How a major nonprofit used automation to quadruple ticket sales

January 5, 2016 McKenzie Gregory

The State Fair of Texas is known for lots of things, like Big Tex, The Red River Rivalry, and some of the craziest fried food imaginable. (Fried cookie dough? Yes, please.)  But did you know it’s also the largest annual exposition in North America, with an average of over 3 million attendees each year? That’s HUGE. And as you might imagine, it takes a small army to pull off such a massive event. 
One key member of that army is Jason Hays, the Fair’s Director of Creative Services. He’s the one responsible for getting the word out to potential attendees – and continuing the conversation throughout the rest of the year to maintain interest and support. His go-to communication method? Email marketing. 


Putting data to work to sell more tickets

Like many event-based organizations, one of the State Fair of Texas’s primary goals is to sell tickets.
“Emma’s tools and online signup forms have helped us capture so much crucial information about our subscribers,” said Jason. "That data is critical to us making our messaging as targeted and personal as possible, which helps lead to more conversions."
This year, to incentivize email signups, Jason offered new subscribers a chance to win free tickets and other prizes 30, 65, and 100 days before the fair.
“All three of the contests did well, but the 100-day contest was the most successful for us. Not only did it get us over 17,000 new signups, but it also gave us the opportunity to promote our season tickets. The awareness it created was amazing – in the past, the highest number of season tickets we had sold was somewhere around 6,000. But this year, with the help of those automated workflows, we were able to sell about 25,000!"
The 100-day contest earned the State Fair 17,131 new email signups, and the follow-up email had a whopping 54% open rate! 
Jason also uses automated workflows to deploy welcome and happy birthday messages to the State Fair’s email subscribers.
The Fair’s automated birthday message averages a 42% open rate...
… and their welcome email averages 55% opens! 
And the Fair’s audience absolutely loves the personal touch of the automated messages. “You’ll hear from people, 'I didn’t expect to get a birthday message from Big Tex!’ Things like that help us build on the fun of who we are."


Staying connected throughout the year

“We also use email to help build engagement and spread the mission of the State Fair,” Jason said. "We try to engage with people beyond the Fair's 24-day run; we want to show them that the Fair supports agriculture, education, and community engagement year-round." 
To bridge the gap, Jason regularly sends the Fair’s subscribers content related to that year’s theme. 
“Last year’s theme was 'Passport to Texas,' so we sent out content all about different travel destinations in the state. 2016 is all about agriculture – kind of expanding on the idea of what people think agriculture is. So we’ll serve our audience content about that. Really, it just helps get people excited about the Fair and keep it top-of-mind long before the actual opening day."


Seeing huge results from a growing email program

This year, Jason couldn’t help but be amazed by the results his team saw from their email marketing efforts.  

"We see on your website that the ROI of email is 4300% and think, 'Oh, that must be specific to some particular industry. There’s no way email could do that for us.' But even just using the most basic strategy – utilizing Emma's tools like automation and segmentation – that little bit of effort completely changed our marketing game. Our attendance was up 30% this year, which is pretty massive for a fair that usually gets 3 million people." 

He’s also excited to see how fine-tuning their strategy will impact the State Fair of Texas in 2016. 

Jason said, “We’ve found that Emma is an incredibly valuable and cost-effective platform. As we look at the success we were able to achieve this year, we’re really excited to be more strategic with our email marketing and see what happens this coming year." 



About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

Follow on Twitter Follow on Linkedin More Content by McKenzie Gregory
Previous Article
Email showdown: Broncos vs. Panthers
Email showdown: Broncos vs. Panthers

Right now, the internet is abuzz about one of the biggest sporting events of the year. You know the one…th...

Next Article
5 automated emails smart marketers send
5 automated emails smart marketers send

If you're in the marketing game, you already know that automation is key to reaching the right audience at ...