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BIG MONEY from Small Marketing Events: How I made $500k+ in New Revenue from Running Live Events on a Shoestring Budget

I am a huge fan of live events. I’ve attended many of them during my 14-year journey as an entrepreneur. And I get invited to speak at 10+ events every year all over the world, which is pretty cool, too.

But I have a small confession. 

I have never put on my own event. Until this year.

And now, I’m hooked!

This article is for you if you’ve been thinking about putting on your own live marketing event, but haven’t pulled the trigger. It’s also for you if you’ve put on your own marketing events in the past and want to improve your results.

You see, putting on LIVE marketing events has brought in an extra $500K in revenue for my business over the past year. Best part? I ran these events on an extremely small budget.

So if you’ve ever been afraid running live marketing events is going to drain your marketing budget or finances, or you feel you have to put on a huge spectacle that attracts hundreds of people for it to be worthwhile…

…then this article will be extremely helpful to you.

Our First Successful Attempt at Running Events: Automation Playbook LIVE

automation playbook live logo

Our first foray into live marketing events was Automation Playbook LIVE which we held in San Diego in April, 2018.

Here’s a photo of me and some of the attendees who went to the event:

image of event attendees

The big “hook” for the event was the following…

Each attendee was going to take home 10 of my most profitable campaigns straight out of my “Marketing Playbook” they can implement for their own business. These are the same campaigns I implement for my clients who pay me up to $21,497/month to run their marketing.

Since this was our first marketing event, I didn’t want to risk spending a lot of money on something we hadn’t proven before. But I didn’t want to skimp out on the experience the attendees were going to get.

The meant driving a hard bargain with the hotel. But we managed it and secured a great deal at the Andaz hotel in downtown San Diego.

Overall, we only spent about $8k to hold the event (I said it was pretty cheap, didn’t I?). This included the room hire, coffee, and snacks, which we bought in from a local grocery store, and a couple banners.

Also, last minute, I used an on-demand personal assistant service called Magic to get a videographer for 2 days to film the event for only $900.

How We Got People to Register

We implemented several event marketing strategies when promoting Automation Playbook LIVE. We sent several email promos to a segment of 5,500 people on our house list who were well-profiled prospects for the marketing event.

We also targeted 1200 local businesses in the San Diego area with a targeted 2-step direct mail campaign along with our warm list. The first package included a lift letter (to grab people’s attention), the main long form sales letter (to sell them on the event) and a testimonial book (what other people have to say about the marketing event and our business).

We also sent a ringless voicemail to 1000+ people on our list who have previously provided their phone numbers using When using ringless voicemail, we specially asked prospects to text back if they wanted more info on the event.

Our sales/customer support team then engaged with the interested prospects and answered their questions. I believe this human touch led to more registrations for the marketing event.

Multi-step, Multimedia Sequential Followup Wins the Day

Now an extremely important distinction needs to be made here. We decided to promote the event through multiple media (direct mail, ringless voicemail, text messages, email) which I believe was instrumental in getting attention on the event in a short amount of time.

The San Diego Success Story…

To make a long story short, our first event was an astounding success!

We sold 32 tickets at $97 each for a grand total of $3,104 during the 4-week promotion period. Those numbers don’t seem that impressive by themselves, but the name of the game of putting on events like this are the sales that take place during the event.

I’ll talk about this in a second but first, let me tell you about a little twist to the registration process and how we turned a “normal event” into a “members only” event. Stick with me…

You see, each attendee who purchased a ticket for Automation Playbook LIVE were also automatically enrolled in our $397/month “Player’s Club” membership. This is our charter membership where members (or “Players”) get direct access to me via live Q&A calls, access to done-for-you marketing campaigns, and other valuable benefits.

Now we made it clear in the promotional materials they have 30 days to cancel their Player’s Club membership if they didn’t want to continue. This was also reinforced during the event so there weren’t any surprises when each member was billed $397 thirty days later after the event.

To my surprise, only 10 out of the 30 attendees cancelled their Player’s Club membership after the event! This resulted in $7,940 of new monthly recurring revenue. Pretty, pretty cool.

Further, I had 10 people apply for my Mastermind, which was $15,000 at the time. And 6 of these applications turned into full-fledged Mastermind members, so that was an extra $90,000 worth of annual revenue.

So, all in all, our total revenue from our first event was $93,104 with new monthly recurring revenue of $7,940 from our Player’s Club membership.

Since then, I’ve hosted 2 other Automation Playbook Live events in Toronto, Canada and another in Austin, Texas.

Here’s a photo from Automation Playbook LIVE! Toronto back in September:

image of event attendees

Both events achieved similar results, which was a huge boon to our bottom line!

