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Ashley N. Cline – Maximizing Your Event Marketing Success – Episode #110

“[For] some clients who have not necessarily reinvented themselves yet–the experiences that we’ve experienced in the past need a facelift…”

Ashley Cline is a Digital Marketing Consultant and Freelancing Expert. As the VP & Co-Founder at Ice Cream Social, Ashley has over 17 years of experience specializing in marketing strategy, execution, and collaborative efforts. She is a proponent of the importance of word-of-mouth marketing in today’s digital age.

Across her tenure in the field, Ashley has held nearly every role in the digital marketing space, giving her unmatched expertise in customer acquisition and email, search, and content marketing.

Questions and topics we covered include:

  • How Ashley’s love for video games got her into the world of digital marketing.
  • Some of the career paths available for digital marketers today (intrapreneur, entrepreneur, and solopreneur).
  • What are most event marketers doing wrong in their marketing strategies?
  • The best ad placements to consider in 2023.
  • Why all event marketers should be learning how to use SMS messaging tactics.
  • How to use your CRM platform to optimize your messaging and effectiveness across channels when promoting events.
  • Is it possible to fast-track the growth of a startup?
  • The secret to creating an “always full” sales pipeline (channel sales and partnerships).

And more!

You can say hello to Ashley here –

Visit her website –

Thinking about updating your Martech stack this year? Check out ActiveCampaign! I’ve also used them in the past and they have an amazing platform for anyone who needs to level up their email & SMS automations –

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing podcast with today’s special guest, Ashley Klein. Hi, Ashley, how are you?


Ashley Cline 0:13  

Hi, Kenny. I’m great. How are you doing today?


Kenny Soto 0:16  

I’m doing fantastic. It is now the day after Labor Day, I feel rejuvenated and ready to learn. So before I even dive into the many questions that I have for you, I always like to start these episodes off by getting context about your background. So my first question for you, Ashley, is, how did you even get into digital marketing?


Ashley Cline 0:39  

Loaded question. If I go way, way back, I would say my love really began. And kind of why I’ve stayed in marketing, with video games. Growing up as a kid, like many of you, I’m sure we all played video games and loved video games. My brother and I only had one game. And that was Mario Brothers. So once you beat the game, you beat the game. And you got to get really clever on, you know, keeping it fun and interesting. 


So I just remember us playing it over and over again, and just creating new challenges. And really that idea of optimization, okay, how can we beat the game and less time? How can we collect more coins? How can we save more lives, all of those kinds of things, lead me to this love? That took me a long time to realize, but what makes marketing so much fun for me, is that I’m sure it’s anyone on the podcast listening who’s a marketer. It’s a really great career because anyone can come in and tell you how to do your job better. 


So there are always ways to improve. And that’s one of my favorite things is like getting a campaign launched and digging into the pieces of it and improving it. And so I’ve kind of carried that love through getting started. Right out of high school, I started working for a company doing sales for free. A commission only took me nine months to close my first job. So essentially, I worked for nine months without making any money. 


But they said if I did that, I could show up once a week at night, and they would teach me how to code and do HTML. And so I did that because I learned, I wanted to learn HTML because my dad had a company. And I wanted to teach him that he was spending his entire marketing budget on yellow pages. And I was trying to teach him about the internet. 


And I wanted people to type in roofing and his business would come up. And so I wanted to learn HTML, so I could learn search engine optimization, which to me was the ultimate video game. And then from there just continued to kind of add on new marketing skills along the way.


Kenny Soto 3:13  

With the video game analogy, I want to play around with the fact that I love video games myself. Now, this is also vague for a reason. But when you’re thinking about the levels in a video game as you progress, also with the levels of life and career as a marketer. There are definitely many paths to choose from, but what would you say is the general career progression from start to finish for marketers today?


Ashley Cline 3:42  

Great question. And that is a great video game analogy because it is hard to jump from World One and Mario to world four without doing two and three. So it is important to kind of stack on those skills and learns along the way. And I would say there’s not really a linear path. And one, if we’re just gonna dive right into it. I’ll just keep compounding on this question. 


So I read a book early in my career. It doesn’t have to do with career advice, but the book is called the desire map. And her name is Danielle Laporte, I believe. And basically, she asks you all these questions, and you spend a few days going through this desire map workbook. And at the end of it, you basically come to a list of words that describe how you want to feel and how you build a life around that in every area of your life. 


And this book has been so instrumental in my life that I often redo this book every couple of years because as your life changes, you know, what you wanted at 20 is not the same at 35. And, as I’ve done this several times, now, the one word that always comes up for me is freedom. 


