How to use live events to boost your business
In an increasingly digital world, it is easy to forget how much we actually enjoy human connection. In-person communication is a much more effective way to build relationships than email or social media and shouldn’t be overlooked in a marketing strategy.
Marketers often report that live events use up a large proportion of their marketing budget. Trade exhibitions, for example, can be hugely expensive. It's not just the cost of the exhibition stand, but also shipping stock, accommodation and travel, sales and marketing collateral, and time out of the business for many employees. There can be some ‘trial and error’ involved in finding the right event for your business, and this can lead to costly mistakes.
However, most marketers will not dispute the fact that direct contact with your target market offers great potential. So hosting your own event can be a really good way to increase brand awareness or develop relationships with existing customers.
Here are my tips on what to focus on to make the most of your event.
Firstly, think about the purpose of hosting a live event. Do you want to reach a new audience, build a deeper connection with your online customers, or launch a new product? Your event should correspond with this goal.
Types of Events
- To reach a new audience, you might consider partnering with other complementary brands to host a joint event e.g. several gift and accessories brands running a pop-up shop, pre-Christmas and sharing the cost of the venue. Or, businesses targeting the lucrative wedding market could host a bridal event at a local wedding venue. Each benefits from association and extends their reach to the customer base of the other brands.
- A factory tour for your best customers, or promising leads, helps to build a stronger connection. This works particularly well for B2B since some professionals will consider this a core part of their training or ‘continuous professional development’ (CPD).
- An informative evening with talks from the designers, business leaders, or other experts can turn warm leads into customers. If you provide a professional service such as interior design, Adobe software training or branding expertise, could you give away some free advice to potential customers? Inbound marketing effectively nurtures your leads by providing them with a taste of the expertise you have to offer.
- A launch party for a new product is a great way to say thank you to your valued customers and offer them an exclusive benefit for their loyalty. It could also be an opportunity to test out a new product and gain testimonials with free giveaways to get your product marketing campaign off to a great start.
Promote your event
- To benefit fully from the event, make sure to promote it well in advance. Use a tool such as Eventbrite. Eventbrite is free to use if you are not charging for tickets. It’s a straight-forward way to promote your event through its site and yours, share on social media, and record and analyse attendees. Attendees will also receive reminders of the upcoming event, and in my experience, when people sign up for something they are much more likely to commit to going.
- Don't forget to tell your email subscribers and, if place are limited, offer tickets to them first.
- Use the ‘create an event’ button on your Facebook business page. When your Facebook followers click on the link to show they are interested in attending your event this will show up to other Facebook users they are connected to in the same location.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to reach out to any contacts you have in the press. The press are always interested in a good story so if you can create excitement around your event and get some good PR too then that is an added bonus.
- Consider attracting a new audience by using an ‘influencer’ to promote your event. Influencers are particularly popular with fashion brands and would make a great guest to provide attendees with styling advice, for example. ‘Micro-influencers’ have a small but very engaged audience who trust their judgement and advice. They promote products in a very natural, non-salesy, way, like a word-of-mouth recommendation.
During the event
- During the event maximise the impact by encouraging social shares. Make it ‘share-friendly’ with a hashtag specific to the event. Follow the hashtag and like and comment on any posts that attendees have made as all engagement helps to increase the visibility of their post to their followers. Take lots of photos, or a video (even better!) so that you can share, share, share too!
- It’s always useful to have a blank, A4 pad and a stapler on hand. Quite often at events, people give you their business card and ask you to follow up with them. You can staple the card into the book and write any notes about their specific request alongside this. You then have a handy reference for following up leads after the event.
- Provide attendees with a freebie such as a goodie bag, a discount code or a ‘refer a friend’ card to encourage them to recommend your goods or services.
After the event
- Follow up afterwards to say thank you to attendees and to request their permission to let them know about future events. If they enjoyed it and found it useful then they you may be able to add them to your mailing list (you definitely want to do this!). If you receive great feedback then ask if you can share this on social media too.
- Use the experience for content marketing. Events make great, keyword-filled, blog posts and videos. Share with your email list and your social media followers and invite comments and feedback.
- Analyse and learn from the event so that it will be even better next time!