Whatever the size of your business, hosting events with a purpose is great for your overall marketing strategy. In fact, 85% of consumers stated that they have a more positive perception of companies after attending an event.
Additionally, hosting an event gives you direct access to connect with your core audience and/or community and allows you to have in-person conversations. 95% of marketers agree that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.
Here are six steps you should take when considering hosting an event, no matter the type of event or size of your business.
1. Set Event Goals and Objectives
First, decide why you want to host an event and stay focused on that goal and/or goals. Did you just open a new business and want to promote yourself with a grand opening? Did you release a new product that you want to market? Or, are you looking to get more foot traffic in the door to increase your revenue?
These are just a few of the reasons why you may want to host an event to support your marketing strategy. Make sure you decide on your reason(s) before getting too much into working out the event details. Ideas fall into place easier once you decide on your goals. Otherwise, you are just taking a shot in the dark and risking hosting an event that is a flop.
When you think about goals and objectives, consider how the event fits into your overall marketing strategy, because events are just a small piece of it.
SMART Goals, as I mentioned in a previous Zion & Zion article, are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based goals that you should consider when thinking about your event. While you should have SMART goals in place for your business, you should also set them for events you host and ensure that tie back into your overall business goals and objectives.
2. Evaluate Your Target Audience
After you decide your event’s goals, objectives, and success metrics, think about your target audience. Everything else you do will depend on where you can find potential event attendees.
Audience demographics include:
- Location: Are they in a certain city or state?
- Generation: Are they a Baby Boomer, Millennial, etc.?
- Household income: Who can afford your product/service?
- Interests/hobbies: What do they enjoy?
The type of event you’re hosting is another factor that affects your target audience. Although you may know your business target audience, which will closely resemble the event attendees, other factors must be considered.
For example, if the event you are hosting includes ticket sales with a higher price point, household income and age range of attendees could potentially be higher than your normal target audience. Additionally, if you are hosting the event somewhere besides your place of business, location is a crucial consideration (in addition to your current customers, who may travel to see you).
3. Set a Budget and Stick to it
If you are a small business, budgets can be tight, so try to stick to your budget as much as possible. Many websites have examples of templates you can to help keep you on track for your event. Here is just one example of a budget spreadsheet you can utilize.
Some items to include in your budget includes venue rental (if needed), food and beverage, AV, advertising, photography, and video production.
Once you start planning, some unexpected expenses may pop up, so be sure your budget has a “contingency” line for those last-minute items. However, it is important to make your budget as comprehensive as possible, so you don’t need to set a large amount of money aside or go way over budget.
4. Decide on Specific Success Evaluation Metrics
Once you decide the event’s goals, target audience, and budget, think about the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you will be measuring to evaluate success. Obviously, attendance versus the number of RSVPs is a great metric to measure, but it only scratches the surface.
Some examples of KPIs include how many ticket sales you need to break even. Or, how much revenue you need to make, or how many new customers you want to acquire. For social media success, decide how much engagement would be considered a success when it comes to mentions, hashtag use, check-ins, and more.
79% of U.S. Marketers have reported that they use event marketing to generate sales. Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend hosting an event without thinking about how you will measure the success of it beforehand.
5. Promote Your Event
Promoting your event is high up there on the list of what would make your event successful. Below are a few helpful ways you can successfully promote your event.
Website or Online Listings
First, create a website, landing page, or keep it simple with an online event listing. Having somewhere to direct people to get more information about your event, whether it is a full-blown site for larger events, a landing page for mid-size, or an online event listing for smaller events, is very important.
You can create free event listings on Facebook or websites like Eventbrite. Additionally, you can list your event on many other free event listing websites online (like local media websites) and then link back to your main event listing/landing page/website where people can learn more.
Also, keep in mind that if you plan to sell tickets, utilizing a service that has that capability (usually for a small fee) is the best route to take. It should also be an easy process for event attendees to use.
Giveaways & Discounts
Other ways to create excitement for your event is through giveaways/contests, posting about it regularly, or even using influencers (if they are a good fit). These are some great ideas and a timeline you can use as a guideline for promoting your event on social media.
To create urgency, you could provide promo codes for discounted tickets for those who purchase in advance. Or, offer VIP packages/experiences by having different ticket types.
Another route you can take to promote your event is through social media. You can create a Facebook event listing, as mentioned earlier. You can also share it on your business accounts, which is beneficial, especially if you have a large following. If you are co-hosting the event, don’t forget to add the other business as a co-host and tag them on all your posts. Cross-promoting with other brands, speakers, business who may be working with you on this event, especially if it is a non-profit or well-known organization with lots of followers, is a good way to get more exposure.
Organic social is a free way to advertise your event, but you can also boost your event or run social ads to expand your reach.
I also recommend having a hashtag for your event, which is easy to remember and not super long. And use it in your posts leading up to your event too so it’s out there.
Additional Marketing Promotions
In addition to sharing your event online, you can create flyers and posters, send direct mailing pieces, and share with your local media. Email, which is still popular among online audiences and continues to grow in popularity rather than the other way around, is another way to share your event with your potential attendees.
Overall, make sure you promote your event more heavily as it gets closer. According to an Eventbrite survey of 2,000 Americans, 43% of Americans plan a night out only 1-3 days in advance, while most people (19%) only make their weekend plans on Thursday.
At the end of the day, not all of these tactics are a great fit for every event. Once you have your strategy in place, you can decide what would work best for your audience.
6. Post-Event Evaluation
As referenced earlier, now is the time to go back and check on the results of the KPIs you established early in the planning process.
If measuring social media, how many mentions did your business get or how many attendees checked-in? How many times was your hashtag used? For revenue or customer/lead goals, did you obtain new customers? If so, how many leads/sales did you acquire? Did you hit your revenue goal?
While at the event, did you get positive or negative feedback from customers? Using a post-event survey that can be created on Survey Monkey is a great way to find out what attendees felt about the event. Make it anonymous so they can be completely honest, as that is the best way to improve your events in the future. You can send this to the list of people who registered online in advance or post a link to your event page asking for feedback.
Post-event evaluation is an important step in measuring event success, so don’t forget to do it before you start planning your next event.
Events are no easy task, so just taking one on is a huge feat. If you want it to be a success, which I hope it is, be sure to think about the six steps listed within this article.