Are you looking for ways to engage your existing clients? Host an event! The benefit of an event is that it puts you in front of your ideal clients and creates the opportunity for them to introduce you to new people. Hosting an event can add to your marketing efforts and add value to your client experience in tangible, as well as intangible ways. Events are a great way to both facilitate networking and netweaving, as well as provide an opportunity to demonstrate your thought leadership.
What are the steps you need to take to organizing an event that will help you build client capital and attract new clients?
1. Set a per person budget
You want to start with how much you are prepared to spend on your event. Your budget will set the parameters around your decision making for the event. The amount of money you are planning to spend will determine the type of venue you select, how many people you can invite, and the type of décor and setup you can have. As we discussed at the Pinnacle Conference, you want to consider the client experience you are looking to create and how the event can add value to your relationship with clients.
This is a great place to also consider the resources around you that you can leverage. Do you know anyone who owns a restaurant, a bar, an art gallery or some other type of space you could utilize for your event at a reduced rate, or even for free? Do you work with a collateral professional you could partner with to host an event and share the expenses? Consider your network and how you could secure the venue you desire or create the atmosphere you envision by utilizing resources you have and know.
2. Pick a theme or topic for your event
To pick the right topic or theme for your event you need to focus on the interests and values of your ideal client. What challenges do they face in their lives, personally or professionally? What interests them the most?
Here, again, you may want to consider whether you know a collateral professional with whom you could partner to design an educational event that would be of value to your clients – a health professional, an accountant, a lawyer, real estate agent, lifestyle professional, etc.
If you are considering integrating events into your marketing mix, you should create a calendar that will take into consideration the 3-5 future events you will host and how you can weave the topics together to create a long term and sustainable strategy.
3. Find a date and time that will maximize attendance
Just as the topic of the event should be tailored to suit your ideal client, so too should the date and time of your event. If your ideal client is a busy professional, hosting an event mid-afternoon will not bring the numbers you desire. At the same time, if your ideal client has a young family, hosting an event that goes too late into the night will also be problematic.
You have to also take into consideration gathering time and exiting time. Unfortunately, not everyone arrives as promptly as we would like, so it is important to encourage people to come 15-30 minutes in advance. Depending on your budget, you can have light snacks and drinks available for those who show up early. You can even have an activity prepared to encourage networking for this group depending on the setup. If you plan to organize some type of evening educational event with a reception, you will need to remember that not everyone can take out 2-3 hours out of their evening. You will want to invite people to gather, engage them in the educational portion of the evening, and then create the opportunity for those who can stay to enjoy the reception.
4. Create an event schedule
An event is a project and it requires management. You want to create a work back schedule to make sure milestones and objectives are met. You will also want to create a checklist for everything that needs to be prepared in advance and everything that needs to be organized the day of.
Be sure to give people plenty of advanced warning to attend your event. We suggest at least 1 month notice for an event that will take up any part of a day. Depending on the client experience you want to create, you will want to consider a few things and prepare for them:
- Will you be distributing any marketing materials at the event – brochures, product/service offerings?
- What is the objective of the event and how can you create a call to action to help you realize it? A call to action can be for those present to request to meet with you in person or for them to suggest someone who would be interested meeting with you.
- What roles will each of your staff play at the event – preparation, welcome/registration, setup, breakdown?
- Do you need to hire any outside help?
- What do you need to coordinate from a logistics stand point? For example, are you going to prepare name tags and require lanyards in advance?
- Will you be providing an evaluation or feedback form?
- When do you need to make the final call around numbers, food and beverage for the venue?
You will have to decide how you want to invite people to the event. You can keep it simple (and economical) and send an email with the details in the body and in an attached PDF; you can leverage technology to create a landing page, a form or an e-invite; or you could be more traditional and send out a physical invite. You want to make it very easy for people to capture the details, the purpose of attending the event, and how to RSVP for themselves and, ideally, prospective ideal clients whom they know.
You want to make sure you have scheduled reminders to track RSVPs and follow up with people who have yet to respond. Becky Novin-Cannon who spoke at the Pinnacle uses Paperless Post for her invites. You can purchase or get free invites, provide all the necessary details, allow people to invite others and, most importantly, track who has viewed the invite and RSVP’d making it easier to follow up.
Thorough preparation is key to executing a successful event. An event is not only the client experience you create, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate that you are organized and committed to surpassing expectations. If you are presenting as part of the event, you want to plan, practice and perfect your presentation. If you have sourced a speaker, you want to make sure that you schedule meetings with that individual to make sure they are prepared and that their message will resonate with your audience.
You want to make sure you have scripted out what you want to say as the host to set context for the event, to illustrate the purpose of bringing together the group that is in the room, how they can share their feedback on the event, and what is the call to action for the audience.
7. Follow up
You didn’t host the event for nothing! Make sure you have set aside time post-event to follow up with key clients and COIs who contributed to the success of the event. Also, you should have a list of people from the event who indicated on their feedback form that they would be interested in learning more about what you do or meeting with you in person. Make sure that your schedule isn’t booked solid for the subsequent 2 months or they will have forgotten about you.
If you struggle with how you would complete any of these steps, ask your ideal clients for the answers. Not sure what to talk about? Ask them what they want to learn about. Not sure what the best time host an event is? Ask them the best time that works for their schedule. We are often reluctant to engage our clients, yet research demonstrates that people are more than happy to share their feedback. You just have to ask!