They always want that freedom to choose or to pivot their path or take a different route. And I do love that about marketing. I feel like that is a great career where, okay, I’ve played around with email, but now I want to learn social ads. And it’s beneficial to know a little bit about everything, and just always have that freedom to make the choice that I want, given where I’m at in my life. 


And freedom can be defined. However, you may choose me because it’s that freedom of choice and decision and pivoting and being responsible for my own income and all kinds of things making my own schedule. So.


Kenny Soto 6:03  

So Ashley, would you say that we would also agree that there really is no set path a marketer can take? But would you say that one of the unique aspects of being a marketer is the ability to obtain that freedom that you just mentioned?


Ashley Cline 6:19  

Oh, 100%?


Kenny Soto 6:22  

Got it? No, yes. When it comes to this, I guess this is a good segue into talking about freedom. Why did you create an ice cream social, what is an ice cream social?


Ashley Cline 6:34  

Sure. So before I tell you all about an ice cream social because I feel like this is a great segue from the word freedom to an ice cream social, is this idea that I also carry of being amusing bunny ears right now, but a printer. And essentially, to me, what that means is, I basically have three different works within three different partnerships here. So an intrapreneur. So I do work with an actual company, as an employee. 


And I’ve essentially come in, built my own role built my own department, and still have that entrepreneurship mentality within the company that I work for. And as well as a solopreneur, having my own consulting career on the side, my own way of building passive income, through the different marketing, you know, tools and things that I work on, as well as an entrepreneur. And that’s kind of where we segue into an ice cream social. 


And without that intrapreneur and solopreneur experience, and dynamic, I would have not become an entrepreneur, because I’m very happy either way, working within a company that has the structure that I need, or working by myself, which in marketing, I think a lot of times, a lot of us like to work by herself and gotta learn how to kind of plug into the different teams. And so ice cream social is a company that was founded out of a need for our clients. 


And it is essentially a widget that you can bolt onto any website or checkout flow. And on the front end, it incentivizes word-of-mouth marketing, in the digital world we live in today, hey, you just bought tickets to this event, and invite five friends to go with you. And if they make a purchase give you a ticket refund. 


So on the front end is that kind of word of mouth, gamification, and then on the back end, we’re helping a lot of our clients collect first-party data on their customers that they didn’t necessarily have, because especially events, which is kind of an area that I focus on the most. 


They don’t always own their checkout flow, so they don’t have all their customer data. And so ice cream social originally was birthed from the idea of how can I help my clients sell more tickets to their events without increasing their advertising budget. Because at times, that’s just not an option. So how can we get scrappy here, and work with your existing customers to turn that into more revenue?


Kenny Soto 9:30  

Where most event marketers are, I would say what are most event marketers doing wrong with their marketing strategies this year?


Ashley Cline 9:39  

Wrong. Okay. I would say most of the clients that I work with the first thing that I kind of revamp as we get started in marketing their event is their strategy. So what a lot of event companies do, and I Say event companies, because a lot of times, these event companies work pretty scrappy. It’s a lot of people wearing a lot of hats. 


So it’s not always the marketer that came up with the strategy, or sometimes there’s not a marketer in the company. So that’s kind of the first problem. But essentially, what I’ll see is that they turn Tickets on sale, and then they put up some Facebook ads and drive people directly to make a purchase. 


And that’s great that they sell tickets, of course, but they don’t have a list to work with. So we all hear that you know, the money’s in the list, email, phone numbers, that sort of thing. And so what I do is I help all of our clients do a lead generation campaign, as we call it in marketing. And we’ll run some ads, and we’ll tell people, hey, sign up to be a VIP, we will let you know the day tickets go on sale, and at what time so you can be first in line, you get the best price, you get first selection, whatever this VIP package is going to look like. 


And we will run a lot of ads to generate these leads before we go on sale. And so that’s kind of the piece that’s missing is that pre-sale marketing. Because if you’re running, I just say Facebook ads, but any kind of social media ads, the cost for someone to fill out a form and give you their name, phone number, and email, is pretty small, maybe $1. Less if it’s a great market, great event, maybe a little more if it’s a niche event, smaller market. 


But let’s say $1 to acquire a lead. Now, if you turn your ads on and you’re driving people directly to purchase a ticket, then that’s a lot more expensive, which might cost you 1520, up to $150, depending on your ticket price. And so if you can spend the majority of your budget generating those leads, then you’ve got that database to really carry you through the sales cycle. 


And hopefully have a strong opening night where you make enough money on opening night, where everyone can kind of breathe a little because hard costs are covered, then you’d be that sort of thing. And you can focus on profit.


Kenny Soto 12:18  

Let’s talk more about budgets. Now. Obviously, advertising is one of many levers, if you will, that you can pull and there are channels within ADS in and of itself. Where should marketers in general be considering budget placement this year?


