How I Built A $120K/Year Event Booking Platform
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I am Mark Thomas, the managing director of the Thomas Hemingway Group of companies and CEO of EventBookings, which I founded in 2017.
Earlier in my career, for over two decades, I worked in the educational photography industry. In my day jobs, I witnessed the difficulties event organizers face in hosting events for universities worldwide.
So I decided to create a platform that can help event organizers remain organized throughout the chaos of event planning. A platform that can work as a central hub, where the users can handle everything, from event ticketing to management and planning to host.
Designed for all industry types, EventBookings is an all-in-one event technology platform that makes it effortless to sell event tickets online, whether hybrid, virtual or in-person.
With EventBookings, we offer software that helps one to sell tickets online, offering a ton of customizable facilities. Our platform is used by organizations worldwide. A bunch of industries, including entertainment, sports, community, charity, academic, or business, use our event ticketing system as a trusted companion to conduct their events.
Fast forward to today, we are now running the business with 25 employees and are currently on track to reach our next revenue target of $1M.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Having been working as a production manager, then general manager and CEO in the educational photography industry for a long time, I have a strong background in school and graduation photography services.
During my work with many educational organizations before, I witnessed the high volume of customer support requests that an organization needs to deal with. This is where I got a lot of exposure to a variety of institutions and started to identify the issues that organizers often face.
There are so many moving parts and a bunch of stakeholders to coordinate. The tasks include maintaining registration, ticketing, promotion, and other targeted communication, which add extra hassle for event organizers.
That was when I decided, why not develop an online ticketing and booking system? Because the opportunities that a ticketing system provides are undeniable and not comparable. In addition, the entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge, and interest in the event industry pushed the initial thinking that led to EventBookings.
While coming up with this concept, the event industry market was on a high rise. Even since the COVID pandemic hit our lives, we have seen a massive rise in the adaptation of event platforms.
This was when the innovation at EventBookings expanded even more, and the platform underwent an enormous transformation. I was 100% sure that this was the right platform that I would continue to work on and which was worth investing my money and time into.
Take us through the process of designing, and prototyping, your first product.
While working in the educational photography industry, the idea of working on an event ticketing and registration system came to mind. And to ensure that the ideas are realistic, valid, and bring profit, I did some market research and figured out how to appeal to my customer. I tried to understand what the people and organizations who may end up backing my idea are interested in the most. Then I figured out that organizations and businesses working on events place a high priority on the modern ticketing system for better operational efficiency. And this is the exact validation I needed before sinking my financial resources further into this venture.
In the fast-paced, ever-changing event industry, we aimed to remain relevant and offer a full suite of services that makes it hassle-free to sell tickets online. Especially since there are multi-use applications or software for booking tickets, handling registrations, and managing events already available in the market, coming up with a new ticketing and registration platform seems a bit overwhelming at the beginning. So we took our planning up a notch with more fresh and innovative ideas to beat the existing competition.
We studied the market and made a target to blend the trending technologies to grab as many eyeballs as possible. So the main focus was on the usability of the platform and the UX of the interface. In our pursuit of greater user experience, we needed to be mindful of the speed and visibility of our platform.
During the development process, at first, our team scoped out and defined the business opportunity. After identifying the project, we worked with our stakeholders, including UX designers, QA engineers, developers, business analysts, and customers, to determine requirements. From overviewing software delivery and estimation to analyzing the customer’s idea to making the product understandable, identification of all the requirements is made by the stakeholders throughout the software development lifecycle.
Secured ticketing, email communication, flexible templates, customizable event agenda, marketing automation, reporting, and analytics were some of the major initial features that we put our complete focus on. We drafted how the features should function and how they will fit into the system. Some members of our team were in charge of being a customer proxy and evaluated whether the features were on track to meet customer needs. After gathering the feedback and requirements, the actual work of UX designers and developers began.
Of course, it underwent multiple rounds of revisions before the testing happened. Later our quality assurance (QA) team tested the functionality and checked how the system functions. Then, after finalizing the system, the release of our product happened
Even since its launch, there have been 10,000+ events created by 1500 delighted event organizers on the platform across the globe.
In the development process, getting over multiple obstacles while handling the programming development was a bit challenging. Estimating time and resources and breaking the project down into manageable tasks was hard. Miscommunication and interpersonal conflicts between different mindsets of different teams were unavoidable. Using AI and automation and dealing with outmoded technologies was another big concern.
Luckily, we had the assistance of talented individuals throughout the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing our first product. Ashiq Rahman has boundless experience in multiple pioneering startups and is a reliable expert in product development, process engineering, service delivery, and more. Then we had Deb Acharjee on my team, who had led engineering teams at 3P learning (Mathletics), Infomedia, Cisco, and Oracle.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching our new service offerings after they were designed and developed was challenging. First of all, choosing the name was on the priority list. We wanted a catchy name whilst being relevant to the service it provides. And nothing worked better than the name “EventBookings”. Then the same name rested on what domain names and socials were available.
When landing on ‘EventBookings’, initially, we completed a soft launch by initiating our business with lower-risk clientele, where we asked our clients to provide feedback that worked as a reference of how the system works. Then once we were sure about establishing a firm financial basis, we started advertising and other promotional strategies. We began by running online advertising across ad platforms for social media, paid search, display, and more. Though we only captured a fraction of the event organizers in the first few months, gradually, we started getting more and more organizers to our platform. And in the first year of our launch, we were able to sell 1M+ worth of tickets.
Even since its launch, there have been 10,000+ events created by 1500 delighted event organizers on the platform across the globe. And if I compare the initial website we launched years before with the present service it provides, I am happy that everything turned out as it did.
