Events are more than just a way to get out from behind the sales counter. They offer savvy small business owners an opportunity to build brand awareness while attracting and retaining customers. Not sure how to conduct your first event – or looking for ways to improve your next one? The following tips can help.
Pick an Event that Suits Your Business
Events can range from small online webinars to trade shows with thousands in attendance. Here are some of the many you can choose from:
- Seminars and Webinars
- Meet and Greets (over breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails)
- Special Events (golf outings, wine tastings)
The event that’s right for you depends on the business you’re in and the types of people you want to attract. For instance, if you run a small chain of coffee shops, a meet and greet over breakfast is a natural. If you develop online security solutions, a webinar might fit. The key is to leverage the event that feels most natural to you.
Plan Ahead and Follow Up
The more you plan ahead, the more successful your event will be. For example, if you’re hosting a two-day seminar on building LEED Certified structures, you’ll want to work several weeks or months out to build a list and send out invites. If you’re hosting a webinar on using Adobe Photoshop, you’ll need less time, since email invites can go out on a moment’s notice.
While planning timelines will vary based on a variety of factors, these templates can help you understand what to consider and how much time it might take.
Once your event is over, your job is just beginning. Following up in a timely matter is key in converting those who attended your event into customers. There are a variety of ways to reach out to your attendees, ranging from personal phone calls to emails to post cards (and more). Use your best judgment when determining how to follow up. These thought starters can get you motivated to respond accordingly.
Attend Other Events for Insights
If you haven’t attended an event before, make plans to hit one or two that pertain to your business. Being on the ‘other side’ allows you to experience the event like a prospect and gain valuable insights. You may observe that the most visited trade show booths are ones that include active displays or raffles for big-ticket items. You’ll feel what it’s like to have a booth attendant give you his or her best sales pitch. You’ll fill out attendance cards and see what kind of follow-up you receive from the vendor.
By participating in events as an attendee, you can scope out the competition, gain new ideas and see what is or isn’t working. Then you can take these insights back to your business and use them as you develop your own events.
Make Events Part of Your Business DNA
It’s easy to think of events as one-offs, but doing so diminishes their importance in your overall branding and marketing strategy. Consider adding a line item for event marketing in your annual budget and set aside funds for these purposes. As your successes increase, allocate more funds as needed to fuel your event strategy.
Event marketing isn’t new, but the way it’s conducted continues to evolve. By applying the insights covered here you can maximize your efforts with each and every one.