Event marketing guide for small business owners

Interaction is the key objective of any marketing effort. Whether online or offline, events are very effective when it comes to attracting and keeping your potential customers’ attention and nurturing your existing relationships. It’s a learning exercise that works both ways – you get to know them and they get to know you. Everyone wins. The only two things to watch out for are to make sure the experience is positive and that you are using them as a marketing tool, not a way to sell. Crossing that line is likely to ruin the success of your event.

WHY USE EVENTS:

1. They are personal

People buy from people and they buy from people they like. And vice versa – as a business, you want to choose customers you enjoy working with. By engaging in a conversation – either in a form of a webinar or face to face – you will be able to interact with your audience on a personal level and understand them and their business issues better.

2. They create attention

The ultimate marketing objective behind any campaign is to get and keep people’s attention. Out of all channels, events have the ability to keep people’s attention for the longest – especially if you make them worth remembering. If you are able to engage your guests emotionally and intellectually, their attention span will go beyond the event itself and they will continue to reflect on it going forward.

3. They showcase expertise

By accepting your invitation and attending your event, your audience is essentially coming to you to hear what you got to offer. It doesn’t get better than that. This means you have them in a room – virtual or real –   and you can tell them about your business and expertise. Avoid hard sell and only keep it informative. Save selling for later, that’s if their experience triggers further interest.

4. They are cost effective

The common misconception of events is that they are way too expensive. Yes they can be. But they don’t have to be if you are prepared to handle the organisation. All you need is a great venue, compelling invitation and content. Events take time to prepare, plan and market, but it can be done. And it’s actually great fun, although can be a little stressful at times.

5. They work with everyone

Doesn’t matter if you are looking to engage with new prospects or your existing clients, you can use them across all audiences. You just need to decide which format works for each and define key objectives. There are loads of options – it’s up to you to chose the one that work best for you.

6. They are experiential

Experience sticks with people for much longer. It will also trigger emotions that they will associate with your business. If you do it well they will share their feedback with others – which will turn your event marketing into word of mouth marketing, which is by far one of the most effective ways to market your business.

7. They bring people together

People love to connect with their peers, learn what’s new and share best practices. By bringing people together for your event you are not only connecting your business with them, but you are also expanding their own networks.

FACE TO FACE EVENTS

Effective as they are, planning and marketing your events requires a lot of time and at first glance it might seem a bit stressful. But it`s not as difficult as you think. Don’t make assumptions, keep track of everything and allow yourself extra time – and you will be fine:

1. Create a plan

Plan for the worst case scenario. It’s better to be ready for disasters and not experience them than not being ready when disasters occur. Share your plan with everyone involved so that you can all manage your time and expectations. In addition to the tasks, include who is responsible for completing each task and by when. So when things are not so good, people can take responsibility and fix the issue.

2. Prioritise

When you create your plan make a note of how time-consuming each task can be and start with the ones that take the longest. This is obvious knowledge, but not so obvious practice. In general, allow extra time for those aspects that are out of your hands. The most important thing to determine when you start your planning and promotion is to set your event’s objective and work backwards.

3. Focus on quality

There is only one complete disaster that you should be concerned about – if no one turns up. So you need to have something interesting to offer and promote it in a compelling way that will make people want to attend. Things that will trigger your guest’s interest are: a relevant topic, innovative format and experience, attractive venue and speakers and useful takeaways. If you get half of these right, you have no reasons to worry.

4. Stay connected

To many of us a confirmation of attendance is all that matters. However it doesn’t end there. As your guests will agree to attend a while before the event they will easily forget about it. To keep it high on their agenda, take the time to send individual calendar placeholders and keep in touch with the agenda and guest list in progress. This serves as a reminder as well as great way to increase their interest. If you don’t hear back from them, do reach out. It’s a nice touch and it will make it easier to confirm your final numbers.

5. Do your research

You may not necessarily know everyone you invited, however you should definitely know your guests. Do your research before the event – anything that will help you to get to know them and their business is valuable. It will show that you care and it will help you to start and keep a conversation during the event.

ONLINE EVENTS 

Webinars are a great, cost effective way to attract your potential customers through knowledge and experience sharing without any geographic limitations. They are easier to organise than face-to-face events, but still come with a number of challenges. Here are a few tips to make them a success for your small business:

1. Create a detailed plan

Look at all the elements that you will have to get under control and create a plan with deadlines and assigned roles. Allow yourself plenty of time – you would want to be ready to start promotions at least three weeks before the live event. You will need to plan for a few reminders and be ready for any unexpected drama.

2. Choose engaging speakers

Your speakers are the key element of your webinar – they don’t have to be well known, but you should promote their expertise and why they have interesting insights to share with your audience. Having engaging speakers is essential to keep your attendees’ interest during the live session. From experience, having more than one speaker will make it much more interactive and the flow is much less staged.

3. Pick topics that resonate with your audience

The topic and the speakers are both key to your success. Don’t focus on topics that you want to push, but instead see what is it that your audience is interested in. Pick topics that answer their questions – make your webinar the opportunity for them to discuss their challenges and to learn from each other. People don’t want to be sold to – so make it about them, not you.

4. Invest in technology

You will heavily rely on technology, not only during the session but throughout the promotion and follow up process, so it better be good. Do your research and find the ones that fit your requirements and budget. There are free options available too, but they are not as sophisticated as the paid ones and you run the risk of looking a bit cheap. It’s actually less expensive than you might think.

5. Look the best you possibly can

When you are all set to go, you would want to make sure you get a lot of interest and there will be loads of people signing up to your webinar. So make your invitation and landing pages for registrations as good as possible. Go for the look and feel that matches your company’s style and provide all the relevant information your audience would want to know before deciding whether to attend or not.

6. Make it simple

No one has the time or patience for a lengthy registration process. Make is short and sweet – don’t ask too many questions, set up automated email confirmations, reminders and add the option to add the event to your attendees’ calendar. The more convenient it is to participate, the more likely it is that they will register and make it.

7. Test the technology

Run a few tests prior to your session. If possible, have an IT person with you in case you need immediate support. Ensure your Internet connection is working and is stable and if you can, connect via the cable instead of a wifi – less space for errors.

8. Run a rehearsal

Get all your speakers together and run through the session. Not just assign who is saying what and when, but actually run the session as you would if you were going live. Track each part so you can ensure your timings are realistic and get feedback from the speakers – this is very often the time when new ideas emerge!

9. Allow for a discussion

Give your audience the opportunity to speak up during the session. Having them involved in the conversation completely changes the dynamics of the event. Have allocated time at the end for Q&As and if you are unable to answer them during the session, do follow up after.

10. Record your session

A webinar is not just great live, but it is also a great content that you can use for various marketing campaigns. Start with sharing the recording with your attendees. You can also use it as downloadable content on your website, behind a gated form – it’s a great way to collect new data.

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