Events – they can be quite intimidating, especially if you're the organizer. How do I get the word out? Will anyone show up? Will people get bored? Even if you're attending someone else's event or exhibiting at a trade show, you still need to be on your "A game" because it's not just a fun party; you're there to network and potentially find new customers.
Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your event marketing efforts.
BEFORE THE EVENT
The bulk of your time and efforts will go into planning, budgeting and promoting.
Set your goals. The first thing you want to do for any event is set your goal. Do you want to gain new customers, build a relationship with existing customers, get the word out about your business, or all of the above? Once you’ve set your goal it’s easier to figure out what type of event you want to participate in.
Most companies participate in events in one of the following ways:
- Attend: This is a great way to meet new people and/or further establish your business in your community, without a ton of upfront investment. Business mixers (often held by your local Chamber of Commerce) are a common way to meet local businesses and community leaders.
- Sponsor: If your goal is to obtain customer leads, or if you want to get your brand in front of a very specific audience, you might want to consider sponsoring or having a booth at an industry trade show.
- Host: Putting on your own event is a wonderful way to thank your existing customers, or to attract potential new customers to your business location. The big plus? You're the star of the party!
Plan, plan, plan. Formulate what you need to do for the event and when you need to accomplish each task. If you're hosting or exhibiting, do you need to rent anything (a venue, tables, chairs, etc.) or order food or snacks? Don't forget the basics like extra business cards, pens and any swag or giveaways. Most importantly, how much money can you afford to spend? Having a budget and schedule at the very beginning – and sticking to it – will save a ton of headache down the road.
Get the word out. Gather the necessary information: Who, what, when, where, why and – if you're sponsoring or hosting an event – how much does it cost? Then promote it like crazy on your website, blog, social media networks, email marketing campaigns and even in-store if you have a retail location. If you're selling tickets, consider using an online event marketing and registration service; you can set up a separate events Web page in minutes and have people purchase tickets directly online. So much easier than trying to make change at the door!
DURING THE EVENT
Organization is key for any type of event, especially if you're hosting or exhibiting. Everything should be set up and ready to go before the “early birds” arrive. If you've got multiple people working, assign jobs to each person and make sure they know the answers to FAQs before attendees arrive.
Get social. Create a Twitter #hashtag for your event, or use the event's official hashtag if you’re attending or sponsoring a booth. This way you can track all tweets coming from the event. Also, encourage people to “check in” using Foursquare or Facebook Places. You can encourage people to check in by offering giveaways.
Look the part. Your employees should be easily identifiable, whether it's a name tag or "uniform." You want attendees to know right away who are the representatives of your company.
Leave the tough sells at home. When you’re talking to potential customers, don’t talk business the whole time. People like to get to know you personally. Instead of launching into your elevator pitch every single time someone comes up to you or your table or booth, give them a few minutes to review your offerings, and if they have any questions, be sure to answer them.
Collect business cards. This is an oldie, but it still works. After all, at the end of the day you're there to make new connections, right? Jot down a note on each business card about what was discussed with that person. This not only serves as a reminder for you, but will give a personal touch to communication when you follow up with him/her later.
AFTER THE EVENT
You did it. You met some interesting new people and attendance was great. After you put down that celebratory beer or glass of wine, don't forget to:
Evaluate. Tally up the final cost of the event, the outcomes of the event itself, and see if it met your goals. How many business cards did you collect and how much business (new or old) did you get? How did your staff feel about the event? Get feedback from everyone to see what can you do better next time.
Follow up. Pull out those business cards you collected and follow up with a personal email or phone call. Put them in your contact manager or CRM system and tag them with the name of the event. You can always follow up with non-responders two or three weeks after. Keep track of what you spent on your event, then what you make from your new customers.
These simple tips should help set you and your event up for success every time!
Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, a provider of email marketing, social media, online survey, event marketing and direct mail marketing solutions.