And you're not coming across as spam-y or sales-y or any of those things if you're talking to your target audience in terms of benefits as opposed to feature.
So instead of saying to your client or instead of leading with, “Oh, come to the sunny beaches of Florida and go to our three-day conference where we're going to have this person, that person, and these people talking about SEOs, social media and branding.” Instead, talk about the benefits. Explain that by the end of my conference, you will be able to write social media updates in half the time. Explain that the conference that you're planning or the event that you're planning, you're going to leave with enough information to be able to increase your revenue three times.
Talk to your customers about how whatever it is that you are giving to them is going to help them in their day-to-day life. That's why it's so important to really know who you're talking to. Because if you know who you're talking to, you know what benefits they want. You know how they want to feel when they leave your event, what they want to know how to do or what they want to have learned or have received. You know what they want from you. And so you don't come off as a pushy like used car salesman if you talk to them about what they get as opposed to what you give. It's all about putting that customer first, putting that target audience first.
Tom: Okay. That definitely answers my question, and I'm glad it led into that.
Tom: Okay. So that was tip number three what about four?
Bethany: Number four is to make perfect promises. And that sounds pretty impossible, but I define branding as the continuation of delivering on your brand promise. So you make a promise to your customers with your brand and with every single event that you put on. So your events each have to have, what do they call it in my freshman economics class? A unique selling position, a USP.
And so your unique selling position is basically your call to action to the client. You're saying to the consumers, to your target audience, you're saying, “Hey, come to my event. I provide this amazing benefit, and you won't get it anywhere else but here.” And you make a perfect promise by including that unique selling position, really understanding what it is and then including multiple bold and direct calls to action throughout your copy, irrespective of what you're writing if it's a newsletter and you're selling tickets to your event, you should sprinkle bold calls to action more than one throughout the e-mail. There should be more than one call to action on your sales page. There should be calls to action everywhere. You basically should be lovingly telling your ideal audience exactly what to do, and each action that you have them take should push them further and further into your engagement funnel.
Tom: I love that.
Bethany: Yeah, right, isn't that cool? Isn't that cool little tidbit?
Tom: That really is.
Bethany: When you will test your calls to action, you do a couple of A/B testing. Testing your calls to action is the second most helpful return on copy conversion, second only to headlines. If you change your headlines and you change your calls to action, then you're going to get so much return on investment.
Tom: Now, we were talking about testing, doing an A/B testing. There are a lot of people out there who know the value of it but very few people that I talk to actually do it.
Bethany: Yeah, it's because it can oftentimes be very difficult, which is why I truly believe that you should take your time when checking into your software and be really honest and open with regard to what you are good at and what you hate. That's why certain software, like currently I use Milton Pro [SP] and the Pro version really allows you to A/B split test a million and one different things.
And so that's just for e-mail. But for each of these different platforms, your lead pages, your sales pages, all of these different things, it's possible for you to find a software either free, inexpensive, or high-end that will make A/B testing really, really simple, but it's so important to do. You'd be surprised what you can pull [SP] a return on change, tweak a color here, change a headline there. It's really just about listening to that audience and figuring out what they want to talk about and talking to them their way.
Tom: Now your fifth tip?
Bethany: My very last tip.
Tom: I'm like loving these so much. I've got…I'm like I need to hear this.
Bethany: Well, the very very last one, especially since we live in 2015, it's this new digital era. People are very very worried about SEO. And so my last tip is to absolutely remember and consider SEO for your copy needs, but not to lose yourself in trying to do SEO. And the reason I say don't lose yourself is not to get too ridiculously technical.
But all of our content is based on different algorithms and things of that nature. And so yes, you need to understand sort of what SEO is. I would say brush up on SEO and use that knowledge in the back of your mind as you create your copy. But the truth of the matter is that being consistent and putting out a consistent quality content that actually resonates with your target audience, that is going to boost your SEO naturally, so you shouldn't lose your mind over it, especially if you're if you're a small business owner.
SEO, when you start out small, it really is just…it's important, but you really shouldn't lose your mind over it because creating quality content and really following those other steps that we talk about, the first four steps, if you do those, it will take care of the SEO on its own.
Tom: You know that's something that I recently heard from another avenue, and I'm glad you reiterated that because what I was told was if you're creating good content and people are consuming it, that Google will eventually catch up.
Bethany: Absolutely. If you are engaging with people, it's actually a facet of engagement is the truth. If you are sharing that content and people are eating it up, even if you're not engaging, like if your e-mail list is not thousands and thousands of people strong, but if all of those people are very engaged with you, if they leave comments on your blog post and they share your tweets and share your Facebook status, updates and download your freebies and all of these different thing that they come to your event and they share your event landing page, if they join into your webinars, that kind of engagement is going to boost your SEO cuckoo crazy bananas.