Here’s a snapshot from our event marketing dashboard using Graphly for the Toronto.

Graphic of funnel metrics

My New Event: NextLevelBusiness LIVE  

Next Level Business Live logo

I decided to take what I learned from running 3 consecutive Automation Playbook LIVE! events and create a NEW event called NextLevelBusiness Live!

This event stems from my new e-learning business I started this year called NextLevelBusiness that shows established business owners how to achieve profitable double-digit growth year after year without working more.

In fact, as I’m writing this article, we just finished our first NextLevelBusiness LIVE! a couple weeks ago in Phoenix, Arizona.

Here are a couple photos from the event:

Picture of event taking place

Picture of panel at event

I used the same event marketing strategies I used for the previous Automation Playbook LIVE events, except I decided to offer a limited-time “early bird” discount of $97 (normal price was $197) with a clear deadline. This led to a spike in ticket sales early in the promotion period.

Here’s the outline of the Infusionsoft campaign:

outline of infusionsoft campaign

I also decided to switch things up and not include the Player’s Club membership as part of registration. Instead, I decided to offer my Next LevelGrowth™ Program (worth $9800) at $5800 and my Next Level Scale™ Mastermind (worth $36,000) at $30,000 at the event itself.

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to offer a high-priced product like Next Level Growth. But we ended up selling 8 programs out of 34 people who attended the event for a total of $45,800 revenue.

I also received 4 applications for my NextLevel Scale™ Mastermind. The applicants are being vetted right now as I write this, but if they qualify for the group, that’s $120,000 in additional revenue.

Overall, I am encouraged by these results and plan on continuing to hold live events in the future. We are planning our next NextLevelBusiness LIVE! in March 2019, so stay tuned!

So that’s how I made $500k+ from running these small events. Now it’s time to break down the salient points of what we learned and how you can replicate our model for your next event.

4 Important Lessons Learned After Running 4 Events This Year

Like anything in business and marketing, you always learn from your mistakes and make note of what worked and what didn’t. Here’s a summary of what we discovered from putting on live events this past year:

1) Make sure you have a campaign that gets attendees excited to attend your event.

I’ve attended many events in the past and, for many of them, I never received a “thank you” letter or anything else to get me excited for the event itself. So, for my events, I decided to implement a “wow campaign” to get people pumped and ready to attend.

Since the event ticket price point is relatively low ($97-$197), it was super important to make sure we stayed top of mind to buyers to increase our show-up rates.

Why implement a show-up campaign?

Think about the steps attendees need to take in order to come to a marketing event. They have to make travel plans and take time away from their business. Most of my events run through the weekend, which cuts into their free time, so they have to take time away from their families and recreational pursuits.

So, there are a lot of barriers attendees have to go through in order to show up for an event. In other words, just because they pulled out their wallets and registered for your event doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to show up!

That’s why I decided it was critical to create a post-purchase “Get Excited” campaign for attendees.

(RELATED: Write Compelling Email Copy: 4 Questions to Ask Before You Write Your Next Email)

Here’s what that looks like inside Infusionsoft…

image of "get excited" campaign

One of the elements of the campaign was a personalized video from me to each attendee (yes, a personal video to every single person) telling them how excited I am that they’re coming to the event.

I used to send the videos. Yes, it took a little effort, but I wanted a cool way to express my gratitude for registering for my event and of course likelihood of attending.
bonjoro logo

(By the way, each video was just a simple recording from my iPhone. Nothing really fancy. So, you don’t have to get a professional video setup to record this videos.)

We also send the attendees several emails and text messages to get them excited for our events. These are simple messages that tell them what to expect at the event, the lessons they’re going to discover, and how their business/life is going to change for the better.

Here’s an example post purchase email with some dynamic personalization:

Image of personalized follow-up email

Finally, we also send a “Shock and Awe” box in the mail to each attendee. These included an agenda, a T-shirt, a cover letter that resells the attendee on the event, and some other surprise goodies.

Check out our “Shock and Awe” boxes ready for delivery to attendees…

image of "shock and awe" boxes

All these items in our “Get Excited” campaign allowed us to get a 90% show up rate for our first NextLevelBusiness LIVE event in San Diego (30 out of 30 people). Our other events have experienced similar show-up rates (around 95% on average), all of which eclipses the industry norm!

2) Establish a Unique “Big Promise” for the Event

For our Automation Playbook LIVE event, the Big Promise was walking away with a completed “Playbook” of campaigns for their business.

Here’s how we referenced that in our copy…

“You’ll Come Away with a Personalized Playbook of Campaigns You Can ‘Run’ Anytime!”

Here’s more examples on the sales page:

All the copy was already written for them, they just have to make a few tweaks and all the campaigns are good to go.

