Whether planning a networking event, a workshop or seminar, a charity event or business open house, the planning challenges are the same. You need to rent a comfortable and professional venue, you should book an engaging and knowledgeable speaker, choose a menu of light refreshments or meal, and determine an available date and time where your target audience is usually available.
Once you have all of that set … how do you go about filling the room? How do you reach your target audience so they know about the event, can easily register, share it with others and remember to attend?
10 Steps to Selling out your Event
1. Brand your Event: Just as your company needs a well defined brand (image, reputation and purpose), your event needs to define its identity. Ask yourself who is your target audience, why would they be inclined to attend and what is your end-goal for hosting it?
- First, create a logo for your event and visually-appealing graphics that will be used on your invitation, website, social media and email marketing.
- Second, write a compelling description that includes the topic, time, place and who should attend as well as the benefits of attendance and what they will gain when they leave. Add a picture of the speaker(s) and their bios with credentials. Show testimonials of past events if applicable.
2. SAVE THE DATE email blast: If you have a list of contacts, begin to spread the word as soon as your event is booked or up to 2 months prior so people can add it to their calendar. Include all pertinent information in your email and don’t forget to inspire them with an engaging subject line “Why you shouldn’t miss this event!”, etc.
3. Invite through Social Media: Since events are social occasions, where else is more appropriate to get the word out than social media? Create an event on Facebook [Learn how] and invite your friends & contacts, post on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Encourage your friends to share your posts and invite their friends. To encourage virality, offer a reduced or free registration if they bring a friend. If your event is free, offer a door prize, or enter them in a drawing for a more valuable prize if they agree to bring at one or more of their colleagues.
4. Offer Online Registration: Through your website, Facebook, or through an affiliate service, offer an easy, convenient way for your attendees to register. Most do not want to pick up the phone and call these days. Add the link for your online registration on all your ads, emails, and social media. HINT: If you need help with the online registration, start an Eventbrite.com account and create an event through them, where you can not only add it to their calendar and send out an email to your contact list but you can also set up an online registration checkout and attendee reporting with them. (They will take a small percentage of registration fees if your event is not free to attend, but you only get charged when you make a sale.)
5. Blog about your Event: In my blog, I have repeatedly discussed the advantages of blogging including the search engine optimization benefits; but if you need more info: [Benefits of a Business Blog]. Write a blog post about your event including all pertinent details (time, place, speaker, agenda, etc), add an interview with your speaker, explain the benefits of what they will learn, display a list of FAQ’s regarding your event, or post a video of past events and/or past speeches given by your chosen guest speaker.
6. Submit to Local Media Outlets: Search local ‘event calendars’ in your area and request your event to be added. The local Chamber of Commerce (if you are a member), local business organizations and groups, tourism departments, local universities, and local radio/newspapers may be willing to market your event for free or a small fee.
7. Mass Mailings: Although this can be one of the costlier ways of event marketing, (when you add the cost of the professional graphic design of your invite, the printing costs and the postage to mail it), but it can be truly effective. Increasingly, with email and internet marketing becoming so saturated, direct mailing is becoming more popular and more effective. Make sure your postcard or invitation envelope is engaging and thus stands out among the rest of the mass mail. If you limit your mailing to your house list, your cost per lead is lowered substantially and has a better ROI.
8. Signs, Posters & Fliers: Using the branding we discussed in Step 1, have professionally designed posters, signs and fliers made up and distributed throughout your community. Ask local businesses if they would be willing to post your sign in their window or leave fliers at their counter, and in return for their participation offer a free ticket, a special mention at your event, or an exhibitor table. Enlist the help of interns or volunteers (if you’re a non-profit) for the distribution.
9. Enlist help through Corporate Sponsors and Partners: Many of the ways we discussed cost time and money, so develop partnerships in the community with like-minded business owners. If you can successfully demonstrate the value of your event, the local interest and past attendance numbers, you can offer a great marketing tool to local businesses by offering a sponsorship for your events. Make sure they get the value of their sponsorship dollars by prominently displaying their logo on all your advertising, online and traditional, and publicly thank and promote your sponsors at your event.
10. Email Marketing: First let’s start out with some recent statistics,
“For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment.” AND “44% of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email.”
Around two weeks prior to your event, send out an email invitation again with pictures, details and an engaging description of your event. Not only is the most cost effective form of communication, it ensures people are notified instantly, and that they can easily pass on the message to others they think might be interested. Include a link to your online registration page so they can easily complete your call to action. At the event, make sure to capture attendees emails so you can grow your house list for next time.
11. Announce, Advertise and Repeat. The Rule of
Seven expresses the idea that most of your prospects will need some contact with your event seven times before they register. So you cannot expect that one post, one email or one flier will make an impression on your target audience. It takes repeated announcements in various forms before people take notice, considering how we’re inundated with ads these days. Here’s a good rule of thumb:
- Emails, send no more than 4 emails in the 6-8 weeks prior, and one email reminder for those registered prior to the event a day or two prior.
- Social media, up to two to three times per week for a month prior.
- Newspaper, Radio and TV ads, as much as you can afford.
By investing the time and money in effective event marketing and planning a successful event, you will begin to build a loyal group of attendees who will more than likely sign up for your future events and bring their friends.