Ashley Cline 12:39  

Sure. So I still believe that. Despite iOS updates or whatever complaints, anyone has about the rising cost of ads, meta is still the best bang for your buck in terms of what I’ve seen. So we do shift a lot of budget towards that, as opposed to other social channels, Google Display. And then depending on the type of event we might carve out for things like radio, and TV billboards, which are a little more costly in general, but we do make sure it has a very digital component to them. 


And that kind of leads me to the other place where I’m helping clients shift more of their budget which would be SMS marketing. And that’s kind of part of that lead gen strategy too, because of forgetting their phone number. It’s so inexpensive to get that phone number. And now we can text them. And SMS has a 99% open rate. 


And what I’m finding is that my clients are making that shift, and investing more in SMS marketing, we’re able to spend a lot less on social media advertising, because SMS easily will have 50 to 80% click-through rates, and it’ll have, you know, 7 to 10% conversion rates. And it just goes a lot further with your money, essentially. I mean, for my clients that are investing in SMS, I would say 75% of their sales now come from SMS as opposed to before when it was 90% Facebook ads.


Kenny Soto 14:20  

How are you? How are you straddling a balance between them? And I’m assuming here, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming you’re doing nurture sequences within SMS in order to get them to do the close. How are you balancing that with any other Omni channel strategies? Let’s say you’re nurturing through SMS but there’s also a newsletter and there are also retargeting ads. How are you finding that balance?


Ashley Cline 14:44  

Yeah, so one is having the right CRM in a place where we can see kind of that holistic view of what someone is doing, what pages I just, I’m a big fan of Active Campaign for CRM. So if I’m seeing an example, it’s usually them, that’s who I work with the most. So being able to have an active campaign script on your website, than anyone inside of your database, which, if we do that lead generation campaign, you’ve got all the prospects in your database already. 


Now we can see what pages on your website they’re visiting, we can see, you know, what, SMS messages they’ve seen, they’ve opened, they clicked through the same with their emails, we can see exactly what products they purchased. So I think one, being able to do something very smart, Omni channels having the right CRM, so you can do that, what feels like a one-to-one marketing campaign. 


And then in terms of SMS, creating a unique experience in a very similar way to a CRM and placing a script on your site. Now, we know what pages someone visited. So we could send someone an SMS, after seeing they went to the FAQ page and say, Hey, do you have any questions, and just start a conversation. And when I work a lot with attention, and I’m beta testing a new feature right now, I think I can talk about it. It’s called a concierge. 


And basically, what they do is now attentive. Because a lot of companies don’t necessarily know how to fit this into their marketing stream yet or have all the manpower. What attendants will do with this concierge product is they will be part of your sales team. So any questions that come in, they’ll answer and lead everyone to purchase for you. 


And it’s really neat. So I think that having the right abandoned metric triggers in place the right journeys set up the same way that we’re used to thinking of email marketing, you can do the same thing in SMS. It’s not just blasting out a message anymore, it can get very specific and granular you can remove anyone can create a segment remove anyone who’s already made a purchase. So you’re not like spamming people with a promotion every week.


Kenny Soto 17:13  

That’s amazing. Now, this is let’s just assume that there is a recession going on right now. Are you feeling this recession in the event industry?


Ashley Cline 17:28  

Yes and no. Okay, Marty. And I would say, it really varies. So some clients have not necessarily reinvented themselves, yet. The experiences that we have experienced in the past, I think need a facelift. For example, I do a lot of fun runs. And I love the Fun Run industry. It’s my favorite thing to do marketing campaigns for. 


And those clients who have come back post-COVID, because last year, events sold a great, amazing year. This year, it’s been a little more tricky. Ever since maybe April, May. And so those who have really upgraded the experience, again, everyone’s looking for that Instagrammable moment. So you really got to think through the experience now and what the consumer is going to go through. 


So those that have upgraded their experience. Great. Also, I’ve seen it really vary by market. And by market, I mean what city and event are going to. So it just depends, but yes and no. And I wouldn’t I still wouldn’t call it quite a recession in the sense. It’s just not the same. And we’ve been in a very, ever-evolving landscape. From COVID and beyond.


Kenny Soto 19:00  

No, that makes total sense. And with most things, it’s usually yes and no, because everything’s so variable that even the listener who’s listening to this right now, probably is experiencing something completely different or similar. Now, when it comes to startups in general, is it even possible to fast-track the growth of a startup? And how would it even be possible?


Ashley Cline 19:26  

Good question. It takes me back to that original discussion around video games and jumping levels. And so now, there are some important lessons as a startup that you need to learn in order to have a long-lasting business. And you got to have that kind of long-term vision. I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?