In addition, if they had Infusionsoft we could even “push a button” and magically all the campaigns would appear in their app.

All the tags, sequences, custom fields, copy, and timers were done for them—literally the whole 9 yards (and then some).

The Big Promise for NextLevelBusiness LIVE is they were going to discover a 4-step system for achieving yearly double-digit growth without working more.

It was a promise that was prevalent on all our marketing materials, and I believe it was instrumental in helping attract 40 high-quality business owners to our last event.

So here’s the lesson—make sure you have a Big Promise that is easy to understand and is something your target audience truly wants. It’ll help you stand out from other events in your industry and attract the right attendees.

3) Get Clear on the Pain Points Your Event Will Solve for Your Attendees

It helps if you describe the pain points your target audience is currently experiencing, and how your event is going to help them solve those pains in your marketing materials (that way they’ll know it’s for them).

For example, the typical pain points of business owners who are in our target market include the following:

  • They don’t have enough time to implement the latest marketing strategies
  • They’re not sure which strategies to implement, so they do nothing and put up with the same results
  • They are tied to their business, working 80-100 weeks, and barely have time for friends, family, or a personal life
  • They are wearing too many hats in their business, so they feel like they’re spinning their wheels.

So, we ensured all our marketing spoke directly to these problems and how our events will solve them so they can get to the next level faster.

It also helps if you paint a picture in your prospects mind regarding the transformation they’re going to get when they attend your marketing event. In other words, don’t just talk about what they’re going to discover at the event, but how their life and business will change because of the event.

It helps if you use the world “Imagine…” and “Think about…” a lot in your promotional materials. Here are a couple examples:

  • “Imagine being able to take an afternoon off in your business without worrying your business is going to fall apart.”
  • “Imagine never having to worry about where you’re going to get your next customer/client/patient and having to endure the dreaded ‘income rollercoaster.’”
  • “Think about what it would be like to have a team that does all the ‘hard work’ for you while you focus only on the tasks you love?”

In other words, you need to talk about how your marketing event is going to close the canyon-sized gap between their problems/frustrations and what they *really* want. And why your event is the “no-brainer” place to go to get those results!

4) Send Your Attendees a Post-Purchase Questionnaire to Learn More About Them

This allows you to tailor your content a little bit to ensure you resonate with everyone during the event. It also allows you to get to know your attendees and determine which products/services to offer them at the event.

So far, our events regularly attract 30–50 people. I provide a lot of personal attention to everyone during breaks and via Q&A sessions. So the questionnaire allows me to get to know the attendees, because the chances of talking to them in person during the event are extremely high.

The key to the post purchase questionnaire is to keep it short. We ask for their name, company, list size, number of employees, annual revenue and number one challenge in their business. All these questions can be answered in 1 minute or less.

You Don’t Need Thousands of People at Your Event to Have a Huge Impact on Your Business.

I know there are a lot of events out there, like DigitalMarketer’s own Traffic & Conversion Summit, that regularly attract 5000+ people each year. There are many other events that attract 250 to 500+ attendees too. So it’s easy to disqualify yourself from putting on live events because you’re not as big.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be intimidated by the “big dogs” who put on large events! I’m living proof you can add a cool $500k+ in new revenue to your bottom line by hosting smaller live events.

I’m also living proof you can hold events on a small budget. Look, you don’t have to rent a huge ballroom at a major hotel. You just need to rent a small conference room that seats 40-50 people for much less. And you don’t need to blow your budget on food and coffee or go through the hassle of negotiating hotel room blocks for your guests.

So don’t get intimidated by the giants of our industry who host events that attract thousands of people. You can still make a big impact in your business (and your bank account) by adding live events to your marketing toolbox.

I hope this article sparks your desire to host your own live event. I highly recommend them because they attract your best customers and allow them to really connect with you and your brand. And the more they connect with you, the higher the chances they’ll become your raving fans and keep buying from you again and again.

Live marketing events also provide an awesome “one-to-many” selling environment that beats any webinar. There’s something about being able to look at your prospects in the eye while on stage, and being able to chat with them in person if they have any questions, that tends to boost sales.

So I encourage you to add this potent marketing tool to your business strategy in 2019!

Oli Billson

Oli Billson

Oli Billson started his first business at the age of 15. He now owns a portfolio of 4 multi-million dollar businesses, one of which he scaled internationally with 170 franchises and has recently sold. Oli’s superpower lies in strategizing and implementing conversion-led, money-making sales and marketing funnels. When he fancies it, he also spends time as a Consultant to many well-known entrepreneurs and business growth experts. His latest venture is, which transforms “normal” businesses into fast-growth businesses that experience double-digit growth year after year.

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