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Pitch an Event to a Middle-Aged Crowd

I'm producing an event that appeals to age 35-plus audiences. While Facebook invites are nice and press through alternative media is necessary, I'm wondering if you have any direction for marketing to an older crowd? —W.J.M., Los Angeles

It's difficult to market generally to middle-aged people. That's because a large majority of the population (two-thirds of American adults) are over 35. "They span every part of the social, education, health, gender, ethnic, and income strata of society," says Dick Stroud, founder of 20plus30, a U.K. consulting firm that specializes in marketing to older individuals.

Because over-35s have little in common, you're better off trying to reach people specifically interested in your event. "Unless you are talking about people in their 70s or 80s, I would advise you to start by describing all of the characteristics of your audience other than age," Stroud says. Use those characteristics to find marketing opportunities.

And don't discount social media, says Jay Ehret, a consultant with The Marketing Spot in Waco, Tex."Facebook's biggest-growing segment is older people," he says.You should set up a Facebook event page and investigate the site's highly targeted advertising.

You should also establish an event Web site that includes some video. "People won't buy tickets until they see what you're offering. Take a video camera and do some interviews with your talent. You can even add the video to your Facebook page," Ehret says. "And you can set up a YouTube channel with clips of the performers or speakers and link it back to your Facebook page and your Web site."

Publicizing via the Web

Consider publicizing your event through Twitter, Craigslist, and Backpage."Contact and let them know about your event.It's a very popular site for what's happening in and around L.A.," says Joan Stewart, principal of the Publicity Hound public relations firm in Port Washington, Wis. "Do a Google search for 'Los Angeles entertainment bloggers' or bloggers who write about topics of interest to the over-40 or over-50 crowd and see what you find. You can also pitch one of the bloggers at LA Weekly."

Tap into the mailing lists of your performers and send out direct mail, perhaps oversized postcards, Ehret suggests: "Direct-mail companies have good lists that break down geographically and demographically, and the postcard printing can be very cheap if you do it online. Do a series of mailings if you can afford it."

Remember that you're not pitching just to baby boomers, as Gen Xers are now reaching their late 30s. "Get into their world and think like they think. People are looking for an experience, not just a show. Think about choosing a theme or a frame for your event to give it some personality," Ehret says. Good luck!

Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

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