Special events are a smart way to attract new customers, strengthen the relationship with and thank existing ones while creating a buzz about your business. The catch is, special memorable events do not just happen. Hosting an event requires planning and preparation.
When planning an event, it’s crucial to keep the following key components in mind:
Is it for lead generation or list building? Would you like to create awareness of your company or introduce a new product or service? Do you need to develop customer loyalty or establish transparent relationships with potential customers? Or do you simply want to drive sales and make money? Which is okay too and all of the above objectives with properly executed tactics will get you there as well.
Whichever are your goals, make sure they are SMART (outline exactly what you are aiming for), your team is aware of the event’s purpose and works it accordingly.
Who are we trying to engage with this event?
Once you define who exactly is this event for, all decisions will fall into place concerning event format, content, promotion, offers, entertainment, etc. This approach will also help you to stay focused on achieving specific goals.
Have good reason(s) for people to show up. What’s the draw for attendees? You need to define WHAT you’re doing at the event that will bring your target audience in the door. For a consumer product or service, it might be a party with entertainment, demos, and freebies. For a business crowd, it might be educational, well-known, motivational expert speaker.
What are we willing to spend to engage this audience?
Make a list of every possible expense (cost sheet), even if you just estimate the numbers. When you decide to have an event, everything matters. Making a list will ensure you don’t overlook things. Establish how much money you can set aside for the event and/or know where it will be coming from. Even the smallest event could require a serious financial commitment. The rule of thumb is the return on investment you can expect is around from 3:1 to 5:1 after any given successfully executed event.
Remember, it is better to wait than to stage a shoddy event and leave your attendees disappointed. However, there are some creative ways to obtain additional funding or expand your visibility, offerings and guest list by partnering with complimentary local businesses.
If you are an authorized dealer/retailer of a specific renowned brand, consider reaching out to see if there is coop budget available for events and advertising or whether they can help out with swag for favor/goody bags, free samples, expert presentation or even a local celebrity attendance.
You can also slash your event costs by teaming up with other local non-competing businesses with the similar target audience (demographics & psychographics) resulting in a win-win outcome. When done right, these partnerships can produce additional exposure and revenue, and all parties involved end up happy with more customers and sales. However, make sure to carefully outline the terms of your agreement to ensure that associated costs and responsibilities are clear to both businesses.
Here are a few examples of local businesses you can invite to be part of your event by “sponsoring” it by providing their goods or services in exchange of their business’ exposure during the event, distributing their samples/coupons in “favor” baggies and potentially inviting some of their loyal clients they’d like to entertain, etc.
Reach out to a nearby restaurant/coffee shop/bakery for catering
Approach a local florist to provide some flower decor for the event
Local winery or brewery (make sure to obtain proper licenses and permits)
Musical school or instrument store for live entertainment (e.g., classical piano performance, live cover band)
Depending on your creativity, resourcefulness, networking and negotiation skills, the opportunities are limitless 🙂
Be aware, however, that you may not want to align yourself with one supplier over another, or to risk crossing ethical business lines and jeopardizing your brand’s reputation.
TIP: Use Google spreadsheet to track your budget elements and update them as necessary. This enables you to maintain real-time data while sharing it with your team.
When will your event take place? When to send out invitations?
Check the calendar and avoid scheduling your event on or too close to holidays and popular vacation times. Consider other local events that your target attendees might be interested in going to. Once the perfect event date is chosen, to create your critical, grab a calendar and work backward to determine important deadlines. When other parties involved in planning (vendors, suppliers, etc.), ensure there is no confusion with calendar and business days. E.g. 14 business days = 18 calendar days.
It depends on the scale of your event, but 2-3 weeks invitation advance is sufficient for most small business events.
The easier way to scare people away is by having analog registration. For convenience and cost efficiency, go with digital/online invitations and RSVP forms. You can use a template create a custom Invitation + Event Registration form using some platform and distribute them via the web, email, social and more.
TIP: If you host an event where people register online in advance (strongly recommended), you’ll likely already be collecting important contact information. This is the perfect time to ask people to join your email list.
Anytime you are meeting your potential client face-to-face, you have an opportunity to grow your list. Here some tactics to implement during the event:
Gather business card and/or entry ballots with opt-ins for a door prize draw
Place countertop signs and sign-up sheets in visible places with an incentive of a prize, free sample or special offers
Include signup instructions to join your list in a favor bag with an incentive of a prize, free sample or special offers. You can use URL or QR code
When an attendee is leaving, ask if they would like to be invited to future events.
Have a tablet/iPad handy and let them sign up on your website or Facebook page
Print opt-in information on your receipts