Each year, the Rochester Lilac Festival gathers flora and local fare into a ten-day extravaganza in Highland Park, Rochester, NY. A staple for the residents of the community, its surrounding counties, and visitors from all over New York, the festival is a chance for attendees to stop and smell the lilacs and maybe add a ticket to the craft beer expo or a music performance to their free festival ticket. 

Rochester Lilac Festival 2023
The Rochester Lilac Festival is held annually in Highland Park.

Supporting 85+ artists and 500,000+ attendees, the Rochester Lilac Festival is the largest of its kind in North America and takes year-round planning to produce. Besides event logistics, the festival team’s digital marketing strategy emphasizes a strong lean on email marketing and software integrations to centralize online purchases for merchandise. 

Rochester Lilac Festival hosts 500,000+ attendees each year. Source: YouTube

Producing events that foster community 

Jeff Springut is the president of Rochester Events and the brains behind the Rochester Lilac Festival. “I’ve been producing events since I was in high school, actually, and small ones in the neighborhood,” said Jeff. After transitioning from hobbyist to big-time event producer, Jeff’s resume includes a laundry list of awe-worthy acts, from The Commodores and Lionel Richie.

Jeff Springut, president of Rochester Events, the event company in charge of the Rochester Lilac Festival
Jeff Springut is the president of Rochester Events.

A little over thirty years ago, Jeff decided to create his own production company, Rochester Events, which has produced the Rochester Lilac Festival for the last twelve of its hundred-and-twenty-five years entertaining and supporting the community. Besides the Lilac Festival, Rochester Events also hosts Party in the Park, a summer concert series held annually in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in downtown Rochester. 

Jeff Springut and Rochester Lilac festival event vendor
Putting together a festival takes a ton of coordination. Rochester Events’ small but mighty team of five tackles the challenge. 

Communicating with their audience 

Communicating with a diverse and ever-expanding audience is top of mind for Lexany Rivera, Production Manager and Director of Marketing for Rochester Events. “I am constantly marketing the business, and it is number one on my list of priorities, so I use Constant Contact daily,” said Lexany.

Constant Contact has helped us find better ways to communicate with more people.”

Jeff Springut

The festival’s longevity has manifested into email subscriptions — people eager to learn about the vendors, entertainment, exhibitions, activities, and food featured at the festival. As many business owners know, the biggest challenge once you have a healthy email list is learning how to sustain it. “You don’t want to see people leaving your email list,” said Lexany. “Nothing makes my heart more sad than seeing us [Rochester Events] losing followers.”

Lexany Rivera, Production Manager & Director of Marketing for Rochester Events
Lexany Rivera, Production Manager & Director of Marketing for Rochester Events.

To ensure their email list continues to thrive, Lexany has the challenge of coordinating messages to engage an audience with varied interests. “Given the fact that we have so many different demographics that we try to hit, Constant Contact does help us kind of narrow that down with their ability to segment.” 

Lexany put a process in place to segment the festival’s subscribers based on preferences, reducing how many emails are sent to their audience and subsequently promoting relevance. Niche email lists make sure subscribers receive the information they have asked for, whether they are looking for information about the Lilac Festival or another of Rochester Events’s festivals and concerts. 

To gather data, Lexany and the festival team created a sign-up form that allows subscribers to opt-in to self-select their notification preferences. Subscriber opt-in triggers an automated welcome email, introducing readers to the Rochester Events brand and the individual events that have captured their interest. “Being able to segment yourself right off the bat makes sure that they’re getting exactly the information they want from us,” said Lexany. 

Besides their sign-up form, the festival team creates lists based on ticket purchases and registrations to help target their emails. 

Rochester Events email sign-up form
Subscribers self-segment through the Rochester Events sign-up form.

Using integrations to centralize their processes

As marketing director, Lexany has to be quick on her feet. Having access to an email marketing platform with software integration capabilities cuts down on the time she has to spend in the design stages to craft informative emails that are also beautifully designed. “I’m the Canva queen. I love using Canva, so being able to take my designs and smack them right into our blast helps a ton.” 

Lexany Rivera works on digital marketing for Rochester events.
Lexany is the “Canva Queen,” using the software integration to combine her graphic design and email marketing skills.

Their integration with WooCommerce helps them keep track of sales they make on merchandise linked to emails — for example, posters of upcoming and past festivals. 

“Due to these two integrations, we are better able to target our audience. By being able to make aesthetically pleasing campaigns, we hope that it will encourage our subscribers to stay on our email list. The WooCommerce integration is great too because we can see exactly who, from our email list, has purchased what from us in the past, so we can better target and understand the purchaser,” said Lexany.

Rochester Lilac Festival Poster 2023
Integration with WooCommerce helps the team easily track purchases from products linked in their emails.

Growth goals

Rochester Events is always seeking new ways to grow its business, audience, and marketing efforts. Jeff and his team tackle the challenge head-on by networking with similar companies. Lexany takes charge by keeping the festival’s marketing strategy up to speed by taking advantage of Constant Contact’s educational services. “I get so excited every time you guys have a webinar. I’m there and signed up,” said Lexany. 

Besides brushing up on the latest marketing trends, Lexany is looking to expand the company’s marketing reach through channels like SMS texting message marketing. “We will always be using email, but that text option — that’s going to be a game changer for us.” 

From maintaining its audience through interest-specific lists to centralizing production by integrating design and e-commerce software, the Rochester Events team is able to reach their marketing goals with Constant Contact. By keeping their supporters informed and connected, the Rochester Lilac Festival team is fostering growth and promoting the local art that brings culture to the community.