Tom: Oh I need the cuckoo bananas. Is that a froyo flavor?
Bethany: It should be. Ooh, now you got me thinking that I should make some cuckoo bananas froyo.
Tom: Okay, well let's try that. Let me know how it goes. Well, Bethany, I've got to ask you, you've given us these tips. And I was originally going to talk to you about copywriting for social media. And your tips…and you told me this ahead of time, you said, “Hey these tips are going to cover everything.” And they did. But I've got to tell you, I recently went on to your Twitter page, and I was really impressed with how you interact there. So could you give us just some ideas that maybe you've incorporated you found worked for you in the social media market?
Bethany: The social media market, one thing I will say is that social media as an umbrella term, one thing that's really important is to really just understand the flavors of each different social media platform. They're not identical. You don't interact with people on Twitter the same way you interact with people on, say, LinkedIn. You don't produce the same type of content on Facebook that you would on, say, Pinterest. They are slightly different. It's like being in slightly different rooms.
So the first thing I would say about social media is to really pick a platform that works for your brand, works for your audience and figure out the slight rules of how to talk on that social media platform. And you don't have to do too much crazy research in order to do those things. You can just go on the platform and look a little bit, see what people are sharing, what they're doing. You'll notice that on Twitter. You know people are sharing links a lot on Twitter. People share pictures a lot on Twitter. People are engaging in conversation. Whereas on Instagram, of course, everything is very visual. On Pinterest, it's the same way. Everything is very visual. So just really understanding how the conversations are working. That's really important for social media.
Another tip that I would give for just interacting and engaging on social media is to interact and engage on social media. Like…
Tom: I like that.
Bethany: Because we try to automate everything and I believe in automation. Automation is really important. It saves you a lot of time. And event planners need to save every single second that they can save. But you can't save time at the expense of authenticity because authenticity is literally the point of the story. It's the point of the event. People want to meet you and feel you in real life. So you should be trying to replicate in real life interactions as well as you can on social media. That's really what it's for.
They're humanizing these brands to a different degree than events would. It's like a go-between. So, yes, I would automate things, but my rule of thumb is I automate my own content, and then I make a plan of attack of how I'm actually going to physically be on the social media platform for some time. If that means hosting or taking part in a Twitter chat, if that means I know that the debates were just on, I know everyone's going to be talking about that, let me hop on. Let me go and see physically who else is out there, what is being spoken about on my timeline and see if there's now a conversation I want to jump into.
You don't have to spend all day at it. But I really do suggest taking some time and balancing between automating and physically being on the platform, saying things in your authentic voice online.
Tom: No, it's fantastic advice, and you are definitely one I'm gonna watch. I want to learn from you. So now before we end this conversation today, I want you to talk to me a little bit about your new course that you've got. The Kick-Ass Mini Copywriting Course. Tell me about that.
Bethany: Yes. So that's actually going to be a free version of even larger and expanded course. So The Kick-Ass Mini Copywriter Course is intensive three-day e-mail course that goes into how to physically write better copy, better copy for your business, better copy for your events, just how should you physically be thinking about the words to you right on the page before you write them.
So we go into headlines, we go briefly into calls to action and lay out for the different forms of copy, and it's a very cogent and concise way to really boost, get you just thinking like a copywriter when you write anything, which will really help you with your writing.
And so that is a preview to a paid course that I'm still in the process of ironing out all of the different modules for. And that course is going to be called Write Like You Mean It. And it's a 45-day workshop to enhance your writing ability and help you set up your editorial calendar for the next year.
Tom: Okay, that is extremely important information. How do they get in touch with you to learn more about this?
Bethany: Well, you can hit me up on e-mail. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to my website, which is aspirationstation.co and that's C-O not com, aspirationstation.co. And you'll be able to check out some blog posts that have even more in-depth information.
Each of my blog post also or several of them will also come with content upgrades, so things like a worksheet to help you work through the different things that we're discussing. I also have an e-mail list that I'm setting up. I call those the station sessions where every month, I send out just little tidbits on work-life balance, how you're supposed to tell your story authentically and sell yourself without like selling your soul. So, yeah you can send me an e-mail or you can come visit me on my website.
Tom: Fantastic and we'll have…I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you there.
Bethany: And I said. Of course, social media. All of my social media platforms. My username is bethanynsmith.
Tom: Bethany, again, I thank you so very much for taking your time to talk with me today. This is been an eye-opening interview. I love all the tips that you gave, and I know that our listeners are going to enjoy them, too. And hopefully, we can get you back in the future to talk further about this subject.
Bethany: Sure, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Tom. It's been such a pleasure.
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