Now about that, one lesson that I learned from the launch was not to overlook the power of starting brand awareness activity from the very beginning. You must put yourself out for bigger clients. And also, it's better to have an experienced CTO in your team who you can rely on to manage the technological requirements during launch.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, we regularly conduct strategic planning meetings with the team to explore more opportunities and identify areas for growth. From content marketing to social media marketing, we have implemented every single way that is open to us. For example, to get more exposure and reach our audiences, we published both onsite and offsite blog content. Here are some of our well-reached content that brings more traffic to our site and boosts conversions.
· 90+ Cool Event Ideas for You (2020 edition) | EventBookings
·10 Exciting Club Event Ideas to Engage Your Members | EventBookings
· 20+ Summer Event Ideas for the Ultimate Blast | EventBookings
·12 Easy Steps to Promote Your Event on Social Media | EB (eventbookings.com)
· 9 Key Challenges Event Managers Face (updated) | EventBookings
· Data-Driven Event Marketing Can Multiply ROI for Your Next Event (walls.io)
·Why do you need event ticket management software? | by Rebekah Murray | Medium
· Proven Tactics for Safe and Secure Online Event Ticket Selling - Today Time
·Marketing Tips to Help Your Theatre Event Stand Out (mindmybusinessnyc.com)
We also run Google Ads Campaign to reach people with a specific interest. As time passed, we ensured frequent updates and included features from time to time to keep up with trends, which made our website more trustworthy and reliable.
In the beginning, as we didn’t have the tools budget we own now, we used a few research tools such as SEMrush to determine market demand and opportunities in the field. We planned the website's structure depending on the research, which eventually helped us catch the attention of many new prospects in the early days.
Then during the COVID pandemic, our platform underwent a massive transformation. Implementing the powerful embedded virtual event video conferencing solution has been a noteworthy addition to the product that encouraged more clients to use our all-in-one event platform.
Now, we use technologies like WordPress, JS, and PHP and have invested in a more advanced marketing strategy. Also, to assess the output of our marketing efforts accurately, we made investments in our measurement capabilities as well. The free sign-in also works well to attract and retain customers as they can sign in and create a sample event with no cost while discovering how the features work. Even for the paid plan, they have to pay a very minimum amount compared to other similar platforms that provide the same service.
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
We are fortunate enough to say that, today, we are running a profitable business ensuring the right services to the right people. Even though this has been the case since the very beginning, now the goal is to keep on growing constantly.
It took me some years to truly scale my business into what position it is holding right now. Luckily, in a short period, we did meet our financial targets and looking forward to more exciting success.
Here’s a look at our current performance:
- 20k average monthly traffic
- 5-10% conversion rate
- 1000+ social media followers.
Considering the needs of our existing customers and following the trends, we are continually looking to expand our service offerings. Last month, we launched a great feature update adding new services in the ticketing, promotion, management, and other sections to serve our clients better. Except this, we have a much more exciting update up our shelves. There are more big chapters of EventBookings yet to unfold!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
From the time of starting my business to now, I have constantly been learning over the last many years. One big lesson I learned is that user experience is the key, no matter what. You must go the extra mile to satisfy your smart, savvy, and time-starved customers. Because, at the end of the day, the quality of your client’s online experience makes a huge impact.
Early on, we made some good decisions, such as implementing EventBookings’ own built-in video conferencing platform and updating a host of timeless features. All these performed well in terms of offering a clean-cut journey to our prospects and making our business stand out from the pack. As a result, most of our clients offered up loyalty in return in the long run.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use a whole range of tools for more insights, better management, and smarter decisions. The following tools are some much-needed tools without which I cannot imagine my business without.
Zoho: The user-friendly Zoho CRM assists us in taking up more sales, marketing, customer support actions, and other organizing processes. Then comes the Zoho desk, which manages our customer support activities efficiently with its full set of features. It allows us to engage customers and deliver satisfaction in the fastest way. Zoho Sales IQ supports our team with digital customer engagement tools and lets us initiate the right kind of conversion.
Jira/Confluence: We use both Jira and Confluence for hassle-free workflow management and project management. These tools allow us to create and organize information collaboratively as well as track and manage issues of each task.
Ahrefs: This tool provides us with all the data we need for organic growth. From analyzing a website's link profile to checking the SEO health, Ahrefs is one of the best SEO tools we use.
Stripe: We use Stripe to offer more speedy and secure payment processing to our customers.
Securepay: Securepay makes it easy for us to accept credit card payments and mobile payments.
Teams: We rely on Teams to keep in touch with everyone involved in our business. It helps us to keep our workplace well organized and enhances collaboration.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I devote around 20-30% of my day to reading. As I read more and more books, I discover more strategies and ideas that I can apply to my business and my career. When some books helped me to embrace different perspectives, many assisted me with hacks for real-life situations. Besides reading books, I also read community posts to gain more insights.
Here is a small list of books that I would prefer anyone to give try to read. Trust me; it will be worth it.
The Intelligent Investorby Benjamin Graham
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
Dare to lead by Brené Brown
The innovator's dilemmaby Clayton Christensen
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
As I have first-hand experience with start-up businesses, from that case, I would advise you to be sure about your goal. Remember, a lack of proper planning and research can be the biggest obstacle to your success.
Before you invest money and time, explore your business idea thoroughly. Do long research, discuss with others, and understand the market. Also, analyze the strategies of your potential competitors to determine yours.
And once you have mapped out your business plan, don’t overthink. Challenge yourself and start with it. You will never know the outcome of your efforts unless you take any risks. Learn every day and make yourself prepared to find ways through different obstacles. Someday, you might reach a point where you didn’t expect to go. Even though you fail initially, learn from your mistakes.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always recruiting talented and dedicated individuals for multiple roles across the different units within our business. So if you are looking for opportunities to work in a related field, do contact us and learn more about the vacancies available.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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