Four Keys to Effective Events

By Features WomenEntrepreneur.com

When planning your company's marketing mix, one frequently overlooked activity is the event. Entrepreneurs have a tendency to disregard events as effective tools for engaging their target market. But events are a perfect opportunity to bond with customers and deepen relationships in a way that can lead to more sales and many friendly referrals.

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Ultimately, the No. 1 reason to consider holding an event is its ability to positively affect ROI and yield long-term benefits for the business. That's why I frequently recommend this strategy to clients.

Full disclosure: One of my companies,MODpaper, creates one-of-a-kind invitations for events of all sorts, and I work with event planners to come up with creative designs that perfectly match their party plans. So I'm naturally biased in favor of events. But I've also seen the benefits firsthand.

Four Keys to Effective Event Marketing

  1. Event Theme
    Be authentic: Every event should have a theme of some kind. That doesn't mean your event has to be a black-tie-and-ballroom-dancing affair, especially if barbecue and Texas Hold'em is closer to what your business stands for. The trick is to make it suits the needs of your budget and represents the image your company is trying to project. Here are pointers to help you come up with the right theme for your event:
     
    • Write down the main marketing message of your business, or one part of your business in particular that you want to promote.
       
    • Ask yourself what common threads run between your customers, such as gender, industry type, similar needs, known hobbies, etc.
       
    • Brainstorm with your team (include sales and/or customer service, both of which have lots of contact with customers) to determine points of intersection between your marketing message, as well as the needs and tastes of your target customers.

    Here's an example of how an interior design firm based in Dallas might decide what kind of event to offer its customers:  

    • Marketing message: To create an aesthetically pleasing yet highly functional interior space for small and medium-size businesses in Dallas
       
    • Common thread: Work with spas, restaurants, retail, banks and law firms wanting a distinctive look that makes a statement. Seventy percent are female entrepreneurs; 75 percent are local businesses.
       
    • Brainstorming ideas: Partnering with a law office to show off an "Office of the Future" concept; a major redesign of your own office space to illustrate new design trends; a day at the spa for select female entrepreneurs  
  2. Get Branded

    The little details: Everything about the event should be seamless. Take advantage of this opportunity to show off your various skills and establish your company brand in the minds of your target audience. Wow them with your impeccable attention to detail, all while maintaining a cohesive brand presentation throughout.
     
    • Design a killer invite that intrigues and interests.
       
    • Create a branded registration site to supplement RSVPs.
       
    • Use appropriate social channels to get guests excited about attending. Twitter and Facebook make it easy to pass on info and build buzz. To limit outreach to those on the invite list and avoid party crashers, consider setting up a private event on Facebook and push out updates only to those invited. On Twitter, you can create an event name with a hash-tag (#) that invitees are provided and can easily follow.
       
    • Invest in vendors that help not only to achieve the ideal atmosphere but also to document the event as well (think layout, refreshments, floral, décor, photography).

    The guest list: Some might say creating the guest list is the most dreaded task of an event. Who should be invited? My advice is to be meticulous in compiling a list that will include both potential clients and current, satisfied clients. This combination of guests will allow for mingling of prospects with happy customers who can be your "walking testimonials." This is the perfect scenario to discuss how your services could benefit the prospect without any pressure from you -- it's a party, not a sales pitch.

  3. Network, Network, Network

    Build bridges: It's imperative to build connections that will benefit your business and introduce people at the event to help them network with other professionals. For instance, one of your guests may be in need of a killer PR firm, and it just so happens you invited yours to the event; now you can score points by introducing them and creating a more interconnected network. See how this can benefit everyone involved? Build those bridges.

    The swag:
    As crazy as it sounds, this is one of the reasons some guests bother showing up for an event. Use this opportunity to send your guests home with a classy reminder to give you a call. Develop something that relates to the event and that's worth showing off. For example, at our Cupcakes & Champagne party in October, guests grabbed handfuls of our custom-designed notecards to pass on to friends and co-workers, and to stockpile for later use.
     
  4. Keep in Touch
    Be social: After the event, it's crucial for you to actively engage guests. It's an excuse to touch base with everyone who attended and schedule a meeting with those who did not. It's also an opportunity to show your VIP guests more love by sending them a personalized thank you. You can also continue the connection building you did at the event by utilizing social channels:
     
    • Encourage sharing by posting photos of the event on your social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).
       
    • Make your event the place to "see and be seen" by submitting photos to popular local publications.

So What's the Big Idea?
Overall, putting together an event shouldn't be simply an excuse to throw an awesome party. Rather, it's one of the best ways to market to your clients and prospects alike. Customers love to be appreciated, and prospects love the opportunity to find out more about you without the pressure of committing to a one-on-one meeting.

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Now that you are armed with tips for creating a successful event, we encourage you to think beyond the normal bounds of your marketing efforts -- and get creative.

Maria Orozova is president and creative director of theMOD Studio, a boutique design studio providing services from corporate identity and brand strategy to web design and development, andMODpaper, which creates one-of-a-kind invitations.

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