Kenny Soto 19:56  

What? Well, we talked about vision. So that’s definitely one thing. Does that help what other variables or elements should be considered when it comes to trying to accelerate the growth of a startup?


Ashley Cline 20:09  

Yes, yes. Okay. So the other point I wanted to make on that is sales and partnerships. So one thing that I learned is that through the company that I worked for where I’m an intrapreneur, I have carried that into my solopreneur. And now this entrepreneur, life is Channel Sales. And so let me explain that. So a lot of times, I’ll explain in a couple of different settings. 


So I’ll start first because I think most people listening are marketers or maybe freelance marketers. So I’ll start there. And so as a solopreneur, how I’ve approached this idea of Channel Sales, is when I started my career, and that was 17 years ago, for the first two years, all I did was networking, you know, went to every single chamber of commerce, breakfast, lunch, dinner, anything I could go to meet as many people as possible. 


And those two years were enough to fill my Well, we’re essentially I’ve never had to hunt down business. And through those relationships, what I learned is, it’s so hard to get that one-to-one sale, that one client, that one, that one gig, you know, you’re doing a website or a one-time campaign, like, you work so hard just to get that sale. And then you got to do the project. And then you get in this feast and famine of generating new sales. 


But now you have to do work. And it’s a balance. And so what I learned early on in my solopreneur career, is this idea of Channel Sales. So I aligned myself, if you’re a digital marketer, put together a really fun, beautiful resume, I found a template on Canva. And what I do is I talk to myself almost exclusively only to work with agencies, because agencies, they have the clients, not only do they have the clients, I have clients with a budget, and they’re always in ebb and flow, and they always need consultants coming in to work on projects. 


And so I’ve never, I’ve aligned myself with three or four agencies that I love. And when I want more business, I let them know and they always get work. Or if I don’t need any work, I can always let one go for a little bit, and then they Boomerang, it’ll come back if it’s there. Just, of course, if you take good character relationships and do good work, that sort of thing. But working with agencies has been great as a solopreneur, which you’re probably thinking about, like, I don’t want to work for an agency. 


That’s why I’m a solopreneur. But it’s a lot different working in that dynamic than necessarily being a part of the agency. And then for an ice cream social, we have that same mentality of Channel Sales. So instead of going out there and looking for all of these different clients who want to sign up to use our product, the cost per acquisition can get daunting, and it’s a lot of work on our sales team to have to be out there and just handpicking one by one client to work with. And so we align ourselves with different partners. 


So an example here would be square, the merchant processing company. So we have a partnership with square, and we’re in the squares marketplace. And so square essentially brings us a lot of clients and vice versa. And so we’re not out there going one by one we work with square and square brings us, clients. 


And then we have other partners align just like that. And so we focus on these channel partners, and we’ll do weekly calls with them and kind of, you know, that same networking mentality of you know, wanting to bring them business, but it’s just a lot more efficient on your time if you can align yourself with the right companies that compliment your business.


Kenny Soto 24:14  

That’s amazing. Now, Ashley, I have two more questions for you. Before I ask my last one. I just wanted to know, is there anything that you think is important that we didn’t talk about right now? In the world of marketing specifically.


Ashley Cline 24:34  

Good question.


Kenny Soto 24:39  

I don’t know. That’s absolutely fine. So that out, of course, yeah. That’s okay. So then my last question for you, Ashley. If you had access to the time machine, and you can go back into the past, relatively 10 years, give or take, knowing everything you know right now, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Ashley Cline 25:00  

Hmm, I would say there were so many things that I put off doing for years or things that I didn’t stick with for myself like one would be blogging. And getting clear on what my path is with passive income and aligning myself with the right tools, like you have an idea, go for it and see it through to the end and focus on your career path. 


A lot of times, I always want to help, you know, the companies I’m working with, and we’ll kind of put my own stuff to the side. And it took me a while to learn that and once I stopped doing that, I just can’t believe how quickly my business excelled. You know, where energy goes, it flows. And I would just say, you know, if you have a vision for yourself, don’t let that go. 


Stay with it. Even if it’s, you know, working on it a couple of hours a week, whatever you can do. Sometimes our own dream seems so big in our own head that it’s hard to get started. And you stress about the timeline and you know, not being where you want to be, but just get started.


Kenny Soto 26:12  

That’s awesome. Now, Ashley, if anyone wants to say hello to you online, where can they find you?


Ashley Cline 26:17  

You can go to my website, Ashley, and the letter N for Nicole Klein, c li n


Kenny Soto 26:27  

Awesome. And thanks for your time today. And thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast we are above 100 episodes at the recording of this episode. So if you haven’t done so already, please rate us on Spotify and Apple podcasts. I’d greatly appreciate it. 


Thank you.

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