Expert: Building a Brand via Events
Building relationships is always a good goal of business, and sharing an experience is the best way to build those relationships. Experiences build community and win advocates for your business.
THE BENEFITS OF HOSTING a business event last far beyond moments of great food and smiling faces. Your employees or clients take these new-found relationships and happy memories with them, long after the event is over.
Some only see business events as an expense, but in actuality you are building a bond between your brand and your employees, or your brand and your clients. Business events increase sales, retain employees, strengthen teamwork, and show your commitment and appreciation.
CONSIDER THESE 12 KEYS when you want to organize a stellar business event.
Set your goals and target audience. Every successful event starts with a clear goal. Who is your target audience and what is the purpose of your event? Are you introducing a new product, or procedure, or making a major announcement? Do you want to reward a job well done or increase company morale? Are you rewarding your top clients or saying “thank you” to current customers? Before you can begin planning a successful event, be clear on why you are doing it because every decision after that should support your main goal.
Pick a date. For best results, know your audience and start planning early. Schedule your event so it does not conflict with other events or dates your target audience will be interested in.
Determine the format. Your goals, target audience and date help determine the scope and kind of event that is the best fit. Will you have refreshments, entertainment, workshops or speakers? Scale the event’s scope to your level of comfort and experience. The format of your event will attract specific attendees.
Decide the location. Location, location, location! Defining the milieu is key to a memorable business affair. Should it be at your place of business? Outdoors? A local event space or restaurant? A hotel conference room or bed and breakfast? Going off site may individualize your theme and provide excitement and space to more easily execute your affair. Check into availability as soon as possible, sign contracts and pay deposits.
Determine the number of attendees. If it is an invitation-only event such as a dinner or seminar, you’ll be able to get a head count by requesting an RSVP. Online RSVP and ticket business services that help you manage this are Facebook, Brown Paper Tickets, RSVPify, Evite, BlackbirdRSVP, AnyVite, and rsvpservices.com. Sometimes, RSVPs are not needed if you have enough space to accommodate all expected attendees.
Nail down necessary equipment, etc. This could range from tables, chairs and microphones to pens and paper or refreshments and speaker gifts.
Know your budget. Add up costs as you plan and scale back if needed. Consider bartering with local businesses or, if it makes sense with your event, seek other businesses or organizations to serve as sponsors. If the event is for clients, consider a joint venture with other businesses or organizations that have something in common with yours.
Select your staff. Plan human resources from the beginning. Don’t forget greeters, clean-up crew and someone to return equipment. Make assignments and be clear on duties. Hold an orientation session if need be. It is a good idea to have someone besides you in charge of logistics the day of the event. Thank everyone before and after from the heart, keeping in mind you are the face of the brand.
Get personal. The bane of most business events is that they are…too business-y. People, especially employees and valued customers, want to feel genuinely appreciated. You can create fun and engaging themes that have a common thread throughout the event. Plan surprises that leave attendees wondering what else is coming. When choosing a theme and invitations, try to connect with your audience. Brainstorm with your team.
Start promoting. Build buzz around your theme that stirs excitement about your event. Develop a marketing plan for how you’ll promote it, whether it is to employees or clients. Utilize all marketing and advertising outlets, including word-of-mouth, in-house communication, social media, print or online ads, flyers, store signage and more. If appropriate, reach out to local reporters and ask them to attend and/or write about the event. Send information to all local publications that post or print event listings. Let local business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce know as well.
Be prepared but stay positive. “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst” should be your guiding light. A few weeks before the event, meet with your team to run through logistics and what might go wrong. No detail is too small to consider. For example, if your event includes outdoor activities, have a solid plan in place in case the weather turns sour. On the day of the event, be prepared but also be ready to accept that if mistakes happen, your attitude is what matters most. If you stay positive, keep your sense of humor and make your employees or customers feel welcome and happy they came, your brand will meet its goals.
Evaluate and follow-up. Your event may attract new or existing customers and prospects. Gather their information when they RSVP or ask people to sign up on a clipboard to get on your mailing list if you didn’t get it electronically, or do “business cards in a fishbowl.” Follow up as soon as possible while the event is fresh in their minds. Offer something of value such as a discount code, free consultation or useful information. Evaluations of the event, especially from employees, may provide useful feedback.After each event, review your triumphs and challenges so you can learn for the next time. The more business events you host, the easier it becomes to live your mission, and your brand will reap the rewards of this valuable internal and external marketing tool.
Monique Pittman-Lui is president of Spirit Productions, LLC, a business that specializes in planning and executing promotions of the performing arts in the Midwest.