Hosting an event is one of the best ways to boost your brand. In a world where so much marketing is done online, taking a leap into the offline world really makes your company stand out. But if you’re running a small business, it can seem unachievable: too time-consuming, too expensive. It’s true that you need to commit some time to it – I’ve seen plenty of events that didn’t live up to their potential because the organisers didn’t think things through (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google Fyre festival!). Done right, though, events can pay dividends in brand awareness, customer engagement, and marketing content. Here are my four tips to make it work.
Identify your audience
Too many people forget to clearly establish who the event is targeting and why. Are you aiming to build on your current customer base, or reach out to an entirely new group? How does this fit into your strategy for the next year? And what kind of event will most appeal to your target audience?
The key is to be specific. Targeting a large, heterogeneous group such as “young people” or “people in my industry” will lead to an event that doesn’t particularly appeal to anyone. By narrowing it down, you’ll be able to research your audience’s interests more accurately and come up with something far more engaging. As you would for an online campaign, you can use social media to find out what your target market are talking about – just remember to pay attention to local trends, too. While the content you create from your event can potentially reach consumers further afield, the event itself is only going to attract people from within a certain radius.
Find the right location
Now you’ve decided what the focus of your event will be, the next question is where to hold it. The right venue can set the tone for the whole occasion, so think about what message you want to send. Does your brand suit a restrained, minimalistic space, or colourful and creative one? If you’re stuck for ideas, taking the time to visit some of the venues on your shortlist is sure to help – I always find it easier to imagine how an event will work when I’m actually in the space.
Of course, looks aren’t everything: you also need to be practical. It goes without saying that the venue’s capacity, accessibility, facilities, and cancellation policy are also key. You can save yourself some time researching these factors by using a platform like Spacebase, which does all the legwork for you.
Get some bang for your buck
By now you’re probably brimming with ideas, but keep your ROI in mind. No amount of gimmicks will save an event if it’s badly thought out, so as ever it’s better to do one thing well than to blow all your money on unnecessary add-ons. At the end of the day, your brand is the star of the show.
Once you’ve decided what you actually need, it’s time to shop around. The first port of call is always the venue itself – they probably have plenty of equipment that’s perfectly suited to the space. But it’s also worth thinking outside the box. Is there a local caterer you could partner with? Are other suppliers able to give you a cheaper deal? Could you find some decor second hand? If someone on your team is handy with a hammer, you could even make the fittings yourself – our early promotional events used furniture made from wooden pallets (which in Berlin are practically a natural resource). Just use your common sense to decide what option best fits your brand.
Tell the world
It goes without saying that if you want people to turn up, you’ll need to advertise your event. Social media is your friend: through judicious use of hashtags and Instagram stories promoting your event shouldn’t be too difficult. And don’t forget good old-fashioned flyers – your target audience might be more susceptible to offline marketing.
Attracting people to your event is only half the job, though – the whole point is to increase your reach. People want to share what’s happening in their lives, so make it easy for them by creating Instagram opportunities. A feature wall, playful props, or a beautiful tiled floor are surefire selfie triggers, but even if your venue doesn’t have much visual appeal you can decorate a small area for your guests to use as a photo booth. Get someone on your team to take snaps on a polaroid camera and hey presto – your guests have a souvenir to take home with them, as well as something to share with their followers.
Remember to create written content too. A write-up on your company blog is the minimum, but you could also out to a relevant news outlet a few weeks before the event. You might not make the front page of the New York Times, but an industry magazine, lifestyle website, or local paper is sure to be interested.
Whatever your budget, promotional events are well worth the effort. As long as you’ve got strong ideas and a solid plan, the only limit is your own ingenuity.
Julian Jost is the CEO and co-founder of Spacebase.